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 got married three years ago. We met on an internet chat board dedicated to pro wrestling. Go on, make fun, but they're seriously the best group of friends I've ever had. At any rate, we were planning the event when we, on a whim, decided to find out what wrestlers were pastors now. This is a larger trend than you might think, especially with guys who survived the '80s and '90s. Anyhow, we come across one name in particular, and we both decide we HAVE to do it.
Ladies and (mostly) gentlemen...Ted DiBiase was the pastor at my wedding. Be jealous.
Mr. DiBiase was seriously one of the most down-to-earth people I've ever had the pleasure of meeting, and he rode with us place to place during the time he stayed in DC for this. This gave a lot of chances to shoot the breeze with one of the most famous, most traveled men in the industry, and he had some great road stories for us during the drives and the reception. He also insisted that we do counseling with him pre-wedding, so we spoke with him about life and love and lovemaking (which he referred to as "romp-and-stomping" in his thick Mississippi accent—hilarious, but a touch awkward, too).
Also, in relation to his old running buddy Virgil...Mr. DiBiase was apparently quite stunned to learn what Virgil says he's doing now. Direct quote: "So I ask Mike what he's doing these days, and he tells me he's teaching kids math and science. I say, 'I've shared a locker room with you, you ain't teachin' no kids no math and science!'"
I think it was 1999. I was about ten years old and played pee-wee football on a team that my dad helped coach. One day, one of my teammates' fathers (who happened to have a steel artificial leg-–this will be important later) invited my dad and I to go with him and his son to an independent wrestling event at a nearby venue. The special guest? Honky Tonk Man! Now I watched WWF pretty regularly, but I had never even HEARD of The Honky Tonk Man, let alone get excited enough to beg my dad take me to see him in person, but this was my friend and I was also pretty excited to see all the high-flying action that I watched on TV every week.
Not surprisingly then, I was disappointed to find that the event was at the local volunteer fire department's banquet room. Inside was a tiny grey wrestling ring stained with old blood, sweat and the tears of wrestlers' unmaterialized aspirations. Only about 30 other fans showed up so it was a pretty intimate setting. Naturally my football buddy and I sat ringside.
The event had some colorful characters. They were "pro wrestlers" in the sense that they were getting paid, but they weren't exactly The Rock or HHH. They had names like "Marauder" and "The Crusher" but their physique suggested they'd probably be better suited with names like "The Middle Child", "P'Zone", "Grover Cleveland" etc. One of the "babes" was a woman old enough to be my grandmother. Just before the final match, The Honky Tonk Man's handler approached us and said "if [Honky Tonk's opponent] gets tossed over the railing, be sure to beat him up real good." Well, that was all we needed to hear. Now I was already going HAM on Sprites and boiled hot dogs, so to get permission to enact physical violence on a grown man was just icing on the cake. A cake named after an Elvis impersonating wrestler from before I was born.
The moment arrived. There was Honky Tonk Man! WE LOST OUR SHIT. We rooted for this geezer as he got his ass handed to him by some dude twenty years his junior. But sure enough, the moment we had been waiting for came. Honky Tonk Man tossed his opponent into the crowd right where the four of us were sitting. My friend and I gave a couple timid punches to his back while he was on the ground. In his scripted agony of being love-tapped by ten year olds, the guy yells, "OW! YOU BASTARDS!!" Well, my friend's dad didn't take too kindly to this adult calling his kid a bastard, so with his artificial leg, he took one not-so-gentle stomp on this guy's hand. By this point, Honky Tonk was already grabbing the guy to throw him back in the ring, but it was obvious that that guy was pissed, and probably injured.
After the match ended, folks began heading for the doors, and I made for the bathroom, where I promptly barfed on myself. When I came back inside, only a few people were still there, but Honky Tonk Man came back out for a couple autographs. He saw us and said to me and my pal, "thanks for helping me whoop that guy", then asked if we wanted a photo. SOMEWHERE, lost forever on a disposable camera, is a picture of my slap happy friend, his one-legged dad who robo-stomped the shit out of some guy's hand, my dad, me with vomit on my shirt, and our new hero, The Honky Tonk Man. As far as we were concerned, we were the reason he won that fight.
A couple years back I ventured into a 7-Eleven in Hollywood, Calif., right around bar closing time. And who should be standing there in front of the pastry cabinet, but Rowdy Roddy Piper. I had met Roddy a couple times through a mutual friend who worked on a movie with him. I was just about to say hello but I stopped short. Why? Because Roddy was just standing there, with a 7-Eleven hot dog in his hand, intensely staring into the pastry case as if totally lost in another world.
I should mention that the hot dog in his hand had a couple of bites already taken out of it so who knows how long he had been in the store. I walk around Roddy to go grab a drink from the cooler. I stand in line, there were about four or five in front of me. Roddy...never....moves....even....a muscle. Just continues to hold his hot dog and stare into the pastry case. No eye movement either. And I mean no movement. Head, arms, body or otherwise. I check out and take one last look back and yep, there's Roddy, still as a statue, still staring into the pastry case.
About four years ago I was working for a radio station in northern BC in Canada. A Calgary-based wrestling promotion that featured mainly Canadian guys was coming to town. I was more than excited when I heard that they were also bringing in Kevin Nash for the event. Being a big Nash/Diesel fan from my earlier years I was markin'.
Through connections with my radio station and the arena it was being held at, a co-worker and I were asked to do guest ring announcing for one of the matches. Before the show we met with the promoters and I basically told them how much of a mark I was for Nash. To my delight they told me that I was more than welcome to meet Kevin after the show.
Nash's match itself was less than memorable as he wrestled past WWF star Viscera. After the show my buddy and I went backstage and met Nash. I gotta say, for how much you hear about the guy being a dick he was beyond nice to us. He thanked us for coming out to the show and gave me props for wearing an Outsiders WCW shirt. Anyways we got talking and Nash invited us to come out for dinner/drinks with a few of the wrestlers at a local bar. Obviously I was in full mark mode with the potential of sitting down for beers with one of my favourite wrestlers. Nash handed me a beer and said, "here's one for the road, we'll see you over there."
My buddy and I go to the bar and sit around for about 20 minutes waiting for Nash to show up. Just as we were about to leave, he walked in. He walked right past our table without saying a word to us. Feeling dejected we went to leave when Nash made eye contact with us and said "you guys want to sit and hear a few stories?" Without hesitation we sat down and had dinner and drinks with Nash and Viscera. The four of us ended up closing down the bar and we gave Nash/Viscera a ride back to their hotel at the end of the night. Nash told us stories of Triple H's bachelor party and Ric Flair blowing a ton of money at it, going to a John Mayer concert with his son and saying "he's a good guitarist but he sounds like such a fag when he sings", and countless stories of he and Scott Hall.
Nash was beyond cool and no matter how much the dude gets trashed for his work ethic and being a prick, he went out of his way to hangout with a few marks. Good guy in my books.
I graduated from Boston University in 2010, and was known around the school as one of the biggest (and only) BU basketball fans. This was mainly because I dressed up like a hot dog at every single game (home and away). The team was getting good and made it to the conference championship the year I graduated, but I never got to see them make it to the big dance. The year after I graduated the team was poised to finally win the conference and the school hosted the America East championship game in March. Even though I had graduated I was still living/working in the city, with many friends who were seniors at the school, so of course I was going to the game in my usual game outfit.
The visiting team playing BU in the finals was Stony Brook University (the Seawolves) from Long Island. They brought a pretty big contingent of fans up to Boston for the 11 a.m. Saturday game. During halftime I'm standing there (below the BU basket) checking out the Stony Brook crowd. During my search for attractive girls I would never approach, I see a rather large man dressed in all black sitting directly behind the empty Stony Brook bench. I squint to try to make out his face, and turn to my friend and say, "I think that's Mankind."
At the time I was definitely not a very big wrestling fan. Never had been, but I was informed enough to know who Mick Foley was and that large, bearded man in black sure looked like him. I get confirmation from a couple other friends and we start marking out. WHY IS MICK FOLEY WATCHING A LOW-LEVEL COLLEGE BASKETBALL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME IN BOSTON?
The six of us all agree that we have to go ask him why and make our way across the concourse floor. I am in a fucking hot dog costume so everyone is staring at me as five bros follow behind me. I know I have to do all the talking so I stroll up to Mick, who is now staring at me, and ask him what he's doing here/who is he rooting for? He says he lives on Long Island and is a big Stony Brook fan. He stands up and seems to be laboring. He does not seem like he's in any shape to be walking. He then asks me why I'm wearing a hot dog costume. I respond with something along the lines of comparing the costume to his Mankind mask. I don't know that he cared for that.
My friends and I are still giddy that Mankind is watching America East basketball, so we ask for a picture. He says "for a dude in a hot dog costume, sure thing." I put my arm around him and he is a HUGE man. He ends up pointing to me in the picture (attached) and thanks us for coming by. I tell him that we're sorry our team is going to win and he just laughs. Couldn't have been nicer about all of it.
BU ends up being down the entire game only to come back in the final two minutes and steal the win and conference championship. After rushing the court after the game I look for Mick Foley, but he was long gone. I saw him a couple months later actually wrestling on RAW and was baffled how he was so out of shape and in visible pain while watching a basketball game, but could take a kick to the face like a champion months later.
It was 1994, I was in middle school and my dad took me to a Friday night WWF show at the Municipal Auditorium in Nashville. We had seats with a friend and his mom, but my dad disappeared for a little bit. He comes back and he's on the other side of the metal guardrail between the aisle where the wrestlers came to the ring and the crowd. He came straight from work and was dressed professionally, so he blended right in with the road agents. He lifted me over the rail and we marched straight through the curtain to the dressing room. That was the day I learned you can go almost wherever you want if you look and act like you belong.
And there was basically half the roster at the time. As a 12-year-old rasslin' geek, I was star-struck. I got to touch the WWF championship belt. Met Owen Hart, who was the only one who asked what my name was and personalized an autograph. Still remember how nice he was. Yokozuna was also super nice and spoke English clear as a bell (which blew my mind), and I got to hold Mr. Fuji's Japanese flag while he gave me his autograph. (Later, Fuji and I would have the same job in different cities: Usher at Regal Cinemas). Also got to meet Bret Hart, Tatanka and Razor Ramon, who were all nice enough to humor a kid.
Years later I realized what the true highlight was: Irwin R. Shyster reading a newspaper, realizing we had snuck backstage and telling us to GTFO.
It's the summer of '99 and I find out that the Road Dogg is signing autographs at the Freehold (NJ) Raceway Mall. I was a huge wrestling fan so I decided to go and get an autograph. There was a pretty long line and I happened to be very close to a smoke shop. Now the Road Dogg had notoriously been a big weed smoker and I believe he had gotten in some trouble a few months earlier for using. I decided to go in the smoke shop and get a box of Phillies Blunts for him to sign instead of the $30 photo they forced you to buy. So I'm next in line for an autograph when a WWF official asks me where my picture is. I show it to the official but inform him that I don't want the picture signed, I want the box of blunts signed. Well this caused a big stir and they told me that he would only sign the picture and if I didn't want it signed I would have to leave. The Road Dog was watching the whole thing go down. Instead of holding up the line and arguing I decided to get the picture signed. When I walked up to him he was laughing, shook my hand and said, "I'm not a big blunt guy anyway, more of a paper man myself."
Back in 2000, WCW was airing Monday Nitro live from my city, and despite this being the horrible post-Radicalz/pre-New Blood era, I was psyched to find out that not only would I be going, but through an amazing series of events would be able to get backstage before the show. Upon arriving with the group I was with, I was greeted by notables such as Billy Kidman and Booker T. Coming up next were none other than Jimmy Hart and Hulk Hogan, who issued a trademark "How you doin', brother?" and gave me a handshake. This group of guys told me to head on through the back and let them know if I or anyone in my group needed anything. You would think being backstage would open you up to witnessing all kinds of debauchery, but here's what happened to us:
-We saw Norman Smiley and Disco Inferno get into a play "hockey fight" since Norman was wearing our team's jersey out to the arena that night
-Booker T. and Bam Bam Bigelow taking the time to sign items for my friends little brother, even going so far as to introduce him to other wrestlers and get them to sign his stuff
-Chris Candido and Tammy Sytch, who hadn't debuted on TV yet, just hanging around. I talked with Chris for a good ten minutes and rank him as one of the nicest people I've ever met.
-Curt Hennig ribbing the Nitro Girls constantly, such as opening the door/peeking into the dressing room, throwing things in there, etc.
Everyone was in a good mood. This is when their roster was pretty depleted, but there were still a lot of major names that made it all worthwhile. Lex Luger walked past us and didn't say a word, but smiled and nodded. Sting talked with us out of character, even taking a pic with my one friend sans facepaint. Ric Flair told us if we needed anything to tell him because he was "the man". At the time his son David was on TV teaming with Crowbar, and in real life dating Stacy Keibler. I got a chance to talk to that group, and Stacy was polite but left quick to go over whatever she had to go over with Fit Finlay. David and Crowbar hung around, took pics with us, signed stuff, and talked like two normal twenty-ish guys just happy to have a break. David even shook my hand and said "good talking with you man", thanking me for our conversation.
My friend was leading his little brother around, getting stuff signed, and came across Shannon Moore, at the time doing the 3 Count gimmick. Shane Helms and Evan Karagias were super nice guys that signed a program for him, and even told him "don't forget to find Shannon so you'll have all three of us in there!" They come across Shannon, who tells this young kid "Ugh, I have shit to do, can you make this quick!?" I'm not sure if he's gotten better through the years, but I've never been a fan of his based off of that.
Also milling about was Jeff Jarrett, warming up and working out off to the side. My friends brother spies him and heads over to get his autograph, but before the kid takes two steps Jarrett mutters "uh uh" and waves him off. The kid wasn't heartbroken, but after being being bitched at by Shannon Moore and Jeff Jarrett, he's a little skittish about asking anyone else for anything.
Our group heads out to the floor to watch the show, and before we do we thank our connections, and the wrestlers that were nice. Bam Bam Bigelow asks my friend's brother if he met everyone he wanted to, and the kid says how he tried to get Jeff Jarrett's autograph but he said no. Bigelow laughs and says not to take it personal, because Jarrett spent all day getting bitched at for forgetting the United States title belt overseas (they had just come back from the UK) and that WCW was going to have to use a replica belt on TV until they were able to get it back. Jarrett blew us off because he was pissy about being in trouble!
In the fall of 2001, Ohio Valley Wrestling (WWE's minor league/developmental territory at the time) was running a show about 20 minutes south of where I lived in Southern Indiana. My younger brother and I make the trek south about 20 minutes attended the show at an old small high school gym. The card was stacked with a ton of guys who would later prove to be well known wrestlers, including John Cena, Randy Orton, Brock Lesnar, Mark Henry, Batista, Eugene, Shelton Benjamin and of course the Big Show (working on his conditioning).
Fast forward to intermission, and people are mingling with the wrestlers, buying concessions, merchandise, etc and some local sheriff comes in and gets on the mic to announce that someone was blocking a fire hydrant and that they would be towed. Seconds later we hear someone yell out "Who the fuck cares" and the crowd of 250 or so people gets silent and looks over at the man chanting it. It was Brock Lesnar sitting in the bleachers all by himself eating popcorn with no one else around. My brother and I would later approach Lesnar and get an autograph as he was supposed to be the next big thing coming up, but no one knew who he was at the time. He was cordial with us, but was really quiet and soft spoken. But every time I see Lesnar, I can't but think of him starting a new chant of "Who the fuck cares".
When I was little (very little), my dad turned on Superstars on a Saturday morning. I don't remember this, I was about three, but I've been told that that's when my fascination with professional wrestling began. Eventually, I started asking for wrestling figures for Christmas, suckered my parents into taking me and my brother to a house show when I was just four, and even got a subscription to WWF Magazine. Somehow, through our magazine subscription, we were able to get tickets to the 1995 Hall of Fame Ceremony. Back then, the Hall of Fame wasn't the big, Wrestlemania-weekend arena show that it is today. Rather, it was a reserved dinner ceremony, which showed off some wrestling memorabilia such as Andre the Giant's boots, Bob Orton's Cast, Classy Freddie Blassie's cane, etc. Most importantly for me, the wrestlers (semi-in character) were all there, and there was the chance to meet and mingle with them.
There are two stories that I can remember out of this night, both awesome in very different ways.
At some point during the night (AKA when he first walked into the room) I wanted to go meet Shawn Michaels. Now, Shawn was a pretty big deal with the women in 1995. So I, being a small five-year old, tried to make my way through the crowd of women, who are all much bigger than me, and probably just wanted to bang him. He somehow spotted me in this mob of people, and picked me up on his shoulder. He said something along the lines of "you're looking pretty dapper tonight." He also may or may not have hit on my mom. Either way, from my experience, I don't believe any of the "asshole Shawn Michaels" fan run-ins that I read on here. He was the man, and the coolest celebrity I've ever encountered.
Scott Hall, still in his Razor Ramon character, was in rare form that night. While most of the wrestlers dressed in suits, or at least fairly decent clothes, Razor was rocking taped ribs, no shirt, and a purple blazer. At one point, he stood up at his table and extended his arms out to the sides, in his signature pose. Except he had a wine bottle in each hand. At one point, he fell asleep at the table. Later we spotted him walking across the room, in a hurry. We tried to stop him for a picture and an autograph, but he brushed us off, saying "I can't, I'm in trouble with Vince." Classic Razor.
We close, as always, with a Virgil story. A.J.:
Back in March my mom received free tickets from her work to an independent wrestling show in Danbury, Conn. Naturally, she offered them to me and my friends, and not having anything to do, we took them. Bret Hart was the main attraction – not to actually wrestle; he was just there to cut a promo, putting over the indie company and the young wrestlers. A host of other former stars were also set to make appearances, and wrestle in the matches: the Powers of Pain, Carlito, Shane Douglas, Raven, and the Nasty Boys were all there. And amidst all of the obscure wrestlers of the past, there was Virgil.
He had his table set up in the corner of the gymnasium, and not a lot of people went up to him for pictures or autographs. In a way my friends and I felt bad, but we didn't venture over his way and we didn't talk to him or say anything to him.
The show began with a heavy-set, nerdy-looking guy – a guy who looked like a dirt bag promoter – in the ring, telling the fans how they weren't allowed to have any fun; there was to be "no cheering the good guys." Obviously he was doing his job, trying to get over as a heel. Virgil made his way into the ring, kicked the whale in the gut, and then proceeded to throw him over the top rope, his body hitting the floor like a hefty bag filled with vegetable soup. He got a typical mid-card face reaction, left the ring, and went right back over to his table, where he sat the rest of the night, looking like a kid whose goldfish just died.
I glanced over at him a few times during the show, but almost forgot he was there after a while. My friend pointed out that he was breaking down his table by himself – and he thought it was funny.
"Look at poor Virgil over there, taking down his own ‘Wrestling Superstar Virgil' sign," he said to me, laughing. I'll admit, it was quite a funny sight. But it got funnier. There was some kind of big, metal hook hanging from the wall, right over his table. While he was taking apart his setup, he lifted up his head and bashed the back of it on the hook.
I think I was more entertained by Virgil nearly giving himself a concussion than I was by whatever was happening in the ring. I'm not sure I ever laughed so hard at someone getting physically hurt.
A few days after the show I found out Virgil is a con-man; a carnie-like fellow who pressures good-hearted folks (like myself) into buying his overpriced, worthless merchandise. I read all the Virgil horror stories on the web and told my friends about his tricky dicky ways, admitting I was glad we barely acknowledged his presence:
"I'm so glad we went nowhere near him," I explained to them. "But I sure did get a kick out of him whacking his head – that was awesome."
You know the drill: Keep sending in those stories and photos.