ST. CHARLES – During his lengthy career as a pro wrestler, Greg "The Hammer" Valentine embraced his role as the bad guy.
Tasked with getting the fans to boo him and cheer the heroes he opposed, Valentine was good enough at the role to eventually earn a spot in the Hall of Fame of World Wrestling Entertainment. But now, at age 59 and years removed from his full-time role, he's happy to interact with fans as a good guy.
Valentine and his longtime partner, Brutus "The Barber" Beefcake, will meet and greet fans this weekend at Mighty Con, which takes place Friday, June 21, through Sunday, June 23, at Pheasant Run, 4051 E. Main St., St. Charles. The show runs from 5 to 9 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. Visit www.mightycon.com for details.
In 1985, Valentine and Beefcake reigned as tag team champions, losing their titles to the British Bulldogs at WrestleMania 2. Between that and a singles career that included a reign as the WWE's Intercontinental champion, Valentine was one of wrestling's most hated figures. It's not that way in 2013.
"They don't boo us anymore," said Valentine, who said fans are appreciative to see the stars still are recognizable from their glory years. The reaction, he said, is more like, "Oh my gosh, they're still alive, and they still can wrestle."
Valentine said the wrestlers will pose for pictures, and, if a fan signs a waiver, he'll even put on a few moves.
Valentine was a key part of an era in which the WWE was moving pro wrestling to a mainstream spotlight. Today, WrestleMania is a huge event that is built up throughout the year. Valentine said he knew it would be a big deal, but it is amazing to look at how far it's come.
"We knew we were onto something big," he said. "Now WrestleMania is like a Super Bowl."
Valentine figures his place in wrestling history is secure. He said he and Ric Flair still have the best figure-four moves ever, and he is thrilled that he's still known as "Hammer" after so many years. He said it was started by announcers who saw he was a hard hitter, and he calls it "a great nickname."
"It's a masculine name, and I like that," Valentine said. "They could call me a lot worse."