5 reasons wrestling fans shouldn’t miss NWA Fan Fest

Peter Kassa jumps off the ropes onto opponent Cedric Alexander at a previous Fan Fest.
Peter Kassa jumps off the ropes onto opponent Cedric Alexander at a previous Fan Fest.

After some debate about whether to move the annual gathering of yesteryear’s superstars of wrestling, NWALegends.com Fan Fest Weekend is back at the University area Hilton beginning Thursday.

While it’s a must for fans of classic wrestling – especially those who grew up watching Charlotte-based NWA and the Mid-Atlantic wrestling promotions – Fan Fest also features a number of up-and-coming indie wrestlers such as Ricochet and former WWE stars like Mickie James, Hornswoggle and Hurricane Helms.

Four Horsemen Arn and Ole Anderson and Tully Blanchard, Road Warrior Animal, Rick Steiner, Nikita Koloff, Brutus Beefcake, Lex Luger, Baby Doll, and Lady Blossom are among the many guests.

Here are a few more reasons why you shouldn’t miss this year’s event:

Legends’ Firsts

Veteran ring announcer Tony Schiavone – who worked for all the biggies, including NWA, WWF and notably WCW during its legendary Monday Night War with WWF – makes his Fan Fest debut with a Q&A on Thursday night. This year also marks the first appearance of the Midnight Express’ Stan Lane and Bobby Eaton with Jim Cornette.

A tribute to Dusty

Last year, news of Rowdy Roddy Piper’s death broke during the convention, a little more than a month after Dusty Rhodes’s passing and a year after the loss of Ultimate Warrior. It remains a dark time for professional wrestling with the recent death of the relatively young former phenomenon Joanie Laurer (aka Chyna). This year’s Hall of Heroes Dinner will honor Rhodes, with his wife and daughter accepting the award on his behalf.

Queens of Combat

Women’s wrestling has never been better – just ask WWE, which opened this week’s “Raw” with two women whose matches have become some of the best on the card. These ladies are out to prove they’re just as good as the men, and Fan Fest offers a chance to see the rising class of female indie wrestlers in action.

The next gen

Second- and third-generation wrestler Tessa Blanchard (a Charlotte native and daughter of the Four Horsemen’s Tully Blanchard) and her second-generation sparring partner Rachael Ellering (daughter of former wrestler Paul Ellering, who managed the Road Warriors) will face each other in a Saturday night match. Both made their NXT debut in April, and are definitely ones to watch out for on the national stage. Blanchard, a Charlotte native who is also the step-daughter of Magnum TA. Both women’s fathers will be in town for the event; Paul Ellering will be honored along with Rhodes and the Road Warriors at the Hall of Heroes ceremony.

The two biggest talkers in the sport

Last year, popular podcast hosts Jim Ross (a former WWE commentator) and Jim Cornette (the outspoken manager of Midnight Express) were a hit at the fest, sharing insider opinions and garnering big laughs. The two are back Thursday for Ringside with Jim and a taping of Cornette’s podcast, the Jim Cornette Experience.

NWALegends.com Fan Fest Weekend

When: Noon Thursday; 9 a.m. Friday and Saturday.

Where: Hilton University, 8629 J.M. Keynes Drive.

Tickets: Single-day ticket $49; three-day VIP pass $109; tickets for breakfast, dinner and the award banquet are additional.

Details: www.nwalegends.com.