Imagine a world where men and women have super-powers, wear outlandish costumes, and battle between good and evil in an ultimate fight for world domination. With The Avengers breaking box-office records this summer that vision of comic book characters coming to life is not a difficult thing to do. That blurred line between fantasy and reality – the core of the appeal for many attending last weekend’s Wizard World Comic Convention in Philadelphia – also helped draw huge crowds for another type of super hero.
Both former and current professional wrestling superstars saw record numbers at this year’s annual convention with thousands waiting in line for over four hours to grab an autograph from current WWE Champion CM Punk. Punk, an admitted ‘comic geek’ was overwhelmed at the turnout for his meet-and-great.
“It is very cool to meet the people that have been running this (Wizard World)”, said Punk. “I remember when Wizard World first came out. It kind of blows my mind that I am here and everyone came to see me. I got to meet Stan Lee and Thor (Chris Hemsworth)”.
The connection between comic book, sci-fi and professional wrestling is an easy path to take. All three depend upon larger-than-life characters, dramatic storylines and over-the-top action to entertain their massive followings. According to former WWE Superstar “Mouth of the South” Jimmy Hart, it is the entertainment value that is common between the genres.
“The most important thing is entertainment”, said Hart. “Our stuff (pro-wrestling) is very entertaining and I think the same thing goes for the comics and TV shows. If you look at a lot of the TV shows that are out now, it seems that the ones that get the most attention are still the ones that are the most flamboyant.”
“When the WWE took wrestling and took this form of sports entertainment that was very ‘blue collar’ in the 60’s and 70’s, they dressed it up”, explained former WWE villain Ted Dibiase. “He (Vince McMahon) added the music and the animated characters like Hulk Hogan and myself. I was the Snidely Whiplash of the WWE. It was all over-the-top and very much like comic book stuff.”
Dibiase, no stranger to comic conventions, was not surprised at the amount of wrestling fans in attendance over the weekend. While many were there to see CM Punk, legendary stars like Jimmy Hart, Paul Bearer, and Diamond Dallas Page had long lines from fans looking to meet their wrestling heroes.
“Wrestling fans are some of the most loyal fans of any sport. Once they are with you they are with you forever. People who follow wrestling are bigger fans than the people who might follow a football player or a baseball player. They see you every week – there are no off-seasons. You don’t have a helmet on your head, they hear your interviews, and they may not get that chance with other sports.”
Dibiase can certainly relate. Growing up, he was a fan of many of the popular comic book heroes. His favorite?
“I was a really big Superman guy. For once I rooted for the good guy.”
photo by del Tufo.
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