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."
(Ed Note: We're running a little light on submissions this week. So please encourage anyone who might have good stories to send them in.)
On to your letters! Ryan:
My run-in with wrestling greatness takes place back in 2005 in Detroit - March 25th, to be exact. I know this because I still have the ticket stub. What show did I catch, you might ask? Was it a Royal Rumble? Smackdown taping? Oh no, my friends. This wasn't a wrestling show. That fateful Friday, at the Fox Theater across the street from Comerica Park, I was at an Ashlee Simpson concert.
My girlfriend at the time was an absolute sucker for anything reality-TV related, including Ashlee Simpson. That led to an unhealthy obsession with her "music," and in turn led me to purchase her two tickets to the Detroit show as a Valentine's Day gift. The tickets were meant for her and a friend of her choice; she didn't see it that way.
We were barely through the front doors when she already had to pee. I followed her over to the ladies' room entrance, where there were couches inside of a small waiting area, and executed my boyfriendly duties of holding the purse. As I took a seat on one of the couches, I noticed a giant hulk of red, white and blue mass, with slick black hair. He was hunched over looking at his phone, but as he put it away and sat up straight in the chair, we locked eyes. It was WWE superstar Dave Batista.
Being the only heterosexual male over the age of 18 anywhere near the Fox Theater, I was the only one to notice. As we sat across the room from each other, I gave him my best inquisitive face with a raised eyebrow, as if to say "what are you doing here?" A smile broke out over his face as he realized that at least one person could identify him. He returned the look with a shrug of his shoulder and his hands in the air, clearly not wanting to be there either. We both laughed and nodded our heads in agreement. Just then, a girl no older than 10 came out of the ladies room. Big Dave stood up in his full American flag tracksuit (!!) as the little girl took his hand as they made their way to find their seats. It turns out he has young daughters, and this one unfortunately had horrible taste in music.
Batista looked back over his shoulder and said "enjoy the show" with a big grin. I spend the next two hours fantasizing that he would jump on stage, give Simpson the trademark thumbs down, and powerbomb her off the stage. I have to believe he was imagining the same.
When I was a kid in the early '80s my family and used to vacation regularly at a beachfront vacation spot near Clearwater, Florida. Many wrestlers lived in the area when they weren't on the road, so we would regularly run into the stars of the day. This was during wrestling's big boom and for me and my friend, being about 12 years old, stalking wrestlers was a regular part of our vacation experience.
Early one morning my friend and I went down to the Gulf to body surf and skim board which was a regular start to our day. As we went about our business we noticed a large partially dressed man laying in the sand about fifty yards away. He didn't look to be in the best of shape, and perhaps in need of medical attention. As we got closer we noticed more detail. The guy was wearing pieces of what seems like a pretty nice suit although disheveled, he was missing his shirt and was only wearing one shoe. The other shoe and sock were missing and not in plain sight. My friend and I stood over the slumbering beast of man and realized it was Greg "The Hammer" Valentine sleeping off a night of apparent Gulf Coast debauchery.
We stood over like the kids from Stand By Me when they finally found the dead body. We got up the courage to poke him awake since we were concerned he might get swept up in the tide when it came in, or injured by the late morning sun we were just feeling the burn from. Hammer muttered something unintelligible and rolled over and returned to his slumber. Maybe 15 later we watched from a distance as he rose from the sand under his own power, got his bearings and walked off to Hammerland, wherever that may have been. My friend and I could never take "The Hammer" seriously again.
In November of 1997, a week or two after the Montreal Screwjob, I was on vacation with my family and were returning to Boston, with a layover in Cleveland. The layover was early in the morning, maybe 7 a.m., and we had to change planes immediately. As we get to the other plane, the boarding passengers are told, "Just sit wherever you can." I think that it is a little odd, we have assigned seats. Why can't I sit in my assigned aisle seat? As soon as I get through the terrible wait inside the little tunnel and enter the plane, I begin to realize why assigned seating was out of the question.
In first class, there were Steve Austin and the Undertaker. Austin looks up at me and quickly looks away, as everyone in first class is wont to do. My mother whispers to me, 'Those guys look like wrestlers.' In my starstruck glee, I can only nod.
I get through the curtain to enter the coach seating and...wow. You know those times when you walk into a room and can identify every single face? This was that feeling. In coach were the following wrestlers/managers: HBK, Marc Mero, Sable, Jim Neidhart, DOA, The Godfather, Paul Bearer, Billy Gunn, Ken Shamrock, HHH, Chyna and others I cannot even remember right now. There were more than 20 of them in coach. The wrestlers had literally taken over the plane, just a bunch of really big guys who wanted to sleep by the window or the aisle and not be hampered by the rules.
Seating was at a premium. I basically had to take the first manageable seat I could get. I could have sat between the 6'10" DOA twins but opted not to (my mother, of all people, wound up sitting between them and said that they were very nice). So I went with the next option: waking up the man on the aisle (Ken Shamrock, who was riding his Most Dangerous Man on the Planet gimmick at the time) so that I could slide past him into the middle seat. He sort of gives me a look and pushes his legs to the side so I can get by and promptly step on Billy Gunn's foot, who was sleeping with his head on the window. He yells out, "Don't have to step on my FOOT" without opening his eyes. I settle into my seat between two enormous dudes and take stock of the situation.
I'm on a plane with over 20 wrestlers, all of whom I could recite the history of, and woke up two of them in the process of trying to sit. My father is sitting next to the Godfather (who my father described as 'gigantic') and my sister is next to Paul Bearer, who is very fat and at one point seemed to think he had some sort of shot with my sister, based on his odd laughter and Paul Bearer-face. So obviously, I don't sleep on this flight, I am paying attention to everything. I will say that Neidhart seemed awfully friendly with HBK, considering what had transpired a few weeks earlier.
We finally arrive in Boston and, obviously, the wrestlers are all waiting for their luggage at the same carousel. Something goes wrong and things get stuck, which results in HBK going up onto the machine and basically kicking at the entry for luggage until it works. I know I have to say something to one of these guys and figure I'll go up to the only one who seemed apart from the rest: Ken Shamrock. He was the only one sitting by himself while waiting for luggage, far away from everyone else and just sort of in his own world. Maybe he wasn't fully accepted by them, maybe it's because he was tired, who knows. I approach and basically tell him that I like what he brings to wrestling and really enjoy watching him in UFC (having watched a lot of it at that time). He shakes my hand and says that he appreciates it. As I walk away, I let him know my cousin is a big fan as well and that was it. I left with my family and felt lucky to have been in a one of a kind situation like that. For the most part, they seemed like nice guys but it is interesting that only two were in first class.
In the summer of 1993 I was in the Cincinnati airport for a layover, waiting to catch a flight to Lexington, Kentucky. I had stopped following wrestling a couple of years earlier, but had a friend that would give me occasional updates. A few weeks before this flight, he had called to tell me that the original Four Horsemen were reuniting. We were both excited and I told him that I might start watching WCW again if the original Horsemen returned. I then told him to call back and let me know what happened at the Horsemen reunion. The day after this reunion took place, I got home from work and found that my friend had left a disappointed message on my answering machine saying that Tully Blanchard no-showed and Paul Roma had taken Tully's place in the Horsemen. I thought to myself "Paul Roma a Horseman? WTF? No way I'll watch that crap!" and quickly forgot about the whole thing.
During my layover, I was sitting down reading a newspaper when someone sat in the chair next to me. He was a small guy in sweatpants and a tank top, toting a gym bag. I glanced up from my newspaper, did a double take, and thought to myself "Damn, that guy looks just like Paul Roma." But since the guy was only about 5'7" or 5'8", I quickly dismissed it. After sitting there for a few minutes, the guy asked me if he could read some of the newspaper. I said sure and he said thanks. Since he had spoken to me first, I decided to just go ahead and ask him if he was Paul Roma. He looked at me with pure astonishment and said "Yes I am." He seemed truly amazed that someone had recognized him. He then said something like "I guess you must be a big wrestling fan." I didn't have the heart to tell him that I had stopped watching years ago and that he had recently killed any chance of me watching it again in the near future, so I just said yes. I then said some BS like "congratulations on becoming a Horseman." Paul thanked me and proceeded to quietly talk in character about how Ole had big plans for the group, they were headed straight to the top, and that the rest of WCW better watch out. As lame as this sounds now, it sounded even lamer in person. Mercifully, I heard the announcement that my plane was starting to board. I quickly stood up and told him, while he was in mid-sentence, that I had to catch my flight. Paul said "nice meeting you" and offered to give me an autograph. I told him no thanks and that I was in a hurry. I know that was cold, but I just couldn't take it anymore.
Over the years, I've heard people recount awesome Horsemen stories about witnessing Ric, Tully and Arn raise hell wherever they went. My Horsemen story is of turning down an autograph from "Pretty" Paul Roma. Just doesn't seem fair.
The WWF was doing a house show in Edmonton and being a 12-year-old superfan I convinced my dad and uncle to go the show. The show was at the Agricom Arena, which is/was the secondary arena in Edmonton and it's right across the street from the big arena, the Coliseum. So my dad's driving, and as we pull into the Agricom parking lot this rental car comes across the street from the Coliseum parking lot, totally disregarding traffic and cutting off dad in the line to park. Now my dad is a big man and he's kinda mad, saying he should kick that guys ass or whatever.
We get in to park and we end up fairly close to the car that cut us off. It's about 15 minutes to showtime so I'm not really thinking wrestlers would be getting out of this vehicle. Out of the car come Psycho Sid, and the Harris Twins. (They might have been Jacob and Eli Blue at the time, doesn't matter.) Sid recognizes dad as the guy he cut off and says "Sorry man, we're late." As the three hurry into the arena my dad and uncle share a look which can only be described as relief. Good thing he never decided to get out and go after the guy that cut him off in traffic.
Somehow we got seats in the front row, and Sid recognizes us again from earlier. He squashed Goldust and on his way out he stops to give us the fist bump. For me, all was forgiven. Dad still doesn't like him.
1. In 1997 or '98, I with a bunch of my friends driving across the Mississippi River Bridge into Memphis for the Memphis in May Beale Street Music Festival. Ahead of us was a Jeep Wrangler with an enormous man driving. His legs were sort of poking out of the side. I joked to my friend, "dude, what if that was Sid Vicious." Sid was from Northeastern Arkansas, as were we.
We pass the jeep, and I look over...and there he is. Sid. Smokin' a hooter. In a Jeep Wrangler with the top down. Needless to say, we flipped out. Sid looked over and saw a bunch of 15-year-olds high-fiving each other in a Chevy Suburban. That should have been that. But approximately 2.5 hours and a few pilfered beers later, I was standing in the port-a-potty line. I realized that it had gotten cloudy very quickly. Then I realize that I had mistaken a massive shadow for cloudiness. I turned and was eye level with Sid's bellybutton. I did the classic slow look up, and there he was...again. I thought fast, and drunkenly yelled, "Sid! Lemme' catch that hand, hoss!" We shook hands, and I grabbed his arm like we were meeting at a convention. His bicep was like a telephone pole.
2. In high school, my best friend's dad worked at the local radio station. One Friday night, there was going to be rasslin' at the armory. Radio DJ Dad was going to interview Handsom Jimmy Valiant on air on Friday morning. He invited his son and I to tag along. We were allowed to skip class for this event. We showed up at the radio station, and there was the Boogie Woogie Man, forehead tattoo, stork-leg arms, Gregg Allman beard. It was at that awkward moment when I realized, "I have nothing to say to Jimmy Valiant." Me and Jimmy Valiant literally talked about the weather for a couple of seconds. My friend asked about how vacations worked in wrestling, was an injury faked in order to go to Disneyland, that sort of stuff. Jimmy literally grunted. He didn't say more than two syllables.
We thought that Jimmy had lost a step in the decade or so since he brightened up my Saturday mornings on the Memphis Rasslin. Then the mics went hot. And Handsome Jimmy was there. "This is the Boogie Woogie Man, Handsome Jimmy, baby, coming at you primetime and in charge......." It was incredible. Everyone in the studio just stared agape. When he was finished with the interview, he quietly and politely said thanks and then left.
I saw him wrestle that night, and his show-stopping moves included forcing his opponet to simulate oral sex on him (it was funnier than it was gross, you had to be there) and sticking his finger up his opponent's arse. The crowd went wild. Good clean fun.
In 1999, I was a senior in college at Kent State University. I hadn't watched pro wrestling since I was kid, but a few of my college buddies were seriously into it. By default, I started to watch it again. Mix in the awesome "WCW vs. NWO" game for the Nintendo 64, and by early summer, I was hooked. A few of us decided to get tickets to the WCW Monday Nitro show in Cleveland, Ohio. Since we were "marks," we also brought home-made signs. I don't remember what all of them said, but I do remember one:
"MACHO NEEDS A HOT CARL."
This was of course directed to the late, great "Macho Man Randy Savage." (All of our signs were ridiculous or offensive. We just wanted to see if we could get them on TV.)
We got to the Cleveland area a little early in hopes of seeing some wrestlers. The event was being held at the Cleveland State basketball arena, and we began walking the perimeter. As we got to the back parking lot, we noticed Chris Benoit sitting on a chair alone between two semi-trailers. He was leaning forward with his elbows on his knees, chewing tobacco. There was a fence separating us, but we were only about 50 feet away. We yelled his name for a bit, and he finally looked over to us and waved like he wanted us to go away. That ended our interaction.
We did a few laps around the arena and didn't see anyone else. The show started at 8pm, and by that time it was around 7:15. We cut our losses and headed to the doors, but the line was about 3 miles long. So we decided to take another lap around the arena. When we got to the loading dock, we heard a familiar voice emitting from below....
There was a fence bordering the sidewalk, and the loading dock was about 20 feet straight down. There stood the legendary Macho Man Randy Savage. He was cutting a backstage vignette, and it was just him and the cameraman. Macho was facing the fence, so he was able to see us when we approached. After we realized what was going on, we immediately began acting like jackasses. We started screaming at him, hurling insults, and recommending he place saran wrap upon his face and get shat on.
Macho then cut from his vignette, pointed up at us, and screamed "SHUUUUUUUUTTTTTTT UPPPP!"
It was like hearing the voice of God. We were 20 feet above him, separated by a fence, but I froze as though the girl from "The Ring" was crawling out of my TV.
We decided to take his advice and shut the fuck up. We walked quietly to our seats with our heads down, not wanting to admit we were scared shitless.
After the show, we went to the then booming "Flats" area of Cleveland. As we were walking by one restaurant, we spotted Chris Kanyon eating at a table directly in front of the front window. My buddy and I went right to the window and flashed him the "NWO Wolfpac" sign. Kanyon looked thoroughly annoyed, and haphazardly flashed it back at us. We left happy.
The sad story is that 13 years later, all of the wrestlers we interacted with are dead....
Back in 2000, I was a 12-year-old uber-wrestling dweeb. I had the posters, action figures, VHS videos; any WWE (then the WWF) offering from my local Wal-Mart, I was spending my allowance on or planning on buying. One day I noticed there a sign stating Mick Foley and Hardcore Holly would be doing an autograph signing in the toy aisle of the aforementioned Wal-Mart. My heart skipped a beat as Mankind/Mick Foley was not only my all-time favorite wrestler but also a guy I aspired to be like (I really like red flannel). His autobiographies were among the first "grown up" books I had ever read and his story of hardship coming up through the independent ranks and onto the WWE championship had inspired me someday pursue becoming a professional wrestler myself.
I waited a shade over two months for the big day. I barely slept the night before and the internal debate over those 60+ days was whether to wear my Mankind shirt or my WWE Attitude shirt (as to not offend the other person at the signing, the wrestler formally known as Sparky Plugg). I eventually settled on my Mankind shirt as a way of hopefully attracting a little more attention from the "hardcore legend". When we arrived, there were about 150 other wrestling fans that arrived before us. Some in the front of the line had even slept overnight beside Wal-Mart's front door for the opportunity to be the first people to shake hands with and spend a few moments with the wrestlers. Undeterred, we got in line and began to wait. My mother (who is NOT a professional wrestling fan) was gracious enough to spend the three hours in line with me. Keep in mind, that this was a time before smart-phones so my mother had to spend those 180+ minutes reading soup labels and staring at what had become a shitshow of heavyset and pimply faced wrestling dweebs in their best wrestling shirts (other than Mankind shirts, I mostly saw Stone Cold, Sable and Hardy Boyzzz tees).
We finally got near the front of the line. My mother, who at this point was bored to tears and complaining that her feet hurt, had told me several times to speak up when introducing myself to the "wrestling men" and smile for the pic she was going to take. I only could shake my head as I had already played the entire scenario out in my head a million times in the months leading to this encounter.
I began walking toward these massive men sitting at a white table with black and red Sharpies, and I went completely blank. Holly was closest and was the first to introduce himself. He could tell I was nervous and a little intimidated and told me not to worry. He asked for my name and asked what grade I was in. Through my peripheral vision, I could see my mother mouth the words "thank you so much" to Holly. The thing is, I wasn't nervous about meeting Bob Holly. I mean, I was, but that was nothing compared to meeting my idol.
I shuffled over to the left and there I was: standing in front of my hero, Mick Foley. I had already been trained by my mother to stick out my hand for a shake so I nervously stuck my hand out. But nothing happened. Mick didn't grab my hand and make nice with me like Hardcore Holly. Instead he leered over at my mother (who was standing over my left shoulder) and made no attempt to cover up that he was obviously disrobing her with his eyes. He says to her "Cute kid. Was his father too busy to bring him here or ...?" I didn't realize it at the time but Mick Foley was hitting on my mother.
I vividly remember my mother snapping back that my father was a staff sergeant and he was temporarily on leave. I didn't understand her dissonance but I did note that Mick did not make eye contact with me one time during our 30-second interaction. He signed his 8x10 without breaking eye contact with my mother, who was quite obviously peeved now. Mick finishes signing the 8x10 but not before he whispers something to one of their handlers. He silently hands me the photograph and I make my way around the table to take my picture. In a haze, the picture was taken (I forgot to smile) and afterwards we started our trek back to the car.
Before we could get to the Camry, a bald man with a ponytail runs up to us. He hands my mother a business card. When we got inside the car, my mother reads the card out loud and shows me the card. It read "Lonely? Mick" along with a phone number. My 12-year-old brain still did comprehend. That is when my mother spoke to me as an adult for the first time ever. She explained that Mick was looking to "go out on a date" with her. It didn't register until years later the Mick Foley wanted to bone my mom but what I still find eerie/humorous is that Mick signed the note to my mother with his trademark smiley face. He didn't even do that for my 8x10!!
Back in October of 1993, I attended a wrestling convention put on at Bensalem High School in suburban Philly. It was quite an amazing scene for me at the time, getting to talk face to face with guys I idolized as a child. Terry Funk and Jim Cornette, in particular, were especially gracious. Meanwhile, it was rather jarring to see Animal from the Road Warriors just standing right outside the convention gym like some goof (almost as if he showed up on his own), hawking t-shirts and making change out of his Zubaz pants.
By far the oddest encounter was with Kamala, who was in full gimmick during the convention itself, shirtless in his gear, facepaint, and symbols on his chest. He grunted and did the full "Ugandan headhunter" character the entire day.
So, we stayed for the full convention and stuck around while the organizers set up the gym for the wrestling show that night. I was getting ready to leave when I noticed a circle of wrestlers in street clothes sitting on chairs, right in the middle of the gym, with young children still wandering about. One of the guys was Kamala, now dressed normally, reading a hardcore porn magazine the wrestlers were passing around, I believe it was Swank.
The spring of 1995 the WWF came through the prairie provinces of Canada. I was a pretty junior cop at the time and I signed up for some "special duty" at the WWF event. Basically just to be there as a presence and someone who the security could pass off big-time assholes to. I don't remember the whole roster but Virgil, Razor Ramon, Jeff Jarrett and Brett Hart were there. I was a WWF fan as a kid so this was a nice perk to be there.
So my partner and I are backstage in the bowels of the arena, but off to the side and out of the way. To our pleasant surprise, Razor comes up and is holding some belt that he was the title holder of at that time. He's out of character and pretty cool. He throws the belt around my partner and we have a good laugh. I remember how heavy that thing was; guess I expected an aluminium piece of hardware. So as we pass him the belt back, he says "got to go", runs past the others and right out into the centre stage. He battles Double J and the night is over for them. From chit-chat to 15,000 screaming people in 6 seconds. Sorta cool I thought.
Virgil got his ass handed to him by some French guy that night.
We heard later from our airport customs/security contacts that when the wrestlers were coming through the airport, each of them had like a million pills in their carry-on luggage. Stimulants, sleeping aids, ED pills, you name it. Nothing unusual in '95 I guess and a dark side to the business I suppose.
We close, as always, with a Virgil story. Dan:
My friend and I basically hate anything that is good, and love anything that is awful, so we were totally stoked to find out that Virgil was going to be at Wizard World Texas. (It had to have been sometime between 2002 and 2004.) So, we decided that we were going to bring Virgil one of those giant cookies from the mall, and we were going to have them write "WORLDS GREATEST RASSLER" on it.
I'd like you to note how we had the boarder around the edge done in red and white stripes, like the pants Virgil used to wear after he split from the Million Dollar Man. So, we get the cookie made in Lubbock and drive up to Dallas. I have this giant thing in my lap for like 6 hours, and we are just giggling the entire time, every now and then opening up the box to take a peek at it, then giggling even more. This was way before the reputation of Virgil being a D-Bag was all over the internet, so we had no idea what to expect the next morning when we present it to him!
We walk up to Virgil, and we are kind of nervous, again, not knowing that this dude makes his living going to malls and shit, still thinking of him as a sort of quasi-celebrity. We present him with the cookie, and he makes a comment about what a "big motherfucker" it is, and then pretty much immediately goes in to his sales pitch for pictures. We feel like we've come this far, so we each decide to get an autographed picture of him (horribly overpriced, and I am pretty sure I lost it on the trip home anyway) and the entire time, he keeps calling the cookie a big motherfucker, or a big-ass motherfucker.
What happened next blew my mind and is something I will remember until the day I die. We took our pictures, and paid him, and we were getting ready to leave, and he said that he was going to, quote, "get my big ol' dick all up in this big mother fucker on the way home."
Oh, and in case you are wondering, he didn't even OFFER us any of the cookie we gave him, and he was eating it right in front of us!
Photo from adamthephotog's Flickr stream