If you go
What: Heroes & Legends XII fan fest and wrestling show
When: Today (fan fest starts at noon, wrestling show at 7 p.m.)
Where: Memorial Coliseum Expo Center
Tickets: Starting at $15, available at Ticketmaster.com or Coliseum ticket office
Attendees: Kevin Nash, Arn Anderson, Jerry “The King” Lawler, Eric Bischoff, Hurricane Helms, Jimmy Hart, Rock & Roll Express, Greg “The Hammer” Valentine, Magnum TA, Bob Backlund, Glacier, Brooke Hogan, Tessa Blanchard, Summer Rae, Amber O'Neal, Kelly Kelly, Gail Kim
Considering professional wrestlers portray larger than life, superhero-esque characters, perhaps Mason Gilbert's role at today's Heroes & Legends XII wrestling show and fan fest fits perfectly.
Gilbert, a 13-year-old New Haven resident afflicted with muscular dystrophy, will be guest manager for Hurricane Helms, a wrestler adorned in a green-and-black superhero outfit, complete with mask and cape.
“We do a lot of stuff to 'try to be a hero' for MDA, so he's coming out of the locker room with Hurricane Helms,” said Mason's father, BJ, who has conducted several fundraisers in New Haven for MDA.
“I haven't told him everything about it yet, but he's going to be pretty geeked about it.”
The event kicks off at noon today at Memorial Coliseum Expo Center with a fan fest, where nearly 40 professional wrestlers, including Kevin Nash, Jerry “The King” Lawler and past WCW greats Arn Anderson and Magnum TA, will greet fans, sign autographs and sell merchandise.
A wrestling show will follow at 7 p.m., with tickets good for both the fan fest and wrestling matches.
With the elder Gilbert running his “Curenival” fundraiser in New Haven, he reached out to Heroes & Legends promoter Jayson Maples to inquire about wrestlers attending the event in an effort to celebrate Mason's love of professional wrestling.
Bonded by that mutual interest, the Gilberts and Maples continue to stay in contact, aiding each other whenever possible.
Having hosted wheelchair-bound twin brothers at the first Heroes & Legends show through Make-A-Wish, Maples continues to lend a helping hand whenever possible.
“We always love doing things for kids, because that's when I first loved wrestling,” Maples said. “There's magic in that, because the kids don't know (about the nature of professional wrestling). It's like kids going to a circus, it's magical.
“Doing it for kids that have just been dealt a bad hand, if we can bring these kids in and give them a great time and get smiles on their faces and get them excited for a few hours, I feel like we've done something that's magical.”
Entering its 12th iteration, Maples estimates his staff has grown to about 20 people to ensure things run smoothly.
While the additional help aids the day's logistics, his challenge now rests in how to keep things fresh, which he accomplishes in multiple ways.
At Heroes & Legends XI, Professional Wrestling Hall of Famer Jim Cornette held a Q&A inside the Coliseum's White Room. Maples will use that same room today, this time holding multiple screenings of the independent film “Journeyman,” which chronicles the travels of independent wrestler Francisco Ciatso as he tries to climb the ladder toward stardom.
“I really feel that the fans that come to our shows are going to enjoy it too, because it's kind of what we do,” Maples said.
Several former WWE superstars, including Legends champion D'Lo Brown – who will give the weather report on WANE-TV's news broadcast this morning – fill a recurring role on the show. Others, such as Anderson, Eric Bischoff and the Rock & Roll Express, will count today as their initial foray into the fan fest. As the event continues to grow in stature, Maples admitted eyeing the main arena to house future shows.
“We're hoping that with the guests we've been speaking to, that we'll make that happen soon,” Maples said.