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."
I served as a sector coordinator at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, which is essentially being a line supervisor. Until the Centennial Park bombing brought the US army to town, I was king of the world when it came to some of the massive lines to enter the central complex. The convention center was home to the wrestling events as well as many others. As the line began to form for the day's activities, the Iron Sheik himself showed up. We chatted with him and took some pictures. Lots of fun for everyone and soon he was through security and on his way.
Next day, same location, but now it's pouring rain. The line still forms and people wait their turn while getting soaking wet. Soon, sure enough, here comes the Iron Sheik and his buddy again. ThIs time the Sheik is even more friendly and is so very very glad to see me. Having worked such events for years, I see it coming a mile away.
"Hello again, friend, how about you let the Sheik cut to the front of the line?" says the Sheik. "No can do, Sheik," I says. Sheik gets a little pissy but I know the whole line is watching and there is no way I'm going to take one for one of the biggest heels in the history of wrestling. "Back of the line, Sheik!" I roar. "America number 1!" the crowd cheers and the Sheik sulks his way to the back of the line. Great American victory.
At some point in the late 90's, my high school friends and I found out that WCW was coming to Terre Haute, IN for a Thunder taping. Being without drivers licenses (we were 15 at the time) or girlfriends, we scored 3rd row tickets and convinced one of our Dads to drive us the 60 miles on a Wednesday night to the show. At the time, our favorite wrestler was Sting. He was so fucking cool: black and white garb, carried a bat around for whipping ass, awesome moves, and, the best part was, he never spoke. Pure silence, it was amazing.
Lo and behold, who is the headliner for this taping? Sting! Needless to say, we were pumped. It was some sort of 8 man rumble-style match and, in the end, Sting won. The match ended with the other 7 wrestlers jumping back into the ring for some overtime. As the action is winding down and the cameras go off, Sting looks to the announcers table and asks for a microphone. As one can imagine, we were in absolute shock. HOLY SHIT! STING IS ABOUT TO BREAK HIS SILENCE AND WE ARE FACING HIM IN THE THIRD ROW!!!!
So Sting gets the mike and glares into the crowd. He lifts his right arm, points and says in his most stern voice "YOU PEOPLE HAD BETTER QUIT THROWING PENNIES INTO THE RING, YOU ARE GOING TO PUT SOMEBODY'S EYE OUT!"
Soon after, we quit watching wrestling forever and replaced that time with driving, girlfriends, and alcohol. Sting might have been doing us a favor.
Reading about Hulk Hogan getting his passport photo reminded me of my own encounter with him. International Plaza (a mall in Tampa by the airport). I'm working my shit job and on break walking around killing time and I look up and see Hogan walking with a woman. Didn't even bother clocking her for a description. Was a huge wrestling fan when I was much younger, but by now I don't really care. Still, it's Hulk Hogan so I'm sort of getting stoked as we are walking towards one another. Childhood celebrity type stuff rekindling within me as we approach. That lasts about 2 seconds, because as we pass, all my childhood impressions are crushed as I hear him say, "...or we could go to Bed, Bath and Beyond..."
Our own Alan Siegel:
In the summer of 1999, my grandparents took me on one of those on-the-bus-off-the-bus tours of the California coast. During the Monterey stop, we ate lunch at a restaurant overlooking the water. The view, however, didn't interest my 16-year-old self. The cartoonishly massive guy sitting two tables over did. As far as I could tell, he was celebrating his birthday with his family.
"That's Hulk Hogan," I told my grandpa, who was incredulous.
"No," he said, ignoring the bleached-blonde hair and 24-inch pythons."It can't be him."
A closer inspection changed his mind. I quickly grabbed my camera and nervously approached the Hulkster, who said this:
"I'M DOING THE CHECK, BROTHER."
My first thought, after the disappointment of being spurned by my favorite wrestler of all time, was, "Holy shit! He really does use 'BROTHER' in everyday conversation."
About a minute after I sat back down with my grandparents, Hogan finished paying the bill, walked over, and asked "HOW YA DOIN' BROTHER?" Sadly, "Real American" wasn't playing. Anyway, he motioned for me to stand up. When I did, he shook my puny, callused-from-tennis-camp hand, with his right, and gave the thumbs up with his left. My grandpa snapped a photo and Hogan walked away.
The picture is a scary time capsule. First, the Hulkster's wrist was significantly wider of my bicep. Look at his sleeveless Gold's Gym T-Shirt and Indian print belt! I'm not totally certain, but I think he's also wearing a black fanny pack that matched his bandana. Fuck, look at my dopey American Pie T-Shirt. It's hard to see, but under the logo, it says, "There's something about your first piece."
Clearly, I'd never had sex. But Hulk Hogan called me "BROTHER." That's almost as cool, right?
I was ring announcer for a very small indy group in Indiana for about a year, during which they tried to turn business around by doing a "Legends" show. To raise awareness, I was replaced that night by a local radio DJ, so I bummed around backstage trying to look like I was doing something useful. I settled on watching through the curtain to give wrestlers their cue for when to head to the ring.
The one guy I was excited to see was Road Dogg, as I had been a big D-X fan as a teenager. He was set to tag with Brian Christopher in the main event. Every so often, he would pass by someone and ask them what town he was in, so he could use it in his trademark introduction. I must have seen him do it three times. When the time drew near for his match, he paced around backstage for a few minutes, looking red-eyed and intense. I was sitting at the sound table, trying not to look like a mark. Finally, he stopped, turned around and walked towards me. He leaned down, placing both hands on the arms of the chair I was sitting in. I was trapped. He smelled like weed incarnate. Road Dogg brought his face right up to mine, looked blearily into my eyes, and whispered "...what town am I in again?" I told him, and he pronounced it slowly, in fragments, like Tarzan might do if you were trying to teach him a new word. I nodded, and he walked off looking dazed.
When it came time for his ring announcer shtick, he started to address the crowd, paused, looked confused, and then into the microphone said "Brian, what town are we in again?" Brian, who had worked the town multiple times in the past year, and who appeared at least relatively sober, grabbed the mic and said "Road Dogg, come on! You're in Indiana, baby!"
Back in the mid 1990s I had a friend who worked for Jim Cornette at Smoky Mountain Wrestling. My buddy, knowing I was a big JC & the Midnight Express fan, had Jim call me on my birthday one year and we talked about Smoky Mountain and working for the WWF. I ended up doing some work for them too, nothing major, just got them on local public access and whatnot. After that, from time to time, I would talk to Cornette on the phone and he was as he always has been, opinionated and funny as hell. I honestly would ask him like a couple things and then just sit back and let him roll. Very good times.
So this one time the WWF is doing a house show in my state. I talked to Jim briefly to let him know that I was planning on going and he said that it was cool and he was going to leave me tickets for me and two buddies. He asked me if there was a Wendy's near the coliseum and I told him that I would hook him up for leaving me the tickets. Jim likes free food.
We get there and this beefy security dude is there and he barks at us asking what we want. Me and my buddy are big enough guys so we aren't intimidated. I held up the bag of Wendy's and said I was there to bring this food to Jim Cornette. Beefy smiles and gives us a knowing laugh. Cornette is famous for loving his Wendy's. He opens this gate and leads us to the back door of the arena and tells us to wait as he goes inside.
Me and my buddy are standing by the door. It seems like it is taking a long-ass time as we are baking in the August sun. Suddenly, The Man They Call Vader pops out and gives me a menacing look that makes my balls crawl up further into my body than they'd ever been. He snatches the bag of food from my hands and slaps the large Sprite out of my other hand. Then he goes back in. I swear, if I had been able to breathe, I'd have swallowed my own nuts.
The next day I get a call from my buddy. He asks me how the show was and whether or not I met up with Cornette. I start telling him the story and I can hear him giggling on the phone. After a while, he can't take any more. Cornette has set me up. He told my buddy he was going to pull a rib on me and the two of them had hatched out the plan over the weekend.
I'm in a bar in Green Bay on a night when the Honky-Tonk Man is in town at a local wrestling show. I chum up next him at the bar and offer to buy him a shot, which he happily accepts. Maker's Mark. So far, pretty classy guy. I order two shots and the bartender serves them up. I pay the bartender and turn around, and he's walked off with both shots!
Later that night I heard him in the bathroom stall snorting something loudly. And repeatedly. The 80s died for me that night, in June of 2005.
My buddy's brother managed a strip club called in Syracuse, so we spent quite a bit of time there. WWE rolled into town and Big Show (with Orlando Jordan) made his way into the place. My buddy challenged him to a game of pool, which he declined. Then I asked him about his WWE debut, where he broke through the mat from underneath the ring during a cage match. I always joked about this huge guy being forced to hide uncomfortably under the ring for 3 hours, but I always assumed they had some special trap door or trojan horse-type strategy where they wheeled him out. Show went from pool-game dismissive to fiery: "Yeah I was under there the whole night, and Vince can suck my nuts about it!"
I asked him what he did under there. He said he had a walkie talkie, a flashlight, and a magazine. I pressed Show on the type of magazine, but he just laughed it off as if to say "pornography." Conclusion? Big Show masturbated underneath the ring during his debut at the St. Valentine's Day Massacre PPV. This would be extremely difficult given his size and I believe he should be praised for it, even though it may never have happened.
Early '80s in the Chattanooga area. Some friends and I are scamming liquor money by claiming to be collecting for our school's "Freshman Fund." Technically it wasn't a lie as much as an omission of what the funds were for but anyway, I knock on a door and Freebird Terry Gordy answers it. I say "holy shit! You're Terry Gordy!" and he laughs, "Yep". I go through my bullshit spiel without missing a beat and he swings us a $10 bill!
Later on we're at the other end of the apartment complex getting drunk and Gordy comes walking up with his head cocked, mean muggin'. I had told all the guys we scored $10 from Terry Fucking Gordy earlier so everyone pretty much thought they were about to die right here and now.
"You little shitheads. You scammed me didn't ya?". We all just sat there thinking we were about to get our asses kicked by a professional wrestler. All of a sudden he busts out laughing, calls us little shitheads again, tells us to be careful, and goes walking off.
A few years ago when I was wrestling for a Division III College near Cleveland, we were told that on our next match at Thiel College (PA), Kurt Angle would be speaking. I guess it was some sort of anniversary for the schools wrestling program and they decided he would be a great speaker... and boy was he.
As we sat in the bleachers, Kurt waltzed into the gym like a guy who just got walked out of fucking Top Gun. I'm pretty sure the pilot jacket he had on was a movie prop. Someone handed Kurt a microphone and he began the most inspirational speech of all time. The first story had to do with his little league baseball days. Yes, Kurt seriously though that since he excelled at peewee baseball that he could have made it pro. He talked about home runs he hit and catches he made. He then proceeded to mention that he also could have played in the NFL. Again, he is dead serious.
Then the accolades begin to pile up. Yes, a gold medal is a big deal. However, he also counted his "fastest guy to win the WWE Title" as an accomplishment. (Is it really an accomplishment if the matches are staged?) I'm pretty sure he mentioned a punt, pass, and kick competition he had won earlier in his life.
After what was supposed to be a ten minute speech turned into a half hour babble fest, our coach had us go to the locker room and to weigh in. As we were walking out, the guys on the team were looking at each other to confirm that they were hearing what everyone else was hearing. The man was nuts.
When we came back out Angle was gone. He didn't want to stick around and watch our wrestling match.
My first job while I was finishing university in Toronto was as a Customs officer at the airport. Being the main hub of travel for most of Canada, I would get to see all sorts of celebrities on a regular basis - from rap stars with pages of criminal convictions (making them inadmissible to Canada) to Hollywood actresses that made their assistants do their bidding (making them total douchebags, but not inadmissible).
By far, my favorite group of people coming in were the WWF stars. I had been a fan since WrestleMania 3 and I had even gone to WM6 so for me, seeing these huge monsters come in was a thrill. And most of the time, like 95%, the WWF lawyers had everything ready and well organized in advance, so the wrestlers wouldn't get hassled at the border. The only problem was when the wrestlers had lengthy crime sheets, it forced us to give them a secondary investigation (like the rap stars) and there was nothing their lawyers could do. Usually the only wrestlers we would investigate this thoroughly were random jobbers, who had nothing more serious than a DUI in some place down South.
One time we got Rosey from the short lived Rosey and Hurricane tag team to come in. Apparently two months prior, he was accused of robbery and weapons possession somewhere in the States, and a colleague of mine had discovered a warrant for his arrest. Clearly, this was a major issue and made him inadmissible to entry. The case was referred to our special investigates department and to the best of my knowledge, he was sent back to the States immediately.
When I was about 12 years old, my family (Mother, Grandmother, Sister, and I) were on our way from Knoxville to Disney World for vacation. While sitting in the airport terminal in Knoxville that morning, my mother was reading an article in the local newspaper about Sable and all the hullabaloo about WWE wanting her to go topless on Monday Night Raw. She tells me about it, knowing my love for wrestling (and unbeknownst to her, my love of all things topless...)
After landing in Orlando, we have to run to the airport bathrooms because all the women in my family have bladders the size of dime bags. As I'm standing outside of the bathroom waiting, I look towards the row of payphones and see the most stunning blonde I have ever seen in my life! She is standing next to a really tan skinned, muscle ripped, jheri-curl mullet-sporting guy talking on the phone in a rather unpleasant tone. After taking a closer look I realized, it was SABLE!!! I've never really been a shy person, even in my pubescent years, and approaching girls has never bothered me, so I just stroll over to her and ask her if she really is Sable. She said yes and I told her I was a big fan of hers (and her "assets", but I left that part out.) After talking for a moment, my mom comes out of the bathroom, walks up to us, and realizes who it is I'm talking to and asks if she wouldn't mind taking a picture of us together! I got an autograph out of her too. (My mom is awesome!)
We close, as always, with Virgil stories.
In March of 1994 I was 9 years old, and the Knicks were getting ready to go all the way to game 7 of the finals before breaking our hearts and Wrestlemania was at MSG. Somehow, through a friend of a friend, my Grandpa got my family 3rd row Knicks Celtics tickets for the Saturday game the weekend of Wrestlemania X. So while my dad was freaking out at how close we were to the players and how Spike Lee was literally 2 rows in front of us. I on the other hand was amazed by all the REAL celebrities around us. "Hey look guys, we're in the same row as Howard Finkel!" "Hey is that Headshrinker Samu?" It was the highlight of my day! Getting to sit close and see all the wrestlers getting special treatment.
Midway through the 4th quarter, while the Knicks all but sealed the deal, I got up to go use the bathroom. As I made my way up the stairs and back towards the cheap seats with all the "regular people", I am momentarily distracted by some black guy who's WAY more into the game then anyone else around him. As I approach this man I see that it is none other than the man, the myth himself....Virgil.
In the early 2000s, I was a college student who rediscovered my love for comic books so I went to local comic book conventions all the time. alone. yes, I was a sad sad dude.
I frequented small conventions in NY like Big Apple Comic Con, and in addition to my love for comics, these trips satisfied my celebrity-whoredom. I met the many washed out celebs like David Carradine (RIP), Kristine Sutherland (Buffy's Mom), and Cindy Morgan (Caddyshack). One day, I was ecstatic to find that former pro wrestler and current douchebag Virgil was going to be at the convention so I ran there with the quickness.
I expected there to be a huge line waiting to get autographs. These conventions are full of loser fanboys like me who stalk these former non-celebs. When I got there, I saw the huge crows as expected. As I got closer, however, I discovered that the crowd wasn't for Virgil but for a group import models. It seems that this is the closest that people like us will ever get to a hot girl. When I finally found Virgil's booth, I saw no fanboys anywhere. Virgil was standing there by himself trying to hawk a photo to anyone that passed by.
My excitement to meet the guy suddenly turned into pity. I went over to say hi, but he beat me to the punch. He instantly ran over and tried to sell me a picture. I looked at his sign and saw that an autographed 8x10 was $20 but an autographed polaroid was $25. The poor college student in me told me to take the 8x10 but, I decided to splurge to get a crappy polaroid so that I can actually be in the picture. After taking the pic, I tried to stir up some conversation and asked him about his short stint of actually wrestling. This got him going on and on about how the Giant Gonzalez was only 6ft and change, not anywhere near the 8ft as advertised (he was actually 7'6"). He continued trashing Gonzalez by talking about how he failed to make it in the NBA (I think he tried out for the Hawks) and how stupid everyone was.
I humored Virgil with some 'yeah's and 'that sucks's. When the polaroid finally finished and he signed it for me, I was ready to go. I didn't couldnt stand talking to the guy anymore. There's only so much pity a guy can feel for a guy before it becomes a sense of 'what the hell am I doing talking to this dude'.
I thank him and try to take the polaroid and walk away, but he wont let go of my polaroid. He tries to sell me on some more pics. I just paid the guy $25 and he wants more money. I told him I had no more money and he hands me the pic and disappears.
I came back later on to see if anyone else was dumb enough to buy anything from him and i found him hitting on the import models. He was basically imaginary cock-blocking all the nerds that paid good money to be there. And yes, when he saw me the second time, he tried to sell me another pic.