This was my fourth Axxess and my first on Thursday night, which is the opening session. The layout is roughly the same every year and there’s really no difference in the way the rooms look in any given year save for where stages are. I only did General Admission this year after a VIP session last year and honestly, it’s not that big of a difference unless there’s someone you REALLY want to meet.
For the sake of simplicity, I’ll put all the pictures up at the end.
As is always the case, getting in was a nightmare as the doors were supposed to open at 6pm and the line didn’t start moving until around 6:15. From what I’ve heard, General Admissions were allowed in BEFORE VIP this year, which defeats a big purpose of buying VIP in the first place.
As usual, almost no one knew who was going to be where so you either pick a line and hope for the best or find one of the booths with a sign. The first line I saw had Eve Torres but since I’m meeting her at WrestleCon, I went with Eric Bischoff instead. The line took about 30 minutes, which is a near record for Axxess. Bischoff was a nice guy with a big smile on his face. I told him I wanted to punch him in the face every week he was on WCW and he said that was the whole point. The more I hear/read from Bischoff since he left the business, the more I like him. He really does seem to have mellowed since leaving and that’s great.
Now this was when things got a bit tricky. Word on the street was that HHH, Sting, Shawn Michaels and a host of others would be at this Axxess session unveiling a statue for Ric Flair (there’s one made every year with Bruno Sammartino, Andre the Giant and Dusty Rhodes as the previous names) in a special ceremony. However, no one had any idea about this and since I didn’t want to get in any other line, I kind of walked around and took in some of the other sights.
Aside from Bischoff and Torres, there were booths for Apollo Crews, Curtis Axel (I think)/Mojo Rawley, Ron Simmons/Teddy Long, Jacqueline (her line was almost non-existent), Booker T. (inside the Elimination Chamber), Miz/Maryse (possibly the longest line all night), Bobby Roode/Austin Aries (a close second in length), the Usos and Michael Hayes/Jimmy Garvin (FAR shorter than it should have been).
During the show there were also in-ring matches over at the mini NXT arena. These were mostly cruiserweight matches, though I could see some of Ruby Riot vs. Kimber Lee while waiting in the Bischoff line. Alundra Blayze also appeared and I believe did a Q&A though I couldn’t hear anything asked.
I took in the museum and MY GOODNESS I could spend hours in there. It’s basically a bunch of old photos and gear from wrestlers, mainly focusing on this year’s Hall of Fame inductees and a handful of others. Of course there’s also a section about Wrestlemania with a huge (as in over 6′ tall) poster of each event (these wrap around one wall and most of another).
One of the coolest parts was a collection of memorabilia from Wrestlemania III, including Harley Race’s robe, Andre’s singlet and chairs from the Silverdome. There was also an amazing collection of Ric Flair robes, as well as Charlotte’s from last year and Harley Race’s from Starrcade 1983. This is always one of my favorite parts of Axxess and it didn’t disappoint.
To wrap up the first half of the session, I took in Superstore. That thing is HUGE with probably 30-40 different t-shirt designs for Wrestlemania alone, almost any Funko Pop figure you could ask for and a ton of other stuff (JR’s BBQ products had their own table) for rather ridiculous prices (Wrestlemania shot glass: TEN DOLLARS). If I had the extra cash, I’d have to rent a small car to carry everything out of there.
After getting frisked by the security (I had buttons in my pocket from various tables so CLEARLY I was some kind of a criminal), I kept asking about the Flair statue…..and then I heard the music. The statue unveiling was taking place at 7:50 for some reason and was over in the NXT arena.
Sting, Shawn Michaels, Charlotte, HHH, Ricky Steamboat, Arn Anderson and the Rock N Roll Express plus a few others with their backs to the camera were there. HHH actually cried while introducing Ric, which was amusing as apparently he and Shawn had a bet on whether or not HHH could make Flair cry (HHH: “It’s not really that big of a challenge!”). I managed to get into the stands and shot a video of it and it was actually an emotional moment.
I apologize for the video quality. I was shooting from an iPod and there were WAY too many people crammed into the space. People kept having to get by me and I bent my glasses so it was really hard to see.
After that (with Flair talking about how much he loved Orlando and thanking Shawn for wrestling himself in their match here nine years ago), I ran over to the Elimination Chamber as there were at least 100 people watching the segment in the ring. The new people inside this time: Hillbilly Jim (who I met last year) and Jimmy Hart (who I met yesterday). They’re both cool but WHAT THE HECK DO THEY HAVE TO DO WITH THE ELIMINATION CHAMBER???? Last year it was Ted DiBiase and now these two? Who thinks this stuff up?
Anyway, while I was in line, the Usos, Teddy Long, Bischoff, Luke Harper and Kalisto all walked by for the change to the next session. Randy Orton, flanked by event staffers, came out for his VIP session as well. After they all went, Curtis Axel came and I got a quick high five. I got back in line and Mojo Rawley came by as well.
This was noteworthy as he stopped and talked to, shook hands with, took pictures with or signed autographs for EVERY SINGLE PERSON on the railing (plus more who came up)for a stand he wasn’t even involved with. He even knelt down and talked to a kid for at least a minute. I don’t ever remember seeing someone taking that much time to just see the fans as it took the better part of five minutes for him to walk twenty feet. That gave me a new found respect for him as he really seemed to have a good time doing this and that’s so rare these days. Well done Mojo.
Then I got inside the Chamber and……yeah the wrestlers are right when they say it’s intimidating. You really do feel something change when you walk in and I didn’t even have the door slammed behind me. Hillbilly Jim said he remembered me from last year, which is a really cool thing to hear. I also got to go inside a pod and then touch a WWE rope and turnbuckle (always wanted to do that). Also, the new floor outside the ring is VERY padded, to the point where I stumbled out of surprise the first time I stepped on it.
Also of note, while I was in line, the Rock N Roll Express were doing a Q&A in the NXT ring. They were asked which current team they wanted to face and Ricky eventually said something about wanting to face Jeff Hardy. The DELETE chants immediately started up but more than that, I was surprised that he was allowed to be mentioned. Maybe Ricky didn’t get the memo, or maybe he knows something about a signing and impending debut.
The event was winding up so I walked around to see what other booths were around. That gave me Kalisto (short line), Nia Jax (Nee-Uh Jakes according to the attendant. Nia’s line was INCREDIBLY long, to the point where I thought it was Nikki Bella at first. That was quite the surprise.), Jim Cornette (not a bad line), Anderson and Gallows (long line), Mick Foley (REALLY long line, pretty easily the longest of the second session), Luke Harper, Heath Slater and Rhyno (longer than you would expect) and Ascension (short line, maybe the shortest all night).
That left one option for my final line of the night: the Revival. After nearly an hour in a rather short line, I got to meet both guys and was rather surprised at Wilder’s charisma. I told them that they had really grown on me (true) as I didn’t think much of them at first and then they turned into one of my favorite acts in NXT. Wilder’s response when I said I didn’t like them at first: “And then you realized you were crazy because WE’RE AWESOME!” I threw in that it was like watching the Andersons (Revival calls them huge inspirations, which is really easy to see) and Wilder said they were, but better. I’m not sure about that but they’re very good.
Overall, the event was a good deal of fun, mainly because of the MUCH smaller than usual crowd. Last year the event was so packed that it was almost impossible to really move around and enjoy the place. Save for the insane food prices (cheese steak and Gatorade: $15.50), I don’t have a ton of complaints. You’re never going to find a way around the long lines and issues over the entrances. I’d easily go again and likely will next year.