By Mike Mooneyham
Feb. 8, 2004
Last weekend’s Mid-Atlantic Wrestling Legends Convention and Fanfest was deemed a huge success by most who attended. A tribute to a territory that was considered among the very best in the country, the event featured more than three dozen greats from that era.
While most of the stars still live in the Charlotte area, others came from as far as Florida (George Scott, Greg Valentine, Dory Funk Jr.), Kentucky (Jim Cornette), Ohio (Les Thatcher) and Maine (Tony Atlas).
Cornette and Ole Anderson, two of the more controversial figures in the wrestling business, received rave reviews for their question-and-answer sessions. Cornette shared road stories with Thatcher, J.J. Dillon and Bobby Eaton, who all joined him onstage in front of several hundred fans.Anderson, who was there selling copies of his new book, signing autographs and taking fans down memory lane, didn’t leave his dry humor at home. “Mr. USA” Tony Atlas, never known for his ring skills but still remarkably buffed for his late 40s, greeted Anderson by telling his former ring adversary and the audience that “this man taught me everything I know about rasslin.'” Not missing a beat, Anderson deadpanned, “Hey, don’t tell them that.”
All, however, didn’t go smoothly. Two members of the rap/wrestling group Insane Clown Posse were asked to leave after reportedly heckling Cornette during his VIP members only session. Although ICP had passes for the event, their loud and disruptive comments prompted their departure, said several fans in attendance. When the two declared that they had VIP passes and weren’t leaving, Cornette responded, “And that means one thing. You paid 100 bucks to come see me,” before launching into one of his inimitable diatribes and shouting them down.
“Rap is noise that no one wants to particularly hear which is why you boys have to pick up those little outlaw bookings for $25 a shot,” bellowed Cornette.
Fortunately the two were escorted from the area before Eaton, an original member of Cornette’s Midnight Express, had a chance to personally walk them out. The two left amid raucous cheers from the audience which directed a chorus of “Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye” at them.
“I don’t think it would have gotten that far,” Eaton said later. “I didn’t know if it was a work or not. You never know any more. It wasn’t a big deal. Corny didn’t care for them because he had trouble with them in Louisville. He had told the guy in charge that if they showed up he was going to leave.”
“It wasn’t like I could take anybody out. Maybe if (longtime midget wrestlers) Little Tokyo or Lord Littlebrook were available … maybe I couldn’t beat them if they wouldn’t mind,” Eaton joked.
Buddy Landel also made a hasty exit from the convention site after reportedly fighting with a fan outside the motel and exhibiting what has been described as “crude and rude behavior” at the event. The incident prompted a torrent of conversation on wrestling message boards and fan sites.
Landel, a Mid-Atlantic star in the 80s whose career hit a tailspin due to drug problems, later offered an apology on the 1wrestling.com Web site, admitting that he went to the convention “with the wrong motive” and that he was over the top, “but that is me being me.”
“I went to the Mid-Atlantic fanfest with the wrong intentions. I wanted to confront Arn (Anderson) for the things he said about me in his book. “On another matter, yes, later on I exchanged some words with a gentleman outside when he pulled a knife on me. I walked away – period!
“To set the record straight I was not arrested, I did not go to jail, and I did not leave owing any monies. I stayed all night at the hotel, checked out the next morning and there was no mention of me owing anything!”
Event organizer Greg Price painted a different picture with his response on Thursday. He claims Landel, who has served as a minister in recent years, had never even mentioned Anderson when contacted about the event. “As for Buddy’s charge that Double A’ defamed him in his book, I can’t speak to that. I’ve heard it isn’t in there. Maybe Buddy can direct us to the disparaging remarks in Arn’s book?”
Price said he first approached Landel at the autograph stage early Saturday afternoon. “I explained to Buddy that Fanfest was a family event and I did not want drinking or abusive language in the ballroom. Buddy apologized.”
A half-hour later, said Price, he was summoned back to the autograph stage where Anderson, among others, had gotten “ready to take matters into their own hands.” At that point, Price said, he took Landel to an off-stage area, where Landel was told he was no longer welcome in the Fanfest area and was paid his full appearance fee.
Price, along with others, says Landel later started a fight in front of the motel but left before police arrived.
“The Buddy Landel fiasco at Fanfest wasn’t necessary,” said Price. “It didn’t have to happen. I can’t do anything to change what’s already happened. But, I do apologize by anyone offended by Buddy’s rude and crude behavior, and I can promise you that we will never have that situation again at a Fanfest event.”
Price’s statement concluded with a plea for Landel: “Buddy, you need help. Get some.”
The flood of negative comments aimed at Landel prompted yet another response Friday on the 1wrestling.com Web site where Landel again apologized.
“There is no way for me to defend my actions, I did not realize how far gone I was until I read all the comments, how sad that it will be the memory of how people will remember me. No excuses, Greg is right, I need to get help. My wife has been telling me for sometime. I have been married to a great women for 23 years, and she does not deserve this nor do my children. It used to be cool to be loud and shocking, but not for a 42-year-old man that says he’s a Christian.
“I can’t think of anyone I did not embarrass. To Arn, the fans, the wrestlers, my wife and family, and most of all Greg Price, please forgive me … The only thing for me to do is to seek help. The fans were great to me, and I’m ashamed for the way I treated you. I hope one day you can forgive me. Please pray for my family and myself.”
– Steve Austin called Ric Flair the greatest wrestler in the history of the business during an interview last week with the British publication The Sun.
“In my WCW days I loved working with Ricky Steamboat and before I retired last year I got to have several cage matches with Ric Flair – which weren’t on TV – and I consider him the greatest wrestler in the history of the business. Working with Ric was a walk in the park and he’s considered a legend for a good reason, because he’s simply the best.”
– WWE has ended its contractual relationship with Zach Gowen. The one-legged grappler met with talent chief Jim Ross on Wednesday.
Gowen was signed last year by the WWE after he had made appearances on TNA broadcasts. Gowen, who lost a leg at an early age, amazed fans with his ability to overcome adversity. Gowen, who played the role of Hulk Hogan’s little sidekick, enjoyed high-profile encounters with Vince McMahon and Brock Lesnar during his WWE stint.
“Zach is only 20 years of age and I would be very surprised if we don’t see him in a WWE ring again someday,” Ross told the company’s Web site. “We all have great respect for Zach’s passion and wish him nothing but success.”
Sources, however, say Gowen had not blended in well with the talent and was something of a prima donna behind the scenes. He could resurface soon in NWA-TNA where he worked as Tenacious Z prior to his WWE run.
– Hulk Hogan will serve as the grand marshal for the Florida Dodge Dealers 250 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race Feb. 13. His daughter, Brooke, will sing the National Anthem.
– The WWE Web site reported that Mark Henry suffered a shoulder injury Monday night during his Raw match with Chris Benoit. Henry had surgery Thursday in Birmingham, Ala., performed by Dr. James Andrews, and is expected to be out of action for several months. The match and the crossface finish were designed as a storyline reason for a pre-existing injury.
– Mick Foley said on the Don and Mike radio show last week that he is backing Bob Kerry for president. Foley said he crossed Howard Dean off following his meltdown, and sees John Edwards as more of a vice president. Foley called President George Bush a nice guy and would vote for him if he unloaded Vice President Dick Cheney and picked former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani.
– Ken Mihalik is selling his collection of Wrestling Observer newsletters from 1990-2000 (nearly 500 issues in all). He’ll also throw in three Wrestling Observer Yearbooks (1988, 1989, 1990) plus a unique WWF trunk that he’ll send them in. Minimum bid starts at $575. For more information, contact him at (843) 795-0590 or e-mail at [email protected]