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."
I was a huge wrestling fan when I was a young kid. WWF and WCW were like a religion to me. I watched it as much as I could and my friends and I constantly reenacted what we saw. I stopped watching about the time I turned 14, but still knew who was around from the earlier days because of my friends.
I worked at a sporting goods store during high school and occasionally a professional athlete came in to get something, though no one really exciting. Until this day. I was in the team sports area (football, baseball, soccer, etc...) when an attractive blonde woman comes up and asks me if we carry wooden baseball bats. I say we do and lead her over to the rack. I immediately spin it around so the tee-ball bats are facing her, thinking it's for her son, when she stops me and says it's actually for her husband. I say something to the effect of, oh well he'd probably be better off picking out one for himself because of the length and weight. I asked her if he was around and she says that he's waiting in the car but she'll go get him and come back.
At this point I'm figuring he's some over the hill guy trying to relive his glory days in a wood bat league and that he'll just come in and grab whatever is the cheapest. A few minutes later I hear her say we're back can you still help us? I say sure and turn around and and staring a gigantic man straight in the chest. I'm 6'4, this dude is huge. I look up, and it's none other than The Undertaker. I'm immediately frozen. Like any kid growing up in the '90s, the 'Taker was one of my absolute favorites. I somehow mutter something to the effect of, the bats are over here, and start walking towards them. He laughs, and follows me to the rack. After getting over my initial starstruckness, I end up having a conversation with them both. We talked about how wrestling has changed, his injuries, stuff like that. They were incredibly nice and even asked if I wanted to "take a picture with Mark." I declined saying I'd probably get in trouble for it since I'm at work but thanked them anyways. He settles on a bat, a black Louisville Slugger (shocking right?), shakes my hand and says thanks for all the help. He starts to walk away but turns around, rolls his eyes in to the back of his head and says "Be sure to watch next week, you may see something you recognize" as he pats his hand on the bat a few times.
I didn't watch the following week and will never know if he actually used that bat, but I'd like to think I had a small hand in someone getting smashed in the face with it. Oh, and the best part, on his way out of the store I saw him stop and talk to my manager. A few minutes later my manager comes up and says that some "big tattooed guy" said how helpful I was and that I deserved a raise. Too bad that raise never happened. But I appreciated him going out of his way to do that.
I used to be a dealer on a riverboat in Kansas City, MO., in my younger and dumber days. Every time the Fed or a band I liked came to town, I would keep my eyes open for someone I recognized. Most of the celebrities that did come through were of the "celebrity" variety: local weathermen, douchebags from American Idol, Kansas City Chiefs, or, even worse, players for the Royals. One very busy Tuesday night, however, I hit gold. Something even more magical that Don Zimmer asking me where the can was. I spotted half of my favorite wrestling group of all time, the Four Horsemen. Seeing Ric Flair and Arn Anderson play slot machines made me mark out pretty hard.
I grew up on an Army base in Georgia, so I was a huge NWA fan, particularly of Arn Anderson. I don't know what it was about him, but I worshipped Arn. I hit my poor little brother with a never ending stream of Spinebusters. While employees were discouraged from interacting with celebrities outside of gaming, I was not going to miss this opportunity to me meet my childhood idol. When my break came, I walked right up to Ric and Arn, who had been joined by Matt Hardy, and introduced myself politely and said I was glad to meet my favorite wrestler. Ric assumed it was him, but Arn grinned when I said it was the Enforcer. He shook my hand and I blurted out the worst possible thing:
"When I was a kid, I wished you were my dad."
Dead silence. Arn let go of my hand, mumbled something, and went back to his slot machine. I walked away in a daze and took the remainder of my 20-minute break. So, yeah, that is my only brush with wrestling greatness.
In 1996, I worked at a ski shop in Atlanta, GA. As one of the only ski shops in the greater Southeast region we got our fair share of local celebrities in. One day I am hard at work on my shift sifting through magazines when in walks Buff "The Stuff" Bagwell, aka Marcus Alexander Bagwell, accompanied by a stacked brunette who looked like she had just come off a shift at Tattletales or the Gold Club (conveniently located down the street). At this point in late 1996, Buff was really at his peak having become a feature wrestler for the WCW (headquartered in Atlanta) and a newly minted asset of the original New World Order.
None of my coworkers knew who this stallion of the squared circle was, so I promptly hopped off my stool to help him and his female acquaintance out. They were looking at taking a trip "someplace cold" in a few weeks and needed proper insulation. After going through various brands and styles for him and her, we make some fine selections hats, gloves, jackets, mittens (for her) and furry snow boots(totaling about $1,100, of which my poor broke-ass college self would get 3% commission). We make our way up to the counter and I ring him up. He pays for his stuff in cash and gets her mittens, hat, and boots but puts her jacket on layaway. As I'm walking them out, he whispers to me that she hadn't "earned" the jacket yet…
As a lover of sports entertainment 4 life, I often turned that passion into productive work in local affiliate television. As a TV reporter, I would go the local civic center in places like Salisbury, Maryland and Erie, Pennsylvania, and interview the various wrestlers the WCW or WWF (at that time) was currently pushing.
S- Lex Luger lifting me high above his head during a segment on his "Lex Express" tour.
- Marc Mero (actually Johnny B Badd then) ruining my best $150 suit by rubbing up against me after he immersed himself in baby oil.
- Scott Steiner asking me where the pay phone was, and then bumming a quarter off me.
- Shawn Michaels during a remote interview hearing my stick-up-the-ass anchor say in his ear (mistakenly, during a mic check) "hey look, Chris is gonna interview another one of his steroid freaks." Michaels wanted a name and address. I regret not giving it to him.
- Doink and Dink never breaking character in the 45 minutes I spent with them in the dressing room.
But by far the most incredible story involved George "the Animal" Steele, and the Bushwhackers.
This takes place in the early '90s, Erie Civic Center. I go there with my favorite photog Twix, expecting to see a run of the mill road agent. Out waddles George the Animal in a shirt and tie. I totally mark out, and Twix is giggling like a schoolgirl. George, realizing we are literally speechless, starts grunted and groaning and sticking his tongue out and making wild eyes at us. He snaps out of it, and says "Happy now? Follow me." He leads us toward the locker room, and oddly warns us to watch out for Butch and Luke. We are greeted at the door of the locker room by the greatest shit smell I ever mistakenly inhaled. It was a real paint-peeler. They are yelling at us to come in. We refused. They eventually walk out, and quite agreeably walk up to our live shot location, exchanging small talk and pleasantries.
About 10 minutes out from the live hit, Luke says "Hey mate, gives us about a two-minute warning, so we can warm up. I like to get fired up, right. Once, I passed out from the intensity." Still not sensing trouble, I nod my head. At my cue of the two-minute warning, they both go absolutely freakin ape shit. Yelling and scream "whooaaaaaaaaaaaa yeeeeeeeeeeeeahhhhhhhhhhh," the arms pumping up and down, the marching etc etc. I can't hear a single thing. Twix is pointing at me frantically, and it is at this point they begin licking my face and tickling me. But the disaster has not struck yet.
I managed to get out a question about one of their opponents, the dreaded Mr. Hughes. And here it is – Butch: "Aye, Chris, Mister Yews is a bad motherfucker." As God as my witness, the minute he literally spit out "motherfucker," the lights went out. Our lights that lit the interview. We are still live. I don't know it. I weakly chuckle, and say, "Oops. I guess we're done."
We are clear from the live shot now. George is ready to rip their heads off. The Bushwhackers are apologizing. We hug it out like men, and I creep back to the station. Later, Vince personally apologized to our GM. What caused the power outage? I contend it was because Twix plugged 17 high-power-drawing pieces of equipment into a dollar store power strip. But our Sales Manager (and coincidentally, a Civic Center board member), who witnessed the debacle, claimed he kicked the power cord out of the wall.
About two years ago, I went down to Orange County to visit a friend. We were at some healthy juice place, you know one of those places where Ed Hardy-wearing dudes and super health-conscious chicks hang out. As me and my buddy were in line to get one of his banana flavored protein powders, this huge-ass man comes in. He's wearing shades and a hat, so I couldn't really tell who it was. Suddenly the clerk stops ringing up the customer and everyone in the store (there were like eight of us) see what he's looking at. Right as I turn around I see Brock Lesnar talking with some smaller man about what's something that helps with digestion. He was in town for the UFC event against Cain Velasquez.
Anyway, my buddy being the idiot that he is walks up to Brock and I don't know what he says but Brock says something like, "sorry man I'm in my fight mode." My friend leaves it at that and heads back with his tail between his legs. These two douchebag-looking guys try to talk to him, and get the same response from Lesnar. Apparently they won't get over Brock slighting them, so they say loudly enough for Brock to hear them that they think Cain is going to kick his ass (which he did). Thinking they're funny they go on for a few seconds before Lesnar just walks right next to them and gives them the death stare. I swear the one talking must have shit in his pants, because he quickly shut up, backed away and almost ran out the store with his friend following him. We all look over at Lesnar who just smirks and goes back to doing his business. Lesson here, Brock Lesnar is massive and to all those douchebag bros in Orange County, watch who you mouth off to.
In the summer of 2001 I was preparing to go to college and working at my dad's restaurant. I had known there was a WCW House show going on at the arena less than a mile from the restaurant. Being that the restaurant was a local haven for the town's NHL team, I wondered if any of the wrestlers might make it through. The day started to grow late, and my shift was rapidly coming to an end when one mountain of a man, and his shorter, but perhaps scarier friend took a seat at my counter. I retrieved a couple glasses of water, and offered the men something to drink. As they lowered there menus to bark at me for nothing more than three more glasses of water each, I realized that I was taking the orders of "Big Sexy" Kevin Nash and "Big Poppa Pump" Scott Steiner.
After a few minutes of looking over the menu, and taking great efforts to make sure they weren't recognized (I doubted that the 70-year-old women in the booth behind them would flash a Wolfpac sign), they order two of the biggest entrees in a restaurant already renowned for enormous portion size. I rationalize that they are big guys, and ask what they want as their side dishes. They each order pasta. Not the side order size, but the entree size. At this point I suggest that this is a lot of food, and ask if perhaps they'd like a 1/2 order of pasta as a compromise. Steiner assures me, in a tone that I'm a moron for even asking such a question, that the order stands.
At this point I'm annoyed that someone would talk to a complete stranger, who is simply trying to help, in such a manner. Eventually I deliver their food armed with the knowledge that I will be vindicated in being a good Samaritan who was treated unjustly (keep in mind, I'm 18 - being right was everything). I go about my duties, setting up for my relief, intermittently checking on Steiner and Nash, who was only slightly more pleasant than his counterpart. Eventually they ask for the check, and hand me credit cards without even bothering to scan the bill. They sign and leave, presumably making their way to the arena, and I round the counter to bus their plates, but am struck dumbfounded before I can pick anything up. Both men had finished cleaning all the massive plates of food. The stark realization that will never leave me set in: Scott Steiner was justified in being a dick.
It's 2005 and I'm a junior at a college roughly an hour outside of Philly. I was an attackman in lacrosse and on this particular early April day we were playing one of our crosstown rivals. So it is the third quarter and the action is down the other end of the field. I'm standing at the midline with my defensemen when I peer over at the crowd and see a most peculiar figure. The weather is high 40s/low 50's, rainy, overcast...generally a pretty shitty day to be outside. It does not stop this individual from wearing a black sleeveless shirt with pink Zubaz pants. I think to myself, "No way...thats gotta be the Sandman. But what on gods green earth is he doing at a DIII lacrosse game in shit weather?" I notice my defensemen whispering to each other...and can hear their excited cries of "Sandman showed up! Sandmans here!"
Of course I have to find out what's up. "What the hell is the Sandman doing here?" "You see number 37? The Sandman is dating his sister." "No fucking way." "Yeah man...he sometimes shows up to games." "Thats....awesome. Is he cool?" "Yeah I guess...most of the time seems like he doesn't want to be bothered." "Please tell me he brown bags it to games." "Oh yeah man...he absolutely does."
I don't know if their love ever blossomed to its fullest potential, but I'm just glad he got to watch me play mediocre collegiate sports.
During the Monday Night Wars, my buddies and I were pretty avid Monday night watchers. First watch Nitro, then flip to Raw. Well, being from Virginia Beach, we were up front for the best battle of the war. Raw was 20 minutes away at the Hampton Coliseum. Nitro was 15 minutes from there at the Norfolk Scope. That is the famous "DX Invades Nitro in a fucking army vehicle" angle. We chose to attend the Raw show.
After the show ended, we decided to get some drinks at the Hooters a block away from the Coliseum. After two solid hours of shots and more shots, I glance over at a guy walking to the bathroom. I notice that he is short, but as wide as a tractor trailer. It is Ken Shamrock. I yell it out to my friends. One of them says, "go give that little man a hug, he looks lonely". So. I walk up to the Most Dangerous Man in the World, and give him a hug. "You are the fucking greatest, champ" I say. He laughs his ass off, and says "Thanks Bro."
As we were leaving, we noticed a small crowd gathering at the front window of the Waffle House that shared a parking lot with Hooters. We walk over, and lo and behold, there is the most famous wrestler in the world, Stone Cold Steve Mother Fuckin Austin, sitting in Waffle House waiting for his food, with Chainz from DOA. The other admirers were big pussies and would not go in. My friends and I, being drunk, said "Fuck It". Walked in JUST as their food came. Even though it is a cardinal sin to approach a famous person when they are eating or about to eat, they were awesome. Austin signed our hats; Chainz just sat there.
As we were leaving, I kept thinking how he could have told us to Fuck Off, as he dabbed the grease off of his grilled chicken breast. When we cracked the doors to leave, I guess that was like busting the dam on a lake. All the guys that were watching at the window rushed through, thinking the ice was broken, they were going in. We got to watch from the window as Austin stopped dabbing his chicken, looked up, and from what we could understand from the lip reading and reaction from the new crowd, told them to fuck off, he was eating.
During my teen years I used to frequent the local YMCA in Auburn, Maine. This was back when the YMCA used to rent rooms to just about anyone who walked through the door for a few bucks a week. The problem was that these folks would make their way downstairs to the weight room, showers, basketball court, etc. One day a few friends of mine and I were at the YMCA to play a game of pick-up basketball. We were walking down the stairs to the court when this gigantic man came out of a phone booth and he asked us if we had a minute. We were scared to death of this enormous black man with veins bulging out of his neck and eyes bugging out of his head. It was Mr. USA, Tony Atlas, apparently down on his luck renting a room at the YMCA in Auburn, ME. He offered us some advice that left us perplexed for several years and scarred for life. Mr. USA told us, "Sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you don't, Almond Joy has nuts, Mounds don't."
He laughed and walked off. We made it a point to avoid Mr. USA every time we went to YMCA after that. We often thought about the encounter later on and wondered what he meant. We ended up seeing him on an MTV show several years later about being strung out on heroin and cocaine. Made perfect sense after that.
In late 1983/early 1984, my buddies and I had begun our tradition of getting ringside seats whenever World Class Championship Wrestling made it's monthly appearance in our hometown of Corpus Christi. I was a freshman in high school at this time, and although pro wrestling was still a year away from mainstream appeal due to the WWF's "Rock N Wrestling Connection", WCCW was packing venues all over Texas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma as a result of the white-hot Freebirds/Von Erichs feud. As was normal around this time, this feud occupied the main event of the card we saw that night at the old Memorial Coliseum. I don't remember exactly who from each side wrestled, but as Freebird/Von Erich matches tended to do, this one ended up with several guys running in from the dressing room and brawling in and around the ring. One of the guys who came in to help out was a relative newcomer to the promotion named "Gentleman" Chris Adams, and he got over big with the fans that night by "superkicking" Freebird Buddy Roberts completely out of the ring during the post-match scrum.
After the matches (and after 45 minutes of waiting outside the backstage door so my buddy's sister could try to catch a glimpse of her favorite wrestler, Kerry Von Erich), we stopped at a 7-11 a few blocks down the street from the arena to get sodas for the drive home. There were quite a few fans from the matches stopping in so the store was a bit crowded. I picked up a Dr. Pepper and some Doritos and got in line behind a pretty well-built dude with dark hair who was carrying a couple of 12-packs of beer. I noticed quite a few people in the store were staring at him, when it dawned on me: it was none other than the Englishman himself, "Gentleman" Chris Adams, possessor of the lethal right foot that tattooed Buddy Roberts roughly an hour earlier.
I had no sooner made this discovery when the doors to the 7-11 opened and in walked Buddy Roberts himself. You could almost feel the air in the store ignite with tension: "Holy crap, dude...it's on! They're gonna throw down right freaking here!" I impulsively took a step back, not wanting Adams to duck a hurtling Roberts and send him cross-bodyblocking me into the magazine rack. (We knew the matches were scripted, but what we didn't know was to what lengths the wrestlers might go to keep up appearances when seeing each other in public.)
After roughly a five second staredown across the store that seemed to last five hours, Roberts smirked at Adams and cracked "I didn't know this was a gay bar" before strolling back to the coolers for his own adult beverages. Adams replied with something to the tune of "watch your back, scrub" as he paid for his beer and left, while the rest of us in the store tried to figure out what the hell had just happened.
As I paid for my stuff, I heard Roberts hassling some fans back by the coolers for wearing Von Erich t-shirts, calling them fags.
It was 1994. Reading, Penn. I had been working a few months at my first job at the local gas station. I grew up as a wrestling fan thanks to my uncle. He was a old time regional pro wrestler who did many early shows for the local promotion, Eastern Championship wrestling (which later became infamously known as Extreme Championship wrestling). As such, I saw many wrestling shows growing up. I also met many wrestlers and was on a first name basis with a few of them.
One spring evening, I was nearing the end of my shift when an old emerald green convertable pulls up one of our pumps. As I made my way over to the car, I saw two familiar faces in the car; ECW wrestlers Tommy Cairo and a heavily bandaged Cactus Jack (aka Mick Foley) along with three young, trashy looking girls (even by Reading standards) in the back seat. I had known Tommy Cairo through the local indies and my uncle. I always thought he was always a great guy. I had never met Cactus Jack, though I knew who he was through his stints in WCW and the incredible run he was having in ECW.
Foley began making his way out of the driver's side of the vehicle when I introduced myself. He stopped for a moment when I told him who my uncle was and passed along well wishes. He instructed me to put $10 in the gas tank and to also watch Tommy Cairo while he made use of our restroom. Cairo was in the passenger side of the vehicle in various states of consciousness. He would occasionally be lucid enough to take a swig of his can of beer (which he had inconspicuously wrapped in a napkin).
As Foley began pee-pee shuffling his way to the restroom, one of the girls in the car yells to him "I loooove yooooouuuuuuu, Caaaactuuuuus!" in a creepy, little girl speaking to her father, voice. Foley turned his head, chuckled a little and said "I love you too!". Another one of the girls says the same, equally as syrupy and creepy as the first girl. Cactus again reciprocates while walking as he is just five yards from the restroom door. But before he made it inside, the 3rd girl in their vehicle (and seemingly the youngest) screeches "Hey Caaactuuus, wudabout meeeee?". And while opening the restroom door, Cactus Jack replies back "Yeah, you too, dollface.".
In the few minutes before Foley emerged from the restroom, two others cars had pulled into the gas station. As I was finishing attending to these cars, I could see Foley walking towards the convertable. What I hadn't noticed during Foley's time away was Tommy Cairo had woken up enough to move himself from the passenger seat and into the driver's seat. There was a brief, inaudible, exchange between Tommy Cairo and Foley. It ended with an obviously reluctant Foley climbing into the passenger side of the vehicle. I walk over towards to his new side of the car and he hands me $10. I look over at Tommy Cairo and ask if he was okay to drive. He was staring at himself (or something) in the rear view mirror and didn't give me a response. Instead Tommy starts the very loud old convertable. This was like a cue for the girls. One of them begins to give Tommy a shoulder message and girl #3 (dollface) climbed from the back seat and onto Foley's lap. She began pulling the tape off the patches on his face and kissing Foley's still semi-bloody and very much open wounds. Foley seemed a little bashful about this but didn't stop her. As he sheepishly told her she didn't have to do that, he placed his hand on her exposed inner thigh. It was then, 15 seconds after I originally asked him, that Tommy looks over at me and says "I'm fucking fine, kid! Tell your fucking uncle I said hi!". And with that, Tommy threw two empty beers cans out of the old convertable and peeled off onto Penn avenue and into the sunset.
Earlier this year, WWE Monday Night RAW came to town, and my friend and I probably were the first to get tickets. Both of us have been wrestling fans from the womb, so why wouldn't we jump at the opportunity to go relive our youth. We heard that the wrestlers stayed at a hotel down the street from the arena, so after the event, we headed to the hotel bar.
Upon entering, we saw John Laurinaitis bellied-up to the bar solo, drowning his sorrows. He did just get GTS'd by CM Punk earlier in the evening to the crowd's elation, to be fair. Obviously, we went over and started talking to him. When we ordered our beers, he told the bartender, "Put it on my tab," in his trademark raspy voice, which sounds exactly like Bob Einstein's aka Mart Funkhouser from Curb Your Enthusiasm. We talked about how great he was during RAW that night, his overall awesomeness and, most importantly, the golden era of WWF (the last one was mostly just a long diatribe by yours truly). Nicest guy we've ever met - definitely not deserving of his heel status. We were elated at this point, drinking with John Laurinaitis, going back and forth buying each other drinks and just loving life. Now, this could have been either five minutes or hours - our time recollection at that point had been significantly altered. Nevertheless, as we were thinking about calling it a Monday night, who walks in but Vince McMahon and wrestling legend Pat Patterson. We freaked out and immediately ordered a round for Laurinaitis, McMahon and Patterson. Again, we could've been drinking with them for five minutes or hours. Best guys ever. Things got a little (a lot) blurry from there.
When we both woke up at our respective residences, we immediately called each other to verify the encounter actually happened. My friend had a pounding headache (we're no longer young bucks), an ATM receipt in his pocket for $200 from 12:01am, a taxi cab company's card and $35 left in cash. I had a very angry girlfriend (she picked us up) and a mental haziness that could rival the density of concrete. But in the end, we pieced together the GREATEST NIGHT OF OUR LIVES. Our only regret was not taking a picture with them, or at least Vince McMahon....
....until about a week later when I was browsing the pictures on my phone and found this.
My cousin had her wedding reception August 8, 2009 at the Hyatt Regency O'Hare, which was right next to Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont, Illinois. That happened to also be the weekend that the convention center was hosting Chicago Comic Con. So, I'm getting pretty lit up at the reception, and venture outside for a cigarette. I ask an old dude for a lighter and he obliges. He goes back inside and a guy wearing a Darth Maul hat and carrying a light saber informs me that I just borrowed a lighter from some dude from Battlestar Galactica. Color me unimpressed. However, he proceeds to tell me about this convention, and who else was there. Once he mentioned WWE stars, I was on alert.
As soon as I walked back inside, I see the fucking Honky Tonk Man coming down the escalator, and right behind him was Roddy Piper. After nearly shitting myself, I threw them both a high five, and went back to the reception. But I was not about to stop looking for wrestlers, since these guys were some of my idols growing up. After a few more Jack and Cokes, I head back out to the lobby to look around. I spot Kevin Nash, and decide to ask him for a picture. Surprisingly, he says sure. I tried to have my picture taken with him, but there was bad lighting in the area where we were, so I tell him, "oh well, not gonna happen." Instead, he's says, "Wait, let's head to the main lobby, better lighting there, but first, I gotta have the front desk make a call." So I'm just walking around with Kevin Nash shooting the shit. Told him he was one of my all-time favorites, asked about a few wrestlers, etc. He has the front desk call some woman's room and give her his room number! Then he takes a picture with me, and takes off.
Fast forward to late night after the reception at the hotel bar. Half the reception was there, we were all blasted, and some of the convention "stars" were there. All of sudden, I see Lou Ferrigno at a table and he is somehow surrounded by a bunch of girls. I drunkenly ask him for a pic, and he tells me to get the fuck away from him, so I called him a dickhead and walked away. I go back to the bar to order a drink, and end up right next to Kevin Nash! At this point, I feel like we're friends and he remembered me from earlier in the night, so I buy him a drink, and I tell him about what just happened with Lou Ferrigno. He laughed, and said, "that motherfucker is an asshole prick, can't stand him." I was dying. He proceeded to tell me a few things about how Ferrigno thought he was the shit at the convention and so forth, finished his drink and then told me he had to head out. Shook his hand and told him he was one of the coolest motherfuckers on the planet. He laughed at Ferrigno as he passed his table on the way out. I have to say, for being a famous dude, one of the nicest people you will ever meet. And fuck Lou Ferrigno!
About five years ago, a friend of mine who is a high school wrestling coach here in TN was able to hook up with Diamond Dallas Page. A buddy and I called to the coach and asked him the details. He said DDP was in the area promoting his new yoga (what!??!!) DVD and had agreed to come over to the high school and put on a demonstration. I couldn't give two shits about yoga but I did want a pic.
Well, we walk into the main commons area and there are a few ladies sitting behind a table with a box to take up money. It was $10 to attend the demonstration and $30 for some yoga DVDs. I would've spent $30 on a 1998 copy of Bash at the Beach before I would on yoga! We told the ladies that we were there to talk to the wrestling coach only (and not pay that bullshit fee.) We talk to Coach and he said that DDP was gonna have a short Q&A and then will have the high school wrestling team do his yoga techniques. We told him all we wanted was a picture!
Not five minutes later, I turn around and see this tall, skinny, white dude pulling a suitcase into the school and there he was. If only they had cued the music: "Self high five!!" DDP walks into the commons area. I immediately tell the coach that I need a pic doing the diamond cutter! DDP walks over to the coach, shakes his hand, and asks where he needs to set up. He ignored my ass completely. Hell, I was OK with it. I didn't want a kick to the stomach or an eye rack!
Then, the coach asks "Hey, these guys are some good friends of mine, could they get a pic?" I stood there with a stupid-ass smirk on my face waiting to hear "HELL NO!" but he turned around and greeted my friend and I like champs. The whole time we were getting the picture made, I had a feeling someone was staring at me. After getting my phone back and looking at the picture, the feeling I had felt was the ladies behind the table looking furious because I had actually came for DDP and not paid the $10.
My friend felt bad and bought a DVD set. Hell, he should've just given me the $30 because it was a waste!
We went in for the Q&A and you can tell this wasn't what DDP expected. The auditorium had probably 20 in attendance. There were more high school wrestlers on stage than people in the crowd. DDP opens up talking about his life, road to wrestling, becoming oldest champion, etc. Then he opens up the Q part with one rule: NO QUESTIONS ABOUT WRESTLING! What?!?! Are you serious!? Why the hell do you think we know you?!
Well, one parent asked about his workout routine and finally a smartass kid that was friends with my younger brother raises his hand and asked "How was filming the blockbuster hit Ready To Rumble?" You could tell that pissed him off, but he said it was an honor to be a part of the movie and then proceeded to start the yoga demonstration. After about five minutes of watching the former WCW champion stretch..we made our exit!
I have had two major interactions with Virgil in my life, and they've left an impression on me.
The first was back in 2007, when I flew to San Francisco to attend a thing called "Wrestle Fan Fest". There are wrestling conventions full of old wrestlers who want you to pay them to meet them or "sign-o-ramas" or whatever everywhere, but this was a big one. Kurt Angle was going to be there! The Million Dollar Man was going to be there! The Great Muta, who was my favorite wrestler when I was nine and helped get me into Japanese wrestling way before that marked you as an uncool guy on the Internet, was going to be there. I paid way too much money and made my peace with it.
Anyway, the event was held on a weekend (Friday, Saturday, Sunday) and because I had to fly and find a way to get there, I showed up bright and early on Saturday morning. Turns out the wrestlers I wanted to see had gotten in on Friday, discovered that the promoter of the event wasn't going to pay them and bailed. So early on Saturday morning I walk into a mostly-empty convention center thing at the Cow Palace to find Nick Bockwinkel standing around with a belt in his hand, "The Cruncher" Larry Zbyszko wandering around like someone who'd just been hit by a car and not a lot else. I asked the guy selling individual wrestler autograph and photo tickets (blergh) when Great Muta was supposed to show up. "He might be here, he might not," was his answer. "DATZ DA WRESTLIN' BIZNESS!"
So without a lot of better goals, my Wrestle Fan Fest experience became mostly about avoiding Virgil.
After confirming that Angle, Muta and pretty much everyone worth a goddamn had vanished and left me holding photo tickets I'd probably have to use on The Blue Meanie, I looked around for Ted DiBiase. As you might've noticed from the picture, Virgil's banner he always carries around says "The Million Dollar Man Ted DiBiase & Virgil WWE Superstar". As you might've also noticed, Ted DiBiase is not at that table with Virgil. So, as I phrased it when I wrote up a version of this story for Progressive Boink back in the long long ago, "we thought, hey, who better to ask about the Million Dollar Man than Virgil? Everybody better to ask about the million dollar man than virgil."
Virgil's purpose at a wrestling convention is to sell you $15 photos of Virgil at any cost, so of course my question of "is Ted DiBiase going to be at this table with you at some point during the day" was met with I UNNO BUT HERE'S A PIC OF ME WITH HIM LOOK AT THAT MILLION DOLLAR MAN AND VIRGIL and him holding it up like we're on The Price Is Right. He then points out a photo of him with Andre The Giant that we might find interesting, all the while wearing that Under Armour gear he always wears, because I guess he transports his 8x10s from show to show via fucking decathlon.
I think Virgil's only conversation mode is "sell photos of Virgil", because if you stand there long enough without buying stuff he tries to have a conversation with you, and THAT is just him saying something asinine to you every 15 minutes. It's like his brain can't handle a normal "so how's the weather" back-and-forth, and he breaks and defaults back into pointing at pictures and asking you if you remember when he did that. "That's a picture of when Million Dollar Man made a kid kiss his feet. You remember that?" And internally I'm like, yes Virgil, I like the Million Dollar Man so I remember that.
Internally my brain goes, "Yes Virgil, I remember that moment. Ted DiBiase's rich guy character made for lots of fun wrestling memories. Say, what are you doing in that picture?" "Holding money while Ted does things." "Oh, right. And in that one, where he's kicking a basketball to keep a kid from bouncing it ten times and winning money?" "Holding the money." "Right. Any idea when fucking Ted DiBiase's gonna be at this table?"
I'm stuck in this conversational mine shift with Virgil and it loops on and on forever, so I try to talk to him about Wrestle Fan Fest. I tell him that I'd flown in from Cleveland to San Francisco to meet the Great Muta, but that Muta'd bailed. Virgil's response took me by surprise: "That won't the real Great Muta anyway".
Now, in my head again I think "wrestling promoters are really shitty people, so what, did the guy in charge of Fan Fest just find somebody and put them in a Great Muta mask? Maybe I'm glad I didn't come on Friday." Virgil continued, making sure any semblance of logic my brain had been trying to put together for itself was royally fucked: "Naw, the original Great Muta died back in the 90s from AIDS. They replaced him with a younger, more agile Muta. With the mist." When he said "the mist", he dangled his fingers in front of his mouth.
I don't know how much you know about pro wrestling, but none of this is true. The Great Muta's been the same guy since 1988. He's always been agile, he's always used "the mist". There are only two ways I can interpret this story, putting myself in Virgil's brain:
1. He's talking about The Great Kabuki and getting them confused. Muta was introduced as "the son of the Great Kabuki" back in the NWA, but Kabuki also blew Asian mist, and to the best of my knowledge he's still alive.
2. Virgil wants me to think that all other wrestlers at Wrestle Fan Fest are dead, fake or gay, so that Virgil will be the best person there and I'll want to buy that picture of him in the weird red stripey pants he wore up to his armpits.
I wedged myself away from him (and eventually met DiBiase, who was pleasant, normal and sitting very far away from the Virgil table with his name on it), but the rest of the event involved me having to snake around to avoid the Virgil table or pay attention to his patterns a la Metal Gear Solid and get by without being pulled over to look at photos. Virgil never remembered that he'd talked to me before. I had a 20 minute conversation about AIDS with him at a wrestling convention and he thought I was a new guy every time.
I did not buy an 8x10.
My second Virgil story is much simpler. I briefly went to wrestling school, and like most local wrestling promotions, the promotion running my school brought in older wrestlers or "names" from time to time to drive ticket sales. One of the people they'd brought in for an autograph signing was Virgil, which I found out when I shared the Wrestle Fan Fest story with the people kicking me in the lung.
Anyway, wrestlers do Hindu squats. It's a thing. It helps you build core strength, and it helps you when you're tired and have to squat dudes onto your shoulders for shit at the end. Most wrestling trainees do x-amount of Hindu squats to warm up before a session, but this magical session featured Virgil, and he was taken aback.
"What is that?" he says, as he gestures to the squatting people.
Virgil makes a face and shakes his head. "Man, I been at eight WrestleManias and I ain't NEVER done a Hindu squat." They didn't have the heart to mention that he'd stood outside the ring holding money for six of them.