The future is now. Seeing it live, only reinforced that feeling. Professional wrestling, for me, has been extremely stale. Over the past several years, I have never felt so sullied by this business. Never have I felt so disinterested. Yes, its had some moments. Even as recent as a year ago, we saw The Shield really step up and start stealing the show. We had the rise of Daniel Bryan. WWE looked to be picking up steam. But it only seemed to be short lived. Daniel Bryan got injured and was forced to relinquish the title. The main event scene reintroduced us to John Cena/Randy Orton….two of the most boring and stale characters in wrestling. Yes, we still had some moments…..but they were few and far between. And even that, especially in the case of Roman Reigns, would soon be tarnished by WWE trying to turn him into another Cena. Obnoxious childish jokes mixed in to an unbeatable force spells disaster. And Reigns and WWE paid for it at the Royal Rumble. Yes, they are trying to right that ship…..but still.
Anyway, enough with the mini rant. This story instead starts a couple of months ago. NXT announced they were coming to Ohio for an event plus an NXT Axxess at the Arnold Classic. NXT, was the only show in North America, that top to bottom kept my love for pro wrestling still alive. With them coming to Ohio, this was a no brainer that it was a must attend. When tickets went on sale, I made sure I was right there….ready to place my order. I got on ticketmaster and did my search. My initial search came back with 2nd row. Unhappy with my row selection and uninformed at the true popularity to NXT, I let them go. I tried again. Unfortunately, I pulled 2nd row again. But this time the seats were much further away. I figured I better not release these and go with the 2nd row seats. I went to checkout and Ticketmaster froze on me. I had to reload and when I returned, my tickets were gone. Ticketmaster hosed me! I searched again and found 4th row. Now I was pissed. I searched again…..5th row. The tickets were going and going quickly. Since, I didnt have a VIP seat anymore, I released them and kept searching. Eventually I searched my way to a sold out show. No tickets for me. I figured I would take my chances with ebay and Stubhub. Once again, I underestimated the drawing power of NXT and the very few seats I would find…..were all priced $700 to $1500. This show was selling higher than Mania tickets!
With the success of Columbus, WWE added a 2nd show to Cleveland. I would not underestimate NXT this time. I was determined to get them. I was locked and loaded and at 10am on the dot, I was searching for tickets. I loaded up Price Level 1 and was immediately met with the news that there were not tickets in that section. Then level 2 and got the same wrath. Keep in mind, this building only holds 1800 people. For shits, I tried GA and 2 tickets went to my cart. So the site was working, it just sold out of tickets minus GA. Evidently ticket web could give you real time updates on how many tickets remained for sections, as it allowed me to choose up to 10 tickets the first time I searched and only 6 the 2nd time I searched for GA. I decided to keep hitting refresh a few times. Of course the website crashed a few times. At 10:16am, I hit the refresh button one last time for a miracle. And then it happened…..
You’re probably thinking that one of the other price levels showed available, but it did not. EVEN BETTER! I caught out of the corner of my eye that there were now 4 tickets in my cart. I assumed this was just the GA tickets I searched for, but I clicked anyway on my cart. When the cart loaded, there were 2 GA tickets and 2 PRICE LEVEL 1 TICKETS!!!!!!! I promptly checked out and the tickets were emailed to me. I was now going to NXT. Ok…me and Cancer Free Dave were going to NXT!!!
The week leading up to the trip was met with tons of personal life drama. I was distracted and off my game. My work suffered and I needed to get away. NXT would now not only serve as a chance to see a revolution of pro wrestling, but a chance to take fresh breath of air….escaping the drama, even if it would only be for a few days. The plan was to leave early Thursday morning to catch the NXT flights. But mother nature was less than cooperative. Cancer Free Dave couldnt get into PA, as the snow and ice wreaked havoc on the roads. We were stuck. Unable to get to Columbus, the trip I needed so badly would be delayed a day.
Losing a day and the opportunity to clean up at the AP….we finally hit the road early Friday morning. NXT Axxess should provide a great opportunity, but it was clearly advertised that NO PHOTOs would be allowed at the event. I felt they were just saying it and it wouldnt be enforced, but you never know. Once we were on the road, the GPS told us we had just under a 6 hour drive to Cleveland. Instead of taking us across the turnpike, it directed us north west to State College. We literally drove right by the Bryce Jordan Center. Cant see how this was quicker, but the time was good and there was no tolls.
Once we reached State College, GPS started to take us in a weird direction. We were driving through town of all places. How this could be on the way to Cleveland was making little to no sense. It wasnt until the GPS instructed us to turn onto a bike path that we realized something, in fact, was desperately wrong. Looking at the GPS instruction, it now said we would be in Cleveland in 18hours. I looked over the turn by turn and discovered we were now coded as a bicycle and it was having us take a bike path over some mountain into Ohio. Using Dave’s phone, we punched in the address and tried to get ourselves back on course.
We got turned around and proceeded to Cleveland. That would only be the first of many GPS foul ups for this trip. One thing I wanted to do was to call the hotel to let them know we wouldnt be checking in till the wee hours of the morning, to ensure they didnt sell our hotel room. Almost all the rooms in Columbus were sold out. Didnt want to take a chance. When I tried calling, I got a weird message saying my call could not be connected because it was outside my calling area. I tried Dave’s phone and got the same message. I tried the 800 number and was connected to a voice mail. I left a message and asked for a return call to confirm. We made it into Ohio and were approaching our destination. We seemed to have made ok time, all things considering and we were WAY early for the 6:30pm doors, as it was 10:30am. We definitely wanted to be early, as it was general admission sort of and we wanted to ensure ourselves getting front row seats. But as we took the turn towards what was supposed to be the theater, it didnt look right. I looked at this place on google maps and this looked nothing like it. Google Maps showed the Agora Theater being in urban Cleveland. I was now in the suburbs. When we turned onto the last street and the GPS said we had arrived, we were at some dude’s house in suburban Cleveland. I dont understand. What is going on?!?! I quickly grabbed my phone and using the same app as Dave’s phone, it instructed us into the city which was still another 25mins away. Strike 2 on the GPS. And strike 2 on the hotel. I once again called to see what was going on and met the same fate.
Once we finally found the theater, we decided to scope the place out….and also find a restroom. 7hrs in the car and a 2 Egg McMuffins later…..nature was calling….LOUDLY. We parked in the back of the theater and went inside. We found a little restaurant inside and hit the restroom. Once we were done, we noticed that the restaurant had several tables reserved. Perhaps this was for NXT? Not sure. We decided to sit down and see what might transpire. We had plenty of time….it was only noon. We would soon discover that the guy at the table next to us was also here for NXT and had the same plans to wait it out to get a front row seat. We then saw 4 more people show up. We partnered up with the 1 solo guy and found out where the line was starting and headed outside. This gave us plenty of opportunity to watch the restaurant just in case.
The weather was FREEZING outside. How we were gonna make it the next 6 hours, I just dont know. We would venture in and out of the restaurant in order to warm up before finally deciding to step into the vestibule of the theater. There was only 3 of us and we could just try and remain out of sight. Sadly, it didnt last long as 6 more people came inside and decided they wanted to get out of the cold as well. This caught the eye of security and got us ejected out of the theater and back outside.
The cold was unbearable. We tried to keep entertained through all the shivering and teeth chattering. I tried a third time for the hotel and again, same thing. I asked our new friend if I could borrow his phone, since he said he was from Columbus and got the same message. I jokingly said Dave, maybe the hotel closed up shop over night and was gone. And then the realization of saying it out loud started to haunt me. I googled and in fact there was 1 article concerning the hotel going out of business mysteriously 5 days ago. Evidently they were open and the next day, people found chains and pad locks on the doors. They just went out of business.
A moment of panic overcame me before I got my wits about me and went inside to sit down and find another hotel. Of course almost all of Columbus was sold out and the only remaining rooms were $800 or more a night. This was really gonna put a damper on the weekend. I found one hotel that was about 6 miles from the convention center for$200 a night. I went to book it, but the total it showed was almost $550!!! How can this be?! The taxes and fees are that much?! No way. So I had no choice but to book a motel 6 that was 25 miles away from the convention center. What was worse, it was south of the convention center in Columbus, which meant that we would now add another 30 minutes to our trip after NXT.
Back to the cold I went. A lot of the people worried that the venue would find a way to screw us out of being let in first. And they were right. When the time finally came to let us in, there was mass confusion as in the same venue there was this lame wannabee juggalo concert. When will call opened, people were going in and getting the tickets and then being let inside to head to the seats while those who were waiting were forced to remain outside. To make a long story short, once we were inside, we went from first in line to about 15th in line. People were outrage and deservingly so. After being 15 back, they then let about 8 handicapped kids through AND their entire parties. If I didnt get a front row seat, I was gonna flip.
Well, it didnt come to that. Once we were inside, we were able to grab a front row seat. We didnt get the ones we wanted, but still….got a good seat. The show was great. Not one single bad match on the card. Saw some shocking finishes, as I didnt expect Corbin and Balor to lose and they did. I was stoked at the idea of Balor and Cesaro. I said before the show that if I can get one match on this card, thats what I wanted to see. We got it. And Cesaro put on a clinic, while Balor valiantly fought back before he was cheated out of the victory.
When the show was over, we headed outside and to the stage door to wait for the stars to come out. There were others who had the same idea…..almost 20 by the time it was all said and done. The parking lot itself was a solid sheet of ice, perfect for ice skating. They did setup barricades around the bus that was transporting them. WWE security saw how many people were there and decided to come out and build this contraption to hang a curtain to keep us from seeing them and them from seeing us. This chased over half the crowd away including Dave. Me? I refused to accept defeat….not till all hope was lost. The curtain remained up all of 10 seconds, as the wind blew it down and it struck a handicap kid. They pulled it down and turned to us and said….you guys win.
What we won was about another hours wait till they finally started to come out. Corey Graves was first and he was super cool. Glad to pose and sign. He thanked everyone for coming out. We even chatted about PA, as he is from Pittsburgh. I wished I had my NXT program with me, as it was still in the car. Barron Corbin was next. He looks like a dick, but that couldnt be further from the truth. He was super cool. He posed for a photo and then said he thought he walked away too soon and asked that we retake it to ensure it turned out right. Class act right there. Big Cass and Enzo were next. Most NXT fans love these guys. Me? I fucking cant stand them. I HATE this Jersey shore gimmick. Robbie E does it and its a joke. At times, I even find myself chuckling. Enzo and Cass aint joking. This gimmick is a serious to them and I DESPISE it and Enzo is terrible in the ring. He is gifted as hell on the mic., but cant work. In fact, after this weekend….I now hate this gimmick even more. Its soft. S-O-F-T. And you cant teach THAT!
Nonetheless, both guys were very cool to stop. Carmella was out next. She was also happy to stop. Aiden English and Simon Gotch were next. I got a pic. with Gotch, but missed English as Gotch was going off about how I had a Finn Balor hat, but no Vaudvellians shirt. This would not be the last time Gotch would go off on me.
Next out was Charlotte. As she was coming over to me, she started to slip and came tumbling into me. I caught her and got her upright. She apologized for crashing into me and I thanked her for it. Secretly, I wished it was Alexa Bliss….but hey. She was super nice and took care of everyone. It was starting to get late and we still hadnt seen Balor. Adrian Neville was next. He too stopped and was happy to do so. Kevin Owens was next. He waved, but refused to stop. I THINK he was playing the gimmick up more so than being a jerk. I’ve met him before and he is usually really chill. But who knows. Sami Zayn was next and he stopped as well. Hideo came out next, but he didnt stop. Im not sure he understood what I was saying. He walked over, smiled and waved. When I asked him for a photo, his eyebrows went up in a questioning manner and he got on the bus. Strange. The last person out was Finn Balor. He came right over to me hit me with the Too Sweet. I asked for a photo, but he said the bus was leaving and asked me if I would be at the Arnold tomorrow, which I said yes. He promised to get me there.
Definitely missed a few people. They either got on the bus and were unrecognizable or were travelling via car like Regal and Bloom did. Definitely missed Alexa Bliss, Blake and Murphy, Rhino, Kidd and Cesaro. Still got a great haul. Skated to the car and was ready to take the now almost 3hour drive to just outside of Columbus.
I honestly wish I could say this trip was uneventful, sadly….it wasnt. It was nearly midnight by the time we left. Estimated arrival time had us right around 2:15am. We hit the road and about an hour into the trip, our 3rd strike with the GPS would occur. This time the GPS didnt lead us astray, but instead it seemed to just add an additional hour to the trip. Was this the bad? Once again…I wish. No. Instead, what went terribly wrong was about 2 hours into the trip, I had dozed off and Dave’s glasses broken. The lens popped out and the tiny screw fell out. Dave couldnt find it and woke me up as he his blind as a bat without them. I was completely out of it. We had no tape anywhere, so there was really nothing we could do to fix his glasses even temporarily. He had no backup pair or contacts with him either. I couldnt even hold my eyes open, so I was no help to drive. Like a pirate with a patch, Dave pushed on using his one and only good eye to get us to the hotel. A struggle would put it mildly. I had to help navigate while Dave attempted to drive. Safety was not the priority.
We finally made it to the hotel and was able to secure some duct tape for a temp fix for Dave. We got inside, quickly unpacked and passed out…..for a mere 2 hours, as we needed to be up and out the door. In the past 48 hours, I had gotten a grand total of 3 hours of sleep, not including my nap in the car. We grabbed our stuff and went out the door. We set the course for the Columbus Convention Center and we were on our way. But the GPS would wreak havoc again for strike 4. We passed signs for the Arnold Expo parking and continued down the road another 10 minutes. We got off the exit and arrived at a nursing home. We backtracked and got off the exit for the Arnold parking and found a lot right next to the Convention center. We parked and headed inside.
Once inside, the place was freaking packed. NXT was in Hall C, so we headed down to the other end of the building. 2 hours before doors were to open the line had to be damn near a 1000 deep. It was going up the stairs and down the hall, after it already snaked around several corners. No way was I gonna wait in this mob scene. I found an unsuspecting person that seemed to be hanging out by himself and went over to talk to him. I made it perfectly clear what our intentions were and what role I needed him to play. He complied and had no issue….and neither did the rest of the line. Instead of being over a 1000 deep….we were in the first 200. One problem solved. The next issue was it was getting REALLY warm inside. I had packed fairly light, but not light enough to stuff my jacket in my bag. We opted to load all our stuff into Dave’s bag, while my bag had my jacket, camera, markers and worn Devitt trunks.
At 9am, they finally let us in. NXT was to our immediate right. We found where the tables were setup and got into line. Not too bad. Only about 50 people back. We would later discover that this hall was very popular because many people who attend come to meet the body builders and this is the hall they would do the autographing at as well. A WWE staff member came out and said this was the Finn Balor line that we were in and that Kevin Owens line was on the other side. If anyone wants Kevin Owens, they need to head over there. Not a single soul walked over. Everyone refused to leave. Is Balor really that much over, especially against Owens?
The advertisement stated that you would receive 1 autograph and no photos. Going through the first line, this was STRICTLY enforced. A few people attempted to get photos and were quickly shunned away and told no photos. They even had security walk up and down the lines saying it over and over. The signing started about 15 minutes late, but moved fairly decently. They were handing out NXT posters 16 X 20 in size. Way better than those mats they usually have. Dylan Miley, who somewhat resembles Andre The Giant, was also at Balor’s table. I got him on the poster and then got to Balor. I got him to sign his ring worn trunks for me. I asked him if this was a good time for the photo or should I wait. He said, it was a perfect time. He stood up and I walked around the table. WWE’s rep. went crazy, but Balor told her it was cool. She argued, but he took the photo anyway. She then made it a point to once again tell people that there was no photos allowed. I thanked Finn and handed him a tshirt I had made taking his face logo from his current WWE shirt and adding my Balor Club logo to it and it also happened to be the shirt I was wearing. He thanked me for the shirt, but said to be careful WWE is always hunting down people who are bootlegging merchandise and they are relentless. I shall heed your advice good sir.
Once we were done with Balor, we headed for Kevin Owens line. We saw a ridiculous size line formed and went to join in. We were stopped by WWE, asking if we were looking for Kevin Owens. They pointed to us, saying we could go right up. Owens and Carmella had no line. Balor’s line was a 100 deep. This is weird. I got Owens and Carmella on my new NXT poster. Owens commented about my shirt saying shirts like this take money out wrestler’s pockets. I get it. But I’m a fan and I want to support Finn. I OWN Finn’s WWE shirt. In fact, I own several Prince Devitt shirts. I bought 4 from Suplex Wrestling from England that had a deal with him before his WWE days and paid $60 for each to have them shipped to the states. He wasnt a jerk about it….but it just kind of seemed like he was a tiny bit irked. In fact, this would not be the last time this shirt would raise issue.
Once we were done with them, we rejoined the Balor line since there wasnt that many people in it. Turns out, most of the people waiting out the doors to get in were doing so for the body builders and free supplements and not NXT. We blew through the Balor line and got to the front pretty quickly. Dave helped out and got 1 done for me and I got another. That now put my Balor count to 3 autos and 1 photo.
Once we were done with Balor, we repacked our bags and I took notice that my silver paint marker must have somehow leaked at some point, as I had silver all on my hands and my NXT poster had smudges of silver on it as well. I opted to pitch the poster, as it had just 3 signatures on it and would just start it over. Once we got regrouped, we headed to the bathroom for me to washup and then ventured to the other side of the building to see what the Hogan line looked like. When we got there, which took forever to navigate the sea of people, it was nothing but a total cluster fuck. There was a line going down the right side of the table, left side, in front and around back. They made an announcement about purchasing a $100 box of candy bars that Hogan was promoting and you would be guaranteed to meet Hogan. After seeing how many people were here, we ended up bailing. Just want worth the wait and risk that we wouldnt actually get him. Not to mention, I had no need for the man.
We pushed our way back to NXT to catch the next session with Hideo and Braun Stowman/Enzo and Colin Cassidy. Got both Hideo and Braun on my NXT poster and got a pic with Hideo. We walked over to the Enzo line and once again, this side was bare. Went right up and got Enzo and Colin and for the 2nd time, I got hammered by someone concerning my shirt. Enzo gave me grief about it. Really?!
Our next stop was the EAS booth, where NFL players Demarco Murray aka Spray Tan, Larry Fitzgerald and Eric Ebron were appearing. Sadly, Demarco left early and Ebron was a no show. It left just Fitzgerald. The line for Larry wasnt bad. Moved pretty quickly too. He was up on stage signing EAS 8x10s. When I got up there, I was able to get a photo op. The EAS lady said she didnt like how the first one came out and took a 2nd. Very nice that she was checking photos to ensure they turned out well. I got a signed 8×10 and was off. Fitz was very cool to meet and a humble guy. Yes, he signed outside merch for free as well, but I brought nothing. EAS also gave you a swag bag at the end, which was nice. I reviewed my photos with Fitz and both turned out perfectly fine. After posting to facebook, Larry Fitzgerald actually commented on my photo and liked it. THAT was pretty cool. And it was during this time that I found out Jon “Bones” Jones was indeed signing and taking photos. One of the guys in line had an autographed photo from him, but couldnt remember where he was. A quick google search of the supplement company produced a hit and now I knew where Bones was. So that would be our next stop.
After EAS, we REALLY had to fight the crowd to get back to the NXT area. We encountered Arnold and his entourage, which made safe passage almost unreachable. But when we finally got back to NXT, we had some time before the next session was going to start and I wanted Bones bad. Luckily, Bones was in the same section, so we went over and got into line. Unfortunately, Bones was at lunch and wouldnt be returning for another 20 minutes. The line was long, one of the longest lines inside the Arnold that we would wait in. Since Kaityln’s table was across from Bones’ line, Dave and I went over 1 at a time to get Kaitlyn. Kaitlyn was cool. She remembered me from my picture with DJ from the Poconos casino appearance and our tshirts. She even asked where DJ was. I of course sold him down the river, explaining DJ is more into Alicia Fox and Kaitlyn just wasnt his style. 1 auto and 1 photo and I was back to Bones line.
Bones finally arrived and line started moving fairly quickly. He even came back about 10 minutes early, which worked well cuz the NXT session was going to start. While waiting in the Bones line, we also missed Balor vs. Owens. It sucked we missed the match, but we would never have been able to get up close anyway due to the crowd size. As we approached the front of the line, they were announcing that Bones would sign 2 each and do 1 photo. WOW! Now I really wished I had stuff with me for him. Damn. The photo was most important to me anyway, so I was happy with that. When it was my turn, Bones was super cool. He actually stood and had a conversation with me and they never tried to rush us. Very relaxed situation. I told him he was my favorite fighter currently and my favorite fight of his was him vs. the purse snatcher. His eyes popped and he smiled. He told me that was his favorite fight too and that it was the best day of his life. He went on to talk about how the feeling he had when he caught this dude was surreal and that when he fights in the Octagon, its a lot different. Very cool moment. He signed one of his promos for me and I got my photo op, which I was very happy about.
Dave and I rushed back to NXT to join the line. This session included The Vaudvelians, Sasha Banks and Kalisto. The line was one of the smallest of all the sessions and now they got rid of the 2 different lines and had all the stars at the same station. We were about 10 people back when we got into line and session wasnt even half over. First up was Gotch and English and here came the biggest incident with the shirt that I have touched on already. So Gotch is seated first and sees my shirt and starts going off about bootlegging. He says what I have done is illegal and that he is going to report me to Vince and Vince will have me in jail. I laughed it off, thinking he was heeling. Instead, he tells me not to laugh, that my crime is not funny. So I explain to him that I am a fan, etc, etc. He starts to lecture me and then goes on about how his first call after he is done here will be to Vince and Vince is gonna get me, etc. Now I’m annoyed and the idea of respect for these guys is out the door. So I ask him, who the hell is Vince? He tells me MISTER McMahon. I laugh at him. I explain that Vince has no clue who Simon Gotch is. If someone mentioned the name Simon Gotch to Vince, he would think it was some new STD. Sorry pal…nice try. I moved onto Aiden, annoyed as shit now. Gotch took it too far. Aiden signed and then I got to Sasha. I think Sasha could tell how annoyed I was. She told me she loved the shirt and asked if I would make a shirt for her. She said I did nice work and she would be proud to wear one I made. Now THATS class. She didnt have to say anything, let alone go the extra mile. This shirt was never intended to upset anyone. I wore because I am a huge Balor fan and I like that logo WWE was using. I combined it with my Balor Club logo and bam….I had a shirt that I liked a lot. And yes, I own the WWEshop version as well…..of course I do. And the last person at the table was Kalisto, who I also got on my NXT poster.
Soured by this experience with Gotch, I tried to put it out of my head. We now had some time to kill until the next session, but no where to go and certainly NO desire to fight the crowd. So we opted to just rest where the line was for NXT Axxess and wait for the next session. Dave needed to hit the ATM anyway, which would prove to be the longest line he would be in all day. Evidently, 1 ATM already had been closed as it ran out of money, which left this other one with a line a mile long. Since we had 2.5hrs before the next session, it made sense to just do the ATM now. While sitting and waiting, I spotted a familiar face in THE MOOCH! Thats right, the kid had grown up and was 2 months away from graduating with a BS in Business. We sat and talked about numerous topics including his plans for the future. While he doesnt know what he wants to do for a career, he plans to pursue his masters degree next and he just came back from Australia where he spent several months studying abroad. Crazy how time flies.
After nearly 2 hours, Dave finally rejoined me. The ATM line was insane. He was afraid it was going to run out of money at the rate people were pulling it out. The last session was beginning and it was gonna be a good one and definitely one of the more popular ones. We had Sami Zayn, Bayley, Dana Brooke and Alexa Bliss. I love Alexa Bliss. She is awesome. She might be a little green, but she is very athletic, has a great look and I think she will be a great fit in WWE someday. I also like Bayley a lot. She has a fantastic gimmick and is really good in the ring. And of course Sami Zayn….always known for being a great worker. He really sold me on his ability to translate to main stream television with his promo in Columbus the night before. He talked about a revolution in pro wrestling that NXT is. He compared it to the days of when ECW was starting out. And I really feel that way about NXT. NXT, eventhough its a WWE product, has this underground feeling to it. The guys there are a mix of fantastic workers, greenhorns, athletes, etc. And right now we are seeing the best workers getting showcased, while those who need work are getting an opportunity to do just that. I just read that NXT will have its own show at Wrestlemania and that it sold out 4100 seats in 2 hours. NXT is where its at.
Anyway, this was definitely a very busy session and line moved very slowly. When we finally reached the table, Zayn was first and I was able to get 2 done from him…..one on my poster and one on a prior photo op. Zayn liked the photo and wanted to know where it was taken. I told him and he nodded. Bayley looked at it and said “You Look Very Handsome.” We simultaneously thanked her. Zayn complimented my tshirt, saying it was cool. Onto Bayley next, I got her on my NXT poster and then got a pic with her, as I missed her at Columbus. Alexa Bliss was next. She looked amazing. She signed my poster and was happy to pose for a photo. And finally Dana Brooke, who is pretty ripped and definitely good looking too. She was also competing at the Arnold in a body building category. Got her on my poster and a pic with.
Saturday was in the books. And it was good. After just 3 hours sleep combined over the past 2 days, I was beat. This day had consumed all the energy I had. And we were both hungry, considering we hadnt eaten all day. We walked out and back to the car. First stop was to hit Walgreens so we could get some photos printed out for Sunday. Wanted to get a few photo ops signed for Sunday. Once we were done there, it was off to Steak N Shake for a bite to eat and then back to the hotel. However, Dave turned a quick bite into a meal for 3. 1 double cheeseburger and 2 footlong hot dogs. Dave had his heart set on raising the stock prices for Steak N Shake single handedly.
With dinner done, we drove back to the hotel. The good definitely gave me a small burst of energy that would definitely die out about an hour after we got back. I got my bag packed and was in bed. I put the Duke/North Carolina game on and was planning on watching that. As far as I remember, I watched the entire game, turned off the tv and went to sleep. I remember Coach K and Roy shaking hands and Duke emerging victorious. However, Dave’s account is a bit different. He claims I fell asleep with the remote in hand with 3 minutes left. He snuck the remote out of my hand, finished watching the game and then put SNL on for a few minutes before he turned off the tv and went to sleep. I wonder which version is true.
The morning came, we elected to sleep in a bit since Sunday would not be as packed as Saturday. We headed back over, but yet again ran into a travel issue. The GPS didnt screw us, but the exit for the convention center was now closed and we were re routed. This put a major damper, as now we couldnt get to the parking lot that we had parked in next to the convention center. We spent at least another 20-25 mins. trying to find parking. When we finally got to a lot, we pulled in and were told to turn around, as the car in front of us was the last one they could accomadate. We finally found a parking garage and pulled in. By a stroke of luck, this garage had a skywalk to the convention center. We could leave our jackets behind without having to take a long walk in the cold.
Once inside, day 2 was well underway. We headed right into Hall C for NXT. Today, I was determined to get a good spot on the rails to take photos and watch some wrestling, while still trying to get more autographs. Now since we were running late, we headed right to the Axxess line for the first session which had Barron Corbin, Kalisto, Murphy and Blake. I got Corbin, Murphy and Blake on my NXT poster along with Corbin, who I also got to sign my photo op. Once I was done, I found a decent spot right on the rail by the ramp and decided to hit that up. I would be able to secure some great shots of the stage and still be able to shoot the ring too. So I stayed here to shoot some photos, while Dave went to see how the traffic was for the rest of the con. He returned shortly and said it was still pretty bad and it was tough to move about.
The NXT divas were finishing a Q and A and were getting ready for the first match, which included my girl Alexa Bliss. She was not signing today, but I still had hopes to get my photo op with her signed. After she was done, she came walking up the aisle and I pulled out my photo op. She saw it and came right over. She signed it and the NXT film crew ran over and started filming her signing it. She left, while I celebrated my victory. NXT film crew kept filming me, so I started to markout for the camera, including kissing my photo op, which the camera guy gave me the thumbs up too.
Since we were late for session 1, session 2 was starting very soon. Regal came out and announced that in 20 minutes the main event was happening and it would be Balor/Neville vs. Owens/Breeze. I really wanted to shoot this match and was determined to stay regardless who was signing. And the next signing had Mark Henry, Bayley, Sami Zayn and Charlotte. I had a small need for Henry and 3 for Charlotte. My plan was to not give up my spot, as I had already moved down 2 more people to get even closer to the ring and really didnt want to lose my spot. Dave wanted to hit the line, so he went for it while I stayed back to continue to shoot. I was hoping since the session was 2 hours, I would be able to shoot the tag match and then hit the line. Of course, the 20 minutes might have been nothing more than a tv cue, as it was an hour before the match started.
Flair came out for a Q and A. I opted to participate in the Q and A and ask Ric about his impressions of Finn Balor and his future. Flair said Finn was very humble and has an extremely bright future in WWE. He expects big things from him. After the Q and A, Flair came walking by me and a guy had a Pro Wrestling Illustrated and waved it at Flair. I figured he would ignore it, but instead Flair reached over and signed it. I was shocked. You just never know.
Finally the tag match was starting and Dave had returned from the session. He said the line was absurd and people were continually looping back. I was starting to figure I was gonna miss out, as the bell rang. The tag match was pretty good. As soon as it was done, I grabbed my stuff for the session and hurried over. Dave kept the spot, as I hit one of the longest lines for NXT with only 30 minutes before the session was over. I was definitely worried I wouldnt get through. But I did make it with just a minute or 2 to spare. There had to be at least another 50 people still behind me, mostly loopers. I got Henry on my program, said hello to Zayn and got Charlotte to do all 3. I was a little worried about Charlotte, as Dave had said they were starting to get strict about the autos. But Tim White was at the end and he was really cool with me. He saw my photo op with Charlotte and said it turned out really nice and handed it back to Charlotte to sign. All 3 were done and I got through the line. I thanked Tim and headed back over to Dave. When I got to Dave, he asked me how Henry was and I said he was fine. Dave said he had a less than favorable experience. He said Henry took issue with the promo he asked to be signed and started to complain. He told Dave he wasnt signing anymore autographs and hates this part of the job. The promo Dave asked to have signed was one with Henry and Rodney Mack. He said Henry stared at it for a minute before he finally signed it. I just dont get some people. Why? If you have issue with Mack or whatever, who cares? How is it relevant to the fan who is trying to get the promo signed?
The NXT tryouts were next. Nothing spectacular to report, outside of Corey Graves just owning this with his mic. work. At one point he asked for audience participation. He said he wanted the crowd around ringside to cheer and the fans in the stands to boo. The cheers were decent, but no one was booing. Graves asked again and his request went ignored. So Graves asked the ringside crowd to now boo all the fans in the bleachers. BWAHAHAAH!!
They were getting ready for another Q and A followed by more tryouts. The Q and A was the NXT Champions Q and A, so I opted to stay for a minute. Kevin Owens was doing a fantastic job heeling in the ring. Some kid asked him why he thought he could beat Cena and Owens said he know he can, because he is motivated by how much sadness will be in that little boy’s eyes when he does. Classic. I also asked a markish question….how was it going to feel when he loses the NXT Title to Finn Balor on March 25. When JoJo was previewing the questions and I asked her mine, she said I should be ready for a tongue lashing and I got just that. Owens went off on me and some kid who painted his face like Balor. He told me it was retarded to paint your face, but I should do it as it would be an improvement. I did get to banter with him a bit. Owens asked if I was being serious, at which I grabbed JoJo’s mic and responded to him…deadly. Owens wanted to know if I could pass a drug test. I wanted to say something smart ass like….I could pass the same ones Randy Orton does, but figured that would probably get my question edited from filming. Overall it was a ton of fun and Owens was great staying in character. I gave up my spot for the last session with Balor, Miley, Neville and Breeze. Had a few for Balor and needed Neville and Breeze. The line was ridiculously long. It moved fairly decently. Dave wanted a photo with Balor, so I promised to take care of that for him. Breeze was first and I got 2 from him, my poster and on the Mike Dalton entry of my NXT program. He said he didnt know who Dalton was, but was willing to sign that page if I would like. Got to Neville and had him sign my poster and then to Balor. For Balor, I was attempting to get 3 done, since Tim White was there again. I got my photo op from the previous day printed out as an 11×14, an 8×10 and my NXT poster. He signed my poster first and then took my blue paint to sign the 11×14 and 8×10. He asked me if I was headed back today or if I was staying another night and I told him as soon as I was done here, I was back on the road. He said to let him know if I decide to make the trek to Orlando this year and I told him I would. Dave came through and I took his photo while he got my NJPW program signed for me.
As were leaving, Graves cut another hilarious line. One of the guys for the tryouts was cutting his promo and reached for the mic from Graves hands. Graves told him not to touch his mic as he doesnt even work here. Great stuff. While we continued to listen to Graves, we got our stuff packed up to get out of here. Out the door we went and we headed for the car. It was gonna be a long drive back and we wanted to hit the road ASAP. Sadly, our travel troubles would only continue.
As we got on the road and home was 5 hrs 49mins away, the GPS instructed that we exit. It wasnt really an exit, but more of the highway splitting. We needed to goto the right where the exits were, but Dave ignored the GPS and just went straight and now we were unable to cross over to exit. As we drove by, we could see our exit and it was CLOSED!!!! The exit we needed was closed. Now what?! We got rerouted, but the GPS now said it was gonna take 9hrs to get home. NO WAY! We got off the next exit and quickly circled back. We took a different exit and got on the right path. As we were making good time, we opted to finally stop for some food. We were close to haflway home with about 3 hours left according to the GPS. We stopped at Quiznos to get some food and then swung in for some gas at the gas station. We spent no more than 30 mins for both, but when we got into the car the GPS said were now 5hrs away. C’mon!!! 5 hrs?!?!? As we continued, I thought for sure that the GPS would update and get back to closer to our original time, but it never did. 5 hrs later we were finally back at my place. I was exhausted. This weekend was a ton of fun, but it kicked my ass. I would totally do it again, but I could do without all the GPS issues. The show, the matches, Axxess and all the great meets made the trip WELL worth it. I am so happy I opted to goto NXT. I cant wait to see them live again. As the final chapter in the NXT story draws to a close, I shall leave with my photos from this trip. Enjoy!