June 10, 2006 – Las Vegas, Nevada –
Part IV: Saturday night, the third and final day of the 41st Annual
CAC Wrestling Convention & Reunion – the largest and most
prestigious event of its type in the world. Hundreds of
professional wrestlers and wrestling aficionados were in
attendance. The highly anticipated CAC Awards Dinner had begun.
First, those who had passed away during the last year were
remembered. Next, two of wrestling’s best were honored posthumously
– Vivian Vachon and my dear friend Bobby Shane. We all wiped away
our tears and did our best to put the sadness behind us. We looked
around the room at present friends and smiled.
Now, finally, it was time to move on
to the more enjoyable portions of the awards ceremony. We all
breathed a collective sigh of relief. This year, twelve more of our
colleagues would be honored. First would be the “Reel Member
Inductee” Award. This is an award that is given to outstanding
people in the film and television industry. In many cases, the
honoree also wrestled, portrayed a wrestler in a film or TV project,
or simply had a special place in his or her heart for the wonderful
world of professional wrestling. Just over sixty people had
received this award during the first forty-one years of the CAC
organization. They include Roddy Piper, Mimi Lesseos, Don Stroud,
Joe Don Baker, Marion Ross, Robert Forster, Elliot Gould, Tommy
Sands, Terry Moore, Fred Williamson, Denver Pyle, Beverly Garland,
Norm Crosby, John Saxton, Harry Carey Jr., John Agar, Guy Madison,
John Phillip Law, Woody Strode, Charles Bronson, Pat Buttram, James
Cagney, Rory Calhoun, David Carradine, Robert Conrad, Kirk Douglas,
Alex Karras, Gene LeBell, Karl Malden, George Raft, Aldo Ray, Cesar
Romero, Mickey Rooney, and Sylvester Stallone.
I was scheduled, along with wrestling
legend Jack Armstrong, to present the “Reel Member Inductee” Award
for 2006. Joining us as a special surprise guest presenter was
ex-professional wrestler and internationally-known martial arts
master, Gene LeBell. The recipient of this prestigious award was
the 6’10”, 300-pound professional wrestler-turned-movie-star, Scott
L. Schwartz. You’ll probably remember him from his portrayal of the
character “Bruiser” in both “Ocean’s Eleven” and “Ocean’s Twelve.”
First, Jack Armstrong took the
microphone. He had some wonderful words for his friend Scott
Schwartz. Then it was my turn. “I am a man of very few words,” I
began. There was sporadic laughter from the audience. “For those
of you who are timing me,” I continued, “please let me know when
forty-five minutes has passed.” I smiled. The audience groaned.
I’m sure each of them silently applauded when they discovered that I
actually spoke for only about two minutes more.
Penny Banner and Lisa Haynes were the
scheduled award presenters for the next recipient, Jessica Rogers.
Unfortunately, Penny Banner was unable to be at the event this year
due to a battle with cancer. I’ve known Penny Banner since I was
fourteen years old. She is one amazingly tough lady and she doesn’t
lose important battles.
I was delighted to see my friend Dr.
Ken Ramey receive an award. What an amazing wrestling manager he
was. I was a fan of his before I got into the business. It was a
thrill to work with him and even to travel occasionally with him and
his masked tag team champions, the Interns.
Dick “The Destroyer” Beyer presented
an award to Mil Mascaras. I wrestled Mascaras many times, and it
was good to see him honored. This man was born in 1942, he’s in
great shape, and he is still wrestling!
My former wrestling partner and
Americas Tag-Team Championship Co-Holder, John Tolos, was scheduled
to present the next award. John, we discovered, had suffered a
pretty severe heart attack only a few days earlier, and was not able
to perform his duties that night. Still, it was wonderful to see my
friend, Pepper Martin, whom I wrestled many times, honored as one of
In the history of the CAC, only four
people were honored in the martial arts category: Benny “The Jet”
Urquidez, Mimi Lesseos, Gokor Chivichyan, and Juan Hernandez. For
2006, a fifth martial arts honoree was named: Mike Martelle. Gene
LeBell and Jake Shannon presented his award.
The legendary Les Thatcher presented
Scott Casey’s award. My former tag-team partner Killer Tim Brooks
received his award from another friend, CAC President Red Bastein.
Former World Champion Verne Gagne was
unable to appear in person to accept the “Lou Thesz Award.” This
prestigious award went to Antonio Inoki in 2004 and to my friend,
the amazing Jack Brisco in 2005. Nick Bockwinkel had the privilege
of presenting Verne’s award to an unsuspecting and reluctant Larry
“The Ax” Hennig. This was a very interesting and highly amusing
presentation. Let’s just say that Hennig and Gagne did not always
see eye-to-eye on things and were not the best of friends.
George Schire presented the “Art
Abrams Lifetime Achievement Award” to Eddie Sharkey. Former
recipients of this award were Penny Banner (1997), William Papas
(1998), Dan Gable (1999), Fr. Bill Olivas (2000), Ted Lewin (2001),
Mike Chapman (2002) Angelo Savoldi (2003), Danny Hodge (2004) and
Les Thatcher (2005).
The most prestigious award presented
by the CAC is the “Iron Mike Mazurki Award.” Former recipients were
Woody Strode, HB (Hard Boiled) Haggerty, Vic Christy, Gene LeBell,
Dick “The Destroyer” Beyer, Tom Drake, Lou Thesz, Jesse “The Body”
Ventura, Ray “Thunder” Stern, Stu Hart, Killer Kowalski, Mad Dog
Vachon, Bobby “The Brain” Heenan and Terry Funk. The CAC Board of
Directors presented the 2006 Iron Mike Mazurki Award to former World
Wrestling Champion, Harley Race. What a great way to end a
wonderful 3-day event – by honoring one of the greatest wrestling
legends alive today, Harley Race.
I was honored to be a part of the
event. I was delighted to discover that I would be “honored” at the
2007 event – this time as a recipient. Yes, it was a VERY good
event. Until next week, keep those emails coming!