ringside fest
Photo: Kevin Jackson Jr.

Ringside Fest is one of the most talked about events in pro wrestling. The once a year attraction has managed to create many special moments for wrestling fans since its inception back in 2004.

The long-running celebration of wrestling action figures has seen many of the biggest names in ‘Sports Entertainment’ swing by including Daniel Bryan, CM Punk, Scott Hall, Ted DiBiase, and the late Ultimate Warrior.

This year, the exclusive Ringside nWo Wolfpac ‘Macho Man’ Randy Savage figure made its big debut at Ringside Fest on October 29th at Carolines on Broadway in Times Square, New York City. The figure does the late 2015 WWE Hall of Famer justice, capturing Savage’s ‘Macho Madness’ in full detail. With the figure proudly standing alongside a plethora of other action figures featuring Superstars from both the past and present, wrestling fans were truly in collector’s heaven. There was a wide selection of rare items available for purchase.

Jonathan Piontkowski, the owner of Ringside Collectibles, knocked it out of the park with this year’s edition of the anticipated event. It was another great accomplishment for Piontkowski, as he managed to book the popular ‘Demon King,’ Finn Balor, twice in a row. Last year, Piontkowski gave Balor major props for his first appearance at Ringside Fest. In 2016, he stated, “Ultimate Warrior’s character—you can kind of see that in somebody like Finn Balor, who is over-the-top, super unique and someone that connects with the fans on that personal level.”

finn balor
Photo: Kevin Jackson Jr.

Piontkowski wasn’t kidding. It’s no surprise why Balor was invited back in 2017. He had an insanely long line of fans who were patiently waiting to “too sweet” the leader of the Balor Club. ‘The Monster Among Men’ Braun Strowman and the current Raw Women’s Champion Alexa Bliss also kept very busy, taking pictures and signing autographs for the countless fans that were on hand.

Besides admiring the endless items of memorabilia on display, Still Real To Us caught up with AJ Pan. Pan has built up a tremendous reputation on the independent wrestling circuit over the years for his incredible work ethic and passion for the business, both behind-the-scenes and in the ring. When asked about his thoughts on working for Ringside Fest this year, Pan said, “It’s a well-run event. The guys, Jon and Trevor–they handle it very well. It’s very fan interactive. It’s one of the only events in the northeast where fans can get up close and personal with WWE Superstars. All of the wrestlers are always down-to-earth. It’s a great opportunity to meet them.”

“You learn more about the business. I try to learn every aspect of wrestling. I do managing. I handle backstage stuff. This is just another aspect of learning the business,” Pan stated.

He continued, “I’ve been a professional wrestling fan since 1990. I love this business. I started out when I was around 15 years old helping out with small autograph sessions. That’s how I got my foot in the door. I would help out taking pictures, taking tickets and helping talent.” Pan paid his dues to get his break in the industry. “From there, it just evolved and opened the door for me to be involved with local independent promotions, managing, ring announcing and even getting in the ring once or twice,” laughed Pan. He then smiled, “It’s been a crazy ride.”

aj pan
Photo: Kevin Jackson Jr.

It’s been a busy few weeks for the hustler known as AJ Pan. He recently did color commentary and worked as a manager on November 10th for BCW in Queens, New York. He told Still Real To Us that he is going to remain busy for the rest of the year. “On November 25th in Atlantic City for ECWA–I’ll be managing Azrieal, Mike Law, and Damian Adams. Then, on December 1st, there’s Fiesta Pro Wrestling. That’s an event myself and a good friend of mine, Bob Elliott, promote ourselves. That will be in Skillman, New Jersey. Then there’s ECWA, on December 2 in Woodbury Heights, New Jersey,” grinned the former FWE ring announcer.

Pan had great advice for young fans who want to follow in his footsteps and pursue a career in professional wrestling. “Go to a good school if you are looking to actually get in the ring or do managing. Up here, there is Create-A-Pro. It’s Curt Hawkins’ school and it’s a great one. Don’t forget the WrestlePro guys out in New Jersey. Always be open. Keep your ears open. Learn. Get advice from anyone,” Pan stressed to Still Real To Us. He elaborated, “Whether it be a backstage person, a wrestler, a manager, or whoever. If somebody asks you to do something, don’t think you’re above it. Always be humble and willing to learn.”

“I’ve been in the ring, wrestling against Jay Lethal, and I’m here tonight working at Ringside Fest, happily helping Big Cass and Alexa Bliss sign autographs. You never know where life will take you. Be open and learn every aspect that you can. Even if you are an in-ring worker, it’s not going to last forever. You can always transition to other roles,” nodded Pan.

big cass
Photo: Kevin Jackson Jr.

Speaking of Big Cass, the larger than life WWE Superstar was in good spirits during his autograph session. In a conversation with Still Real To Us, the injured athlete shared that he is taking one day at a time. Cass has been out of action with a knee injury suffered in a “Brooklyn Street Fight” against his one time friend and tag team partner, Enzo Amore, during the August 21st edition of Monday Night Raw.

“Man, I wish I could get back in the ring sooner. It’s going,” he laughed as he discussed his rehab process. Big Cass then exclaimed, “I’m feeling as good as I can. When I return, watch out!”

Cass made it extremely clear at Ringside Fest: He is ready to put his fellow WWE Superstars on notice after healing from his ACL tear, and you can’t teach that.

You can follow Ringside Collectibles on FacebookInstagram and Twitter. All photographs were provided by Kevin Jackson Jr. You can find more of Kevin’s work by clicking HERE and following his Instagram account. To read more exclusive Still Real To Us articles featuring your favorite Superstars, click HERE.