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  Mar 27, 1999

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Fans seek out autographs
By GREG OLIVER -- At WrestleMania
Butterbean signs autographs.
-- Greg Oliver, CANOE -- Photo
 PHILADELPHIA -- The autograph seekers are out in full force in downtown Philly, on the prowl for WWF superstars.
  Nick, 37, is a professional autograph hound from Reading, PA, and he believes that wrestlers are only second to hockey players and boxing when it comes to accommodating their fans.
  "Some of them love it," he said. "It's close to being in Hollywood [for them]."
  Billy 'Bad Ass' Gunn, Gillberg, Christian, Edge, Deborah, The Rock, Kane and Ken Shamrock all get high marks for signing almost anything put infront of them.
  The flipside, said Nick who has been at the downtown hotel since Friday, are those who refuse to sign, such as Chyna and X-Pac. Stone Cold Steve Austin rarely has time, but then, he's probably signed more autographs in his career already than all the other previously-mentioned names put together.
  Tori, the newcomer to the WWF women's division, was the absolute worst, Nick said. She wouldn't sign autographs or even pose for photos.
  Boxing star Butterbean, who is slated to face Bart Gunn at tomorrow's WrestleMania, has been "out of this world," said Nick, who's been chasing stars for 12-13 years.
  As one of the targets of the fans, Val Venis had a little advice for fans: Don't approach him when he is eating or in deep conversation. "That's rude," said the Big Valbowski, who admits he takes his newfound fame "day by day."
  Fans don't have to wait in the lobby long to see wrestlers come in, but sometimes it is difficult to determine who they are.
  More than once, "is that 8-Ball?", or "isn't that Howard Finkel?", is heard in the lobby, while WWF legends like Tony Garea and Blackjack Lanza go by unrecognized.
  WrestleMania notebook:
  • Ryan Shamrock has gone in for at least one training session in the WWF Dojo. No word yet on when or if she will get in the ring.
  • Owen Hart had a nightmarish trip to Philadelphia. His flight from Calgary to Toronto got in fine, but he had a four-hour layover after an overnight flight before hopping on an 10:50 am flight from Toronto to Philly (along with this reporter). He pulled his ballcap over his head and tried to sleep most of the way.
More after the WrestleMania Rage party.

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