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By Brendan Higgins, contributing writer
If you are a fan of professional wrestling, the Crowne Plaza in Warwick is the place to be this weekend. Two huge events will be taking place starting with the New England Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame induction ceremony on Friday night, July 28th (doors open 6pm), and on Saturday, July 29th, a mega wrestling event returns to Rhode Island with New England Fan Fest 8 (doors open at 9am).
I sat down with the mastermind who makes these events possible. His name is Joe Bruen. He is a former ring announcer, booker, talk show host, promoter and fan of wrestling. Bruen worked behind the scenes for an entire year in the planning stages for this upcoming weekend. I asked Bruen how the whole thing started, and he said, “I’ve always loved the wrestling business. I’ve been a part of the independent scene for a long time. In 2008, I realized there really wasn’t any forum to give back to the wrestling community on a local level. I thought it would be special to recognize people who put in full careers, but somehow go unnoticed. Most wrestling fans are only aware of wrestlers they see on TV. That was my motivation for the New England Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame. In 2010, I added the Fan Fest. The whole thing just grew and grew. Now it’s a weekend long event.”
Over the years, Bruen has become a well-respected member of the wrestling fraternity. The reason Fan Fest and the Hall of Fame are so successful is simple. Bruen is involved in every phase of planning and execution. After years of organizing these massive wrestling conventions, he has compiled quite an impressive rolodex. The very first person he brought in for Fan Fest was Adam Bomb, aka Bryan Clark, over a decade ago. Since then, the men and women appearing at these events comprise a virtual who’s who of talent from the wrestling world. This year will be no exception. I asked Bruen what he has in store for fans who come to the Crowne Plaza this weekend. He said, “First and foremost this is a family event. If you are a casual fan, it’s affordable. The cost is $21 to get in the door. You can walk around and check out the dozens of merchandise vendors. Collectors are going to have plenty to choose from. They will be sure to find something special to take home and add to their personal collection. The wrestlers are accessible. You can walk up and shake hands with them or have a photo taken with your favorite wrestlers. There are Q&A sessions every hour on the hour with a variety of wrestling legends. The Q&As are free with a general admission ticket.
This year there is Dr D David Shultz, D-Von Dudley, Barry Horowitz, Mr. Hughes, Duke Droese, Kayla Sparks, DC Drake, Ultimo Dragon, Candice Michelle, Kane, Haku, Rockin Robin and many more.
During our interview Bruen revealed this will be his last Fan Fest for the foreseeable future. He said, “As much as I love it, the whole thing takes a lot out of me. When I was younger I could take more risks. Today I have six children. I’m a homeowner. My family comes first. This year will be the most spectacular Fan Fest I have ever done. It will be a sigh of relief when it’s over.”
Joe Bruen has seen it all over the past 20 plus years in wrestling. He has given so much back to the sport he loves. Not many can say that. There is no union pension or retirement set up for professional wrestlers. These events give men and women who have long ago retired, an opportunity to interact with the fans and also collect a payday. This has always been a winning formula and Bruen deserves credit for all the years he has put on these amazing conventions. If you see Joe Bruen over the weekend, take a moment and thank him. He deserves it.
For more information on this weekend visit allaxxessentertainment.com to see the complete line up. You can purchase tickets in advance at immortalseats.com. Tickets will also be available at the door for both events.
Brendan Higgins, writer and author, RIPTA bus driver, former professional wrestler (Knuckles Nelson), and North Kingstown resident.
We welcome Brendan as a contributing writer to RINewsToday.
To read a story about Brendan, from our sports department, go to: https://rinewstoday.com/knuckles-nelson-waking-up-from-the-wrestling-ring-to-the-yoga-mat-john-cardullo/
To read all stories by Brendan, here, go to: https://rinewstoday.com/brendan-higgins
Higgins is the author of “Waking Up: From the Wrestling Ring to the Yoga Mat