EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- WrestleMania is an absolute spectacle in every sense of the word. But the pomp and no small amount of circumstance begins well before the event itself. For many of their larger cards like SummerSlam and the Royal Rumble, the WWE holds fanfest-type exhibitions called Fan Axxess and, as you might expect, none are bigger than WrestleMania Fan Axxess.The four-day event is broken into four-hour segments where you can buy things, see things, meet people, get autographs and man alive just experience all KINDS of things.
I spent the better part of Friday at Fan Axxess and I'm here to share what I have learned.
What You Can Do:
- You can stand in line for autographs and photo opportunities with WWE Superstars, of course. But that's just the tip of the iceberg.
- You can participate in a John Cena trivia challenge for a chance to win a signed title belt! This is as advertised: completely 100% John Cena-exclusive questions ranging from "Who did John Cena defend his title against at WrestleMania 22?" to stumpers like "what is the name of John Cena's character in the movie The Marine?" I watched adults and children get befuddled in equal measure. Get your John Cena knowledge game on point before coming to Axxess.
- You can audition for a part in a WWE Films production!
You might laugh, but that is the sweetest and most supportive casting call you will EVER see. Try topping that, HollyWEIRD.
- You can be reminded that Fruity Pebbles exist! There is a Fruity Pebbles area where people are handing out Fruity Pebbles gifts (a pen, keychain and Fruity Pebbles placemat for sloppy cereal eaters) and snacks. Here is my review of the Fruity Pebbles snack bar: "as gross as eating a bowl of Fruity Pebbles, but in a different way. Also, it doesn't take as much time."
There is a Fruity Pebbles volcano for no discernible reason. It was described by one of the Fruity Pebbles workers as "pretty weird."
- You can jump into the Fruity Pebbles foam pit!
This gentleman opted not to use the over-sized foam spoon to ... I dunno, stir up trouble. Also, I choose to believe the I WAS THERE shirt was in reference to the hellacious elbow that this guy dropped on the foam like two seconds after I took this picture.
- You can record your own version of the John Cena theme song!
Here is the sound booth where you can do such a thing:
Inside, there is a mic (obviously) and a screen where you can read the lyrics to the song, karaoke-style. Every single person that I saw do this (and there were many, let me tell you) mumbled, fumbled and stumbled their way through the verses and then belted out the chorus with APLOMB like it was the best thing they've ever done in their entire lives. The hype person standing outside getting you pumped probably helps with that. Here is what you will hear if you stand near this booth:
humma dumma luh luh
summa nuh hot buh sweater
summa nuh -- uh -- whoops
muuuuuuuhhhh straight brush mouth, colgate
YOUR TIME IS UP MY TIME IS NOW
YOU CAN'T SEE ME MY TIME IS NOW
it's a franchise summa summa now
YOU CAN'T SEE ME MY TIME IS NOW
- You can play with some toys! There's an area across the way from the Fruity Pebbles tableau with a bunch of packaged WWE figures and you can rassle around with some of them on their own. There is also this:
You are unable to see scale, but that is a life-sized, six-foot-tall John Cena wrestling buddy. I didn't see anyone step to it but I can't front: this would be an amazing toy to have. It is also like five feet wide so it is exactly to scale.
- You can get a "Money in the Bank photo opportunity," where there is a ladder with a Money in the Bank briefcase hanging above it. There is a cardboard cutout of Dolph Ziggler on one side of the ladder reaching for the briefcase and you stand on the other side of the ladder and reach for it and a friend takes a picture. Simple, but elegant.
- You can get your photo taken with The Rock and Mark Wahlberg!
It is so crazy that they were both actually there at Fan Axxess and anyone can just walk up and get a picture. It seems totally unlikely that they weren't just virtual images on a cell phone app. SO WEIRD!
- You can see wrestling!
The WWE has a sort of minor leagues based out of Florida called NXT (formerly Florida Championship Wrestling). A bunch of their guys are at Fan Axxess and every 20 minutes or so they'll have a match in this ring in front of a small to moderately-sized crowd of mildly-interested people. But see that little stage in the background to the right of the entrance ramp there? That's where the VIP autograph guests sit and sign stuff and meet people. So two guys you've probably never heard of will be wrestling to pretty much complete silence and every so often a guy in the stands will yell TRIPLE H! HEY TRIPLE H! HEY!
Also please note that this is where the Nets used to play. Right here. Right where I took this picture.
What You'll See:
The WWE saves pretty much every prop and costume and stage that they've ever used. They have an overflowing warehouse (or series of them) in Stamford and they break out an incredible assortment of things at Fan Axxess for you to goggle over. What sort of things? I'm glad you asked!
- You can see the ATV that Steve Austin drove at WrestleMania 25, complete with cooler.
- You can see the Alberto Del Rio Rolls-Royce that was trashed at ... uh ... well the sign says "WrestleMania XVII," but that's like ten years before Alberto Del Rio was in the WWE so let's ignore that.
- Most importantly, you can see the limo that Vince McMahon "died" in on an episode of Raw.
Yep, they blew up a limo and then someone was like GET THAT BURNT-OUT HUSK TO STORAGE WE NEED TO PRESERVE IT. This is pretty much why the WWE is the best company ever.
- Here's the flowing drape that the Undertaker wore at WrestleMania XV, autographed for posterity.
A strong Joel Schumaker influence, but also a good chance to observe the Undertaker's autograph and wonder how many times the Undertaker has written "Undertaker" on things over the years. So many times, I bet.
- Triple H's loincloth
so this is what it's like to look at a piece of history.
- There is a case with a ton of amazing title belts from WWE's history on display. But perhaps none more impressive than this old women's title that has a picture of the Fabulous Moolah on it.
- And the Stone Cold Steve Austin smoking skull belt is right next to the old "big eagle" WWE title so you can look at the best and worst things at once.
The snakeskin lining always added a much-needed touch of class to the smoking skull belt, in my opinion.
- There is a framed set of Cyndi Lauper's She's So Unusual platinum LP and "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" gold single, with a plaque presenting them to Vince McMahon.
There is another plaque next to the presentation which reads "You couldn't have done it without me. Cyndi Lauper." Which I think is the best thing anyone has ever said to Vince McMahon, ever.
Who You'll Meet:
Perhaps the best part of Fan Axxess is the fans themselves. You'll witness things like, oh, for example:
11:28 a.m.: Behind the wardrobe displays is a long wall of panels commemorating past WrestleManias with a lovely collage of events at each one. A woman walks up to the picture of The Rock delivering a Rock Bottom to John Cena for the win at last year's WrestleMania 28. She draws a circle around the image with her finger and angrily and emphatically says to her friends, "FLUKE. FLUKE FLUKE FUH-LUUUKE."
12:17 p.m.: Outside of the Izod Center, a loudspeaker plays Fandango's theme music. A boy of about seven pauses mid-stride to blurt a matter-of-fact "Fandango sucks" to his little sister before they both skip merrily along again.
12: 42 p.m.: Two men in line get into a "YES!" "NO!" yelling contest before finishing in laughter. The people around them in line applaud.
1:23 p.m.: People are lining up for autographs and photo opportunities before they know who will be at each autograph station. An attendant slips a piece of paper reading "YOSHI TATSU" into the plastic display at the head of the line. A man yells to his friends, "AY, IT'S YOSHI TATSU!" No fewer than a dozen people immediately leave the line.
2:09 p.m.: A woman poses her baby on the ladder for the Money in the Bank photo opportunity. No matter how that reads, it is adorable rather than terrifying.
3:10 p.m.: Some rough estimations put the number of observed replica WWE title belts carried by male fans at about one-in-20. That may seem low, but please note that none of these belts costs less than $300 and also please consider the impracticality of carrying a replica title belt over your shoulder for an entire day. (Probably one-in-40 or so of the people with replica title belts actually wear them around their waists.)
8:25 p.m.: There is a severe bottleneck of gawkers just sort of traveling aimlessly. I see a gap in the throng and make my way to the other side. Immediately after stepping into that gap, I hear an angry "HEY YOU JUST CUT ME OFF FROM MY KID!" It turns out this is directed at me, by a very surly woman who was traveling about four or five feet behind her 12-year-old son. I apologize and step out of the stream of people exactly where I intended to get around them. I was between her and her son for about three seconds.
9:40 p.m.: I share a shuttle with a beaming, very friendly, but exhausted woman who is heading back to her hotel. I ask her if she had fun. She says yes. I ask her whether she met anyone neat. She smiles and nods sagely, clearly trying not to brag. "Yeah. Uh-huh. I met Kobe Kingston!"
The people are the best part of Fan Axxess, because every one of them is over the moon to be there. In my interactions with and observations of the WWE Superstars, I was blown away by how much they care about making sure everyone has the best experience possible. Axxess is a weird, wild place, but it's filled to the brim with people who wouldn't want to be anywhere else and their idols who want to make the day memorable for them.
Basically, you should go to Fan Axxess next year. And every year.