– Thanks to Mark Carpowich and PWInsider for the following:
On Saturday afternoon, TNA stood for “total nonstop autographs,” as pretty much everyone on the promotion’s roster met for nearly five hours with around 700 fans in a Hilton Hotel ballroom in Irvine, Calif. The TNA Fan Interaction event was orderly and tightly run, with fans getting the opportunity to get autographs and pictures with wrestlers.
Atlas Security was on hand to keep everyone in order, and in fact helped expel a couple in their 50s who attempted to get into the event without tickets, then began shooting pictures of the ballroom from the lobby. The room was rectangular, with wrestlers stationed at tables along the long walls. There was a merchandise booth set up at one end, and the same ring that will be used at Bound For Glory was set up in the middle of the room. Fans were given the chance to approach and touch the ring. It was also used for periodic announcements and interviews with Jeremy Borash.
The event was broken into three consecutive 90-minute blocks; with the exception of The Beautiful People, who stayed for two sessions, every wrestler met fans for only one of these sessions. Fans simply had to stand in line to meet the wrestler of their choice. Though Don West was walking around the room selling programs, which could be signed by the wrestlers, fans could also buy 8×10 photos for autographs. The wrestlers were very flexible about what they were willing to sign; Bobby Lashley, for instance, autographed an ECW replica belt for one fan.
Line length varied, with some (Christopher Daniels, Alissa Flash) requiring about a 5-minute wait, while others (AJ Styles, The Beautiful People) looked to be about a 30-minute wait. A TNA employee was stationed at each table to take pictures for fans, which helped the lines move more quickly. Most wrestlers seemed to be in good spirits, with some (like Daniels) going out of their way to thank fans for attending. Unlike similar WWE events, very few children attended TNA Fan Interaction, though fans came from as far away as Europe, South America and Latin America for Saturday’s event.
In addition to selling programs and photos, a TNA merchandise booth was selling everything from T-shirts to more costly items, including a $400 replica belt, $150 guitar autographed by Jeff Jarrett, and $100 “limited edition Sting autographed standup.” The event also featured a green-screen area, where fans could be photographed in front of a green screen, then have their photo superimposed into a TNA ring. Referee Earl Hebner was available for photos in this area as well. Though a fun idea, the green-screen photos did not look at all realistic.
Agents like D’Lo Brown and Terry Taylor were walking around the ballroom, though repeatedly refused fans’ requests for pictures. TNA president Dixie Carter also met with fans, though she was very enthusiastic about signing autographs and posing for pictures in an impromptu appearance toward the end of the first session. Carter also got into the ring and thanked everyone in attendance.
For the most part, the transition between sessions seemed to run smoothly. Signs hung behind each wrestler who was meeting fans, and at the end of each session, TNA staff simply hung a new sign for the wrestler who would appear next. Other than Scott Steiner, who was advertised but had not shown up by the time his session started (which was not explained by anyone, leaving fans who had already begun lining up wondering whether they were wasting their time), wrestlers arrived on time and stayed for the duration of their session.
Other than a couple of house shows last fall, TNA has not ventured into California, so the organization has to see Saturday’s event as a success. Getting to meet basially everyone on the roster was well worth the $55 admission price ($65 for walkup purchases), and despite the crowds and sometimes long waits, fans appeared to be in great spirits. Though there was no way to meet every single wrestler, TNA organized the event in a way that allowed fans to move through the lines quickly and efficiently, and get the most for their money.