Monday, October 15, 2012

Bound for Glory: Fan Fest & Hall of Fame


Austin Aries at Fan Fest
Bound for Glory '12
Photo by My 1-2-3 Cents
By Chad Smart
@chadsmart & @my123cents on Twitter

I have attended six WWE Wrestlemania weekends. The first two I attended (22 in Chicago, 24 in Orlando) featured private autograph sessions for fans that purchased the travel packages. At Wrestlemania 25, WWE re-introduced the Fan Axxess event. Axxess is a giant showroom with memorabilia on display as well as stations for fans to get autographs or photos with WWE wrestlers.  This year I had the pleasure of attending TNA’s version over the Bound For Glory weekend in Phoenix.  

As I was mentally planning this blog, I was thinking how much smoother and quicker lines moved at the TNA event than the WWE one and I wondered if it would be fair to compare an event that brings in 60-70,000 fans versus an event that had maybe 3-5,000.  When debating those numbers, I wanted to make sure to stress while TNA’s crowds may be smaller, that is actually a plus for events of this type.
At WWE Axxess it’s not unheard of to wait in line for over an hour to get one autograph or photo. At TNA Fan Fest, they had two sessions with nine autograph stations where fans could get both an autograph and photo (at Axxess you get one or the other depending on if the wrestler is at an autograph table or standing for photos) of the wrestler.  Even with long lines for the top stars (Rob Van Dam for the first session, Jeff Hardy for the second.) fans had plenty of time to get through all of the lines and even get some of the other TNA office personnel walking the floor.

Dixie Carter
Bound for Glory '12
Photo by My 1-2-3 Cents
My understanding is the wrestlers would take one photo and sign one item. The wrestlers had 8x10 photos at their tables to sign for fans that didn’t bring anything to be signed. Either the wrestlers didn’t know how much they were supposed to sign or didn’t care. I walked up to most of the tables with the TNA 10-Year Anniversary book and a DVD to be signed. The wrestlers would sign the DVD then sign the program and throw in an 8x10 for good measure. When I told Tara I was going to put the 8x10s in a charity auction for the American Cancer Society at the AAPW show on October 20, she was impressed and signed three extra photos.

Miss Tessmacher
Bound for Glory '12
Photo by My 1-2-3 Cents
At Axxess (again, I understand there is a difference in the amount of people) most of the wrestlers who give a half-hearted hi or thanks and you’re quickly moved through the line. At Fan Fest, with the except of Kurt Angle, Bully Ray (who I saw right at the beginning of his shift) and Bobby Roode (who I saw right at the end of his shift) everyone was very personable and took time to talk to fans. Fans were treated as if they actually mattered and the talent was genuinely thankful for the fans being there. It’s a little thing in the grand scheme of things but that type of interaction goes a long way in getting fans to come back the next time you hold an event like this. The first wrestler I talked to was Miss Tessmacher. I relayed the story of Kevin mentioning he thought she was “delicious” on the previous episode of From the Rafter’s Radio. I don’t know what Kevin meant, but Miss Tessmacher laughed and asked if that meant he wanted to eat her up. Thankfully she didn’t call security over to have me removed from the building.

Hulk & Brooke Hogan
Bound for Glory '12
Photo by My 1-2-3 Cents
Even Hulk Hogan, who only signed for fans who had bought the travel package or VIP pass, spent time making sure every fan had a good experience. I think I saw the security guy tell Hulk on 3 or 4 occasions he needed to take less time with people as they only had a certain amount of time and had to get everyone through the line. The level of appreciation from everyone in TNA, which also includes TNA President Dixie Carter, is something you don’t get from a lot of wrestling promotions. Hopefully the good will from the company rubbed off on the fans that will now go home and tell their friends about the good time they had and will get more people to attend the next time TNA is in the area or holds something big like Bound For Glory.

Hall of Fame set up
Bound for Glory '12
Photo by My 1-2-3 Cents
After the Fan Fest was over there was about a three-hour gap until the first TNA Hall of Fame Ceremony.  Before the ceremony, I was still thinking TNA was foolish for having a Hall of Fame and should have done an awards ceremony similar to the old WWF Slammy Awards. Only they should have been taken serious unlike the last two Slammy ceremonies. After the ceremony was over, I understand why TNA did what they did. I’m curious if they’ll do Hall of Fame next year or wait and make the ceremonies more sparse and prestigious.  Before I lay out my reason for the change of mind, lets talk about the set up and event itself.

Unlike the WWE Hall of Fame, which is held in a large venue, the TNA Hall of Fame was in an intimate room. In fact it was in the same room the autograph sessions took place earlier in the afternoon. My one complaint with the event was the lack of assigned seating.  Each table seated ten people. There were 8-9 fans at a table and then a wrestler or wrestler and significant other. I was one of the last fans to enter and had to go around to four different tables before I found a place to sit.  I don’t know if it would be feasible to get the names of every ticket holder, or one name and the number of people in the party, and then do assigned seating like a wedding banquet or not but that is something I’d recommend TNA look into if they do this again next year.

Once all the fans were seated, SoCal Val greeted everyone and then introduced the TNA talent in attendance. After they were introduced, the wrestlers would take their spot at their table. I was at a table with Chavo Guerrero and his wife. Hernandez was at the table behind Chavo. Zema Ion was at the table behind me while Christopher Daniels, his wife and kids, and Kazarian and Traci Brooks were one table over.  Both Chavo and his wife were gracious table hosts answering any questions fans had and engaging is simple small talk. I overhead Zema Ion talking to the people at his table but the standout had to be Bully Ray. Not only did he seem to be entertaining his table, he walked around to a few other tables and at one point called Bruce Pritchard over to say hi to some fans. Once again, I applaud TNA’s effort to give the fans a unique experience and the wrestlers for not being standoffish.

TNA's first Hall of Famer: Sting
Bound for Glory '12
Photo by My 1-2-3 Cents
As for the induction of Sting into the TNA Hall of Fame, with the exception of the WWE induction of Ric Flair and the Four Horsemen, this was probably my favorite Hall of Fame induction.  Mike Tenay started the induction ceremony by sharing a brief run down of Sting’s career. AJ Styles spoke about working security at a WCW show. AJ told a story about being at catering when Sting and Lex Lugar sat down at the table with him and how he couldn’t stop staring at them due to being star struck. Then how excited AJ was when Sting came to TNA and AJ got to face him in Sting’s first match.  Lex Lugar followed AJ and recounted stories to stress how loyal a friend Sting has been over the last almost 30 years. After Lugar, Hulk Hogan echoed the sentiments of Sting being loyal by talking about how Hulk had tried to get Vince McMahon to bring Sting to WWF and how Sting wouldn’t jump from WCW. Dixie Carter was the last to speak. She talked about getting Sting to come to TNA and having to convince to stick around each year after his contract was about to expire. She stressed, as did Mike Tenay and AJ Styles that had Sting not come to TNA, TNA probably wouldn’t be in existence today. 

Sting naturally spoke last. The most telling aspect of the whole event was when it was over I didn’t think Sting had been inducted, it felt like Steve Borden had been inducted into the Hall of Fame. Maybe it was the fact Steve came out without face paint or sunglasses. This was the first time I can ever recall seeing him without either.  While several points in the speeches touched on Sting’s career and specific matches, there was just as much, if not more, talk about the person behind the face paint and the character of the character. This is why, on the ten-year anniversary of TNA, I understand why it was important to induct Sting into the TNA Hall of Fame. I hope TNA includes the ceremony on the Bound For Glory DVD and encourage all fans to watch it.

After the ceremony
Bound for Glory '12
Photo by My 1-2-3 Cents
Outside of TNA, I have to give credit to the fans in attendance as well. One of my biggest annoyances of WWE Hall of Fame ceremonies is the jackass fans that feel the need to yell and scream catcalls.  The Hall of Fame inductions are not the same as a wrestling event and therefore the code of conduct shouldn’t be the same. The fans in attendance at TNA’s event were all courteous and respectful of the people talking. My only complaint is the number of fans I heard talking during the afternoon that were upset they weren’t allowed to wear shorts and had to make special trips to the store to buy dress pants. Seriously, what is wrong with these people? There were a handful of fans in attendance wearing jeans and t-shirts. Then again, Hulk Hogan showed up in jeans and a Bound For Glory t-shirt so you can’t really blame the fans.

Overall, I had a great time on Saturday and depending on where Bound For Glory is held at next year, I would be interested in going if TNA had similar events. Next I’ll take a look at Bound For Glory itself. Could the show cap off a great weekend or would it fall under the hype?

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