5 Things We Learned at Clickjab Wrestling Fan Fest
Bill Goldberg pretends to wallop an attendee of the Clickjab Wrestling Fan Fest in Phoenix on Saturday, July 19.
Photos by Benjamin Leatherman
For a bunch of people whose fame is based on a sport that's reportedly fake, the wrestlers and legends in attendance at the Clickjab Wrestling Fan Fest this past weekend got surprisingly real.
There were no convoluted storylines, histrionic promos, goofy costumes or over-the-top characters to be had at the meet-and-greet at the Phoenix Airport Marriott on Saturday, July 19, just more than dozen world-famous ring warriors who (mostly) dropped the theatrics for an afternoon and interacted pleasantly with hundreds of their fans while signing autographs, posing for photos, and answering questions.
A big chunk of pro wrestling history was present at the fan fest, including Bret "Hitman" Hart, Bill Goldberg, Amy "Lita" Dumas, Ric Flair, Maria Kanellis, and other heroes, villains, and divas who were superstars in both he WWE and its former competition, World Championship Wrestling,
As longtime wrestling fans ourselves (call it a guilty pleasure) we hit up the fest and not only grabbed plenty of photos of the proceedings, but also learned a few things about some of grapplers we used to cheer and boo every week on television.
Tommy "Tiny" Lister gets up close and personal with a fan.
5. Tommy "Tiny" Lister is One Funny Mofo
We freely admit to have being a little bit intimidated by Tommy "Tiny" Lister before this past weekend. After all, the actor has made a career out of playing bullies, bodyguards, bouncers, and other thuggish characters in films like Friday, Little Nicky, The Dark Knight, and Barb Wire. Plus, he famously portrayed the unstoppable monster villain and "human wrecking machine" known as Zeus who pounded all-American hero Hulk Hogan on both the silver screen (via the flick No Holds Barred) and in the WWE's wrestling rings.
And although Lister worked his tough guy persona at his Fan Fest appearance on Saturday, it was all in tongue-in-cheek fashion that was all in good fun and extremely funny. He constantly referred to the Clickjab staff member who was assisting him as his "pimp," comically barked orders to attendees to "get over here" for a picture or autograph, and gave them "ghetto handshakes" that amounted to grabbing them (loosely) around the shoulders or in mock chokeholds while posing for photos. Fans happily played along and were laughing or smiling all the while at Lister's shtick. Thankfully, no one tried to recreate the epic moment from Friday where his character Deebo "got knocked the fugg out" by Ice Cube.
Amy Dumas (a.k.a. Lita) at the Clickjab Fan Fest.
3. Lita is Still Punk Rock
The WWE has featured a slew of female wrestlers (or "divas," as they're called) on its roster throughout the years, and arguably one of the most colorful and unique was punky dame Amy Dumas, who went by the ring name of "Lita." Sporting dyed hair, tattoos, Hot Topic-style threads, and plenty of attitude, she stood out amongst the overly blonde and busty WWE women performers of the early aughts by looking like something more out of the pages of Kerrang! Magazine than Playboy.
And she wasn't just playing punk rock dress up, as Dumas is a passionate fan of the genre who has hosted her own online radio show Amy's Discordia as well as served as the lead vocalist for Atlanta-based band The Luchagors since around the time retired from the WWE in 2006. While the four-member punk act has performed off-and-on since 2012, they're performing one last show in the ATL later this month before Dumas moves to the west coast. She doesn't rule out the possibility of continuing to play music or performing in another band someday. "Mainly, I'll be meeting all kinds of new people out there, so who knows," Dumas says. "I don't really plan things in life."
Wolfpac in the house: Kevin Nash (left) and Scott Hall at the Clickjab Wrestling Fan Fest.
3. Scott Hall Appears to Be Doing Just Fine
If you follow the ups and downs of the professional wrestling world, especially what happens behind the scenes, no doubt you're familiar with Scott Hall's tumultuous history. Although the wrestler formerly known as "The Bad Guy" Razor Ramon has infamously battled substance abuse addiction over the past couple decades, he's seemingly gotten control of his personal demons (thanks to the intervention of such friends as Diamond Dallas Page) in recent years and has made a complete turnaround, culminating with his induction into the WWE's Hall of Fame in April.
During the last few months, however, reports surfaced online that Hall had no-showed an independent wrestling event in California in May (followed by a brief hospital stint) and was also tardy to an autograph appearance in Rhode Island last month, all of which led to speculation that he was having personal issues once again.
At the Clickjab Fan Fest on Saturday, all of this was a non-factor as Hall was not only present for the entire four-hour event, he appeared to be clean and sober as he gladly signed autographs and posed for pictures alongside his pals (and former New World Order members) Kevin Nash and Sean Waltman. He even was spotted having pleasant conversations with some of the other wrestlers in attendance, including former foe Bill Goldberg, despite the latter grappler having thrown some harsh words Hall's way during an interview with Jackalope Ranch last week. Like the T-shirt he was wearing declared, it's "Hall Good."
Adam "Edge" Copeland with a female fan.
2. Edge Doesn't Miss Wrestling
We may have only gotten a few minutes to speak with Adam Copeland, but the Canadian-born actor and former WWE star who performed as "Edge" told us plenty. Like the fact he dug being portrayed on South Park back in 2010 ("I was one of the only characters from Canada on the show that never had those two-part heads"), and how he's an avid Netflix user ("I used to pick apart wrestling matches, but now I pick apart other TV shows to see what they're doing").
Copeland also stated that while he's occasionally popped up on WWE shows like RAW and Smackdown, wrestling is essentially in his rear view after retiring three years ago due to health issues with his neck. When we asked if he misses being a grappler, Copeland said he doesn't.
"It almost offends people when I say 'no.' And it's not to mean that I didn't enjoy it at the time or appreciate everything that [wrestling] gave me, but I had to move on. I had no choice. And if I sat there and dwelt on that fact, how healthy would that be? So I really had to make a shift and just go 'Okay, I'm done,'" he says. "I walked away from it, and I don't watch my matches any more, I don't live in yesteryear, I live in present tense."
Copeland still enjoys attended meet-and-greets like the Clickjab Fan Fest and "reminiscing and stuff when you run into people," but has firmly embraced his new role as an actor on the supernatural SyFy show Haven (where he plays policeman and "bullet magnet" Dwight Hendrickson), which is now filming its fifth season.
"In some ways, the show is just as over-the-top as the WWE," he jokes.
Ric Flair and girlfriend Wendy Barlow.
1. Ric Flair is Still The Man
Despite its prominence and flirtations with mainstream crossover in the mid-'80s and late '90s, pro wrestling is largely considered to be a niche interest that only a certain segment of the population follows. That said, there are a few ring legends that have instant name recognition with most of the general public and Ric Flair is one of them. Known to millions as the chic and well-heeled "Nature Boy," the multiple-time world champ is famed throughout the wrestling world for his style and panache, as well as for being a self-described "limousine-riding, jet-flying, kiss-stealing, wheelin'-dealin' son of a gun."
And although he's reportedly experienced a slew of legal and financial problems since he ceased wrestling full time in 2008, the 65-year-old still manages to "style and profile" and exude just as much charisma as he did during his heyday. At Saturday's event, Flair -- who recently signed a new appearance deal with the WWE -- was not only rocking a classy sports jacket, expensive-looking shades, and flashy gold watch, but had a beautiful woman on his arm to boot (namely, his girlfriend Wendy Barlow). "Slick Ric" was also quite charming as he met with fans, cracked jokes with other wrestling greats, and uttered his signature catchphrase "Wooo!" for a few people. As wrestling crowds sometimes chant from time to time, you still got it, Ric.
Get the Arts & Culture Newsletter
Find out about upcoming performances, exhibitions, openings and special events happening in the Phoenix art and theater scene.