Axxess ends with a whimper not a bang
By JOHN POWELL -- SLAM! Sports
No Hogan. No Rock. No Jericho. No Stone Cold. Fans who bought tickets for the closing session of WWF Axxess thinking that the three day fan festival would close with a bang as it has in the past were disappointed to find it ended with a whimper Saturday night. In fact, it was really no different than any of the other sessions held throughout the week in the Automotive Building at the Canadian National Exhibition in downtown Toronto. Long line-ups. Not a whole lot of main-event talent, lots of interactive displays and lots of WWF merchandise on sale.
While there was still a long line to get into the building even after the event began at 6:00 p.m., many fans had apparently left by 8:30 p.m. as the line-ups and the crowds were thinned out signifigantly by that time.
About the only thing that set Saturday night's session apart from the rest is that the WWF's big kahuna -- Vince McMahon -- kicked started the event. The owner/chairman of the World Wrestling Federation addressed the fans in attendance from the ring located in the Pizza Pizza Arena.
"On behalf of the World Wrestling Federation, I'd like to thank all of you for coming here today, for being World Wrestling Federation fans and for allowing us to come to your great country and great city," said McMahon. "Thanks to all of you, each and every WrestleMania has been bigger and better than the proceeding one. I promise you that this WrestleMania here in Toronto will be the biggest and best of them all."
McMahon then proceeded to take a poll (or a survey...if you will) on who the fans think would win at WrestleMania tomorrow. When he asked about The Rock taking on "Hollywood" Hulk Hogan in the main event, a loud chorus of "Hogan! Hogan!" and "Rocky sucks! Rocky sucks!" broke out.
"That's not the chant I thought I'd hear," said a baffled and amused McMahon.
Later on during the session, the "Canadian Wolverine" himself -- Chris Benoit -- was interviewed by perennial WWF ring announcer, Howard Finkle. The crowd greeted Benoit with a "Welcome back! Welcome back!" chant torn from the pages of the defunct Extreme Championship Wrestling promotion.
"This is what I miss," said Benoit pointing first to the ring and then all of the fans surrounding it. Benoit commented that it had been a long road to recover from his neck injury but that he would be back soon because he had something to prove to himself, the fans and the WWF.
Finkle quizzed Benoit on who he thought the WrestleMania winners would be. As a former member of the Four Horsemen, Benoit had to go with Flair over The Undertaker. When asked about Austin versus Hall, an Austin chant arose.
"Are you serious?," Benoit said to Finkle. "Listen to the people. That's your answer."
Benoit praised his former tag team partner Chris Jericho but picked Triple H as the victor in their tussle for the World Wrestling Federation Heavyweight Title match.
"Hulk-A-Mania is dead! Rocky! Rocky!," was Benoit's response to the main event confrontation between The Rock and "Hollywood" Hulk Hogan.
Throughout the evening, Kane, Val Venis and others signed autographs at the Jakks Pacific Superstar Autographs booths though many were not seen touring the floor below. Tommy Dreamer, Toronto Raptors Jerome Williams and Tracy Murray and Ohio Valley Wrestling (OVW) matchmaker and WWF talent consultant, Jim Cornette, did and stopped to sign autographs for the fans. Former WCW and ECW manager and now Chris Benoit's main squeeze 'Woman' (real name: Nancy Daus) was also strolling the floor but no one recognized her.
SLAM! Wrestling caught up with Jim Cornette as he took a break from signing autographs at the Hall Of Fame booth to walk around and capture the event on his home video camera.
"You know, I love Fan Axxess. It's funny because this is as much fun for me as it is for everybody else. It is just that I don't get a chance to do it too much uninterrupted," Cornette told Slam! Wrestling.
Other notes from the event:
Killer Kowalski, Tony Garea, Jim Cornette and Brother Love signed autographs at the Hall Of Fame booth.
In the two matches of the evening...Brock Lesnar defeated Crash Holly and Randy Orton was beaten by Tommy Dreamer.
Val Venis was interviewed by Howard Finkle and took questions from the fans.
Chyna's book "If The Only Knew" was on sale for $8.79. The original cover price was listed as $10.99.
Ivory, Al Snow, Chavo Guerrero Jr. and 'Hardcore' Bob Holly were on hand for the "Tough Enough" segment. Snow tried to get Howard Finkle to come out and be thanked for all the work he had done at Axxess but he didn't answer Al's call.
Last minute wrestling news:
TSN's Off the Record will be showing repeats of its wrestling interviews throughout the day today. The Ric Flair show airs at 1 p.m., Jim Ross at 1:30 p.m., Chris Jericho at 2 p.m. and Undertaker at 2:30 p.m.
Rumour has it that Ken Shamrock is in Toronto for WrestleMania.
Expect X-Pac and Tajiri to battle soon so that the WWF Light Heavyweight Championship and the WCW Cruiserweight Championship belts are combined.