FROM THE ARCHIVES: Tommy Dreamer’s 3rd column

Originally published on Saturday, Nov. 26, 2011, in The Kingston Whig-Standard. All rights reserved.

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Headline: Bob Backlund: From hero to heel to hero again

If you didn’t read last week’s column, to summarize, I was snubbed by my hero Bob Backlund for an autograph, leaving me heartbroken.
I got into my dad’s car and held back my tears. I was no longer a Backlund fan. I couldn’t believe my hero would do that to me. I never cheered for him again.
Luckily for me, the next week, we vacationed in Florida and my dad took me to see Florida Championship Wrestling at the Hollywood Sportatorium.
There, I saw my new idol, The American Dream Dusty Rhodes and his tag-team partner Bugsy McGraw take on The Russian Bear Ivan Koloff (who was actually from Canada) and Dick Murdoch, who had just turned on his best friend (Dusty Rhodes) and joined forces with the “Russian.” How dare he betray Dusty, let alone America? I knew what it felt like to be betrayed (at the ripe old age of eight). My best friend Bob Backlund snubbed me, so I was hooked on the Dream ever since. They also came to the ring with garbage cans and broom sticks, way before this hardcore wrestler ever dared to do so.
I have never forgotten the feeling of hurt. I have always gone out of my way for the fans. I always take a photo, sign an autograph and chat about professional wrestling. After all, I am a fan as well. Why wouldn’t I want to talk about the business that has given me everything in my life?
I think many athletes forget that without the fans, they have no jobs.
I have walked a mile in Backlund’s shoes, what with the hustle of making the next show, and driving hundreds of miles in the night regardless of the weather conditions. You just can’t accommodate everyone.

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My vendetta with Bob finally was put to rest some 30 years later, when a mutual friend was passing through and we had lunch together. I told Bob the story. He was beyond apologetic and is one of the nicest men I have ever met. I actually thanked him for snubbing me because he helped make me into the man I have become — a man who loves what he does and truly appreciates his fans.
The very next day, via express mail, I got my autographed Bob Backlund picture. I went on YouTube and watched a few of his matches and remembered why I am most thankful for wrestling.
This got me thinking to a standard rule for autograph collecting.
Allow me to share it with you:
1. Have a pen or marker. You would be surprised how many people ask me and assume I have a Sharpie marker handy.
2. Common courtesy goes a long way. Simple words like please and thank you make the process more engaging to the subject.
3. Have your camera ready. The longer it takes to wind or turn on or figure out how to use it, the greater the chance your subject may have to leave.
4. Children and women go first. The pushy male will always get snubbed or will just have to wait.
5. Patience. This is the key to getting your autograph.
6. Don’t hand someone the crinkled napkin or ripped quarter of a piece of paper to sign. I doubt you will cherish the borderline trash forever.
7. Don’t start off conversation by telling your subject “I am your No. 1 fan.” It is creepy and you hear it all the time — the math doesn’t add up.
8. This only really applies to me. I can’t sign in my own blood anymore because I always got kind of grossed out when people would take their ticket stubs and rub them against my head, but that is for another column.
Thanks for reading.
Tommy Dreamer is a legendary and influential pro wrestler who has worked for World Wrestling Entertainment, Extreme Championship Wrestling and Total Nonstop Action. He now owns and operates House of Hardcore. Follow him on Twitter — @THETOMMYDREAMER — and check out his website at www.thetommydreamer.com. He can also be booked for live appearances through his website. Also visit houseofhardcore.net.