Inspired by readers' tales of Virgil, wrestling's saddest man, we asked readers for their run-ins with any current or former pro wrestler. You did not disappoint. Here are some of our favorites, nearly all of them WWF stars from the Attitude Era. But don't worry — there's plenty of Virgil too.
As always, send your wrestler encounters to us, subject line, "Virgilbag." Onward!
I spent December of 1999 working several jobs in Gainesville. One of those jobs was on the loading dock at Toys ‘R Us. For an extra fee, customers could pay to have bikes, etc. built by employees instead of doing it themselves at home. An additional benefit was that big items, that were hard to hide, could be kept at the store until near Christmas.
On the night of December 23, I was at the back of the store and a series of customers came by with receipts to pick up their crap. I finally get to this giant dude who is posturing like a roided-up douche. I ask him for a receipt and he takes umbrage to store protocol. He drops a couple of f-bombs and makes a scene. The manager peeks out to assess the situation but he takes one look at the customer and literally runs back to his office.
Because I felt sorry for this piece of shit's kids, being so close to Christmas, I ask his last name to see if there is an invoice that matches the motorized car he claims to have purchased. He tells me his last name is Rhodes. After checking 50+ stored toys, I tell him there is no invoice with this name. He goes completely bananas. He begins by breathing through his nose like a horse and starts pressing up to me with his chest.
I calmly asked if beating-up a Toys ‘R Us worker was the best way to handle this situation - I was way past giving a fuck with this temp job. That did not go over well. At this point a wife/girlfriend stepped out of the car to intervene. No surprise she looked like someone who would bang a roided-up douche and someone who has: 1) caused lots of fights due to her choice of revealing attire; 2) had to cool-off this guy for flying off the handle on numerous occasions. I told them that I really wanted to help and asked if there was another name the invoice might have on it. Then the girlfriend gives me a different last name, Runnels, and, of course, there is the car right where it should be.
In the time it took for this to go down, there were a bunch of employees who had moved to the back to witness what was going on. After this dumbass left, one of my co-workers says, "I sold that car to him. That dude is a pro wrestler." He then explained that his name was "Goldust" but that he was also "Dusty Rhodes, Jr." or some shit like that. The whole story thing made very little sense to me. But I realized that I almost got the shit kicked out of me because some asshole was shopping under his fake wrestling name instead of the name that WAS ON HIS CREDIT CARD.
In the late '90s, I was the community section editor for the newspaper on a large, unnamed military post in the midwest. Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) decided to host a pro wrestling event for the troops. This was during wrestling's "Attitude Era" so it was a hot ticket. Being the editor, I had to attend, interview the wrestlers and take photos. The card featured a bunch of no-names in training from the local area, along with what the press release referred to as "WWF Superstars."
The Superstars turned out to be Honky Tonk Man, a group of guys with a biker gang gimmick (who had been in the WWF for all of ten minutes), The Sultan (a fat, vaguely middle-eastern looking dude with a topknot and Hannibal Lecter Mask, The Patriot (essentially a dude in a luchador mask that was covered with a sequined American flag) and The Undertaker.
The night of the matches, I was told I was not allowed to take photos of The Undertaker's match for vague reasons dealing with his WWF contract. The biker gang guys wrestled early in the night. Two of the members were a set of twins who looked like they had just won Aryan Nation Idol. Mid-match their leader, a tall guy with long red hair, angrily stormed off into the locker room after getting an eye injury.
The Patriot came out. The troops loved the dude, obviously. During the match, I was shooting photos of him posturing to the soldiers. It really was front-page quality stuff. What I didn't see was that The Sultan had dropped out of the ring and began lumbering toward me. I actually SMELLED the dude before I saw him. When I turned, camera at the ready, I heard him mumble something that sounded like "run from me." I wasn't sure I had just heard what I thought I had just heard. I raised the camera in his direction and clicked away. "I said run from me."
Oh. He was talking to ME.
So I started to half run away, not sure what the fuck this guy was talking about or doing. I looked back and the only way I can describe it was this fat dude in MC Hammer pants walking towards me with his arms out like he was Frankenstein's monster. Meanwhile, The Patriot is still in the ring playing to the soldiers. No one noticed this guy dressed like a coked-up genie staggering around the ring because there was some guy in an American Flag Mexican Wrestling Mask jumping up and down above him.
When the main event began, The Undertaker came out to a crowd going absolutely bananas. Until they realized the Undertaker, noted for his size and gimmick, was barely six feet tall. Bear in mind the place was dark as part of his entrance. When the lights came up, it was Most Definitely Not The Undertaker. It was Eye Injury Biker Dude. He had wet his hair down tried to use it to cover his face. There was this weird pause as the crowd realized they had been duped and then the place went back to banana land because "YAAAY FREE WRESTLING HE KIND OF LOOKS LIKE THE UNDERTAKER WOOO!"
Monday morning, I got a call from the head of MWR telling me they were suing the promoter for basically selling them a lemon. Even better, I was told that The Patriot wasn't the "real" Patriot either. It was some local guy who bought a "replica" costume.
Pro wrestling is an awesome business.
Last month I was shopping at my local Kroger here in the Atlanta suburbs. I saw a guy amongst the aisles who stood out. Not in stature, or behavior but in what he was wearing: a beat up Michael Turner Falcons jersey. Especially in this town, who wears a football jersey to a grocery store when it's 80 degrees out in early May? As I pass the guy, I realize he looks sort of familiar. I'm no wrestling fan by any means, but I know enough to know a former wrestler when I see one. I get home and google his name and our town, and sure enough the results give an address of a condo up the road. My hunch was right, it was Lex Luger. A couple of weeks later I'm at the same Kroger and once again, Lex is there doing his shopping...wearing the same Michael Turner jersey. I go home and tell my wife that the last two times I've been grocery shopping, I've seen this former wrestler shuffling through the aisles, both times wearing a faded Falcons jersey and of all Falcons - Michael Turner. She wants to know what this guy looks like in a then and now comparison, so I fire up youtube. I find a clip of him in his unnaturally muscled prime for the 'then'...and then I discover this. I know he's had his hardships, but can the guy at least get another shirt for going out in public?
I traveled to Minneapolis to see the event and take in the city, and attended a typical autograph signing in hopes of catching some of the WWF's top guys... Instead, we got Al Snow, Val Venis, Edge, and Christian. Disappointing at the time, but I was a big fan of all those guys except Val's, so I was all right with it. Everyone was incredibly nice and courteous with pictures and autographs, so this isn't a typical "dirt sheet" e-mail, but I did find something peculiar: Val insisted on signing his glossy 8x10s with knocks on Bill Clinton, channeling the then-recent scandal with Monica Lewinsky. He continually shouted terrible Republican humor at Edge and Christian and kept handing them autographed photos with Bill Clinton jokes on them. Al Snow didn't get in on the stream of consciousness; I suppose he knew something about Head that we didn't.
Growing up in San Antonio, Shawn Michaels was always one of my favorite wrestlers. Even when he "turned heel" and kicked his then tag-partner through a glass window, I always liked him. He was from my town, I had to right?
What a god dammed dick he is/was/continues to be.
My first realization of his true colors was when I was 9 or 10: at the time my mom ran a bar, and I would go play pool and darts and do other stuff that a 10 year old might do in a bar (e.g. cause trouble). So one day I'm just playing darts, and Shawn Michaels comes into the bar! I immediately recognize him and tell my mom, "Hey that's my favorite wrestler! In your bar! That's so cool! does he come here all the time? Do you know him? Can I meet him?, etc" , just typical prr-pubescent stuff you might expect from a kid.
Well it turns out he was there to meet one of my mom's "regulars". They had apparently gone to high school together and were meeting up for a drink. As it turns out, the guy he met (let's call him 'Dave') was actually a family friend. So when 'Dave' got there to meet Shawn Michaels, he called me over to introduce me! Awesome! This is my big moment. The following is the basic dialogue that took all of about 30 seconds:
"Hey you're Shawn Michaels. You're my favorite wrestler."
"That's my wrestling name. Not my real name."
"Can I get your autograph?"
"If I sign 'Shawn Michaels' I have to charge you $10."
"I don't have $10. This is my mom's bar."
"Am I supposed to be impressed or something? Leave me alone, KID" (Heavy on the KID)
At this point I'm crushed, humiliated, and confused. I walk away with my tail in my legs not really realizing what all just happened, just that I didn't get my autograph, and Shawn Michaels was a big dickhead.
Many years later, when I got my first job, a friend of mine had a run-in with him also.
We were both (at the time) working at Whataburger. I was at a different store than my friend, but we both worked at the same place. We would frequently hang out, and being young, we would often talk about customers, experiences, or generalities of the job working at Whataburger. he told me the following story, that after my personal experience, I have no problem believing:
My friend was working the drive-thru at Whataburger when Shawn Michaels comes through and orders. When he gets to the window, my friend recognizes him and acknowledges that he realizes Shawn Michaels is in the drive-thru, (maybe he was gushing. I don't know, I wasn't there) but when he says "You're Shawn Michaels" I guess the other people in the store heard him, and came to see him at the window.
Well I guess this was the WRONG thing to do (dude, you're in your HOMETOWN, and you're at WHATABURGER and you're surprised people notice you?!?!) because he tells my friend "This is bullshit. Don't you need to make my food? I want to see your manager".
So my friend, who at this point, has barely taken his order is kind of like "WTF?".
So he gets his manager and Shawn Michaels proceeds to berate the entire staff to the manager: "All these kids are fucking off, they're not working, I've had to wait 10 minutes for my food, I shouldn't have to deal with this shit, I'm just a normal guy, blah blah blah".
He then suggests to the manager that he should get his food for free for all the hassle. The manager basically says, no, there hasn't been a hassle and there hasn't been anything wrong with his order. So my friend by this time, has his order ready to go and is standing behind his manager while Shawn Michaels continues to scream. He steps from behind, so that Shawn can see his food is ready and he says something like "It's about fucking time." Well my friend, (now growing tired of his shit I'm sure) says something like "you're a dick" and Shawn just stares at him and makes a motion with his hand to 'come-here' and says "I'm a celebrity and you work at Whataburger. Give me my food." and takes off.
Time for the Virgil Section. (He gets his own section.) Mark:
I used to work in the Toms River Mall for a few years. Sometimes they would have card collector conventions and what not in the middle of the mall. Virgil always showed up for these, although he was sans table. He would just walk around with a handful of photos and hope someone would recognize him so he could sell him a picture. The first two times I saw him I didn't think anything weird of it, as it was baseball cards the first time and the second time it included guys selling wrestling vhs tapes. But the third time I saw him in the mall, the mall was basically having a big flea market. The fourth time though was the kicker. Everyone was selling Beanie Babies, and there was Virgil, randomly walking around with his photos and a camera. I knew enough never to bother him, just because of that desperate look in his eyes.
I was at a sports card show in Chicago with my buddies and we were walking through and ran into Virgil. I was a huge WWF fan back in the day so I had to talk to him. So as my plan was to approach him, he struck first and approached my friends and me.
He had a "deal" for us. A free autograph!! However, we had to supply the Polaroid. Being that this was 2001 or 2002 I did not have a Polaroid camera on me. Darn our luck, the photo was $25 (but still that free auto!).
He was very pressuring so I relented. We all chipped in and paid for our picture. While we were doing so a roughly 13-year-old boy was walking by so Virgil did the only normal thing to do: he yelled out, "hey, fag boy!" The boy walked away and we were ready to leave, as well.
That's when Johnny Unitas walked by. He was being followed by a camera and did not look well. Well, Virgil tells out, "Johnny!" and chased him down. Unitas has no idea who this guy is. Virgil wraps his arm around Unitas and starts talking to the camera. Unitas, his handler and the cameraman were all dumbfounded/pissed. But that was our chance to walk away and escape while Virgil was distracted.
I work at a 7-Eleven. Its not glamorous but it pays my bills. Who should I see walking in one day but Virgil. Being a lifelong wrestling fan I knew it was him but decided to play it a little coy in asking, saying "Don't I know you from somewhere?" Of couce he gave a small list of his accomplishments (mentioning a Wrestlemania and a few other things I can't remember unrelated to wrestling) and I said I had a feeling it was him. Unknowing what I was getting myself into. He went on for 30 minutes running down Vince and Linda to me, saying he would get into fights with them all the time. Real physical altercations. He then asks me if I'm looking for a job. I basically say "Yes, I'm looking to move on with a better career." He then proceeds to give me career advice by telling me to go work for WWE's shopzone webstore. Saying he knows the guys who work there making $180,000 a year and only work 3 or 4 days a week at most. So he basically went from saying he used to beat the crap out of the owner of a company and his wife to saying that I should go work for them. After he finished going on and on and on, he bought a slurpee and about $50 in lottery tickets.
Thank you all. Keep those stories coming.