By Dawn Secord, is a long time fan of the National Wrestling Alliance and this is her experience at the NWA Fan Meet Up prior to the NWA 70th Anniversary Show
The night before the big event, an unusual mixture of wrestling fans from around the country met at A.J.’s Good Time Bar, in Nashville. We had only known each other from friendly banter on Twitter and YouTube. Basically…we were strangers.
A forty-something-year-old soccer Mom parked her car and walked a couple of blocks to Broadway, the street known for its nightlife. She wore jeans and an ugly Hawaiian shirt, the requested dress code for the event. That soccer Mom was me, and I had no idea what to expect when I arrived.
The street was electric with neon lights, country music and drunken bachelorette parties screaming from the backs of trucks.
I stopped and looked up at the flickering sign over A.J.’s, and took a deep breath.
Would anyone be there?
Would I be the only idiot wearing a Hawaiian shirt?
Would I recognize anyone?
Would anyone recognize me?
The stairway was dark and wide. The smell of beer got stronger and the music got louder as I walked up the stairs. Entering through the doorway at the top, I saw two tables on my right, but they were empty. A cowboy was perched on a stool, strumming his guitar and belting out “I got friends in low places.” Yes…he was wearing a white cowboy hat, cowboy boots, and probably a starched pair of Wranglers.
To my left was a long bar, crowded with locals and tourists having drinks, but there were no Hawaiian shirts in sight. I made my way through the crowd, about halfway down the bar when couple of brightly patterned shirts (definitely Hawaiian) popped through. There were a few people I recognized from their Twitter profiles. I kept walking until I spotted the ginger-haired, heavily moustached host, Adam Rotella. I don’t remember which of us spoke first, but he enthusiastically said “Dawn, thank you for coming and for wearing a Hawaiian shirt!” It was a warm greeting that surprised me.
Adam asked me how I became interested in Wrestling, and I explained that I had grown up watching it with my uncles who were just a few years older than I was, and I had always loved it. In fact, my earliest childhood memory of any kind was of watching wrestling with my Great Grandfather.
Next, Adam introduced me to his friend Patrick. Then I met Jay, Larry, Stan, and a few others. We would chat for a few minutes, then somebody new would join in on the conversation. Each of us had special memories tied to the NWA.
Then the question came. “If you had one of the NWA Worlds Heavyweight title belts, and could only have one autograph from one Champion, who would you choose?”
A few said they would have Cody Rhodes sign it, others chose Nick Aldis. When it was my turn, I said “Without hesitation, Dory Funk Jr. He is the NWA. He held the title for four years; won it from Gene Kiniski, and lost it to Harley Race. He is one tough son of a gun. He also trained Matt & Jeff Hardy, Lita, Edge, Christian, and Kurt Angle.”
Everyone was staring at me. Had I said something offensive? Was there an alien coming out of my face. Then Jay said “Adam, she knows more about wrestling than I do.”
“That was nicest thing anyone has ever said to me,” I said with a big goofy grin across my face.
As the night wore on, we talked about the history and the future of the NWA. There were predictions, hopes and dreams. There was laughter. There were also moments when I had a lump in my throat from someone sharing a touching memory. One of the fellas grew up watching wrestling with his Grandmother. She passed away a few years ago, but he kept watching. Now, when her favorite wrestler comes on, this guy remembers her and the time they had together.
Here’s the amazing thing: the group of us, standing in that bar was a completely mixed bag. Different religions, different sexes, different skin colors, different cultural backgrounds, and different political beliefs. But none of that stuff would divide us on that night, because we shared something that overshadowed all of our differences. We all love the NWA and professional wrestling.
The whole situation reminded me of sitting around the table at Thanksgiving Dinner.
And there it was, the lesson for the night: “They have a universe. We have a family.”
I made the tragic mistake of saying that out loud to Adam.
“Yes, God Damn It! That’s good. I’m using that, Dawn!”, he declared.
I fought back “No Adam, you can’t have that! It’s mine!” And we laughed.
That night he produced a moving video, where he used my line about being a family. I was proud that he had strategically plagiarized my idea. People began responding to his video. It was giving them chills. That’s what wrestling is about: making you feel something. That simple idea had made people feel something. A connection.
Thank you to all who left your homes, took time off of work and away from family to experience the NWA 70th Anniversary. I’m so happy to have you in the family. Pass the turkey.