It is no secret that I am a fan of pro wrestling. I remember being a fan of the late Big Boss Man as a kid. In the summer of 1996, I stayed at my grandparents house with my cousin. Along with being reintroduced to the Braves, I was also introduced to World Championship Wrestling. I’m still a fan of both sports now. In the past few years, I’ve become a fan of independent wrestling and New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW). This led to me attending Starrcast/ ALL IN last week in the Chicago area.
All In/ Starrcast
Three of the industry’s most popular wrestlers, Cody (Rhodes; yes, son of Dusty; he can’t use that last name because the WWE won’t allow it) and the Young Bucks came together to put on their own show. They financed everything themselves. They planned, produced, and executed the entire thing. The trio had been kicking around the idea of their own show when a wrestling journalist, Dave Meltzer, responded to a fan that said Ring of Honor (an independent wrestling company) couldn’t sell out a 10,000 seat arena. Minutes later, Cody accepted that challenge. Tickets went on sale on Mother’s Day and tickets sold out in 29 minutes and 34 seconds. Nikki & I, along with four of our friends were lucky enough to get tickets to the Sears Centre.
Conrad Thompson came up with the idea to do a convention around the show and made it into a 4 day event of Labor Day weekend. Starrcast (named after Starrcade, WCW’s famous annual pay-per-view created by Dusty Rhodes) would host over 140 wrestlers and podcasters. There were meet & greets, forums, and various wrestling themed events. This event sold 8,000 tickets. Some fans that couldn’t get tickets to All In still attended Starrcast.
Before I go any further, let me tell you why All In/Starrcast is such a big deal. WWE is still the largest wrestling company in the world. They also tend to grab up the hottest wrestlers and then misuse them. Much of their product is predictable. Thanks to the internet, fans worldwide can stream wrestling from all over the world. Independent wrestling (and NJPW) is hotter than ever. It offers many alternatives to cater to the vast tastes of wrestling fans. To be able to sell out a 10,000 seat arena without any help from a billion dollar company is huge. Many fans, including myself, see this as a huge sign of what’s to come and that by using our voices and wallets, we can choose what we want.
Last Thursday, Nikki & I flew to Chicago to meet up with our friends. This was our first trip to Chicago and Nikki’s first flight. We flew Southwest because they had the cheapest direct flight and no baggage fees (I’m not trying to pay $120 in fees alone, thank you very much). My dad picked us up later than planned, so we got to the airport later than we wanted. On our way to security, we did spy Sgt. Slaughter, so that was cool. As I was walking up to scan my mobile boarding pass, I realized that it didn’t have an electronic pass for Nikki. In fact, it said one had to be printed out for her. We had to get out of line and go to the Southwest kiosk and print to her pass. I printed out mine just to be safe. Once we finally got through security, we had to briskly walk to our gate. Most of our group had already boarded. If Nikki was nervous about flying for the first time, she didn’t really have time to be.
Southwest only flies into Midway, so we had quite the trip to get to our hotel. My friend from Atlanta flew into Midway a few hours earlier and suggested taking the train and then a Lyft the rest of the way. We had to take two trains (the first ride was about five minutes) before ordering a Lyft. The firsts continue on this trip: this was Nikki’s first time on a train & our first time using Lyft. It took us a little over an hour to get to our hotel. We stayed at the Holiday Inn Express Chicago NW. Our room was nice and spacious with two double beds. You may remember from our stays in Atlanta that Nikki & I slept on the pullout couch. The bed was much more comfortable! Our room also included a flat screen TV, mini fridge, and microwave.
After a quick freshening up, we took another Lyft to meet our friends at Starrcast at Hyatt Regency Schamburg. Our hotel was about a mile away, which was both convenient and inconvenient.
Once we got our platinum wristbands, we joined our friends in line for a meet & greet with British wrestler, Marty Scurll. Since Marty was in a room with several other wrestlers, the line stretched out of the room, down the hall and spilled into the lobby. Once we got closer, we were able to move past the larger line to enter the room and get in a shorter line. Shortly after, we each had a turn to speak with Marty, get a picture, an autograph picture and an enamel pin that was for a event right after the meet & greet.
After the meet & greet, we headed to the bar. While they had food options, there wasn’t anything that Nikki could eat. This would be a bit of an inconvenience throughout the weekend since we spent a lot of time at Starrcast. They had a special drink menu with cocktails named after wrestlers.
After grabbing our drinks, we headed down the hall to a big room for Elite Karaoke with Marty Scurll. The Young Bucks, Cody, and Marty are all part of wrestling faction called Bullet Club. Along with Kenny Omega and Adam Page, they have a wildly popular YouTube show called “Being the Elite”. On the show, Marty did a storyline where he was a singer (he can’t sing). This led to Elite Karaoke. Marty sang a few songs, including Shawn Michaels’ theme, “Sexy Boy”, which was highly entertaining. Eventually, more Bullet Club members (sans Omega) would join the show to perform. They even included crowd members and had them onstage to perform with Marty. It was a blast!
As you can probably guess, Thursday was a long, busy day! This would be a theme for the rest of our trip. This post ended up being much longer than I had intended, so I think this is a good stopping point for part one. Otherwise, you might give up before I get to the other meet and greets and All In itself.
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