Odds are you’ve heard of Axxess. It’s the big fan festival put on by WWE every year over Wrestlemania weekend where you can see memorabilia and meet wrestlers etc. However, there’s another version run independently from WWE called WrestleCon, which offers a bunch of wrestling shows but also a huge convention with hundreds of wrestlers and vendors selling autographs, merchandise and photo ops for pretty reasonable prices. You can also just walk up and talk to almost anyone you want (line permitting of course) and have a chat (some longer than others).
The convention runs for three days and I attended Friday and Sunday. These days couldn’t have been more different but both had their positives and negatives. I did pay to meet a variety of wrestlers and bought some stuff so here’s the rundown. Keep in mind that I didn’t write down everyone I met (as the place wasn’t exactly one where you could pull out something and take notes) so there’s a good chance I’ve forgotten some names. These are in no real order.
Well this one is in order, because how do you start with anything else?
Very quick due to the long line but he looked right into your eyes and you could feel the chills. I said it was an honor to meet him and he said he appreciated it. That voice will send vibes through you and it was worth the over two hour wait (you knew this was going to be a long line). I got him to sign my Wrestlemania XXXII ticket for a very nice keepsake.
Tenille Dashwood. She had people coming up to see her over and over for both days and it’s not surprising. Dashwood put on a heck of a performance at the SuperShow and simply put, the camera does not do her justice whatsoever. She’s absolutely gorgeous in person and seemed very sweet when I said hello to her. How WWE managed to screw her up is anyone’s guess.
Al Snow. This might not be the biggest name in the world but it turns out that at one point he lived in my small hometown in Kentucky. He seemed rather surprised that anyone had even heard of it, let alone lived there.
Larry Zbyszko. Just a short hello, but he did his spinning salute.
Virgil. Walked by me as I was in line and I said a quick hello. I know he’s known as a jerk but he’s been nice the two times I’ve met him.
Bret Hart. This was one of the ones I paid for in advance (well duh) and it starts to show the big problem with WrestleCon (which I’ll cover in detail at the end): it feels rushed. I might have sat next to Bret for all of five seconds, gotten a picture taken, shook his hand and said it was an honor to meet him. As is often the case with Bret he didn’t have much to say, but he did look me in the eye as I shook his hand and said thank you.
Before we move on, one more thing about Bret. His line was of course very long and it wrapped around into two rows. I was near the back of the line without about 100 people in front of me and I hear a voice.
Voice: “I’m Steve. You’ve done my podcast a few times. Do you want to come up here with me?”
I was then about fifth in line and done in three minutes instead of an hour. Steve is a very, very good guy with an awesome podcast called the Positive Pro Wrestling podcast. He knows his stuff and is more than worth listening to, especially if you’re sick of hearing people complain about wrestling. Check him out here and follow the show on Twitter @ppwpodcast. I’ve been a guest on there multiple times and it’s some of the most fun I’ve had doing a show. It’s more than worth the time.
Kelly Kelly. I’ve met her before and I’d be glad to meet her over and over. Those eyes are something else and she very clearly knows how to look at a camera.
Taya Valkyrie. Another short one but she’s rather nice.
Jim Duggan. Met him several times before and he’s always fun to talk to, even for a few seconds. He always asks where a fan is from and you get a sense that he actually cares. That doesn’t happen very often and that’s a shame. He also seemed to like my shirt, which was one of the oddest things of the whole weekend.
Christy Hemme. Yep. Looks even better in person and again has that fire in her eyes.
Mick Foley. Again, met him before and again, it felt rushed due to the crowds. He’s my favorite wrestler ever though and when I mentioned that he smiled and said he appreciated it. Always a treat to get to see him.
As a bonus, here he is with Kenny Omega and Kota Ibushi, who were at the next table over.
One Man Gang. He was there in something similar to Akeem gear but no hat unfortunately. I asked him if he was a rib on Dusty Rhodes and he emphatically said no, even giving me reasons why he wasn’t. I would have bet money otherwise but he insisted it wasn’t true. Fair enough.
Hiroshi Tanahashi. With five people in line and only charging $20 a person, this was a complete steal. Spoke very clear English and one of the nicest guys there.
Brian Pillman Jr. Very nice guy who I talked to for a few minutes. He said the new book about his dad’s life is very accurate (save for a few minor details) and recommended it. I don’t know much about him but he came off very positively.
Matt Sydal. Got to hold the X-Division Title, which is far lighter than the World Title. This was quick as he had a customer but he was another nice guy.
Bushwhacker Luke. Met him last year but this time was much friendlier. Last year I had mentioned that he licked me as a kid and he looked at me like I was nuts. I mentioned it again this year and he asked when and where it was. Far more pleasant this time around.
Eli Drake. I asked if he could call me a dummy and he said he wasn’t sure. That sounded like I’d have to buy something but he said he heard me asking him and when he looked up, all he could see was a DUMMY! YEAH! He smiled and I told him he had become my favorite part of Impact Wrestling (true) and he seemed very happy. Exceptionally nice guy.
Robert Gibson. Met him on Sunday and talked to him about the cage match with the Andersons. He seemed thrilled to talk about the old days and that’s completely understandable. Ricky Morton was next to him and seemed FAR more popular, which isn’t surprising.
Velvet Sky. Quick hello, looks amazing in person.
Diamond Dallas Page. He’s almost my white whale of meeting people as I’ve tried multiple times and just not been able to get there. Another nice guy and he was giving out cards for a free month of his yoga app. Nothing wrong with free.
Melissa Santos. Tiny and very pretty. Also saw her getting out of her cab as I was coming into the building.
Brutus Beefcake. Got a handshake, but $40 for his book? Is he nuts?
Scott Steiner. The Steiners were one of my favorite teams ever and while Rick was advertised, I didn’t seem there (could have just been away as he had a booth next to Scott). Kind of untalkative but seemed appreciative when I mentioned being a big fan of the team.
Animal. Shook his hand, barely acknowledged that I was there.
Jackie Moore. I was in line for Foley and talking to the handler, which somehow turned into a discussion of I Love Lucy. Moore was next to us and mentioned loving the show.
Tony Atlas. I met him last year and for the second year in a row thought he was ignoring me but he looked up and apologized for not noticing I was there. Nice guy with a big smile.
Harley Race. I don’t think this needs an explanation.
Penta El Zero M. Just a handshake.
Rey Fenix. Another handshake.
Kevin Nash. Just like last year, doesn’t seem interested if you’re not buying.
Sean Waltman. Another quick handshake but he looked straight at people.
Bob Backlund. We must be connected someway as this is my fourth Wrestlemania and sixth time running into Backlund. I actually got to talk to him this time and he was very quiet (as in low volume, to the point where I could barely hear him). I talked about how awesome his transformation in 1994 was and he said he always puts in the most effort possible into everything. Very, very nice guy who seemed like he would talk to you all day.
Rob Van Dam. Quick handshake as there were people coming up to see him but very friendly guy.
Tomohiro Ishii. One person in line and again, just twenty bucks. I would have bet on a long, long line for him. That’s the Rev Pro Wrestling British Heavyweight Title, which I saw him win Friday night in a great match.
Minoru Suzuki. Much nicer than you would think and NO ONE in line any time I went by his table. Same price as the other New Japan guys. He picked the title up and put it straight on my shoulder, which nearly knocked me over. That’s the Rev Pro British Tag Team Title on the table.
Sean Mooney. I needed to hear that voice in person. Not much to say but he was friendly and mentioned his podcast.
D’Lo Brown. Always been a fan and he seemed appreciative of the praise.
Allie. TINY in person to the point where I barely recognized her.
Rosemary. I know she’s the creepy Knockout on Impact, but when she’s acting normal and has her hair pulled back, it really, really, really works.
So Cal Val. Seemed very flattered that people wanted to talk to her and another nice person.
Winter. Easily one of the best looking people there and knew how to stand in a way that made her look even better. Seemed shocked (in a good way) that anyone remembered her in OVW.
Gail Kim. Another case of the camera not doing her justice. Seemed to be having a great time meeting fans and being with old friends.
Larry Hennig. Actually started talking to me about my Superman shirt.
Bob Orton. His arm is fine, though at least this year he seemed to understand why people were asking him about it.
Teddy Long. I didn’t mean to get a picture with him but I asked if he could say holla holla. This time he actually said I’d have to pay him something and $30 for a picture wasn’t happening. His handler dropped it to $20 and I almost couldn’t say no. I mentioned that he could use the money to pay for some tolls on the road, which made him laugh rather hard. He even mentioned it to Ron Simmons in the next booth and got a laugh from him as well. Fun to talk to once you get beyond the pay wall.
Lanny Poffo. Mentioned being from Lexington and he immediately told me about a seminar he’s doing in a town near here. Not pushy about it but I’d have rather talked to him now, not in a few weeks.
Chavo Guerrero. Kind of quiet until you mention Eddie, which really brought him out of his shell. You can tell he’s very proud of his family, as he should be.
James Storm. He came to his booth as I was in line to meet Tanahashi. I mentioned having met him at a TNA show and he apologized that I had to be there. Bully Ray said the same thing the year before. How bad was it to work there?
Colt Cabana. I had seen him wrestle under a mask as Matt Classic the night before so I asked if he knew anything about him. Cabana said he had heard Classic was there, with a big grin on his face. I mentioned Classic being entertaining and Cabana smiled and said he’d pass that along if he ran into Classic.
Now for a non-wrestler, and some of the coolest and most popular items all weekend. You might need to zoom in on this.
I bought three of them (Shawn/Razor, Undertaker and Cena). They were two for $20 and VERY popular, as they should be.
And now, for the negatives. The organization, venue and everything else couldn’t have been a bigger mess if they had tried. When I got to the fifth floor of the hotel the event, there was just a sea of people and no one knew where any line started. I was told to go into a small room to get my wristband but when it got to me, they were out of one day bands. How they didn’t have a big box of them there is beyond me, but the lady running things went to get more. Then she didn’t come back, so we were told to go get in a long line. Eventually we got in, half an hour after the thing was supposed to start. It was downhill from there.
The following is all on Friday.
The venue was WAY too small to begin with and on top of that, the layout was a nightmare. Basically you had four rows of boots with a big aisle in between. There were booths on the all around the rows as well. In the upper right hand corner was Ric Flair’s booth and that’s about it for big names on that side. In the middle was Shawn Michaels, on the upper left was Bret Hart, on the lower left was Kenny Omega/Kota Ibushi, Mick Foley, the Young Bucks and Harley Race.
With Shawn’s line wrapping around the building (seriously), at one point I was in line for Omega, Foley, Shawn, Bret and Ibushi at the same time without being able to move. Everyone, from the fans to the workers TO THE WRESTLERS were complaining about what a mess this was. Just put someone on the other side of the room or something, but find a better way to do this.
Omega and Ibushi’s line literally stretched from one side of the building to the other and since they were half an hour late showing up, it never moved. I had even bought a ticket for Omega and was so fed up with the mess of the lines that I just ate the cost. I’m one of the biggest wrestling fans I’ve ever seen and when I’m sitting in the hall way because I’ve had enough of the mess to the point where I’m about to leave two hours into a six hour convention, there’s something very, very wrong.
Sunday was much better, but mainly because the place was a ghost town. You had a few names still trying to get a few more sales and really it was more sad than anything else in some cases. There were wide spaces with no one at a booth and a lot of the wrestlers looked miserable. I get why they have to do it, but it wasn’t a pretty sight at times.
Overall, the idea is great and can be done VERY well (Orlando the year before was excellent) but the venue was too small and the layout for the wrestlers was ridiculous. Get this stuff right so the fans can have a better time, because Friday was a complete disaster. I did have fun and bought some cool stuff, but there were so many rough edges that the negatives outweighed the positives, at least the first day.