WrestleReunion 2011 for the second year in a row
in Los Angeles a smashing success
– A Report by Dr. Mike Lano –
Showing what “non-stop” is all about, the hard working WrestleReunion promoters provided the boys and fans with over three action-packed days of the world’s best wrestling fan convention. Simply an incredible event with events, lectures, signings, photo ops, discussion panels, matches occuring nearly hourly. “I had a great time just like last year’s WrestleReunion, because there was almost too much happening all the time that I maybe got a few hours sleep since Friday,” said wrestling fan and historian Tony Hernandez who summed it up.
The very first WrestleReunion was put on with tireless efforts by longtime industry promoter/ref/manager/p.r. person/etc in Sal Corrente and AWA video guru Rob Russen back in January of 2005 in Tampa with over 90 total legends, far more than were promised which set the president. Adding to it, Nick Bockwinkel and I called up Bobby Heenan and Pat Patterson for a private lunch and invited them to come into the convention vendor area unpaid. They had such a good time seeing old pals like the Funks, Jack Brisco and others they signed and took pix with fans for no fee. And said they had a blast.
Those lucky fans who attend the at-least-annual WrestleReunion traditionally get more than what they paid for. This year being the second in a row was no different and fans equally lucked out in having Edge around Thursday, Friday and part of Saturday before he had to schwing over to the Royal Rumble PPV city.
That first incredible 2005 WrestleReunion may have been the greatest fanfest/convention of all time and was soon followed by another WR event with the major Bruno Sammartino tribute dinner in Pennsylvania and more WRs in the NorthEast. Last year, Sal and new partner Highspots Mike B (along with a large, dedicated crew) brought the fun to Los Angeles to rid California of the 2007 Cow Palace WFanFest stench (where the promoter husband/wife fled the state with the cashbox meant to pay the wrestlers and MMA stars before most got paid). WrestleReunion of course is totally unrelated to those one-time promoters no one had ever heard of before. WrestleReunion is run by caring pros, and run professionally. As a student of most of these events, WrestleReunion each time is the best-run I’ve ever seen. Unlike the Cow Palace mess or the Blaustein NY/NJ fiasco, these promoters were always front and center and available for fans, vendors and the boys. And always making sure things are running smootly and fans are well taken care of.
Again, that added bonus of Edge just happened to also be staying at the hotel (a plus for fans) and told me he’d just finished some of the retake footage for his WWE movie and that’s where he always stays in L.A. He claimed to be totally unaware of the convention, but before leaving Saturday morning to zoom to the PPV city for Rumble, he said he really enjoyed hanging out with old friends like Gangrel, Shane Helms, Kizarney Sinn Bodi, etc at the bar Thursday and Friday night (and backstage at the ROH show). And he was happy to take pictures with fans the entire time. It was interesting seeing the friendship that crosses promotions as SoCalVal, Tracy Brooks, ODB and others normally not associated with Titan/WWE came up and hugged and talked with Edge.
Good guy Rick Bassman for example (he helped Red Bastien, Bill Anderson, Jesse Hernandez originally break in Sting and Helwig) was one of many who were there, and Rick’s transitioned from MMA and wrestling to helping wrestlers, etc. get into movies and tv now in the SoCal area. For years at his Pro W/MMA University dojo, he helped Bas Rutten, Mark Kerr, Mark Coleman and others finesse in pro wrestling for NJPW worked work. Even though he said his first love was wrestling and then MMA, he said he’s having a blast now as a full-time Hollywood Agent.
Both ROH and PWG evening wrestling shows were out of this world, especially the loaded and well-booked PWG show that may have gone long, but no one was complaining with the history and memories being made there like the fan pop for Massa Saito, the respect show all the legends including Jake and of course the highlight of the night in the Piper/Terry Funk first-time-ever confrontation. I was afraid the smart and drunk loud crowd might shit on the great legends battle royal; but they were very respectful of all their faves. At the end, Funk and Piper created some bigtime magic. Posed Piper showing off his shiner afterwards and the next morning. “Terry took me places I hadn’t been in before.” Just classic stuff and the highlight was when Terry entered the ring and Shane went right after him to recreate that classic ECW feud at the same time as Piper and Chavo were recreating theirs nearby.
Beautiful and more importantly, ring-talented girls were everywhere from the industry: Torrie Wilson, Tammy Sytch, SoCal Val, ODB, Tracy Brooks, Stacy Carter who still looks great, Ryan Shamrock who tried to change her looks each day, Christy Hemme, Maria Kanales in full gimmick at her vendor table, and all the stars at the female workers booth including Shelley Martinez, TNA’s Cookie, TNA’s Winter, Rhaka Khan, the brilliant Allison Danger and many others. More on that new all women’s video promotion that’s not related to the industry standard in Shimmer, as we hear about it.
Just a super fun, well-run professional event all three days that delivered more than what fans paid for. Lots of int’l news to accompany lots of unadvertised free names came that were unannounced like Gangrel, the female lead in Terry Funk’s movie Road House, etc. ODB showing off her new look (the blonde hair is gone in favor of her natural dark brown color). Piper and Okerlund’s super Hollywood mind/writer in Mitch Ackerman and more.
I’ve studied wrestling conventions around the world since our earliest great original WFIA 60’s conventions on through the Arezzi Weekend of Champions, John C Flyer convention, even my own in St. Louis in 1993 (The 3-day Sam Muchnick Reunion for the boys). Wrestle Reunion as promoted by Sal Corrente and Highspots Mike B is the way to do them. Every hour for each of the three days something big was going on:
-the ability(first time I’ve seen this anywhere outside of WWE fan Axxess) to cut and film promos to build memories on with some of the best talkers of all time in Piper, Gene Okerlund, Hurricane Greg/Shane Helms and many others
-Pipers Pit recreation photo ops for fans, fantastic pairings (Hart Foundation w/ Danny Davis, Mr. Fuji and Mr. Saito, Saito and Patera, Piper/Orndorf/Orton Jr.); bikini photo ops at the pool with Tracy Brooks, SoCal Val, Stacy Carter (still looks great and she brought the cute puppy she and Kizarney have from home) and Ryan Shamrock.
-one of the largest and best vendor areas with tons of merch sold(the best table again was that of Highspots with every possible belt reproduction, tons of DVDs and books, action figures from Japan and Mexico; great names brought by those paying for vendor space like Bret Hart, Iron Sheik and more
-a sold-out breakfast with the legends where each table had at least one great legend for fans to sit and dine with, ask q’s to, etc. In-ring photo ops with legends, huge convention area, classes and panel discussions and oh yes, two of the best wrestling promotions putting on incredible shows each night as last year – ROH Friday night and PWG Saturday. Just out of this world and although the prices are very reasonable; fans get way more than they pay for. The heads of action figs for Mattel and Jakks were there, and other legit media types like Mitch Ackerman. HWood agent Bassman and his puppy at the bar Friday night, Scotty Epstein bringing Superstar Billy Graham. Along with Highspots (the Amazon of pro wrestling), it was like the Disneyworld and Epcot for wrestling all in one location. Amazing fun for everyone. I believe co-promoter Mike B’s Highspots.com site and huge business is akin to Amazon.com in being the most ethical, one-stop shopping center for anything and everything wrestling and MMA related. And that includes rings, videos, photos, books, action figures, you name it. And always attention to detail, which is the hallmark he brought to WrestleReunion with Sal. If you missed the event, I believe they filmed most everything including the two stratospheric shows in PWG and ROH which is must viewing again because of all the history made in L.A. last weekend. I hear they will promote a WrestleReunion near this year’s Wrestlemania Atlanta site as well as it’s a full definite they’re returning for a 3rd huge WrestleReunion next January at the L.A. Airport Hilton. I’d get my tickets now at Wrestlereunion.com because the attendance set a record this year.