ATLANTA – As the 2011 NWA Legends Fanfest drew to a close on its fourth day on Sunday, fans who filtered into the convention proved true one of many old stereotypes about wrestling fans — a real fan can never get enough.
Goodbyes were said amongst featured guests, as well as attendees Sunday afternoon. Those who arrived by 11 a.m. Georgia time got the opportunity to photograph or be photographed with a later version of the masked Assassins, one of the most widely respected tag teams that competed in Georgia and around the world. Under the famed black and yellow masks were quintessential Assassin Joe Hamilton and Randy Colley, better known as Moondog Rex, who teamed with Hamilton after the retirement of founding Assassin Tom Renesto.
The previous night Hamilton, an inductee himself, honored his late tag team partner Renesto at the Mid Atlantic Hall of Heroes awards banquet saying he and Renesto spent more time on the road together in 15 years than with their own families. On Sunday, jack-of-all-gimmicks Colley (Moondog Rex, Detroit Demolition, original Demolition Smash) participated in a quick photo op. with former tag team partner Bill “Ax” Eadie where the two reprised the short-lived original lineup of Demolition.
One fan named Shane had driven from Alabama in large part to meet another master of many gimmicks, Masked Superstar Eadie, who donned his glittering, starred hood Sunday for another well-received photo op. “When I used to watch (wrestling on TV), he was my man,” said the Alabama fan while waiting in line.
Steve O, best known for his time spent in the AWA and Georgia Championship territories reacted positively when asked about his first Fanfest appearance. “You get to talk to guys who are your heroes, my heroes. The expression of gratitude for these guys for the excitement and ability they showed (is great). Everybody came here looking for a good time. A lot of people here today remember Georgia Championship Wrestling,” said Olsonoski.
One wrestler who attended the convention as both a fan and a pro-wrestler was Luke Gallows or - as he’s known around his Georgia homebase — Drew Hankinson. On Saturday, Hankinson/Gallows surprised fans by reprising one of several WWE gimmicks in Festus. Unfortunately, former tag-team partner Jesse (Ray Gordy), also a Georgia resident, was not to be found. But, on Sunday, Hankinson pulled another switch from his hat — or mask — as he greeted fans while wearing the Imposter Kane costume used as part the angle that pitted the doppelganger and the “real” Kane against one another.
“I really enjoyed coming out here and meeting a lot of the older guys that came before we did and paid the price for us to be able to make a living doing what we all love to do,” said Hankinson. “I’m a fan from childhood so to be part of something like this is a big honor. Even if I wasn’t a wrestler I think I’d come just to see everybody that’s here. It’s good for people in the business, too, to come out, network and see where everybody’s at.”
As the event began to wind down, Fanfest hosts Joe Pedicino and Boni Blackstone took to the ballroom stage to film an interview segment with a chipper Bill Apter who cut a humorous promo in front of the classic red plaid backdrop of Piper’s Pit. Meanwhile, Assassins Hamilton and Colley, Tully Blanchard and Bill Eadie took their seats for one of the day’s final autograph sessions.
Despite a few last-minute scheduling switch ups, the 2011 Fanfest gave fans a rare chance to mingle with and create memories with a varied, name value lot of heels, babyfaces, refs, mid-carders and, in particular, several former NWA World Heavyweight Champions including the modern day holder of the 10 Pounds of Gold “Scrap Iron” Adam Pierce. From RVD, Austin Idol, Harley Race and the Ragin’ Bull to the Million Dollar Man, Ron Simmons, Diamond Dallas Page, Fit Finlay and “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan, the sixth-annual ‘fest offered fans plenty to take in and enjoy whether they traveled many miles south for the weekend or just made a quick commute to south Atlanta.