So as you probably know (or may not), I’m down in New Orleans for the annual Wrestlemania weekend festivities (hence why the reviews are all late, though I’ll get them up ASAP as I have a lot of Saturday free). I’ve got a full week scheduled and first up was the opening session of Axxess.
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.
left work and came rushing over, only to find that the gates hadn’t
opened yet…and there was a line, about a mile long, to get in, with
that classic “zig-zag” format you see in a line at Disneyland.
was rumored that Dolph Ziggler was signing at the station we stopped
at. There was another rumor going around that Paige was supposed to be
here again tonight and that she’d be at the station next door…Danielle
really wanted to get her Paige T-shirt signed.
waited for a few minutes to see who would end up where. When the first
Superstars appeared, the crowd cheered…and they were headed for a
booth across from us. It was Erick Rowan and Sin Cara.
got Sin Cara yesterday. Rowan isn’t totally somebody we want to
meet…we decided to stay in our line. Then, more cheers next to us —
and out came Natalya. I was a bit bummed. Then her Dad, Jim, showed up.
me tell you something about Ziggler. The dude was performing for the
entire line. Just like Paige, he played to the crowd and toed the line
between cocky and incredibly charming. He gets up from his seat and
says, “Sorry…I’m done. I have no time for ANY of you. See ya’.” He was
only kidding: he left to go sign for the disabled guest line.
one point, he came back from the empty disabled guest line, stopped to
take pictures with the couple of people near the immediate area, signed
their stuff real quick, then rolled his eyes at everyone else as they begged him to sign their stuff, too. With a hair flip, he went back to tend to the regular line.
I don’t know if it was the volume in the place or if Friday fatigue was
hitting me…I spelled her name wrong. Ziggler could have just signed
her name, as was spelled to him…but he notices and says, “Wait…T, A,
N, A, I?! That’s ‘Tawn-ay’, bro! That’s not how you spell that. I don’t
even know your friend and I know how she spells her name!”
the original spelling, then realizes that you can see a “T”, followed
by some scribbling. He puzzles over it and asks, “I think that looks
like ‘TANIA’…you think she’d be able to tell? I mean, maybe if I
scribble all fancy and professional-looking, she’ll think it says, ‘TANIA’…right?” And we just laughed. He was just a great guy.
didn’t look happy to be there at all. Kinda strange. Maybe he was
trying to be the “Corporate” character…but I took quite a few photos
from a few rounds of fans and he didn’t smile once.
that, I checked my WrestleMania App (an attendant told me it would give
me signing schedules…huzzah!) and found out that JBL and Jerry Lawler
were signing…so we went to take a pic with them.
and I stopped by the Elimination Chamber to take a couple pictures of
Stardust and Miz-dow. One of the funniest things was watching Stardust
freak out and shriek before he would hug the person getting into the
ring with them.
were just in time to watch a Q&A session with Howard Finkel and
Booker T in the NXT ring. NXT was hosting some “house shows” all Axxess
weekend, so things like this were awesome to watch.
the Q&A, Booker praised former manager, Sherri Martel, and said
that he misses her each and every day. When a fan asked if Harlem Heat
would ever get back together, Booker’s response was, “In this business, I
always have one response: never say never.”
we closed the night out by watching a really fun match between Heath
Slater and Curtis Axel, in which Axel took bump after bump and sold
everything Slater had — then came back like Hulk Hogan. It was truly
great, crowd-pleasing stuff that the crowd around us loved.
Last, but not least, caught this excellent shot of Goldust being interviewed by our local media…
Stay tuned for Part 3…
despite the fact WWE has the support of the majority of wrestling fans,
there’s something relatively off about their biggest event of the year.
in the front row, and all the confetti, and the … no? Aw okay.”
like this weekend, like Axxess, like events such as The WWE Hall of
Fame and the overall big event at Levi’s Stadium, they make you
momentarily forget about the fact that Brock Lesnar and Roman Reigns
haven’t had any real chemistry leading up to the big show.
makes you forget that the annual, all-important-sounding Andre the
Giant Memorial Battle Royal has now been reduced to a pre-show throwaway
match — as if it matters anyhow. After being completely misused for
nearly a year, Cesaro is a co-champion, teaming with Tyson Kidd and his
wife who only seems to be relevant when she’s on NXT.
make you forget that, after making a great, big deal out of Daniel
Bryan — only to see him vying for a title that’s become a punchline.
I must say that, as a resident (and native) of the good ol’ Silicon
Valley, I was blown away at how easily the city has handled this event.
The event was scheduled to begin at 5 PM (PST) which, let’s face it,
means you usually need to get off of work early or else you’re sitting
in traffic thick as mud. However, imagine my surprise when I discovered
that getting in was fairly easy. Getting near the Convention Center,
surprisingly routine and simple. Parking only took a few minutes as
though I’ve followed wrestling since the mid-80’s, I’ve never been to a
single WWE event or pay-per-view. I was kinda nerve-wracked because
part of me was here for the pleasure of being here and the other part of
me knew this was “work”.
been really cool to witness the buzz around the area in the last week.
You see the ads for this thing all over the place. Our bus and lightrail
system is plastered with the event poster stuff, you can see the little
pole flags all over the downtown area, our local radio and TV personalities have been interviewing various WWE Superstars…it’s been exciting.
Once Danielle and I got into the San Jose Convention Center lobby, it felt like home.
of the highlights of Axxess is interacting with the actual Superstars
of WWE. Originally, Danielle and I were going to buy VIP tickets which
would have entitled us to get signatures from the top stars like Roman
Reigns, Triple H, Daniel Byran and vets like Hulk Hogan, Sting and Rowdy
more, meeting them was almost like a great customer service experience.
They seemed interested to meet you, greeting you with a smile instead
of just signing your paper and taking a picture with a face made of
Russia. He’s just big. Gigantic. Wide freakin’ shoulders and barrel
chest. He always looked small on TV to me. Real life, it’s a different
didn’t get to meet him because Danielle and I went to meet Paige and a
couple of others instead and we missed our shot with him, but we saw him
walking around and he’s somebody you don’t want to meet in a dark
alley. He’s huge and menacing in real life — and we actually caught him
genuinely smiling and laughing with people. It was so strange to me
because, when we see these guys, you always think part of their
“character” must be derived from some part of them that’s buried deep
were two lines at each signing booth: the one for the regular general
admission ticket holders and the line for the disabled fans who used
canes, walkers and wheelchairs. Watching Rusev getting up, shaking
hands, kneeling down near a fan who was physically unable to get out
their chair and grinning from ear to ear really warmed my heart.
wore her Paige shirt to the event and stopped at her booth to get a
photo and her shirt signed. I told her I was gonna go get some pictures
and see if I could grab a few words from some of the stars.
I got up there, I told them, “I have nothing for you guys to sign…I
just realized that.” Konnor (at the table on the right — who also
reminds me a lot of a cousin of mine) gave me a grin and said, “Dude, we
you covered! No worries!” Viktor nodded and said, “Here you go, bro…”
while signing a piece of paper for me and passing it to Konnor. I took
my pic with them, shook their hands and said, “Hey…Tag champs in the
future?” Konnor smiled and said, “You know it, man! You’ll see!”
my way back, I bumped into “Macho Sam” who you’ll remember from our
WrestleMania Pre-Party report. If not, here’s the photo we took of him
at that event:
name is Sam Schmucker and, as it turns out, he’s a very kind Hawaiian
native with an affinity for cosplay. That’s par for the course at an
event such as this. Many fans come dressed in WWE merch or hold genuine,
gold-plated title belts — but Sam strives for accuracy. “I love
dressing as the Macho Man,” he says “But, now, it’s really special and
fitting since he’s being honored at this year’s Hall of Fame ceremony.”
doing the first go-round, I rejoined Danielle who was waiting in a
long, long line for Paige. I have to say that Paige is an absolute
blast. She’s down to earth and loves to bullshit. She treats every
single fan like a friend. She hugs, she flirts, she fucking swears. If
you flip her shit, she’ll hit you with the shovel you used to sling it.
She’s the ultimate badass Diva — and she’s sweet and unpretentious. Which is more than what I can say for a certain Diva who shows up less than Brock Lesnar.
She’s just too awesome. I can’t say enough good things about her. She even stayed a whole hour after her scheduled signing time because so many people wanted to see her. And what happened when her stage manager finally convinced her that she had to leave? Did she up and leave like Rusev and Jack Swagger?
She turned to everyone and said, “I have no choice…I need to go. I do
realize that I didn’t get to everyone…so, here’s the thing: I don’t
want to leave you all so I will go backwards through the line and gladly take a picture which each and every one of you — but only pictures. I can’t sign anything. Have your camera ready to go, yell my name and I will stop and take a picture with you.”
And she did it — still smiling and laughing with fans as she went. I didn’t get one, but Danielle did.
did score a nice bonus with being sixth-to-next in line: Rosa Mendes
was the next Superstar to be assigned the booth, so we got a nice pic
with her as well:
a quick food break at the concession stand, Danielle and I ventured
over to the NXT show that was going on. Turns out NXT was having a short
tournament to determine who is going to the pre-show Andre battle
was nice to see JoJo doing the ring announcer thing. Glad that she
wasn’t completely destroyed by the hellish suckage that is Total Divas.
watched Tyler Breeze take on Finn Balor, which was a lot of fun. If I
were WWE, I’d pull all of the guys featured into the majors.
tourney would eventually come down to Balor vs. Hideo Itami with Itami
coming out the victor, a nice moment capped off by Itami being
congratulated by Japanese wrestling legend, Tatsumi Fujinami. So, we’ll
see Itami at the Andre Battle Royal.
this, Danielle and I went to visit Adam Rose and Sin Cara. When we got
there, Danielle told Adam Rose that The Bunny needs to be put under
control. Without missing a beat, Rose said, “I’m so glad you said that!
I’ve told him that a million times! This is MY SHOW!”
moment of the night came shortly after Itami’s win over Balor. Michael
Cole came to the ring (to a loud chorus of boos, MIGGAL!) and introduced
Triple H. Behind him was an object with a long, dark cover over it.
Beforehand, Cole reminded us all of the Ultimate Warrior induction into
last year’s Hall of Fame, which was followed by inexplicable tragedy the
very next day when he passed away. Cole said that they were here to pay
tribute to Warrior.
H would spend about the next five minutes gushing about Warrior and how
he was an inspiration to everyone. He touched upon their differences,
stating that he was glad that, with age, came wisdom. He was happy that
the two of them were able to discover that wisdom and maturity to patch
up their differences.
received “WARRIOR” chants and started to visibly break down. She would
nearly lose it when Michael Cole and Triple H unveiled WWE’s tribute…a
Dana gave a speech, commending WWE for their care after Warrior’s
passing and, praised Triple H, himself, calling him, “This bad guy right
here.” Warrior thanked all the fans for the years of support and
promised that Warrior would live forever no matter what.
that, the Warrior Family paid tribute to Warrior by grabbing the top
rope and shaking it wildly while Warrior’s music pumped over the
this, Danielle and I made a stop at the WWE WrestleMania Museum which
featured the wardrobe and props used by various WWE Superstars and
personnel as well as historical photos, magazines and video. The
wardrobe for Warrior and Randy Savage, alone, were worth the
2) “Oh, look: he gets the entire set-up and Sting gets a dinky little cameo…figures…”
DID feel terrible: I gushed over Jake, telling him how I watched him
when I was a kid and that my favorite storyline was when he feuded with
Rick Martel…and I barely paid attention to Ivory who was
sitting next to him. Poor woman even injected herself into the
conversation by saying, “That’s why we’re here…we jog your memory.”
She smiled sweetly and I said, “Yeah, you all do. Thank you, Ivory.”
shrugged and said to her, “Yeah…or we completely lose our memories
and struggle to remember this stuff because we’re ancient!” Both of them
laughed and asked if I wanted a photo…to which I said, “Hell, yes!”
have to say that both of them have aged well. Danielle got a photo,
too. She met Ivory and told her she was beautiful, then told Jake that
he was proud of him for everything he’s done in his career — especially
outside the ring. (A reference, of course, to overcoming his addiction
issues.) She said that he was an inspiration to so many people,
including herself. He thanked her and she got a photo.
so, that was Day 1. Tonight, it’s back to Axxess for more fun, followed
by the Hall of Fame on Saturday, WrestleMania at Levi’s on Sunday and
RAW on Monday…
took in Axxess earlier today after having wanted to go for the last
14 years or so. There was a lot of good stuff but some of the things
could have been done better. I took a ton of pictures which I’ll
post when I get back home and get to my camera cord. There were some
VERY nice surprises there though and I met some people who weren’t
session started at 1pm and ran for four hours. I got there about 50
minutes early and there were already hundreds of people in line. The
line moved FAST though and I was in maybe three minutes after 1.
This brings the first major problem: it’s a crap shoot as to who is
at which booth. You can find out on the WWE App, but NO ONE TELLS
YOU THIS. Even the staff didn’t know what was going on.
I got in the second line I saw which had a big WWE 2K14 sign behind
it. I passed on the Scooby Doo booth which had Santino Marella as
the guest. I asked one of the people next to me who the guest was
and then I see none other than Dolph Ziggler (in an NWO shirt for
some reason) take the stage.
having maybe 50 people in front of us, it took an hour and fifteen
minutes to get through the line. This was partially due to Ziggler
stopping to talk to the disabled/handicapped people in a separate
line (nothing wrong with that and something that happened all day
long). The other reason was Dolph doing a TWENTY MINUTE INTERVIEW
while we waited in line. The cool thing about this: I might be on
Wrestlemania Today on the Network. The camera pans over his line and
I was at the front at the time. Ziggler was very nice and kept
eating Pizza Rolls (sponsor) between meeting fans. He shook my hand
and posed for a picture while signing the back of my Axxess map.
that and with ¼ of my time gone, I ran over to the NXT booth to try
for Dusty Rhodes. On the way I saw about five seconds of Ascension
vs. Jason Jordan/??? for the NXT Tag Team Titles. While I was in
line for the NXT booth I could hear Paige retaining the Women’s Title
over Charlotte and the start of a Sami Zayn match against I believe
I didn’t get to see Dusty as the first two hour session was already
up and a new set of guests came in during the second hour. To
Axxess’s credit, they told us we wouldn’t get to the front of the
line with nearly half an hour to go. While in line I was given a
little NXT gift bag with some very nice trading cards made by Topps
(big company in the trading card industry if you’re not familiar), an
NXT poster with the roster on the front and mini bios on the back and
a bag which came in handy for carrying all my stuff around.
I was in line, Bob Backlund of all people came casually walking
behind me and went behind a curtain. I waved at him and got one in
return but he was too far away for a picture or autograph. You could
hear him giving one of his ranting promos in the NXT ring while I was
the NXT thing wasn’t happening, I ran over to the legends booth to
find…..Lanny Poffo and the Wild Samoans. Not exactly a thrilling
lineup but Lanny is from Lexington, Kentucky so I got to chat with
him for a few moments about that. However, I didn’t get their
autographs because the lineup changed again. In their place, and
with me fifth in line: Paul Orndorff and RICKY STEAMBOAT. Orndorff
looks great all things considered but he’s grown a mustache that
would make Hulk Hogan jealous. Both guys were serious but friendly
with Steamboat hyping up the crowd while they changed places.
interesting thing here was the cast of people walking around from an
entrance in the back to their booths. From there I saw Eva Marie,
the Funkadactyls (all being filmed for Total Divas), Darren Young,
Norman Smiley, Damien Sandow and Mick Foley, with a bad limp.
Backlund walked right back into the crowd while this was going on as
well. He has that goofy look on his face the entire time as well.
that I walked around to look at some exhibits and to try and find the
shortest line. I came across the Legends House booth and saw Hacksaw
Jim Duggan signing on a Legends House set. The line took awhile as
there was a professional photographer who gave you a card where you
could access your pictures online for free. This would have been a
great thing to do all over the place instead of just with Legends
House but whatever.
was a very efficiently run booth as I got through the line in about
40 minutes and got to chat with Duggan. I was wearing a Cleveland
Indians shirt and he asked if I was from Ohio. I said I saw him
wrestle in Lexington about twenty two years earlier and he said I go
way back. He asked if it was my first Wrestlemania (it is) and he
said once I go I’ll never want to miss another one. Very nice guy,
as was everyone else.
interesting about the Duggan booth is while he was getting up to go
meet the handicapped people, he would always start a USA chant or get
us all to shout HOOO before he went down to meet the people. You can
see the old guys know how to keep a crowd going instead of just
focusing on the people in front of them. It’s a dying art but it
worked well here.
that I was running low on time and started to head to the 30 Years of
Wrestlemania exhibit but opted for Undertaker’s Graveyard. It’s a
cool concept with a bunch of Undertaker stuff and a tombstone with
the Wrestlemania logo, date and name of the opponent engraved.
There’s also a cased urn, a bunch of caskets, and an open grave with
a tombstone for Wrestlemania 30 minus a name. I wanted to hit the 30
Years thing though so I cut out in the middle. The biggest problem
here: it’s right next to the Superstar entrance booth so when the
organ music was restarting, you could hear LET’S LIGHT IT UP!
I run back over to 30 Years of Wrestlemania with fifteen minutes to
go….and it’s closed. Like EVERYTHING ELSE. The idea is to get the
fans out in time for the next batch to come in, but it’s cutting off
a part of the time the people paid for. Why they can’t just have a
30 minute buffer in between is beyond me, but a lot of people were
annoyed as the exhibits would take about ten minutes to get through
and there was plenty of time to go. I don’t blame the guards as they
had orders, but that’s stupid planning. I walked through the store
(you have to as you leave) but the stuff was your usual overpriced
weekend event stuff. They had a TON of merchandise though.
it was fun and I’d definitely go again, but man alive were there some
issues with how it was set up. For one thing, have a sign up that
says who is going to be at your booths later in the day rather than
just making it a guessing game. Also, and I’m not sure how you go
about doing this, they need to cut down the wait time. Spending an
hour to get one signature is eating up too much time. I would think
maybe having everyone in a line and you can meet them and then go to
booths, but it would get REALLY annoying standing there while
everyone got pictures etc. It’s more than worth the $50 to get in
and see everything and meet people like Steamboat and Duggan though.
Date: March 30, 2012
Location: Phillips Arena, Atlanta, Georgia
Commentators: Josh Matthews, Matt Striker
Reviewed by Tommy Hall
This is going to be a different kind of show. There were only a few matches taped on Monday and if this show is like last year’s, the majority of this show will be partially taped from Miami and Axxess. It’ll mostly be a big commercial for Wrestlemania with some wrestling thrown in on the side. That’s the same thing the shows all week have done and it’s really all they can do this week. Let’s get to it.
Do You Know Your Enemy? Mine is the Louisville Cardinals. They’re evil and need to be destroyed.
As some of you probably know, usually I watch this show online on Friday afternoon so I can save time in the reviews. Well I did that today, and the show had no new matches and was a collection of old Mania matches. Apparently that’s totally different than what the US broadcast had so this is the second Smackdown I’ve done tonight.
Zack Ryder vs. Drew McIntyre
Drew starts off with a slam but Zack comes back with some speed and a dropkick. They go to the corner where Drew gets punched in the face. He manages to throw Zack up in the air and brings up a knee to take over. Off to an armbar now and Ryder is in trouble. A gutbuster puts Ryder down and Drew hooks a combination camel clutch/armbar. Ryder escapes but charges into a boot to put him right back down.
McIntyre does the go to the middle rope and jump off with the clear intention of jumping into the other guy’s raised boot spot. Ryder makes his comeback and hits the Broski Boot but walks into ANOTHER big boot for two. Zack escapes a powerbomb and Drew chases him into the corner but runs into a pair of knees. The Rough Ryder gets the pin at 5:38.
Rating: C. This was all you needed it to be. It covered both teams and hyped up the match a little bit. Not a great match or anything but it’s good to see Ryder getting clean wins, even over someone like McIntyre. I’m thinking Eve is going to play a role in the Mania match though, which isn’t a good thing.
We go to Miami where Lawler and Cole are on a set at Axxess. We see some of the stuff there, such as Undertaker’s Graveyard and the entrance you could walk down.
Video on Taker vs. HHH for the End of an Era.
Video on the Divas tag. I have no issue with looking at Maria Menunos. We’re never going to talk about Beth and Eve’s teased feud over Ryder again are we?
We see some of the art auction which goes to a children’s cancer center. Nothing wrong with that.
Recap of Punk vs. Jericho, I believe the same one from NXT.
Cole and King get in a flag waving contest.
We go back to Raw for the segment on Teddy vs. Johnny with the end of Otunga vs. Santino (they can’t show a full 90 second match?) which resulted in Miz joining Team Ace. We also get the Christian beatdown where he was put out of the match, and finally the Henry vs. Khali bit where Booker made the save for Teddy and joined the team.
Here’s Big Show in the ring to talk about his match on Sunday. He’s had some good success in this business. He won the world title in his first match and he’s won more since, but he doesn’t have a Wrestlemania moment. Wrestling in the main event for the world title isn’t a Wrestlemania moment? He says this is a bit different than most times he’s been at Mania. He can feel it in his mind, his gut and his heart. Cody is going to lose. Cody’s career isn’t going to get made. It’s going to get broken.
Video on Bryan vs. Sheamus.
Some legends weigh in on the Cell match.
Kofi Kingston vs. Chris Jericho
Jericho grabs the arm to start and works a hammerlock. Kofi speeds things up and hits a jumping back elbow followed by a clothesline to send Jericho to the outside. Back inside Kofi tries a springboard but Jericho takes out the ropes to knock him down and we go to a break. Back with Jericho in control but Kofi grabs a rollup for two.
A knee to the head gets two for Jericho. Jericho misses the crotch to the back of Kofi’s head while Kofi is in 619 position (that really needs a name) and Kofi hits the SOS for two. Boom Drop hits but Chris avoids Trouble in Paradise. The top rope cross body gets two. Lionsault eats knees but Kofi’s kick is countered into the Liontamer for the tap at 11:12.
Rating: B. Pretty solid TV match here but the ending was never in doubt. There was no way Jericho was going to lose two days before a world title match at Wrestlemania. I wish Kofi didn’t have to do the job, especially when he’s in a big match on Sunday but when you have 12 people in one match, that’s hard to avoid. Good match though.
We get the Rock vs. Cena segment from Raw to end the show.
Overall Rating: B. This was a very good final push for Wrestlemania. I get that a lot of people aren’t going to be fans of this and that’s ok. The wrestling we got was limited but fine, as there was no way they were going to run the risk of a bunch of injuries. I’m really surprised Jericho performed at all. Good final push for the show, as this was more about getting us fired up for Mania than a regular show.
Zack Ryder b. Drew McIntyre – Rough Ryder
Chris Jericho b. Kofi Kingston – Walls of Jericho
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