WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - Sports entertainment stars, both past and present, hit the ropes in Wilmington Saturday for the third annual, Masters of Entertainment Pro Wrestling Fan Expo.
Wrestlers from some of the world's largest wrestling federations were in attendance. They signed autographs and took pictures with fans who were lined up outside the door hours before the show started.
"Lets face it, without the fans, you really don't have anything," said former WWE and current TNA Wrestling star, Al Snow. "We can perform, we can do whatever we're going to do, but without that fan base, we really don't have a job."
The big names attracted a crowd from the across the country.
"People come out, and spend their hard earned money, It's a cliche, but it's so true," said Global Force Wrestling Founder and former world champion Jeff Jarrett. "There's great action in the ring, but it's that up close, and one-on-one personal interaction is what's special these days."
Wrestling fans come in all ages, races and genders. Thanks to the advent of video streaming services, like the WWE Network, younger fans can discover the sports entertainment art form. That trend, WWE Hall of Famer Kevin Nash said, is noticeable when he does local appearances.
"A lot of the people that will come to see me will be 8 to 12-year-old kids who weren't even born in my hay day," explained Nash.
North Carolina was part of the Jim Crockett's mid-Atlantic territory in the early days of professional wrestling. Independent promotions, like Masters of Ring Entertainment, allow stars at all career stages hone their craft.
"You start here in the indys and then you work your way up to the big time, but once the big time is over, you come back here," said independent wrestler James Ryan. "They're still coming in. (The fans) are still going to be here no matter what."
Many mainstream wrestlers find work outside of wresting once their careers wind down. One such man is former WCW star and founder of DDP Yoga, "Diamond" Dallas Page.
"There was a woman who just came over to me, going, 'Diamond, I loved watching you growing up, and you're such a big part of my life then,'" said Page. "The people get to connect back to me, to tell me what they think of DDP Yoga. It would really shock you."
"We're excited to bring this kind of quality of wrestling to Wilmington." said promoter Bambi Weavill. "We hope Wilmington continues to support us."
The night culminated with a live wrestling show and the crowning of the first ever Masters of Ring Heavyweight Championship, featuring a triple-threat match between Jeff Jarrett, James Storm and Ethan Carter III.