As the weeks go by the number of people coming up to tell me they read this blog seems to rise, and with it the number of friends who take playful umbrage to not being mentioned. Just now, my friend Al has been trying hard to convince me there was room for a mention of his, “Testicles in a pint glass,” party trick in here, which I guess is ironic since the trick only works by the fact that there was such little room for his, at the time gigantic, testicles in the glass that he was able to pick it up without hands like a strongman in the circus. It’s already two in the morning, I’m too tired to argue.
Thankfully I was able to sleep the four-hour flight back to L.A. from North Carolina this evening, in no small part because I was upgraded to first class for the first time since I used to be gold status from going to wrestle so often in Japan.
I spent the last four days in Charlotte at the Mid Atlantic Legends Fanfest. I had the honor to be one of the trainers, alongside such eminent men as Dr. Tom Pritchard, Lance Storm and the man responsible for starting me in this sport, my friend Les Thatcher, in the four-day camp where forty aspiring pro wrestlers came from all over the world to learn, but also compete for the $2,500 Reid Flair scholarship prize.
I learnt a lot watching Les, Tom and Lance explain the subtle nuances of pro wrestling, and saw again how the art form of pro wrestling sometimes is only tenuously linked the business of it. It’s not dissimilar perhaps to music, or acting, where so many fantastic artists never make it to the lofty heights of fame or fortune that other, arguably less talented, people do.
It was a wonderful experience for me certainly, but I’d like to think for everyone else too, because whether they thought about it or not, we all got to be part of our “other” family again. A family we chose, or perhaps that chose us. A family we’ve known for most of our adult lives. And a family that unfortunately, as less and less of these conventions are taking place, also seems to be dying out.
I’m not saying professional wrestling is dying, that’s a different conversation. I’m saying the real world link between all the previous generations is. Pro wrestling, reinvented as sports entertainment, arguably seems to have lost that connection. For most of us now, the world of those generations that created and developed pro wrestling is confined to old tapes. Imagine if the only link to your parents or grandparents was watching them on YouTube or old TV shows.
The world of the territories, going up and down the road with veterans, learning in the ring with them six, seven, days a week, is all but gone. And the only way to even come close to it, to hear about that world of larger than life characters like Ray Stevens or Johnny Valentine, is at conventions like this, where members of every generation get together to talk, share stories, and pass on knowledge.
For me, aside from seeing the kids in the camp, eyes still filled with wonder, hearts with ambition, developing their craft in the ring, one of the highlights was to hear from legends like Tully Blanchard, (who I had idolized when I started training, studying tapes of him in the ring,) as he talked with charisma and panache about the art form of pro wrestling, the subtle nuances, and the eccentric personalities, both in the ring and out, in the past who could never exist in today’s politically correct, anaesthetized world of sports entertainment.
Other highlights included attending the “Hall of Heroes,” dinner Friday night, where I devoured a luxurious prime rib buffet, and got to see first-hand the magic of professional wrestling again. Sat watching Tommy Young, one of pro wrestling’s greatest referees, talk about the old days I momentarily glanced back to the room and saw Jim Cornette watching him intently, his face beaming with joy and excitement, like a kid at Christmas. I saw in him, in that moment, the core of why we all do this, why we chose to be part of this family: Love. And it was infectious.
Then later, as Tully, Arn Anderson and JJ Dillon, went up to be inducted as core members of the Four Horsemen, saluted by prospective new member and camp trainee “Cheeseburger,” who stood alone in reverence, proudly holding his four fingers aloft, I think I realized one of the biggest changes from their generation to ours. For the most part, they were men. We, for the most part, are boys. And I think there’s two reasons for this. First because that rite of passage, of learning on the road from real men like that, has gone. And second because the real men of my generation, again with notable exceptions like Samoa Joe, are no longer interested by or welcomed into the sport. Be that as it may I still love pro wrestling, and am tremendously proud of the current generation who I believe love pro wrestling as much, if not more than any generation before. And you can’t change evolution, only evolve with it.
It is nearly six in the fucking morning now. I’m furious it has taken so long to write and edit this. Not even a thousand fucking words. But as the title states, this was also the latest time at which I’d started to write one of my blogs. And that perhaps is fitting since with my new project, it’s the latest time I have started a new stage of my life.
F. Scott Fitzgerald is quoted as saying: “There are no second acts in an American Lives.”
That’s fine, because I’m a limey. And my mate can pick up a pint glass with just his nuts.