Welcome back to another entry in my “A look back at the hobby in the 90s” series. Today, we’re going through Wrestling Observer Newsletters from 1994 and taking a look at what was happening in the pro wrestling autograph/convention hobby. This is actually a fairly significant year as the first ever Axxess would be held prior to WrestleMania.
As always, please consider subscribing to F4Wonline as they include a growing Newsletter archive.
Kevin Sullivan and promoter Joe Lake, who took a hefty loss at his last show, agreed upon a $2,000 talent fee for himself and valet Woman to work two weekend shows and received $500 up front. As it turned out, the only other cash Sullivan and his second saw was from Woman’s autographed photo sales prior to the Taylor card.
Woman raking in the dough. She appeared fairly often at these early conventions and I can’t help but wonder if she would’ve done the rounds at Big Event or LOTR if she wasn’t murdered.
The WWF Fan Fest will take place in a series of seven two hour and 30 minute segments, with admission to each segment $22 on 3/18 through 3/20. The session will include historical perspectives of the WWF, opportunities for autographs, opportunities to purchase merchandise, opportunity to commentate on matches, opportunity to get your photo superimposed on a WWF magazine cover and other gimmicky type items you’d expect at an amusement park.
7 sessions, each lasting 2 hours and 30 minutes, and you have to pay admission to each session during WrestleMania weekend. Yep, this is Axxess. Look at what they’re back then, too, and compare it to today. It’s pretty much the same (even commentate on matches!). Wild.
Wrestlemania X opened with a Little Richard (the 50s icon, not the former Roller Derby skater) lip-synch rendition of “America the Beautiful” complete with entourage by the Stamford, CT Baptist Church, which came off well on PPV but didn’t go over at all in the building. Reportedly after the show there was heat in that Richard got out of the building after doing his thing and wouldn’t sign autographs for the guys backstage
WWF’s Fan Fest was largely a financial success, as all seven sessions drew a sellout 2,200 fans at $22 a pop. Reports we received were that the only negative were there were far too many fans crammed in for the two-and-a-half hour sessions and the lines for autographs for the superstars was more than 30 minutes a pop in some cases and other lines were lengthy as well for climbing into the ring, calling matches and getting photos taken at the Face-to-face set. The wrestlers and Vince McMahon were said to be very gracious to the fans once they got to meet them. Secondary characters were available for autographs with little or no wait. The WWF was seemingly aware of the problems, so upon leaving, the WWF gave each fan a free pass good for a future WWF event. As mentioned on television, the WWF is planning on including Fan Festivals annually as part of Wrestlemania weekends and perhaps other PPV shows as well. With the upcoming trial, the company is going out of its way to present a positive image to offset what will almost certainly be negative publicity in about six weeks.
Little Richard denying talent of autographs is unbelievable. I’m actually surprised that he’s still alive. Anyone have any stories about meeting him?
It sounds like fans were complaining decades ago about how WWE ran its autograph lines. It’s pretty amazing that Vince participated in Axxess and that they handed out free passes to a future WWF event as a makeup for how long the lines were. Dave mentions that WWE plans on running these fan fests annually
Funny story of the week. At an autograph show this past week, a fan came up to John Studd with a photo of him with a mask from the late 70s in Texas where he worked as Captain USA. He asked Studd to autograph a photo as Studd and another photo as Captain USA. Studd was really friendly about it and asked him, “How do you spell Captain?”Dave promotes an autographing signing in Philly featuring the Sandman and J.T. Smith
A reader in NJ is selling a Japanese flag autographed by Chris Benoit, Sabu and Jushin Liger
Dave promotes a signing in Long Island featuring Bruno Sammartino and Randy Savage.
Imagine if that type of signing happened today?
Dave reports on autograph hounds camping out in the courtroom during McMahon’s steroid trial. Dave mentions that Nailz and Afa made appearances but autograph hounds were largely disappointed that so few WWF wrestlers showed up.
West Four Wrestling Association brought in Mad Dog Vachon to sign autographs at four shows this past week.
Bob Backlund turned heel and is refusing to sign autographs for fans.
A reader told a story about how mailed JR a list of questions and some cash for an autograph picture. JR replied with thoughtful answers, sent him two autograph pics, and refunded his money.
Dave promotes a signing with Kimala at the Sacramento Convention Center. Pete Rose, Bart Starr and Johnny Bench were also scheduled to appear.
WCW is charging a crazy $500 for front row seats at a Detroit house show but photo ops with Hulk Hogan and Muhammad Ali are guaranteed. They’re also guaranteeing that they’ll sign the photo afterward with proceeds going to Ali’s charity. Dave reports that, as of the previous week, only three tickets were sold.
Dave notes that Bret Hart is doing a signing at my future alma mater Hofstra University.
Who would’ve jumped on getting the Hogan and Ali combos for $500 in 1994?
Dave promotes a signing with Tito Santana, Doink the Keirn and Greg Valentine in Paramus, NJ at Sports World on Route 17.
Keirn is sort of a rarer name but we all know how often Santana and Valentine do signings.
Dave notes that Tommy Fierro is promoting an autograph show in Cherry Hill, NJ in conjunction with Dennis Coraluzzo’s NWA tournament on 11/19. The names scheduled to appear? Jerry Lawler, Jim Cornette, Rock & Roll Express, Ludvig Borga, Johnny Polo, Dirty White Boy, Tracy Smothers, The Gangstas, Chris Candido, Tammy Fytch, Johnny Gunn and Al Snow.
A lot of the same names we see today with the exception of Borga (and Johnny Gunn). Borga sounded like a miserable person with a concealed SS tattoo on his ankle. Gunn is also known as Salvatore Sincere and I think he does M&G today but I’ve never seen him at Big Event/LOTR