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WrestleMania Weekend 2015 – Day 1: WWE WrestleMania Axxess

There are some who would say that WWE is wrestling company in flux.

That, despite the fact WWE has the support of the majority of wrestling fans, there's something relatively off about their biggest event of the year.
Brandon Stroud of Uproxx said it best:

"Remember last year with the whole “yes yes yes” thing? And the sick kid in the front row, and all the confetti, and the … no? Aw okay."

Yep. That's where I think most people are, collectively.
Things like this weekend, like Axxess, like events such as The WWE Hall of Fame and the overall big event at Levi's Stadium, they make you momentarily forget about the fact that Brock Lesnar and Roman Reigns haven't had any real chemistry leading up to the big show.

It makes you forget that the annual, all-important-sounding Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal has now been reduced to a pre-show throwaway match -- as if it matters anyhow. After being completely misused for nearly a year, Cesaro is a co-champion, teaming with Tyson Kidd and his wife who only seems to be relevant when she's on NXT.

They make you forget that the two most interesting matches on the card feature three guys who are way beyond their prime.

They make you forget that, after making a great, big deal out of Daniel Bryan -- only to see him vying for a title that's become a punchline.

There's a lot wrong with WWE right now. Nobody can deny that.

Events like the one tonight allow one's inner mark come out to play. It's an expo for wrestling nerds such as myself and others.

Let's get to Day One of WrestleMania Weekend!

First, I must say that, as a resident (and native) of the good ol' Silicon Valley, I was blown away at how easily the city has handled this event. The event was scheduled to begin at 5 PM (PST) which, let's face it, means you usually need to get off of work early or else you're sitting in traffic thick as mud. However, imagine my surprise when I discovered that getting in was fairly easy. Getting near the Convention Center, surprisingly routine and simple. Parking only took a few minutes as well.

Even though I've followed wrestling since the mid-80's, I've never been to a single WWE event or pay-per-view. I was kinda nerve-wracked because part of me was here for the pleasure of being here and the other part of me knew this was "work".

It's been really cool to witness the buzz around the area in the last week. You see the ads for this thing all over the place. Our bus and lightrail system is plastered with the event poster stuff, you can see the little pole flags all over the downtown area, our local radio and TV personalities have been interviewing various WWE Superstars...it's been exciting.

Once Danielle and I got into the San Jose Convention Center lobby, it felt like home.

 

They even had an incredible red carpet entrance complete with booming wrestler theme songs and flashing lights.


The side walls were adorned with giant posters of various Superstars, so we each chose one to take a photo with.

Danielle got Daniel Bryan while I chose to pose in front of the Sting poster (you can click on each to enlarge them if need be):


The inside is a wrestling fan's dream. Large event posters decorated the entire hall:



And, yes, that's the Elimination Chamber in the corner:


One of the highlights of Axxess is interacting with the actual Superstars of WWE. Originally, Danielle and I were going to buy VIP tickets which would have entitled us to get signatures from the top stars like Roman Reigns, Triple H, Daniel Byran and vets like Hulk Hogan, Sting and Rowdy Roddy Piper. 

Honestly, meeting some of the younger, lower-tier stars was an unexpected pleasure.

What's more, meeting them was almost like a great customer service experience. They seemed interested to meet you, greeting you with a smile instead of just signing your paper and taking a picture with a face made of granite.

Take "Rusev" for example:


Ok, first, let's get this out of the way: dude should be a freakin' linebacker. Dude's not "from Russia"...he is Russia. He's just big. Gigantic. Wide freakin' shoulders and barrel chest. He always looked small on TV to me. Real life, it's a different story. 

We didn't get to meet him because Danielle and I went to meet Paige and a couple of others instead and we missed our shot with him, but we saw him walking around and he's somebody you don't want to meet in a dark alley. He's huge and menacing in real life -- and we actually caught him genuinely smiling and laughing with people. It was so strange to me because, when we see these guys, you always think part of their "character" must be derived from some part of them that's buried deep down. 

There were two lines at each signing booth: the one for the regular general admission ticket holders and the line for the disabled fans who used canes, walkers and wheelchairs. Watching Rusev getting up, shaking hands, kneeling down near a fan who was physically unable to get out their chair and grinning from ear to ear really warmed my heart.

These guys love what they do. They love to entertain and they truly love their fans.

Danielle wore her Paige shirt to the event and stopped at her booth to get a photo and her shirt signed. I told her I was gonna go get some pictures and see if I could grab a few words from some of the stars.

First, I stopped off to see Konnor and Viktor of "The Ascension" and got some pretty good shots:



I ended up getting my picture with them, which I actually didn't plan to do but, when in Rome...


When I got up there, I told them, "I have nothing for you guys to sign...I just realized that." Konnor (at the table on the right -- who also reminds me a lot of a cousin of mine) gave me a grin and said, "Dude, we you covered! No worries!" Viktor nodded and said, "Here you go, bro..." while signing a piece of paper for me and passing it to Konnor. I took my pic with them, shook their hands and said, "Hey...Tag champs in the future?" Konnor smiled and said, "You know it, man! You'll see!" 

After this, I texted Danielle that I'd join her in line for Paige but that I needed to get some photos of the place.

Just outside of the Ascension signing spot was Triple H's throne from WrestleMania XXX:


Scoped out Renee Young and Byron Saxton at the Smackdown desk:

 

Here's a bit of a close-up:


On my way back, I bumped into "Macho Sam" who you'll remember from our WrestleMania Pre-Party report. If not, here's the photo we took of him at that event:


This time around, I got a picture with him:


His name is Sam Schmucker and, as it turns out, he's a very kind Hawaiian native with an affinity for cosplay. That's par for the course at an event such as this. Many fans come dressed in WWE merch or hold genuine, gold-plated title belts -- but Sam strives for accuracy. "I love dressing as the Macho Man," he says "But, now, it's really special and fitting since he's being honored at this year's Hall of Fame ceremony."

After doing the first go-round, I rejoined Danielle who was waiting in a long, long line for Paige. I have to say that Paige is an absolute blast. She's down to earth and loves to bullshit. She treats every single fan like a friend. She hugs, she flirts, she fucking swears. If you flip her shit, she'll hit you with the shovel you used to sling it. She's the ultimate badass Diva -- and she's sweet and unpretentious. Which is more than what I can say for a certain Diva who shows up less than Brock Lesnar.

She's just too awesome. I can't say enough good things about her. She even stayed a whole hour after her scheduled signing time because so many people wanted to see her. And what happened when her stage manager finally convinced her that she had to leave? Did she up and leave like Rusev and Jack Swagger?

Hell no.

She turned to everyone and said, "I have no choice...I need to go. I do realize that I didn't get to everyone...so, here's the thing: I don't want to leave you all so I will go backwards through the line and gladly take a picture which each and every one of you -- but only pictures. I can't sign anything. Have your camera ready to go, yell my name and I will stop and take a picture with you."

And she did it -- still smiling and laughing with fans as she went. I didn't get one, but Danielle did.


We did score a nice bonus with being sixth-to-next in line: Rosa Mendes was the next Superstar to be assigned the booth, so we got a nice pic with her as well:


After a quick food break at the concession stand, Danielle and I ventured over to the NXT show that was going on. Turns out NXT was having a short tournament to determine who is going to the pre-show Andre battle royal.

 

It was nice to see JoJo doing the ring announcer thing. Glad that she wasn't completely destroyed by the hellish suckage that is Total Divas.


We watched Tyler Breeze take on Finn Balor, which was a lot of fun. If I were WWE, I'd pull all of the guys featured into the majors.





The tourney would eventually come down to Balor vs. Hideo Itami with Itami coming out the victor, a nice moment capped off by Itami being congratulated by Japanese wrestling legend, Tatsumi Fujinami. So, we'll see Itami at the Andre Battle Royal.

After this, Danielle and I went to visit Adam Rose and Sin Cara. When we got there, Danielle told Adam Rose that The Bunny needs to be put under control. Without missing a beat, Rose said, "I'm so glad you said that! I've told him that a million times! This is MY SHOW!" 


The moment of the night came shortly after Itami's win over Balor. Michael Cole came to the ring (to a loud chorus of boos, MIGGAL!) and introduced Triple H. Behind him was an object with a long, dark cover over it. Beforehand, Cole reminded us all of the Ultimate Warrior induction into last year's Hall of Fame, which was followed by inexplicable tragedy the very next day when he passed away. Cole said that they were here to pay tribute to Warrior.

To the surprise of many, Cole introduced Triple H.


 

Triple H would spend about the next five minutes gushing about Warrior and how he was an inspiration to everyone. He touched upon their differences, stating that he was glad that, with age, came wisdom. He was happy that the two of them were able to discover that wisdom and maturity to patch up their differences. 

Then he introduced Dana Warrior and her daughters.

 

Dana received "WARRIOR" chants and started to visibly break down. She would nearly lose it when Michael Cole and Triple H unveiled WWE's tribute...a Warrior sculpture.


Afterward, Dana gave a speech, commending WWE for their care after Warrior's passing and, praised Triple H, himself, calling him, "This bad guy right here." Warrior thanked all the fans for the years of support and promised that Warrior would live forever no matter what.

After that, the Warrior Family paid tribute to Warrior by grabbing the top rope and shaking it wildly while Warrior's music pumped over the speakers.



 

It was an incredible, moving moment.

After this, Danielle and I made a stop at the WWE WrestleMania Museum which featured the wardrobe and props used by various WWE Superstars and personnel as well as historical photos, magazines and video. The wardrobe for Warrior and Randy Savage, alone, were worth the walkthrough.

First, was Warrior:





 

 




Luckily, we got to see the statue as they had just rolled it in.


Next was Savage.












Two things Danielle said here:

1) "Hogan has gigantic feet"
2) "Oh, look: he gets the entire set-up and Sting gets a dinky little cameo...figures..."


Wardrobe for The Bushwhackers, Ric Flair and Larry Zbyszko.


Rikishi and Harley Race were also represented.


And various memorabilia and props from several different WrestleManias...












Danielle even posed with a life-size Andre the Giant statue...



Danielle took a pic of me with fellow Italian, Bruno Sammartino...


We decided to go home after this...but ran into a signature booth we couldn't pass up...Jake "The Snake" Roberts was signing...

 

I DID feel terrible: I gushed over Jake, telling him how I watched him when I was a kid and that my favorite storyline was when he feuded with Rick Martel...and I barely paid attention to Ivory who was sitting next to him. Poor woman even injected herself into the conversation by saying, "That's why we're here...we jog your memory." She smiled sweetly and I said, "Yeah, you all do. Thank you, Ivory." 

Jake shrugged and said to her, "Yeah...or we completely lose our memories and struggle to remember this stuff because we're ancient!" Both of them laughed and asked if I wanted a photo...to which I said, "Hell, yes!"


I have to say that both of them have aged well. Danielle got a photo, too. She met Ivory and told her she was beautiful, then told Jake that he was proud of him for everything he's done in his career -- especially outside the ring. (A reference, of course, to overcoming his addiction issues.) She said that he was an inspiration to so many people, including herself. He thanked her and she got a photo.


And, so, that was Day 1. Tonight, it's back to Axxess for more fun, followed by the Hall of Fame on Saturday, WrestleMania at Levi's on Sunday and RAW on Monday...

'Til then...er...that's it.

Comments

  1. That looks awesome. I'd get lost in the memorabilia section alone. Ivory still looks great.

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  2. YankeesHoganTripleHFanMarch 27, 2015 at 4:06 PM

    Damm I wish I had HHH's XXX entrance robe and mask. Seriously, I would wear it when entering the gym and work and stuff.

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  3. Brandon Stroud is a try hard, horrible, fan boy, dick face, fat loser. Don't ever quote him.

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  4. Yeah, I was blown away. Her arms were killer. I think she looks better now than she did then.

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  5. I don't normally quote Stroud but this fit. Other than that, I didn't know it was "hip" to hate him. Consider me informed.

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  6. Looks fun - I really hope they put all that stuff to use someday in a real Hall of Fame.

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  7. With the full on entrance with the chicks and the lighting. Then, you just walk in like nothing else happened and start working out. :)

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  8. Gotta love Mrs. Warrior shaking the ropes.

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  9. Give Rusev the Roman Reigns push. He has the "IT" factor Reigns lacks. I watch both Rusev's and Reigns's workout videos and Rusev's was much more convincing despite the video not being in English. Plus Rusev's workout was much more badass than Reigns's bodybuilding workout. Rusev's words was about winning being a matter of survival while Reigns just sounded like a spoiled brat. Frankly I would book Rusev's beat Cena and build him up to face Lesnar at Wrestlemanis 32.

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  10. No idea if it's hip to hate him but in my conversations with him throughout the interwebs he has never been anything but a smug asshole to me. His writing is overrated and it's embarassing that he's considered gospel when non-wrestling entities need astute wrestling opinions. The Dan Shagunassy to pro wrestling if you will.

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  11. Why not have him face Lesnar at Summerslam? People talk lately like Wrestlemania is the only wrestling show that exists anymore.

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  12. Good point although Rusev does need to establish himself as a face for awhile before doing so. However we are getting to point where the fans are practically turning him and Lana face. In fact playing up the Rusev/Lana love story is a good hook for turning them face.

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  13. I think with a match-up like Lesnar/Rusev, you don't really have to have one guy distinguished as the face and the other as a heel. Just choose your favorite and let them have at it.

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  14. I've never met him. He was at Axxess last night, apparently. Didn't see him there. I wanted to meet him because people are usually different in person than they are online. Myself, included. :)

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  15. Two big Hosses clubbing each other, sounds like Jim Ross's wet dream.

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  16. You're a dickhead in real life? Cuz you're pretty reasonable online. Stroud can suck it. If you see him this weekend tell him I hate his guts.

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  17. I'll punch him in the nuts and say, "nintydayfiance says HI, you fuck." :)

    Nah. I'm a good guy. :)

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  18. Still pretending to be Dougie?

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  19. Do work, Matt. Have fun this weekend!

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  20. Love the pics! Thanks for sharing.

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  21. Roman Reigns's workout video is just more evidence that he is just about the look. The Rusev and Ryback videos featured strength workouts for athletic competition while Reigns's video was all about aesthetic bodybuilding exercises that you see any meathead in the gym regularly perform. It says a lot about what Vince values.

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  22. Awesome, dude. Wish I could've snapped up a ticket to AXXESS as well.

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  23. YankeesHoganTripleHFanMarch 27, 2015 at 4:55 PM

    Well yeah. How else would you do it?

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  24. Only $45 bucks. I almost thought WWE would charge more for them.

    Even still, they nail you with the VIP shit: "Well you can't see Roman unless you pay us an extra 90 bucks! Oh, don't have that? Enjoy the Matadores, asshole!" LOL...

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  25. I live a 5 min walk from the convention center. I guess I should break down and buy a ticket to this thing. Looks cool.

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  26. I've been driving past the merchandise truck outside the convention center every day this week with Hulk's face on it and the temptation is ramping up daily.

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  27. Glad you are enjoying it. I really need to get to one of these things while I still can.

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  28. Who the hell on this board lives in the Bay Area? Seems like a lot of us.


    (I live way up in the east bay, but work off of the Tasman area).

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  29. Wow, I work right near you, off Tasman.

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  30. Thanks for sharing all of these. Looks really fun.
    Your Danielle resembles a Danielle I know. Different coast.
    My Axxess experience was different (WM 29) because I went the day of WrestleMania and the lines were long for everyone. It was definitely nice to be able to walk from Axxess right straight over to the event though.

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  31. I like the design of the 'exhibition' with travelers trunks becoming display cases. Clever.

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  32. I can imagine that the East Coast 'Mania stuff must be more insane than the West. You guys get into it. The West is more laid back.

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  33. Thanks for sharing Matt, looks like so much fun! You two have a blast the rest of the way!

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  34. There were lots of people in costumes and carrying belts. It was nice to be among people who "got it". Except the poor Godfather guy kept getting called Brodus Clay.
    WWE has been pretty un fan-friendly lately with their booking and shows, but they really seem to do it up right with these fan events.

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  35. They probably do it up right with direct interaction to make up for the BS. :-/

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  36. WWE really needs to build a physical HoF to host all this year round.

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  37. You work at the big company there (the one that takes up pretty much ALL of Tasman)? (I used to a long time ago -- trying to be vague) I actually work off of Rio Robles -- like a quarter mile from the place I started my career in that other company.


    Seeing stuff like this is starting to make me regret not get WM tickets. I actually wanted to go see ROH tonight, but my kids have a talent show.

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  38. You seem like a nice person.

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  39. It also doesn't help that it's pretty much dropped into the middle of tech-nerdville (I'm including myself here). Surprisingly few wrestling nerds in that crowd, though you can't swing a dead cat without hitting a Monty Python fan.

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  40. That I do! :) They pretty much own everything East of Levi's...LOL...

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  41. This is quite a treat for those of us who will never experience it firsthand. Thanks for taking the time to share!

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  42. Still astounds me to see Jake "The Snake" Roberts looking healthy and at peace. Wonderful sight, never gets old.

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  43. I worked there until 2006. My wife still does. (We actually met in Bldg K)

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  44. I'm kind of kicking myself for not going the extra mile and not taking part in Axxess. Looks like a total blast.

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  45. The Warrior tribute was great stuff. Good on WWE for taking care of his family.

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  46. So I guess with Rusev you have to see him in person to really understand how big he is.

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  47. That looks like...so much fun.

    Thanks for sharing.

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  48. His hands are only the size of skillets though, NOT frying pans.

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  49. Awesome work, Matt... really enjoyed reading this. Extremely jealous I'm not there to take similar pictures, so it's good to live vicariously through you and Danielle. :)

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  50. Build it in Orlando near the Performance Center and boom... there you go... tourist attraction.

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  51. Seconded. Ivory still looks really good. Always was a fan of hers... even in GLOW. (Yes, I'm old... and yes, heaven help me, I watched GLOW. :) )

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  52. Crikey Mate Down Under AussieMarch 27, 2015 at 7:24 PM

    Thanks for sharing. Even your random photo of Rusev makes him look bigger than what he appears on TV, weird.

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  53. I would want it in New York because I like going to New York, but it's something I can KO along with the Simpsons park.

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  54. Yeah... mock Vince all you want, but he ain't got nothin' on David McClaine when it comes to cheesy gimmicks... loved it as a kid, though. :)

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  55. Damn.. this was a great post.. Made me wish I went. Next time WM is in the NYC area, I'm going for sure. Great pics too!!

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  56. I'd like it in NY too, but real estate is so damned expensive. If they still had their restaurant up and running, then it'd be a no-brainer. As it is, they might as well build it in Stamford, they'd probably get a ton of tax breaks, and they could have superstars drop by more often than not.

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  57. Ivory has aged better than 95% of the Divas from the 90's. She was freaking Tina Ferrari.. Time has been kind to her..

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  58. "Yep Mode" Abeyance Brown ©March 27, 2015 at 9:16 PM

    Great post Matt, one of the things I want to do one day is go to a Mania as well as go to Axxess. You took a lot of great photos, made me feel as if I was there myself. It also makes me want to go to one of these things even more. Hope you have some more fun, and keep the updates coming.

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  59. "Yep Mode" Abeyance Brown ©March 27, 2015 at 9:18 PM

    They could even have a second NXT arena there.

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  60. Man, the people that went to the first fifteen Wrestlemanias got ripped off.

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  61. You have to see him in Matt Perri's pictures to appreciate how the size of Rusev.

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  62. They should have bought the Silverdome for that purpose. They could have built a full WWE theme park there.

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  63. Thank you for sharing. Great photos! I went to Mania in Miami a few years ago and want to go back.

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  64. I went to WM 24 and the HOF the night before, these pics make me regret not going to Axxess. Next time its a must. Great pics, one of best posts here(outside of Bayless. Im a Bayless Guy!) in a long time....

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  65. I'm also in the East Bay on the other side of the Caldecott. I was at the Wrestlemania store earlier today

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  67. I've gone to two Wrestlemania's in a row and can't convince my friends to spend the money to go to this. They just want to get drunk with the money instead. To be fair, they aren't nearly the wrestling nerd I am. This looks fun as hell though great pictures.

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  68. Nice write up. I went to nxt last night (it was incredible) and I'm going to axxess tonight. Looks like there will be lots to do.

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