Writing For Rodney – Day 4

I’m about to walk into the Tokyo Dome for Wrestlekingdom. Part of me can’t believe I actually flew to Japan by myself to watch pro wrestling. But then, of course I did. I don’t like pro wrestling. I LOVE IT!

I’m not sure the first time I saw wrestling on TV. I know it must have been at my grandfathers house, because I was told that plenty while I was growing up. But I do remember that first time wrestling grabbed a hold of my emotions and made me FEEL something, and that was when SuperStar Billy Graham came out and grabbed Bob Backlund’s championship belt and started ripping gold plates off of it. I remember being shocked, and upset, and CRYING, literally. I couldn’t understand why the bad man would do that to the good man.  Around the same time, and I’m actually not sure what happened first, was when Killer Khan broke Andrew the Giant’s ankle. The crazed madman from Mongolia came out and jumped off the top rope onto Andre’s leg, stomping his ankle and breaking it. ON PURPOSE!!

I couldn’t make sense of either attack, really. It was such a very simple concept of good vs evil that captivated me. And I was hooked for life.  I was rooting for the good guys, of course, but by the time I got to see my first live match, I had switched sides and was rooting for the bad guys. The man that turned me was the Hot Rod himself – Rowdy Roddy Piper. Sure, he was a bad guy with a big mouth but he APPEALED TO ME. I couldn’t have been more than 10 years old when I went to my first match at Boston Garden which was headlined by Roddy Piper vs Jimmy Snuka, and I smuggled in a fly swatter to hold up to show my disdain for the Superfly. I stuck it down the leg of my pants and walked into the garden with a limp. This was way before the era of metal detectors, so I managed to get it past security no sweat. I only remember two matches from that night, Jimmy Snuka vs Piper and, for some odd reason, The Magnificent Muraco vs a very young and then unknown Bret Hart.

Long before he became the Hitman and one half of the Hart Foundation aka the Pink and Black Attack, he was just a young, somewhat green talent.  Not too green though, of course, because what I couldn’t have know then was that Bret Hart was the son of the legendary and brutal wrestling trainer Stu Hart, so he had come up through the “Hart Family Dungeon”, the wrestling school that was run out of the basement of the family’s home, meaning he had been training literally his entire life. That was back in the day when wrestlers had to be  actual tough guys. So if anyone stopped to them in real life, they would be able to play the part and not bike the whole charade. Keeping up appearances that it was all “real” is known as Kayfabe in the wrestling world. Yup – a made up word. There’s a lot of them in wrestling. Inspired by its Carny roots!

I don’t even know how I was able to evaluate talent at that young age, but Bret left a very big impression on me that day, and I became a fan for life. And remain a fan of his to this day.

Another weird memory that stands out has to do with me being an excellent speller (if not the best typist / proofreader). I came in 2nd place in my elementary school spelling bee in 4th and 5th grade, so my dad made a deal with me for the 6th grade spelling bee and said that if I won, he would take me to New York City, and to a wrestling match at Madison Square Garden.

That was such a literal dream to me. I mean, sure Boston Garden was cool and all but I KNEW that MSG was the Mecca of pro wrestling, but more importantly, that New York CITY was the Mecca of AMERICA, if not the entire world! I ended up in second place in that one too… heart-breakingly… But I figured my dad would let it slide and reward me anyways. But man – WAS I EVER WRONG. He taught me a few lessons with that one… Namely, that you’ll never get anything you don’t deserve, and ALSO, that NYC was a place worth fighting for. So fight for it I did.

I never got to NYC with my dad, But I did get there a few years later, after my 10th grade year, where I dropped out of school after the winter break and went to work as a gas station attendant. I visited NYC with a friend… A trip that started with me getting mugged in Times Square, and ended with me falling off a 6 story rooftop and landing in the trauma unit at NY Hospital for 10 days. That trip changed my life, of course. Most people would have sworn off ever going back to New York City, but for me it only cemented the fact that that was where I was MEANT to be! And I ended up moving there as quickly as I could. I took the first opportunity I had to go and live there, and did so after my first year of college. Well, first I went to LA for 6 months, and THEN I decamped to NYC, knowing that they weren’t gonna leave me down on the farm after I had seen NYCeeeee!

The rest is sort of rock n roll history, isn’t it? I mean, I moved here and went on to start one of the most storied independent concert companies in the history of this city. All without a single dollar of outside investment.  booked the Wetlands, the Knitting Factory, and booked the last 100 nights that ever happened at CBGB. And I conceptualized, created, and have run a series of shows on boats that have transformed the way people see and enjoy live music in the biggest market in the United States of America. Feels really weird to look at it in that light, but it’s all true. Wow.

And that, my friends, is a pretty awesome fucking story.

And I owe it all to pro wrestling.