LOS ANGELES — Being in Los Angeles for a family vacation at the exact right time meant being able to hit a wrestling event as part of WrestleMania week.
Leaving town before the big show, however, meant that ‘Mania itself was out of the question. Next best thing? WrestleCon.
Now I’ll be the first to admit I’ve never been to a wrestling convention and as such I had no idea what to expect. The only impression I had were photo galleries, chock full of wrestling and the very sad scene from The Wrestler with legends sitting in an empty motel room.
The reality was somewhere in between.
First things first, WrestleCon, running until April 2nd at the Biltmore Millennium Hotel in Downtown Los Angeles, was packed with fans who were decked out in black T-shirts and cosplay gear primarily. It felt much like the sports memorabilia shows I used to work at or the odd ComicCon I attended. Fans spoke with one another and the odd wandering talent as if they had been friends for ages. In all likelihood they were connected on social media and either hadn’t met in person previously or were re-gathering as part of an annual ritual at WrestleCon.
The lineups to meet top stars were also inspiring and very akin to what you see at the other cons. The line to see Trish Stratus and Lita, for example, was insanely long, akin to what I would see for a Bobby Hull back in the day.
On the flip side, however, were some of the shorter lines; even some of the current AEW names weren’t getting much of a sniff. When they did get fans come up, however, they showed immense appreciation. There were some truly heartfelt moments exchanged between hero and fan, which was a pleasure to see.
If there’s a takeaway from WrestleCon day one (and I highly recommend hitting up one of the other event dates), it’s that there is a true community feel that you won’t get many other places. This isn’t the dirty side of wrestling autographs that we’ve seen in social posts lately — this is fandom at its finest, and a community experience which you won’t find anywhere else.
TOP PHOTO: Fans meet with The Acclaimed at WrestleCon at Biltmore Millennium Hotel in downtown Los Angeles on March 31, 2023. Photo by Jon Waldman