A few weeks ago, my girlfriend, her younger brother and I took the 90 minute drive from Queens, New York to Freehold, New Jersey to meet “The Lunatic Fringe” Dean Ambrose. My girlfriend’s brother’s favorite wrestler is Ambrose and he wanted to originally meet Dean during Summerslam weekend at the Barclays Center but the cost was a little steep at $150 per person. Thus, I did a little research on the WWE superstars appearances section of WWE.com and saw that Ambrose was signing autgraphs at iplay America for a fraction of the cost at only $50 per person and that included both a photo op and a signed 8 X10. We also figured that we may be able to turn it into a bit of a day out in Jersey. Let’s get into a bit of the highlights of the event.
The iPlay America Venue and Deal: The way that iPlay set up this event was just fantastic. The second you approached iPlay America there was a huge Dean Ambrose billboard along the highway that immediately drew you in and also got you excited for the event. Also included in your price tag for the autograph session was a $10 gift card to redeem at iPlay America the same day. Iplay is actually a really big place and we ended spending a good amount of time there. They have a state of the art arcade, lazer tag, a 4D movie (we did the penguin one and it was great), indoor rides, and so much more. IPlay also had a number of different events going on from hosting a UFC viewing party later that night to hosting a free concert later that week with former American Idol contestant Casey James. It also is a great place for families and birthday parties for the little ones. It was really nice to see a venue so open to so many different things and offering deals and promotions to make the exciting experience affordable at the same time. From Autograph Signing to WWE Event: We’ve all been to those autograph signings that can be a bit of a drag where you stand on line for 2 hours and it’s excruciating. Then when you get up to meet the WWE superstar you get two seconds to grab your autograph and go. If the photograph is even an option, it’s often as the talent is signing or you’re leaned over the table awkwardly. Well I’m happy to say that this was not the case at IPlay America, not at all. Instead, they made the whole event seem like a really big deal. It started when you walked into a big arena setup where Dean Ambrose was and immediately you saw big screens everywhere playing Dean Ambrose entrance videos, best of WWE videos, and Dean Ambrose matches (against Bo Dallas, Bray wyatt, Sheamus and more) so that you could enjoy the matches while you waited on line. From there they were also selling a variety of really unique WWE memorabilia and light up gimmicks at the event. The highlight for me, however, was that Dean Ambrose was standing in front of a backdrop waiting for a posed photo. I’ve never seen this at a signing and it was really cool as you got to stand for posed photos with Ambrose. Then, in order to save time, Iplay took a professional photo of you with Ambrose and, after you were finished talking with Dean and getting your picture,you were given the code to download your photo the next day and your signed 8X10. By having Dean pre sign all of the 8 X 10s and eliminating anyone’s need for their own personal camera, it saved so much time and gave people the chance to just focus on their time with the superstar. I feel like anyone running a signing should take a page out of iPlay’s book because it was really well done. As for Ambrose, it was also great that (maybe because WWE had a show in town that night or because he was asked to do this) he was dressed like the Dean Ambrose you see on television and also acted the same way. I remember one time I met the ultimate Warrior when I was a kid and he was wearing lounge clothes and a baseball cap, it was still cool but also sort of killed his allure. Ambrose was out and about after the signing, checking out the iPlay America candy shop and walking through the restaurant on site. It was a great experience but that wasn’t all. IPlay America also had a special guest in attendance as the host of the festivities which leads us too…
Howard Finkel: If everything I wrote above wasn’t enough, Howard Finkel was on hand as the host of the event. He hosted “OutThink The Fink” trivia contests for free tickets to the WWE event in Wildwood that night, Dean Ambrose T Shirts and IPlay America gift cards. Fink would ask fans how long they’d been fans for and from there would ask questions ranging from “What is John cena’s catchphrase?” for kids to “What Sumo Wrestler did the Big Show wrestle at WrestleMania 21?” for lifelong fans. This kept the fans entertained while on line and gave ambrose an opportunity to meet with some of the fans who paid for a VIP experience. Howard was then available for a photo op of his own positioned right at the end of Ambrose’s signing and was also included in the price of admission. I can tell you that Howard Finkel was one of the nicest people I’ve ever met. He seemed genuinely touched by everyone in attendance their to meet him and chatted with everyone for as long as they wanted. He was also open to taking selfies and signing autographs and even handed out free WWE trading cards to the kids. A really cool bonus, in a way it was like Dean was there for the new generation of fans an Howard was there for the lifetime fans. I personally got to reminisce with Howard about meeting him at the Fanfest for WrestleMania 10 when I told him I was afraid of every superstar there and he told me that I didn’t have to be because all of the superstars were told if they weren’t polite they wouldn’t get to wrestle at WrestleMania (protecting the business) which he got a good laugh out of.
Closing Thoughts: All in all this was one of the best signings that I’ve ever gotten to go to. I hope Iplay America continues to do events like these and I believe that they will because I did look back at their twitter feed and noticed that some of the superstars they’ve had in the past included Hulk Hogan, Roman Reigns & Daniel Bryan. Even if their aren’t any WWE superstars their Iplay America is a great place to watch a UFC show and a great day for the whole family. For more information on Iplay America, check them out at http://www.iplayamerica.com/ .