LOS ANGELES – When you put legends together, some who haven’t seen each other in years, it can be both amazing and distracting. Fans gathered for breakfast early on Saturday morning to listen to a Q&A with Bruno Sammartino, Larry Zbyszko and Stan Hansen and heard stories galore.
The trio talked, of course, about their epic feuds as well as took questions from the audience. It was obvious that they still had lots to talk about during the photo opportunity. Joined by Nick Bockwinkel, the four often drifted into conversation and had to be pulled away to take photos. When one fan went a little overboard, pulling out props and banners Stan Hansen put him in his place. When asked to put on elbow pads he said simply “I don’t want to, and I am not going to.” Afterward he rasped, “I am still a heel at heart.”
The photo session with former WWE and ECW stars Super Crazy and Rob Van Dam went quite a bit smoother. Both took ample time with each person they met, and Van Dam kept cracking up the Highspots staff with jokes before posing and saying his trademark initials. When fans had photos scheduled with both, the two would tag in and out to swap places.
In the adjacent room, business was brisk for the vendors, which included TNA star Daffney, The Iron Sheik, Dan Severn, Chavo Guerrero Sr., Ron Simmons, Rikishi, Gangrel and Orlando Jordan. Jimmy Hart was signing autographs and taking photos for free. Bill Apter hosted the event, letting people know when time was running out for photos or to meet people.
Not surprisingly the biggest lineup was for Bret “Hitman” Hart, a vendor guest from Big Time Wrestling. Fans waited patiently for hours as Hart took photographs and then signed autographs. Not to take away anything from any of the other legends in attendance, but Hart was the biggest draw, appearance wise, of the weekend.
Events like this are as much for the wrestlers as the fans. Terri Runnels was excited to run into Rikishi and Gangrel at their table promoting their wrestling school. Hugs were shared throughout the room. Rob Van Dam and Tammy Sytch both stopped to say hello to Bret Hart. Sytch’s Facebook status later read, “I’m happy that I saw some long lost friends.” That feeling was shared by many others.
Although there was a slight delay in getting the doors open, which was filled with Apter getting fans to do wrestler impressions as well as throwing in his own — who knew the former Pro Wrestling Illustrated editor could do such a good Pee Wee Herman or Cookie Monster? — again things moved smoothly and professionally as the first six superticket stars — RVD, Super Crazy, Jushin Liger, Bruno Sammartino, Larry Zbyszko, Scott Taylor, Nick Bockwinkel, Stan Hansen and Koko B. Ware — signed. Highspots also ensured that lots of autographs were signed prior to the doors opening, which will be available in the SLAM! Wrestling store.
Three back-to-back photo sessions wrapped up Saturday’s convention. Road Warrior Animal and Demolition put on full make-up for their “Brothers in Paint” themed photos. Fans could also choose to wear the spiked shoulder pads Hawk and Animal made famous. The Great Muta’s photo session was also extremely popular. Fans seemed in awe of meeting another Japanese legend up close and personal. The final photo session was a “Diva-Sandwich” with Tammy “Sunny” Sytch and Terri Runnels. Most of the male fans were left speechless, especially when asked questions like, “What type of meat are you?” The two women displayed the qualities that kept them on top of the WWE for so long, with charm and personality to enhance their physical attributes. One fan knew a trap when he saw one when Terri asked him, “Do you want a photo with the old one or the young one?”
With Ring of Honor putting on a fantastic card Friday night, it was up to L.A.’s own Pro Wrestling Guerrilla to show what they could do. In front of an insanely hot crowd that exceeded the numbers the night before, PWG proved that while it may not have the name recognition that ROH has, it has the ability to not only match them, but exceed them in a show that was even better than ROH’s offering.
New TNA signees Matt and Nick Jackson hit the ring with Brian Kendrick at the start of the show and generated crazy heat by talking about how much they loved hanging out with Eric Bischoff and The Nasty Boys. They turned on Kendrick, who was saved by a surprising Paul London. Kendrick demanded a match with the PWG tag champions later on, a wish that would end up granted.
As is often the case with PWG, the show kicked off with an 8-person intergender match that saw women wrestlers Christina Von Eerie and Candice LeRae hold their own against their male counterparts. The crowd was incredibly into the match, which saw The Cutler Brothers, Ryan Taylor and Von Eerie beat LeRae, Johnny Goodtime, Malachi “CK” Jackson and Jerome “LTP” Robinson when the Cutler’s spiked LeRae with a brutal spike tombstone.
The second match saw Brandon Bonham face Brandon Gatson, resulting in an amusing dueling “Let’s Go Brandon” chant. A solid bout that probably could have used a few minutes shaved off, it was a good introduction to the two for those who had never seen them. The first WrestleReunion guest on the card was next, as Super Crazy put on a good match with Human Tornado but fell to a twisting splash off the top.
Usually in wrestling, you have either a comedy match or a technical wrestling match. In the case of Kevin Steen vs. Davey Richards, fans were treated to both. Steen called out a fan in the audience for flipping him off, saying, “First I am going to knock you out, then have my way with your body.” Instead of punching him, he kissed him, as well as ring announcer John Ian and the referee. Richards thought he had avoided it until Steen caught him by surprise with one. Davey retaliated a few moments later with one of his own. “I can still taste you,” Steen told Richards, before saying, “Let’s give these people what most of them paid for,” and started wrestling. Things quickly degenerated into a brawl in the audience, which saw Richards play the drums for a band that would later play RVD to the ring, and the two argue on the microphone. “Stop being gay!” Richards said. “It’s who I am!” retorted Steen. After a brutally stiff bout Richards made Steen tap out to the Kimura.
If you had asked PWG fans six months ago if they ever thought they would see The Great Muta in a PWG ring they would have said it was unlikely. So when the Japanese legend made his way to the ring, the roar was deafening. Muta carried his share of the tag match with KAI teaming against Joey Ryan and Scott Lost. Muta blinded Lost with green mist and hit the shining wizard to score the victory.
After a brief intermission, the other Japanese legend hit the ring as Jushin Liger wrestled his second match of the weekend against Canadian luchadore El Generico. A fast-paced match that showed Liger can still go, this was one of the top matches of an outstanding card and Generico came out of the match strong despite falling to the brainbuster.
Paul London told fans outside the LAX ballroom after the show that there was, “a little rust on the tin man.” It showed in a few moments in the tag match pitting himself and Brian Kendrick against The Young Bucks. Another match that was so on the go that I couldn’t possibly keep track of everything, London and Kendrick showed a side of themselves that they were never permitted to in WWE, while the Bucks hopefully gave a sign of what fans will see from them in TNA if they don’t bump into a glass ceiling. As the fans chanted “this is awesome” Kendrick hit Sliced Bread #2 on Matt, followed by London connecting with the shooting star press for the win.
If Muta, Liger, Super Crazy, Kendrick and London weren’t enough star power, there was one more name to add to the list. Rob Van Dam had his first North American independent wrestling match since leaving WWE against Roderick Strong and Chris Hero. Rob was played to the ring by an awful band, who screamed “Rob Van Dam. The Whole F’n Show” over an over again. While the band was crap, the match was not. It followed a formula, including “two guys fighting inside while one recovers outside” but overall it was a great match. Van Dam got in many of his trademark spots while Strong and Hero also had the opportunity to shine. RVD threw a chair at Strong, who caught it and had it punched into his face by Hero. A windmill kick by Van Dam sent Hero to the outside and allowed RVD to connect with the frog splash for the win.
Sunday promises to be a quieter day around the LAX Hilton. Dallas Page and Austin Idol are scheduled to do photos, there is an autograph session with the rest of the superticket guests, and the chance to cut a video promo. Even if Sunday wasn’t on the bill, no one could argue that WrestleReunion has not been a huge success thus far. From a professionally run convention aspect to two stellar wrestling shows, it has been an incredible experience thus far.
PWG Kurt RussellMania Results
- The Cutler Brothers (Brandon & Dustin Cutler), Ryan Taylor, & Christina Von Eerie defeated Johnny Goodtime, Malachi “CK” Jackson, Candice LeRae, & Jerome “LTP” Robinson
- Brandon Gatson pinned Brandon Bonhem
- Human Tornado defeated Super Crazy
- Davey Richards made Kevin Steen tap out
- The Great Muta & KAI defeated Scott Lost and Joey Ryan
- Jushin “Thunder” Liger pinned El Generico
- Brian Kendrick and Paul London defeated The Young Bucks
- Rob Van Dam defeated Roderick Strong and Chris Hero
Jason Clevett has spent time with over 40 wrestling personalities this weekend. It is a little overwhelming, but awesome. He is exhausted and needs to sleep now.