Midnight Express, Rock ‘n’ Roll Express, The Flock reunite at Mid-Atlantic Wrestling Legends Fanfest

 

Miami Herald Writer

CHARLOTTE -- The Mid-Atlantic Wrestling Legends Fanfest was highlighted by a number of nostalgic moments and historic reunions Aug. 1-4 at the Hilton University Place Hotel.

Among them was the Rock ‘n’ Roll Express headlining a card against D’Lo Brown and Doc with legendary referee Tommy Young. The popular duo even hit their trademark double dropkick leading to victory. The event also saw Action Mike Jackson steal the show against Bobby Fulton of the Fantastics.

Dr. Tom Prichard Legends Training Camp continued throughout the four days of festivities. Guest coaches Tully Blanchard, Les Thatcher, Jerry Brisco and Leilani Kai helped decide the candidate who received the $2,500 Reid Fliehr Memorial Scholarship, a wrestling training opportunity named after Ric Flair’s son who died earlier this year.

Kai couldn’t wait to attend the convention.

“It’s the most fun,” said Kai, a former WWF women’s champ. “I had fun seeing Ox Baker, Manny Fernandez, Jerry Jarrett and the Rock-N-Roll Express. I saw Bobby Eaton, which was exciting because I haven’t seen him in such a long time. I’ve had a real good time. I have been really busy helping with the camp. I was excited about doing it because of Dr. Tom Prichard. I think he is one of the greatest trainers. I really wanted to learn from him…I would critique the trainees and kind of follow what he was doing.”

For Brisco, the convention is a very special time where many of his greatest moments throughout his career come flooding back to him.

“I got my big break in the Carolinas and had my first title match in Greensboro, North Carolina,” Brisco said. “It was where I did my first hour-long crawl with the world champion, so it brings me back. The fans are great and remember a whole heck of a lot more than I do. They would give me things on the table to sign, pushing pictures, cards and programs to me where I’ve forgotten the match or situation.

“When you see those pictures, it brings back those memories and most of them are good ones. It’s a very special weekend. I’ve met fans from all over. I’ve met fans from England and Seattle. They come from all over for this thing.”

The WWE talent scout felt it was a great honor to introduce Danny Miller into the Hall of Heroes awards ceremony banquet, a staple of the convention.

“I got to see Magnum T.A., Terry Allen, who has always been a special friend of mine there,” Brisco said. “It is a reunion, a family reunion. The speech that Tully Blanchard gave to induct Magnum T.A. and the courage T.A. had to get up there to walk on his own was memorable. When he was initially injured [in the car accident], he was a friend of mine.

“I drove from Tampa up to Charlotte just to go to the hospital to see him, and he remembered that. He appreciated that, and for him to show that courage that night to accept his award, it was really emotional and great to see.”

Blanchard will always remember his question and answer session with Magnum regarding their historic “I Quit” cage match from Starrcade in 1985.

“It really has been a great weekend,” Blanchard said. “I haven’t been to other Q&A’s, so I can’t judge it to them. However, a lot of people have said it was very good. I know the answers, and everything we said was sincere and from the heart. Wrestling fans learned a lot of about Magnum and about me.”

Mr. USA Tony Atlas will always hold a special place in his heart for the convention celebrating the history of Mid-Atlantic Wrestling.

“For many years, it was the largest wrestling organization in the world,” Atlas said. “Not only were they the largest, but it was the last wrestling organization in the world. There is no more professional wrestling. You have sports entertainment now. There is no such thing as wrestling anymore.

“The last company that focused on strictly on wrestling was Mid-Atlantic…There are also many people here I haven’t seen in years. Me and Ken Patera haven’t seen each other in 20 years. There are several people I haven’t seen here in 20 or 30 years. That is what is so great about this convention.

“It’s not only about the wrestler’s reuniting, but the fans getting to see the guys they grew up with. I would hear parents say they are seeing the ones they saw when they were a kid.”

Long-time Promoter Jerry Jarrett gets the same feeling from those in attendance.

“It’s a wonderful platform to see old friends and presents new appreciation for the fans that after all these years they still come,” Jarrett said. “That’s very meaningful to us old wrestlers who are in the autumn of their lives…The induction of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Express and Midnight Express was very special for me. Seeing Johnny Walker Mr. Wrestling II was also very special. I haven’t seen Johnny in years and years. He was the one wrestler that stands out that made me look smart when I went to Atlanta.”

Ox Baker has attended the Fanfest on numerous occasions and says he runs into a lot of grapplers from his era.

“I saw Baron Von Raschke, who I haven’t seen in years,” Baker said. “It is quite a joy to meet guys you’ve met over the years. It’s amazing how they’ve changed. You remember them as young bucks. Some of them have canes now. Some of them are limping…You remember the good old days.

“Like Ox Baker was nominated the meanest man in wrestling five different times, he always loved his wrestling fans. After 40 years of wrestling, I never pushed a fan or hit a fan. I didn’t curse. I love my fans. You have to love them. I came three years ago, and they are still coming here and haven’t forgotten wrestling. I don’t think the wrestlers should forget the fans because without them you have nothing.”

Tammy “Sunny” Sytch beamed with a smile on her face, as she said hello to many she has known in the business for years or grew up watching.

“I always tell everyone that this is the one convention to go to,” Sytch said. “There are a lot of legends that worked in this [area] that you don’t see a lot in Los Angeles or New Jersey or other places. It’s really nice. You get to see old friends and meet fans. It’s a really fun time. I got to host the Hall of Heroes, so that was a blast. We are doing legends karaoke, which is a lot of fun.

“It’s just a very enjoyable time…I’m really proud that my current boyfriend is here, David Starr, a good looking guy who did the four-day seminar with Dr. Tom Prichard, Tully Blanchard and Les Thatcher. He is doing fantastic. He has only been in the business about a year, but looking at him work, you would think he has been doing it for five. It’s very good. I want people to learn who he is. I’m working the ‘Sunny’ magic.”

Popular photo opportunities included the Rock ‘n’ Roll Express, Midnight Express and Jim Cornette, as well as Blanchard and Magnum in a steel cage setup. There was a Flock reunion with Raven, Lodi, Sickboy and Scotty Riggs, who also posed with his former American Males tag team partner Buff Bagwell. The autograph room and vendor room, which had one-of-a-kind memorabilia such as Ric Flair’s robe and original championship titles, were heavily trafficked. Fr. Jim Mitchell hosted a late night karaoke session on the event’s final evening.

Tickets for next year’s Fanfest are already on sale. The 10th installment is being dubbed the last by promoter Greg Price.

For more information, visit www.nwalegends.com.

• Follow me on Twitter @smFISHMAN, http://twitter.com/#!/smFISHMAN, where I post links and information. Opinions expressed reflect no other entity. I can also be found tweeting incessantly during wrestling shows weekly.

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