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  April 1, 2000

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Fans get Axxess to WWF stars
By GREG OLIVER -- At WrestleMania

 ANAHEIM -- Fans of the WWF got the chance to get close to some of their favourite superstars over the weekend at the WWF Fan Axxess event at the Anaheim Convention Centre.

 Learning from the limitations of last year's WrestleMania Rage party, where many fans didn't get to meet any wrestlers, the WWF expanded on the party idea to encompass the whole weekend.
 "I think it's good that they interact with the fans," said Arthur Corral, 20, of Montebello, CA. He waited in line over an hour Saturday night with his girlfriend to get an autograph from Tazz.
 Besides autographs, the Axxess event also features many displays from WWF sponsors and business partners -- everything from free Chefboyardee food, to Zippo lighters of the WWF stars.
 One of the displays were some mementos for the stars inducted into the WWF Hall of Fame. There were wrestling boots from Buddy Rogers, old photos of the likes of Freddie Blassie and Arnold Skaaland, and an impressive display of Andre The Giant goodies -- like his shoes and a cast.
 Blackjack Lanza and Brother Love (Bruce Pritchard) were two of the past stars on hand to sign autographs. While not everyone knew who they were, they did have their fans.
 "I'm glad they're bringing them, actually showing them," said Mel Soni, 23, who came in from Detroit for his first WrestleMania. He was a big Brother Love fan as a youngster, and believes that Love could still fit in today. "He was the most hated guy."
 For his part, Lanza claimed not to be bothered by the fact that many of today's fans are unaware of his storied wrestling past. "What's really nice is just seeing our World Wrestling Federation fans here. That's what matters. Blackjack Lanza doesn't mean anything anymore. That's fine. But the World Wrestling Federation means a whole lot, and that's the important thing," said Lanza, now a WWF road agent.
 The WWF also had a display of their charity work set up, and fans could get their photos taken with stars like the Hollys and the Headbangers in exchange for a $5 donation to the Make-A-Wish Foundation, which grants wishes to terminally ill children.
 There was also a wrestling ring set up, where matches went on every couple of hours. Plus, fans got the chance to actually enter the ring to see what things are like.
 Also in the 'see-how-it-is' category, fans could pretend to be Jim Ross or Jerry Lawler and call a match, or get their photo put on the cover of RAW Magazine.
 Todd Britton, 25, was excited about the growth of wrestling, and the new access to the wrestlers. He's been a fan since 1983. Sunday will be his third WrestleMania, after going to the Pontiac Silverdome for III, and Toronto's SkyDome for VI. "WrestleMania doesn't have the luster that it once had," he explained. The pay-per-views every month have hurt its greatness, he said.
 While some old-school fans may notice the changes, today's fans are just excited to be there.
 Deziree, 10, from Anaheim, got an autograph from Chyna after about 30 minutes or an hour -- she was too excited to remember how long she actually waited in line. "I couldn't say anything," she confessed. "She just looked at us and said hi."
 Her friend, Yesenia, 13, from San Bernadino, CA, thinks that Chyna is just the role model for today's young women. "It's an inspiration to me to see that a woman can beat men ... she makes all women look good."

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