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 pro wrestlers past or present, e-mail us, subject line "Virgilbag."
On to your stories! Jeff:
This story takes place some time after ECW folded, when a bunch of very talented wrestlers went from performing in front of tens of thousands of people to wrestling on independent shows in high school gyms in front of 50 people.
I loved ECW, and I was a big fan of Steve Corino and his King of OId School gimmick. So when he headlines a show at my local high school, my brother-in-law and I decide we have to go. We show up, not knowing what to expect. They've set up a shitty ring in the middle of the basketball court with plastic chairs around it. The capacity is probably 2,000. There are 50 people there. They don't even have to use the bleachers. It is depressing. Most depressing: Of the 50-member crowd, probably 5 are Juggalos — Insane Clown Posse devotees in full clown grease paint.
They sit in the front row and chant horrible things at the performers. "He's a FAG-GOT! (clap, clap, clap-clap-clap)" for example. They are loathsome little worms. I want parts of the ceiling to fall on them.
The Juggalos are led by a ruffian I will call Blue Hair, because, well, he had fucking blue hair. The four other kids are clearly stupid. I mean, like, may not be able to read stupid. Blue Hair is clearly the most clever and bold of the five, and hence the leader. The largest is a boy I will call Skinny, because he's like 6 feet tall but has not grown into a man's body yet, even though he fancies himself a tough guy. Blue Hair instigates most of the chants and general assholery.
The show is actually pretty good. Some name guys, some hungry wrestlers angling for a chance to perform at a bigger show. Finally, the main event comes. I had wondered whether Corino, who is used to bigger shows, might mail it in. Oh no. He puts on a virtuoso performance. Works extremely hard. Gives it everything he has. Really tries to entertain. I expected him to put on a perfunctory 15 minute match, but he goes for 30, takes some big bumps, is sweating heavily. He's seriously working as if this crowd is 50,000 people. I know this sounds overblown, but it was kind of an inspiring art-for-art's sake performance.
This is especially impressive when you consider that these little fuckers are chanting stupid shit at him when they aren't chanting "JUG-GA-LO! JUG-GA-LO!" Yeah, the show is all about you, shitheel.
So Corino finishes up. There is applause, even from the little fuckers. And Corino, spent, covered in sweat, bows and leaves the ring, headed for his merch table to sell more hockey jerseys. That's when it happens. Blue Hair suddenly appears totally nonchalant, as if he's walking to the bathroom, or to one of the other wrestlers' merch tables. But —clearly having planned this in advance — he turns on a dime, leaps right next to Corino and shouts in his ear: "CORINO IS A FAGGOT!" Corino, irritated, turns as if to confront him. Blue Hair dances away, grinning. Skinny, taking inspiration from his leader, says "Oh, Corino wants to throw?" and advances on Corino, ready to swing at him
It is then that I watched the switch turn on Steve Corino. He's tired, sweaty, irritated. He's put on the performance of his life in front of 50 fucking ungrateful people. Now, some overgrown mouthbreather is going to punch him? OH HELL NO. Corino grabs the kid. Puts him in a front headlock. Just starts wailing the fucking shit out of him.
The remaining three kids, who had evidently intended to attack Corino as well, suddenly get huge eyes and reconsider. This dude is in good shape, pissed off, and even if the rest of the crowd doesn't jump in to help, could probably take all five of them easily.
Wait, did I say five? Blue Hair grins like a Cheshire Cat and disappears into the crowd. He's planned this all along, apparently knowing his stupider friends would take the ass-kicking for him. The other three, seeing their ringleader bounce, quickly peace out at as well. As for the rest of us, we just stand there, watching Steve Corino pound this kid until it bores him. Some of us are cheering. Some of us are clapping. Exactly none of us are trying to get him to stop.
The next day, I looked up Corino online. I wrote him an email thanking him for the great performance, said we all actually wanted to do what he did, and told him if he had any legal trouble as a result, I would happily testify on his behalf that the Juggalos shot first, so to speak.
I got a nice email back thanking me. It was signed, "All Best, SC."
It's sometime last year (don't want to say the exact time to protect the promoter), at an indy show in the NJ/NY area. The promoter and owner of the indy company is a friend of mine and allows me to sell figures and DVDs as a vendor for a reasonably small fee.
Raven was wrestling that night. After his match, Raven walks in my direction and is looking around confused. I ask him what's wrong, he asks if he can use my table and tight space (that I've been paying rent on and occupying for the night) so he can sell photo ops and 8x10s of himself during intermission. Anyone who has ever been or still is a vendor at wrestling shows know that intermission is really the only time, other than when people are walking in at the beginning of the show, to make money or sales – if you're lucky.
I obliged but boy did I regret it. After he hogs my space and is literally standing in front of my table taking all the people's attention away from my table, as well having ME taking the photos for him (which I did because I didn't want fans to think I was a dick then I wouldn't sell nothing), I ask him if he can sign an ECW DVD and a toy figure of his for me that I had on the table after he was done with all 15 or so people that approached him. Raven asks me what my name is so I tell him thinking nothing of it.
The asshole SIGNS AND AUTOGRAPHS MY FUCKIN NAME WITH THE CAPTIONS: "Not for Resale" ON THE MERCHANDISE SO I CAN'T SELL IT!!! I jokingly explain to him [even though I'm pissed at this point] that I'm a vendor and that, while pointing at the merchandise, tell him obviously I was planning to sell these items along with everything at this table. If that wasn't bad enough, as he leaves, he takes a DVD off my table and goes through the backstage curtain.
When I'm loading up my car with my table and boxes of goods at the end of the night, I talk to the promoter for a few minutes and I tell him this story. He laughs but feels bad for me and tells me I don't have to pay rent for tonight but I refuse because it's not his fault. The promoter tells me that Raven pulled a dick move earlier in the evening by trying to demand more money and how difficult he is to deal with! Not surprised.
When I was 21 years old, I worked as a music journalist for a small, online radio station out of LA, covering mostly local heavy metal acts. I was tapped to cover the NAMM show, a music merchants convention that is basically a gear show by day, and a party for some of the world's biggest metal musicians by night. I realized pretty quickly that a 21-year old wet behind the ears kid had no business at a bar with 40+ year-old metal legends who'd been firing off lines of coke and sucking down shots of whiskey all night. Fuck it, I'd just drink until I felt like I belonged.
Two hours later, me and my friend are standing in the smoking section when we see a man dressed in a velour jumpsuit, bandana and dark sunglasses (it's 12:30 AM!) come strolling towards our table. I drunkenly blurt "is that fucking X-PAC?" and the man turns his attention to me. It is X-Pac. I am a drunken jackass.
He walks up to our table and bellies up. I didn't invite X-Pac to join us, but I'm not going to turn him down (this ends up being a big mistake). Being new to this whole "holy shit I'm actually hanging with the big boys" vibe, I don't mention that I'm actually a total fucking nerd who knows his name is Sean Waltman, that he used to be the Lightning Kid, that he trained with the Malenkos and that 1-2-3 Kid's upset win over Razor Ramon shocked the fuck out of me when I was a child. I'm too enamored by his ability to wear sunglasses at 12:30 AM and not feel like a total jackass.
Waltman is a personable guy. He chats me and my friend up for about 45 minutes (maybe this is where he realizes I'm a nerd... I'm 21 and full of raging hormones and I'm skipping out on all the free groupie ass at this party to talk wrestling with X-Pac), telling us all kinds of awesome stories, and confirming that he did, indeed, put a log of shit in Mark Henry's sandwich backstage and watched as Henry bit into it. Pretty hilarious until...
It's 1:15. The bar closes in 45 minutes, and all the potential groupie gash will start fleeing soon. I'm now tasked with a way of ending a conversation with X-Pac. I try every way I can to wrap it up. "Well it was nice to meet you dude..." "Hey I'm gonna hit the bar for another drink..." "Have you met my friend? He's a big fan too." Everything I can think of is met with another story or conversation piece. I can't escape. Shit!
Suddenly, my friend makes the biggest mistake either one of us would make that evening... he says the word "Chyna." Suddenly, Waltman gets really sad. I think this is my cue to leave, but he starts pouring into tales about dating her, how she's crazy and she beat him and treated him like dirt. I start feeling like a psychiatrist, and the barstool Waltman is sitting on looks more and more like a couch. After hearing stories about what a terrible girlfriend Joanie Laurer is, I decide I've had enough and simply bolt to the comfort of the bar.
I truly hope Sean Waltman has found peace in all of that, he was a really nice dude, more open with a couple of dorks than he had to be, and impressively kept those sunglasses on all night.
I used to live in Tampa in the late 90s, so running into some of the pro wrestlers wasn't too uncommon. One night my wife and I went to a Japanese steakhouse in Clearwater, and a couple of tables over were "Macho Man" Randy Savage, his brother, "Leaping" Lanny Poffo, and Hulk Hogan. I was never really into the wrestling scene, so it was more of a, "Huh, look at that" moment than a "I gotta go say something to them" deal.
After a sake or two, I felt the need to visit the men's room. As I'm at the urinal, in walks Hulk and takes the one right next to me! I've never been one to pass up a moment like this and bolstered by the liquid courage from earlier, I looked him in the eye, then looked down at him and said, "Hey Hulkster, is that all ya got?" He just sneered at me and said, "This is all my lady can handle." After a quick nod, I got the hell out of there.
When I returned to the table, I looked over and saw Hulk, Macho Man and Leaping Lanny pointing over in our general direction. I thought for sure I was in for an ass-kicking. Turns out, he was telling the restaurant manager to put our meal on his tab.
In the mid 1990's I was working as an assistant manager with Wal-Mart. We had various stars come through signing autographs for the Children's Miracle Network. Nikita Koloff was one. A great guy that would just sit and chat until a fan would come up. He would instantly turn into the Russian Nightmare and then flip into telling me about how crappy his last flight was. Good guy. The best ever? Without a doubt was JYD himself, the Junkyard Dog. JYD came in and just lit the place up. A total professional. I think he wanted to switch jobs. He was watching for shoplifters while holding some 5-year-old kid up for a picture. He would call me over and whisper "Watch that one boss. She's left and come back twice." Funny stuff. The best part and my best memory is when he wrapped up for the night. He finds me and asks me if I can give him a ride to the hotel. Hell yes I can give JYD a ride! We leave and head for the hotel when he asks, "You hungry boss?" I'm a big guy. I'm always hungry. I asked what he wants. He tells me that he eats at a lot of chain places so could we go to a good local place?
Bea's Restaurant is a Chattanooga institution. Owned by the same family for over 80 years, it is an amazing Southern food eatery. Oh, and it's a buffet! We show up and people immediately start recognizing JYD. People are coming up and talking to him while he eats. He signs autographs and barks at kids with that amazingly deep voice of his. They loved him. Now JYD can eat. He was a full-grown man! He would load up a plate with pinto beans and cover it in hot chow-chow. His whole head was sweating and he's got a handful of napkins wiping that shiny head off and plowing through fried chicken, potatoes and their incredible peach cobbler. And then it hit him. He had blown way past the point of no return. He was seriously in pain. I'm dying laughing because I've got JYD literally moaning because he is so full!
During the course of that meal he told me story after story about the good and bad in pro wrestling. He told me about Andre the Giant. His funniest story was this one. He and another wrestler and Andre were wrestling in North Dakota. In JYD's words, "Now Andre could drink." He would use a pitcher as a glass and would really put away the beer. They were in some place and a local came up to Andre and as JYD put it, "Told Andre he was ugliest S.O.B. that he had ever seen." He said Andre grabbed the guy buy the neck and dragged him to the wall, picked up a chain and jammed it into the wall with the crossbar across the guy's neck. The bartender freaked and called the cops. Cops arrive and pull JYD to the side and tell him, "We dont have cuffs big enough or a cell big enough for him. If you will promise to not come back, we will let you go." They did and they didnt. JYD said that they would rent a van when they would come to a town and Andre would just sit in the back because he was too big for cars. He really talked about what a great guy he was.
I was fortunate enough to spend a few hours with a true gentle man. I dropped him off at his hotel that night. We shook hands and I never saw him again until I saw that he had died in automobile wreck. I've never seen a guy that was 6'3" and 300lbs get laid so low by Southern cooking but I did that night. The night I ate dinner with the Junkyard Dog.
We fly into La Guardia on a rainy day in June, and before heading down to street level to find a taxi, the family decides to head to the food court area to grab a bite to eat first. I'm leading the way and spot a Wendy's up ahead and decide that's going to be the quickest and safest route to speed the process up of getting out of here. I'm second in a line that's two people deep, and wondering, what in the blue hell is taking this large man in front of me so long to order? That's when I realized who he was (and that I would NOT be asking him to speed up his ordering process) The Game, Triple H. The guy was massive, I quickly and not-so-subtly pull out my sweet Nokia flip phone (it's 2006, folks) and snap a couple photos. Asking for an autograph seemed out of the question as I was 19 years old and weighed 135lbs at the time and Triple H was (is) around 6-foot-5, 260 pounds of "I dare you to try and hand me a pen and paper."
I'd been under the presumption that wrestlers stayed in character while out in the public and although I wasn't watching wrestling anymore I knew enough to know he wasn't playing a "nice guy." I decided anyways that if I took a deep breath and tapped him on the shoulder I'd make myself appear 5'7 1/2 and probably get taken more seriously, but what was I going to say? I have no idea because about that time some middle aged African-American man left his spot working bagging claim and made the intercept saying "oh my God! you're Triple H!!!... You're Triple H man!!!" (While extending a hand on two separate occasions hoping for some friendly contact.) The "cerebral assassin" who had kept his head down and his hands on the counter the whole time (as if assuming that would conceal his massive frame) decided that "baggage claim" was just too friendly to be ignored, so what'd "The Game" do? A pedigree? Spinebuster? DX chop? or give a handshake?... Trips being the gentleman he is simply turned his head back to the counter and held out his index finger, not his hand, but just the index finger. The guys face immediately turned saddened, yet he still shook the index finger of The Game and headed back to baggage claim.
Triple H then grabbed his food and headed off into the terminal. Afterwards, I was thankful for being intercepted as I was able to stand back and witness how our conversation (and my self-esteem) would've gone down.
I grew up in East Texas during the glory days of the WCCW. At that age we were way too young to be concerned with women or booze, so it was perfectly normal to base our entire weekends around Championship Sports on Saturday night. The main reason for watching was the fued between the Von Erichs and the Fabulous Freebirds. Everyone loved the Von Erichs because they were from Texas and were the good guys. Thats exactly why I hated them. I was strictly a Freebirds fan. The beloved Von Erichs could kiss my ass.
So one day I go with my dad to the local sporting goods store and we see the legendary Fritz Von Erich alone and just kind of browsing the store. My dad said that I should go up and ask for an autograph. My dad knew better than anyone that I was a Freebirds fan and I wasnt sure if he was serious or just fucking with me. So I decide to approach the patriarch of the whole damn Von Erich clan. I questioned that decision more and more with each step. I can't remember what my exact opening line was but his reply was a huge smile and a strong iron claw right to my forehead. It felt like my skull was in a vice, but he could not have been a nicer guy. We talked for quite and while and he asked me more questions than I asked him. He asked me where I lived and I told him that this was my hometown. He chuckled and explained that he meant that he wanted my address. I told him, he shook my hand, and told me that it was great talking to such a young fan. Less than a week later, a personalized 8x10 of the whole family with all of their signatures (except David, RIP) arrived in my mailbox. The crazy part was the man didnt write anything down when he asked for my address. I wish I still had that thing.
On March 2, 2008, a friend of mine called me to ask if I wanted to buy an extra front-row ticket to a WWE house show taking place that very same day. Being a huge wrestling fan at the time, I was initially surprised that a wrestling event anywhere within a 2-hour drive had flown under my radar. That's when she told me that the show was almost 3 hours away in Muncie, Indiana at Ball State University's basketball arena. Because it was a dreary, lazy Sunday (post-Super Bowl and pre-March Madness) and I felt bad that she would be stuck with an expensive ticket, I made the long trek to Muncie at the last minute to attend the show.
Since I was completely unfamiliar with Muncie, I decided to stick close to the arena and do a self-guided tour of campus. Upon my return, I noticed some of the Superstars were starting to trickle into the building...and I was still the only "fan" there. One of those Superstars was the legendary Undertaker (a longtime favorite of mine), who seldom worked house shows at that point, if I recall correctly. He had arrived with his "travel partner" Michelle McCool. It was an open secret backstage at the time that the pair was dating, but it was too taboo to mention in public because of the mystique of the Undertaker's character and the fact that the Undertaker was 15 years her senior.
The show itself was slightly better than your standard WWE fare, since it was officially the "Road to Wrestlemania." But it was on the drive back home from Muncie that provided the best memory. I was almost back to the Ohio-Indiana state line, when I stopped for dinner at the Waffle House off of I-70. I'm walking into the place when I notice that the same vehicle that the Undertaker & McCool had arrived in before the show was parked in the corner of the lot. As I sit at the counter, I spot the duo in the last booth before the restrooms. I am COMPLETELY MARKING OUT at this point! My childhood hero, the Undertaker, is only a few feet away!
I had lamented earlier in the day to my friend how cool it would be to meet the Undertaker after seeing him outside the arena. She said he's a really tough get, since he doesn't sign autographs or take pictures behind the building before/after shows due to his character. "You almost have to randomly bump into him at an airport or hotel or something," she added. Now I randomly "bump into" him at a Waffle House? I went back-and-forth with myself over whether or not to approach him and, if so, exactly how I should approach him. I steadfastly adhered to my rule of not bothering a celebrity/athlete while they're eating and waited for him to complete his meal and walk to the door. I wanted to show him proper respect and address him as "Mr. Calaway," but didn't want to creep him out by knowing his real name.
So...I managed to blurt out awkwardly, "Excuse me, Mr....Taker...sir....would I be able to get a picture with you? I'm a huge fan of yours." He mumbled something unintelligible under his breath and walked out with McCool. Being the delusional fan that I am, I (obviously) think that he suggested we take the picture outside. As soon as I follow him outside, he turns and snaps at me, "Not cool, man. I was trying to make a discreet exit." Mind you, besides me and the Waffle House staff, there were only two other people in the joint: an elderly lady actually napping in a corner booth and an old man truck driver at the other end of the counter. Neither likely knew who the Undertaker was. Immediately, though, I regretted my decision to even talk to him or look at him because he was staring a hole right through me with his patented evil eyes and probably was about to kill me. I apologized profusely for bothering him and wished him a safe trip to the next town. Turning to walk dejectedly back into the Waffle House, I heard the Undertaker lob a begrudging "Wait..." at me, as if to say, "We're cool now, bro. Come back." So I strolled back towards the Undertaker and he asked me, "You have someone to take the picture?"
SShit. I was traveling alone, as the lady who sold me the other ticket was staying in Indiana to go to the next night's Raw taping in Indianapolis. I told him that I didn't have anyone handy and – not wanting to in any way let on that I knew about the Undertaker/McCool relationship or even that I knew who she was – asked McCool (who at this point was almost to their rental car across the lot) to take the picture, addressing her as "Ma'am." She let out an audible sigh, trudged back across the parking lot and snapped the picture. As she was readying my digital camera, I didn't know whether or not to smile as it was likely that both of them vehemently hated me at this point. Undertaker then thanked me for being respectful (Whaaa?) and said that's why he was respectful back to me. They left, and so I decided to review the picture while finishing my crappy waffle inside. I look literally as white as white can be, probably because Undertaker scared all of the pigmentation out of my body ; meanwhile, Taker mean-mugged the hell out of that camera and I don't think his "red eyes" were a camera effect, either.
When I was 15 I moved down to the town of Oviedo, FL. My cousin had hooked me up with my first job: working at a sports apparel store at the local mall. After schoo; I walked over for my first day of work and being that this is Florida, I sat down and waited for my shift to start and for my swampass to die down a bit. As I wait, I see a large man with black hair approaching with his two kids. As he gets closer I realize HOLY SHIT, ITS SCOTT HALL. He seriously is wearing an NWO shirt with a toothpick in his mouth. As I nervously sip my Orange Julius, I gather the balls to let out a wimpy "Hey, Yo!" Scott Hall stops, turns, and does the double armed point at you thing that he did with Kevin Nash, directly at me. Turns out, its 4pm, he is at the mall with his kids and he's SHITHOUSED. He would come in the store multiple times, each time hammered, and it was incredibly sad/awesome.
Fast forward to next halloween. I stayed home but some of my non-wrestlnig fan friends went out doin that "I'm 16 But Trick Or Treating Ironically" thing. They tell me they rann into a wrestler who let them tag along with his kids and figured I knew of him. I asked if he was drinking heavily while they trick or treated. They said yep, had a case under his arm the whole time. With his children. At 7pm on a Wednesday. Scott Hall, ladies and gents.
I was working as a PA on the first season of the boxing reality show "The Contender" in the summer of 2004 in Los Angeles. Since the show featured Sly Stallone and Sugar Ray Leonard, many Hollywood stars they were friendly with were invited to the tapings of our live "fight nights". The guest list ranged from major A-listers to C listers at best since word got around town that the fights were exciting to watch. I had the pleasure of working the VIP entrance for our fights making sure these people were on our list and that they signed non-disclosure agreements since the fights and their results were aired months later.
One night, a group of guys came in and I immediately noticed one in particular, Goldberg. After signing them in through the entrance that led to our production office (which was separated by a set of double doors from the fight arena), Goldberg asked me where the bathroom was. I told him that the bathroom was in the fight arena, one that everyone from our staff used, including Sly, Ray and other executives. Goldberg told me "I'm not going to the bathroom out there where all those people are". At this point, the arena that was so small had just a handful of people in it. Trying to be outgoing and accomodatiing to a VIP guest such as him and being a fan of him in my college days, I told him I'd walk with him to the men's room in the arena and I would stand outside the door to make sure he went to the bathrooom in privacy without anyone walking in. He again said no to my idea, to that point I just gave up and said "OK". I remember thinking, "What an asshole..."
I've read many positive stories aboout Goldberg, but for a guy that could kick anyone's ass in that building and who wore tights in front of millions, I couldn't get over how insecure he was. Even though his wrestling career did not last long after that, I could never see him again on TV without cursing him out.
In February 2010 right after a Smackdown taping in Kansas City. My friend and I went to the IHOP closest to the Sprint Center to see if we could catch some of the WWE guys getting dinner after the show. For some reason it's a hotspot in KC for wrestlers. We sat there for an hour or so and we weren't having any luck but just as we were getting ready to leave, in walks CM Punk, Luke Gallows and Natalya from the Hart Dynasty. They immediately went to the opposite side of the restaurant which was closed off due to it being so late, which was a pretty good indication that they did not want to be seen or bothered.
I pointed out to my friend, Blaze and said "that's CM Punk, should we go talk to him?" (I was kind of intimidated by the Luke Gallows guy, he's pretty big in person.) Well my friend Blaze who weighs about 140 pounds just takes off towards them, picks a napkin off one of the tables and slams it right in front of CM Punk and says "Dude, we want your autograph." I was kind of hanging back, I was close enough to see and hear what was going on but I didn't want Punk to think I was with this guy. As my friend says that, Gallows looks at Natalya who is sitting across from him and they both kinda chuckle, Punk then looks at my friend dead in the face, kinda slams some silver wear down and says "And I want a million fucking dollars, now get the fuck out of my face." He and Gallows both stood up and I was for certain that me and my good friend were both going to be put through a table.
My wrestler run-in was quite depressing when it happened. I grew up a huge fan and stayed that way all through college. While attending the University of Alabama, Mick Foley came to campus to for a talk and to promote his new book, Tietam Brown. The year was 2003, and it was shortly after both Road Warrior Hawk and Crash Holly had died. After Mick talked for a good while, he took questions from the crowd. I wanted to look like an educated wrestling fan so I brought up the subject of wrestler deaths. Yes I know... such an appropriate topic for a lighthearted talk. He called on me, and I asked him his thoughts on the subject while prefacing it with the recent deaths of Hawk and Crash Holly.
When I mentioned Crash's name, he just stood there for a second before responding in a dumbfounded fashion, "Crash Holly died?" He had no idea. I immediately felt horrible that some punk college kid broke the news about a co-worker of his dying. A couple of friends sitting next to me verified it, and I honestly don't remember the answer he gave because, let's face it, Mick was a huge favorite of mine, and I just dropped a heap of bad news on his doorstep.
Fast forward to the autograph session at the conclusion of the talk. I make it a point to apologize to Mick for breaking the news to him in that fashion, and he told me not to worry about it. I then changed the subject by asking him about the recently conducted McMahon/Triple H wedding, and if the stories of Michael Hayes acting a fool were really true. He just laughed and was like, "I missed most of that because I was off in another room watching the Yankees play".
My brother and I and two of our friends were having lunch at Ditka's restaurant in Chicago several years ago. We were sitting at the bar downstairs having the massive steaks the place is famous for, and enjoying some beers when we see the staff start to run up and down the stairs like crazy and talking amongst themselves. Now Ditka's always has celebrities there so we wondered what all the commotion was about when in walks Bill Wirtz, the owner of the Chicago Blackhawks, with Ric Flair!
All of us at the bar start screaming "Woooooooo!" and "NATURE BOY!" as he walks in and we get nothing. Not even a glance or a look. As huge wrestling fans as kids (now all in our late 20's) this is a huge disappointment and we go back to eating out food and complaining "what a dick Flair really must be" out of the ring. We started pounding beers and finishing our steaks when Flair comes down the stairs from the dining room, looks into the bar and at the top of his lungs screams "WOOOOOOOOOOOO! Who wants to drink with the champ?" and proceeds to work the bar like the man we expected. Throwing cash down, slamming shots, wooooing every other second and generally acting like a total madman. We were in heaven.
This went on for about 30 minutes when Flair suddenly stops, throws a stack of $100s on the bar, tells the bartender "That should cover everybody in here" and walks back upstairs like nothing happened. Everyone in the bar looked at each other like "Did that really happen?" but the swirling of booze in our heads told us YES indeed it did. About 40 minutes later down the steps comes Flair and Wirtz and Flair again is acting like nobody exists as we all scream "WOOOOOOO" and "Thanks Nature Boy" as he walks past. We are watching out the window as he and Wirtz get into a limo and Flair looks back at all of us, winks and mouths a "Wooooooooooo!" as he gets into the limo.
We all felt blessed to know that even into his late 50s, Flair still acted like a high school kid hiding from his parents what he did when they weren't looking.
This was the eighties, I'm 19 or 20, it's a Saturday, getting ready to hit the bars and chase tail. While I getting my pimp on I am watching Championship Wrestling from Florida—hosted by the legendary Gordon Solie. Soon enough a promo breaks out with Nature Boy Ric Flair and the American Dream Dusty Rhodes. There is a on-air clash that leads to the ring and fight in street clothes.
Later that night I'm at a club in Tampa called Visions (think pastels and soft couches). I walk in around 11 p.m. and go to the bar. I order a whiskey sour and while I'm waiting, I see them in the corner. First I'm stunned but then I'm shocked. Dusty Rhodes and Ric Flair, drinking and laughing their asses off. My drink comes and I walk towards them, and they stop talking and stare at me.
"You were just fighting on TV," I say and they start laughing. I was forced to buy them a round, for which Dusty gave me a bionic elbow. Another round and I got to hear stories about the good old days. I wore Flair's watch – a real Rolex. We got hammered. They picked up the tab. I had a hangover the next day but it was worth it.
So I live in Charlotte where there are a lot of Flair sightings, but I had never seen him despite being a huge fan. On my wife's birthday last weekend we go out for drinks with a few friends at Cosmos Ballantyne and after about 30 minutes of standing around not having a good time, my wife taps me on the shoulder and points to the other end of the bar. Upon recognizing Ric Flair sitting at the bar drinking a glass of red wine by himself, I immediately scream like a girl and release a small amount of pee into my pants. There he is in person. The legend. One of the god damn Four Horsemen. Imbibing with us plebes and without an entourage.
My brother-in-law suggests we go talk to him and I immediately revert to 14 year-old mode in which I want to approach a pretty girl but have no idea how to do it and I'm absolutely terrified. Slowly, I make my way to the opposite end of the bar. Inexplicably, the seat next to Flair is open, even thought the bar is crowded, so I take the seat next to him under the auspices of ordering another gin and tonic. But this is Ric Flair. He's aware of his surroundings and knows damn well that I'm there and I want to talk to him, even though his back is turned.
He turns to me, we make eye contact, and I let lose. I say, "Mr. Flair, I just wanted to say that I was in Orlando for Wrestlemania 24, and I saw your final match against Shawn Michaels, and it was one for the ages! No one! No one gets up from three Sweet Chin Musics! But you did! And you walked out of that stadium with your head held high!"
A smile cracks across his face, he takes a sip of wine and points to his watch, a gold Rolex with the number '24' encrusted on its face in what I think are diamonds. "See this watch?" he asks. "Shawn Michaels gave me this watch after our match."
By then Ric Flair had other fans around him but he was always nice and posed for pictures with anyone who asked, including two with my wife and I. Some guy tried to buy him a jägerbomb and then called him as asshole when he didn't accept it, but come on. He's in his 50s and he was drinking red wine. I'm in my early 30s and I don't go near that shit anymore. I wanted to give the douchebag a chop block on sheer principal, but before I knew it Ric Flair was getting up from his seat to leave.
I turn to him once more, and all the 20-year-old memories pour out of me. "Mr. Flair, I also want to say that the story line where you released doctored photos of you eating strawberries, poolside, with the Lovely Elizabeth, to get inside Macho Man's head before Wrestlemania 8, was television at its finest and the greatest storyline in all of wrestling!"
I'm sure if you asked most actors about an obscure role they had twenty years ago, they'd have trouble remembering what it was about. But not the Nature Boy. He cracked that same smile again, gave me a fist bump, and rode off into the night, presumably in a limousine to steal kisses.
Around 1995, a friend and I were playing golf at a municipal course in Memphis. Ahead of use we could see a foursome, 2 of whom had taken their shirts off and were just wearing Zubaz pants. We couldn't tell who it was because they were so far away, but figured it just was a couple of meathead rednecks. An hour later, we were playing the hole right next to them and realized Jerry "The King" Lawler and Jeff Jarret were the shirtless, Zubaz golfers.
It's summer of 2000, and I had returned home to a small town north of Pittsburgh after my freshman year of college. I'd like to think I had matured greatly in that year since graduation, as you will read I didn't. In high school my friends and I had somehow decided it was hilarious to "flip" each others man boobs. We didn't do this to females, but most definitely did this around females which may also explain why most of us spent a lot of time watching wrestling.
Anyways...my friend's uncle owns a local business and came across a bunch of "good" tickets to a local independent wrestling show at the nearby high school. None of us were very excited to attend, but since he had ten or so tickets we obliged and decided to make the best of it. When we arrived at the event we were somewhat excited to see that we had front row seats directly adjacent to the entrance ramp. This excitement was quickly deflated when we saw the card. The only recognizable names were (the late) Public Enemy who were in the main event tag team match.
By the time that the main event was at hand, all of our patience and maturity had left us and my buddy had the great idea that we should all flip Johnny Grunge's man boob as he passed. We assembled and executed perfectly, as his physique at the time was ideal for this application. As he triumphantly made his way to the ring, he was easy pickings for our ten man gauntlet. (Over years of doing this to each other, it was rare at this point to obtain such open target as we all had learned to be on the defense around each other... again I'm not proud of this). He shrugged off the first two or three flips without as much acknowledging us, but around the fifth consecutive flip he started to appear very agitated. What was occurring was something like watching dominoes topple over, only much funnier and/or perverted. Finally, after he passed the last of us he had reached his boiling point and turned around extremely red in the face and screamed, "ARE YOU GUYS FUCKING QUEER OR SOMETHING?" To which one of my friends simply and accurately replied, "YEAH."
I've lived around the Houston area for almost my entire life, and have always been a huge fan on wrestling. A few months ago, a buddy of mine and informed that Booker T has a wrestling school that puts on shows in the Clear Lake area that he actually attends. Excited for a chance to meet Booker T, my friend and I went to show the small show and picked a couple random seats.
Somehow, out of pure luck, we managed to pick the seats RIGHT NEXT TO WHERE BOOKER SAT. We tried not to bug him, because he had to keep an eye on his wrestlers during their matches since he was mentoring them. He had, however, heard us cracking jokes about some of his "talent" during their matches, and we caught him laughing at our jokes a few times.
After the show, he approached me and my friend and told us how funny we were. He then offered to let us come back stage, where we continued to talk to him. He actually offered the two of us (being in pretty good shape) to come check out his school and start wrestling there because he liked our personality and said we had a good look to us. Unfortunately, due to a bad history of shouler problems, I knew I wasn't physically able to try wrestling.
Near the end of our conversation, one of his wrestlers said something to him, and he replied with something along the lines of "Always gotta be ready for anything, dawg!" Right after saying that, he turned on one foot with one leg in the air (vintage Booker) and proceeded to give me a nasty chop across my chest. I wanted to be upset, but he was giving me his classic wide-eyed stare. My chest was completely red for over an hour. So worth it.
In the early '90s, I was a volunteer teacher in American Samoa. Samoa is perhaps the most laid back, sleepiest place on the planet - nothing ever happened there.
All this changed, however, when it was announced that Afa & Sika, the Wild Samoans, were making a homecoming. These two were the closest thing to international celebrities ever produced by the island, so you can imagine the pride and anticipation their visit generated.
At last they arrived and the barnstorming commenced. They made the rounds all over the island, including the high school I taught at. The auditorium was packed, and after some half hearted wrestling they got down to business; imploring these kids to stay in school. Staying in character, they told the kids that they did not have the opportunity to go to school, but if they had they would have done better in the business of wrestling. They ruefully recounted their inability to counter the wiles of Captain Lou Albano, whom they claimed hoodwinked them out of opportunities. The message was diluted during the Q&A session though, as one of the students asked Afa "If you are so angry at Captain Lou, why are you wearing a shirt with his picture on it?" Afa cringed, looked down to see he was guilty as charged, and then glared at the questioner.
We close, as always, with a Virgil story. Adam:
So I live in Worcester, Mass., and although WWE usually just goes to Boston nowadays, back in the heyday of the Attitude era, RAW or Smackdown seemed to come to the Worcester Centrum at least twice a year. Being a high school kid with nothing more exciting in my life – I would have either my mom or dad take me and my brother to a local hotel to stalk the wrestlers after the event. Crash Holly would always come out to talk to us while eating Swedish fish. One time, Stevie Richards pulled up in his car in the front entrance, and as he got out, he was mumbling to himself, clearly annoyed about something. When I yelled out to Steve, ‘What's wrong Stevie??' He turned to me with a blank stare and said – ‘Because everything's fucked up and I have to fix it.' Then Stevie grabbed his fanny pack and headed into the hotel.
Another time, we actually made our way into the hotel after a RAW. Who do we see eating/drinking/watching an old SNL at the bar? Why it was none other than Chris Benoit and Eddie Guerrero. This was shortly after they came over to WWE from WCW. By this point there were about 15-20 other losers literally just staring at these two guys eat. Benoit wouldn't even look up (if only I knew what was going on in that brain), so eventually Eddie being, from what I have always heard, the nicest guy ever, came over and signed tons of autographs for us. Someone asked him what was wrong with Chris, and Eddie replied with a very serious look – ‘Man, just let Chris be, leave him alone for now.' Eddie was always the one who knew how to deal with Benoit, and this minor example was me seeing it for my own eyes up close.
Around 1998, maybe 1999, WCW had Nitro had the Centrum in Worcester. So again, I had my dad take me and my brother to get autographs from these superstars before. As my dad is driving us behind the Centrum, who do I see in an NWO shirt? Why this black man was Vincent! AKA Virgil. My brother and I, excitedly explain to my dad that this guy used to be the Million Dollar Man's slave! My father rolls down his window, and yells at the top of his lungs – ‘VINCENT!!!!' – to which Vincent gives a half-hearted wave. Without skipping a beat, my father continues – ‘YOU SUCK!!!'. Vincent puts his head down, adjusts his fanny pack, and walks into the Centrum.
[Photo via shstrng's Flickr]