April 6, 2007
Fans mingle with legends on 'Mania Day
By JASON CLEVETT - SLAM! Wrestling
WINDSOR - Some of the biggest names from wrestling's past paid a visit to Windsor on April 1st. The first ever "Meet The Legends" event was a learning experience for all involved, and a great chance for fans to meet their favorite superstars.
Things were a little disorganized at first as fans made their way into the room to be greeted with merchandise tables and the opportunity to buy DVDs, action figures and photos of the stars involved in the event. The announcement was also made that the scheduled wrestling card for the afternoon had been scrapped due to insurance issues. While some fans were disappointed at the change in plans, getting the chance to ask wrestling legends Tito Santana, Jimmy Snuka, The Iron Sheik and Demolition (Bill Eadie and Barry Darsow) as well at TNA Superstar and Detroit native Rhino questions made up for the change.
Soon the first legend, Tito Santana, was introduced and took questions from fans. After solo Q&A sessions with Santana, Rhino and Demolition, The Iron Sheik and Jimmy Snuka were added and all five guests sat at the table and took questions. There was entertaining banter among the wrestlers, including Demolition and Santana sharing many stories about their feud against each other over the WWF tag team titles (Demolition beat Santana and Rick Martel for the belts at Wrestlemania 4) as well as facing the Hart Foundation.
Fans took advantage of the opportunity to ask questions such as major influences and how each got into the business. The biggest attraction was Demolition, who reunited for the first time in 16 years. Ax (Bill Eadie) and Smash (Barry Darsow) were gracious with their answers and it seemed like the chemistry that made them one of the top tag teams of the 1980s had never left. Rhino also was very charismatic and personable, cracking several jokes to lighten the mood. He also spoke humbly about sharing a stage with wrestlers he grew up watching.
"I feel like a kid in a candy store. I grew up watching these guys so sitting up here is cool. I respect you guys and thank you so much," Rhino said. "These guys paved the way for me and if it wasn't for guys like this I wouldn't have had a dream and I wouldn't have a job and doing something I love to do. So thank you from the bottom of my heart."
For others the highlight was The Iron Sheik. When asked about ushering in the era of Hulkamania, Sheik went on an barely comprehensible rant about Hulk Hogan, Canada, Bret Hart, Bob Backlund from Minnesota, his gold medal and never actually answered the question. A passionate and fiery Sheik later responded to a question about B. Brian Blair by once again reiterating his desire to break his back, make him humble, and have sex with him. It may have made no sense, but it popped the crowd.
"Hulk Hogan, everybody know you a jabroni, you be nothing," Sheik spat.
SLAM! Wrestling took advantage of the opportunity to ask Santana about having been a face his entire career as well as his influence on future generations of Hispanic wrestlers.
"When Rick Martel and I split up, I knew he was coming back (from injury) and I went to Vince McMahon and asked if he would allow me to be the heel. I thought that I had enough ring knowledge to do it and they have more fun in the ring. I didn't realize at the time that they had already planned the Model thing with Rick Martel," Santana said. "When I was inducted into the Hall of Fame, Eddie Guerrero came up to me and thanked me for helping open doors for Hispanics within the WWF. It was not only a great honor to be a role model to kids in general, but to be so for the Hispanic community."
After the 90-minute Q&A wrapped up, fans got autographs and could also purchase photos with the superstars as a keepsake. After getting their autographs fans headed away from the Ciociaro club either on their way home or across the border to Wrestlemania.
Doug Johnson of Windsor, who brought his son DJ to the event as a birthday present, was excited to meet the wrestlers, two in particular. "I'm looking forward to meeting Tito Santana and the Iron Shiek. My son is too young to remember any of these guys, but I watched them back in the day." This was the only event over Wrestlemania weekend that the two were attending. "DJ watches WWE now, but I'm not really into it anymore," explained Johnson, before being pulled away by his son to one of the merchandise tables.
As the crowd thinned out, promoter Jim Turow reflected on an eventful day. Turow co-promoted the event with Brian Moore, Mark Johnson and Rich Doring and was visibly relieved at having successfully put together the event, even if it wasn't without a few stumbling blocks.
"We are happy, we learned a lot about this type of event. We learned a lot about how to keep things flowing and doing a Q&A, which we have never done before. We normally (hold events like this) with hockey players and this is the first time we've done this with wrestlers, and it's been a big learning experience for us. Let's just say that some of the personalities have been... interesting. But for the most part, they've been good to deal with," Turow told SLAM! Wrestling. "We felt that these were some of the most memorable names of wrestling from the '80s, and that people would really want to see them. Having the reunion of Ax and Smash, who haven't been together for so many years, was a big one for us. We are still passionate and excited about Meet the Legends and we are going to do it again, probably on a smaller scale, sometime in the summer."
Jason Clevett visited 12 stores in Canada and the U.S. in hopes of finding a Demolition action figure set to be signed. He could not find one anywhere. He did however leave with signed Tito Santana and Jimmy Snuka figures.