When Chris Click traveled to New Orleans earlier this year, it was probably one of the best trips of his entire life. It had nothing to do with Bourbon Street, beads, or even Mardi Gras, mind you, but rather the world of pro wrestling.
In April, the 42-year-old lifelong wrestling aficionado and Tucson resident made a pilgrimage of sorts to the Big Easy, and not only got to attend this year's WrestleMania, but also an separate, independently produced fan event called WrestleCon. Click got to meet and interact with a slew of legendary grapplers -- including Bill Goldberg, Bret "Hitman" Hart, and Adam "Edge" Copeland -- and had what he called a "fantastic time."
It was such a blast, in fact, that it helped Click, a concert and events promoter, decide that Arizona should have a wrestling fan convention of its very own.
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Hence, this weekend's two-day Clickjab Wrestling Fan Fest in Phoenix and Tucson, which will feature appearances from more than a dozen WWE legends and hall of famers. While Click has previously promoted events and club nights in the past that have featured wrestlers, he says that the FanFest is larger than anything he's ever put on before.
"I used to be in the concert business, but I got tired of it and it's hard to make your money back. And since I have a real big passion for wrestling, I decided to get back into it," Click says. "I've done wrestling events before in the past, mostly with one or two wrestlers, but this is one of the biggest things I've ever done."
A total of 16 former and current wrestlers are scheduled to appear at the afternoon-long fan fest, which takes place on Saturday, July 19, at the Phoenix Airport Marriott, and on Sunday, July 20, at the Reid Park DoubleTree Hotel in Tucson. Both events will largely consist of meet and greets, autograph sessions, and photo ops with former world champions like Goldberg, Hart, and Copeland, as well as "Nature Boy" Ric Flair, and "Big Sexy" Kevin Nash.
The lineup also includes other notable names from the squared circle, including Scott Hall and Sean Waltman (who fans may remember as two of the founding members of the New World Order, one of the most villainous stables in wrestling history), as well as actor Tony "Tiny" Lister, whose résumé includes battling Hulk Hogan as the evil Zeus in the WWE during its heyday of the '80s.
A slew of divas and women wrestlers will also be at the event, including Amy Dumas (a.k.a. Lita), Candice Michelle, Maria Kanellis, Lisa Marie Varon, Brooke Adams, and Taryn Terrell.
Click says the event gives fans the chance to meet and interact with these legends instead of just watching them on television.
He's a big fan of most of the wrestlers that are scheduled to appear at the event, which is why he decided to bring them to Arizona. And, ironically enough, it's something that his family has done for years. Back in the '80s, his father, famed Tucson auto dealer Jim Click, helped promote WWE events and hosted a few meet-and-greets at his dealership.
"'Macho Man' Randy Savage came out one time [to the dealership] and signed autographs for a lot of people," Click says.
The fan fest will be similar in set-up to Phoenix Comicon and other geek-friendly events. General admission is $20 and includes the chance to attend separate Q&A sessions with both Flair and Goldberg. Interactions, autographs, and photo ops -- where you can get a snapshot with your camera -- with individual wrestlers involve an additional cost and vary in price (usually around $40 or less).
However, those who purchase an all-inclusive package (like the $200 "VIP Super Ticket") can get both a photo with and autograph from every wrestler in attendance, as well as individual artwork prints of Goldberg and the trio of Hall, Nash, and Waltman.
And despite all their hard-hitting exploits on television shows in the ring or on television shows like WWE Raw, Click says the wrestlers are actually quite pleasant people in person.
"Goldberg always has a really big line [at appearances] but he always takes time to talk with every person and is really friendly and down to earth," he says. "And Ric Flair is always nice."
And just in case local wrestling fans are eager for more chances to meet some even bigger legends, Click says he's already planning a second fan fest for September, which will feature one of the ring's biggest icons ever: Hulk Hogan.
"I'm bringing in the Hulkster along with Roddy Piper and Jimmy Hart," Click says. "I'm a huge Hogan fan, he's my favorite wrestler of all time. He's a legend. It's going to big."
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The Click Jab Wrestling Fan Fest takes place from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, July 19, at the Phoenix Airport Marriott.