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   Sun, April 17, 2011



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Fan Interaction session a great kickoff for Lockdown
By "Bloodthirsty" BOB KAPUR - SLAM! Wrestling


Jeff and Karen Jarrett aboard the Lockdown Riverboat Cruise - photo courtesy of TNA Wrestling.

CINCINNATI, OH - The countdown to TNA Wrestling’s annual Lockdown pay-per-view came to a close yesterday, and if the show is as good as yesterday’s Fan Interaction session, fans are in for a major treat.

About 500 of the TNA faithful of all ages were on hand at the North Kentucky Convention Center for the meet and greet session, broken up into three 2-hour segments, to allow enough time for fans to meet with virtually the entire roster. Entrance to the event got you a free autographed 8X10 photo of each star, another autograph on any item brought from home, and a photo with the star.

Each session would start with TNA announcer Jeremy Borash introducing each star, so that fans could know who was sitting at which station, allowing them to plan their strategy so that they could meet everyone with minimal time spent in line. Often, families and groups could be seen plotting out their plans, and going through bags and boxes of action figures and other memorabilia to get signed.

One such person was Chip Buchanan from Greenville, South Carolina, who had brought a duffel bag full of figures to the event.

“I’ve been collecting for about 15 years,” he said, holding up his freshly-signed Jay Lethal figure. “I have a couple of curio cabinets where I display them. So it’s definitely worth coming to these events. Besides, it pays to support a company that actually gives back to fans – TNA goes out of its way to be fan friendly.

That was evident throughout the day. All of the roster was incredibly professional and upbeat during the signings, and even before and after the event, and this reporter didn’t see or hear of any request turned down. In fact, it seemed that the company would do anything and everything in order to satisfy the fans. As an example: as the first session was nearing conclusion, the lineup for Fourtune had to be closed off. Don West, who had been pulled from his position at the merchandise stand to act as the barrier, would sympathetically allow late-comers to join, so as to not disappoint anyone.

To their credit, all of the TNA roster were equally accommodating, and many would spend time talking and joking with them, as opposed to just signing and taking a picture in production-line fashion. Some of the standouts in that regard were Brian Kendrick, Matt Morgan, the British Invasion, and the commentary team of Mike Tenay and Taz, who at times had people laughing like at a comedy show.

There was also some fun interplay between the stars themselves, when they would continue their on-screen feuds, such as when Madison Rayne and Tara loudly booed Mickie James, Rayne’s opponent at the PPV, when she was being interviewed on the main stage. Another fun moment saw Brother Devon literally chase D’Angelo Dinero away from his signing station and across the room.

To a large extent, as one might expect in this kind of situation, the sense of good guy and bad guy were temporarily loosened, and everyone was cheered when they made their entrance. One notable exception was Bully Ray, who maintained his bullying ways – including taking the main stage to insult the fans, and in particular this writer, who was viciously mocked for his fashion sense and physical appearance. Thankfully, not all of the villains were as mean, leading to more than a few tender moments, including seeing the Abyss meet his 3-year old doppelganger, and give the young monster a fatherly hug to the delight of the child.

After the end of the third session, the approximately 300 fans who had purchased the VIP Experience ticket were treated to a fourth session, which featured four of wrestling’s legends: Mick Foley, Ric Flair, Sting, and Hulk Hogan. In line, many older fans who grew up watching these four were overheard practicing what they would say when they met these heroes. Even this writer isn’t ashamed to say that he got goosebumps meeting Hulk Hogan for the first time.

In addition to a photo and autograph from each of the legends, attendees to this session also received the newest Mick Foley DVD.


Main Event Session event poster.
Foley was as glad to be there as the fans, telling SLAM! Wrestling that “It’s great to be a part of this. I love getting out and meeting the fans, and whenever we get the chance, it’s special for them and for us.” The hardcore legend was also happy to talk about his work with the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN), a organization that works to help the victims of sexual assault, and encouraged fans to learn more about the organization and donate to the cause, by visiting www.rainn.org.

After that session, the VIP ticket also acted as the boarding pass for the Lockdown Riverboat Cruise. Due to some unforeseeable issues – bad weather, high water levels, and an accident earlier in the day that saw a couple of the riverboats collide – the boat remained docked, as opposed to actually cruising the river. But that didn’t put a damper on the evening, and in fact may have led to even more fun with the fans and the TNA stars on hand.

After the buffet dinner, the party moved to the dance floor, where a swing band entertained the crowd for the three-hour event. Here, the TNA stars interacted freely with the fans, and each other, and it was a unique experience to see their true personalities come through. Daniels was particularly fun, and at one point, he, Mickie James, Christy Hemme, and So Cal Val playfully challenged Jeff and Karen Jarrett to demonstrate their swing dance skills for the crowd. This turned into a game where the wrestlers would try to get the fans to chant for someone else to demonstrate their fancy footwork. The winner by default ended up being British Invasion member Magnus, who danced a sprightly jig while wearing a ship captain’s hat as the crowd cheered him on.

After the buses dropped off the VIP fans back at the hotel, the countdown to Lockdown ended for many. Some of them, particularly those with younger kids, tapped out and headed for their rooms. While others remained in the hotel lobby or lounge in order to find other opportunities for photos or autographs. By about 1am, the party seemed to be over as everyone trickled off to their rooms, in anticipation of tonight’s show.

Overall, this year’s Fan Interaction session was a tremendous, memorable experience, and served as a great kickoff for the PPV. Hopefully, the company will take more PPV shows on the road so that other fans can have similar experiences in the future. Or, as fan Tim Smith, who attended the event with his nephew Rily, summed it up, “Any chance you get to come to a Fan Interaction, you should do it. It’s a great show.”

Editor’s Note: Look for a photo gallery from the Fan Interaction weekend in the coming days.

"Bloodthirsty" Bob Kapur apparently needs a wardrobe consultant. E-mail him your fashion tips at bobkapur@hotmail.com