On Friday morning, the Millennium Biltmore hotel in Downtown Los Angeles will be transformed into a Mecca for wrestling fans in town for WrestleMania weekend.
A WrestleMania staple, WrestleCon is back for what could be their biggest convention yet. Spanning over three days, nearly 200 current and former wrestlers and other wrestling personalities will be on hand to meet the thousands of fans who will wait hours in lines to get a photo or an autograph.
The road to Los Angeles took a detour this year with a stop in San Antonio for a surprise WrestleCon during Royal Rumble weekend. Needless to say, the convention, a smaller version of what Highspots usually sets up for WrestleMania, was a massive success.
“We have been talking about doing something smaller for years based around pay-per-views and we just felt San Antonio would be a great market,” explained Michael Bochicchio, the brains behind WrestleCon and Highspots. He described San Antonio as a great town and it was easy to assemble a street team the day before to spread the word about Destination: WrestleCon at the Marriott at San Antonio’s River Walk.
Bochicchio admitted he and his team had no idea what to expect for the one-day event, especially since they didn’t pre-sell anything. “It really blew away all expectations,” he said, although noting that entrance was free unlike the bigger WrestleCon during Mania weekends.
Destination: WrestleCon was not a one-time thing either. Bochicchio said that plans are already underway for Detroit during SummerSlam weekend and future WrestleCons will be based depending on the market the big shows are in.
“If an event is in Philly, Chicago, or New York, we probably won’t do this type of event,” Michael continued. “Those markets constantly have meet and greet opportunities whereas a market like San Antonio and Detroit are under-served.
While San Antonio might have been an easier deal, booking a space for the size of WrestleCon in Los Angeles is a different beast altogether. Unfortunately for Bochicchio, he had to do it twice, as WrestleMania 37 was supposed to be in Los Angeles before it was moved to 39 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The first time WWE was planning to go to Los Angeles, we had an entirely different hotel under contract. When the dates got moved, our original hotel didn’t have availability so we had to find a second option,” Bochicchio said.
The new hotel is the Biltmore Los Angeles, part of the Millennium brand, located on S Grand Ave, just a few minutes away from the Crypto.com Arena in downtown. The hotel has played part in many movies along the years, such as Ghostbusters and Beverly Hills Cop.
It’s also considered to be one of the most haunted hotels in the United States. One of the most publicized murders was that of Elizabeth Short, known as the Black Dahlia, who was found brutally murdered in January 1947, a murder which has so far remained unsolved. Her body was found sliced in half at the waist and completely drained of blood. Legend has it that Short’s ghost continues to haunt the lobby, 10th and 11th floors of The Biltmore to this day. The lobby is the last place where Short was seen alive.
“Some things were meant to be. Our hotel is excited about wrestling fans taking over their hotel,” he said. That’s not something all hotels openly say, but it spells good news for those who will be staying there for WrestleMania weekend. Hopefully, for fans spending nights here, Short’s ghost remains hidden and is not curious to see what the chants of “Wooooo!” and “Yes!” and “What?” are about, typical chants which fill hotels when wrestling fans are around.
More people are expected in Los Angeles than Dallas last year for this year’s show and Bochicchio said that their Dallas crowd was very good and this year they’re on track to be on the same level. You will notice a difference though as this year, WrestleCon is spread out over three different floors and in seven huge rooms to accommodate everyone.
One thing we noticed this year was that the price was kept the same as previous years. We asked if inflation miraculously didn’t hit Highspots. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case.
“Inflation certainly hit,” Bochicchio said. “But since we don’t offer live shows as part of package this year, we felt we had to keep prices in line with previous years.”
He admitted that the popular Superfan ticket, where fans purchase one ticket for $139 and get access to all days, might not come again next year so they wanted to make sure they went out with some consistency between the last two years in terms of pricing.
The line-up this year is huge, with a lot of first-timers as well such as Mercedes Mone, who is expected to bring big lines for her Sunday morning appearance. Trish Status and Lita, who are popular at these shows, are also returning despite being busy at WrestleMania. Bret Hart, Goldberg, The Young Bucks, Adam Cole, Mick Foley, Jon Moxley, Kurt Angle, Britt Baker, FTR, and many others are also part of the impressive line-up.
“Every year is hard to compare against the other, but I think we have the biggest stars that were available to us,” Bochicchio said when the magnitude of that line-up was brought up. “We certainly would love to have guys like Steve Austin every year, but his strong ties to the WWE limit his availability.”
Two individuals who don’t really like each other, or at least one doesn’t like the other, will cross paths in the first session. Goldberg will only be there for one day while Bret “Hit Man” Hart will be there for all sessions.
There’s no love lost between Goldberg and Bret and everyone knows the backstory. “I’m planning on putting their tables next to each other,” joked Bochicchio.
“Honestly, we tried to pull off a dual photo op and that was shut down quickly,” Michael continued. Oh well, there’s always next time, right?
A new addition to WrestleCon this year is Straight Outta WrestleCon, an after party which will take place at the Globe Theatre. This is the first time there will be something of this nature during the popular convention.
“This is definitely a feature that I would expect to be unique to Los Angeles. We are in the entertainment capital of the world after all, so why not do a VIP party with music, dance, and spoken word,” Bochicchio said. “Honestly, we looked at doing another live event on Friday night and just decided that 100 shows in one weekend was enough, so let’s try to do something different.”
Meet and greets are not the only thing WrestleCon has that weekend. The Mark Hitchcock Memorial Super-Show takes place on March 30 at 4PM, the sold-out Impact x NJPW: Multiverse United show takes place on the same day at 8PM, a Tokyo Joshi Pro-Wrestling event is set for March 31 at Noon, and Prestige Wrestling: Nervous Breakdown is also taking place on March 31 at 4PM. And not to mention the other shows from different promotions throughout the Los Angeles area that weekend.
“I also wanted to create something of value for the Superfans, a place they could just relax and enjoy on Friday night that wouldn’t cost them anything more to do. They are already supporting us by purchasing their hotel rooms, bus tickets, and admission sessions, we felt this was something we could do that would be fun for everybody,” Michael said.
Several stars are scheduled to be part of the after party including Mickie James, Colt Cabana, Mick Foley, and AEW’s Max Caster, whose set is apparently amazing.
Fans attending WrestleCon will be able to use both cash and credit cards at the convention although not everyone will be able to accept a credit card. The issue of credit cards led to some long lines in San Antonio, with fans having to line up at a different station to purchase their photo ops with a card and then go in line to meet their favorite stars.
Bochicchio said that there’s some misconception about WrestleCon that they bring all the talent, when in fact, they don’t.
“They either bring themselves or they are brought in by a vendor. While I understand it’s frustrating when talent doesn’t do preorders or they don’t accept credit cards, they also are trying to make things easier on themselves,” he said.
Bochicchio noted that there was a percentage of fans who tried to do charge-backs on their credit card following their event in an attempt to get their money back after getting their photo or autograph. This was very frustrating for Highspots who had to challenge them, as well as the stars who accepted cards at the event.
“If a wrestler or vendor is happy with the money they take in without having to use those methods, who are we to judge?” he said.
Bochicchio encouraged fans to bring cash if they choose not to pay in advance but noted that more than half of their vendors will accept credit cards, Venmo, or PayPal on site. Since they only do WrestleCon once or twice a year, he said it was not feasible to invest in around 200 credit card terminals at each table. ATMs inside the hotel and around the Biltmore can also be used to get cash if required.
The Pro Photo Op option is also returning this year, but this time it will be different.
Bochicchio said that their biggest mistake in Dallas last year was taking on this themselves, with the operation for professional photos taking many of his staff away when they could have been used somewhere else.
This year, Pose Photos will be doing all the work for these professional photos. Pose Photos is a company that specializes in pro photos and does these at some of the largest conventions in the country.
“A pro photo allows fans to avoid spending excessive time in lines if they just want to get a professional shot photo. I understand it’s not for everybody, but for those that value time and quality above all else during Mania week, it’s a great alternative to standing in a long line and shooting a picture on their personal cell phone,” Bochicchio explained.
Once this WrestleCon is over and done with, work will continue on Destination: WrestleCon in Detroit for SummerSlam weekend. Work on the Philly one has not started yet, but next year’s WrestleCon for WrestleMania 40 will undergo some changes.
“I’m sure we’ll have plenty of time to put something together in Philly, but I do expect it to look very different than the types of events we have done in LA, NOLA, NY, and Dallas,” Bochiccio said. “It’s a market that is over saturated with live events and fan conventions.”
Fans who wish to attend WrestleCon this year can purchase the individual tickets for $44 at WrestleCon.com. Session 1 will run on Friday, March 31 between 10AM and 2PM. Session 2 is strictly for Superfan tickets. Session 3 is on Saturday, April 1 from 10AM to 2PM and the same for session 4 on Sunday, April 2.
For more about WrestleCon, check out their frequently asked questions and Wrestlecon.com.