February 12, 2000; The Riviera Hotel, Las Vegas, Nevada: It was
the final day of the yearly Cauliflower Alley Club
Convention. Hundreds of
professional wrestling stars filled the magnificent ballroom.
The banquet had concluded and it was
time for the “Academy Awards” of professional wrestling.
Actor Joe Don Baker was a “Reel Member"
inductee that night -- the same
honor Sylvester Stallone had received
several years earlier. Then it was time to present the coveted “Future
Legends Award.” A hush fell over the room as the announcement
was made: “This year’s ‘Future Legends Award’ goes to a very
deserving young man, an Olympic Gold Medal winner in wrestling .
. . Kurt Angle.”
congratulated Kurt on his win. He was an impressive gentleman
who obviously loved the sport of wrestling. I hoped that the
Cauliflower Alley Club was correct in predicting future “legend”
status for him. Wow, were they ever correct! Kurt Angle went
on to become World Heavyweight Wrestling Champion and one of the
very best professional wrestlers of all time. Although he has
remained in absolute top physical condition throughout his
career, Kurt Angle has received many
injuries, including a broken neck. His doctors advised him not
to wrestle again. They told him that if he landed wrong, and if
he were lucky, he would very likely be paralyzed for life.
Friends and family were unable to comprehend Kurt’s unwavering
commitment to continue wrestling.
They pleaded with him, “If you get hurt again, you could lose
your life.” Kurt looked seriously at them and replied, “You
really don’t understand. Wrestling IS my life.”
Most people who just read those last few sentences are thinking,
“That guy’s crazy to keep wrestling.”
But, then, most of the people reading this story have never been
in the ring. Those of us who have wrestled professionally
– those of us who lived the life – understand totally.
Voluntarily ending one’s wrestling career is not an option – not
when wrestling is your passion and your life.
Unfortunately, some of the “new breed”
wrestlers lack that level of
understanding; they simply look at wrestling as a
very well-paying “job.” Not
Kurt Angle. Kurt is as “old school” as anyone could be. He
possesses those wonderful qualities that have been lost with too
many of the current young wrestlers. When he does hang up his
wrestling boots, there will be no one who can fill
them – no one will ever take his place. We of the “old school”
salute you, Kurt Angle!
Chris Benoit, the 2002 “Future Legends” award winner, has
suffered a broken neck as well -- twice!
He also continues to wrestle. Wrestling is in his blood, and he
understands and accepts the risks.
was discussing the “wrestling in your blood” phenomenon with
wrestling great Nick Bockwinkel. He helped put it in
perspective. “Professional wrestling,” he said with total
seriousness, “is more addictive than heroin. People who have
never wrestled will never understand.” There seems to be a
belief that runs throughout the true passionate professionals of
our business. It is: “If we have to die, let us die in the
Brute Bernard & Skull Murphy
There was a wonderful tag team back in the late 1960’s – Brute
Bernard and Skull Murphy. They were
brilliant. Professional wrestling was their world. There is
some controversy concerning the following, but this is
the way I
always heard the story: Skull Murphy was told by his doctor
that he had a problem with his heart and that he would have to
give up wrestling. Apparently, a second opinion confirmed the
heart problem. Because he could no longer wrestle, Skull Murphy
killed himself. Several years later, his wrestling partner
Brute Bernard died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. The
wrestling ring was their home, and they couldn’t go home
Next week, I’m going to do a complete 180 and show you some of
the extreme humor shared by the “boys.” I’ll talk about Jerry
“The King” Lawler, for example, dumping a garbage can full of
water out a hotel window, with me as the intended target and the
not-so-appropriate “tattoo” he drew on my back just before I
went into the ring . . . the time Rowdy Roddy Piper put a gorilla
mask on Andre the Giant and terrorized the people of Japan
. . . the “ribs” we pulled on the announcer on live
television (like when I cut off his tie with a pair of
scissors during a live interview)
. . . Five wrestlers going 85 miles per hour
in a 20 mile per hour zone in a little Mississippi town at 2:00
AM, being pulled over by the cops, and beating the ticket
. . . and, a lot more! Until next week . . .