We’re just a few days away from “Wrestlemania XXXIII” and that means tens of thousands of people are going to be converging on Orlando, Florida for the biggest wrestling weekend of the year. However, what a lot of people don’t realize/overlook is how much other stuff is going on around the city over the weekend. Today we’re going to take a look at some of these shows and events to give you an idea of what really goes on in the Wrestlemania host city.
These are in no particular order and like I said I can’t possibly cover everything. I’m going to be down in Orlando for most of the week’s events though and therefore I’ll mainly be talking about things I’ve either been to before (this is my third Wrestlemania trip) and the things I’ll be going to this year or things I’ve done in the past and had a positive experience doing.
First up let’s get one of the biggest out of the way with Axxess. Over four days and six different sessions, some of the biggest names in wrestling make live appearances for autographs (with very long lines) along with live matches, trivia games, a mini museum with some really cool memorabilia (including a life size statue of a wrestler, like Andre the Giant last year) and usually something huge, like the Cell or Elimination Chamber.
One of the really cool things about the convention is who you might see just walking around. I’ve been to three sessions before and ran into both Bob Backlund and Linda McMahon either outside the venue and taking in the exhibits respectfully. While that’s not a guarantee of course, there’s just something really cool about walking around and seeing someone doing the exact same thing you’re there to do.
In the same vein of Axxess, there’s Wrestlecon, which is kind of like the independent/budget version. This year over 230 wrestlers will be gathering in a single venue over a two day span for photos and autographs, along with live entertainment such as live podcasts and interviews, or something very unique like last year’s Mickie James concert.
These are some very big names too, including Shawn Michaels, Ric Flair, Edge and Christian, Sting and Lita. While every wrestler charges a fee for a picture or autograph, there’s no cost to getting to go up, shake their hand and just say hello. This is also much more affordable than Axxess ($33 to Axxess’ $55 before Ticketmaster fees) and has FAR more names to meet. While there’s no way you can meet everyone at once, you also get a perk with a Saturday ticket by getting free admission to their all women’s show. Yes Wrestlecon has live wrestling, which brings us to this.
Another really cool and affordable event is the “Wrestlecon Supershow”, a collection of some of the best indy talent available on a once a year card. This year’s card features the Hardys, Lucha Underground’s Fenix and Pentagon Dark, Lashley, Ricochet and Will Ospreay (the two of which will be captaining a ten man tag with eight mystery wrestlers), Brian Cage vs. Johnny Mundo in a TLC match and a twenty person Wrestlecon Rumble with several mystery guests. Not bad for a single night eh?
Speaking of indy shows, there’s also Revolution Pro Wrestling. Out of the UK, this is one of the bigger promotions on the white hot British wrestling circuit. This show will be including the British Heavyweight Champion Zack Sabre Jr. (as seen in the Cruiserweight Classic), ROH TV Champion Marty Scurll, Lucha Underground’s Jeff Cobb (Matanza) and New Japan’s Michael Elgin.
Above the roster though, this is about having a different style for a change. There are so many different kinds of wrestling and the British mat based style is one of the most entertaining on the planet. What better way to showcase that style than have a top level British promotion making their American debut? You’ve seen several of these performers elsewhere and now it’s time to see them in their natural style.
We’ll wrap up the indy section with the (arguable) king of the independents: Ring of Honor’s “Supercard of Honor XI”. This show might have the biggest non-WWE match of the weekend as the Hardys defend their Ring of Honor Tag Team Titles against the Young Bucks in a ladder match. There’s a chance that this is the Hardys’ last big match in Ring of Honor as they might be WWE bound so there’s a good chance they’ll do something nuts to go out on.
In addition to the wrestling though, Ring of Honor offers an incredible meet and greet with a lot of their wrestlers sitting at tables when you walk in. While autographs and posed photos with them come at a charge, the wrestlers are more than polite with shaking hands and even posing for pictures if you just want a regular shot (or at least they were when I was there in New Orleans). Ring of Honor might not be your cup of tea but they certainly have an audience and know how to put on a great live show.
Speaking of signings, we’ll take a quick look at some of the appearances around town. This year WWE is presenting two Charlotte signings, Kevin Owens, Ric Flair, New Day and Bayley at various times around the city. That’s quite the host of talent that you can meet (mostly) for free, assuming you have the patience to stand in a rather long line. It’s a great way to get a rare treat that you can only find over one special weekend a year. Couple this with things like Hulk Hogan signing at his beach shop and there’s one heck of a way to meet some top level stars.
Finally, we have what might be the most fun show of the year: NXT’s “Takeover: Orlando”. Last year’s “Takeover: Dallas” might have been the best show of the year (I certainly thought it was) with some amazing action and one of the rowdiest crowds you’ll find anywhere. While I don’t think it’s going to have anything to rival Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Sami Zayn from last year, we can still expect some high paced action and a crazy crowd with WWE’s budget. Works for me.
While “Wrestlemania XXXIII” is certainly the main event of the weekend and WWE is clearly the biggest game in town but there’s a LOT of other stuff out there worth your time. While you might not be able to go to Orlando for the weekend, almost all of the bigger wrestling is available on demand and worth checking out. Very simply put, if you’re a wrestling fan and can’t find something you like over the next week, I would highly advise you to find a new hobby (spelunking perhaps) because there’s something for everyone around here.