EXCLUSIVE: Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, The Barbarian…

Ken Napzok

Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, The Barbarian…

My bags are packed, the room is reserved, and I’m checking traffic on the 405 Freeway… that’s right it is WrestleReunion weekend!  A chance for all the fans, pundits, and legends of Pro Wrestling to get together next to an airport and talk shop for days and days and days. Along the way you can over pay for an autographed glossy 8 x 10 and yell, “You know something, Mean Gene” at, well, Mean Gene Okerlund. Conventions of any kind are ripe for parody and the picking. When you gather everyone involved with a fringe industry, combine them with the people obsessed with it, and throw the whole bunch in a hotel conference room you’re bound to have some hilarious results.  Not quite as funny as the Space Mountain line at Disneyland, but funny none the less. When I think of conventions, I think of the William Shatner/ Star Trek convention sketch on Saturday Night Live back in… brace yourself… 1986. Shatner yelling “Get a life” at shocked Trekkies was a broad swipe, for sure, but a needed one. That said… I’ve got my T-shirts for Mr. Anderson, Hot Rod, and Santino Marella all cleaned, pressed, and ready to go. This is going to be fun and as well it should be.

Like Major League Baseball, Pro Wrestling continues to move forward while building and expanding its past. Get a bunch of baseball nuts in a room and they’ll talk endlessly about Albert Pujols’ place among the greats; especially when you compare his OPS to that of Babe Ruth or Mickey Mantle. Even more fun than that is name dropping those players that just didn’t quite make it into the Hall of Fame.  (“Hey, remember Tuffy Rhodes hitting those three homers on opening day? What’s that guy doing now?”) The same thing goes for Pro Wrestling. Is The Miz truly the “Must See Champion” like those before him? How does AJ Styles compare to, say, Ricky Steamboat? And tell us a story about fighting Executioner at WrestleMania 1, Tito Santana. While I’m very much looking forward to seeing the young talent from Ring of Honor and Pro Wrestling Guerilla filling out the showcase events, the highlight, we all know, is going to be Jake Roberts’ retirement match and seeing the likes of Terry Funk, Roddy Piper, The Warlord, and The Barbarian in the legends battle royal. Powers of Pain, people! Powers of Freakin’ Pain!

It would be easy to downgrade the event as happy, fuzzy nostalgia that dips into the sad realm, (Think of that thread bare convention scene in The Wrestler…) but it should be looked at as a great chance to gather ‘round the camp fire with like-minded fools while totally immersing yourself in the lore and history of what we love. The ride at the top (or even just near it) is generally a short ride for the performers, but the impact they made lasts forever in the minds of the fans. There is nothing wrong about said performers standing before smaller crowds soaking in the last drops of admiration and, on the flip side, the fans should not feel any less excited about seeing the stars in the twilight of their glory. I’ve been at small independent shows where an old legend or two has made an appearance and to the one hundred or so fans in attendance seeing them in a beat up indy ring was just as exciting as it was when they first watched them at Madison Square Garden or WrestleMania V. So, let’s do this WrestleReunion. Let’s wax poetic. Let’s swap stories. I’ve reserved my ticket and brought my memories.

An American Wolf in Los Angeles…

    Quite a busy weekend planned for the Best Wrestler in the World, Davey Richards. First the modern day bulldog will be taking on former NWA Heritage Champion TJ Perkins at Friday’s Ring of Honor show, then it will be a smark’s Dream Match with Low-Ki at the big Pro Wrestling Guerrilla Saturday supershow, and he’ll round out his weekend with a title shot against Millennium Pro Wrestling champion Ryan Taylor in Simi Valley on Sunday.  Prediction: a lot of stiff kicks followed by hushed “oooohhhhh’s” from the crowds.

    There is something special about Davey Richards in the ring.  He has “it” and “it” goes beyond his skill-set, look, or accomplishments. When he enters the squared circle there is a quiet, slow brewing intensity that is can’t miss television. With Ring of Honor on the ropes until they can get another TV deal, one has to wonder if the powerpack could find a home in at least TNA if not the big show. The WWE has found a purpose and place for Daniel Bryan and tried (sorta) with Kaval, so is it out of left field to think they couldn’t do the same with Richards? Probably is, but more so because it seems hard to imagine Richards willing to take on a different persona and doing the “Entertainment” thing.  If only this were still the Attitude Era. It’s hard to sell a ruthless warrior to kiddies… or at least the parents who hold the TV remotes. TNA is a tad easier sell. He could dominate what is left of the X Division and more likely hold onto his name and likeness. You could turn AJ Styles back to good side of the Force and pair him with Richards as the leaders of a new faction and have them take out the lingering legends.

Not having the chance to ply his trade on a national stage has to be considered somewhat of a shame. This isn’t 1995. You can market a talent like Richards to the masses. It could work. Yet until that phone rings, Richards is going to continue to dominate the Indys and his three matches this weekend are going to be show stoppers; the kind you talk about at… well… fan conventions.


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