WrestleReunion Day 3

 

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WrestleReunion Day 3

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Tampa, FL at the Airport Doubletree Hotel

Ever since I found out I was going to WrestleReunion I had one clear mission in mind, to get Kevin Nash to sign my Death of WCW book. It’s true, meeting over 80 wrestling superstars, listening to wonderful Q&A sessions and watching a wrestling card filled with guys I grew up with were all a backdrop to me achieving my one true goal. However, I knew it would be tricky. I had already heard stories of guys like Jake “The Snake” Roberts being so upset about how they were portrayed in the media (in Jake’s case, the movie Beyond the Mat) that they refused to sign the items in question. I figured I would have to butter Nash up so I brought along my DVD of The Punisher. I was going to bring my copy of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze, but I wasn’t sure how Nash felt about his role in that movie. It was an X-factor and I had to rely on certainties.

Sunday morning came and Nash was scheduled for the early morning signing session. My picture boy, Jimmy Olsen, and I met Fritz , from the Between The Ropes radio show. At 9am the scheduled start of the signing, the promoters of the show brought all the fans into the main ballroom, some of whom looked like they were standing in line for quite awhile, and sat us down in chairs. Fritz stayed off to the side in order to hopefully line up some future interviews for his show. Meanwhile, Jimmy Olsen and I decided that throughout the event we would interview the fans around us, to find out where they came from, how they heard about the Reunion and who they most wanted to see. The guy next to Olsen was from West Virginia. He heard about the event from a website I'm not familiar with and was really excited to see guys like Tully Blanchard and Dusty Rhodes. Basically, a normal wrestling fan.

Then there was the guy next to me.

First of all, this guy (maybe he was 26? 27?) had a suitcase with him full of wrestling belts. A suitcase so big it wouldn’t fit in the overhead bin of an airplane. When I was following this kid into the main ballroom, he stopped two chairs ahead of me and gave his suitcase of belts their own chair. Like I could make that up. As Jimmy Olsen was talking to the guy next to him, I heard the guy next to me talking. When I looked over I made a startling discovery.

The guy was talking to his belts.

The guy was talking to his belts.

So help me God the guy was talking to his belts!

Promoter Rob Russen gave the fans a pep talk and mentioned how the show had “seven sources of revenue” while also saying that many of the wrestlers weren’t at the signing yet. To be fair, most of them were in matches the night before and I bet they couldn’t even move this morning. However, Dusty Rhodes, Bill Apter and KEVIN NASH were there, and Russen allowed each row to meet these guys before going to the main autograph line. After the first row met Nash and Dusty, Rob Russen asked them if they wanted to start the main autograph line or wait until all the wrestlers showed up. They unanimously said they wanted to wait. Go figure.

Finally it was my row’s turn to go meet Dusty and Nash. By this time former ECW announcer Joey Styles had also shown up and taken a seat next to Kevin Nash. It wasn’t long before I got up to the table and actually got Styles to sign my Rise and Fall of ECW DVD.

This was a great weekend because not only did I get Mick Foley and Terry Funk to sign the DVD, but also Sabu, Bill Alphonso, Shane Douglas and Styles. Four guys who the WWE probably screwed out of any royalties. I now must get New Jack to sign this DVD and my life will be complete. Looking at the DVD now I realize what a complete moron I am for not getting a second copy signed to put up on eBay. Savvy businessman I am not.

I was next in line for Nash and Fritz snuck behind the stage to get some photos from behind. My photo boy Jimmy Olsen was next to me and would get a shot from the front. That’s right, we had more coverage for this moment than an average shot in a Michael Bay movie. I slid my Punisher DVD over to Nash and handed him my silver Sharpie (always be prepared kids). Seriously, this was a scene straight out of the Soup Nazi episode of Seinfeld because I knew what I was handing Nash next and he probably wouldn't like it.

After Nash handed back the DVD I gave him The Death of WCW book and asked him to sign it. Nash looked at the cover and seemed surprised. As Nash flipped through the book Joey Styles said to him, “I talked to Scott Hudson [former WCW announcer], apparently it’s very accurate.”

   

Nash flipped through the book and then looked at all the pictures. He told Joey, “That’s a great picture of the Wizard they got.” and asked me if he could sign that photo. For those of you who haven’t read the book, besides pictures throughout, there are full page color photos in the middle and one of them was Kevin Nash doing his impersonation of longtime WWE manager the Grand Wizard. Just a totally goofy photo. Nash signed the picture and handed the book back to me.

Mission accomplished. Next stop: Vince Russo.

I forgot to mention in my earlier WrestleReunion updates that I also had Mick Foley sign the book. One of my favorite wrestling stories of all is the one about Mick Foley winning his first WWE title on RAW while over on Nitro they gave away the result ahead of time. Tony Schiavone was fed the infamous line by Eric Bischoff, “that’ll put asses in the seats,” and the rest is history. A half million viewers immediately turned to RAW after Schiavone’s comment. I remember the match with Foley and it was one of the most exciting TV main events I have ever seen. So I asked Foley to sign the part of the book that talks about that night. He looked through the book and read about two pages before signing it. I asked Foley if he really did forgive Schiavone for what happened and I got one of those looks like, this is a touchy subject, so I backed off.

Fritz, Jimmy Olsen and I then spent the next hour walking around the main ballroom. I stopped occasionally to get something signed and to shoot the shit with wrestlers. C.M. Punk signed my copy of The Battle Lines are Drawn DVD which, according to Punk, has a cover that makes him “look fat.” I also talked to Punk about his thoughts comparing the ROH fans of the Northeast and the ones in the Midwest. I should have asked about Punk’s chances of appearing on TNA after seeing him walk into the hotel with Jeff Jarrett and Jeremy Borash the day before. We also worked our way over to Nitro Girl Spice , who somehow looked even hotter on Sunday than she did on Saturday. The lines were moving much faster on Sunday and everyone seemed to be having a hell of a time meeting all the wrestlers. Even good ol’ Hack Myers , of ECW fame, was set up signing autographs. I got to talk to Myers a lot over the weekend and he is 180 degrees different than what I thought he would be like. He is funny, personable and a nice guy. The wrestling business certainly could use more Hack Myers and less Lex Lugers, a guy who would only sign for fans if they bought a $5 photo.

               

Unfortunately, my flight back to New Hampshire was at noon, so I didn’t have time to stick around for what must have been a great Q & A with Jim Cornette and Bill Watts. I can never get enough Cornette and was glad to find out during the Reunion that ROH is putting out a Straight Shootin’ DVD with both Cornette and Bobby “the Brain” Heenan. I don’t even have to watch that one before giving everyone reading this my highest recommendation. I met Heenan briefly on Sunday and it was one of my favorite moments as a wrestling fan. Heenan signed my Hall of Fame DVD, which has several of those great skits with Heenan and the late Gorilla Monsoon. I honestly hope the WWE puts together a separate DVD focusing solely on The Brain because he was just as influential as Shawn Michaels to fans my age.

Jimmy Olsen and I said goodbye to Fritz and five minutes later I was dropped off at the airport. I couldn’t have had a better time and I have to thank promoters Sal Corrente and Rob Russen for putting on an incredible event.

Overall Thought: It was amazing talking to wrestlers all weekend. They really do have a language all their own and I can’t tell you how many times I was told to “kayfabe” something (i.e., not talk about it). The guys at ESPN Radio had a live remote at the show all weekend and were interviewing people all the time. Some of the guys they had on included Lance Russell, Ted DiBiase, Norman Smiley, The Missing Link, Dusty Rhodes and Jim Duggan. They even had Alex Marvez on to talk about both wrestling and the Miami Dolphins. I met Shannon Rose of ESPN and found out he is also involved with NWA Florida. This is the place that has Ron Niemi, the guy feuding with that goofball Johnny Fairplay, and is administering a Ron Niemi Legal Defense Fund. Where do I sign up?

   

As I said in my previous WrestleReunion updates, if there was something wrestling related that you wanted to buy, you were going to find it here. There were vendors selling everything under the son. Highspots was selling books, DVDs and action figures. Reggie Parks was selling just about every wrestling belt ever made. Mark Nulty had his WrestlingClassics.com booth and was selling Jack Briscoe stuff along with other shoots. If you looked hard enough you could even find the ROH DVDs Nulty was selling (don’t get me started on the fact that some unknown Florida wrestling promotion had a bigger set-up than Ring of Honor). There were also miscellaneous vendors selling a variety of wrestling related products. Outside the main ballroom there was a company called Cigar Bar that was selling cigars and, more surprisingly, an “official” cigar of WrestleReunion. I might be wrong, but I don’t think wrestling fans are the target audience of cigar companies. You may as well be selling upscale bottles of wine while you're at it.

The WrestleReunion program not only had the listings for each event of the entire weekend but also had write-ups of every wrestler involved written by Bill Apter. The program had a picture of the plaques given to Gordon Solie’s family and Mike Graham along with the surprising announcement by Georgiann Makropoulous that she was leaving the website run by Joey Styles after an eight year stay and going to WrestlingFigs.com. Maybe the next WrestleReunion program will have Derek Burgan’s announcement of leaving the GumGod for Red Light District’s website. The program ended by saying the next stop was “Atlanta, June 2005” and I hope every GumGod fan that can make it ends up going because this is an experience you will never forget.

Please check out WrestleReunion.com for future event information. If you get a chance, read Scott Fishman’s articles of the event in the online edition of The Miami Herald.

ROH Media Guy Derek Burgan has been writing for PWTorch.com for over three years. He currently reviews Ring of Honor DVDs along with other forms of wrestling media. If you have any questions, corrections, feedback, comments and ideas, he can be reached at: derek@gumgod.com

 

Copyright © 2005 Derek Burgan. All rights reserved.