Tuesday, August 10, 2010

From Anticipation To Memories--Fanfest Is Something You Take Home Forever

It's a shame that most of the things a person looks forward to in life are gone in a flash. The preparation and anticipation may seem to last an eternity, but once the particular happening or event has occurred, most of the time there is little more to show for it than memories.

If you read the last two entries of this blog, hopefully I was able to convey the fun and magnitude of this past weekends NWA Fanfest. Although the entries were short and could not even begin to cover everything that went on, there are plenty of articles, photos, and even videos elsewhere to get a bigger grasp of the event as a whole.

The purpose of this blog has always been to celebrate the memorabilia of the great sport we know as professional wrestling. There were many great items available to purchase at Fanfest, and there were even more brought by fans for the purpose of being autographed. Items from both of these categories are more than just regular wrestling memorabilia. Rather, these collectibles can help ensure that the memories of this and every other Fanfest can be held just as long, or longer, as the anticipation and build-up of this great event.

The following are just five examples of my collectible memories in no particular order. Hopefully these will bring more appreciation for the memories others took away from the event, and maybe even inspire other fans to start creating their own in the near future.

1) JR's BBQ Sauce

One of the biggest names on the Fanfest lineup this year was one of wrestling's greatest announcers, Jim Ross. The appearance of Ross had fans both young and old extremely excited, as JR's career has spanned through virtually three or four different wrestling eras.

Early on, it was announced that Ross would be bringing bottles of his famous sauce for purchase. Each bottle was autographed and included a ticket that entitled you to briefly meet JR on Thursday night. On Friday, Ross was on the schedule for photo ops and autographs as well as inducting Danny Hodge into the NWA Hall of Heroes.

JR delivered a touching, informative, and hilarious speech with a wit that almost rivaled that of the Hall of Heroes emcee, Jim Cornette. After the event, Ross wrote about all aspects of the event in his own blog with glowing sentiments that seemed to echo the hundreds of satisfied fans who met with the legendary announcer.

If you'd like more information on Jim Ross and his sauce, please check out www.jrsbarbq.com.

2) Danny Hodge Autographed Magazines

It makes sense that we segue from JR to the man he inducted on Friday night, Danny Hodge. While Hodge may only be known to younger fans from an appearance on Raw a few years ago, he is considered by many to be the greatest wrestler alive today. At age 79, Hodge can still crush apples with one fist. Think about that for a second. Better yet, search out the YouTube video where he demonstrates the feat.

Hodge may also be the one wrestler who has more fun at Fanfest than the fans themselves. Making his first appearance at the 2009 Fanfest, Mr. Hodge has made it known that he does not want to miss another one. The fans are in total agreement with the sporting legend.

Like a lot of the stars, Hodge enjoys seeing memorabilia from his career. While a number of lucky fans were able to present the 1957 issue of Sports Illustrated to Hodge for him to autograph, it was another magazine that I had along with the SI issue which had Hodge in awe.

In the April 1973 issue of Wrestling Revue, Danny Hodge is named Wrestler of the Year with a great cover photo of Hodge and one of his various championship belts. Hodge said that even he did not have this issue and called it a true treasure.

I think Mr. Hodge himself is the true treasure. Every Fanfest goer should have been truly honored to share a few moments with a giant of a sportsman and an even better human being.

3) Magazines & Programs

Old school collectors have been growing ever more frustrated with the selection of vintage memorabilia available at conventions over the past few years. While many of us can remember a time where there simply wasn't enough money in the budget to purchase all of the treasures available at these events, the selection in recent years has been largely confined to overproduced DVDs and clearance aisle action figures.

While Fanfest had a great many vintage items if spotted with a keen-eye, any vintage magazine or program collector had to have gone home happy. The selection was abundant with prices that were very reasonable. Vintage Pro Wrestling Illustrated issues, regional programs, and even the well-produced Fanfest programs themselves were all available to get autographed or simply take home and cherish.

4) Sting

As I've explained in other entries, at Fanfest there are two types of stars. The first group is the featured legends for which anyone with a VIP Pass is able to obtain two autographs from. The other group is the vendor guests who are brought in by outside vendors. While with most of the guests anyone is able to go up and say hello, there is a charge to take photos with or obtain autographs from these guests.

Being an autograph collector, I've been asked the same question by many non-collectors over the years: "Why would you pay for an autograph?" These stars are not being flown in for free nor are they appearing for free. It's a gig that they are paid for just like you and I would be paid for doing our jobs.

This year, one of the vendor guests was WCW legend and current TNA star Sting. Sting got his big break in the NWA, so it only makes sense that the promoters of the New Jersey "Legends of the Ring" convention would bring The Icon to Fanfest.

With the Sting "Superfan" package you were entitled to an autographed TNA promotional photo, an autograph on one of your own items, and an 8x10 photo of you with Sting that would also be autographed when printed.

Sting is a rather private individual and is not a frequent guest at signings and public appearances, so most fans knew that this would be a meeting that they could not pass up. The picture above shows the promotional photo as well as the 1990 WCW Wrestling Wrap-Up magazine from my own collection.

5) Cornette's Collectibles

Controversy doesn't even begin to describe Mr. Jim Cornette. Just like Ole Anderson, Cornette says exactly what he thinks, doesn't back down from his opinions...and is also a gem to his fans.

A few years ago, Cornette decided that he simply couldn't hold onto every single piece of memorabilia in his personal collection. A collection that, for the record, would make every other wrestling collector weep.

Cornette's collection ended up bringing tears of joy to many fans when he decided to begin selling many items at more than fair prices to collections around the globe. Fanfest has become the event where Cornette brings out some of his best items. 2010 was no exception.

DVDs, photos, and books covering Cornette and the Midnight Express were available as always, but this year the "Louisville Slugger" decided to truly open the vault and offer ring-used tennis racquets, jackets, and even neckties to the fans. Ever want a Smoky Mountain Wrestling paycheck endorsed by your favorite star? Done. How about rare WWF pay-per-view shirts? Done. Sealed vintage NWA/WCW Turner Home Videos? Done.

It's easy to see why the buzz around the vendor room was Jim and Stacy Cornette. Not only did they have the best stuff, but they're two of the nicest people you'd ever want to meet. I'll have another entry on Cornette's Collectibles in the very near future. For more information you can visit cornettescollectibles.com.

There you have it. Whether you attended Fanfest or wish you would've, this is again simply a small sample of everything that goes on at this great event. Next year, make your own memories and join Fanfest 2011 in Atlanta, GA.

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