Editor’s note: Following is the second installment of Tommy Dreamer’s columns, which were published for a year in The Kingston Whig-Standard. Chinlock.com is pleased to republish Tommy’s columns, each Monday. This column was originally published on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2011. Copyright The Kingston Whig-Standard, all rights reserved.
We all have defining moments in our lives. Some call it fate or destiny. Most people don’t even know when it happens in life until their journey is over. I know mine, and this is my story.
The first time I saw professional wrestling, I was eight years old — and I was hooked. My dad was a huge New York Rangers fan (a season- ticket holder for many years) and we were settling down to watch the Rangers take on the Montreal Canadiens. The game was in Montreal and due to a major snowstorm, the game was not telecast on TV. So Channel 9 aired World Wide Wrestling Federation (now WWE) from Madison Square Garden.
The first wrestler I ever saw was Bulldog Brower. He was billed as hailing from Toronto, Canada. He would open his eyes really wide, act like a crazy man, throwing chairs, and had a very animalistic demeanor. He was built like a small mountain, standing a mere five-foot- eight but a round-barrel chested 270 pounds. He made all these crazy faces and the crowd booed him like crazy. The boos turned to cheers when the WWWF Champion, Bob Backlund, walked to the ring with no ring music or pyro. The Garden was rocking to see the All-American champ fight this maniac man beast. Bob eventually defended his title and a life-long wrestling fan was made.
My ninth birthday came and my dad got me tickets to the WWWF at the Westchester County Center. My hero was going to be defending his title against the evil Cowboy Bobby Duncum (I wrestled his son, Bobby Jr., later in my career). I made a sign that said Bob Backlund #1.
It took me two tries because I could not fit all that on single paper, so I taped two pieces together to form my makeshift sign (why I didn’t get poster board, I don’t know, but I was nine so cut me some slack) and I counted down the days until the big day finally arrived. I was so excited.
My dad took me and my best friend Larry to the show. I was jumping up and down for every match. I was on the edge of my seat. I was even fortunate to have my future trainer — WWE Hall of Famer Johnny Rodz — fall at my feet. He got up and called the whole section bums and threaten to fight us all. Then my hero jogged through the crowd. I held up the worst, now wrinkled up, half torn and wet sign — which at that point looked like I had slept on it — professing my admiration for my hero.
The single greatest thing happened when I put my hand out and my idol gave me a high five. I looked at my hand and screamed like a schoolgirl at a Justin Beiber concert and told my friend Larry: “Cool, I am never washing this hand.” Yes, I did say that. I felt like I had super powers. In my head, Bob connected with me. I could envision him training me, then we would be tag-team champions and rule the wrestling world.
Bob successfully defeated the wild cowboy with his trademark Atomic Spine Crusher, in which he would lift his opponent on his shoulder before dropping his foe’s butt onto his knee, sending anyone that took it into an instant three-second paralysis, just long enough to enable Bob to defeat them — so I thought. In reality, it actually feels like a super wedgie going up and usually hurts the knee of the guy performing it. Unless of course it misses and you get a knee-pad enema, which has happened as well. (Wrestlers note, you don’t want to eat spicy foods when you have a bruised butt — more pain than ever).
As a winded Bob Backlund walked past me, I took out a pen and asked him for a signature on my sign. He said “hang out kid, I will get you when I am done”. “Cool, Mr. Backlund,” I replied. The show was over. I waited to get my hero’s autograph. Security told me it was time to leave. I pleaded my case that my new best friend (sorry Larry, you’re out; Bob is in) was going to sign this ragged sign I made for him.
The security guard said we had to go, but pointed out where the wrestlers parked and what door the wrestlers left from (great security, huh?). I went outside and waited in the sleet and snow of February.
I didn’t want my new best friend to see me with my old best friend, Larry, so I stood by myself. I also told my dad to keep his distance.
I guess it wasn’t cool in my head to have Bob Backlund seeing me with my dad (again, I was nine).
After 20 minutes in the freezing sleet and cold, there were about seven of us left. Arnold Skaaland walked out. Arnold was a former wrestler and managed former WWWF Champion Bruno Sammartino. He was Bob’s manager. I handed him my event program (which I still have to this day) and I got my first autograph from a wrestler. After thanking Mr. Skaaland, I saw Bob approaching. His cool, red satin jacket and towel over his head was his trademark. Bob smiled and I held up my program. Bob looked at me said the most influential words to me I ever heard “kid I will get you next time” and drove off into the night with his manager. I was devastated.
Did my idol just destroy my dream?
Will I jump onto his car?
Will I have to be best friends with stupid Larry again?
Part 2 of this story next week. Same Whig-Standard time. Same Whig-Standard paper.
Tommy Dreamer is a legendary and influential wrestler who has worked for WWE Inc., Extreme Championship Wrestling and Total Nonstop Action. Follow him on Twitter — @THETOMMYDREAMER — and check out his website at