“Summer will end soon enough, and childhood as well,” American author George R.R. Martin once wrote.
For thousands of Mid-Atlantic wrestling fans, though, that summer can be extended and those cherished moments of childhood can be relived through a nostalgic experience known as Fanfest.
Now in its ninth year, the Mid-Atlantic Wrestling Legends Fanfest Weekend returns to Charlotte on Aug. 1-4 for an event that has become an annual tradition for thousands of fans who flock to the summertime gathering from across the country and even around the world.
The brainchild of veteran promoter Greg Price, Fanfest is a trip down memory lane where fans get to interact — up close and personal — with many of the legends they grew up watching.
From early morning to late night, events and activities are scheduled, many occurring simultaneously. There’s something for everyone — especially if you’re a fan of what many consider to be one of the greatest eras and territories in pro wrestling history.
There was, indeed, something mystical and magical about Mid-Atlantic wrestling. The ’60s through the ’80s, in particular, produced some of the most celebrated names in wrestling lore. Longtime fans will never forget performers such as Johnny Weaver, the Scott Brothers and the Andersons. The feud between Johnny Valentine and Wahoo McDaniel is the stuff of legend.
And what longtime follower can ever forget when a brash 25-year-old named Ric Flair strutted, styled and profiled into Charlotte and never looked back, setting the wrestling world on fire and letting fans know what the excitement what was all about?
Then there’s Bob Caudle, a fixture at the annual event, who began announcing for Crockett Promotions in 1960 when the company began taping matches at the storied WRAL-TV studio in Raleigh.
Caudle was a staple of wrestling in the Carolinas during the ’60s and ’70s and its fans who religiously tuned in each Saturday afternoon for their weekly dose of TV grappling.
The “Voice of Mid-Atlantic Wrestling,” Caudle’s easygoing, straightforward approach at the announce desk made him one of Mid-Atlantic wrestling’s most beloved figures.
While many of these legends are no longer with us, their memories live on at events like Fanfest.
Programs and activities — from autograph signings and Q&A’s to wrestling shows and training sessions — are scheduled from Thursday through Sunday at Charlotte’s Hilton University Place hotel, and there’s never a dull moment.
Fans can even step inside a steel cage for a rare photo-op with Magnum T.A. and Tully Blanchard in commemoration of their famous “I Quit” match 28 years ago.
Their series of bouts rank among the bloodiest and most intense of all time and set a new standard for brutality in the rough-and-tumble Mid-Atlantic territory during the ’80s.
The climax of their feud, on Nov. 26, 1985, resulted in a match that became an instant classic.
The cage will go up once again, but this time the two former archrivals will come together as special guests for an opening-night Q&A session that will help kick off Fanfest Weekend.
This year’s Hall of Heroes honorees include Jim Cornette and The Midnight Express, The Rock ‘N Roll Express, Danny Miller, Les Thatcher, Magnum T.A. and Lars Anderson. For many, the Hall of Heroes induction ceremony is the highlight of the weekend. This one promises to be no exception.
Price plans to expand the Fanfest experience this year with an upcoming documentary titled “Mid-Atlantic Memories,” a feature-length film that aims to capture the sights, sounds and feel of one of wrestling’s most revered territories and eras.
Many fans in attendance, along with the legends on hand, will have the opportunity to sit down and record their memories.
“I’d like to talk to everybody who ever wrestled here. But the story isn’t complete until we get the fans in there as well,” says Price. “They will play as much a role in the finished documentary as some of the talent will. We want to share everybody’s memories.”
Following that theme is my latest book, “Mid-Atlantic Wrestling Memories,” which will make its debut at the event. Featured are stories from legends who found their way into a territory that many considered to be “the place to wrestle.” To the fans, it was the “Mecca of wrestling.”
“We like to think back a lot and reminisce about when things were good. And those, to me, were really good times. They were the best,” says Caudle, who turns 83 during Fanfest weekend.
All good things must come to an end, however, and next year’s event, says Price, looms as the last.
But don’t wait until then. The past is now.
Like Freddie Miller would say, “Don’t miss it. Be there!”
(If you can’t be there, you can view it on a live iPPV broadcast, available worldwide, at NWALegends.com).
Yes! Yes! Yes!
Few would have wagered just a few years ago that Daniel Bryan, who wowed fans on the indy circuit as Bryan Danielson, would one day be a major headliner in WWE.
But that’s exactly what Bryan has become. A combination of ability, timing and some surprisingly good comedic chops has landed Bryan squarely in WWE’s rarefied top tier.
And his wildly popular catch-phrase of “Yes! Yes! Yes!” could very well be the most entertaining version since Meg Ryan’s famous rendition in the 1989 comedy classic “When Harry Met Sally.”
Say It Ain’t So
In what has to be one of the worst public relations moves in a long time, TNA last week announced the release of Jesse Sorensen.
Sorensen broke his neck while working for the company last year, and at one point was feared to be a quadriplegic. He was removed from TNA’s active roster earlier this year, but remained with the company working in production.
This parting shot from TNA’s Eric Bischoff: “Nothing but respect and support for Jesse Sorensen. Stay strong, never lose your determination, and success will find you.”
While TNA has instituted a number of financial cutbacks in recent weeks due to a harsh economic reality that the company is apparently facing, it’s a shame that Sorensen had to be one of them.
Reach Mike Mooneyham at 843-937-5517 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him on Twitter at @ByMike Mooneyham and on Facebook at Facebook.com/MikeMooneyham.