Surprise after surprise

Life is full of surprises.

Every year during World Wrestling Entertainment's WrestleMania weekend, there is what the company calls Axxess sessions.

Axxess is where the WWE's faithful, who come from all over the world, can meet and greet the wrestlers. This year, it was held at the Kay Bailey Convention Center in Dallas.

There were different sessions on different days and times.

Parker Schmidt, who accompanied me on the trip, recommended that we get tickets for the Saturday and Sunday morning sessions when most people likely still would be sleeping.

I agreed.

WrestleMania 32 Axxess at the Kay Bailey Convention Center

WrestleMania 32 Axxess at the Kay Bailey Convention Center

We had no idea which wrestlers were going to be at each session, though, because WWE doesn't announce that until closer to the date. One specific female wrestler Schmidt and I were really hoping to meet was Sasha Banks.

We are huge supporters of her. Weeks before the sessions, Banks announced on Twitter that she was scheduled to be at Axxess on Saturday afternoon.

Almost immediately, I sent Schmidt a text message to see if he wanted to get tickets to that session, too.

“Let me talk to Katie,” Schmidt replied. Katie is Parker's wife. Before I even got a response, I learned that the session was sold out.

“Oh well,” I told Schmidt.

There were other wrestlers we wanted to meet, and we were hoping that they were going to be at the sessions Schmidt and I were attending.

Even though Banks announced on Twitter that she was going to be at the one on Saturday afternoon, WWE had yet to officially release who was meeting and greeting and on which days. When the schedule was finally released days before the start of WrestleMania 32 weekend, Schmidt and I decided on who we wanted to meet so that we were prepared.

After waking up from NXT TakeOver: Dallas on Arpil 1, it was time to call a cab and head over to the Kay Bailey Convention Center for our first Axxess session. As we were leaving the hotel, that was when we got the day’s first surprise.

“You guys need tickets for the Saturday afternoon session?” a woman asked.

“How much?” Schmidt asked.

“No, no,” the lady said. “They're yours if you want them. I had extra.”

I lit up like a five-year-old on Christmas morning.

“Thanks so much,” Schmidt and I told the lady.

“Have fun guys,” the lady said, as she was getting into a cab.

“Dude, this is crazy,” I said. “Sasha Banks!”

“I know, man,” Schmidt said. “Like, what are the chances?”

“As soon as doors open for the afternoon session, we're going straight for wherever Sasha's line is,” I told Schmidt. “That cool?”

“Yeah, of course, man,” Schmidt said.

First things first, though. There was still the morning session to go to.

From that session alone, we met Tatanka, Zack Ryder, Molly Holly, Fandango, Funaki, Kevin Davis, Damien Sandow, Sin Cara and R-Truth, along with NXT superstars Austin Aries and Hideo Itami.

Liong, Zack Ryder, and Parker Schmidt 

Liong, Zack Ryder, and Parker Schmidt 

I absolutely adore NXT, which is WWE's developmental program, so meeting those two guys was the highlight of the session for me.

I made sure to tell Aries how happy I was to see him signed with the WWE. He recently had agreed to a contract and made his debut at NXT TakeOver: Dallas against Baron Corbin.

“Thanks, man,” he said. “I appreciate that. You're the best-dressed guy here!”

When I went to see Itami, on the other hand, I asked him how his recovery was doing. He has been out for several months with a shoulder injury.

“You going to be back soon?” I asked.

“Soon,” he said.

Austin Aries and Liong

Austin Aries and Liong

“Good,” I said. “I hope to see you take the championship from Finn Balor once you get back. You deserve it, man.”

At the time, Balor was the NXT champion.

“I hope,” Itami said.

“You going to back in time for the Japan tour?” I asked.

WWE is expected to have shows in Japan come July.

“I hope,” Itami stated. Of course I want. My hometown!”

Itami is from Sōka, Japan.

Around noon, people started exiting the building so that WWE could prepare and reset for the afternoon session that was to begin at 1 p.m.

Tatanka and Dickson Liong

Tatanka and Dickson Liong

Schmidt and I left the section of the building where sessions were being held, but stayed nearby so that when doors re-opened for the afternoon session, we would be among the first few people in. That way, we could get in the line for Banks quicker.

When we did get in the building, Schmidt and I had no idea which station Banks was going to be at. I had a feeling that it was going to be one of two stations. We gambled on one, but realized early on that it was the wrong one.

I instantly turn around and start running as fast as I could to the other one we suspected.

“She's not here,” I said to Schmidt. “Let's go!”

“What?” he said.

I guess he couldn't hear me because I was already turned around and running as fast as I could. I knew that if I didn't hurry, the line to wait would have been crazy.

As I was running, I could feel that my walker wasn't at the correct height, probably because I was pushing down on it so much. That slowed me down.

My walker is like a hockey stick, the curve and tape job have to be just right.

There wasn’t time to mess around with my walker. I just moved as fast as I could even if I was slowed down a bit.

It would have taken more time had Schmidt and I stopped to fix the issue. I just kept going.


R-Truth and Dickson Liong

R-Truth and Dickson Liong

We got to the line and I was getting excited. When Banks finally got to Schmidt and I, it was surreal.

“Thanks for being an inspiration to a lot of people,” I told her. “I've listened to interviews where you talk about your brother and that kind of stuff really hits home.”

As most people know, I'm extremely passionate about WWE and professional wrestling. When I am passionate about something, I invest a lot of time in it.

It's the same way when it comes to hockey.

I always will remember the interview Banks did with Chris Jericho on his Talk Is Jericho podcast.

Funaki, Dickson Liong and Kevin Davis

Funaki, Dickson Liong and Kevin Davis

What hit me was when she talked about her older brother, who is autistic. I, of course, have cerebral palsy, which is a physical disability.

Banks was home-schooled so that she could assist her brother. Along with all that, she was developing as a wrestler.

She is phenomenal in the ring.

After three years in NXT, Banks was called up to the main roster on July 12, 2015, along with Becky Lynch and Charlotte. Months later, all three were scheduled to face each other in a triple-threat match for the women's championship at WrestleMania 32. . . . all within their first year.

Parker Schmidt, Sasha Banks, and Dickson Liong

Parker Schmidt, Sasha Banks, and Dickson Liong

That, at least to me, is incredible . . . and Banks isn't much older than I am.

Banks was so nice to Schmidt and I.

“I'm cheering for you tomorrow night,” I said. “You're going to win it!”

“Yes, I will,” she said.

Man, what a thrill that was.

We went to go see Billie Kay and Peyton Royce, two of NXT's female talents, and then headed for the exits. As we were leaving, Schmidt noticed Jackie Redmond from Rogers Sportsnet. She was there covering the entire weekend. 


Roger Sportsnet's Jackie Redmond and Dickson Liong

Roger Sportsnet's Jackie Redmond and Dickson Liong

She is WWE fan as well.

“Is that Jackie Redmond?” Schmidt asked me.

She heard Schmidt and turned around.

“It is Jackie Redmond!” Schmidt said in excitement. “Come here!”

She stopped and took pictures with us.

“How's it going?' I asked her.

“Yeah, Dickson writes for the Vancouver Giants,” Schmidt said.

Not anymore.

“We work in the same business,” I said, with a laugh.

“That's awesome!” she said, and gave me a high five. “I love junior hockey!”

Redmond was awesome.

The day was just getting started too. The 2016 Hall of Fame induction ceremony was scheduled for 7 p.m., at the American Airlines Center, the home of the NHL's Dallas Stars. 

Banners of the Dallas Stars retired numbers up in the rafters

Banners of the Dallas Stars retired numbers up in the rafters

We went back to the hotel and got some rest.

After spending some time just laying on my bed and checking my phone, we went downstairs and had some dinner. We didn't want another situation where we were ordering pizza at 3 a.m., again.

I was really looking forward to seeing Sting. He was the headliner for the Hall of Fame's class of 2016.

What a great night of speeches it was. I really enjoyed hearing all the stories. It made me appreciate what the wrestlers do even more.

I must say, though, that I got really annoyed with fans making stupid chants or booing the wrestlers they don’t like.

The Hall of Fame is one night where past heroes get appreciated for all their contributions to the professional-wrestling industry. I strongly feel that it's not right when certain fans try or do things so the attention goes to them.

It's not about them. It's about honouring the past. It's their night.

Nobody is in character during the Hall of Fame, so be respectful.

It's disrespectful to boo or make stupid chants at anyone during something like the Hall of Fame inductions.

The ones who do, I can't help but just shake my head and laugh.

Aside from that, like I said, everything else was amazing.

Especially Sting. His speech had the second surprise of the night for me. This one, however, was sad.

“You've heard me say it before, you've heard me say it for years,” Sting said. “The only thing that is for sure about Sting is that nothing is for sure.”

Sting giving his speech during the 2016 Hall of Fame inductions

Sting giving his speech during the 2016 Hall of Fame inductions

At this moment, I turned over to Schmidt and asked quietly, “Is he retiring!?”

Schmidt nodded.

“On this very night,” Sting continued, “at this very moment, I'm going to finish my career under the WWE umbrella and I'm so proud of that. I'm officially going to retire tonight.”

Sting, at 57, officially was retired.

Everyone stood and gave him a well-deserved standing ovation.

“Thank you, Sting,” the crowd chanted. “Thank you, Sting!”

What an honour to have been there to witness him making the announcement.

After such an emotional night, WrestleMania 32, the grandest stage of them all, was just about upon us.

NEXT: WrestleMania 32