“Off The Air:” Breakfast With A Champion

Aaron Maguire

Aaron Maguire is a freelance broadcaster with over 10 years of experience in professional wrestling. In 1997 he secured his first job on the independent circuit by operating a video camera for Cleveland All Pro Wrestling.  Since then Aaron, a native of the Cleveland, Ohio area, has worked in all areas of the pro wrestling/sports entertainment business -including In-ring Performer, Promoter, Broadcaster and Producer.

Maguire provides color commentary for the nationally televised series "PWO Wrestling" airing Sundays on Sports Time Ohio and as "Aaron Bauer" he hosts the web exclusive, "AIW: Intense TV." The following is his debut WrestleZone column which will feature stories and experiences he can only tell "Off The Air."

Off The Air: Breakfast With A Champion

The year was 1997 and Extreme Championship Wrestling had finally been picked up by my cable provider.  I had been reading about ECW in the Pro Wrestling Torch since '95 and without any hype or fanfare, it just randomly appeared on my television at 2am.  ECW was everything I had ever hoped for out of a professional wrestling company and more.  My favorite part of Hardcore TV really surprised me.  It wasn't the great wrestling matches.  It wasn't the wild brawls.  It wasn't the drama involved in the feuds, nor was it the comedy or the half-naked girls.  During one of those tremendous "Pulp Fiction montages" I found Tommy "Wildfire" Rich.  Sure, I watched him on WCW TV in the past and I knew his history but this was different.  He was brought in as a member of the FBI -the Full Blooded Italians, and I thought his gimmick was hilarious.  Every week I tuned in hoping the "Big Don" -as he was now known, had some promo time.  He played the "clueless heel" role perfectly.

I was 19 years old and working as a hotel security guard in '97.  Just past midnight on a Friday night I was sitting at my desk, trying to stay awake when a pink Cadillac pulled up to the doors.  Stepping out of the car, with a case of beer under each arm, was none other than the "Big Don" and the "President of Italy" Tommy Rich.  It turned out there were a few indy shows he'd be headlining that weekend in nearby Cleveland, Ohio and he had reservations in the hotel where I worked.  I walked up to Tommy and extended my hand, saying, "The youngest World Heavyweight Champion of all time, 21 years old, Tommy Rich… I just want to shake your hand."  Rich seemed genuinely excited to be recognized and was very personable.  I helped carry his luggage to his room and we were soon talking as if we had known each other for years.  Tommy was fascinated with the behind the scenes knowledge I had on pro wrestling, which I had gained through the internet and "dirt sheets."

A few hours later I was back at my desk, reading a newspaper when I began hearing noises from the hotel restaurant kitchen. Dishes were crashing, silverware was falling and I was equipped with only my flashlight.  As I turned the corner and pointed my flashlight, there stood the former NWA Heavyweight Champion of the world, Tommy Rich, like a deer caught in headlights.  I breathed a sigh of relief and asked what he was doing.  There was a plate with quite possibly the largest sandwich I'd ever seen on it.  Turkey, ham, pickles, bread, mayo, mustard, tomatoes, potato chips, etc.  He no-sold my question and continued building his late night snack.  I asked again, and this time he looked right at me and straight-faced said to me, "I wanted to take a swim, is this the pool?"  The entire scenario was "classic-heel" by my favorite wrestler and only made me a bigger fan.

In the morning, I sat down in the hotel restaurant for breakfast with Tommy and we were joined by Rodney, the promoter of the indy events "Wildfire" was headlining.  Rich started selling Rodney on me and how I could be useful in the business.  A waitress walked over to our table and exclaimed, "Hey, aren't you that wrestler?  From the 80's?  The former champ?"  Tommy Rich began grinning until the waitress finished her thought, "Yeah, I knew it was you… the American Dream.  Dusty Rhodes!  I used to watch you all the time."  Wildfire began shaking his head, and laughing a bit.  He quipped, "I guess I shouldn't have ate that sandwich last night!"

I later met them in Cleveland, for the Cleveland All Pro Wrestling event where I would eventually get my start in the professional wrestling business, operating a video camera.  I trained under Rodney and began running shows with him while playing the role of Commissioner.  Tommy "Wildfire" Rich was always a part of our roster, bringing his unique sense of humor and his years of knowledge with him, always willing to help out.  Between stories about his family and the wrestling business, I learned quite a bit and still use that knowledge to this day.

Follow me @FairToAar on Twitter

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