Find out what everyone’s favorite wrestling superfan Brad Ward did during Wrestlemania weekend. Take it away, Brad!
(You can follow Brad on Twitter: @BradFGN)
This year’s Wrestlemania weekend is truly when NXT had its arrival. In past years the NXT fan ring was focused on matches featuring lower card WWE talents but this year WWE brought Full Sail to WWE Wrestlemania weekend in a couple ways. What WWE did was they brought the NXT arena with the apron trons, the jumbo tron above the ring, the ring announcers, the superstars and the championships. In the past the MC’s of the Fan Axxess ringside area would refer to it as the WWE ringside era this time they referred to it as the NXT Universe. NXT while still developmental is now becoming a brand.
My trip started Saturday, March 28th 2015 leaving from the Calgary airport around 6:30 AM for sunny San Jose, California. The original plan was to attend Axxess only that Saturday Night, but instead we ended up making it to San Jose Convention Center around 1:03 PM, we arrived at the hotel at noon and made it there just 3 minutes later, while we had a massive lineup to make it in to the festivities we made it.
Something of note originally I was playing to skip WWE Wrestlemania 31 but due to change of plans, I ended up going. Our hotel was not the hotel I wish I could have stayed at, you know those areas where you legit are concerned for your life? That was what the hotel ended up being, however it ended up being fine and kept my 4 Wrestlemania streak alive so I cannot complain too much as we had a Denny’s and 711 close by.
Axxess largely had its usual layout giant superstore for merchandise, banner pillar posters with current top superstars, loud music playing featuring WWE Superstars songs, spot lights flashing and mass amount of humanity in one place. When we arrived the WWE 2K15 Tournament of Champions finals was taking place with Paige, Sami Zayn , Dolph Ziggler & Xavier Woods. We hit the WWE Hall of Fame memorabilia section which I love to hit as they have merchandise of superstars of past Hall of Fame, yearly Hall of Fame and past Wrestlemanias. This year saw the debut of the Bruno Sammartino statue and a burnt casket from Undertakers Wrestlemania 30 entrance.
Due to NXT Experience being so close to the ring, we hit the autograph lineup so we were able to watch Tournament of Champions finals and still wait in line. The NXT Experience had the backdrops you see at the Full Sail tapings that are much like Hollywood premiere backdrops on the right. To the left they had the World, Tag and Womens Championship and the middle they had 2 – 3 signees for autographs and photos.
At first we were expecting to get autographs from Big Cass & Enzo Amore but instead Finn Balor, CJ Parker & Devin Taylor which I was happy about because I have followed Balor way before his WWE NXT career began. I got to too sweet him and shook the hands of Parker and Taylor. Little did I know CJ Parker would be leaving the WWE shortly after Wrestlemania. CJ Parker had this gimmick where he was Mr. Wrestlemania Axxess he had something like over 25 matches over the course of like 4 days. Due to us not making it into till 2pm and the massive lineup for Balor formerly Enzo & Cass our block came to a close. Hindsight 20/20 I was very happy that I was able to make it to the 1pm session of Axxess. Also I ran into Robbie Fox in the Balor line so that was cool.
I then began lining up for the 6PM Axxess block, even though it was Hall of Fame that night, Axxess was still packed. During our lineup into Axxess they played the Hall of Fame ceremony for us to watch. I really enjoyed Zybysko’s speech due to the complete wackiness. So we made it in at about 6:10 PM and I headed for the drink stand and got a Wrestlemania souvenir cup. After that I hit the NXT ring where I got to see 3 CJ Parker matches, 2 Hideo Itami matches, 3 Bull Dempsey matches and 2 Baron Corbin matches. As well I got to see Sheamus debut before he put his beads in his beard in a Q & A.
Both Itami matches were quite good one with Scott Dawson and one with CJ Parker. Pretty crazy to me that I paid what $45.00 to see a guy wrestle in USA who some thought would never make it to America with a guaranteed contract. At some point in the day we also met the Lucha Dragons who were very gracious about autographs and photos, can’t remember if it was the 1pm or 6pm block too be perfectly honest.
After Axxess concluded we then hopped on the VTA train and grabbed some food at Dennys. Had a pretty good grilled chicken burger gimmick. We walked back to the hotel, and we were quite simply beat tired. We attempted to watch HOF red carpet but between us being beat tired and Internet not working well that was not in the cards. We had to be up at like 6:45 or something anyways so ended up being for the best.
Our continental breakfast at our hotel ended up being cereal, orange juice, coffee and these eggs prepackaged that you had to microwave. So I skipped breakfast except for the juice and ended up not eating until I got to Levi Stadium that day. That day we started Axxess by hitting the Elimination Chamber which had Dolph Ziggler in casual gear taking photos, better than Zack Ryder in a suit. Afterwards we hit the NXT ring to check out some matches, but were alerted that Kevin Owens and Tyler Breeze would be signing autographs. I thought I missed my chance for a Kevin Owens autograph so this blew my mind and made my Wrestlemania weekend to be honest.
So we raced to NXT Experience and lined up. The wait for Owens and Breeze wasn’t too bad. So once we made it through the lineup I had Owens sign my photo that I had printed off drawn by Robbie Fox and talked about how Tom Blackett is not the Big Dog. Owens said he will be getting that trademarked very soon and that Tom is not the Big Dog. It was cool meeting Breeze as well as I used to watch him in Calgary at PWA wrestling however he kind of no sold it lel. That pretty much concluded our experience at Fan Axxess and NXT at its core. I would have loved to be able to check out NXT in San Jose Friday night but was not in the cards.
We then headed to Levi Stadium on the train, wasn’t too bad a ride only took around 25 minutes from Convention Center station. We made it to Levi Stadium and it was really hot outside, to the point of extreme sunburn on neck and somewhat on forehead however I have had worse in LA before. We got in at a pretty good time that gave us time to grab a hotdog, garlic fries and an overpriced soda. Where our seats were was a slick lounge where I ran into a fellow WWE Games Community leader. They had a small merchandise stand section but mainly a pretty sweet bar and places to buy more food.
We got to our seats and they largely were pretty good, with exception of this giant production suite that blocked our view of the stage a little bit. However the view of the ring was really awesome and no pillars obstructed our view at all. We didn’t have long until we got to see our first matches. The atmosphere of the show was actually really good overall. Way bigger then Wrestlemania 30, not sure how 32 will feel but the outdoor arenas seem to have a special vibe to them.
Overall I thought this Wrestlemania is in the top 3 shows in history with only 17 and 19 being anywhere close for me. They delivered a ton great content and not only for one target demo. The pyro technics wasn’t over used and when used put an exclamation on WWE Superstars entrances. My favourite was definitely the closing with Seth Rollins. However Undertaker had an awesome display as well. My top 3 matches were 1.)Orton vs Rollins 2.)Ladder Match 3.)Reigns vs Lesnar
We then made it back to our hotel around 10pm or so due to so many people and a pretty long train back. We had Denny’s again for dinner and had a moons over my hammy egg cheese ham toasted sandwich was quite tasty. Brad Maddox was eating at the Denny’s with this tattooed guy and this random chick. We headed back to the hotel and again everyone was really tired and we headed for bed pretty quick. Our plan was to get some In N Out before Raw so we got up at a pretty decent time still.
Once everyone was ready to go, we took a cab to In n Out as it was a bit out of the way for us to train to. I got a 2 x 2 and animal style fries , lemonade and a milkshake, probably the best In n Out I had before. We made it to Raw about 30 minutes ahead and found our way into a massive lineup and was able to catch one of the Superstars matches after I got another drink making it the 3rd souvenir cup I was badgered into buying. Raw overall was a pretty good show up to the end of the 2 hour. The last hour didn’t deliver as much but the chants to me kind of got old with exception of NXT chants in main event. Roman Reigns being the surprise was not the way to go at all.
Trotting out Sting was a nice touch so the crowd didn’t go home unhappy with that main event, and Sting talked about how he is interested in WWE still for the future. Everyone wanted a appearance by The Undertaker but was not to be. So on our way out we ran into the WWE Games crew that attended Raw. We then left the SAP center and walked about 30 minutes to find the train. We took the train home, well almost as one of our party got left behind and had to regroup. The Co – owner of the other site I contribute to met up with us at our hotel and we tracked down our other party member. We ended up ordering some Dominos in vintage WWE ppv fashion and that concluded our Wrestlemania trip largely.
The next day we checked out and made it to the airport and grabbed some food at the San Jose Sharks bar. I had these massive nachos and some wings along with a rum and coke. I picked up some souvenirs for family members and a smoothie I was ready for travels home. While this was the shortest Wrestlemania trip, I was able to meet the most WWE Superstars of any trip, I saw a top 3 Wrestlemania and a pretty solid Raw. Looking forward to the monstrosity that is Wrestlemania Stars & Longhorns in Dallas.
For more photos check out my Flickr – https://www.flickr.com/photos/bradwardfight