You guys asked for more "meet & greet" stories, therefore the name dropping continues! Between the last two entries and several stories I was asked to do for my friend Johngy on his great blog you've heard many tales of the wrestling convention scene. This past Saturday at the 12th Legends of the Ring show in New Jersey, even more memories were made and more memorabilia signed.
Just like at every other LOTR event there is a massive amount of wrestling talent, past and present, to meet. Two of the biggest for me personally were Joanie "Chyna" Laurer and Japanese legend Jushin "Thunder" Liger. In my many travels I had not yet had the opportunity to meet "The Ninth Wonder of the World" and North American appearances by any stars of the orient are few and far between.
Chyna's roller coaster life of the past few years may just be a thing of the past. Each and every fan who took the opportunity to meet the former Intercontinental Champion was more than pleasantly surprised. Ms. Laurer was humble, gracious, and attentive. Appearing nothing like the proverbial train wreck that has been covered by the media in recent years, Chyna will hopefully be another success story after falling from grace.
Presented by New Japan Pro Wrestling, Jushin "Thunder" Liger seemed as excited to be at LOTR as his fans were to meet him. It was truly an experience to see the mask recognizable to U.S. fans for his amazing WCW matches of the '90s. When the wrestlers exude the same enthusiasm as the fans, it makes the experience all the better.
Of course, these were not the only two names available to meet. Vader, Ken Shamrock, MVP, Carlito, Bill Eadie and Barry Darsow (Ax and Smash) in their Masked Superstar and Krusher Kruschev gimmicks, Maria Kanellis, Jim Ross, Johnny V, The Godwinns, Perry Saturn, Ron Simmons, Sunny, Tony Garea, DDP, Kurt Angle, Orlando Jordan, JJ Dillon, and Paul Bearer were just a few more.
A special mention goes out to former WCW announcer and current voice of TNA Mike Tenay. Mr. Tenay had to be one of the most personable wrestling personalities I have ever met. His own roots in wrestling as a fan showed greatly as he interacted with convention attendees and seemed mesmerized by all the great memorabilia presented not only for him to sign but for the other stars as well.
Be it the autographs, the photos, or simply getting to shake a hand and say "thank you," the experience of shows such as these is truly something that you cannot get anywhere else. Be it Legends of the Ring, Signamania, or NWA Fanfest, the true wrestling fan should attend at least one of these in their lifetime. It's no secret that time is running out. While there will always be stars for these shows to thrive, the old school talent is not getting any younger. The wrestling industry is not a forgiving one. Most fans realize that getting to meet the stars we grew up watching is a privilege. This is something that even fifteen years ago would be almost unfathomable due to the nature of the business. Not one fan could honestly tell me that back in 1992 they ever would've imagined sitting next to Big Van Vader, the monster who dominated Japan and decimated WCW's hero Sting. It simply did not fit into the "kayfabe" world of professional wrestling.
Everyone wins in events like these. Fans are able to meet the stars that defined the business and the wrestlers have brand new gigs. For some of the stars, though, I believe the true payoff is finally getting to know what an impact they had on so many lives. I can't imagine anything could soothe the pains of the wrestling business greater than that.