Axxessing the City of Angels
The answer is: playing WWE Trivia, getting my picture taken for the cover of WWE Magazine with the WWE Championship in hand and getting autographs from some of my favorite Superstars. If the question for this Jeopardy!-style clue is "What is my ideal Saturday afternoon?" you NEED to hit the WrestleMania Fan Axxess Tour when it swings through your hometown.
With No Way Out across town at the Staples Center, the WrestleMania Fan Axxess Tour made its latest stop at Universal Studios CityWalk in Hollywood this weekend. Over the course of 16 hours on Friday and Saturday, thousands upon thousands of WWE fans were treated to an experience they won't soon forget. L.A. was the fifth stop on this year's tour, and the turnout put the total tour attendance close to if not over the 100,000 mark, keeping it on pace to be the most attended Fan Axxess Tour ever.
There's a ton of stuff to see and do at the Fan Axxess Tour. In addition to the activities mentioned above, WWE fans can check out some cool WWE memorabilia. In Los Angeles, there was everything from a pair of Andre the Giant's boots to Stone Cold's old Smoking Skull design WWE Championship. This stop was also the first to feature props from the set Stone Cold's new movie The Condemned, which hits theatres April 27. I've seen an advance screening, and trust me, it's a flick every WWE fan needs to see.
WWE fans can also adorn themselves with a temporary tattoo designed after those of their favorite Superstars or even challenge their brethren to a match in the new SmackDown vs. Raw 2007 video game. I'm proud to report that my poor colleague Zack Zeigler stood no chance against my awesome skills, but I soon got my comeuppance; the skill level of some of the great WWE fans in L.A. made me pine for the days of mashing buttons on Nintendo's Pro Wrestling.
But of course, the highlight of the tour is the Superstar autograph sessions. Set amongst the backdrop of the Hard Rock Café, Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. and other CityWalk attractions, Chris Masters and Candice Michelle's signing booth had the biggest line on Friday night. Saturday afternoon it was Paul London & Brian Kendrick's turn, and they certainly didn't disappoint. The WWE Tag Team Champions stuck around and signed autographs well after their scheduled timeslot, making sure that no WWE fan went home disappointed.
"It was great; I can't believe so many people came out to see us," an amazed and wrist-weary Kendrick told me when I was finally able to corral him after the signing. "It just shows how popular WWE is worldwide. 15 years ago I would've been one of those kids out there waiting to get a Superstar autograph, so it's a great feeling to see all those smiling faces and make them happy.
London & Kendrick will defend the WWE Tag Team Championship against Deuce & Domino at No Way Out, and Kendrick told me that being part of the Fan Axxess Tour gave him extra motivation for the event.
"All those WWE fans coming to see us serves as an inspiration," Kendrick said. "We have a big title match at No Way Out, and everyone wished us luck and told us to have a great match. It makes you feel good, and it makes you want to go out there and win."
London agreed, adding only that "dude, it was a blast."
Hillbilly Jim is also part of the Fan Axxess Tour, hosting the festivities as the Tour makes its way around the country leading up to WrestleMania 23. Jim has been with the tour since its inception in 2004, and he couldn't believe how great the turnout was in the City of Angels.
"This is a great spot for us. Anytime we come out to Los Angeles and come to Universal CityWalk there's always a great turnout, but man, I can't believe how many WWE fans came out here today," Jim gushed. "We came out here last year, but what I've seen today blows that turnout away."
And well it should, as Saturday saw the mercury rise to nearly 90 degrees in the City of Angels. Sure, it's almost always warm in southern California, but my photographer assured me that this was an abnormal weather event in February. Still, it made WWE fans come out in droves to enjoy the day, well before the Fan Axxess Tour officially opened.
"We started in January and have set up the Tour mostly in malls," Jim revealed, "but these fans outside have been here since early this morning. The event didn't start until noon! I've been out here all four years, and I've seen the Tour grow from a baby into the monster it is now. Hopefully someday we'll be at WrestleMania Fan Axxess Tour 23!"
If you're in the Los Angeles area, you still have time to get your Axxess fix. The festivities will continue from 1-5 p.m. PT at the Staples Center as the hours tick down to No Way Out. And if you're not in SoCal, you can still check out Fan Axxess as it heads to St. Louis, Philly, DC, Chicago and more cities on the road to WrestleMania 23.
You can head on over to the WrestleMania 23 page and click on Fan Axxess Tour to find out when and where the Tour will stop near you. We hope to see you there, but until then, I'm off to go get an In-N-Out burger and admire my new John Cena tattoo.