By Will Pruett
Once again, Will Pruett finds himself live at WrestleMania weekend. Once again, he is processing this by writing about it.
Wrestling fans can be a strange group of people. I know this won’t shock many folks reading this, but it may really stun some of you. I was reminded of this yesterday while waiting in line to enter WWE Axxess. I arrived right around the time the very first session of Axxess was slated to start. This may have been a mistake, as there was a massive line. Said line provided many people watching opportunities and observations.
First, what is the fascination with replica WWE Championship belts? I know they are kind of impressive pieces and we (the collective of wrestling fans) have spent our entire lives watching some form of superhero raise them high in the air, but they seem like a silly purchase. This goes double for championship belts that cost hundreds of dollars (or over a thousand). I don’t get it.
I don’t mean to belt-shame here. If this is how you choose to explore this thing we love, more power to you.
Axxess is a really interesting experience if you’re not the type to wait in autograph lines. I don’t need things signed, so I spent the majority of my time around the ring where matches and things happen, in the WWE superstore while my brother threatened to buy his daughters Booty-O’s shirts over the phone, and wandering through the small museum area (this year, it’s stocked with Sting memorabilia). While most folks wander from wrestler signing to signing, I avoided this area as much as possible [never meet your heroes (or wrestlers), kids].
The main reason I went to Axxess on Thursday was the unveiling of the Dusty Rhodes statue. Much like WWE has made for Andre the Giant, Bruno Sammartino, and Ultimate Warrior, they made a statue to remember Dusty by. This was a touching moment and may end up being the most emotional moment of the whole weekend.
Triple H presided over the unveiling, invited the Rhodes family (Dustin, Cody, Brandi, Dusty’s daughters, grandkids, and Brandi’s parents) to the ring, and they uncovered the statue. You could tell the entire Rhodes clan was having a hard time holding back their emotion. They all thanked the fans for their support. Dustin, Brandi, and Cody talked about what Dusty meant to them. I had trouble fighting back tears especially as Brandi spoke. It was a beautiful moment and a wonderful thing for WWE to do.
Cody told fans to tell Dusty their story for years to come. He promised Dusty is a good listener.
We wandered around the convention room floor, which included a wrestling ring foam pit (I resisted the urge to jump in), the Elimination Chamber (this year featuring security to keep fans from climbing on top to protest Roman Reigns), and the WWE Superstore. My brother bought his 12 year old daughter a “Brie Mode” shirt there and I beamed with the pride only an uncle can feel.
Eventually we wandered back to the ring-ish area where Steve Austin was set to podcast with Mick Foley. I have never been in the audience for a podcast before, so I figured it was a solid time to do this. Austin and Mick both played to the crowd at the beginning, then settled into their normal podcast routine. This wasn’t a groundbreaking interview by any means, but it was fun.
It took an odd turn when Mick’s daughter Noelle was introduced and it became a commercial for WWE Network’s show on the Foley family. This is not a show I will ever watch. My brother and I departed from the podcast early and headed out. It was around 10:00pm and neither of us had eaten dinner yet.
The city really has gone all out for WrestleMania weekend, with signs for it all over the downtown area. It’s fun to see this many wrestling fans all in one place loving the thing we all love in their own way.
For food, I have now tasted Whataburger. I won’t criticize it, because Jake Barnett has assured me I’ll be shot if I do.
Today, I’ll be at Evolve 58 and NXT Takeover: Dallas. If you’re around, come say hi! I had a couple folks approach me yesterday and it was great to talk to some Dot Net readers.
Want to follow more of my adventures in real time? Hit me up on the Twitter @itswilltime!