Inspired by the saga of "Wrestling Superstar Virgil," we collected our readers' encounters with the titans of the squared circle. These are the best of the year, in no particular order.
I grew up in the pinebelts of West Alabama. Incredible deer hunting. My dad is an attorney and is friends with a prominent Jackson, Mississippi attorney. My dad invites the Jackson attorney and two of his buddies over to do a weekend of deer hunting on our property. The two other guys happen to be Eddie Payton (former Minnesota Viking, current Jackson St. men's golf coach and brother of Walter) and Virgil's boss, the Million Dollar Man Ted Dibiase.
Later that day, a wild boar chased Ted and he was scared shitless. We grilled steaks that night and Ted would spontaneously bust out, "Everybody's got a price for the Million Dollar Man! Ahahahaha!" On Sunday before they left we snapped this pic of him putting me in a sleeper hold. Great guy.
I was at Barney's Beanery in West Hollywood about 3 years ago, and a gentleman came walking in with a leather jacket and sunglasses on at 11:30pm. He was of middle-age, and he was accompanied by a younger couple. After glancing at him a couple more times I realized it was "Rowdy" Roddy Piper. I walked over and said, "Hot Rod! I'm a big fan."
His immediate response was to shake my hand and ask, "How's your family? How many kids you got?"
I said, "I'm too young for kids. I'm not even married." This triggered a life lesson on starting a family from him, and he did not disappoint.
"Good. Here's my advice: take your fucking time. I got a 19 year-old with a Mustang. You can HAVE him. I don't need him. Do you see this guy here (gesturing to the couple at his table)? That's my daughter and her boyfriend. He'll be dead by sundown. He doesn't even know what's coming!"
Back in the heyday of Attitude-era WWF, a local promoter set up a wrestling event at the UAW hall in our town. The event was to feature among others, WWF Superstars Mick Foley, Al Snow and The New Age Outlaws. At the time, it was a pretty big deal for our little slab of Midwestern middle-of-nowhere.
The day of the show, a local record store owner buddy of mine set up a meet-and-greet with Al Snow and The Road Dogg Jesse James. Both guys turned out to be really cool, taking a ton of pictures, signing autographs and putting up with the small town mongoloids that still thought wrestling was real.
After a few hours Al Snow had to leave, but the Road Dogg decided to stick around and ended up staying until the store closed for the day. My record store buddy had a pseudo-mancave in the basement, so when the door was locked, six of us (including the Road Dogg) headed downstairs. The next two hours were spent drinking beers, smoking some home grown and playing Mortal Kombat. Over that time, I didn't keep an exact tally, but I'd be comfortable saying the Road Dogg had close to ten beers and two giant hits on a Half Baked-sized blunt. Mind you, this was all less than two hours before he was scheduled to wrestle in a tag team extravaganza at the UAW hall.
Eventually, the Road Dog had to leave for the UAW hall, but found himself without a ride. I was going that way, so I offered him a lift, which lead to this gem in the car…
Me: "So, being a pro-wrestler must be pretty badass."
RD: "Ehhh…it beats the shit out of diggin' ditches."
The Road Dogg went on to wrestle that night and didn't miss a beat, which leads me to believe that every Monday night on Raw, that dude was totally fucking bombed.
I was in Sanibel Island, FL on vacation with my family when I was in 6th or 7th grade, and I was getting sick of the beach. I went up to the pool to grab something to drink and who do I see floating on a raft in the pool with blatant disregard for the rules which clearly state no rafts in the pool? Scott Steiner himself. I drop my drink on the ground, sprint across the pool deck (because if Scott Steiner can say "Fuck the rules," I can too...right?), elbow drop into the shallow end (also against the rules as I would soon find out), surface right next to him, flex, and, in my best Steiner voice, say "Big. Poppa. Pump."
He just sits and stares at me. I'm in middle school, so I figure that he must have been impressed with my form. He says verbatim: "What the fuck are you doing? I'm on vacation, go away." He then squirts me with a water bottle.
I was working a show in Chattanooga, Tenn, that featured many former superstars and some up-and-coming ones as well. On this card was "Grandmaster Sexay" Brian Christopher (Lawler...yes, Jerry's kid). After the match (he won of course, being a former WWF Superstar/Tag Team Champion has it's perks...) he did his usual post match dance schtick. He brought a young boy who had an obvious mental handicap of some sort up into the ring with him, placed his goggles (those "used to be in-style with morons" ski goggles from the '90s) on the boy's head and did the dance with him.
After the show, the family stopped me and thanked me and asked that I pass on their thanks to Brian for making their son's night a treat. The son still had the goggles on his head and a beaming smile that was pure joy and awesomeness. So I run backstage and pass the message on to Brian. What I heard in response still shocks me to this day.
"Hey, go get those goggles back. Those things were like, $50 and I have to have them back. I don't care if you rip them off his goddamned head, go get them now!"
What I did was I asked the family if they would like to meet Brian Christopher, had them wait outside the locker room, and told Brian, "Dickhead, they're outside the door. You want the damned goggles back so much, you get them." And proceeded to wave the family in the room, leaving him and the kid.
When the family came out, the kid was sans goggles.
Back in the mid 90's I was doing age group swimming at the YMCA. Our coach, also the Y director, came in one afternoon before practice and asked us if we knew who Leon White was. Of course, we didn't have a clue, even though as 12 year olds we were avid wrestling fans. He told us that there was a wrestler coming in to do some community service, that he had to get some hours from a DWI he got a few months prior. We asked his name again, and Coach went and got his file that the court sent over. Came back and said, Leon White (Vader) emphasizing to us that Vader was in parenthesis. BIG VAN VADER! Then he said that where it lists special skills or trades, someone had written, "heavy lifting, and high-flying aerial moves"! At the time it just didn't occur to me how ridiculous that was, being put on a community service form. I think someone from the court was having a laugh about that.
After practice we rush to get dressed and we go looking for him. We find him in the basketball court moving folding chairs from an earlier function. I swear the man had between 6 and 8 aluminium folding chairs in each arm. Standing at the doorway too scared to say anything (he was a villain after all), my friend Charlie yells, "VAAAAADER!", and then hauls ass down the hallway, leaving me to look like the dick who yelled. He looks up, and with all the chairs still on his arm, he raises it, points to me, and gives me the "wassup, bro" head nod. I nod back (I think) and take off. Nothing crazy about this one, just a really cool experience for a 12 year old.
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.
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!'"
The year was 1999 and WCW Nitro was killing Monday Night Raw, with the nWo and the Four Horsemen leading the way. Some friends were I hitting the bars at Myrtle Beach and all of a sudden everybody in the bar starts "woooooooooo"ing like crazy. The Nature Boy was in the building, and apparently had been in the bars for some time, because he was shitfaced.
After a couple of hours Flair attempts to leave the bar, but is so drunk that his son David and Ric's wife have to drag him out of the bar. I decided we were going to follow him out. Flair's wife and son plop him down on a bench, and his wife (who is really pissed by this point) yells that she's going to get the car and will be back in a minute.
I realize this is my moment to strike, my chance to speak to the 16-time champ. I sit down next to the legend and say "How's it going champ?" Unfortunately Flair was in a wrestling match with a barbecue shish kabob and had sauce all over his face. He was hammered, staggering, and had Heinz 57 all over his grill. As pitiful as he was I still wanted my picture taken with him, and he really had no choice but to comply, where was he going to go?
As his wife pulls up to get him, Flair (who realized a crowd had gathered) staggers to his feet, "woooooooooooo"s, struts, and then does the Nature Boy flop into the backseat of the SUV. Mrs. Nature Boy angrily comes around from the driver's seat and slams the door shut and speeds off.
When they left I wondered how many times his wife had to do this for him.
Prior to my senior prom in 1993, at New Canaan High School in Connecticut, there were rumors that the administration had hired a WWF wrestler to make an appearance. Being that the dance was in the same city as WWF headquarters, in Stamford, the story had enough legs to make it around most of the student body, even if most of us thought it was fake.
Supposedly the wrestler was supposed to be Sgt. Slaughter, who would pull up in his camouflage limousine and then come in an greet the students. Slaughter never arrived and as the night went on the appearance of any wrestlers seemed unlikely.
My friend and I stepped outside for a cigarette and as we were smoking we heard a distinct voice growl from behind us. "Cigarette break boys?"
We turned around and to our amazement, there was Randy Savage in full Macho Man regalia.
"Ya shouldn't smoke, it's bad for ya," he said as he entered the hotel. We quickly threw our butts on the ground and followed him inside. He was taken into a room with our Assistant Principal while we ran to tell everyone who we just saw.
My buddy and I got on line and had this Polaroid taken of us making our best wrestler promo faces that I still keep in my desk at home. Savage was awesome and stayed until everybody got a picture.
When you think of terrible wrestling gimmicks from the 1990's Doink the Clown is going to be on everyone's list. I used to shoot photography for a couple independent organizations and one in particular LOVED bringing in Doink the Clown. The owner would always say "That guy's a fucking goof, but he still draws, man. I'd take him over any of those other spoiled ring pussies."
I was back in the locker room going over the spots with the guys so that I'd know where to catch the best photo and when it came time to map out Doink's match, he would keep getting up and leaving for 10 minutes. After returning a third time, without being asked, Doink just says "HOLY FUCK BOYS. I have the shits tonight." The guy he was to square off with asked him about the match finish and Doink could only shout "We'll just go with the usual spots. I ... I don't ..." as he darted for the restroom once again.
His match was allotted 15 minutes for in-ring work and post-match celebrations with the kids who are ringside. Doink's music hits and he makes his way down to the ring, doing his usual schtick with the 40 or so fans who bothered to show up that night. The bell rang and the match began. Barely two minutes later Doink pulls the ref and the other wrestler in close, says something, then falls on the other guy for the three count. It looked both wrestlers just dropped dead, no one had any idea what was going on. As soon as the match was over, Doink jumped up and darted for the bathroom.
In this particular gym, once you made it past the barricade, there was nothing separating you from the crowd. As Doink was holding his ass cheeks together, a kid around the age of 10 was on an intercept course with a program and a pen in his hand, seeking an autograph. Well there would be no time for that because when a clown has to shit, a clown has to shit. As the kid started holding out the program, Doink smashed him straight to the ground. He gave that kid a Heisman pose that Ed Smith himself would have been proud of. Not knowing his night long battle with the runs, to everyone else it just looked like Doink the Clown beat down a small kid because he asked for an autograph.
Doink would emerge from the dumper to fans booing him. He walked over to the promoter and said "I need my check, I'm out of here, I've got the shits something fierce."
It was the year 2001 or 2002 and I was getting gas in Seymour, IN on my way back to college at Butler University. in Indianapolis. I had been home for the weekend because like all poor college kids the lure of free food, leftovers, and Mom's laundry service was just too great to pass up. The only other vehicle getting gas at that time was a 15-passenger van filled with the largest humans I had ever laid eyes on.
Turns out it was Mark Henry and several other wrestlers. They were driving from their last show in Louisville, KY to their next event. When I went in to pay Mark Henry looked at me and winked as he was leaving the counter. The lady at the counter calmly said "$112.00 please".
"Woah, hold on lady, I only got 20 dollars in gas, right there on pump 4". After watching the van of wrestlers peel out of the parking lot she came to realize what had happened-they had told her I was with them and would be paying.
Miffed and confused, she told me to have a good night and to never cheer for those "gas stealin' rasslers" again.
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.
Back in high school, when Raw came to my hometown of Louisville, my dad told me about an interesting run-in with someone he thought had to be a wrestler at Kroger. My dad was behind a massive, bleached-blonde, Samoan-looking guy in the checkout line and despite it being only 2 p.m., this guy was obviously wasted (Drunk? Stoned? He couldn't tell). According to Pops, the behemoth had something like 40-50 32 oz. Gatorades in his cart, but still thought he would go through the "10-items-or-less self-checkout lane." So he tries to scan the eleventh Gatorade and the machine predictably says, "Error: You have exceeded the item limit."
To no one in particular, the big fella starts slurring, "What the fuck, man? Fuckin' thing broke?" and starts banging on the side of the machine like he's playing pinball. My dad nervously approaches him and tells him, "I think you've gotta go through the regular checkout line." Big Guy's having none of it, exclaims "Nah man, fuck that," pays for just the ten Gatorades, leaves his change in the dispenser and his cart in the aisle. I pulled up a picture of him on the internet to be sure, and sure enough, my dad confirmed it was none other than electrolyte-enthusiast Rikishi Fatu.
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).
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!
It's 1991, I'm nine years old, and my dad picks me up from school. It's close to summer, and it's an extremely hot day for a Southern California beach city. Probably a blistering 79 degrees. Instead of going straight home where I could take off my pants and watch some goddamn cartoons, my pop tells me we have to go to his work and pick up his paycheck. Ugh. We pull into his work, a warehouse by the airport. He goes into the office area to get his check, and I stay outside. Since I'm a kid, I get bored after waiting for 11 seconds. I decide to go explore. During my short expedition, I notice some kind of shipping container. Obviously, I can't NOT go inside of it and close the door behind me. That's what I do. And of course, now I'm stuck.
If you remember what it's like being nine years old, you know you have zero sense of pride and self-awareness, especially in what seems like a dangerous situation. I didn't even wait a minute before I started screaming at the top of my lungs. Some guy finally comes over and sees me. There's a clear plastic window in the door area, and I can see he's sorta laughing to himself. THANKS MAN. Eventually he tries to open the door, but it won't budge. It locked itself somehow. He tells me he's going to find someone to open it for him, but I'm kinda freaking out and I ask him not to leave. He calls another dude over and they're both just looking at the door, looking at me, looking at the door, and laughing. OH COOL GUYS. NOT LIKE IT'S HOT IN HERE OR ANYTHING. After a few more minutes of these chuckleheads doing nothing, my dad finds me. I can tell he's a little pissed, but he doesn't want to explode in front of people. One of the dimwits that was hanging around tells my dad he's going to get his brother to help out. He says he's a big guy and can probably just pull the door off. My dad looks at him weird and says okay, but says it with a tone that means you're absolutely no help and I'm glad you're going away. Couple more minutes pass, a couple more guys come over to try and get me out, with no luck. One more guy comes over. It's the dude's brother. AND IT'S FUCKING ZEUS. ZEUS. FROM NO HOLDS BARRED. THE MOTHERFUCKER THAT FOUGHT HULK HOGAN IN ONE OF THE WORST (GREATEST -9 year old me) MOVIES EVER MADE. I don't believe it. My dad doesn't believe it. Neither of us believes it when Tommy "Tiny" Lister grabs the door and pulls it off from it's fucking hinges.
Deebo saved my life, or at least saved me from an additional few minutes of sweating in a little box. Almost immediately after Tiny gets me out, some management types arrive at the scene, and they don't look too happy. That is until Tiny introduces himself and calmly, but firmly, explains the situation to them. They melt like butter. It was awesome. Everyone chats it up for a few minutes, talk about Hulk, make fun of me, he signs a few autographs, and that's it. He grabs my shoulder a little, tells me to be careful, and him and his brother leave. My dad and I leave right after, lest the management guys decide to blame him for the damaged container. Our ride home was quiet and somewhat surreal. I think my dad was just happy my dumb ass didn't get him fired. I was wondering how I was gonna tell my friends the bad guy from that Hulk Hogan movie rescued me from certain death.
We close 2012, as always, with a Virgil story. Matt:
I work at a 7-Eleven. Its not glamorous but it pays my bills. Who should I see walking in one day but Virgil. Being a lifelong wrestling fan I knew it was him but decided to play it a little coy in asking, saying "Don't I know you from somewhere?" Of couce he gave a small list of his accomplishments (mentioning a Wrestlemania and a few other things I can't remember unrelated to wrestling) and I said I had a feeling it was him.
He went on for 30 minutes running down Vince and Linda to me, saying he would get into fights with them all the time. Real physical altercations. He then asks me if I'm looking for a job. I basically say "Yes, I'm looking to move on with a better career." He then proceeds to give me career advice by telling me to go work for WWE's shopzone webstore. Saying he knows the guys who work there making $180,000 a year and only work 3 or 4 days a week at most. So he basically went from saying he used to beat the crap out of the owner of a company and his wife to saying that I should go work for them.
After he finished going on and on and on, he bought a slurpee and about $50 in lottery tickets.