Peter Pan had the right idea. He never grew up. Growing up, most folks can't wait to be older and subsequently try to act more mature. When they do get older, they realize that a lot of things that were magical to them as children are gone for good. Sometimes the particular idea is still there, such as Christmas morning, but that feeling of wonder simply fails to return. Thanks to an annual event every August, the children of classic wrestling worldwide can once again experience the magic and wonder that they grew up with.
This coming August 5th through 8th in Charlotte, North Carolina, promoter Greg Price brings his ninth Fanfest to life. Fanfest is an event to not only get autographs and pictures with your wrestling favorites, but to actually meet and mingle with them as well. Since the entire event is centrally located in the Charlotte University Place Hilton, it's not uncommon to be seeing stars the minute you enter the building.
Like most wrestling fanfests or conventions, the stars themselves are divided into two groups: featured stars and vendor guests. The featured stars are there to be part of the VIP admission package which entitles each guest to autographs from the legends at designated times, while vendor guests are stars that are, in a sense, sponsored to come to the event by independent dealers. These vendors charge a fee for photos and autographs with this group of stars.
Nearly one-hundred stars will be on hand throughout the 2010 Fanfest weekend. Among this years featured legends are Harley Race, Terry Funk, Dory Funk Jr., "Million Dollar Man" Ted DiBiase, Kamala, Greg Valentine, Danny Hodge, Tony Atlas, Mr. Wrestling II, Jerry Brisco, Tully Blanchard, and Jim Ross among many others. Sting, Mae Young, Sid Vicious, Bobby "The Brain" Heenan, Sunny, and modern stars such as Mickie James and Shelton Benjamin highlight the vendor guests.
Labeling Fanfest as a simple autograph convention would be a gross misrepresentation. It's a legitimate dream-come-true weekend for classic wrestling fans. The weekend will be kicked off on the night of Thursday the 5th with a lakeside barbecue at the hotel featuring Jim Ross' famous sauce and an appearance by Good Ol' JR himself. Also that night are Fanfest's famous question and answer sessions. This year's sessions will feature a roundtable discussion with mystery guests followed by the always entertaining Jim Cornette who has become a symbol of Fanfest.
While autographs and photos fill the days and Q&As kick-off the weekend evening activities, the Friday and Saturday evening events are immense enough to be their own separate draws. Friday night is the annual Hall of Heroes banquet also hosted by Mr. Cornette.
The Hall of Heroes is a special event honoring many of wrestling's greatest legends and is everything that the WWE Hall of Fame should be. Stars inducted in previous years such as Wahoo McDaniel, Blackjack Mulligan, The Anderson's, and The Fargo's will be joined by the 2010 Hall of Heroes class which consists of Joe Blanchard, Danny Hodge, Mr. Wrestling & Mr. Wrestling II, Reggie Parks, Billy Robinson, and Johnny and Greg Valentine. Each star is inducted by a fellow legend and each living inductee is scheduled to appear.
This year, many fans are eagerly anticipating Jim Ross' induction of his long-time friend Danny Hodge. Hodge, the first wrestler to make the cover of Sports Illustrated, is almost universally considered to be one of the greatest wrestlers who ever lived. Via his website and Twitter account, Ross has expressed what an honor it will be for him to induct Mr. Hodge and may be anticipating the event as much as the fans.
Saturday night will feature a world-class wrestling event highlighted with not just a main event, but an NWA World Heavyweight Championship defense. Current NWA World Heavyweight Champion Adam Pearce will defend the storied title against the hottest free agent in wrestling today, Bryan Danielson aka Daniel Bryan. Also on the card will be the finals of a hot tournament currently being held in the Charlotte area called the NWA Future Legends Cup. Top those off with appearances by legendary journeyman Mike Jackson and Skandor Akbar and his Devastation Inc. and you have a card that would blow most indy action out of the water.
All the descriptions in the world cannot truly convey the NWA Fanfest experience. The real magic comes from the memories made during the weekend combined with the memories from years gone by. Who would have ever thought, sitting in front of a tube television watching their favorite Saturday morning wrestling show, that they one day would be rubbing shoulders, talking, and even eating with the stars who appeared larger than life on the small screen? At Fanfest that unreal dream is accomplished in spades.
I know that I can speak for nearly every "Fanfester" when I say that within the next week, the feeling inside is like that of a child on Christmas Eve. Fanfest is an amazing event that is unlike any other. The above is not an advertisement, it is simply a personal testament that I would be remiss in not sharing. This will be the fourth Fanfest for my friends and I, so please stop and say hello if you see us. If time permits, I may even do some blog entries direct from Fanfest.
Being an eight-hour haul for us, Fanfest is our summer vacation and we wouldn't have it any other way. If you've ever been on the fence about attending, this is undoubtedly the year to start. Don't let yourself miss out on anymore of the memories.
For more information on NWA Fanfest, please visit NWALegends.com.
Just when you thought the classic era of wrestling was all but dead, Fanfest proves otherwise. Through the fans and stars who lived it, real professional wrestling is very much alive. Join us in Charlotte to find out for yourself.
Pictures (L-R From Top) Include: 2009 NWA Fanfest Programs, Ric Flair looks on while Danny Hodge and Ole Anderson reunite, Jimmy & Angel Valiant reunite with "Number One" Paul Jones.