MASSENA - The stars of Impact Wrestling returned to the Massena Arena for the first time since 2011 and were greeted by an enthusiastic crowd that filled the floor seats and much of the bleachers.
Recreation Superintendent Richard A. Boprey said 300 Gold Circle seats, those closest to the ring, were sold out. He estimated the crowd on the floor and in the bleachers at approximately 1,700 fans, who openly shared their feelings about the heels (the bad guys and girls) and the faces (the fan favorites) when the wrestlers entered the ring.
The Gold Circle ticket holders had an opportunity enter the arena early and receive autographs from wrestlers Hernandez, Magnus, Gail Kim, Joseph Park, Matt Morgan and Rockstar Spud. Before entering the arena, they waited in a line that stretched from the arena door to three-quarters of the way across the parking lot.
It was the first live match Tim Boprey said he had seen. He was in line with his son, Trevor, waiting for the opportunity to meet the stars and watch the action.
I watch it on Thursday nights (on television), Tim said. Its pretty exciting. I like what I see on TV.
He said he been watching wrestling for close to 40 years.
I remember those real old days when they were live on Saturday morning, Tim said.
Given the choice between Impact Wrestling and their competitors, he said he would rather watch the Impact stars.
I like Impact better. It seems a little more real, Tim said.
Trevor said he was looking forward to seeing all the stars, particularly Olympic gold medalist Kurt Angle, who squared off against Bully Ray in a match for the TNA World Heavyweight Champion belt.
Hes like one of the older wrestlers, Trevor said.
His dad said one of his favorite wrestlers was The Icon Sting.
Hes older than me and still going strong, he said.
Fan Curtis LaHart was at the head of the line, a spot he and his friends had taken at 3:25 p.m. even though the doors wouldnt open until 5:30 p.m.
The 27-year-old said he has been watching wrestling since he was young.
I like all contact sports, he said.
Like Mr. Boprey and his son, Mr. LaHart said he prefers Impact Wrestling.
The same people dont win all the time, he said.
Fan Jonathan Gilbo didnt have to stand in line. Like he had done in 2011, the last time the show was offered in Massena, he helped set up the ring and had been at the arena since about 11:30 a.m.
The manager at the Massena Arena asked for volunteers. Setting up the ring is a special treat for me. Its very hard to do, he said.
Jonathan said his favorite wrestlers were Jeff Hardy, who wasnt on tour with the others, and the TNA Knockouts Division Champion Velvet Sky, who was in the house to take on Gail Kim. Ms. Sky spent time before he show signing autographs and posing for pictures with fans.
I cant wait to meet her. Im in love with her, he said.
The evenings other matches featured X Division Champion Kenny King against Rockstar Spud for the title, Magnus against A.J. Styles, Devon against Joseph Park, and Hernandez and Matt Morgan. It also featured the appearance of the renegade group that calls itself Aces and Eights.
Prior to appearing in Massena, Mr. Morgan had been in Plattsburgh the day before to raise money for Nathan Wood, a 17-year-old wrestler from Saranac Central whos battling Ewings Sarcoma, a rare form of cancer.
Mr. Morgan, who stands 7 feet tall and weights 326 pounds, signed autographs and took pictures with local fans at the Champlain Centre Old Navy in Plattsburgh. All proceeds from the event went directly to the Wood family.
It went really good for Nathan Wood. It was a better turnout than we thought, he said prior to his match in Massena.
Mr. Morgan said he tries to take part in as many fundraisers as possible. Its an opportunity to raise some money and some awareness, he said.
Anything like this, Im usually TNAs go to guy, he said.
It helps having someone with name recognition in their corner to help raise funds, according to Mr. Morgan.
Kids look to us as idols. I dont think our job should stop when we get off television, he said.