Friday, April 02, 2010

heartbreak & triumph


When I was in high school, I developed a friendship with Jack. We both enjoyed hunting and fishing, country music, chewing tobacco and Georgia Championship Wrestling on Turner Broadcasting (TBS).


(photo: worldclasswrestling.info)



My Saturdays developed a pattern. I washed my Mom's Buick Electra 225 (deuce and quarter as we called it), washed my Chevrolet El Camino, mowed my parent's front yard, and headed to Jack's house to watch wrestling.

It was the days of the American Dream Dusty Rhodes, Tommy Rich, Ole and Gene Anderson, The Assassins, Mr. Wrestling II, Ivan Koloff, George "The Animal" Steele, "The Nature Boy" Rick Flair, and Rodney "Roddy" Piper.

Piper originally came into the GCW(which was renamed "World Championship Wrestling") as Rondey Piper and on one of those Saturday sitting in Jack's parents' den, Piper told Gordon Solie that he wanted to be known as "Roddy". While making his case for the name change and wearing his trademark kilt, Dusty Rhodes walked onto the set and interrupted. Rhodes wanted to comment on the name change, "I got one thing to say to ya Piper", he said, "Rodney, Rodney, Rodney."

Even then, it was obvious to us that there was a significant amount of acting going on in wrestling and some very cheesy writing behind the scenes, but it was entertaining.

Once I graduated high school and moved four hours away to try to make it through college, the ritual was broken. I began following the NASCAR Winston Cup Series my freshman year at school while also keeping up with the Atlanta Braves, "America's Team", and I did not continue to watch wrestling.

Occassionally over the last 20 years, I have watched an occassional match with "Hulk" Hogan, "The Rock", "The Undertaker", but it was never the same as those days in the early 1980s. I am sure that it was a combination of the changes in my life as I grew up and the changes in wrestling as it became a multimillion dollar promotion.

Last week, a friend of mine gave me his copy of "Heartbreak & Triumph: The Shawn Michaels Story". I accepted it with a passing interest and began reading it on the train ride to work and back for a couple of days. Soon I discovered that I had read the entire 343 page book and suprinsingly, I had enjoyed it.

Granted, to someone that has never enjoyed wrestling, it might not be the best read. But to someone that once had a boyhood interest watching wrestling, it was an enjoyable read and a pleasant way to pass the time on a train.

I could see a parrallel in myself during my 20s and Michaels early days trying to break into the wrestling business, young, cocky, and making lots of mistakes.

I would recommend the book to anyone that has at anytime in their life had a passing interest in wrestling, even if it was just to question, "is that for real?" The book answers a lot of the behind the scenes questions than many have asked for years and provides a pretty fair inside look at what goes into putting on "the show".

Probably the most rewarding part of reading the book to me was the memories it triggered of high school summer days hanging out with a friend who is no longer with us. Jack died a couple years ago from complications that resulted from an injury in a car wreck that occurred while we were in high school.

The host of Georgia Championship Wrestling, Gordon Solie died in 2000 from throat cancer. The Omni where a lot of the events were held was demolished and replaced by the Phillips Arena. And, Georgia Championship Wrestling was replaced by World Championship Wrestling which later was replaced as well.


The Omni (photo: atlantatimemachine.com)

I will always fondly remember the laughs and good times that were had sitting in Jack's parents' living room watching the Superstation TBS and Georgia Championship Wrestling and the dean of wrestling, Gordon Solie.

4 comments:

IowaHarleyGirl (Stephanie) said...

I might just have to read that book. I was a huge wrestling fan back in the day. I loved Shawn Michaels and actually met him and the Million Dollar Man at a club in Des Moines when I was in my early 20s.

mq01 said...

i'll have to give this a read. i was a fan at the same time, and was washing an el camino too, lol. :) its funny how certain things bring memories flooding back. thanks for the smile Allen.

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Mr. Madding:

I have been to one wrestling match in my life. It was held at the Jersey City Armory and I was 8 years old. I watched Bruno Samartino, BoBo Bazil, Haystacks Calhoun and the Samoans pound each other for two hours.

I understand some of these guys became big names in wrestling.

Sorry about your friend Jack. We are now of the age when friends begin to pass.

Fondest regards,
Jack • Reep • Toad
Twisted Roads

irondad said...

Grandma was a devout Saturday Night Wrestling fan.

Reminds me of when I was a deputy. We used to make extra money doing security at matches. The guys in the ring were all blood and guts and swearing to kill each other.

Afterwards, they'd all be at the bar drinking together like buddies.