Many wrestling fans have attended live shows. WWE typically the gateway drug to wrestling fandom, especially in this post-WCW, post-ECW, well-past-post-AWA or WCCW era when Vince McMahon’s corporation is the singular dominant force in mainstream wrestling. Plenty of fans don’t go any further than WWE shows when they roll into their local arena. There are those fans who want to take it further and make pilgrimages to WrestleMania, which isn’t just a show, but a several day gathering that includes additional WWE events for each brand, the Hall of Fame ceremony, and the Axxess fan festival. That’s not to mention an increasingly high number of small promotions putting on their own shows at smaller venues, often rolling in autograph signing and photo ops with their shows.
And these smaller events aren’t isolated to WrestleMania—far from it. Regional promoters put on shows throughout the year, some of them on a steady monthly basis or even more frequently, some more scattershot as money, arena space, and key talents’ schedules allow for it. In addition to independent shows that often include elements of fans getting to interact with wrestlers, there are full-blown conventions.
Wrestling conventions tend to be populated by the hardest of hardcore wrestling fans and an interesting mix of young wrestlers trying to cut their teeth and old school wrestlers who have either retired or only work a very selective part time schedule to still make ends meet. These situations typically include meet and greets, question and answer sessions, panel discussions, and the like. They can be a lot of fun, but they can also expose more casual fans to a more embarrassing set of oddball fans who may take things a little too seriously or otherwise demonstrate some idiosyncrasies. This article looks at the fifteen most embarrassing people you’ll meet at wrestling conventions. (Note: many of the photos used below are generic seclections—they are not meant to imply that any fan depicted matches the description, and there is no offense intended to anyone.)
16 The Guy Drooling Over The Female Wrestlers
WWE’s Axxess events at WrestleMania (and occasionally other big shows) are about as sanitized an environment as you’ll find for a wrestling convention. They’re typically clean and held in big venues with plenty of breathing room and often with cool artifacts from WWE history on display. I had my first exposure to such an event in Houston for WrestleMania 25, and as my buddy and I wandered the floor, one of the first fellow fans we interacted with was a guy all too eager to share a photo from his phone with anyone who would stop to talk to him.
The photo depicted him this sort of nerdy, overweight boy in a Hardy Boyz t-shirt, elated as he stood with a Bella Twin on each arm. “They’re so hot!” he gushed.
As I’ve stopped in at other wrestling conventions, I’ve noticed this as a trend—the fan desperate to get close to his female wrestler crush for a photo and the chance to shake hands. This may be as close to a date as some of these fans can get.
15 The Desperate Former Wrestler
The fans aren’t the only ones at a wrestling convention who might embarrass themselves. Fans who’s seen The Wrestler starring Mickey Rourke may recall the uncomfortable scene when he lined up at a table in a small venue with other wrestlers, there to charge fans for autographs and photos, and to sell cheaply produced merchandise or VHS tapes of their old matches. The reality isn’t so dissimilar, as conventions tend to include quite a few over the hill stars trying to squeeze the last few dollars they can out of their former stardom.
To be fair, a lot of these wrestlers are pleasant to engage with, and clearly appreciate the fans who remember them. Nonetheless, it can be sad to see these guys just scraping by when they were once the heroes of our youth.
14 The WWE Hater
At any convention, you’ll hear fans who are dismissive of WWE and its fans. Even if they’re standing in line to meet an old WWE star, these folks have nothing good to say about the company. They’ll knock the current standing of WWE in this PG Era, and won’t hesitate to take a shot at stars like John Cena, insisting they can’t hold a candle to the Kenny Omegas or Ricochets of the independent world. They’ll be sure to drop in a reference to an obscure talent from a regional promotion or overseas, just to lord it over you that you’re not a serious fan if you’ve never heard of them.
Liking other wrestling options over WWE is perfectly a legitimate choice, but whether they’re hipsters trying to be cool, or jaded old timers who want wrestling to be more like it once was, these folks tend to come off as the embarrassing kind of wrestling nerd.
13 The Guy Who Won’t Put Down His Phone
For most fans who go to a convention, the objective is to get to take in the experience. Fans are there to meet wrestling stars, get some merchandise, interact with fellow fans, and maybe watch some matches if the format includes a live actual wrestling event.
Still, it can be mind boggling to see a number of fans glued to their phones throughout a convention.
To be fair, obsession with one’s smart phone is a part of the culture these days. Still, at an event that fans typically need to pay admission for and that offers unique opportunities to interact with a group of people they don’t usually have access to, it seems like a strange choice not to look around or listen, but rather to be wrapped up in scrolling through social media or reading an article you could just as easily be looking at at home. There are also those fans obsessed with catching everything on their camera phone, at the cost of not really watching it first hand, and potentially blocking someone else’s view by holding the phone up in the air.
12 The Wannabe Wrestler
Wrestling conventions tend to attract not just fans, but people who are trying to break into the business themselves. There’s nothing wrong with trying to become a wrestler and, if one’s doing so, trying to network. Still, it can be extra annoying to listen to the wannabe wrestler try to take extra time at the autograph table while a line grows behind him, trying to put himself over to the actual famous wrestler.
Worse yet, the wannabe wrestler can be heard offering unrequested commentary on matches, poking fun at how shoddy independent workers are in particular, with no self awareness that they probably aren’t any better (and are probably much worse) at their own craft of wrestling. Sure, every now and a gain a wannabe wrestler might become someone—we've all seen the photos of wrestlers as teens interacting with their heroes, the stars of previous generations. In most cases, though, they’re just embarrassing themselves.
11 The Guy Who Takes His Gimmick Too Seriously
Wrestlers have to protect their gimmick. While the days of maintaining kayfabe at all times have long passed, some old school sensibilities remain around the wrestling world. In a recent episode of the WWE Network’s Ride Along, for example, Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose, and Roman Reigns talked about what a pain it was when Rollins turned heel on his former buddies, because WWE made the stop traveling together to sell the feud.
Fans are not wrestlers, though, and it can be embarrassing to see them act like they are. Sometimes it’s someone cosplaying as a star of yesteryear, and thus feeling obliged to speak in their best gravelly Macho Man impression for the day. Sometimes someone considers it his gimmick to be a super wrestling nerd and spouts off oddball facts and statistics all night long. Regardless, these people are less enjoying the festivities than trying to be part of the attraction themselves.
10 The Total Mark
Plenty of fans at wrestling conventions would identify themselves as “smart.” That means that they are fully aware wrestling is a work, they read all of the dirt sheets and listen to all of the podcasts, and they consider themselves fully informed on the inner workings of the professional wrestling world. There are, however, those fans who represent the opposite pole, all too eager to give themselves over to the story being told in front of them. Whether they know wrestling is a work or not, they’re not embarrassed to act like its real at a convention.
A prime example that went viral was a fan at an NWA Mid-Atlantic themed convention in South Carolina over a decade ago. In a Q&A session featuring Terry Funk, the fan got on the microphone to thank Funk and wrestlers like him for all they’d given to the business, before emotionally announcing, “It’s still real to me, damn it!” The embarrassing moment became something like a rallying cry for hardcore fans, equal parts amused and relating to how passionate this guy was about his fanhood.
9 The Guy Dragging His Kid Around
Passing along a love of professional wrestling from parent to child isn’t so unusual. I suspect I’m not the only son whose father got him hooked in the first place, or whose dad brought him to his first live wrestling show. The average wrestling convention isn’t like a PG Era WWE show, however. These conventions generally feature a combination of rookies and guys well past their prime—the kind of talents that hardcore Internet fans might follow via their indie careers, and that older fans will remember from their own younger years.
Inevitably, wrestling conventions will see their share of kids getting dragged around long after the excitement of this event has worn off for them so that they’re tired, bored, and clearly only there so their parent doesn’t have to go home early. It’s an uncomfortable situation to say the least.
8 The Supposed Expert
If ever there were a place to nerd out about wrestling, use insider lingo, and unabashedly make it clear how big of a wrestling fan you are, it’s a wrestling convention. Contrary to typical polite society, it’s an environment in which wearing a wrestling t-shirt isn’t a cause for at best confusion, and at worst dismissing someone as an idiot who doesn’t get that wrestling is fake. It’s a place for people with similar interests to speak each other’s language and enjoy their sub-culture.
Amidst these good vibes for wrestling fans, however, you’ll often come across the expert. The guy feels the need to correct everyone’s mistakes (e.g., actually Batista won the World Heavyweight Championship, not the WWE Championship from Triple H) or add unasked for nuance and critique to an otherwise pleasant conversation.
7 The Person Who Compares Everything To WWE
While wrestling conventions often play host to their share of the hardest of hardcore fans, they’ll also inevitably see a few people with a more casual interest. Maybe they’re Attitude Era fans who showed up just because they saw Sean Waltman would be in attendance, or out of the novelty of a convention happening in their local area. Maybe their kid is a big Roman Reigns fan and they thought the day out at a wrestling event would be fun.
These are the fans who come, expecting the glitz and glamour of a WWE event, only to become hypercritical when they realize this event is going down in a high school gym with no special lighting, let alone pyro. They’ll question the small-time feel and the unpolished wrestlers performing.
While WWE is a gateway to wrestling fandom for most people today, it’s always interesting to see someone transition to the indie world for the first time, and if they get comfortable in it, or reject it as second rate.
6 The Guy Who’s Always Selling
While many fans come to conventions to celebrate their love of wrestling, revel in nostalgia, or meet stars, there are also those individuals who come to conventions to make money. Whether it’s a wrestler there to get paid to sign autographs and pose for photos, or a non-wrestler there to sell DVDs and memorabilia, these people attend conventions as a business opportunity.
There’s nothing wrong with having something to sell, and everyone has to make ends meet. It is, however, less enjoyable to talk with someone who is constantly in sales mode. I’ve had experiences of casually talking to a vendor, only to find I’m not really interested in what they’re selling. In the absence of a line or other customers, I’ve tried to make small talk about a current wrestling storyline or rumor, only to get stonewalled into talking about how great the product they’re selling is.
I’m even prepared to excuse such behavior at a vendor’s table, but there are those times when it crosses over to people snagging passersby who aren’t looking for merchandise, or striking up conversations with anyone seated near them watching a match. Again, sales are fine, but there has to be a line when people settle down to be fans, or at least let the people around them do so and enjoy the show.
5 The Guy Who Knows Somebody
There are those wrestling fans who are adamant about asserting their importance to a wrestling show, if not the wrestling world on the whole. They’ll talk your ear off about the one time they met The Barbarian at an airport, a previous autograph signing where Tito Santana gave them a high five, or how their cousin’s neighbor used to work out with Rusev.
To be fair, if there’s any place to share your stories of previous wrestling conventions, or obscure connection to the wrestling business, a convention dedicated the genre would be right place. Just the same, the guys who go out of their way, or seem to strike up conversations explicitly for the purpose of talking about whom they know or what their connection is comes across as particularly embarrassing at a convention.
4 The Guy Who Desperately Wants To Start A Chant
Chants are a part of wrestling. Daniel Bryan has broken it down in interviews that his infectious Yes! chant was born out of a recognition that fans liked to sing along with their favorite wrestling stars and do hand motions (not to mention that he saw an MMA fighter do something similar and thought it could get huge heat). And chants can be a fun way of expressing appreciation (You’ve still got it! or This is awesome! or most recently Fight forever!), or disapproval (Cena Sucks!).
When a chant happens organically based on what’s happening in the ring or when a major star is spotted in the venue at a convention, it can be fun. There are, however, those guys who care less about celebrating what’s around them or enjoying the show than about getting themselves over because they were the one to start a chant. It’s a silly, obnoxious thing for a fan to do.
3 The 'Old School' Fan
Lots of the people who attend conventions are hardcore fans, and often as not people who have been following wrestling for decades at a time. These fans can be fun to see and to talk wrestling with because they can refer back to firsthand memories of Buddy Rogers and Bruno Sammartino, and often have unique stories to share.
The trouble with some of these fans comes in when they completely dismiss anything new. Think that The New Day or The Young Bucks are great? They’re nothing compared to The Rock N Roll Express! Want to talk about how great AJ Styles vs. Finn Balor was? They can’t hold a candle to Ric Flair vs. Ricky Steamboat!
There’s an argument to be made that older wrestling is better than the current product, but some old school fans just can’t let you forget, insistent on no-selling anything from the modern era to the point that you have to wonder why they even came to a wrestling event in 2017.
2 The Guy Who Only Calls Wrestlers By Their Real Names
I expect that anyone reading this article understands that pro wrestling features matches with predetermined outcomes and storylines based more in writers’ scheming than an y real life grudge. It can be fun to talk about backstage rumors and the inner workings of the business with a fellow fan. However, there are those guys who take it too far, insisting on talking about everything as a show, and insisting on showing off their knowledge even to the point of less clarity, or downright being annoying.
Sure, people know that X-Pac’s real name is Sean Waltman, and he’s even wrestled under that name, not to mention that he’s had enough gimmicks that it’s not unreasonable to use his real name for simplification purposes. But calling Triple H Paul Levesque? Identifying The Undertaker only as Mark Calaway? While these names are relatively well known, they aren’t used publicly and reek of a fan haplessly trying to come across as an insider.
1 BONUS: Virgil
There was a time when Virgil was a perfectly reasonable, if not entirely over heater for Ted DiBiase, and he had a feel good story anchored around him when he ultimately turned face against The Million Dollar Man. The guy enjoyed remarkable longevity in the business, too, if for no other reason than timing as he was a low-level star during the years when Hulk Hogan was on top of WWE, and then got a spot in WCW while Hogan and the New World Order helped usher in another golden era for the business.
Nowadays, Virgil’s legacy has downgraded based on his lame attempts to make money. His consistent appearances at not only conventions, but more general public spaces trying to charge for his autograph have resulted in the Lonely Virgil meme—images of him sitting around with absolutely no customers. He got an even worse rep in recent years, after DiBiase outed him for dishonestly taking bookings on behalf of the two of them to churn up more interest from promoters, only to have not told DiBiase about the bookings, let alone obtained his consent to book on his behalf. DiBiase was no-showing events he’d never heard of, while Virgil was collecting his payday as one of the most embarrassing figures in the current wrestling landscape.