Worth a Thousand Words.
Originally Posted 8-24-03
Hello, my intended...
Well, since it was only about 93 miles away, I decided to go to Fan-Slam. I'd bought the official TRP shirt special for the occasion, and I called ahead last Wednesday and bought two tickets (one Super, one Golden)so that I could bring one of the brothers along for a navigator (well, more accurately, to read the directions I had printed up from Expedia). All in all, it was an interesting trip - only got lost once. But I digress...
Once we got to the Holiday Inn at Totowa, New Jersey, I was pretty impressed. There were all sorts of people from all over the place on hand for the affair. We saw Virgil in the parking lot and rolled down the windows and shouted to him - and he came over to the car and shook our hands and then slapped me on the chest like we'd been friends for years and thanked us for coming to take part in the show. After we moved on, my brother starts laughing and says, "I shook hands with a jobber!" Yep, there was a real good vibe going all through the place, and I saw Ox Baker getting out of his vehicle while I was circling the place looking for parking - but decided against yelling greetings in case he figured a friendly heart-punch would be in order.
We settled on parking in the mall next door, as the parking for non-guests at the Holiday Inn was less than adequate - and already full. We decided to grab a soda before going in, and saw JJ Dillon in there getting another plate at the breakfast buffet, but I decided it would be poor form to bother the guy while he was tying on the feedbag so we resisted the urge to yell 'Horsemen!' in the diner. It'd look sorta bad to get thrown out before we even got IN, or so I reasoned. The sodas were a buck apiece, and we left a buck for a tip even though it took forever to bring us two stinking glasses of popinski.
We took the elevator to the second floor where the convention was to be held and I suppose one of the first things that really bothered me about the whole thing was how SMALL the total floorspace of the convention occupied. The event staff had mentioned that they'd had over a thousand people at the last one, and all I could do was wonder how it was possible... You could barely pick your way through the vendor area with the tables and displays of a dizzying variety of wrestling swag. Toys, tapes, DVDs, and assorted memorabilia were everywhere you looked, but it was so darn crowded in there you couldn't really take the time to properly browse the wares - so if it didn't leap out at you, you missed it. Luckily, I wasn't there for swag, or I'd have been pretty disappointed with it all. Now, as a warning, ol' Bobo is sort of an 'unassuming' type personage. It's a clever ruse, and I spent years properly cultivating the 'Clark Kent Image' solely for the looks of surprise after the fight starts. Fair warning, in case none of you mugs went over to my damn website to see my picture already.
So my brother asks, "How do you figure they'll be able to put on a wrestling show in someplace this small?"
"I didn't say it was a wrestling SHOW, man. I said it was a wrestling convention."
"No show? I came all this way, and they got a ton of jobbers in here and nobody's gonna job?"
"Dude, be realistic. Most of these guys are OLD. They can't go like that anymore..."
"What about these other dudes? The Ring of Honor guys and such?"
"I suppose they COULD, but I think they've got a show tonight somewhere."
"As in 'not here' somewhere?"
"Damn. Dude, I'm gonna go get a sandwich and sit in the lobby or something."
So I made the first lap through the flea market without knocking anything over, thank goodness. Most of the people that everyone came to see hadn't arrived as yet, so I amused myself scanning around the assorted tables piled with mat-maniac bric-a-brac. I stopped at Ox Baker's table, and he was selling movies among other things. "You wanna buy a copy of Escape From New York? I knock Kurt Russell on his ass in that one."
"No thanks, sir. I've already got Escape from New York. How about an autographed picture?"
After he makes out the poster to specifications, we're gabbing a bit and I finally go, "Could I get a Polaroid, while I'm here?"
"Sure thing!" Ox replies boisterously. He then hops up and makes his way past the other tables lined up next to his, and then ambles through the throng to get to me, while his wife readies the Instamatic. "Wow, you're a big'un, huh?" he asks me.
"My goodness, Ox, he's bigger than you!" his wife exclaims.
"Not lyin' down, he's not." Ox shot back. His wife took the picture and he started ambling back to where he was sitting... But the camera didn't cough up the picture. He gets back, and the lady tell him she's gotta reload the camera - as it didn't take the picture. "Okay, off to the races again," Ox says before he walks the whole way back again to retake the shot. I was impressed. He puts an arm on my shoulder and goes "Ready?"
"Hang on, Ox," the wife says. "I can't get both of you in the shot. Get a little closer..." Ox complies, and she picks up the camera and says "Watch your wallet, kid!" Which is why I look so goofy in the picture, as it was just an instant before I started laughing...
From there I decided to grab some more autographed pictures, and so I trot up to Virgil's booth. He's got some clips of his matches running on tape. The DiBiase 'Freedom' angle and some NWO deals. I ask how he felt being a West Texas Redneck, and he says "Cool." He was outta Polaroid film, but he actually grabbed one of the event people and got them to take the picture of us. I even sprung for a signed picture to all us Jobbers at TRP... Heh.
After that, it was a nice stroll over to what I consider the best part of the whole thing. Johnny Valiant's table. This guy was about as decent and friendly as anyone could be, and we talked about this and that - nothing major, really, but he didn't have to so it was pretty cool when he did. He didn't have a Polaroid thing at all, so I did the digital cam thing - but the piece of crap didn't save the picture... Sheesh. He mentions that he'll be at the Theater of the New City coming up in September doing stand-up/monologue and et cetera - and when I explain to him what 'The Ring Post' is, he says, "Maybe you can plug it on your site, huh?"
"Sure thing, Mr. Valiant," I reply... Didn't have the heart to tell him it wasn't MY site, but a promise is a promise, so:
If any of you folks are in New York and want to have one of the most entertaining sit-downs ever, go check the guy's show out. Just from the few moments of his time he gave me, the guy was very funny and engaging. If you can get him for a couple hours for ten measly bucks, it's a hell of a deal. The best ten-spot you'll ever spend, unless you're a crack addict or something... Oh, and he says 'Hi', to all you guys...
With that outta the way, I noticed ROH's booth was finally set up. I still think I'm an ass for not actually finding the time to see these guys live, and it's something I'm gonna rectify poste haste. Justin Credible's sitting there, and he's chatting with someone about something, so I examine some of the videos and similr swag. I start to get the idea that the guy he's talking to might never shut up, so I butt in and ask, "Mind if I get a Polaroid, brother?" The chatterbox turns to glare at me, but once he sees what he's about to cuss out he suddenly remembers that these guys are here to make some dough and hits the bricks. The guy was about a hand shorter than Justin, so you can get the idea of why... I get the picture, and a handshake.
With that stuff outta the way, and my pockets much lighter. I noted the big stars I actually came to see were all here and ready to go... So of course I had to stand in line in the tiny hallway with about four hundred other folks to get into the little 'conference room' that held them - along with another hundred and a half other people in separate lines... My biggest complaint for the whole show was the festival seating arrangement with the stars. A little organization would have worked SO well in there, folks. Just make ONE cafeteria-style line, and parade everyone past the stars. If you didn't wanna get a picture with one of them, you could go ahead to the next star. Moves things along nice and snappy, but NO. Let's have separate lines for EACH of them, and not rope it off in separate queues. Great idea! That way some of the stars can sit all by themselves stuck behind a line for someone else that the people that want to see THEM can't get through... I swear, when we got to Crowbar, he was so fuckin' happy to see us I thought he'd cry - and JJ Dillon had enough time for a break because he was walled in by people trying to get Orndorff and Von Erich signatures. That was pretty lame, and really the only downside of the day - but it as downsides go it was HORRIBLE.
Upsides, however, still managed to outnumber them:
Crowbar was my first set, since he was pretty much obscured by the throngs for Heenan and Steamboat - which meant no waiting. He's a very good person all around, and we'd bumped into him arriving when we were getting some fresh air. He shook my brother's hand and was pretty upbeat. You had to like the guy, David Flair memories aside...
A bit in, and Ox Baker barges into the place and chats up Steamboat - which was actually pretty entertaining. Especially considering the security didn't get in his way... Maybe it was a work, maybe not. Who cared? I thought it was funny. I shake The Dragon's hand, and tell him he's one of the reasons I was into the martial arts as a kid... The 'Other' Dragon being the 'other' reason, naturally. He smiled and said that it was good company, and shook my hand again. I had him make out the autograph picture to my mom and sister since they were SUPREME Steamboat marks, but here's the polaroid... The mom framed the autograph pretty much the second I gave it to her.
I told Heenan he was my hero growing up, and he replied "Don't ever grow up." My brother asked him if he signed any underwear yet, and he goes, "Just my own." He's every bit the gentleman and decent guy everyone that's met him says he is. Someone even had a copy of his book, but was going to have him sign his 'Bobby the Brain' vinyl LJN figure instead since he could only afford to get one 'Sign Item' ticket. Bobby signed his book for free. The Brain is happy to know some of you folks are still his fans, and he says so.
Gary Michael Capetta was a decent guy, and had a good sense of humor all around. Steamboat asks him if he's okay, because the lines for him and Brain have just about swallowed him. They banter a bit, but Rick can't give the announce guy a rub-off with this crowd. Too bad, really, as he's not the annoyance he portrayed in WCW, and in fact quipped "Me? I just said the guy's height, weight, and name... You don't need any intelligence to do that. How's that for a way to make a living? I was lucky."
JJ Dillon, on hearing I wanted it made out to Mr.Fiendish, said, "I'm not as smart as I am on TV, so you're gonna have to walk me through it... F?"
I ran into Luscious Jonny Valiant while I was catching a smoke, and he says, "Catching a smoke-break, huh, Bobo? Good man." He then puts his cigar back in his mush and strolls past.
I go back to the lines and get in a little easier this time, so I can get my Orndorff and Von Erich bits to complete the set... Ordorff's line was incredibly long, and he was in good spirits. Why not? It probably tickled him pink to still be so popular despite not being on TV in a while, and me and the guy in front of me were talking about what a great moment it was when he turned on Hogan (The Infamous Arm-Raise Ambush), and he smiled proudly as he said, "Yeah, I really knocked his block off that time, didn't I? Heh Heh."
From there it was another line to see The Texas Tornado himself... I swear to God, the guy shakes my hand and is completely amazed how big my hand is... I explain that it's about the same size his is, but he holds his up to mine and goes "No, man, your hand is HUGE! I ain't never had someone wrap their hand all the way around mine like that before... Wow!" I remark that he looks kinda stoned in his picture, and he goes, "Nah, I'm just tired." For fun, I mimic his poster pose in the polaroid.
I was going to stay for the questions and answers thing, but I was told I'd have to wait until all the autograph sessions were finished before they could rearrange the chairs and tables to have it. Since I had to deal with a two-hour drive back home, I decided to skip it. I've heard most of these guys answer the 'usual' questions several times in other interviews, so I didn't think I'd miss anything but heavy traffic...
All in all, I had a great time at the Fan-Slam, and they're going to hold another one at the same place this December 9th. I'm thinking about going, as they've already signed 'The Missing Link'... Sorry the article was so many pictures and such, it was probably a beast to you folks with dial-up, but I just wanted to share with you my account of what was probably the best two hundred bucks total I ever spent this side of the massage parlor.
You're welcome. See you SOON.