Inspired by the saga of "Wrestling Superstar Virgil," we continue with readers' encounters with the titans of the squared circle. If you've had your own run-in with wrestlers past or present, e-mail us, subject line "Virgilbag."
When you think of terrible wrestling gimmicks from the 1990's Doink the Clown is going to be on everyone's list. I used to shoot photography for a couple independent organizations and one in particular LOVED bringing in Doink the Clown. The owner would always say "That guy's a fucking goof, but he still draws, man. I'd take him over any of those other spoiled ring pussies."
I was back in the locker room going over the spots with the guys so that I'd know where to catch the best photo and when it came time to map out Doink's match, he would keep getting up and leaving for 10 minutes. After returning a third time, without being asked, Doink just says "HOLY FUCK BOYS. I have the shits tonight." The guy he was to square off with asked him about the match finish and Doink could only shout "We'll just go with the usual spots. I ... I don't ..." as he darted for the restroom once again.
His match was allotted 15 minutes for in-ring work and post-match celebrations with the kids who are ringside. Doink's music hits and he makes his way down to the ring, doing his usual schtick with the 40 or so fans who bothered to show up that night. The bell rang and the match began. Barely two minutes later Doink pulls the ref and the other wrestler in close, says something, then falls on the other guy for the three count. It looked both wrestlers just dropped dead, no one had any idea what was going on. As soon as the match was over, Doink jumped up and darted for the bathroom.
In this particular gym, once you made it past the barricade, there was nothing separating you from the crowd. As Doink was holding his ass cheeks together, a kid around the age of 10 was on an intercept course with a program and a pen in his hand, seeking an autograph. Well there would be no time for that because when a clown has to shit, a clown has to shit. As the kid started holding out the program, Doink smashed him straight to the ground. He gave that kid a Heisman pose that Ed Smith himself would have been proud of. Not knowing his night long battle with the runs, to everyone else it just looked like Doink the Clown beat down a small kid because he asked for an autograph.
Doink would emerge from the dumper to fans booing him. He walked over to the promoter and said "I need my check, I'm out of here, I've got the shits something fierce."
In 2001, I was a junior on my high-school's wrestling team in Pittsburgh. One night in the dead of winter, my team traveled to nearby Mt. Lebanon high-school for a dual meet. It was Mt. Lebanon's homecoming and we really wanted to stick it to them. Our school hated Mt. Lebanon, birthplace of billionaire Mark Cuban, Senator Orrin Hatch, and newly crowned WWE champion Kurt Angle. I think the most famous person from my township was some guy who copyrighted the phrase, "Save the Drama for Yo Mama".
My team slid off the bus and into the basement locker room of the highschool to get "weighed in." The referee called the teams into the locker room and we began. I knew I'd be a few pounds over so I stripped right down to my skivvies. That should be good for about three pounds. I turned the corner and ran into a solid wall of human. I thought I had walked headfirst into an oak tree. But as I looked up, I realized it was just some dude. Wait, holy crap. It's Kurt Angle.
Being a generally nervous person, I wasn't sure what I should say. Being that I was in my underpants, I wan't sure there was much I could say. Now is hardly the time to say things like, "You're the best!" or "Can you give me an Olympic Slam?" I'm sure I mumbled something or other when I passed him, but it was my turn to get weighed in.
As I stepped on the scale I realized that I was about 4 oz over weight. The remedy in this situation is to lose the last piece of clothing on my body. Bye bye underpants. So there I am, on a scale with my trembling hands covering my jungle rod. I didn't want Kurt Angle to see my ding-a-ling. It's true. It's true.
One day back in 2008 while I was working the photo counter at Walgreens in Clearwater, Florida, Hulk Hogan comes in and says he needs a passport photo taken. He says it's for a gun permit. Being a complete mark, I try my hardest not to geek out and ask a lot of stupid questions. As I'm putting his order and getting the camera ready for the picture I ask him (slightly smugly) "How's the American Gladiators gig going?" to which he replied "Brother, I made more money wrestling."
I get the camera ready, the screen pulled down, and the little stool ready for him to sit on. I ask him if he's ready and he says "Oh yea brother, here comes Bozo The Clown" as he pulls his trademark bandana off. To be honest he couldn't have been closer to the truth, dude is bald as fuck. We take the memory card over to the kiosk and pick out the best pic. He pays for the pic in cash, and leaves the store.
So when I was about 9 or 10 (1989 or 1990ish), my dad was installing carpet for a company in Charlotte, NC and got a call that he'd be going out for a job around the Lake Norman area (where all the NASCAR and local athletes bought their homes). The customer's contact name was "Richard Blood", but my dad knew who that was (Ricky Steamboat) and let me tag along to "help" him with the job. When we get to his house out on the lake, Rick wasn't there, but his wife and son, Ricky Jr., were. While my dad was doing actual work, I got to horse around with Ricky Jr. I remember going to his room and seeing almost an entire wall full of famous athletes and celebrity autographs and my jaw literally dropped. Then, we broke out the Wrestling Buddy pillows that were being heavily marketed by the WWF back then and started our own Royal Rumble, which culminated in me taking a flying elbow from Ricky Jr. jumping off of the top of the living room couch. My dad was and is a complete deadbeat, but to this day I'm thankful he let me tag along on this job. I did end up going home with some signed autographs of Ricky Steamboat too; his wife even made Ricky Jr. and I some cookies.
The story begins in early 2000, with me and a friend skipping school to get WCW Thunder tickets. TV tapings rarely came to our smaller market (Erie, PA), and we were going to be sure to get front row seats and get on TV. After several hours of freezing our asses off we had obtained several tickets that we believed were front row seats. When we got to the show the seats were awful. The "front row seats" basically extended past the view of the ring and gave us a great view of the crowd. I recall being very dejected after an evening of twisting my neck to view the crappy WCW Thunder show.
After the show we met up some of our other friends from the "wrestling clique". One of them, a man known only as Punisher, knew the hotel and even the floors the wrestlers were staying on. We ventured on foot, in the snow, the short distance to the hotel. Today it sounds ridiculous to stalk pro wrestlers in a hotel but at the time it made perfect sense. We proceeded to the top floor where supposedly the wrestlers were staying. We walked down the quiet hallway thinking we had made a mistake when low and behold we encounter Terry Funk. His hotel room door was wide open and Terry and his wife were hanging out inside. Obviously he noticed our group outside of his door. Instead of getting pissed and telling us to get the fuck out, Funk actually got up and approached us.
Terry Funk shook all of our hands and took time as we asked him about some of our favorite matches involving him. I recall discussing his matches with Ric Flair from 1989 as I had just recently watched them. He shared how brutal it was getting chopped by the Nature Boy. As well, we all praised him for his wild matches in Japan and his work in ECW. One of my friends was wearing an old Dusty Rhodes shirt which Terry liked. Terry was very appreciative and polite as we all marked out in his presence. Terry was a true gentleman and even had his wife take a picture of all of us giving the Funk U salute. He concluded by telling us to stay out of trouble and to probably not knock on Scott Steiner's hotel room door. I tend to be more of a closet wrestling fan as an adult now, but I will never forget my fantastic encounter with "The Funker".
In 2003, I went to my first Ring of Honor show in Wakefield, MA. Raven was in the main event against a then- little-known CM Punk in a "Raven's House of Fun" match. The stipulation of that match type is that one side of a steel cage is attached to the ring, and various implements of destruction were attached to the cage wall at various points. The match was awful.
At intermission, however, Raven was selling merch and autographs at his table. I walked over, being a big Raven nerd, and proceeded to drop a good chunk of my paycheck on a t-shirt and an autographed Polaroid with him. When it came time to pay, I emptied my pockets onto his table in search of my cash. I paid, grabbed my stuff, and headed back to my seat.
After 10 minutes, I went to check the time on my Palm Pilot, only to discover it was missing. I realized I had left it on Raven's table, so I went back and asked him if he had seen it. He replied with a smirking "nope!". Son of a bitch ripped it off.
When I was 10 or 11, I went to this small carnival-like event a large church near my home in north Tampa was holding. As we are all leaving, who do my buddy and I spot in the parking lot? None other than Latino Heat himself, Eddie Guerrero. Both of us shit the bed because we both LOVED rasslin' and Guerrero was a failry big star at this time, somewhere around 1999-2001. However, he was also still a heel so my friend and I were convinced if we tried to say hi to him, he would get pissed at us and undoubtedly pass out chair shots to everyone for the inconvenience. So my buddy's dad finally stepped up for us and gave the "Hey Eddie!" a shot. And let me tell you what, we couldn't have been more wrong. Guerrero was legitimately one of the nicest guys I've ever met, talking with us for like 10 minutes about how excited he was that we recognized him and that we should join him at that Sunday's church service. He even went so far as to sprint to his car and back to give us each an autographed 8x10 glossy photo of himself.
In 2000, I attended a death metal festival in San Bernadino, California. As a part of the fest, Rob Black's notorious ECW ripoff and hardcore porn-funded XPW, was to do a small show between some of the bands. The ring crew appeared to be pretty bombed and were taking forever to set up, so I walked to a merch table and began to flip through records. Since this wasn't a billed wrestling show but more of a quick showcase, I had no idea who was performing and wasn't terribly interested in XPW to begin with. Out of the corner of my eye, I notice bright green pants and that white head-sheet(?). It's Sabu, my all time favorite wrestler. Holy shit!
He stood in the corner of the venue, by himself and for no apparent reason. I turn my head and make eye contact. Back to the records, to Sabu, records, Sabu. I eventually work up the nerve to walk up to him. That walk felt like an eternity but it was about 100 or so feet. The whole time I walked towards Sabu, he was just staring at me. Not in a menacing way, definitely more of an annoyed stare. I was scared shitless but the closer I got the smaller he was. I was 16 at the time, 6'1" and about 250 lbs. Finally, I was face to face with him and even though I totally dwarfed Sabu, he was just about the scariest looking dude I've seen. His scarred up torso is far gnarlier when you are 3 feet away. I started to mark out big time. I don't really remember what I said but it was certainly something to the tune of "you are my hero" and extended my hand for a shake. Sabu's grunted response: "Get the fuck away from me kid!". And, indeed, I did get the fuck away from Sabu, with embarrassing haste. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't crushed. Later on, when Sabu was in the ring, I vented by heckling him. I'm sure my heckles were stupid, but it's all I had.
In hindsight, he was protecting his gimmick. I deserved to be chased away back to record flipping.
I, along with 59,000 of my closest friends, ran the Peachtree Road Race in Atlanta [last week]. It's the largest 10K in the world, ending in Piedmont Park, where they have live music, food and such. In the middle of the crowd was standing the largest man I had ever seen dressed like a giant peach. Assuming he had to be some sort of basketball player, I googled who it was, and it turns out it was Ron Reis, better known as "Reese" or "The Yeti" from late 1990s WCW. As there was a line of people waiting to get their picture snapped with the giant peach, I didn't want to ask too many questions, so I askedthree:
1. Are you the Yeti from WCW? "Yes."
2. Have you spoken with Raven recently? "Not in a long time."
3. Are you taller than the Giant (a.k.a.The Big Show)?
"Yes, but he weighs more than me."
This is kind of a stupid, non-interesting story, but I thought I would share anyway.
Last winter my friends and I road tripped from Omaha to St. Louis for the Royal Rumble, after getting to our hotel we find out that after the Royal Rumble former WWE stars and DX members Billy Gunn and X-Pac would be hosting an after party at a bar downtown. We call the bar and are told there will be a party hosted by two pro wrestlers and we have to buy tickets off this website. We find out there's a VIP ticket, which got you "exclusive" access to Billy and Pac and a Q&A session with them before the general public. After an hourlong debate about whether we should pay 50 dollars for the "VIP" treatment, we finally settle on the10 dollar tickets and hope just for a glance of Pac and Gunn.
On Rumble day, on the way back to our hotel, two guys stop us and hand us a flyer for Pac's party that night. We end up talking to these guys and find out we could have paid at the door and that X-Pac just got into town and was looking for some weed. We all bust out laughing thinking he was joking but then his face turned dead serious and asked us if we really knew a place where he could get some weed for X-Pac.
After the Rumble we head over to the after-party with 3 guys in my group in full Goldust face paint and one wearing a Goldust mask. When we arrive at the bar it's about half full, with everyone wearing some sort of wrestling shirt. We see the VIP area which was basically a coat closet with maybe 5 people sitting around with Gunn and Pac looking bored out of their mind. At one point, Billy Gunn walks by our group to take a piss when my friend screams "Oh, you didn't know?!" Billy responds to, with a serious face, "That's not my line" and walks away.
Later we see X-Pac head outside to the smoking area and bum a cigarette off some guy. After X-Pac comes back, he walks by my group and looks at my friend wearing the Goldust mask, stops dead in his tracks, and says "is that a mask? That's freaky."
During the Q and A someone asked how Scott Hall was doing—this was right after that E:60 came out and basically said he would be dead in a year. X-Pac responds in the most serious tone that Scott is doing great and that they are actually moving in next to each other in Florida which prompted everyone in the bar to wonder, "you think that's really a great idea?" The next question was from my buddy who asked how many "Suck It" signs X-Pac can give in one minute which led Pac to give one long, slow crotch chop that took about 60 seconds.
After the Q and A, you could take pics and talk with Gunn and X-Pac. Billy Gunn was actually a pretty cool dude who we talked to for a while, while X-Pac went outside every 10 minutes and probably bummed at least 20 cigarettes from random people. Best part of the night had to be when we were leaving we thanked Billy Gunn who was awesome and then found X-Pac outside smoking, said thank you to him and he says "You guys are leaving? Come on stay and party!" Like we all have been best friends for 10 years.
We close, as always, with a Virgil story. Russ:
My fiancée and I were at the New Jersey State Fair. Virgil had somehow gotten a table right by the entrance, so there was no way you couldn't notice him. I go up to Virgil's table and he says "you must know who I am."
My fiancée doesn't, so I ask her if she remembers the Million Dollar Man. "Yes!" she says. "Is this him?" "No, this is his bodyguard."
Virgil then puts his arm around Cindy and says "I go by Sweet Black now." Awkwardly, I ask how much for a picture. He says it's $15. I tell him I have to go to the ATM, and never come back.