Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Day I Met Wrestling Royalty

I know this isn't food related, but my dad found the pictures, so I had to share. 

One of the most fun/coolest days of my life happened back in '96 at the last Wrestling event ever at the Greenville Memorial Auditorium. The Greenville Memorial Auditorium was was our version of Madison Square Garden ... it was just a 1/4 of the size ... and was set to be demolished the next year for the new, bigger and fancier BiLo Center. 

If you were growing up in the South in the 80s and 90s, you were a Wrestling fan. If you weren't a Wrestling fan, then, I'm sorry but you missed some great entertainment. To say I was a fan might be an understatement. I still hear stories from friends about that time I climbed up on the cabinet and did a flying elbow drop onto the desk, or when me and a buddy used to have Wrestling matches before 1st period as every watched on. We even have video of me climbing on top of the carport and doing Jimmy Super Fly Snuka's splash and Macho Man Randy Savage's flying elbow.

Every single Monday night my dad and I (and my sister until she grew up and the phone was more important and sometimes she'd even hang up to join) would sit in the living room together and watch WWF Monday Night Raw and/or WCW Monday Nitro. With those two to watch, Mondays were never all that bad. Wrestle Mania was our Super Bowl, and we didn't miss a single one or many of the other pay per views (this was back when you could actually afford to purchase them). 

My uncle was a salesman and a gym nut, so he knew a ton of people. One of his acquiescence was the guy that was head of security for the GMA. He approached my uncle and asked if he'd be willing to help out and work security for the upcoming Wrestling event, because guys have started leaving for new jobs. He asked if my uncle would be willing to help, but also if he knew of anyone else that'd be willing to do it. My uncle gave my dad the guys number to call, and I didn't learn until a few years ago, my dad told the man that he'd work the event for free if he'd allow him to bring his son (me). He promised the man that I'd behave and if there was a single issue he'd grab me up and we'd both leave and he wouldn't be out any money or anything ... the man agreed.

When we arrived we both just kind of walked around lost for a little while until a big man approached us and started chatting with my dad. I recognized him as The Barbarian and said his wife and kids were sitting with the rest of the family members outside and that I could sit with his boys. All of these details may be a bit off, but hey, it was 15+ years ago and I was in heaven.

Throughout the night, I sat with the wrestlers wives/girl friends and kids and talked with everybody (hard to believe that right?). Periodically, my dad would come running out and get me and say "Hey, Head (my nickname from him) here's insert wrestlers name come take a picture."

This is me and The Barbarian. He told us to give him our address and he'd send me a few things, and sure enough, a few weeks later I received a package of autographs of him and his Tag-Team partner Ming. At the time, Ming scared the living crap out of me, so I wasn't so heartbroken The Barbarian was alone that night.

Cobra was an up and comer at the time that ended up not panning out.

Eddie Guerrero at the time was a decent middle card fighter. He later on decided to start juicing and then blew up. He was on top of the ladder for years until his death in '05 from heart problems.

One of my dad's favorite Tag-Teams was the Rock & Roll Express. The team had broken up, but Robert Gibson was still doing some singles matches ... when he wasn't in jail or rehab. 

Now, one of my all time favorite Tag-Teams is the Nasty Boys. There's just not much better than a mullet and gaped teeth haha. Here's me and Jerry Sags

And here with Brian Hobs. You may recognize him from Hogan Knows Best. He was always working out with Hulk Hogan and one of his closest friends. 

"From Cobb County Georgia", The Big Boss Man was also a favorite of mine growing up. At this point his career had started to drop off a bit and he was fighting under his name Ray Traylor. He would go on to pass away in '04 at the hands of a heart attack. 

Now, this picture has a background story to it. When I took these to school I passed them around and one of the girls goes "oh wow, who's that hot wrestler?" I glanced over and said "Oh, that's Buff Bagwell." Well, a second or two later she goes "I mean the guy in the flag shirt. Which wrestler in that? He's hot!" I looked at her and said "THAT'S MY DAD!!!!!!!!!!!" haha

Chris Benoit is best known for going "crazy" in what's believed to have been roid rage, killing his wife and son and then himself. He seemed like an A-Ok kind of guy when I met him.

At the time, Chris was a member of the 4 Horsemen, so I had to get a picture doing the pose.

Double A, Arn Anderson was more of one of my dad's favorites than mine, at the time. He was always the "muscle" of the 4 Horseman. Notice his glasses in his left hand, my dad told him before the picture "take those glasses off. You can't look like a tough guy with those on." Arn laughed and took them off and said "is that better?"


Diamond Dallas Page has a new place in my life now. Dawn and I have started doing DDP Yoga to get in better shape for our wedding. I was a big enough fan of DDP's before, but now I haven't stopped throwing the Diamond Cutter in weeks ... Yes, Dawn thinks (might know) I'm crazy ... BAAAAAAAAAANG!!!!!


Macho, I was a little bitter towards, unlike the other wrestlers, he never came out of the dressing room until it was time for his main event match with Flair.

As I'm watching one of the matches, my dad comes BUSTING through the door and all but yells "HEAD, COME HERE IT'S RICK!!!" I was having a blast talking with the other kids and watching the match so I turned with almost an attitude (as if I was supposed to know who this guy was) and said "Huh? Who's Rick?" The Barbarian's boys both turned and said "RIC FLAIR!!!!!" I didn't say a word, I leap AT LEAST 30 feet into the air and did a dead sprint out the door. As I got through the door I saw the last glimpse of his clothing going into the locker room and as I hollered "HEY RIC!!!!!" the door slammed shut ... I still remember standing there half heart broken because I was too late ... until ... the door swings back open and Flair says "did somebody holler?" and sees me and then says "Hey kid what's going on?" 

The Babyface, Macho Man went on to defeat, the heel, Flair in a match that had all of the classic wrestling moves (included Macho Man pulling Flair down from the back of his trunks making Flair moon the crowd). After the match, Flair took the mic and talked to the crowd out of character for a while about how much he appreciated the area and how he promised to be at the first event at the new arena. 

I can't remember if that promise was kept or not, but I was at both events at the BiLo Center that Flair announced his retirement AND later returned to the wrestling world.

The picture of me and Flair was put on my Senior Page in my year book, and hasn't been seen since. I asked my dad if he could find the DDP picture for me, and the rest if he could find them too. Not only did he find the book, but the Flair picture had some how made it's way back. When I saw it I ran back in the house and, like a kid again, started flipping the pages for Dawn to see as if I had just won a million bucks. 

I don't watch Wrestling anymore, but this day always holds a special place with me ... and it all is in thanks to my dad for working for free just so this little squirt could have the time of his life. 

1 comment:

  1. Ric Flair was indeed at the first wrestling event held at the Bilo Center, which is the arena that replaced the Greenville Memorial Auditorium. However he never announced his retirement at the venue, in any of his appearances with WCW or WWE.