A look at the hobby in the 90s

Discuss general topics dealing with the hobby.
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A look at the hobby in the 90s

Post by ICW » April 23rd, 2019, 10:01 am

I was looking through Class' nearly decade old post about wrestlers who had fallen into the "Savage realm" -- wrestlers who rarely (or never) made any appearances at autograph signings/conventions -- and it made me regret not taking up this hobby sooner because I missed out on some pretty great names.

With that post in mind, I eventually made my way to F4W and Dave Meltzer's Wrestling Observer Newsletter archive. They have a search engine within the archive and decided to do a very general for search "autograph." The results went as back as far back as January of 1991 and, to my pleasure, I found a couple of hobby-related stories that made their way to the WON.

I'm going to summarize those stories from 1991 and might continue going back through the years to see how the hobby was evolved:

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February 18, 1991 WON:
Dave reports on an incident that occurred on February 2 following a WCW houseshow in Philadelphia. Sting and the Steiner Brothers were slated to appear at a local telethon for a national charity that worked with disabled children. ~150 people arrived to the telethon with the money they spent on combos going to the children of the Delaware Valley. Dave estimates that this autograph appearance would've raised $2,000.

The crowded waited for 40 minutes until Todd Gordon (described as a Variety Club staff person. I'm not sure if this is the same Todd Gordon who would run ECW) told the crowd that Sting and the Steiners wouldn't be appearing because they had decided to drive to Baltimore in order to catch a flight. The crowd was understandably upset as many of them ended up waiting well past 11 PM for Sting and the Steiner.

There is a small silver lining to this story: Ric Flair, Bobby Eaton, Curtis Hughes, Ron Simmons, Barry Windham, Terry Taylor, Tracy Smothers as well as road agent Terry Allen, decided to visit a young wheelchair-bound boy at the local hotel everyone was staying at. Still, all the other fans were not as lucky.
---
April 15, 1991 WON:
Dave reports that John Arezzi is doing an autograph show on 4/27 at Colonial Bowling Lanes in Staten Island. Admission was just $5 and included autographs from Paul Orndorff, Lanny Poffo, Boris Zhukov, Cactus Jack, Sonny Beach, and Barry Horowitz.
---

June 24, 1991 WON:
Another story that makes Sting look bad. Dave reports that WCW made their St. Louis debut on June 24th but they didn't draw very well. They did advertise an autograph session advertised with Sting but he ultimately refused to honor the appearance.
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August 21, 1991 WON:
Dave reports on a major 2-day convention run by John Arezzi. The convention would be held at the Ramada Hotel near La Guardia Airport and was held from 11:00 AM - 5:00 PM on both days. Admission was $5 for adults, $3 for kids, while an autograph pass was $10.00. The autograph pass granted you an autograph from every single guest. The guest list? Ric Flair, Bruno Sammartino, Lou Thesz, Buddy Rogers, Superstar Billy Graham, Fabulous Moolah, Rick Rude, Jim Cornette, Johnny Valiant, Woman, Cactus Jack, Lanny Poffo, Angelo Poffo and Paul E. Dangerously!
---

November 25, 1991 WON:
We'll end this with a rather humorous story from a reader in Chicago. The WWF had partnered with the Cook County Republican Party for a fundraiser on October 22. Tickets were $35 and included:
  • Combos from Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage, Jim Duggan, and Sgt. Slaughter
  • Main floor tickets to the show that afternoon
  • Free hotdogs and soda with wrestlers present
So he confirmed with the venue that this was happening and all was well. He shows up day of and a police officer tells him that he doesn't have a clue what he's talking about and forces him to park in a lot for $6 (they advertised free parking as part of deal). The meet and greet was scheduled from 12:00 - 1:30 PM but started at 12:50 PM...and it featured Virgil and Jim Neidhart. Fans only received a rushed autograph from each (no photo op) and that was that.
Last edited by ICW on April 23rd, 2019, 5:16 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: A look at the hobby in 1991

Post by AJLe » April 23rd, 2019, 10:16 am

I can't even imagine my reaction to paying to meet Hogan & Savage in 91, and getting Virgil & Neidhart instead. I'm a pretty laid back, non-aggressive guy, but I very well might have gotten myself arrested in that situation, lol.

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Re: A look at the hobby in 1991

Post by Greg2600 » April 23rd, 2019, 11:17 am

To be honest AJ, that kind of stuff happened ALL THE TIME back then. I recall going to many sports meets where you really were never quite sure if so and so would actually be there, ha ha. We went to I think Nobody Beats The Wiz one time for Derrick Coleman (NJ Nets) and he bailed or something and they got a bench scrub, ha ha. Even beyond sports, so often what stores advertised was not truthful, simply in what you were buying.

Back then, our main source were the newspapers. We had the Star Ledger at home, while my father would often pick up the Daily News or NY Post at work, and I'd rifle through it page by page. We'd show up with a bunch of balls to get signed, and mainly were happy to get anybody who was a pro because inevitably they'd sell. So many times people would show up, shake the athletes hand, take whatever promo was being signed, and go home. The players frequently were amazed we had something to be signed.
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Re: A look at the hobby in 1991

Post by AJLe » April 23rd, 2019, 11:40 am

I just think back to being a pre-teen back in the WWF "glory days", and thinking that meeting Hogan and Macho Man would have been like Superman and Batman showing up to me, so seeing two lower midcarders instead would have been completely devastating.

It would have been like going out to that Arnold event, and having somebody come up to the podium and say "Well, Arnold couldn't make it today...but here's John Connor's foster parents from T2 if any of you want photos with them". Not exactly a fair and equitable substitution, lol.

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Re: A look at the hobby in 1991

Post by billysparrow » April 23rd, 2019, 11:55 am

Ha! I was at the Colonial Lanes show in Staten Island in April 1991. Came across the autographs a while ago and was trying to place when exactly that was. So thanks for clearing that up!

Jason Hervey was at that show too, with Missy Hyatt. And X-Pac when he was still the Lightning Kid (I had no idea who he was, but I did have him sign the back of a flyer). Had Missy sign a bunch of things and got Hervey on a WCW 8x10 he provided.


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Re: A look at the hobby in 1991

Post by class316 » April 23rd, 2019, 11:56 am

AJLe wrote:
April 23rd, 2019, 11:40 am
I just think back to being a pre-teen back in the WWF "glory days", and thinking that meeting Hogan and Macho Man would have been like Superman and Batman showing up to me, so seeing two lower midcarders instead would have been completely devastating.
You never met Savage, right?
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Re: A look at the hobby in 1991

Post by ICW » April 23rd, 2019, 1:15 pm

billysparrow wrote:
April 23rd, 2019, 11:55 am
Ha! I was at the Colonial Lanes show in Staten Island in April 1991. Came across the autographs a while ago and was trying to place when exactly that was. So thanks for clearing that up!

Jason Hervey was at that show too, with Missy Hyatt. And X-Pac when he was still the Lightning Kid (I had no idea who he was, but I did have him sign the back of a flyer). Had Missy sign a bunch of things and got Hervey on a WCW 8x10 he provided.
That's incredible! Did you get any pictures with them, too, or was it just autographs? Also, any chance of posting pictures of them?
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Re: A look at the hobby in 1991

Post by ICW » April 23rd, 2019, 3:14 pm

I'll update this thread with more stuff but, man, there were a couple of golden opportunities to score guys like Undertaker, Hogan, and Savage.
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Re: A look at the hobby in 1991

Post by class316 » April 23rd, 2019, 3:36 pm

ICW wrote:
April 23rd, 2019, 3:14 pm
I'll update this thread with more stuff but, man, there were a couple of golden opportunities to score guys like Undertaker, Hogan, and Savage.
As recently aa 2003 Savage did guaranteed ops in nyc for his rap CD signings. A year before I moved to the US
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Re: A look at the hobby in 1991

Post by AJLe » April 23rd, 2019, 5:07 pm

If people were "hobby minded" towards the end of his WWF run, Savage wasn't being used as a full-time worker on the road, so he was doing a lot of public appearances, and also doing a lot of the small C-town venues when he worked. I went to a house show Savage worked at the small hockey rink near where I work now in 93. And if I knew then what I know now, I would bet money it would have been really easy to have gotten a shot at a Savage combo either coming in or leaving such a small local venue.

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Re: A look at the hobby in 1991

Post by class316 » April 23rd, 2019, 5:10 pm

AJLe wrote:
April 23rd, 2019, 5:07 pm
And if I knew then what I know now, I would bet money it would have been really easy to have gotten a shot at a Savage combo either coming in or leaving such a small local venue.
Ouch!
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Re: A look at the hobby in the 90s

Post by ICW » April 24th, 2019, 10:33 am

Here's some nuggets from 1992 and 1993. I bolded a particular eye opening report of how much money Arezzi lost on one of his conventions. Woof.


January 10, 1992
Dave notes that Dustin Rhodes did combos for fans after a WCW show at Reunion Arena in Dallas. He notes that Dustin wanted to make a good first impression and fans waited in light rain for him to sign.
---

April 6, 1992
Kerry Von Erich was arrested in Dallas and guess what? He reportedly spent most of his time signing autographs for fellow prisoners!
Imagine being locked up and getting autographs from a big, local star? I wonder if any of those prisoners still have their 'graphs...
---

September 21, 1992
Kevin Von Erich was two hours late for an autograph session in St. Louis. He then made some really, really homophobic comments that got him into some hotwater.
This was a WILD interview given by Kevin. It was totally unhinged. He ended up missing his appearance the next day...

---

September 28, 1992
Todd Gordon - again, not sure if it’s the ECW’s Todd Gordon but I think it is - did another Variety Club party for disabled children in Philadelphia. We first heard about this type of event when he booked WCW’s Sting & the Steiner Brothers but they ended up no-showing in order to catch a flight. Anyway, Gordon made this a mandatory appearance for everyone on the Havoc card -- which included Bruno Sammartino. A $25 tax deductible contribution got you combos with the entire roster.
---

October 12, 1992
Dave mentions that WCW was hosting an autograph and photo party but didn’t provide other details.

Smoky Mountain Wrestling ran a show on August 8th and everything went as advertised -- including the autograph session. No word on who participated in this session but booked on the card was Danny Davis, Joe Cazana, Dutch Mantel, Hector Guerrero, Killer Kyle, Dixie Dynamite, Tim Horner, Buddy Landel, Ronnie Garvin, Paul Orndorff, Rock ‘n’ Roll Express, Stud Stable, Dirty White Boy, Brian Lee, The Fantastics, and the Heavenly Bodies.


---

December 21, 1992
Dave mentions an “autograph convention” in Philadelphia and reports that Ultimate Warrior and Davey Boy Smith were added. Actually, Warrior was billed as “formerly known as” Ultimate Warrior. The ole FKA. I’m going to try and find more info on this.
February 8, 1993

Dave reports that Warrior’s agent was asking $5,000 plus first class airfare as his appearance fee. I used an inflation calculator and that appearance fee would roughly be $8,000 in 2019.

---

February 15, 1993
A reader sent in a rather incredibly story. Back in the 70s (when the reader was a child), Andre the Giant came to town and the reader convinced his mother to get them front row tickets. He somehow got into the ring and had Andre sign his piece of paper.
---

March 8, 1993
Remember that WCW Autograph and Photo party? So I think I found a fan’s account of how it went. They were selling a “Golden Circle” session that included 1st/2nd/3rd row seats to a WCW show with a meet and greet before the show for $50. The reader thought this was a steep price but bought the ticket specifically for the M&G -- which he found disappointing. The “party” was essentially lame. They were given sandwiches and soda as they waited in line to get four autographs on “photocopies” of 8x10s. He doesn’t mention who the four names were.

There’s a ton of coverage of Andre’s death. His longtime caretaker, Frenchy Bernard, held a big ceremony celebrating Andre’s life and specifically stated that autograph seekers were not welcome.
---

March 29, 1993
A reader submitted a rather sad report about the time he met Kerry Von Erich at the Philadelphia convention. The reader was actually an employee of the hotel and described Kerry as being high out of his mind on coke, trying desperately to hit on women, and ultimately signed a napkin that said "Woe is me, or is it Wow? Kerry Von Erich is leaving the bar."
This story is really, really depressing. Brutal.
---

April 12, 1993
WrestleMania IX! This was long before the days of Wrestlecon but we did get a juicy nugget of info: the WWF held an autograph session the day before Mania with several wrestlers, the biggest being the Undertaker. It drew over 6,000 fans!
---

April 19, 1993
The National Wrestling Collectors Association had its first convention. Via Dave, “Among the former wrestlers who attended included Jimmy Valiant, Corsica Joe (who takes tickets for USWA events in Nashville), his wife Sara Lee, Debbie & Cora Combs, Spoiler Don Jardine, Buddy Wayne, Frankie Cain (Great Mephisto), Chic Donovan, George Weingeroff, Treach Phillips, Rey Urbano (original Great Kabooki), Billy Wicks, Dutch Mantell, Chris Champion, Eddie & Tommy Gilbert, Jim White, Barry Horowitz, Mongolian Mauler, Ivan Koloff, Juanita Wright (Sapphire), Buddy Lee, Al Costello, Don Kent, Len & Joey Rossi, Jerry Graham Jr., Reno Riggins, Dick Steinborn, Adrian Street and probably many others”
---
September 27, 1993
John Arezzi is hosting yet another convention at the Ramada Inn near the LaGuardia Airport on October 22 - 24. The first night featured a show while (it sounds like) the next two days were a typical autograph convention. The names being promoted for this convention: AAA’s Mascarita Sagrada and Espectrito, Scott & Ivan Putski, Greg & Johnny Valentine, Sabu & the Sheik, Chris Canddio, Terry Funk, Kevin Sullivan, Konnan el Barbaro, Madusa, Woman, Sensational Sherri, and Sunny.
---

October 4, 1993
There was a little drama with Arezzi’s convention. Apparently, he “conveniently” forgot to mention to Sherri that Madusa was appearing at the same convention. Dave flatout asked Sherri if she had a problem with Madusa and she answered that she’d have no problem appearing at the same convention as her. Hmmm…
---

October 5, 1993
Dave actually promotes a bunch of upcoming conventions. He leads of with Arezzi’s “Weekend of Champions” convention in Queens.

There’s a convention on October 30th in Bensalem, PA, featuring many of the same names at Arezzi’s but also includes DiBiase, Papa Shango, Tito Santana, and Steve Keirn.

Finally, there’s a third convention on December 5th at the Holiday Inn in Wayne, NJ, featuring Stan Lane, Tito Santana, Demolition Ax, Ivan Koloff, Nikolai Volkoff, Ox Baker, Johnny Gunn, and Crash the Terminator.
---

November 8, 1993
The Bensalem convention only drew a few hundred or so fans with their house show drawing about 1,000 people.

But here’s the bigger piece of news: Arezzi’s convention bombed and he lost about $30,000.

Dave also advertises autograph appearances by Road Warrior Animal and Sherri at the Queens College gym.
According to a couple of inflation calculators, $30,000 in 1993 would roughly be $52,775.50 today.
---

December 27, 1993
The WWF did a Salvation Army benefit on December 17 in Paramount, New York. A $75 ticket included dinner with wrestlers but was reportedly disorganized. The dinner included Undertaker, Bret Hart, Randy Savage, and other names and they were all apparently “accessible” for autographs. Meltzer specifically states that Vince McMahon, Stan Lane, and the Smoke Gunns were the most accessible for ‘graphs though he also noted that there were complaints of wrestlers acting like they’d prefer to be anywhere else.

A fan wrote in about an autograph session at a clothing store with Bob Backlund. The signing was not heavily promoted and, yet, hundreds of people showed up. The fan was very glowing about how Backlund interacted with everyone -- which is no surprise to any of us here.
Feel free to visit my blog concerning wrestling conventions, signings, and meet & greets!
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Re: A look at the hobby in the 90s

Post by AJLe » April 24th, 2019, 10:49 am

Wow, for $75, you could have theoretically gotten combos with Undertaker, Bret, Macho Man, and Vince?

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Re: A look at the hobby in the 90s

Post by Anthony18 » April 24th, 2019, 10:55 am

Back in the late 90s a place in Cliffside Park NJ(that is now defunct and was run by a con man) called MVP collectibles had a lot of autograph signings with wwf superstars and wcw wrestlers and this was when wwf was hot during the attutude era. WCW was pretty hot then too. Anyway among the people that did signings there were Sable, Mick Foley, Bret Hart, Sunny, DDP and Kimberly, Edge, Kane, Al Snow, and Kevin Nash. Back then combos were like $20 or $25!

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Re: A look at the hobby in the 90s

Post by ICW » April 24th, 2019, 11:07 am

AJLe wrote:
April 24th, 2019, 10:49 am
Wow, for $75, you could have theoretically gotten combos with Undertaker, Bret, Macho Man, and Vince?
I'm not sure about photo ops but you most definitely could've gotten Vince's autograph as he was listed as being one of the more "accessible" people for autographs. I'm sure the other guys would've signed, too, albeit some of them begrudgingly.
Anthony18 wrote:
April 24th, 2019, 10:55 am
Back in the late 90s a place in Cliffside Park NJ(that is now defunct and was run by a con man) called MVP collectibles had a lot of autograph signings with wwf superstars and wcw wrestlers and this was when wwf was hot during the attutude era. WCW was pretty hot then too. Anyway among the people that did signings there were Sable, Mick Foley, Bret Hart, Sunny, DDP and Kimberly, Edge, Kane, Al Snow, and Kevin Nash. Back then combos were like $20 or $25!
Geez. That's incredible.
Feel free to visit my blog concerning wrestling conventions, signings, and meet & greets!
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