This episode of the Chronicles is a look back, to a long, long time ago, in a State far, far away. We will take a trip down memory lane, even farther back than the latest adventures in Charlottesville, from whence I returned mere days ago. This is a tale that occurred on one of my cross-country road trips, presented of course by Promotodog™. It all started with a brand new motorcycle and a dream…
I had decided it was time for another quest, to seek glory and adventure on the open road, with the wind in my… face… and 1200 cc-s of vibrating gasoline combustion fueled testosterone boosting two wheels between my manly thighs. I had invested in a brand new Yamaha V-Star, with saddle bags and all the accessories I’d need to get me from coast to sunny coast in this great nation of ours we affectionately call ‘merica. I had made the cross-country trek before, but never on a bike. Riding has always been a thrill for me, although I prefer the deep rumble, and confident, powerful majesty of a cruiser over the brash cry-for-attention of a screechy crotch-rocket. On motorcycle, the experience is entirely different. Exposed to the carelessness of inattentive drivers and the whims of mother nature, a rider is more vulnerable to the same extent as he is more in touch with the sights, sounds, smells, and the visceral realities of his surroundings that constitute the experience. Man and machine melt together in a Zen nirvana of acceleration, leaning into turns, and racing through the wind with the thrill of power and sensitivity of connection to the road that only a motorcycle can provide.
Lest I get lost in an ode to motorcycles, and in the interest of brevity, I shall move on to the portion of my journey more relevant for present purposes. This particular story begins in the great State of Texas. I had already journeyed through a couple of places in Arizona where I documented what is possibly the highest concentration of ridiculously good looking young women per square mile, as well as Albuquerque, where I managed to find one interesting speakeasy hidden in the basement of a restaurant. My conquest of the famed 72 oz steak (with baked potato, salad, rolls, and shrimp) in Amarillo by then also in the record books. I had come to Katy, Texas on a certain date to visit a friend who informed me that he would be working security at an event that would surely surpass my prior experiences.
I was an avid pro wrestling fan growing up. Had it not been for the likes of Hulk Hogan, Macho Man Randy Savage, Bret the Hitman Hart, the Ultimate Warrior, or Sid Vicious, I may never have started down the path that led me from amateur wrestling to professional MMA. Although my days of pro-wrestling-fandom were behind me, the prospect of ringside seats at a midget wrestling event rekindled in me the childhood flames that had fueled my passion for the larger-than-life characters and drama of sports-entertainment, which this time would take the form of pint-sized performers. It was bound to be an experience of epic proportions.
I arrived well before the first bell, to catch up with my friend and to ease into the proper alcohol induced bliss that enhances any good pro wrestling show. The venue offered a special on buckets full of beer, which seemed like a reasonable option given my limited cross-country budget and my high levels of motivation. As is usual with drink specials, there was an expiration clause. I therefore invested in an additional bucket, so as to avoid having to pay full price for the brew. By the time the lights dimmed for the start of the show, I had already finished the first bucket and recounted all the same old stories of the glory days with my buddy, roaring in laughter and satisfied with the knowledge that no matter how the show would go, this stop had already proven worthwhile.
When the emcee came out pumping up the crowd on the mic to kick off the show, I was already far beyond suspending my disbelief. As the first match got on the way, I was calling out every move, doing spontaneous ringside commentary in an attempt to pay homage to the great Bobby ‘the brain’ Heenan. The wrestlers were working the crowd, slamming each other to the canvass, going for the pin, and breaking the rules to get some heat when the timing was right.
My ringside antics must have made an impression on someone behind the scenes, because I was soon approached by someone tapping me on the shoulder. I turned, readying all the excuses in my head for what I thought may possibly be someone objecting to something I may or may not have done. Then, the man who approached me leaned forward to speak into my ears:
“Hey man, do you want to referee?”
It took perhaps a half a second to clear away the prepped excuses in my head and to actually make sense of the question. But I did not wait that long. I instinctually replied before I could sabotage myself: “Hell yes!”
He told me to go to the back and they would get me a shirt. Then, between matches, they announced me as a special guest referee, and I walked down to the ring. I had walked that isle before a few times, but usually it was something for which I had trained for several months, and usually I was sober. This time, I had no preparation and I was far from sober.
I refereed every match that night, except one. I was doing everything to enhance the show; yelling at the rule-breaking, counting the pins, holding my head in disbelief at the big moves, and having the time of my life as the third man in the ring. Finally, it was time for the main event. The local hero would meet the foreign villain. First, the ‘bad guy’ entered the ring, and antagonized the crowd on the microphone with a few choice words and gestures. The booing turned to cheers as the hero’s music hit. The drama was every bit as big as when Hogan faced Andre the Giant at wrestlemania III in front of the largest indoor crowd in history. At least in my mind, it was…
The match got on the way, and after a while the heel was getting the better of the babyface. He had the advantage, with his opponent up against the ropes, but that was not enough for him. He threw his opponent into the corner, who stood there with only the turnbuckles supporting him, when the ‘bad guy’ rakes the eyes. I immediately admonished him: “Stay out of the eyes!” He then started choking his opponent. This, as you may or may not know, is against the not-frequently-followed rules of pro wrestling. As a good referee, I yelled at him to break it and started the count. 1, 2, 3… He broke the illegal hold before I got to the count of 4, indicating disqualification. But, as the evil midget that he was, he went right back to the choke-hold. I yelled at him even louder, and started counting again. Such repeated flagrant disregard for notions of fair-play, not to mention the complete disrespect of my authority as referee, called for intervention. “What are you doing?” I screamed at him. “If you don’t obey my commands, I am going to disqualify you!”
He turned his back on his opponent, leaving him gasping for air in the corner, and bowed up bumping me with his chest… at about my waist. This, now, was a direct affront to my authority and the dignity of the gentlemanly sport of wrestling. I had to stand up to enforce the rules and for the respect of the office of the referee. Memories get a bit hazy over time, but I think I screamed “Don’t you touch me!” and perhaps also “Respect my authority!” What is certain is that I put my hands on him to push him back. At that point, he knocked my hands to the side and nailed me with a right hand.
The crowd was going wild as all semblance of sportsmanship and regulated contest fell by the wayside. I dropped down to the ground, as any good pro-wrestling referee would, and he proceeded to jump on my back and choke me. I was flailing around in make-belief agony, and in my death-throes I accidentally kicked the other wrestler, who by this time was starting to regain his composure. He looked around for a second, and did the best he could with this improv moment; he started stomping on me.
By this time, I was being beaten senseless by both wrestlers. The crowd was going bananas; they could not believe what they were seeing. As I later learned from my friend who was ringside security, other members of the security team and crew tried to jump in because everyone thought a real brawl had broken out. It was only the emcee who pulled them back and said “No, no, they are having fun up there!” Mind you, absolutely none of this was planned out in the back; I was literally just pulled out of the crowd and we all just went on instinct.
After a while they got tired of beating me and kicked me out of the ring. Then, they got to talking, on the mic as is the habit of pro wrestlers. They started expressing the new-found respect they had for one another at observing the skill with which two midgets can beat up a big, tall referee. The heel (bad guy) finally offered his hand to the babyface (good guy) in a show of respect and sportsmanship. Apparently they had settled their differences.
But no! The handshake was a ruse. Betrayal! He renewed his attack and with the referee out of the ring, he was free to break the rules, as was his forte. The crowd, again, went wild. Just when the merciless beating was reaching its zenith, the local hero demonstrated a bountiful of resourcefulness and managed to trap his opponent in a skillful pinning combination.
Out of nowhere, the referee (that is, I), beaten and battered, slid in under the ropes to count a very quick 1-2-3! Ring the bell!
The crowd once again erupted in a mixture of disbelief, approval, laughter, incredulity, and pure appreciation for the entertainment that they had just witnessed. This, is the legend of the time I had the opportunity to be a referee at a pro wrestling event. And it is captured in the profile picture I sometimes use on Facebook, depicting me screaming at the rule-breaking wrestler, with the caption “Don’t Panic! Your problems are not as big as they seem.”
- Hulk Hogan at Wrestlemania XXX? (mindofcarnage.com)