Friday, April 26, 2024

More than Mania Philadelphia Adventure

Here it is the full More than Mania Philadelphia Adventure blog!

The trio of travelers on this adventure this year was myself, Mikey and our Canadian compadre Bradford the Barber.  This post is all about what Mikey and I did, Bradford traveled and stayed with us, but he did his own thing in the city of brotherly love.

Wednesday April 3rd

Bradford stayed at my place on Tuesday night and we hit the road early leaving the house at 6am heading towards Auburn to pick up Mikey.  Originally Mikey was going to meet us at my house but he hit a deer with his car just a couple days prior and it was out of commission.

After picking up Mikey our first big stop was on Ruby Road at the TA Truck stop in Wilmington, Connecticut where we fueled up, grabbed a $6 double cheese burger from Burger King and a couple of beverages.  We made a quick stop in East Haven, CT at Foxon Park Beverages so I could grab a case of Diet White Birch Beer, a dynamite soda!!  Lunch was had on the New Jersey turnpike and Chick-Fil-A was on the menu.  The first plaza we passed had a Shake Shack, but the other two after it did not, but I love me some Chick-Fil-A so I was not disappointed.

We got to the Sheraton Downtown Philadelphia just before 230pm, the same location as the WrestleCon convention.  I must say the wisest move when going to any convention is to stay at the convention hotel.  Sadly the parking was expensive, valet was $60 a day, no thanks, and the self park was $39 a day, but no in out access, it was $24 for the first two hours.  We had a wrestling show to go to and would not be staying at the hotel long.  Thankfully, I was able to run in and check in 90 minutes early, and the valet let us leave it at the curb to run out stuff up to the room.

After getting that squared away we went to the Attic Brewing Company, a short 6.9 miles from the hotel, but it took us 32 minutes to drive it. We got lucky scoring the last parking spot as a car pulled out as we were pulling in, free parking!

The was Labor of Love and Sean Henderson Presents: WrestleJawn.  Jawn is apparently a Philadelphia word and you can read the wikipedia entry about it here.  The show was outside under a big catering tent as it was pouring rain.  The drive down wasn't that bad, we didn't hit rain until Worcester, Mass and it was on and off until we hit Pennsylvania when it opened up heavy.  Back home we got a foot of heavy wet snow that was pretty much gone by the time we got home on Sunday.

This was standing room only, and we got right up to ring for up close action and decent photos.  Show started at 530pm and finished up at 830pm.  Paul London vs. Speedball opened and it was pretty fantastic! Colby Corino had a street fight with Clint Margera where plastic totes were used and I didn't expect much from them, but when Colby was slammed on one and it shattered and plastic pieces pierced his back, I quickly changed my mind!

After the show was over Mikey and I headed back across town to the Helium Comedy Club where we had VIP tickets for the Nemeth Brothers comedy show Hunkamania.  We had perfect timing as seats are assigned based on party size and first come first serve in the VIP section, we ended up center stage right in the front!

It was a normal comedy show, there was a host who did a short set, and she would do a joke or two in-between each act.  There were 6 comedians, a guy I can't recall, and the rest all wrestling related.  Indie wrestlers Brad Attitude and Dan Barry, Kayla Braxton, Ryan & Nic Nemeth fka Dolph Ziggler.  Ryan was very funny and had a great set.  After the show they did a brief Q & A with Otis from the WWE who was in the audience coming up on stage and telling a story involving Nic.  Then the VIPS got to have a meet and greet with Dolph and Ryan, I got two cards signed a picture with them.  I also had them both sign my ticket stub.  

It was a great first day!

Thursday April 4th

The hotel bed was not that great and I didn't get a solid nights sleep any night.  After getting ready in the morning Mikey and I headed out to a WAWA to fuel up Vanatu and grab a couple snacks for later in the day.  GCW's The Collective was emanating from Penn's Landing Caterer's which is only 3 miles from the hotel and that was the location of our first show the Seattle, Washington based DEFY Wrestling presenting Can't Deny It.

The card featured 6 matches with KENTA defending the DEFY Championship again Gringo Loco in the main event.  Gringo was one of the wrestlers I was most excited to finally see live and meet in person.  I got my photo with him and got two cards signed to add to my collection.  The match of the shows though, was CCK: Chris Brookes & Progress World Champion: Kid Lykos with Kid Lykos II & Konosuke Takeshita vs. Moonlight Express: “Speedball” Mike Bailey & DDT Universal Champion: MAO.

RevPro Undisputed British Heavyweight Champion: Michael Oku was a very cool surprise to see compete in a tag team match on the show. We saw him defend that title later in the evening at the SuperShow against Titan.

We headed a mile down the road to the World Famous ECW Arena, now the 2300 Arena for our next two shows of the day. Really can't believe April 2023 was the year I finally made it to ECW Arena for the first time, and a year later I'm back for more wrestling. The free parking was full so we parked across the street at the IATSE Ballroom for $10 for the night.

First up was World Wonder Ring Stardom.  I've followed Stardom for years and to finally attend one of their shows in person was fantastic.  Stardom is owned by Bushiroad who also owns New Japan Pro Wrestling.  This show did not have an Indie feel to it at all unlike every other event we went to this week.  

Stardom American Dream 2024 in the Keystone State was a short 95 minute show that featured 5 matches with a bad ass main even bout between Stardom Champion: Maika and her tag team partner "Megasus" Megan Bayne.

I was most excited to see Stephanie Vaquer from CMLL wrestle live, sadly she did not do a meet and greet this day or at all during the weekend.  Many others from Stardom did, however they would only sign the 8 x 10 photo they provide and nothing else.  I'm not a 8 x 10 person, I have / want very few.
From AEW Willow Nightingale and Mariah May wrestled and Toni Storm made a surprise appearance.

We got a VERY surprising title change as Saki Kashima defeated Ram Kaicho and High Speed Champion: Mei Seira to win the championship in a triple threat match.

We had a short break between shows but sat in the van charging our phones before out 3rd and final show of the day the WrestleCon Mark Hitchcock Memorial SuperShow.  This 8 match card featured wrestlers from 1970's to today hailing from around the world.  A VERY diverse mix of talent.

Match of the show for me was Rob Van Dam with Bill Alfonzo vs. "Speedball" Mike Bailey.  Bailey just killed it all weekend!  I got emotional few times during the evening.  It was surreal with ECW Ring Announcer Stephen DeAngelis doing the announcing for the show and hearing him announce ECW stalwarts like Rob Van Dam, the FBI and more in this building.

I'm a huge old school NWA fan, and to meet former NWA Worlds Champion: Tommy "Wildfire" Rich in person and see him wrestle man that was awesome!  He looked and moved quite well for 67 years old!  The main event saw The Sandman make an appearance to help Paul Walter Hauser defeat Sami Callihan with full through the crowd entrance with Enter Sandman blaring on the speakers.

I had a great conversation with Tommy Rich, he was very cool.  I also grabbed a photo with famed wrestling ringside photographer George Napolitano.  I had seen him in 2012 at Legends of the Ring and didn't ask for a photo then, I was not going to make that same mistake this time.  He was taking photo's ringside at the SuperShow.

Friday April 5th

First day of the WrestleCon Convention, I was downstairs a bit after 7am to get my weekend bracelet so when the doors opened at 9am I would be good to go.  The convention was spread out over two floor in multiple rooms.  The big get on Friday for me was Sting, he's a bucket list meet for me and I prepaid for a meet and greet.  I had a good day getting some cards signed by the likes of Robert Gibson, Sabu, Grizzled Young Vets, Izzy Moreno, Los Boricuas, and Bryce Remsburg.  I got my photo take with most of them as well.  

We stood in line for over two hours to get our 30 seconds with Sting, he signed an NWA Wonderama Card for me and he was in full face paint for the photo.  As exciting as it was to meet Sting it was only for a few seconds and the interaction was nothing special because it was so quick, and it's not Sting's fault

I had really great interactions with everyone else that day, especially the Grizzled Young Vets, a couple of great fellas.  It was cool to see Kerry and Ricky Morton again, who remember me from their trips to Maine the last couple of years.

We rested in the room for a few minutes and then Mikey and headed back over the Penn's Landing for our two wrestling shows of the evening.  We had missed the TJPW show that morning because we were at WrestleCon, however they were still in the lobby at the merchandise tables so I got a photo with and my card signed my Miyu Yamashita.

The first, show was Progress Chapter 166 Freedom Walks Again.  We were treated to two title changes!  My favorite match on the cards was Yoichi vs Ricky Knight Jr for the ATLAS Championship. It was such a great match, very hard hitting! The crowd was into the whole show, but this match in particular.

I watched Progress for years, subscribed to their streaming service as well, but I haven't followed it as closely post pandemic. Still very cool to see wrestlers like Kid Lykos, Lana Austin, Rhio, Cheeky Little Buggers, Gene Munny and more.

We had time to kill before doors opened for the next show. I took a short walk to the Tiger grocery store, I picked up some fruit, soda for the room, and some snacks and drinks for now. We also charged up the phones in the van.

The final show of the night was Joey Janela's Spring Break 8, a highly anticipated show for us and many others. We had second row for this stacked card that featured so many cool matches. Got to see The Rock n' Roll Express wrestle live one more time!! I really feel like this will be the last time I see them wrestle as a duo. It was a six man with Kerry Morton, who is a massive heel in GCW, and he didn't let us down! I love what he's doing.

Another big match on the card was an I Quit Match between Effy & Mance Warner, it was solid! Main event saw Blake Christian retain the GCW World Championship defeated Joey Janela when Missy Hyatt turned on Joey. I thought for sure we would see a new champion!

After the show we headed back to the hotel, the hotel parking was full but we could park across the street, cheaper too. Only issue is, is that to get across the street you have to drive a half a mile in a loop around one way streets to get to the parking entrance.

Saturday April 6th

Up again early this morning to head to WrestleCon day 2.  My two pre-sales were for SID and Ric Flair.  I have this WCW Impel card that I wanted to get signed but them as Arn has already signed it and Barry was supposed to sign it, but the signing Mikey went to his flight was cancelled because of a storm.  Well, SID cancelled, they didn't announce it I found out when I got to his table.  

Now I didn't know what to do.  I've heard SID cancels a lot, I didn't want Ric to sign the card and never get SID to sign it.  I didn't bring a back up so I started searching around at vendor tables looking for Wonderama Trading cards and I found 1, but it's Michael Hayes slamming Flair, why could I want Flair to sign that?  I mean if Hayes had signed it, sure, but not Flair first.  I was stressing hard.

I got in line for Flair, ended up in line for over 2 hours.  I tried to sell my Flair ticket, but didn't have any luck there.  I was frustrated because it's $79 for Flair to sign something and I wasn't happy with what I was getting signed.  The vendor that I bought the card from also had an original Great American Bash 1988 Program for $60.  I just didn't want to spend more money as I had spent quite a bit already.

Ultimately I convinced myself, I wasn't happy with the card, I love Jim Crockett Promotions and this is an original official piece of JCP merchandise.  My favorite wrestling to watch is JCP from 1984 - 1988 and I love the Great American Bash tours, this was the last one under the JCP banner, also this was the first ever Bash PPV and the last ever Crockett PPV as the promotion was sold to Turner in December 1988.  Bradford watched my place in line and I ran back upstairs and bought it.

Lex Luger was in the main event that night with Flair, so after I had Flair sign it, I shelled out more money for Luger to sign it.  I debated getting others, but where they signed it and as they were the main event I decided to stop it there.  In the end I love this piece and everyone that saw it there popped hard for it.

I also got a couple NWA Wonderama cards signed by Missy Hyatt.  She was great and we had a wonderful conversation about her turning on Janela a Spring Break the night before.  I traded challenge coins with Sgt. Slaughter.  When I found out he has one I knew I needed one and I thought it would be cooler to trade coins and he was down for it.

Leaving the con we headed over to Penn's Landing for TJPW vs. GCW.  This was a wicked fun show and our second Joshi show of the weekend.  That is what is fun is seeing wrestlers live that I may never have the chance to see again.  I wanted to go to this show badly because I really wanted to see Billie Starkz wrestle live and meet her in person.

After the show we headed back to the hotel to pick up Bradford and went to the ECW Arena to watch WrestleMania XL on Closed Circuit TV, just like the original.  I mean they call them watch parties now, but it's closed circuit.  There was a $5 cover charge and they broadcast it all over the venue including the jumbo entrance screens.  

You just grabbed a chair and set it up on the arena floor.  There was a couple hundred other people there, and it was just like being at a live wrestling show.  It really made the whole experience so much better.  Also there were several wrestlers there watching as well.  Blue Meanie, Henry Godwinn, Abdullah the Butcher, Doink and Dink and others.

I'm so glad we went to The Arena to watch Mania and not on the ROKU at the hotel, this was like watching wrestling at a live event with how everyone was reacting.  It definitely enhanced the experience.

After Mania we headed back to Penn's Landing for I final wrestling event of the weekend, JJSP Clusterfuck Forever, a two match card featuring a Punjabi Prison Match and an 87 person Clusterfuck match, think Royal Rumble style match.

I can't give enough credit to the GCW crew that built the Punjabi Prison cage!  It was legit bamboo but sturdy enough for the wrestlers to climb on and do spots off of.  When Violence is Forever made their entrance it was very surreal to be singing The Cranberries "Zombie" at midnight with a large group of wrestling fans excited for what was about to unfold.

It was wicked friggin wild! You need to go out of your way to watch it on Triller.  The Clusterfuck was a VERY long match at nearly two hours.  The match was in segments with GCW regulars sprinkled through out, but also many ECW Originals, Kaiju Big Battel, a giant chicken, Aja Kong, and Microman, who won!  

We got back to the hotel about 3am, and we had a short turn around to leave Sunday morning.

Sunday April 7th

We got up and loaded up the van before heading into WrestleCon Sunday.  Mikey has one more person he wanted to meet so we all did one last lap around.  I picked up a few VHS tapes on the cheap, including StrangleMania on a dubbed VHS.  

We headed north with out first stop at a rest area on the New Jersey turnpike so I could get burger at shake shack!  I was not missing out on this run!  It was delicious!  We didn't stop again until just crossing over into Connecticut and then again at Ruby Road before the Massachusetts border. 

Mike had to make extra stops for beverages and bathrooms.  We dropped off Mikey at his place and got back to my house around 7pm.  I did watch Mania Sunday after Kate went to bed.  I was exhausted but I have a tradition to uphold!  My first live on PPV WrestleMania was IV and I haven't missed watching live since!

It was an absolutely amazing trip to Philly, so many great matches watched and some amazing times.  I look forward to going again in the future, I just hope I don't have to wait 5 years this time.

Thank you for reading, please leave a comment, check out my other posts, and if you want like my blogs Facebook page.  You can also head over to Amazon and pick up a copy of my book Limitless Wrestling: The First Five Years, or any of my other books as well.  

Until next time! 

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