Big Event XI was an absolute breeze – especially compared to my scarring experience at their last show. I definitely made it easier on myself by getting *half* the amount of guests and avoided vendor guests that I knew would have long lines like Ryback, Rob Van Dam, and the Outsiders.
Jenna and I stayed overnight at the nearby Hampton Inn so we didn’t have to hunt for a parking spot. Seriously, that’s one of the worst parts about this venue: lack of parking. Jenna got a parking ticket last year and barely got a spot in the garage at the last show. Staying over (for relatively cheap) was so worth it and it’s something we’ll likely do again.
I got to the lobby just before 9:00 AM and picked up my tickets. I saw people – including Ira and Jen – waiting on a line outside but we were told we could pick up our tickets early since we were guests of one of the hotels. Cool! The ticket situation at the last show caused me a great deal of stress. The line was massive and people who were buying day-of were admitted before some w/pre-orders. This time was definitely easier.
We immediately made our way to the auditorium to line up for Bruno. They were allowing VIP ticket holders in first (something they really didn’t stick to at the last show) and we were able to snag a GREAT spot on line – just up front, about 5th or 6th in line or so. We waited for about 30 minutes before Bruno came out to a standing ovation and chants of, “Bruno! Bruno! Bruno!” He was in great spirits and thanked everyone for the applause.
The line moved a little slowly but that was expected. It was now my turn to meet Bruno Sammartino and he could not have been nicer. He asked me where I’d like to sign for all of my items and commented on all the books I had him sign. They had a chair set-up next to him for the photo ops and I love how it came out. Just before the photo he saw me raise my fist and said, “Hes gonna punch me!” He was so great and he’s easily the most iconic wrestler I’ve ever met. I got him in my Encyclopedias (Vol. II & III), WWE Ultimate Superstar Guide, WM 32/HOF Program, and a print I bought at the show.
After a quick trip to the car, I spotted Ken Shamrock on my way back in. I was owed a refund by MZ Promotions after Earl and Dave Hebner cancelled for Legends, so they were nice enough to offer me a Shamrock combo to make up for it. There was only two people in line before it was my turn. Shamrock was really nice. His table was in front of one of those windows that didn’t have any shade and the photo op came out horrendously, so he offered to re-take it away from the window. Great guy. I got him in my Encyclopedia.
Up next was David Schultz, a rare name that actually had a decent line by the time I got to him. Funny story: so it’s my turn, I place the Encyclopedia on the table, and he signs it. While he’s signing, I make my way around the table for the photo op. I guess he didn’t see me, so after he finished signing I *gently* tapped him on the back and he practically jumped out of his seat. He gets up, glares at me, and says “don’t sneak up on me.” He then told the vendor that he hates when people sneak up behind him. Geez. Then we went to pose for the photo and he said, “Don’t hug me” with this dead serious glare. Like…I wasn’t going to hug you? Whatever, Schultz seems like a straight-laced dude and judging by his past…not surprising.
Madusa was up next and she was an absolute sweetheart. She introduced herself to Jenna (as “Madusa!”) and was just really frigging pleasant. I had her sign the Encyclopedia.
Next was Jonathan Coachman and he was a really cool and gracious dude. I had him sign my Encyclopedia.
I cashed in on my $5 Bushwhacker Luke autograph ticket that was included w/admission. I met him once before so I didn’t need to purchase a photo op. Luke was very nice and seemed to be in great spirits. I really wish Butch was well enough to appear as well. I got Luke in my WM 32/HOF Program.
The F.B.I. duo of Tony Mamaluke and Little Guido were next. I had met Guido at a House of Hardcore show back in April, so I didn’t need an autograph from him; instead, I had Mamaluke sign the F.B.I. entry and his individual entry in my Encyclopedia. I loved the photo despite the lighting being poor. I’m sure I’ll edit it to make it better. Great guys, really fun and polite.
Up next was the Ink Inc. duo of Jesse Neal and Shannon Moore. I had Neal sign the 2010 TNA program while Moore signed his entry in the Encyclopedia before we posed for a duo photo op.
The third tag team meet in a row was The Orient Express. Both guys were very nice and humble. I had them sign the Orient Express entry in the Encyclopedia.
Next was Spike Dudley who was very nice and wore his Dudley Boy glasses for the photo op, which I really loved. I had him sign his entry in the Encyclopedia.
Trinity was up next and she was an absolute sweetheart! She signed her entry in the Encyclopedia.
Next was The Patriot, who made sure to keep kayfabe alive by wearing his mask. He was very nice and polite. I had him sign the Encyclopedia.
Next was Larry Zbyszko, who I’ve met twice before. I pre-ordered an autograph ticket to meet him because I planned on getting a Bruno/Zbyszko piece signed by the both of them but, amazingly enough, I couldn’t find any! No worries: I got him in my WM 32/HOF Program.
Next was Rick Steiner, who I really wanted to meet because I love the Steiner Brothers. He was really nice although a bit pricey ($30 combo) but he was really nice and that always eases the blow.
I heard from OvertheTop and a number of other people that Mark Henry had been pulled and would return at 11:30 AM. I was worried he wouldn’t come back at all but, surprisingly, he did and it was earlier than 11:30. I purchased the VIP ticket and I was able to cut the long line. I had him sign the Encyclopedia (his and the NOD entry), WWE Ultimate Superstar Guide, and the WM 32/HOF Program. He was a nice enough guy.
I looked at my clock and couldn’t believe it: 11:00 AM. I was done by 11:00 AM!!!! Holy. Moly. This was something that truly shocked me. Jenna and I decided to have a little snack break before going back to the vendor room to pick up two more names.
Buff Bagwell is someone I really wanted to meet and I’m glad I did. I got him in my Encyclopedia, Vol. III, and I LOVE our photo op. I asked him if I could hold his hat for the photo and he insisted that I wear it instead! Awesome guy and I love his ‘graph.
Finally, I got Ashley Massaro in my Encyclopedia. I thought she’d be a $25ish combo but she was sticking to $20 per item, so I passed on a photo op. I’ll get one at the next con.
Jenna and I said our goodbyes to the friends we’ve made through this hobby and left before noon. Remarkable.
I just wanted to say hi to those who came up to me and told me they were fans of my reports that I post either on here or my block. Kevin, it was particularly nice speaking to you! Hope you enjoy this one. Someone who was with K&S was also nice enough to say hello and said he recongized me from this board. I didn’t catch his name but that’s always awesome to hear. It was good seeing Ira, Greg, OvertheTop, and finally meeting adelta13! Great guys.
Some other thoughts/observations:
I overheard Mike Johnson telling someone that people were really pissed that WWE pulled James Ellsworth.
I could not believe the line for the Outsiders. I know it’s Hall and Nash but…man. Those guys are around, ya know? I’m surprised at how many people still need them.