NWA Legends Fanfest 2009
Hilton University Place Hotel, Charlotte, NC
Back on March 29, 2009 Rood, Jay, & I went to Webster, MA to Big Time Wrestling to finally meet the “Nature Boy” Ric Flair. We got autographs from him and pictures taken with him. It was a fantastic day! Jay had Flair sign a program from the phantom NWA title switch that happened back in 1984. March 20, 1984 in Wellington, New Zealand Harley Race pinned Ric Flair to win the championship then on March 23, 1984 Flair regained the championship from Race in Kallang, Singapore. Neither title change was ever officially recognized by the NWA. The program Jay had was from the New Zealand show and the center fold was of Flair and Race both pictured with the NWA World Championship around their waists. When Flair saw it he excitedly called over his son and told him that this was the title change that he was just telling him about. Needless to say Jay was very excited and on the way home told me that he HAD to find Harley Race and get him to sign the other side.
A couple days later the website I was following about the NWA Legends Fanfest announced Harley Race. I told Jay and he made the command decision that we were going and in a matter of minutes booked the hotel, flights, and bought the VIP and Hall of Heroes Tickets. We had no idea of knowing at the time we purchased them that the event would turn into the greatest NWA Legends Fanfest convention ever.
The VIP packages we bought included the 2 Thursday Night Q&A’s, two autographs from everyone appearing, entry into the matches on Saturday & Sunday, a VIP pass, and a t-shirt. We also bought the Hall of Heroes banquet ticket and several photo ops. The Photo ops were cool because they would take the photo, print it later and you could get the person or persons to sign it! After the event they even mail you a digital copy of the photo, sweet deal! I’ve never seen a better photo op deal at any convention or fan fest I’ve been too since.
Charlotte was basically the home of the NWA and Jim Crockett Promotions and the greatest wrestling faction ever came out of JCP and ran roughshod over the NWA and they were the Four Horsemen! NWA Legends Fanfest 2009 became a Four horsemen reunion and there has never been one like it before or since. Jim Crockett Promotions and the NWA of the Mid to late 80’s is my favorite time of wrestling to watch. I feel fortunate that I was able to be there and I cannot thank Jay enough for paying the way for that to happen.
Thursday August 6, 2009
We flew into Charlotte Douglas International Airport from Portland after a stop-over in New York. The flight landed on time and we didn’t have to wait too long for our ride. Jay had met someone on the forum willing to shuttle people for 1/3 of the price of a taxi cab. As this event was taking place entirely at the Hilton University Place hotel we had no need to rent a car and the hotel didn’t provide a shuttle.
We got to the hotel and check in was easy as could be, we got everything right up to the room. In the lobby of the hotel were a set of escalators that went downstairs to the banquet rooms where the convention was taking place. On the other side of the escalators was the small bar and to the left of that the restaurant.
Checking into the hotel was a no issue, getting our passes for the weekend was another matter all-together. The line was tremendously huge and we got in it straight away. There was concern about missing the Thursday night Q&A’s as they were scheduled to begin at 7 & 10pm.
Luckily for us we managed to get out passes and get in and seated just as the first one began, and I definitely didn’t want to miss it. 25 Years After Starrcade discussion and Q&A with Harley Race & “Nature Boy” Ric Flair hosted by Chris Cruise. These two legends discussed their historic main event match at the first ever Starrcade where Flair defeated Race for the NWA Championship inside a steel cage. They took questions from the audience as well and they ranged from excellent to just the dumbest questions.
There was this drunk guy near me who wouldn’t stop talking, he had a comment for every answer that Flair or Race had that he would say to himself, loudly. I got so mad I finally told him, “I didn’t travel all this way to listen to you I came to listen to them.” And when he didn’t get the hint, “Hey pal, shut the fuck the up.” I’m not one to threaten someone, but this guy needed it. I got some verbal appreciation from those around me, and the drunk guy tried to smooth things over but I wasn’t having it.
Directly after this Q&A was a photo op with Flair, Race, & the actual NWA Championship belt that was held by both and used from 1981 – 1987. This photo op was so cool and surprisingly I wasn’t nervous at all! I think it’s a great photo!
It was going to take longer that they though to get all the photo ops done and we were pretty beat. We got the hotel shuttle to take us to a local grocery store to buy some snacks and supplies for the room. Then we walked over to the Chick-Fil-A across the parking lot. We figured we would be eating here to save money, little did we know we wouldn’t need to!
We decided to skip the Conversation with Cornette Q&A as we were both pretty tired. Once we go to the room though I decided I didn’t want to miss anything, not to mention I had thought up a good question to ask Cornette. I headed back down alone and I had only missed about 20 minutes of it. I’m so glad I did as it was fantastic. Cornette even brought up my interaction with the drunk guy as he was sitting in the back; of course his version contained several more expletives. I asked Cornette my question and he loved it!
On the way back up in the elevator I rode with Chris Cruise, former commentator for WCW, and he showed me his license that he was from Portland, Maine. That was cool and we talked about it variously though-out the weekend.
Friday August 7, 2009
I got up early because I wanted to get down there as VIP’s got in at 9am while others got in at 10am. The convention took place in two rooms, the primary large ballroom where the Q&A’s happened last night and a secondary vendor room where all the gimmicks were for sale and all the vendor guests were located. The main ballroom was where all the photo ops, Hall of Heroes, and Wrestling Matches would take place.
Today was a big photo op day with the photos with The Horsemen and Tully Blanchard scheduled for me and with such big turn-out it was going to take some time. We were issued passes that had our number on them and that would be the order with which we would be called for photo ops, signings, and more. So you didn’t have to stand in line for long periods of time, just come get in the line when they call your section of numbers.
There were a lot of wrestlers that were not part of the convention that were there for other reasons or just to hang out that I got photos with or autographs from through-out the weekend including; Gene Ligon, Stro, and George South. Also a lot of the wrestlers that were there for the VIP or Vendors would take photos or sign autographs for free outside the hours of the convention. I got my picture taken this way with Bob Caudle, Lance Russell, Chris Cruise, and The Midnight Express. I got a few autographs as well from Ole Anderson, Jim Brunzell and I personally gave Jim Cornette a hand cramp.
Today was also the first day of autograph signings for the VIP’s and I can’t recall exactly who was signing what day, however I made this poster to look like an old school event poster that had a photo of every VIP guest and listed the known events happening. I printed one for Jay and I and I got them all to sign it making one fantastic collectible! A lot of the wrestlers really liked it themselves and asked me to email it to them if I could, which I did!
Unadvertised and thrown together last minute that was a panel hosted by Scott Bowden dubbed the Memphis Wrestling Roundtable Discussion featuring Jerry Jarrett, Lance Russell, and Dave Brown. For 90 minutes, the same length as the Saturday morning Memphis Wrestling tv show, the legends of Memphis Wrestling talked about the history of Memphis Wrestling and some of their fondest memories. It was supposed to be a Q&A but they ran out of time and no one was complaining, it was simply awesome to hear their stories. Coolest part was Lance Russell and Dave Brown opening the panel and signing off with their signature TV catchphrases from back in the day.
The Vendor room had everything you could want from wrestling; books, dvd’s, figures, photos, posters, unique collectibles, masks, just everything wrestling. There were a couple guys that were selling bootleg events or TV shows on DVD’s that they burned themselves and they could literally make you anything that you wanted and burn it right then, it was amazing!
In the courtyard downstairs of the hotel the restaurant set up a few grills and tables and were selling hamburgers, hot dogs, water and the like at a really good price. It was very smart of them because when I checked the menu at the restaurant there was no way we could eat every meal there, it was just too expensive. I started talking to the cook, who turned out to be the head chef and ran the restaurant, which was setting up and ordered a burger. He was from Boston and really didn’t know what was going on so I explained everything, showed him my binder of awesome that contained my tickets, photos, cards, and I showed him my poster. He thought it was all cool and really liked it. I don’t why he didn’t what he did, maybe it was because I talked to him like he was human, or it was a Red Sox things, but he comped Jay and I all weekend at the grill, told his staff whatever we wanted all weekend give it to us! That was amazing, we didn’t take advantage, but I made sure to eat lunch and dinner while it was open!
Friday night was the Hall of Heroes Banquet which is much like a Hall of Fame ceremony. It included an awesome buffet meal and you got to sit with a wrestler, they also came around and took a group photo that they printed out for you. When they announced the list you had to email them at a certain time with who you wanted to sit with and it was first come first serve based on when the emails time stamp was. Our first choice was Ric Flair followed by Tully Blanchard. I didn’t think we would get either, and we didn’t as it was only 6 fans per table. Our third choice was The Perfect 10 Baby Doll and we got her! She was one of the best valets and seconded Ric Flair, Tully Blanchard, Dusty Rhodes and others to the ring over her career so we were so excited to be seated with Baby Doll.
We head into the banquet hall to find our table and Jay said “I wonder where we are sitting.” I replied, “Well not the corner, because nobody puts baby in the corner.” To which we laughed and high-fived and lost a bit of our man card for quoting Dirty Dancing. Sure enough we were sitting in the corner! Jay and I chose our seats next to the two that were already taken not because any other seat would have put us back to, to the stage. As luck would have it I ended up sitting next to Baby Doll and Jay next to her daughter. I pushed in her seat for her when she came to sit down because you have to treat Baby Doll like the lady that she is.
The buffet was fantastic and I later found out that the deserts were superb as well. Our friend the Chef found us, asked us how we liked the meal and gave me two passes for free breakfast buffet! Baby Doll was so nice and said that she knew she wasn’t anyone’s first choice but wanted to know who we had chosen first, I told her Flair and Tully and she agreed, but she was surprised that we chose her third, everyone else had her as fifth.
The Hall of Heroes was wonderful, Jim Cornette was the host, the speeches were excellent and people got emotional. Zach McDaniel, the son of Wahoo McDaniel, could barely speak when talking about his deceased dad as he accepted his entry plaque. Here were the honorees and who inducted them;
Nelson Royal by Paul Jones, Tommy Angel, David Isley, & Brad Anderson
“Fabulous” Jackie & “Roughhouse” Sonny & Donny Fargo by Jerry Jarrett & Steve Keirn
“Playboy” Gary Hart by Sir Oliver Humperdink
Lance Russell by Dave Brown
Chief Wahoo McDaniel by Tully Blanchard
Black Jack Mulligan by “Nature Boy” Ric Flair
I had a wonderful time chatting it up with Baby Doll, we talked about the kids, and I showed her pictures I had on my camera at her request. She showed me a bunch of pictures on her camera from recent events. She is still such a huge fan of wrestling it is amazing. She had this piece of chocolate cake, said it was delicious and I had to try a bite and then The Perfect 10 proceeded to feed me cake. That is a highlight of my life and always will be!
After the banquet I wanted to go to the bar for a beer and while we were there but who would show up, none other than the Nature Boy! But he promptly left when this douche started imitating Flair and it got beyond awkward, can’t say I blame Flair, and boy were people pissed at that guy. The bar got pretty hectic that night with wrestlers everywhere from the Nasty Boys, Lacey Von Erich, Dennis Condrey, Bobby Eaton, Jim Cornette, Zach McDaniel, more guys than I can mention or remember.
Lacey was super drunk and fell down, Knobs gave me big sweaty drunken hugs, some random guy started vomiting all over the floor, it was crazy and a lot of fun! I’m sure if this was all random people and not wrestlers I grew up watching on TV I would feel differently.
Saturday August 8, 2009
Saturday started with our free breakfast buffet and was followed by a free morning show. Bob Backlund was there as a vendor guest and the day before had proven quite hysterical in the Vendor room when Jim Cornette ringing a bell to get people’s attention to come to his table. This apparently exacerbated Mr. Backlund who used his large vocabulary and loud yelling voice to tell Cornette this from across the room, multiple times. This morning Mr. Backlund continued his routine by high stepping up the up escalator and then supporting himself with his arms only while holding up his feet going down the down escalator, repeatedly, all the while explaining the virtues of what he was doing and how it benefited him.
Yesterday was the big Four Horsemen photo op where I got my picture taken with Ric Flair, Arn Anderson, JJ Dillion, Tully Blanchard, Ole Anderson and Barry Windham all in one photo all holding up the Four Horsemen salute! Today was the Four Horsemen autograph signing, which took a long time, and this is when I got that photo signed by those legendary wrestlers. This was also the day that Harley Race was signing, the whole reason we came down here. While we were in line Harley had left for a smoke. So we had to go and stand on the other side of the rope as a staff member handed Mr. Race our stuff after he came back to get signed while he signed items of those people still in line. He had to leave early because he had to catch a flight to Boston of all places for another appearance. The last thing he signed before leaving was Jay’s program. How horrible would have it of been for Jay to not have gotten that signed when that was the original reason we came down.
Earlier in the day Jay had been outside smoking and I was waiting with him when Mr. Race came over to have a smoke. He sat and talked to use for quite a long time. Honestly until then I was intimidated by him and his reputation. However, he couldn’t have been nicer and a lot of his mannerism reminded me of my Grandfather who had passed away 17 years ago. I was quite the experience just sitting and listening to him tell stories. After he left Jay said he almost asked him to sign his program to make sure he got it signed, but decided not to because he didn’t want to disturb the moment.
During the day Ole Anderson would sit in the lobby and hold court. He would sit and tell stories, sign autographs and be grumpy the whole time. It was a playful grumpy, I think? Again though to sit there and hear the stories he shared was just amazing.
I had some photo ops today with Lacey Von Erich, Daffney, Molly Holly, and Magnum TA.
I made sure to eat my free lunch and dinner at the grill in the courtyard. Damn good burgers and they used small diced tomatoes which was really good on the burgers!
Tonight was the first of two live wrestling shows which featured a few national names and some locals as well as some legends of wrestling. For me it was so cool to experience two wrestling shows in the heart of Mid Atlantic Wrestling territory and experience the closest that I will ever be to experiencing Jim Crockett Promotions. The room was packed with both convention goers and locals alike who were welcome to come and buy a ticket. I saw people with coolers of beer, babies, strollers with babies and beer stored in the bottom. Welcome to the south!
George South is a living link to the past as he worked as a job guy on the old TV tapings wrestling all the big names of the day, Ric Flair, Rhodes, Andersons, Blanchard, Koloffs, and the names just go on and on. Brad Anderson is the son of Gene Anderson and wrestles just like and Anderson, awesome! “Action” Mike Jackson is a local guy who started wrestling in 1978 and is insanely good! He flies around the ring and does stuff no one his age should.
Saturday Night Matches
Charlie Dreamer pinned George South; during the match South got in the face of the “Russian Bear” Ivan Koloff who was sitting in the front row, he clobbered South teaching him respect.
Brad Anderson pinned “The Man Scout” Jake Manning with a small package.
Chick Donovan submitted Jimmy Jack Funk Jr with the figure four leg lock.
Rhett Titus pinned “Garden State God” Mike Quest.
Mr. Hughes pinned Jason Jones.
Extreme Rules: “Mr. Wrestling 3, The King of Old School” Steve Corino with Bill Alphonso pinned Zack McDaniel in a bloody and stiff match.
“Action” Mike Jackson pinned “The Obsession” David Conley
2 Cold Scorpio pinned NWA National Champion: Phil Shatter to win the Championship.
After the main even for $15 you could have your photo taken in the ring with 2 Cold and the NWA National Title, I jumped at the chance was the first one in! Years later while this photo is hanging in a frame on my wall with other photos of me with wrestlers Addison asked why that black man was choking me. In 2012 when I met 2 Cold Scorpio again I told him this story and he thought it was hilarious.
In the hallway after the matches the wrestlers were milling around for photos and autographs and selling their merchandise. I got photos with Zack McDaniel, Steve Corino, & Mr. Hughes. Not much action at the bar that night, and it was a long night so I was ready to go to bed.
Sunday August 9, 2009
The last day of the convention and boy could you tell! There were a lot less people there with only a few signings and photo ops. I managed to get all my photo ops printed and signed by the wrestles even my Hall of Heroes by Baby Doll and her daughter who is managing on the independent scene. I bought some merchandise over the weekend. The Highspots table was there and they were and for $30 you could pre-order the 6 DVD set of the whole Fanfest weekend. They were on hand to film the Thursday Night Q & A’s, Hall of Heroes banquet, and both nights of wrestling with commentary. They even set up and filmed the Memphis roundtable. It’s an awesome set that I have watched and re-watched, especially the part where I ask Corny my question.
Through-out the weekend they were selling raffle tickets for this custom very nice belt that was made featuring the 2009 Hall of Heroes inductees with the center plate being the official image of the weekend, a shot from the famous Starrcade 83 steel cage Match featuring Ric Flair vs. Harley Race. I bought 10 raffle tickets, Jay bought the 1 ticket after mine, he won the fuckin belt. It was a pretty awesome belt and he was the envy of all the belt collectors there.
The convention closed up about 2pm with the Sunday Matches not starting for 4 hours there was time to kill. I got my free lunch at the grill, but of course dinner would have to be someplace else, I can’t complain only paying for two meals.
Jay had been good all weekend, staying true to his word of not drinking to excess, but with so much downtime he planted himself at the bar and stayed until they closed never making it to the matches that night.
I went up to the room and packed and organized my stuff, we had an early departure tomorrow with a car service picking us up at 6am to take us to the airport. I then went down to the bar and got a chicken finger basket for dinner. I wanted to go to Chick-Fil-A but they were closed because it’s Sunday and they are a southern chain and it was my first bible belt experience.
I went to the matches and sat with some people I met over the weekend that were from the Northeast as well, in particular a belt dealer named Dan. I managed to get front row Sunday because there were far, far fewer people at this show. The title match from last night was overturned at the NWA never sanctioned the match so Phil Shatter was still champion. However, the NWA Board of Directors did sanction a match tonight as Phil Shatter will defend against 2 Cold Scorpio. I also witnessed some massive racism. Mr. Hughes is a veteran wrestler of 21 years at the time of this show, he’s always played a bad guy, and he’s black. Before his match he was jaw jacking with some 10 year old kid at ringside who told Mr. Hughes “You better watch what you say or I’ll slap the black off your face!” And did this child’s parent admonish them for what they said, no, he was encouraged with a “good one son!” Dan turned to me just as appalled and said “Welcome to the south.”
Sunday Night Matches
“Action” Mike Jackson pinned El Mexicano with a neck breaker.
Jason Jones pinned Malachi.
Zac McDaniel & Lumbee Warrior defeated Rhett Titus & “The Man Scout” Jake Manning.
Mr. Hughes pinned “Garden State God” Mike Quest
2 Cold Scorpion defeated NWA National Champion: Phil Shatter by count-out.
I met some really good people and save the drunk guy Thursday, didn’t have a negative interaction with anyone. People came from far a wide for the same reason, Professional Wrestling. It was an unbelievable atmosphere and this was an event like no other, I doubt I’ll ever go to a wrestling convention that will top this one.
After the matches I had one beer at the bar and retired for the night.
Monday August 10, 2009
Jay rolled in well past midnight knowing we had an early alarm. I got up at 5am and jumped in the shower. I heard Jay leave when the room door closed. Moments later I heard a frantic pounding on the door. Thankfully I was out of the shower but I only had a towel on when I answered it. Jay stood there looking dumbfounded at me. He couldn’t formulate the words but I could smell what had happened and yelled at Jay to get in here and get in the bathroom.
I was all packed and ready to go and told him I was heading to the lobby. I got the elevators and when they opened I discovered where Jay had his accident and took the stairs instead.
The car picked us up on time and Jay asked him if we could hit a drive thru on the way, the driver said no problem. Literally on the way to the airport we stopped at the McDonalds drive thru so Jay could eat McDonalds in North Carolina. He has this thing about eating at McDonalds in every state. The car ride was supposed to cost $20, the dude charged us $40 because it was an additional $20 to stop at McDonalds, which was on the way, and didn’t delay us, and only deviated us from our route the distance around the building. This guy didn’t get a tip.
One of the cool things was going through the airport Jay took his belt as a carry on and of course he had to take it out for security to look at it. Similar to stories we’ve heard or read about WWE wrestlers who’ve had the same thing happen to them.
This is one of the greatest weekends of my life, and thanks to the DVD set one that I can watch and re-watch for years to come!