Whether it be in person, through various forms of social networking, or even on here, one of the most oft-questions I am asked is, "How do you meet all of these wrestlers?" It isn't as hard as you would think, at least not to get started. Building the list of names, stories, and experiences is the true task and something that many fans take as a personal challenge.
Although I've discussed conventions, fanfests, and indy shows on here before, these particular entries can be looked at as an entertaining "FAQ" file, if you will. Following a lot of great recent feedback asking for stories of meeting wrestlers or getting particular items signed, this will also most likely serve as a prelude to more entries along those lines.
There's actually no better time to do entries such as these. The nice weather on this side of the United States brings about better opportunities to travel thus more conventions are scheduled. It should be noted upfront that if you're unable to travel, you should find another hobby. I see countless comments around cyberspace of folks complaining that shows such as these don't come to their area. Promoters find a profitable area and stick to it. Promoters also find areas that are generally accessible with special lodging (and occasionally travel) rates for convention-goers. If these breaks still keep traveling a dream rather than a reality--find a buddy or six. Nothing makes a trip better than having your friends along. In fact, sometimes the good times with friends become more memorable than the shows themselves.
One week from today is the twelveth edition of New Jersey's Legends of the Ring convention. Along with NWA Fanfest (usually held in Charlotte, NC) and Signamania (held outside of Philadelphia, PA), Legends of the Ring (or LOTR for short) has proven to be one of the "main event" players in the world of wrestling conventions and has played host to a who's who of grapple greats. From Flair and Sting to Mean Gene and The Brain, LOTR provides a stellar lineup catering to the taste of any wrestling fan. Next week's show includes appearances by Dusty Rhodes, Ken Shamrock, Jim Ross, Big Van Vader, DDP, Chyna, Kurt Angle, and many more. The promoters have also cultivated relationships with both TNA and New Japan Pro Wrestling, the latter of which has secured rare U.S. appearances for Jushin "Thunder" Liger and several other NJPW stars at next week's event.
While I discussed the logistics of these shows in my NWA Fanfest preview from last year, there's no harm in doing so again. Each event offers a package called a "Superticket" or "VIP Pass." Purchasing one of these packages will grant you admission to the show and one autograph and photo with each of the stars on the main lineup. Additionally, vendors who are setting up booths at the show will bring in stars separate from the main lineup. These guests are called, fittingly, "vendor guests." Fans are able to pick and choose from who they would like to meet and pay a fee for autographs and photos.
After being asked how I've met so many wrestling personalities, I'm occasionally asked a follow-up question. That question being, "Why would you pay for an autograph?" The following paragraph contains the answer that you will hear from anyone who understands anything about how these types of shows work.
Stars, be it wrestlers, actors, or other athletes, do not come to these shows out of the goodness of their hearts. It is a job. They are being paid by the promoters of the show to be there. They are leaving their friends/family/whoever to do a job. The promoters are not putting the shows on for free, either. Many (but not all) of these stars would be very willing to give you a rushed autograph and photo somewhere out in the world. Me? Personally, I'd rather travel to one place where I can meet any number of stars at one time. I can get a nice, posed photo with the star (possibly even in gimmick) suitable for print/display/whatever and have my item signed on a table with a nice full signature. If you still would like all of this without paying, you can be my guest and try to track them all down. And if you're of the mindset that these stars "owe" you anything...well...I'm not even going to bother going there.
Now that we've gone through the "rough" stuff, Part 2 will be full of the stuff you really wanna know. What stars are booked on what shows? Is Dennis Stamp booked? (He was!) How much fun will you really have? And yes, I will even let you know that with a little research, you may find that you can rub shoulders with the greats right in your backyard...or at least region.
To Be Continued!