Interesting, Wrestling

Editorial: SICW Fan Fest 2 brought fans from all walks of life together

Posted: May 20, 2024 at 3:13 pm   /   by   /   comments (0)

Over the weekend, pro wrestling fans were treated to quite a show by Southern Illinois Championship Wrestling (SICW).

Wrestling historian, longtime promoter and SICW owner Herb Simmons used some of the many connections and friendships he’s made over the years in pro wrestling to put together SICW Fan Fest 2. The event first came to life last summer, when Simmons brought in over 50 of his friends to sign autographs and take photos with fans. The event was capped off with the induction ceremony for the St. Louis Wrestling Hall of Fame and an evening of pro wrestling put on by SICW talent. The event was such a success that Simmons decided to do another one this year.

The one thing we know about a sequel is that it has to be bigger and better. This year’s event proved to be just that. Instead of a one-day event, Simmons added Friday night to the card. Longtime wrestling journalist Bill Apter agreed to join this year’s event, putting on his 1-Man Show on Friday night to a sold-out crowd. Apter stuck around to sign autographs, take photos, talk with fans and eat this writer’s dark chocolate left on the table, as I sold signed copies of my book, For the Love of the Show: Pro Wrestling Fans Tell Their Stories. (Yes, I had to get the shameless plug in there somewhere)

The event was well organized, as Simmons had the help of many including Nick Ridenour who probably eclipsed 10,000 steps within the first couple hours on Friday night.

On Saturday, fans arrived to The Aviator Hotel in South County to see vendors who were selling signed POP Figures, signed photos and much, much more, including books like For the Love of the Show (shameless plug #2). Legends of the past such as Tommy ‘Wildfire’ Rich, “Boogie Woogie” Jimmy Valiant, Wendy Richter, Abdullah the Butcher, Teddy Long, Jimmy Hart, Papa Shango, and many more mingled with fans while signing photos, taking photos, and telling stories.

The crowd, of probably around 1,000 people, walked around the conference room the majority of the day, talking to some of their favorite legends of the past and meeting new friends. I personally met several wrestling fans who had stories to tell. It was an enjoyable way to spend a rather warm Saturday.

The highlight of the event for many is the St. Louis Wrestling Hall of Fame induction. This year, fans were in for a treat, as ‘Cowboy’ Bob Orton was inducted by his family. It had been talked about all week by wrestling fans, would Randy Orton actually show up? Yes, he did! The WWE Superstar and St. Louis native managed to take time out from the crazy world of the WWE to appear with his sister Becky, and brother Nathan, to honor their father. As the Orton family entered the ring to talk about their dad, the one thing that stood out to me was the audience. It wasn’t just longtime fans of pro wrestling, but young as well. Many fans brought their children with them, as pro wrestling is something a lot of fathers and sons share a love for. It wasn’t just men in the crowd, as women made up a decent percentage. There were not just white or black fans in the crowd, or short, skinny, etc. People from all walks of life attended the event. That’s the thing I took away from the event this past weekend, was that no matter what your race, sex, social status, pro wrestling welcomes all. It’s one of the rare events that brings people together.

Professional sports often divides fans’, sometimes even families, but pro wrestling brings folks together, just as I witnessed on Saturday. While many of the independent wrestling organizations in St. Louis seem to have drama with one another, maybe they should take a page out of the fan’s book and just get along. Simmons’ organization showed that when done right, pro wrestling can welcome all and everyone can get along because regardless of who our favorite performer may be, we all love pro wrestling.

Perhaps if more organizations based out of St. Louis could put their egos aside and recognize that working together would not only benefit the performers and each organization, but the fans as well, more events like this would be possible. For an artform that brings so many folks together who may normally not hang out together, there is sure a lot of turmoil going on with the St. Louis wrestling scene. Simmons’, whose time in the business harkens back to the territory days, is old school and there’s nothing wrong with that, because this past weekend, Old School was cool again.