CALGARY – She may have been a few hours late due to flight delays, but when former WWE Women’s Champion Lita walked onto the stage to greet those who had been waiting to see her, all that mattered was that she had arrived.
Tanya and Winston Webemire were among the many who had lined up at noon for the scheduled 1:00 start time and the three-hour wait didn’t matter.
“Lita is a very beautiful lady and a class act, it was amazing to meet her in person. Our son has 300 wrestling figures and his walls are plastered in posters,” they said. Wrestling sometimes gets a bad rap from parents but both feel that their kids enjoy it and the responsibility lies in good parenting. “Our kids know what is the difference between what is real and fake. If parents can’t control that, then the kids shouldn’t be watching it.”
For 12-year-old Leigh, it was a meeting a year in the making. She considers Lita a major role model who helped her come out of her shell and be more confident.
It is this intense connection with the stars of professional wrestling that ensures they will be part of the annual World of Wheels events for a long time to come. The event, which estimates say drew more than 40,000 people over the three-days, has seen Stacey Kiebler, Joanie “Chyna” Laurer and Rhyno make appearances in the last four years. A young Chris Jericho met Ricky Steamboat at a World of Wheels event, helping set the course for his career.
“Every time we bring in a wrestler, be it male or female, the attendance climbs,” promoter Shelley Ostrove told SLAM! Wrestling. “The awareness of wrestlers in Calgary is amazing and it has worked out very well.”
The event, which blends celebrities with chrome will bring John Cena to the World of Wheels at the Convention Centre in Winnipeg on March 24th. Ostrove has worked for WOW for 15 years and can’t pick out who has been a favorite.
“It is difficult to pick one over the other because they each have a different following. Stacey for us last year did really well, as did Lita this year. The wrestlers are really nice people, they spend the time with their fans, which makes it exciting because they don’t just spend time with them and that is what makes the show work.”
While the success can’t be denied of having two stars the caliber of Cena and Lita on the show, it doesn’t ensure that future years will have two stars.
“I can’t promise we will have two wrestlers in the future. We got Lita because she was hurt, while John Cena had a night off of wrestling so he was able to be booked,” said Ostrove.
For Lita, who is presently on the road to recovery from an injury, getting to see her fans express their love and affection at autograph sessions around the country helps keep her motivated. She seemed legitimately surprised to see the hundreds of people who had waited so long to see her, and you could tell from the expression on her face what it meant to her.
“It is always good. You know the fans care, but you cross your fingers when you are injured and do an autograph session that people still show up and remember you. It is great to be able to interact with them,” she told SLAM! Wrestling after the last fan had gone home satisfied.