Thanks to Michael for sending in the following report:
The TNA VIP Package
TNA put together a special “Ultimate Fan Xperience” for their recently concluded Victory Road pay-per-view. The price point was initially $299, but TNA encountered ludicrously poor sales. I could actually hear Mark Madden cackling in my head when I read the report that they’d only sold about 10 tickets for the event. The organization responded by lowering the price to $99, and since I live within driving distance of Orlando, I thought I’d check out the festivities.
WrestleZone previously posted the press release, but essentially we’re talking about a four-day event which included the following attractions:
Sadly, I’m not just a fabulously talented wrestling website contributor… I have a day job. So I wasn’t able to stick around for the Monday and Tuesday tapings. But I wanted to give you a few quick impressions of the VIP package.
The autograph signing on Saturday night was scheduled for 8:00 PM. I showed up at 7:40, and promptly found myself at the back of a line of about 50 people. This wouldn’t have been so bad, but I soon realized that there was another line with another 60 or 70 people who had already gone through their initial registration and were just waiting for the doors to open. Jimmy Hart and Jeremy Borash came out to pump up the crowd a little bit and tell us what order the autograph tables were in (so we could get our photos and memorabilia properly arranged before we walked into the conference room). We then received a lanyard with a VIP access pass and a packet of 8”x10” press photos before we swarmed the talent.
I just want to say that every single person there was incredibly gracious. If you’ve ever attended a mass autograph signing before (or tried to keep Chris Jericho from getting into his car), you know that a lot of entertainers consider fan interaction to be a rather painful obligation. Half of them had to put up with me going all Chris Farley Show on them and stammering through my small talk.
The tables were set up in the following order: Jimmy Hart, Desmond Wolfe, Doug Williams, Alex Shelley and Chris Sabin (the Motor City Machine Guns), Angelina Love, Samoa Joe, SoCal Val, Taylor Wilde, Jeff Jarrett, Jeremy Borash, Sarita, Ric Flair, and AJ Styles. In a nice surprise, our packet included signed photos of a few other big names who weren’t in attendance: Mr. Anderson, Jeff Hardy, Rob Van Dam, and Kurt Angle. I won’t make you read my impressions of everyone, but here were a couple of highlights for me:
I want to Jimmy Hart to work PR at every event I ever attend. He was actually standing in front of his table to greet people in a more personal manner, with a TNA employee standing close by to take pictures of him with every single autograph signer. He even brought along his megaphone from WrestleMania III (which I asked to hold for my photo with him). I asked him to personalize my autograph, so here’s the text on my 8”x10”: “To Mike: Eat your heart out Rick Springfield. Jimmy Hart”
Sunday was the night of Victory Road, and we started it off with another long stint in line. Unlike Saturday night’s event, we were outdoors in the heat and humidity of central Florida. I’m terrible at estimating crowd sizes, but it looked to me that there were more people waiting for tickets than could possibly fit inside the small venue. For those who have never been inside the Impact Zone, it’s nothing like any televised WWE event I’ve ever been to. The entire soundstage can only handle about 1,300 people, and we already had well over 100 VIP ticket holders whose seats were guaranteed. I’d be surprised if TNA didn’t have to turn away people at the door.
The pre-show “meal with TNA stars” was titled a bit optimistically, though. It was more like “eating from TNA’s catering company while watching wrestlers walk around the soundstage.” The Hebners came through while I was eating, and Shannon Moore sat at the table next to mine. Brother Devon came by all smiles, greeting everyone he knew. I’m not complaining, though, because between the meal and when we actually walked into the arena, some of the TNA stars stood around long enough for fans to get photos and autographs. I met a shockingly low-key Mr. Anderson right before the show, and I saw Jesse Neal with a big crowd around him.
TNA advertised “special VIP seating” for the pay-per-view, but again, we’re talking about such a small venue that this wasn’t a huge perk. If you like to stand along the railing for the duration of the show, then it was certainly an advantage to get into the arena early. But for a person like me, who prefers to sit in the bleachers anyway, this really only meant moving up a handful of rows.
As for Victory Road itself, you can obviously read our coverage of the results for a full play-by-play. There was a dark match beforehand between Jeff Jarrett and Desmond Wolfe, filmed with just the VIP section in attendance. They put on a pretty good show, and Wolfe had some funny banter with the fans. For the ending, Wolfe had Jarrett set up for the Tower of London, but at the last moment Jarrett sprang off the turnbuckle and hit The Stroke for the clean pinfall victory.
I’m not sure how things came off on television, but a couple of quick notes:
After the show ended, they rounded the VIPs up in the same area where the wrestlers were cutting their backstage promos. Eventually they led us back into a section of Universal Studios which remained open just for us. There was another buffet line set up, the arcade was set to free play, and they gave us unlimited access to the “Revenge of the Mummy” ride. I’m serious about “unlimited,” too – no line at all, sit wherever you want, and they ran the thing continuously no matter how many people were waiting (the second time I went on it, it was only me and two other people). I thought the TNA guys would blow off the afterparty, but I was wrong – they showed up in force. If you’re wondering what Jay Lethal does after wrestling a match with Ric Flair, apparently he plays Guitar Hero with random fans. I left pretty early, but I saw Lethal, Rob Terry, Desmond Wolfe, Doug Williams, Jeremy Borash, Brother DeVon, and Mr. Anderson. I also managed to sneak in another picture of SoCal Val (hopefully she’ll remember to bring that dress on our honeymoon).
So the big question at the end – was it worth it? Abso-freakin’-lutely. For $99, you’d have to be crazy to pass all this up. Keep in mind that the package also included tickets to the Impact tapings on Monday and Tuesday as well… I only attended two days of a four-day promotion, and I’m completely satisfied with my purchase. I had a blast, met some great people, and even got a couple of free meals out of the deal. I highly recommend jumping on this experience if TNA offers this sort of discount again, and you may even want to consider it at the original price of $299.
The only downsides were the amount of time you spend in line and the lack of signs at the hotel and at Universal Studios letting you know exactly where to go. Hopefully they’ll be able to streamline the process a bit in the future. But overall, I know that I’ll definitely make room in my budget in case they do it again.
For those of you who are (oddly) curious, I posted a few photos from the event for public consumption here: http://picasaweb.google.com/michael.sullivan23/TNAUltimateFanXperience. And of course if you have any questions you can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org