DALLAS — WWE kicked off WrestleMania Week in grand fashion Thursday at the Kay Bailey Hutchinson Convention Center with the first session of WrestleMania Axxess.
The two highlights of the night bookended the four-hour session, with an emotional tribute to the late Dusty Rhodes starting things off and the Stone Cold Podcast with Steve Austin and guest Mick Foley ending it.
The emotionally-charged tribute to Rhodes left both fans and talent with tears in their eyes, as Triple H led the Rhodes’ family in unveiling a life-sized statue of the three-time NWA World Heavyweight Champion.
“It’s hard to pick what was his greatest talent,” Triple H said. “Whether it was on the microphone talking about hard times, or legitimately believe in the American dream, or if it was captivating a nation, or whether it was his in-ring skill that just lit up the world. Or was it his larger than life true personality? He just encapsulated so many things.”
Triple H welcomed Rhodes’ family into the ring for the ceremony, led by current WWE stars Cody and Dustin Runnels, who both got especially emotional as they spoke on behalf of the family. The two unveiled the statue to chants of “Dusty,” as Dustin remarked how jarring the moment was.
“He was a common man who became the American Dream because he had a dream and he captured a dream,” Dustin said. “I want to say thank you to the fans who supported our father 110 percent over the years and who continue to support Cody and myself. Thank you very much.
“I can guarantee you dad is in heaven gettin’ funky like a monkey with the angels,” Dustin said.
As the NXT superstars came from the back to the ringside area, Cody relayed a few stories about his father — the first being from the night Dusty was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2007 prior to WrestleMania 23 in Detroit. As Rhodes was selected to close the show, Dustin joked, “Who did you ever beat?” to his father. Cody, quoting his father in his father’s trademark voice, said, “everybody on that stage, baby.”
Said Cody: “So I looked on the stage and he literally wasn’t lying. What a career, what a body of work.”
Cody also spoke of a time when his father was promoting and a wrestler had lost his father. When expressing condolences to him, Dusty asked the wrestler to tell him about his father, what type of man he was.
“Dusty Rhodes was famous for talking, but he was a hell of a listener,” Cody said. “If you get the opportunity to come to the statue, take a picture, don’t be shy, talk to him. Tell him how your day’s going, who you think is going to win at WrestleMania, tell him a secret, tell him anything.”
Cody shared a moment with the statue by doing exactly what he talked about, leaning in close and saying a few words as he was embraced by his wife Brandi.
As Dusty’s music blared over the speakers, Kevin Owens entered the ring and shared a long embrace with Cody as the family and Owens gathered for a group picture with the statue.
Stone Cold salutes Foley
The nightcap, appropriately, featured former WWE Champion “Stone Cold” Steve Austin’s live podcast with fellow former champion Mick Foley.
The two chums played off each other perfectly during the hour-long session, much to the delight of those in attendance, not to mention Austin throwing in some occasional salty language.
Foley spoke of many difference areas of his career, but lit up when his daughter Noelle came out to officially announce the WWE Network exclusive “Holy Foley,” which will document their relationship and Noelle’s quest to potentially follow in her father’s footsteps into the squared circle.
Once the WWE Network special went off the air, Austin said the beer he requested never showed up, as the person who was in charge of it was MIA. Austin quipped about how he couldn’t believe how difficult it was to find another person to get some darn beer.
The two riffed for about 10 minutes after the podcast went dark.
Off air, Austin asked Foley what his most painful moment inside the ring was (falling through, not off, Hell in a Cell in 1998 — although fielding Austin’s comeback punches were “no day at the beach,” he joked). Of note, Foley joked that if he’d known a sock would’ve garnered the reaction it did, he would’ve stopped dropping the elbow off the apron many years ago.
“I may have taken the elbow off the menu because, structurally, coming down on that same hip repeatedly didn’t damage the outside of the hip, it damaged inside,” Foley said, noting long-time orthopedic surgeons had never seen the type of damage he had in his hip.
“When you’re out there and you’re in like, Des Moines, dropping elbows at a house show from 15 feet away, you’re in no man’s land.”
The two joked back and forth about the day Mr. Socko was born, as the two were both part of the famous segment with Vince McMahon inside a hospital room. As Austin told it, the two were stuck in a bathroom together while McMahon filmed his segments and busted out laughing so hard about the sock that it threw off the production.
“It was one of the smallest bathrooms I’ve ever been in with another man,” Austin said to laughs.
“We were laughing our asses off, and they’re banging on the door telling us to shut the hell up!”
The duo took the time to thank the crowd before riding off into the sunset, capping off a successful night at Axxess.