Professional wrestling fans will be able to come to Myrtle Beach for wrestling events and pay homage to their former heroes on the same trip as part of a plan developed by Charlotte-area promoter Greg Price.
Price will launch a professional wrestling Spring Showdown Series Saturday night at his “Sportatorium” arena, which he created from leased space at X Gym Sports Mall, just west of the Intracoastal Waterway off U.S. 501.
The creator of an annual Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling Legends Fanfest in Charlotte, Price promises to bring in a style of pro wrestling he describes as “more realistic” than the style exhibited by industry leader World Wrestling Entertainment.
“It’s wrestling as realistic as it gets,” Price said. “With only one company, WWE, everything is scripted, girls and guys are all jacked up and everybody looks the same. It’s just a different style nowadays.
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“We’re going to be more of an athletic competition than what you see now on TV.”
The three-date series, which continues on April 4 and May 2, is part of a plan to be completed by next spring that will include development of a home for his Mid-Atlantic Hall of Fame-type “Hall of Heroes” and expansion of the Sportatorium to “1,000 to 1,200” seats. Further projects could include a television show featuring taped action from live events.
“This is basically a dry run for events next spring,” said Price, who also hopes to bring other combat sports such as boxing and mixed martial arts to the Sportatorium.
Price said temporary seats and bleachers on three sides of the ring will accommodate “a few hundred” spectators Saturday. Ticket information is available at www.livefrommyrtlebeach.com. Seats are $20 for the front row and $10 for the rest. Autographs and photo opportunities start at 6 p.m. with a 7 p.m. belltime.
Though WWE wrestlers are not scheduled for local cards, Price said crowds will be impressed with the bouts.
“We’re making an effort to pool top talent from all across the country to come to Myrtle Beach,” he said. “The wrestlers we will have are recognized as up-and-coming wrestlers.”
Saturday’s card features a tag-team match between Team Lucha and The Bravado Brothers; Corey Hollis vs. former NWA world junior heavyweight champion “The Crown Jewel” Chase Owens; and “The Thoroughbred” Jaxson James against “The Southern Savior” John Skyler.
The rest of the card includes Tessa Blanchard, the daughter of former pro wrestler Tully Blanchard; Mickey Gambino; “Cauliflower” Brown, Josh Cutshall and Kameron Kade. Former WWE women’s wrestler and Playboy model Christy Hemme will make an appearance.
If the projects proceed as he expects, Price said the complex would likely play host to Fanfest, an annual event where Heroes are inducted and pro wrestling fans mingle with industry stars. Price has held Fanfest, which began in February and moved to August, in Charlotte since 2004.
“There could very possibly be a Fanfest-type event in Myrtle Beach when we open up,” he said.
Price said he thought the constant stream of tourists made Myrtle Beach the ideal site for his projects.
Most Heroes have major connections to the former Mid-Atlantic Wrestling, which was based in Charlotte and controlled wrestling in the Carolinas, Virginia and Savannah, Ga.
“Myrtle Beach is the ‘Redneck Riviera,’ right?” said Price. “It’s a short drive, a fun place to go. Everybody wants to come to the beach. People who travel can see the museum as part of a vacation.”
Price, who began inducting Heroes without a facility to house it in 2007, believes wrestling fans will appreciate a shrine for old-style wrestlers. He said at least a few dozen Heroes had been inducted but did not want to mention a few without including them all.
Former WWE (previously World Wrestling Federation) stars such as Hulk Hogan are not included as Heroes.
Price said it was too early to know how each Hero would be honored at the facility, but that memorabilia and collectibles from their careers would be included. He said local artists are working on life-sized murals of Heroes.
“Wrestling doesn’t treat older guys like other sports honor legends,” Price said. “When we started Fanfest people from everywhere came out of the woodwork for everything. The appeal was evident from that.”
The National Wrestling Alliance, which included several regional wrestling circuits, has a Hall of Fame as does WWE, which has inducted members of four different circuits.
Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce president Brad Dean said events at the Sportatorium and the Hall of Heroes would benefit local businesses, especially hotels, during the “slow seasons.”
Dean said that not only is sports tourism expanding, but it’s “recession-proof.” As an example, he said families may eliminate or cut back vacations, but they’ll still go to their children’s youth league tournaments.
“It’s kind of a perfect marriage,” he said. “We see this fitting in nicely to the fast-growing industry of sports tourism.”
Dean said his organization doesn’t plan to market the Hall of Heroes to all tourists, but acknowledges its appeal to a “specific” audience. He said the chamber did not recruit the wrestling projects, but welcomed them to the area.
“It remains to be seen whether (the Hall of Heroes) will be a viable attraction, but (the Sportatorium) can compete with events that otherwise would go elsewhere,” Dean said.