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Check out the first two articles in this series first if you haven’t yet…
DAY TWO: DEHNEL BLOG: My All In and Starrcast Weekend Experience Day 2 – Reviewing MJF’s random insults of random fans triggering reactions, logistical changes, meeting wrestlers at Meet & Greets, All In match thoughts
DAY 3: After a holiday like Christmas, the day feels a bit somber knowing that all the pomp and circumstance is over. After Christmas you might go to your local Target or Wal-Mart and find all the Christmas decorations and candy are marked down 50 percent. The whole area feels like a ghost town and you’re ready to take some time to recharge. Starrcast on Sunday morning was still riding that emotional high. Nobody was bummed that it was over; instead, they were still smiling because of what happened and they were eager to see what comes next.
There were quite a few podcasts talking about All In on podcast row. I stopped by the “We Watch Wrestling” podcast to hear some of their thoughts on the show. Within a few seconds of standing by their table, Vince Averill stopped what they were talking about to ask me who my favorite wrestler is. For those who aren’t familiar with their show, each week they ask each other who their favorite wrestler is because it changes all the time. I sheepishly said Kenny Omega because I was not expecting to be asked during a live podcast. I told them I was a fan of their show, then grabbed a some of their promotional materials.
Shortly thereafter, I got in the queue for The Young Bucks meet and greet which was scheduled to begin at 10:00 a.m. The people in line were still buzzing about All In. There was a diverse group of opinions about favorite matches on the show and favorite moments. The moment between Kota Ibushi and Rey Mysterio Jr. seemed to be among the favorite moments along with Cody winning the NWA Championship. Chris Jericho’s surprise appearance on the show was not one of the main focal points for a lot of people. I didn’t sense any sort of disappointment with the show or C.M. Punk not making a special appearance. I think if you talked to anyone who went to the show, Punk was not something that was at the forefront of what people were hoping for. Fans got what they had paid for and were really happy with the end result. If you give fans what they want in the first place, they won’t be disappointed with unrealistic and unadvertised expectations for what they think would make the show better.
The line started moving around 9:30 which was 30 minutes before their scheduled start time. We got near the front of the line at 10:10 and there was probably a little more than a hundred people ahead of us before the signing started. Again, it seemed as if the Starrcast staff was getting better at setting up the meet and greets as the weekend progressed. Each time they got more efficient from the previous. If there is a Starrcast 2, an improvement they could make is having big signage for the premier meet and greets like Cody, The Young Bucks, and Kenny Omega. Most people were able to figure things out, but there were still some people who I could see frantically getting to the meet and greet lines because they didn’t initially know where to go. For those of you who were at Starrcast, you may have seen signs and arrows for the two stages. If they could have had that for the big meet and greet areas, that surely would have helped to lessen the stress of some folks.
It’s amazing to see how The Young Bucks can give ample time to everyone who comes to meet them, but also keep the line moving. These guys are the ultimate professionals when it comes to meet and greets. They make you feel like you got your money’s worth ($55 for this event) because they are so genuine. If you ever do a meet and greet with them, you’ll be able to see how they were able to create such a strong brand based off of their bond with the fans. It’s something that I noticed later on that Cody has started tapping into.
We now had a couple hours to kill before our last meet and greet with Cody and Brandi. We took some time to take in the last parts of Starrcast before the event started to wind down. I checked out the DaveMilicanBelts.com room which of course had replica belts along with some more wrestling memorabilia including past pay-per-view posters and chairs. On a wall was an original ECW Barely Legal poster that was signed by Taz and Sabu. They had a pair of Dusty Rhodes worn boots in a glass casing as well as a table filled with replica belts from all eras and promotions. Off to the side, Tommy Dreamer was taking pictures with fans and, across from him, a few fans were lined up to wear an authentic Ric Flair worn robe.
From there, I went back to the center part of the hotel lobby. I noticed Bruce Mitchell again sitting with Matt Koon, but I figured I had used up my “Bother Bruce” card enough times by this point. To my right, Sean Waltman had a table setup where he was meeting with a few fans. The whole time, Sean had the biggest smile on his face. All of the wrestlers I saw that day were just filled with excitement and positivity because they felt the whole event was positive for wrestling and everyone wanted to be there.
Across the hall, I saw Dave Meltzer attempting to check out of the hotel at the information desk. It was like Dave was being chased by fans because a swarm of people followed him wanting to know his thoughts on All In and get photos with the man who inadvertently nudged Cody and The Young Bucks to put on this event. I ask Dave what he thought of the event and he said he hadn’t seen anything like it before, but the atmosphere was reminiscent of ECW in the late-’90s. He didn’t have sense of what all this meant to the wrestling industry as a whole yet except that these guys are proving that there are many ways to make money in the wrestling industry without WWE or a weekly televised show. This was a significant point in the wrestling industry that there were enough fans to travel from around the world, willing to spent time and money because of the potential of what this event could be.
By this point, Bruce had few fans who wanted to take pictures with him and chat with him about the event. Behind me I saw who I thought was Rich Fann and asked him if we was indeed Rich Fann. Rich was great to finally meet and we talked a little bit about what each of us do for the Torch. Rich told me he had been to the past five WrestleMania’s and he had never seen excitement and passion for a wrestling show like All In.
It was getting close to the the time for the Cody and Brandi meet and greet to begin. We were towards the back of the line because the majority of people got right in-line for Cody following The Young Bucks meet and greet. Cody and Brandi got there at about 12:20 because they had a prior engagement that lasted longer than expected. I heard a few remarks about how their dog Pharaoh was not with them when it was heavily teased he’d be joining them. Pharaoh must’ve had some interviews to do or a big nap was needed.
Cody and Brandi spent plenty of time with each fan even though Atlas security tried to rush everyone along. Mid-way through Cody and Brandi had go to “Ringside with Jim Ross.” This was the first time I saw wrestlers being escorted through the back hallways away from fans. By this point fans were getting a little agitated because they had waited for some time already and had planes to catch and long car rides home. Most fans understood that Cody had to make this appearance, but a few let their opinions be heard to Starrcast employees.
Cody and Brandi came back about 30 minutes later. Brandi apologized to everyone who had to wait longer when she came back. The Starrcast staff said that Cody and Brandi will offer their shirts for $15 instead of $20 and Cody would sign sign more than one autograph for each person. Everyone seemed happy with the make good offer, but honestly people were happy that they were back. Once they entered the room again, people had mostly forgotten/forgiven them for having to wait a bit longer. They both signed my poster and my friend had Cody signed his hat as a bonus.
Like I alluded to before with The Young Bucks, Cody and Brandi have tapped into that special bond that The Young Bucks make with their fans during their meet and greets. Most of the wrestlers are pleasant and nice to every fan. Then you have a few veteran no-nonsense guys who want you to buy something and move on. Cody and Brandi take the extra step to listen to each fan reminisce about a favorite memory of them and give them a genuine response and reaction that most wrestlers don’t do. I say this because I think this a big reason why The Bucks and Cody have built their brands and established a bond with fans. I don’t think without this trust, fans would have sold out All In at Sears Centre in under 30 minutes. The fans know these guys care about what they want out of wrestling and they are going to give it to you.
Following the meet and greet, we figured we had to do one Chicago-exclusive thing, so we enjoyed a deep dish from Lou Malnati’s then headed back to the Twin Cities. On our way back, we drove by ODB’s food truck which was being driven by ODB herself.
This whole experience was like none other I had ever been a part of in wrestling. The positivity among fans was contagious. Nobody was dwelling over the fact that Roman Reigns is still on top in WWE or the mistreatment of fan favorites. Starrcast and All In provided a place where fans could embrace their fandom and enjoy what they like most about professional wrestling. Starrcast was also an insight for how brands other than WWE are going to continue to grow in the coming years. Starrcast was marketed as an event for the fans by the fans that offered unique opportunities that other conventions haven’t done. Conrad and the Starrcast should be very proud of what they’ve done creating the ultimate fan experience. They will surely learn from this experience about improving the process if they decide to do a sequel.
I’m not sure if the feelings from All In and Starrcast can be replicated in the near future. At the All In press conference in March, Cody said that All In was about capturing a feeling. The feeling of what drew us as fans into wrestling – the excitement of seeing wrestling in-person and drawing back to those feelings we had at our first show. What Cody and The Young Bucks do next is anyone’s guess, but what they did over Labor Day weekend will never be forgotten in wrestling history.
NOW CHECK OUT OUR PREVIOUS ARTICLE IN THIS SERIES: DEHNEL BLOG: My All In and Starrcast Weekend Experience Day 2 – Reviewing MJF’s random insults of random fans triggering reactions, logistical changes, meeting wrestlers at Meet & Greets, All In match thoughts