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 always knew there would eventually come a time when I could begin submitting some of my favorite memories of the four years I spent working with the great Nikolai Volkoff as a Code Enforcement/Zoning inspector. That means that if you lived in Baltimore County between 2006-2011 and someone called in a complaint on your property (common issues would be not picking up after your dog, building a fence without a permit, or having large amounts of trash on your property, etc.) then you could have gotten a visit from Nikolai.
As I sit here and reflect, I almost wish there was one pinnacle moment that really captured his essence, or stuck out in some particular way, but the real thrill was just being friends with him, cracking up constantly, and getting a glimpse into his real personality.
First off, to this day whenever someone walks into the office and says "good morning," I immediately hear in Nik's accent, "What's so good about it?" No, he wasn't an unwavering pessimist. He just had a few catchphrases and jokes that he would repeat constantly as if they were always new. "Want to lose 10 pounds of ugly fat the easy way??? CHOP OFF YOUR HEAD." was another. And he called EVERYbody a schweinhund.
If you were to make a pie chart of Nikolai's interests, you would find slices for The Healing Power of Water, Conspiracy Theories (he loved to talk about the Rothschilds and Masonic references and all kinds of other crazy stuff), and How Other Wrestlers of His Era Blew Their Money. But the biggest one would be devoted to farts. He would rip them at will all day, usually with malicious intent as he backed into someone else's cubicle. (Keep in mind that we're talking about a large european man who bites into garlic and onions like they are apples and oranges.) To aid him in his constant assault on the rest of our nasal passages/ears/sense of well-being and comfort he also had a litany of fart-imitating devices. In his desk was a standard whoopee cushion, and then for the younger generation he had one of those electronic remote controlled fart machines. But by far the best (and most realistic sounding) was a device he made to replicate one he claims to have used all through grade school. I have duplicated this device and it is easily the best method for making people around you think you just ripped one:
You start with a thin piece of metal, it needs to be in the shape of a rectangle missing one of the long sides. I've used a piece of a coat hanger before because of its pliability but realistically you'd want something a little more sturdy. Either way, the U shape is key. I used brackets as both of the edges because you are going to need a little hook on the end to attach rubber bands. Then grab several rubber bands and a metal washer. Imagine that you are stringing a bow, but instead of connecting the rubber band at both ends, you connect each end to the washer. So when all is said and done, the washer is suspended in the middle, held by rubber bands on each side (it helps to double or even triple-up on the rubber bands on each side, using 6 rubber bands total)
SIf you did it right, you should be able to twist the washer around to build up tension so that when you let go the washer spins around like crazy. So what you want to do is, in the middle of a crowded classroom or office or quiet restaurant, or wherever, start twisting the washer around to build tension. Once she's nice and tight, you wanna stick the whole device under one cheek. Ideally you'd have the metal part somewhere near your crack and then the washer with all the tension just under the outer edge of your cheek. The whole thing should be hands-free at this point. HERE COMES THE BEST PART: when the time is right, you raise up your cheek as if you are lettin one out, and a soon as pressure comes off, the washer spins around like crazy and the sound of it smacking against the top of your chair makes a perfect fart (it will work better or worse depending on what kind of chair you're in).
To me, the electronic fart machines sound too fake. And a whoopee cushion is used best when you make someone else sit on it without realizing. But when it comes to convincing a bunch of people that you just cut one (maybe you wanna clear the couch before kickoff so you have prime access to the bean dip!) there really is nothing better. The sound is perfect and authentic, and the fact that you actually have to raise a cheek to make it work only multiplies the mystique of the whole thing.
I'm fully convinced that this fart-maker existed in ancient times, probably invented by an egyptian slave who faked gas and diarrhea to get out of building the pyramids. And I cannot wait to pass this on to my children. Thank you, Nikolai!
I was a child of the Attitude era, when Austin ruled the world and all the kids wanted to be in D-Generation X. Another favorite tag team of mine was the Hardy Boyz. My brother was more partial to Jeff because of his high flying maneuvers but I was all about Matt.
Eight years later, I had moved to Durham, North Carolina, had a job at a game store inside a popular mall and had all but lost interest in pro wrestling. I was working my register through a slow weekday afternoon, and I turned my head to look out the store opening to the mall proper. Lo and behold, Matt Hardy himself is strolling past my store like any old joe. Nostalgia hit me like a wave, and thankfully I wasnt alone in the store that day. I overcame my inhibition quickly, though I had heard that Matt was not exactly the nicest guy. After hurriedly explaining to a co-worker who that was and why I had to leave, and followed him out directly.
I saw him turn into the Spencers store a few doors down, and had friends working that store as well. I figured I'd sidle up next to him and get a signature to wave in my brothers face, since I wasnt cool enough to have a functioning camera phone at this point. I observed Matt buying posters. I figured they were regular Spencers fare but I came to realize they were posters of ... himself. I stood there dumbfounded. Matt Hardy has to go out and buy posters of himself? Couldnt he just call someone up?
Nobody else had recognized him at this point, so I waited outside as my friend rung him up, looking from the poster to him with a confused look on her face. He smiled and nodded, offering to give her a signature if she wanted. He scribbled one on some receipt paper and left the store. As he left, I finally bucked up and said, "Excuse me! Mr. Hardy!" like I had every right to bug him. He knew that he had been caught off guard, so he turned obligingly. I had come prepared with my own reciept tape and pen. He scribbled his name and we talked for a few, about his roots in NC and some more fan gushing stuff. He was a really nice guy, despite my assumptions.
I later asked my friend if she knew who that was and said she had no clue. She thought he might have been some sort of poster model. Never did find out why he had to pay out of pocket for his own merch. Hope he made use out of them.
I was working at a radio station six-plus years ago, when the opportunity came up to have the Honky Tonk Man in the studio for an interview. He was in town doing an appearance with some indie wrestling circuit. He showed up late, half-cut, reeking of booze and carrying a brown bag with Jack and a couple of loose long necks. He dropped an F-Bomb live, rambled on for about five minutes and his driver backed into the station cruiser on the way out of the parking lot.
As for the actual wrestling event, I was the guest ring announcer, so I was backstage and witnessed him get in an un-staged tussle in the dressing room area. He came up looking for his "Lakers" (Lakeport Lager is the cheapest donkey piss beer you can imagine), and somebody had crushed a few of his. He started freaking out and decided that he wasn't going back out for the second half of his appearance until somebody fessed up to the beer swilling. the show was delayed until the promoter went and got him some freshies.
I was the one that had hammered back Honky Tonk's beers.
It was Septemer 2009 when I returned to Tallahassee with some college buddies to take in the UM-FSU game (Jacory Harris carved us up back when everyone thought he would be good). We weren't into the current wrestling, but I was a huge fan growing up and we would even give Ric Flair chops to unsuspecting members of our little group. (It's a lot of fun when you're drunk at a tailgate, by the way.) So we're shooting the shit and being harmless drunken idiots when I see this hulking mass of humanity wandering around the parking lot.
I was in no shape to drive but I still knew I recognized this guy. I stopped whatever drinking game was being played at the time and said, "There's no f*cking way that's Billy Gunn, right?" My friend Johnson (wearing the #1 jersey and dutifully telling the cameraman to suck it) responds, "You sandbaggin sonofabitch it is!" We call Billy over and drunkenly inquire about whether or not he is actually who we think he is, and the probably equally inebriated Mr. Ass confirms our suspicions.
After reliving some of the glory days and getting him an ice cold Natty Light from the keg (the real reason he hung around as long as he did, I suspect), we got somebody who was sitting around to snap this pic. The idea was for Billy to join in on the DX theme of the pic. I (the guy on Billy's right with the I-can't-believe-Billy-Gunn-is-shithammered-and-taking-a-picture-with-us-at-an-FSU-tailgate smirk on my face) was too giddy/buzzed to realize just how disinterested in the whole thing Billy appeared.
Anyway, from what I remember he was pretty cool and down-to-earth but then again he was drinking free beer and I think we were the only ones who even knew who he was.
As a young girl growing up, I latched onto my dad's love of wrestling very early on. We watched it religiously, even ordering pay-per-views when my other friends couldn't. I was (still am!) a huge D-Generation X fan. My heart has always belonged to Road Dogg Jesse James. Don't ask me why, probably the "ghetto" raps, braids, and whatnot.
My husband (boyfriend at the time) and I discovered that Bad Ass Billy Gunn and Road Dogg would be in Lexington, KY, doing a house show. They were going to be at a local dealership to meet fans and sign autographs. That morning, we decided to make the trek, which was about 6 hours from St. Louis, where we lived. After we arrive at the dealership we were about fifth or so in line. Naturally people start talking and it was discovered that we drove from the furthest away to just get two autographs only to then turn around and drive the six hours home. The dealership owner started talking about giving us tickets to the show, but that never materialized.
When the boys finally arrived, I was awestruck. They appeared to be HUGE in comparison to myself. I was able to say hello to Billy Gunn but when I saddled up to Road Dogg, my brain decided to melt into my neck. I stood there and stared at him for what seemed like an eternity. He had the biggest smile on his face and said, "Hi!" The only thing I could muster was, and I shit you not, "I LOVE YOU!" He laughed a bit and replied with the typical response to a crazy person, "I love you, too." Billy thought the whole scene was hilarious and laughed while I walked away, completely devastated by my insane reaction.
Back in the early 1970s, I lived in Mitchell, South Dakota, where wrestlers from the old AWA would come every few months to the World's Only Corn Palace. It was my first exposure to the show, and I spent those formative years enjoying the work of wrestlers like Billy Robinson, The Crusher, Verne Gagne, Nick Bockwinkel and Ray Stevens. On this particular occasion, the card included Dusty Rhodes – who was still a few years from his fame in the NWA –and Ivan Koloff, "The Russian Bear," who had won fame a couple of years earlier by beating Bruno Sammartino for what was then the WWWF title. Ivan's shtick at that time was that he was Russian and a Commie who held America in contempt and didn't speak a word of English.
After the matches were over, my parents and I went to a local liquor store owned by an aunt and uncle. There, we proceeded to regale them with the evening's events when the door opened and none other than Dusty and Ivan walked in. They grabbed a shopping cart and proceeded to fill it to the brim with every conceivable type of alcohol. Apparently they were buying for the boys.
As they wandered the shelves, I just stood there and gaped like the kid that I was. Ivan was a little fella, but Dusty was just as huge as he was in later years…when Jim Cornette described his belly birthmark as where they had dermabrased the wood Goodyear off him.
Just then, an older gentleman walked in. He'd been to the matches, he knew who they were, and he'd had a few before, during and after the card. He started in on Dusty and Ivan on their various inadequacies in the most corrosive and colorful language. This went on for a bit until he said he had a goat that wrestled better than them. At which point, Ivan Koloff, "The Russian Bear," who didn't speak a word of English, turned to this guy and said, "Shut your goddamn mouth!"
He advanced on the local guy, who sobered up in a real hurry and got the hell out of there. I'm not sure who was more scared: the goat man, me, or my uncle, who looked like he was about to crap his pants at the thought of his whole inventory lying in a pool of blood, liquor and broken glass on the floor. Ivan and Dusty resumed their shopping, paid for their goods and left…which is when the rest of us still in the store finally took another breath.
This story happened earlier this summer, at the Frying Pan in NYC. In case you've never been, the bar is actually an old shipping boat that is now forever docked on the west side of Manhattan. Mostly, it's filled with fratty types and the girls who love them. Anyway, this particular afternoon I found myself there celebrating a friend's birthday party. During this party, there happens to be a big ruckus happening on the other side of the boat. Lots of curses being yelled, garbage getting thrown around, chairs being knocked over, etc. When out of nowhere, we see the cause of this problem, as he's being led out the bar by the security guards. It's a very drunk midget (or little person, to be more PC). I'm laughing about this as it is, because hey, a drunk midget is getting thrown out of the bar! But my friend, who is a wrestling scholar, manages to top it - he realizes that the guy is actually Hornswoggle, WWE's favorite leprechaun!
Of course, we immediately hightail it over to the entrance, where we see Hornswoggle is still grabbing bottles and cups and throwing them around the bar, attempting to break free of the security guard's constraints whenever possible. He actually appears happy to be getting kicked out, like he's having the time of his life. Next to us, however, are a young couple who are cursing at him. Turns out, they were the ones who called security on him. Hornswoggle was throwing drinks around their table and apparently was rude and lewd to the girl, and their friends. My friend and I are just happily trading Hornswoggle jokes while being told the story by the couple, who couldn't care any less that the drunk dwarf was in town in order to appear on WWE. After the security got him out, we asked the guys if it really was Hornswoggle, which only one of them answered us that it was. The rest tried to pretend they didn't care, or didn't want to acknowledge the two dorks asking about the wrestling leprechaun.
In the spring of 1994, WWE (WWF at the time, obviously) held Wrestlemania X at Madison Square Garden. I was 13 at the time, and couldn't have been more excited when my mom gave me the go ahead to order it on Pay-Per-View, and even more elated when told I could "invite all my little friends over."
So basically, something like six or seven of my friends came over and we watched Bret Hart win the title from Yokozuna and then went out in my front yard and attempted to perform our own wrestling moves for anyone watching. A friend of mine from the neighborhood put me in the Razor's Edge finishing move after I told him not to, so he was rewarded with me dropping one right in his face mid-move. This led to me landing on my head. But I digress.
After everybody heads home, I get a phone call maybe a half hour later. "You won't believe this," I hear on the other end. It's my friend calling - the same one who just pinned me for a three-count by the hydrangeas. Apparently while he was off at my house watching Wrestlemania, his parents had a pool estimator out to their house because they were in the process of installing an in-ground swimming pool. The guy who came out? Former WCW grappler Van Hammer.
It's worth noting my friend lived in the same subdivision as me, so we were even more bummed by the fact we missed out on meeting him. But he did leave a signed picture. Why Van Hammer carried around former WCW portraits of himself is beyond me. I don't know if Hammer did the pool install, but the pool did get put in some time later.
And a couple years down the road, Van Hammer returned to WCW and was (not really) wrestling-relevant again. Go figure.
I'd been a big WWF fan growing up in the 80s and had gotten back into rasslin' during the Monday Night Wars. During college in 2001 I'd headed to Cancun with my buddies for Spring Break; this was right around the time that WWF bought WCW and I was fairly well-versed about what the majority the performers from both companies were up to. One day I was at a TRL taping (lame, I know, but Snoop Dogg was performing live and we wanted to check it out) with my friends and some girls we'd met a few nights prior when one of my friends and I opted to take a break from the repetitive, forced enthusiasm that is a live MTV taping and relax on the beach for a few. There looked to be a bit of a scene down the beach with small crowds of broskis approaching a very large, very tan man, his lovely blonde companion, and two unassuming Mexicans in matching polo shirts. It only took me a minute to realize it was Macho Man Randy Savage and as soon as I pointed him out to my pal (who couldn't believe how much Savage had bulked up compared to how he'd looked during his heyday) we decided we at least had to go and shake his hand.
We followed as he was walking off the beach with his entourage when he stopped to use the restroom. Not wanting to be too intrusive we approached the young lady and the gents in matching Slim Jim polos and confirmed our suspicions and asked if we could say hello. The blonde seemed annoyed by our presence and basically said we could do as we pleased but recommended not approaching Macho Man while he was relieving himself. Upon his return we introduced ourselves as big fans and found him very polite. He asked us where we were from and where we were going to school and when we replied Madison, Wisconsin (go Badgers!) he took a quick look at us and, presumably based on our pasty, doughy physiques said "Yeah, you look like you're from Wisconsin!". He went on to tell us a few stories of having wrestled there, and how much he liked the Gold's Gym in Madison that had recently closed. Before we parted I asked when we might see him on TV again and his only response, in full-on Macho Man voice and mannerisms, was "Check the Spice Channel!" All in all he was very cordial with a great sense of humor. RIP Macho Man.
Back in 1992, I was going to college at Indiana State in Terre Haute. We were huge wrestling fans who loved to drink and watch the WWF. When it was announced that the WWF was coming to Terre Haute, we were all in. We waited at the Hulman Center box office the day of the sale and scored sweet fourth row tickets on the rail of the wrestlers entrance.
After the show was over, we stumbled back to our dorms and proceeded to continue drinking. We get a phone call from one of our buddies who couldn't make it to the show because he had to work. He worked as a busboy/bar back in the lounge at the Holiday Inn across town. He told us that there were some wrestling guys in there drinking and eating, so we should get down there. Away we went.
When we get down there, the bartender started feeding us beers since our buddy worked there even though we were clearly underage. Sitting in the lounge was none other than Gorilla Monsoon, Bobby the Brain Heenan, the Red Rooster Terry Taylor, and the Ultimate Warrior! At first we were to chicken to approach, but our courage got up after a couple of beers.
I walk up to the table and was star struck and drunk at the same time. All I could manage was a "You guys are great and the WWF rules!". They looked at me like I was crazy, but proceeded to ask me to sit down and have a beer with them! They could not have been any cooler, and my chicken shit buddies were in awe that I was talking it up with these guys.
The line of the night was of course from Bobby the Brain. My buddy who worked there walked by to clean a table and mop the area by the lounge door. Heenan looks at him and says: "How did you get that job? Were you the first punk to show up with a mop and bucket so they gave you the job?" We were rolling and Gorilla Monsoon was getting on The Brain to "quit giving the kid a hard time." It was just like their act on TV. After about 15 minutes, they said they had to get going. All of them were really cool guys and the Warrior almost broke everybody's hand shaking them.
We close, as always, with a Virgil story. Jason:
Was gonna write in several months ago when the column debuted with a story about Jim Neidhardt, Macho Man, Bret Hart, and Hercules (RIP) on the search for beer from back when I was in grade school. None of them understood the law in PA that convenience stores do not sell beer. Lucky for them, there was a dive bar behind the local convenience store. They grabbed their beer and were on their way, but not before they asked if we wanted one. The bunch of us were 12-14, and even if we said yeah I doubt beer would have been exchanged. Aside from that, I never had a run-in with any wrestlers.
My friend Steve texts me on Friday "the no-good Virgil is at the Rivers Casino" as I'm leaving my office. Rivers Casino is probably about five minutes from my place, and that is with tunnel traffic on a Friday at rush hour. Unfortunately, I'm about 10 miles away, which means about 40-50 minutes in traffic. I texted back asking if he was down there doing a signing and he said he saw it from the Deadspin Twitter account. Found out later he was down at the casino throwing $5 dice. If he's down there throwing dice, I'm not gonna bother him. Fast forward a day, I make the drive across town to Little Italy Days in a section of town known as Bloomfield (about 5 minutes north of downtown Pittsburgh.) Lots of local vendors selling pizza, pasta, cannolis, etc. I grab a beer, walk around and spend a few minutes watching some old guys in an intense steel cage bocci match. Shortly after, I walk about half a block and what do I see?
SProbably the last place I would have expected to see him. He has the banner and two mentions of Ted DiBiase, who I'm sure just happened to be away looking for a good slice of pizza. I manage to snap off two pics: one overall shot of the booth (and him feeding his face), and a second closeup of the belt. Before I could even look up, I hear "old school, man." Doing my best to play dumb, I say "what?" Immediately he goes into the pitch: I got pictures, I got the belt, I can get a pic of you with the belt. Playing excited and knowing that there's a price tag with it, I light up and say "really?" He then says "Yeah, $20, I can get a picture of you with the belt." I try negotiating with him and ask "well what about a pic of you with the belt, just to say that I talked to you over the weekend?" Nope, that's $20 too. Screw that, I can find that on Google and it's $20 cheaper. So he goes back to pitching the pics and tells me he has one of him on the cover of SI. LOL, oh really? I ask to see it. Turns out that he wasn't on the cover and that the "cover" was a 2 page spread in SI from 1991 with Virgil in the back row. After a minute or two of him directing me to the nearest ATM, I finally said "yeah, let me grab some cash and I'll come back around." I did return about half an hour later, but only to take other pics from afar.
A heads-up for those of you who plan on meeting him for Virgilbag material: he is every bit as aggressive in his sales pitch as described in past Virgilbags. Even knowing what I knew beforehand, I walked away saying "holy ****, I was not ready for that at all."
Thank you for your stories. Keep sending them in.