NOTE: ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON FEB. 18, 2012 IN THE KINGSTON WHIG-STANDARD. All rights reserved.
I recently attended a three-day convention entitled WrestleReunion in L.A. For a wrestling fan, it is a great event featuring three days of wrestling shows, Q&As, photo ops, meet & greets, autograph signings, vendors, a Sunday brunch and anything and everything wrestling.
Organizers are bringing the event to Toronto for the first time, from April 13 to 15, and yes, yours truly will be there. The details can be found at www.wrestlereunion.com.
As I’ve written before, I am a lifelong wrestling fan who has been lucky enough to cross over the guard rail and live my dream of being a pro wrestler for more than 20 years.
I love doing these types of shows. I also had the opportunity to be a part of something that gave me have a greater appreciation for the sacrifices made by the men and women who paved the way for me to do what I love.
I was placed in a Legends Royal Rumble, not because I am a legend (which, coincidentally would have inflated my ego and been an easier sell to me to participate after having already worked and broke my nose earlier in the evening) but rather because two of the participants had to catch red-eye flights to St. Louis so they could appear in the WWE Royal Rumble.
So thanks to Mick Foley and the Road Dogg I was the only person to work twice that night, but I truly love to perform. Being in the back and talking to all the wrestlers is truly an honour and a privilege.
The locker rooms used to be sacred grounds with only the performers allowed in the back. I still wish this was true, but sadly it is not. I am not an old-school flag bearer. I agree that all businesses should grow with the times. I look at a locker room as a place where an athlete can be among his peers and be able to formulate their own state of mind before going out there and entertaining the fans.
No matter what you think of pro wrestling or sports entertainment, every performer puts their own life on the line each and every time they go out there.
In days gone by, if a person made it to the back locker rooms, they were immediately escorted out. I usually like to roam around and absorb all the goings-on in the room. At first glance, I was taken aback at how many legitimate tough guys were in this particular locker room; men who you wouldn’t want to cross today, let alone in their prime. The list included two former UFC heavyweight champions in Ken Shamrock and Dan Severn, along with the Steiner Brothers, Vader, Finley, Kevin Sullivan, Greg Valentine, Gangrel, The Godfather, Mondo Guerrero and Konnan. Hell, even Iron Mike Tyson was there and did a surprise appearance at the show.
I haven’t participated in a riot in quiet a long time, but I said that if a good old-fashioned fan riot broke out, this was the crew I wanted to go to war with.
On this night, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the one thing that really makes me appreciate wrestling — pride. I saw guys who hadn’t had a match in years still putting on baby oil, fixing their hair, pumping up their arms, so they still had the fans remembering them the way they looked in their primes.
Guys were still taking time to go over stuff in their heads, get mentally prepared and even saying prayers. They were doing all their own last-minute rituals before they went out through that curtain. It didn’t matter that they were performing in front of a crowd of close to 1,000 people. They still went out there like it was WrestleMania and in front of 50,000-plus people.
The younger wrestlers were all watching from the back, enjoying it as much as the fans were.
I will admit I was disappointed when The Genius Lanny Poffo started the show without one of his signature poems for us, but I was shocked and delighted that he hit a picture-perfect moonsault, to everyone’s delight, I might add.
The fans cheered so loudly when they heard the ring-entrance music of their old favourites. My favourite was when the Million Dollar Man Ted DiBiase’s music hit and the place erupted, before quickly turning to boos when his longtime sidekick, Virgil, came out. Then I watched several men jump on Virgil and tie his shoelaces together and stomp on his hands and feet when he tried to untie them.
For a brief moment of time, every wrestler in the ring got to have their own moment, their time to feel special again, their time to relive their past glory. It didn’t matter how old they had gotten. They were stars again.
The fans, ever so respectful in knowing they weren’t witnessing the best in-ring performances, just appreciated the moment as nostalgia, perhaps a throwback to their own childhoods and appreciating the performers’ hard work through the years.
They got to see Jimmy Hart and his megaphone play the coward, Brutus (The Barber) Beefcake do some cutting and strutting, Konnan do his vintage rolling clothesline, followed by his Viva la Raza.
The end came when The Godfather won and then followed his victory with his long catchphrase, which the fans of course all chanted in unison, as if he were still on TV still every week. I, myself, couldn’t remember his lines, but when he was doing them live in front of the crowd, I remembered them all and ended up taking a ride on the Hooooo Train.
My final, favourite moment was seeing The Godfather’s young son, beaming with pride because his dad had won the match, the whole time while holding his mom’s hand.
Here is a guy who plays a stereotypical pimp surrounded by female wrestlers, who were playing his hookers, but in real life, in the locker room, there was a wife and a son just being proud of a husband and father.
And to think that this is the band of misfits I have decided to spend my life working with.
You know, I wouldn’t change a thing about it.
Thanks for reading.
Tommy Dreamer is a legendary and influential pro wrestler and a father and husband who has worked for World Wrestling Entertainment, Extreme Championship Wrestling and Total Nonstop Action and is the creator of House of Hardcore. Follow him on Twitter — @THETOMMYDREAMER — and check out his website at www.thetommydreamer.com.He can be booked for live appearances through his website. For more on House of Hardcore, visit houseofhardcore.net.