HOUSTON — It seems the WWF does listen to its fans, and for one weekend a year, it offers fans a chance to get up and close with their superstars.
The WWF Fan Axxcess event was a big success, judging by the huge turnout of fans at the Reliant Hall, next to Houston’s Astrodome. But importantly, an event such as this is judged by how happy people are and whether or not they feel they got their money’s worth.
Todd Southdall, 27, from Delhi, Louisiana was one of those fans, and he was overwhelmed upon entering the Hall. “It’s wonderful. There’s a lot of stuff going on. You have to decide what you want to do.”
One of the things that Southdall did was call play-by-play for a WWF match at a special broadcast booth. With his friend, Frankie Tarver, 22, from Monroe, LA, he called the 2001 Royal Rumble match, in particular the ending with Rock, Austin and Kane.
The combatants in Sunday’s main event, The Rock and Steve Austin, greet fans at the WWF Fan Axxcess event. — Nick Tylwalk, for SLAM! Wrestling
There were indeed many, many things to do at the Axxcess event — try on championship belts, buy special merchandise, learn about WWF charity events, see a production truck, watch some wrestling, see the WWF Hall of Fame, listen in to WWF.com broadcasts, and check out some of the WWF vehicles from TV, like Triple H’s car filled with cement or Undertaker’s hearse (but no motorcycle).
But you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who didn’t come to Axxcess to meet a WWF superstar. To that end, the WWF improved tremendously on last year’s Fan Axxcess event at the Anaheim Convention Centre. There were more booths to get autographs in, it was a much bigger room, there was more talent circulating around the Hall, and therefore more smiles from the fans.
Cody, 17, from Houston, waited in line for an hour and a half for an autograph from Mick Foley. But the highlight for him was getting to meet Stone Cold Steve Austin after waiting in line for an hour. “He’s Texas, he’s the Texas Rattlesnake,” Cody said. “He’s the one I follow.”
|Recent WCW employees Bobby ‘The Brain’ Heenan and ‘Mean’ Gene Okerlund sign autographs for fans. — Nick Tylwalk, for SLAM! Wrestling|
The autograph booths were set off into corners, in front of curtained areas so the booths were both out of the way of most of the events, and also allowed easy backstage access for the talent to get to the tables.
A few hundred fans waited patiently in line for Austin at one booth and Triple H and Stephanie McMahon-Helmsley at the booth next door. Upon their almost simultaneous arrival, both sets of fans burst into loud cheers supporting their favourite (bringing more fans, of course). Austin then proceeded to stand on the table and give Triple H his one-finger salute. Helmsley did the same back, much to the crowd’s delight.
No one could deny that the WWF brought out the ‘A’-list talent for the portion of the show this reporter was at, including The Rock at a Make-A-Wish Foundation table, but almost as important were some of the lesser known people to today’s fans.
Blackjack Lanza and Tony Garea signed autographs in the WWF Hall of Fame, ‘not-ready-for-prime-time’ talent got a chance to have matches, fans could putt for charity with Sgt. Slaughter, Howard Finkel gave fans a chance to do Q&A sessions with WWF personalities like James E. Cornette (“$5.95 was the appropriate price for WCW,” Cornette cracked) and even WCW-exiles like Bobby ‘The Brain’ Heenan and ‘Mean’ Gene Okerlund were on hand signing autographs.
Sure the whole WWF Fan Axxess is a triumph of style over substance, but you have to give the WWF fans appropriate credit — the XFL booths were virtually ignored.