|Santino Marella and Hillbilly Jim wave to the crowd at Fan Axxess on Saturday. Photo by Mike Mastrandrea
And World Wrestling Entertainment superstars Santino Marella and Hillbilly Jim showcased that the 2008 Road to Wrestlemania Tour indeed runs through Toronto.
The city of Vaughan to be specific.
Wrestling fans of all ages jammed the Vaughan Mills shopping centre Saturday to check out the event, which featured an autograph session with Marella, who blessed the festivities with his patented Italian brio.
There were plenty of sights and sounds, including a Smackdown vs. Raw 2008 video game challenge, a tattoo booth and the ability to stage your own professional ring entrance, just like the pros.
WWE legend and tour manager Hillbilly Jim spoke to SLAM! Wrestling and it was clear he was proud of the Axxess’s growth through the years.
“Actually it was an experimental mobile tour (in the beginning)," he said. "We went to the Wal-Mart’s down in the States and places like the House of Blues. We just did it to see how it would take off and it really got over good the first year. So they grew it every year after that and it got bigger and bigger.”
I get to be the host of the Fan Axxess tour and keep my old butt out here for five years. It’s great. There’s not too many things in this business that you can say you helped start. I helped start this and it’s been five years now and I’m liking it.”
The tour rolled through Windsor last year to support Wrestlemania 23 which was in Detroit and so emphasis was placed on getting the Toronto area onboard for 2008.
The fans came out, despite the recent snowstorm.
Martin Berdman, 31 came to check out Marella, who happens to be his favorite wrestler, and arrived at 6:30 a.m.
“Just to see him in person, and to get his autograph, I’m very happy,” he said glowingly seconds after the magic moment.
Berdman is also looking forward to checking out Maria’s autograph session that is scheduled for Sunday.
“She’s gorgeous,” he said.
Longtime wrestling fan Pamela brought her mother and young son who likes Jeff Hardy at the moment. Just after taking pictures with Jim, she revealed to SLAM! Wrestling that Mud Lick Kentucky’s finest was her favorite wrestler when she was younger.
Every fan SLAM! Wrestling talked to had a story to tell, like little Matheu and Devan Kavanagh, along with their 16-year-old big brother, Josh Inch, who is aspiring to be a wrestler and wanted to take the event in, dragging their parents along.
There will be many other memories shared after today, which helps to keep the tour chugging along year after year.
Axxess started last week in New York City and after Vaughan, rolls back into the U.S. next week with stops in Minneapolis, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Houston, Chicago, Nashville and Miami and then wraps up Sunday, March 30 in Orlando at the Citrus Bowl, also the site for Wrestlemania 24.
WWE Fan Axxess in Toronto Gallery
Feb. 4, 2008: La Vita è Bella for Santino
Feb. 1, 2008: Road still home to Hillbilly Jim
Kenai Andrews is curious about your favorite memorable Fan Axxess moment. Email him at email@example.com with your thoughts.