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John Cena's WrestleMania 23 entrance includes a tricked-out Mustang burning rubber down the streets of Detroit and right through the WrestleMania glass at Ford Field on April 1, 2007.02/13/2012 - 17:30
No more Axxess
For nearly three months, the WrestleMania Fan Axxess Tour has been criss-crossing the country, giving WWE fans an opportunity to take in some WWE sights and get autographs from their favorite Superstars, Divas and Legends. After stops in cities from Los Angeles to New York, the tour has rolled into its final destination this weekend: Detroit's Ford Field.
On the second to last day of the tour, thousands of WWE fans packed the main concourse of Ford Field to get one last taste of Axxess. Superstars Gregory Helms, Super Crazy and Cruiserweight Champion Chavo Guerrero were on hand to sign autographs, and of course, tour host Hillbilly Jim was on hand like always, beaming like a proud father at the scene inside the stadium.
"This has been by far the most rewarding year for me," Hillbilly beamed. "To have seen this come from a small, experimental project to the massive success it is now, I'm so proud of this. We're here to celebrate the anniversary of WrestleMania III, and I couldn't be prouder."
Fans were lined up outside Ford Field as early as 5 a.m. to get in, hoping to be there early enough to secure an autograph and check out the Axxess activities. Brandon Holeva is one of those fans, as he drove all night from his home in Buffalo, N.Y. to get to Fan Axxess, and he wasn't disappointed by what he found.
"This is probably the awesomest thing I've ever seen," he crowed moments after getting autographs from the Superstars. "It's the coolest fan experience ever. I'm excited, this is the first WrestleMania I've been to, and it's crazy in here."
Keith Kiersey came all the way from Portland, Ore. to attend his eighth consecutive WrestleMania, and said that this year's Fan Axxess Tour blows the rest away.
"It's always a good time, lots of people and lots of fun," Kiersey said. "This is my eighth straight year at WrestleMania, and I've been to every Fan Axxess Tour. This one is by far the biggest and best I can remember. So much cool stuff to see and do."
It's even a family affair on the concourse of Ford Field. John Chaney brought his sons, Jeremiah and Tyler, down to WrestleMania from Grand Rapids, Mich. The Chaneys attended both WrestleMania and Fan Axxess last year in Chicago, and father John sees Axxess as a unique bonding experience.
"I was a fan when I was a kid, and now the boys are fans. They get to see the Superstars they love, and I've seen some of the guys I remember loving. It's a great time. It's just awesome," Chaney said.
It's great for the Superstars, as well. Gregory Helms may not be much of a fan favorite anymore, but admitted that it's still fun for him to come out to events like Axxess.
"This is my fifth WrestleMania, and it's great," Helms said. "We have the greatest fans in the world, and this is a chance for us to give something back to them. It's free of charge for them, and we try to give them some of the same excitement they give us when we're in the ring."
Even the local Detroiters that are working at Axxess are having a good time. One of the security guards near the autograph stage remarked that Axxess "was one of the coolest things I've ever seen, and man, there's quite a crowd here."
For fans in the Detroit area that may have missed today's Axxess, you still have one last chance before WrestleMania 23 rocks Ford Field tomorrow night. The Great Lakes Crossings mall in nearby Auburn Hills hosts the tour's final stop tomorrow from noon to 6 p.m., with the tour wrapping up just moments before WrestleMania 23 goes live on pay-per-view.
And of course, after this year's record turnout, there's no doubt that there will be a bigger, better Fan Axxess Tour next year on the road to Orlando and WrestleMania 24; if all goes well, everyone's favorite Hillbilly host will be the first one there.
"If they'll have me, it'll be my honor to come back for Fan Axxess Tour number five," Hillbilly laughed. "We're up to WrestleMania 23, and hopefully someday I can stand back and be there for Fan Axxess Tour 23. If I get a chance to take that trip down the road to WrestleMania 24 in Orlando, you know ol' Hillbilly will be there!"