WrestleSlam 2 Report: Saturday 31st January 2009
Countless movies are often tainted or ruined when a sequel is released. Be it through plot, direction or the cast, the desired effect of capturing lightning in a bottle for a second time is rarely met. The same translates to the wrestling world. Case in point the NWO, sorry I mean the Main Event Mafia. Thankfully there are exceptions to this rule and WrestleSlam is one of those. After the first ever wrestling convention in the UK went without a hitch last February, the announcement was made in September that WrestleSlam 2 was coming. I snapped up my discounted VIP ticket, before any guests were announced, as I knew that my faith would be repaid.
The original WrestleSlam tapped into the WWF market from the late 80s/early 90s in terms of available talent, and the thesis for number two was the same. This was a very smart move in acquiring the talent, which complimented the first event's guests beautifully. How do you match getting Bret "Hitman" Hart last year? You get his former Hart Foundation partner Jim "The Anvil" Neidhart. Ditto with regards to the Honky Tonk Man and Greg "The Hammer" Valentine (two former Intercontinental Champions). Who is more controversial than the Ultimate Warrior? I'm sure Rowdy Roddy Piper and the Iron Sheik would argue that fact. Check out Piper's Pit or YouTube if you don't believe me. Last year, Legion of Doom's Animal stopped by. This year, the Birdman, Koko B. Ware was flying in. What Tag Team enjoyed more success than Demolition? How about Strike Force (Tito Santana and Rick Martel) who both enjoyed phenomenal singles success to boot. Budget was never going to be a problem for the event, especially if you had the Million Dollar Man Ted DiBiase bankrolling things, along with his bodyguard Virgil. Finally to ensure law and order, every event needs a Mountie.
It was a different cast, but behind the scenes was still the same. Mario, Anthony, Ben and the rest of the crew worked really hard in putting the show together and making sure it ran smoothly on the day. Delays were inevitable and proceedings were altered to accommodate this. The main reason for the delays was because each of the superstars on hand were so personable with everybody, which was really classy. Signings were dealt with first, followed by photos. This meant that everybody with a VIP ticket (which was the vast majority of ticketholders) got to see each superstar twice, unlike at the first event where there was just one main meet-and-greet session.
To combat the queues, and keep everybody entertained, big screen TVs were playing WrestleMania VII, VIII and Royal Rumble 1992 throughout the event. The superstars seemed to enjoy reliving past glories and feuds. Local promotions were on hand as well to promote upcoming events. 1PW out of Doncaster has an Extreme Event with old ECW alumni planned for April. Under new management, the promotion attracted Ric Flair late last year.
The superstars were happy to sign anything and everything people had brought along. They all had an assistant on hand to bring drinks for them and ensure there were no problems when signing or getting photos took. Many were also shilling their merchandise. Koko auctioned off an old ring jacket and Virgil brought lots of original WWF videos, WCW caps, T-Shirts and an NWO jacket. Sheik had a replica of the World Title and was telling anyone and everyone how he appreciated his English fans. Anyone unhappy with any photos taken were able to get them re-done. When I got to Tito Santana, his match from WrestleMania VIII against Shawn Michaels was playing. He mentioned a spot in which he nearly unintentionally broke HBK's nose with a punch. I enjoyed talking to him briefly about some of his old matches I've covered on my "Vintage Collection" column. Next up was his former tag partner in Strike Force, Rick Martel. He signed an old AWA photo for me and assured me he and Tito were back friends again. They were inseparable for most of the day and I picked up a true friendship vibe between the two. Both happily signed a retro Strike Force T-Shirt I purchased towards the end. I grew up during their feud which stretched many years. It was fun re-living the Jailhouse match the Mountie had with the late Big Boss Man. Mountie (who was sporting his Mountie attire) told me he loved working with Boss Man. I got to spend several minutes with Jim Neidhart, thanks to the Hart Foundation edition of Wrestling Spotlight I took along. He enjoyed explaining which pictures were his favourite and in which action shots he really roughed up his opponents. Virgil told me he had his greatest feud with Ted DiBiase, who he was sat next to. DiBiase had brought his wife along (I think) and was selling copies of his book, and/or signing copies. I got my copy signed and talked of his many funny stories with Andre the Giant. I pitched my WrestleMania angle to him, which involved him trying to buy the Undertaker off, for him to refuse, and Ted DiBiase Jnr to end the streak. Our discussion then switched to Randy Orton's Legacy faction. Ted agreed that the current lineup was the best, before saying DH Smith should become a part of the group, once he develops his personality. DiBiase had even brought his old Million Dollar Belt along for photographs. Rowdy Roddy Piper was a real class act. He had brought one of his young daughters along, and the two were having a blast. Piper was smiling all day and he would sign absolutely anything put in front of him. He joked while signing my copy of his DVD that it would make a good doorstop, before insisting he beat Bret Hart at WrestleMania VIII. He promised to elaborate on that if someone asked him later in the Q & A. (Unfortunately, no-one did). When signing an old trading card, Piper remarked on being pictured with Vince McMahon, "Never trust anyone wearing a blue suit." Piper was very humble and wished me well.
During lunch and as we waited for the Q & A, the Mountie came out to tell us about his promotion he runs in Montreal, Canada. A family-friendly organisation, there's no hardcore violence or punches and kicks allowed. After plugging his website, Mountie got everyone on stage holding their signed Mountie pictures, for press pictures to appear in Canadian Media and on his website. Afterwards, Mountie said he stole this promotional tactic from Celine Dion, but insisted he was better.
The hour long Q & A flew by. It could have gone on for hours and nobody would have complained. Each superstar came out to their old music, except for the Mountie. He came out last and broke into his old routine of telling the MC to play his music, while asking do we know who he is. Unfortunately, he didn't sing. That accolade went to Piper, who not to be outdone by Kamala last year, busted out a song at the beginning. Questions on a range of topics were answered. Chris Benoit, the Wellness Policy, former managers and funny stories were all covered, with DiBiase coming off well informed about current WWE testing. I posed a question about any old Owen Hart stories, to which Neidhart re-told a funny one involving Hotel room keys. My question prompted some touching comments from Koko and the Mountie about friendship and both told that they were as happy reconnecting with everyone just as much as we were. The Q & A was where the Sheik came alive, and various tales of his workouts and failing specific tests ensued. Needless to say, Sheik (tongue-in-cheek) blamed poor old former partner Nikolai Volkoff for this. Neidhart and Koko did their best Sheik impressions and Strike Force confirmed they had indeed made-up. Piper told of the joys and stresses of when he was commentating next to Macho Man and even broke out a Macho impression, mentioning Slim Jims. Everyone quite rightly got a standing ovation at the end. The event finished just after five, as DiBiase joked he didn't work Virgil past that hour. Following one more handshake with the Sheik, the curtain came down on a terrific show. I'm still smiling after a day that will live long in the memory. Thanks again to Mario and Anthony for putting this event on. This sequel ruled. See you at WrestleSlam III.
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