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OO SPECIAL FEATURES  
One Hundred and Counting: 
A Wrestling Travelogue and Then Some 
August 4, 2006

by Nikki "ConcreteTG" Heyman 
Exclusive to OnlineOnslaught.com

 

w00t~!!!
 
 
To the best of my recollection and counting, it looks like my stop in Detroit marks 100 wrestling-related events that I have attended since 1999. In the course of that time I've racked up thousands of miles, hundreds of stories and made a dozen or so friends whom I periodically cross paths when I'm bouncing about. In honor of this

100th show (and the good luck of getting on tv multiple times) I'm going to pass along the many things I've learned when it comes to traveling to and from shows, what to bring, what to do, how to do it, and perhaps enhance the experience of being there!

Part 1: Tickets

1. Your best bet, really, is chasing tickets the day they go on sale. Ticketmaster.com is usually pretty good about tickets, it just gets tricky if there's more than one show on sale that day.

2. If you subscribe to the website of your local/favorite arenas, they might have presales and contests that can increase your chances. I've won tickets to a Raw and to Bad Blood 04 this way.

3. Camping for tickets isn't as much fun as it used to be. Some smaller arenas still do first in line first served for onsales, but I've run into a lot of “Lottery” situations where you're given a ticket, then they draw who is first in line and go from there.

4. Brokering is for the rich and lazy, IMHO. You're paying 150-300% for better seats, but I only recommend that as a last resort or if you think the show is going to be REALLY special. Most sites are pretty good about getting the tickets to you, but it's best to do a little research before you buy. I admit that I had to broker to get to Wrestlemania.

5. Ticket releases are tickets that are given out for promotions and usually wrestlers to pass around. If they're not used, they're returned to the arena anywhere between a week before up to showtime. This is VERY risky if you're going to go this route; you might get rewarded with awesome seats in the first couple of rows, or you could end up buyng seats in the balcony.

6. Current ticket prices range from $20 (balcony seats for house shows and TV tapings) to $750 (“Chair” seats at Wrestlemania).

7. The price chart can also give you an idea of where your seats are, in case there's not a seating chart. WWE has started a new arrangement with some arenas for house shows and TV tapings where some seats are being sold for $50-$75, but that puts you in the first few rows. $40 can put you on the floor, but pretty far back, or to the lower level of seats.

8. PPV shows have “Chair” seats (mentioned above), which are the most expensive but are always the first 5-6 rows at a show. Keeping the chair is kinda neat, too.

9. Independent shows rarely break the $20 mark. Ohio indies range from $5-10, and OVW shows are free but first come, first serve.

10. The fewer people with you, the better your seats will be - 1 to 4 people is a good range to get tickets if you're interested in sitting in the floor sections. After that, expect to sit in the lower level.
 

Ok, you now have tickets in hand - for what sort of show is it?

House shows are the non-televised “Dress rehersals” that are bare-bones but are the least structured of any show outside of the indies. This is where the wrestlers have the most fun because they can goof around for a bit, interact with fans and see what may and may not fly. Some of the more interesting things I've seen at house shows:

The alternate ending to the “Love Rhombus” where Jericho wins Trish for himself.

OVW Graduate Chris Cage tried out the pirate gear before Paul Birchill did

Mike “Nova” Bucci tried out the Simon Dean gimmick for months before bringing it to television

Kenny and Mikey were the original members of the Spirit Squad; Johnny, Mitch and Nicky came later

a rash of “Pantsings” (HHH, Angle, but usually Ric Flair) during matches.

I've also seen previews for matches that aired as soon as the following TV taping to the next PPV. My very first house show had matches that were reprised at Starrcade 1999, including the now-infamous Goldberg/Bret Hart title match.

Television Tapings are pretty self-explanatory. This also includes specials like Head to Head and SNME. Some things to expect:

Raw:

You usually get 3-4 matches (most are taped for Internet Heat)

They air the prview live, then the announcers will actually come out to take their seats for the show

Thanks to Unlimited, Raw seems non-stop, which I really think helps.

Much like going to any other sporting event, you will not hear JR or King throughout the show.

After the live broadcast ends, there's usually a bonus match - a tag match or 6-man tag with some of the bigger names on the show.

SD/ECW:

Typically they have one dark match before the show starts

Each show segment is seperated by about a minute or two of “Downtime”

If there's call for a “Do-over”, it really jars the show a bit. Bob Holly and Booker T tried to make theirs a little less obvious by doing a two-minute “Rematch” during the show. Chavo Guereerro was much MORE obvious in his multiple attempts to take out Billy Kidman with a top rope Gory Bomb in trying it three times before giving up and ending the match with a regular Gory bomb. (The match was never aired).

SD usually finishes up its tapings around 9:45, then they start scrambling to change the set for ECW. This is a frenzied bit of work, as they have to cover the SD set, re-string the ropes, change out the aprons and move/place their two “hard” cameras. The combo taping I watched in Detroit, they had started removing the ring aprons during the end of the show, hiding it with the handhelds staying tight on Rey Mysterio. The setup was still going on as ECW went on the air, thus the reason for the long video package at the opening of the show.

Once ECW is over, you get one more bonus match where you may finally get to see the Undertaker. (Our bonus match: UT/Kane v, Show/Khali).

Pay-Per-View Follows most of the same rules as a television taping, just without the commercial breaks. The big-time atmosphere for most non-Mania PPVs are the custom sets and PPV chairs in the first few rows.

Most PPVs nowadays have one dark match, if at all

IF you spent the big money for a PPV chair, expect to stay an extra 20-30 minutes as the arena staff has to come around and cut the zip-ties that are keeping the chairs together. Oh, and don't lose your ticket or you will NOT be able to leave with that chair. We listened to some huge uproars from people without tickets or with comps who sat in those chairs. We've also found tickets on the ground to leave with extra chairs.
 

Preparing for a show (if you're someone who wants to bring more than “Money, ticket and 'dignity'”)

This part is purely subjective, cause everyone has their own way to do things.

1. If you're bringing a camera, make sure you have everything for it before you head to the arena. This is especially true on Sundays- we have been to shows where I couldn't get batteries for a camera or one of my traveling buddies couldn't get film for his.

2. If you're making signs, keep em short and simple. Large, thick letters can be seen everywhere. Don't put photos on the poster unless they're at least 8 ½'' by 11.

3. If you're going to a show out of town, get your directions together so that they're handy when you walk out the door.

4. I find it best to get everyone their tickets ahead of time, in case people get seperated. This can be nullified if everyone has cellphones.

5. Should you choose to do costuming for a show, be prepared to work “in character”. Accuracy is always a plus. This does not count should you choose to dress like John Cena.

6. When you get to/near an arena, be aware that you'll probably have to pay for parking, in most cases. Some places you can park your car for as little as $3, some places charge more than $20.

7. If the rates are pretty much the same around an arena, go for someplace fairly close to the arena. I certainly don't like walking a quarter mile or more to my car after a four-hour show, especially if I'm driving 2-4 hours home.
 

THE DAY OF THE SHOW

Are you ready?

Once you've gotten your act together, ready to make a day (or more) of it?

Autographs

1. If you're bound and determined, you can find out which airports they'll fly in and which hotels they'll be staying in. I'm not this crazy, but I have done both and you can get some people you might not normally catch.

2. If you're not working that day, head to the arena early and go check out the production trucks. They're usually parked behind the arena, and close to where the wrestlers will be parking. For TV/PPV, it's best to get there in the morning and hang out til about 3pm. For House shows, get there about 2:30-3p and stay out there til the doors open. This is where 90% of my autographs have come from.

3. I've also had some interesing sights while waiting for wrestlers to arrive - when Eddie, JBL or Biker Undertaker were performing, sometimes you'd see their respective vehicles arrive at the arena.

4. Not all arenas are autograph friendly.
 

BEST AUTOGRAPH ARENAS

Wesbanco Arena, Wheeling, WV (Shane O Mac, Goldberg, the Mexicools, Tommy Dreamer, the Hooligans, the “Sabu Latte” pic)

War Memorial Arena, Ft. Wayne, IN (HBK, Edge, Mark Henry, Lillian Garcia)

Hara arena, Dayton, OH (Micky Jay Henson, John Cena, RVD, Spike Dudley)

HSBC Arena, Buffalo, NY (Rico, Booker T, RVD)

Freedom Hall, Louisville, KY (Big Show, Kane, Hurricane and Rosey)

OVW arena, Louisville, KY (Maria, Gunnar Scott, Mickie James)

Mellon Arena, Pittsburgh, PA (Carlito, Charlie Haas, Funaki, Cena)
 

WORST AUTOGRAPH ARENAS

Joe Louis Arena, Detroit, MI (you have to stand across the street)

Gund Arena/ “The Q”, Cleveland, OH (underground parking, hard to get people)

Evansville Coliseum, Evansville, IN (Security keeps you 200 yards from the wrestler parking area)

Canseco Field House, Indianapolis, IN (underground parking)

Nutter Center, Dayton, OH (Horrible Security guards who will change the rules)

US Bank Arena, Cincinnati, OH (you have to stand across the street)

St. John's Arena, Steubenville, OH (unpaved area; rude staff)
 

EASY PEOPLE TO CATCH:

Most referees, especially Charles Robinson and Jack Doan

Matt Hardy

RVD

Maria

Tatanka

Gregory Helms

Cena

Teddy Long (sometimes even inside the arena)
 

HARD PEOPLE TO CATCH

Almost anyone who is an on-air heel (some use their heel status to get out of signing)

Triple H (I've never seen him sign behind the arenas)

Ric Flair (only seen him sign once)

Viscera

Undertaker

The Boogeyman

Randy Orton

Any of the McMahons

Batista
 

Want an Autograph? Some Do's and Don'ts:

DO respect the fact that these people are here to work and if they do not have time, don't pester further

DON'T yell for a wrestler who is on his/her cellphone

DO be polite in your request (“Mr/Ms. Wrestler, may we get an autograph?”)

DON'T bring up old gimmicks or shout catchphrases

DO chant heartily for a wrestler to come over to sign

DON'T make someone sign more than one item, that makes wrestlers suspicious

DO have your camera ready to take a pic with a wrestler (Booker T yelled at us about that)

DON'T yell that a wrestler sucks - even if it is Chris Masters or Randy Orton

DO make sure you're yelling for the right person (some of the divas looks the same from a distance)

DON'T use their “Real names”

DO have a sharpie ready to sign a photograph. Pens and pencils don't always work

DON'T pester the WWE or arena security people to get them to bring you wrestlers. That will get you thrown out. So will excessive verbal abuse (I have seen this happen)

DO feel free to ask a quick question outside the pic/autograph request

DON'T piss off security. Period.

The Doors are open!

Time to head inside!

1. Expect to have your camera and posters inspected when you first walk in. Some areanas have metal detectors so be ready to empty your pockets. Signs are typically checked for profanity and lewd content.

2. When you first get inside is probably the best time to hit concessions, souveneirs, and the restrooms. I tend to stay in my seat for most of the show (unless there's a really stupid angle going on, or the Diva Search has a segment).

3. The shows start more or less on time; give a leeway of about 10 minutes either way.

4. Since your seats aren't going anywhere, take some pics of the set- I tend to walk all around the arena and take pics of the set, the announce table, the big cameras, and anything unusual I may come across while I'm there.

Do's and Don'ts during a show

DO Feel free to wave signs during the show intro, entrances, exits, “Sign of the Night”, and maybe pop it up once or twice if you see a camera looking in your direction.

DON'T wave your sign for long periods during the match, no matter how funny/clever it might be.

DO feel free to stand during wrestler entrances

DON'T stay standing through the matches! People behind you would like to see the match too, and they don't care how much you paid for your ticket.

DO Take an opportunity to walk up to the guardrail for a pic of a wrestler heading to the ring(if you have floor seats, of course)

DON'T linger in that area because there are a dozen others who would like to do the same.

DO show a little discretion when you're yelling at the wrestlers in the ring. I try to keep my act “clean” if there's a little kid near me, but the one near me at this year's GAB made me so proud when he stood on his chair and yelled “BOOKER T YOU SUCK OUT LOUD!”

DON'T be shy in notifying arena security if someone is bothering you. No sense picking a fight in the crowd and both of you getting kicked out, right?

After the show is over

Obviously you have to fight a lot of traffic getting out of the arena. Take your time leaving the arena; security won't toss you out immediately.

1. Get in some last pics - especially if there was furniture and props involved

2. The souveneir stand might still be open, but it'll be a madhouse

3. Restrooms are usually pretty clear (notice I didn't say “safe”.....)

4. If you're traveling with multiple friends and cars, keep the cellphones on and ready - we had to call garage services when they found out they had a dead battery

5. Know where the cheap gas is! In this part of the country, it's Flying J and Pilot stations, usually undercutting city gas stations by 8-15 cents. Some also have a Wendy's, Arby's or other restaurant connected to the station, and it's 24 hours.

6. Know your limitations on the road. If you can't keep your eyes open, please don't push it - try to get to the next exit and find a place for a “power nap”. That's saved me on long solo trips.
 

AUTOGRAPH SESSIONS/MEET AND GREETS

These little events are a less expensive way (usually) to meet wrestlers if your luck at the arena is lacking. Wwe.com and wrestlingfigs.com are two of the best sources for autograph information, and the latter tracks non-WWE talent.

Some tips:

1. Call the venue or the contact number that's usually provided with the ad and double-check times. While you have the person on the phone, ask if you have to pay for the autograph. I could have saved myself a lot of time in the case of two such sessions where no cost was advertised. You might also ask if cameras are permitted - some sessions, there is a person on duty whose only job is to take polaroids of you and the wrestler and charge you an extra $5.

2. Get there as early as you can. Someone will have been there an hour before you. Even Hurricane can line em up around the block and he wasn't on tv, so good luck if it's Batista or Cena.....

3. One of the biggest reasons to get there early is to avoid the “Cattle Drive” syndrome that an overbooked session can become. If it's a book signing, sometimes they'll send someone down the line to mark the page to be signed and your name so that the wrestler knows how to spell it. If it's a “Bring your own” thing, you might have your items taken ahead of time. I had this happen to me in New York at an RVD signing and that really irritated me.

4. Occasionally a WWE camera crew will videotape autograph sessions, so keep your eyes open!

5. Again, have the camera ready - you're preventing the cattle drive if you're quick, polite, and prepared.

6. If you can stick around, some sessions are poorly attended and you might get a chance to talk to the wrestler. I had a great conversation with Jackie Gayda about the 04 draft since she had nothing better to do. I also had the good fortune of talking to Batista briefly at a session in early 2005, shortly before his face turn.

7. If you get to attended a meet and greet before a PPV, don't get your hopes TOO high - usually it's a group of B-carders who may not even be working the show (Bad Blood 04, we had Stevie Richards, Val Venis, Chuck Palumbo and Rhyno)

8. If you didn't bring anything for the wrestler to sign, there's usually someone selling something with that wrestler's picture on it - that ranges $5-10.

9. Book signings are strict - you MUST have the book to go up and get the autograph in most cases. Of all people, Triple H was most lenient with us when some people had odds and ends. He simply said “Let me sign all the books first” and we gave everyone their chance. My boyfriend walked up and had Triple H sign a sledgehammer.

10. Regardless of all the rules I have here, make sure that at the end of the day you had fun!
 

The dust has settled......

What to do with all your stuff afterwards?

1. If you have the time and patience, would you be willing to edit your pics yourself? I happily recommend Picasa2 (Google it!). It's a very user-friendly system that cleans up (and in some cases, salvages) pics from a show. The only thing it doesn't fix is blur.

2. Most drugstores that do photo processing have online services where you can upload pics to them for processing. Walgreens and CVS charge 19 cents a print.

3. For the real creative, I also recommend One True Media's site. They have a free area where you can upload pics and music and produce a short video. You get more features for signing up ($40 for the year) and you can order the completed videos on DVD. I also noticed that they do media conversion services, too.

4. I keep the autographed pictures in their own binder, labelling when the pic was taken and when it was signed.
 

And now.......

Nikki's Coolest moments on the road!

(in no particular order)

1. WCW Thunder, Gainesville, FL, 3/2001 - attended the very last Thunder produced.

2. KOR 2002, Columbus, OH - after the cameras stopped rolling we were treated to a little bit of goofing around with HHH, the Undertaker and the Rock, ending in a People's Elbow on taker from Rock - and a DX elbow from Triple H!

3. Smackdown in Rochester, July 2003 - this was a week or so after Kane's unmasking. I met a fan who was about Kane's size, wearing the mask and civilian clothes. He carried a “I'm the REAL Kane” sign to Raw and SD that week. This was also the day I saw John Cena battle rap a fan.

4. Raw in Grand Rapids, MI, August 2003 - Molly Holly promises to sign autographs once she gets her makeup on - then takes pics with fans with her hair in curlers! (this was also the same show that we followed Shawn Michaels to the arena)

5. Toledo Auto show, March 2004 - John Cena shows up 90 minutes early to sign autographs. I had Cena sign a photo and my Unscripted book, and mentioned the battle rap. He turns the picture over and writes out a coupon for a Battle rap at any time.

6. Detroit, Michigan, March 2004 - Detroit Draft Day! I witnessed the locker-room clearing brawl in its entirety.

7. Champaign, Illinois, Halloween 2004 - My first show as Nikki Heyman. Was stopped by an ECW fan who BEGGED me to find a way to get ECW back.

8. Dayton, OH, November 2004 - I finally meet “Uncle Paul” in person. RVD meets Nikki for the first time and calls her “Polly Heyman”. Tazz refers to the outfit as the “Paul E. Dangerously Starter's kit.”

9. Huntington, WV, June 2005 - Rosey snags one of my “Heroes” signs and shows it off to the crowd, then keeps it. Tells Nikki the following day he is planning on framing the poster.

10. One Night Stand, June 2005 - Nikki Heyman nearly killed by falling Luchadore

11. Lexington, KY, one month later - Cena tells Nikki “Your Uncle tore it up in NYC last month!”

12. Buffalo, NY - Nikki meets a famous writer (don't pretend you don't know who he is!)

13. November 2005, Indianapolis - I attend what was to be Eddie Guererro's last show.

14. Chicago, IL, January 2006 - Nikki drives almost 6 hours one way just to meet Chris Benoit.

15. Plymouth, MI, March 2006 - Nikki attends her first TNA show and meets 3 OOsters in the same day

16. Chicago, IL, April 2006 - my First Wrestlemania!

17. Wheeling, WV, June 2006 - the “Sabu with Latte” pic is taken, stirring some in the IWC to tears.

18. TNA Hardcore War, New Alhambra Arena, June 2006. Not only was this the first time I'd ever been there, but I survived the South Philly Chair Riot!

19. One Night Stand II, NYC, June 2006 - getting a “Paul E” chant from the assembled fans waiting to be let in for the show. I was permitted to cut in line.

20. ECW house show, Huntington, WV, July 2006 - got a speeding ticket en route to my first ECW only show and may have warned the cop about wrestlers speeding on state road 52.
 

Here's too 100 more shows - starting with three at the end of August! See you on the road!

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