11 January 2013

Shannon Man meets The Boogie Woogie Man

Back on August 3, 2012, my dad and I went to meet Jimmy "The Boogie Woogie Man" Valiant and watch some live wrestling.  I wrote an article about it which appeared in the third issue of The Atomic Elbow.  You should go buy all of the issues of The Atomic Elbow.  What follows is my article along with some photos I took.

I rolled into work one morning this summer and on the door was a poster for a NWA All-Star Wrestling event.  “Summer Bash 2012”.   I grew up watching wrestling but have only recently started watching it again.  Remember the episode of WCW Monday Nitro when the NWO spray painted Goldberg?  That was the last time I watched wrestling up until about the time CM Punk’s second run as WWE champ began last year.  When I was a kid my two favorite wrestlers were Mr. Wrestling No. 2 and “Handsome” Jimmy “The Boogie Woogie Man” Valiant.  So I got pretty excited to see that Jimmy Valiant was listed on this wrestling poster.  I was not familiar with most of the other names on the poster but I did notice local Russell County celebrity Ralph Kiser of Survivor fame was going to be there.  Still, I was about to dismiss it until I noticed that the event was going to be held literally in the same building where I work.

I work in the same town in which I was born.  The town of Lebanon in Russell County Virginia USA.  It is very rural.  The county is really just a few farm communities.  It is a one Wal-Mart county.  Zero Starbucks.  The average age is around 40.    I lived outside of the state for years until moving back about five years ago.  My job is in an office complex that used to be a strip mall.  The complex contains a conference room that my company has used for power point presentations and holiday lunches.  That is where the wrestling was scheduled to be.  I don’t get out much.  I have the wife and the kids and the cats etc. so I don’t do a lot.  The last time I saw wrestling in person was a taping of Monday Nitro.  But I figured if Jimmy “The Boogie Woogie Man” Valiant was going to come to the building I work in then I had better go.   

In the weeks leading up to the show I kept hinting to my dad that he should go with me.  He seemed curious but not excited.  On the day of the show I called him to see if he wanted to go or not.  He said, “naw, I don’t reckon”.  That was Appalachian for “no”.  Less than thirty minutes later, my dad called me back and asked when the wrestling started.  I gave him the details and he said that he “reckoned” that he would go.  Hooray! My dad is into hunting and fishing and I’m into not getting up at 5 AM to sit in the woods so wrestling is one of the main things we have to talk about other than football and racing.  I was super glad he would go.  So after work I headed out to pick up my dad.  On the way, I had to stop in at the Food City grocery store.   As I came out the sky exploded with with a flash flood of rain and lightning.  I got so wet running to my car that I literally just drove back home and changed clothes.  Eventually my dad and I made the drive over through the storm to see some wrasslin’.

I did not expect there to be a lot of turnout.  I had not seen or heard any promotion about it other than the posters that some ninny had already taken down.  The show was being put on as a fundraiser for the Russell County Amateur Radio Club which I had never heard of.  But despite the rain the parking lot was full and there was a line backed up outside the building.  The good people of Russell County were standing in the rain to see some wrasslin’.  I was impressed.  It turns out that part of the reason the line was so long was that the two old timers taking tickets were not the fastest with the whole making change routine.  The way it seemed to work was that you handed them the money and they looked at it as if you had handed them moon rocks.  Then you would explain to them how much money you were trying to pay them and how much money they should give back to you.  You could have told them anything really.  You could have given them a five and asked for a twenty back and they would have done so with a smile.  But it was fine and no one got impatient because the good people of Russell County have little to no experience with things happening quickly and expectations were very low. 

Eventually we got in out of the rain.  The ring was set up against one of the walls of the room so there were only seats on three sides of it.  I’m guessing around 200 seats and by the time my dad and I took ours every seat was full.  There were some tables for selling popcorn, drinks, candy bars and pizza.  A company called High Spots had tables set up with some of the 5 Dollar Wrestling stars selling videos, photos etc.  I had no idea who they were when I walked in.  I noticed Ralph Kiser shaking hands with a small gathering.   But the first thing I did was make a bee line for “The Boogie Woogie Man”.  
(Some guy and Jimmy Valiant.)

Jimmy Valiant was standing in front of a table that had some of his merch.  “Precious” Valiant was running the table.  Valiant was all smiles and shaking hands.  He was dressed in blue and black wrestling tights, white wrestling boots, a huge bandanna and a leather jacket.  I thought he must have been in the wrestling gear just to look in character because there was no way he would be wrestling.  Valiant would turn 70 just a few days after the show and he did not look a day over 69.  I wouldn’t call him frail but he was surprisingly thin considering what a great physique he had in the 70s and 80s.  Valiant was a very big man back in the day.  Huge barrel chest and python arms to rival Hulk Hogan’s but with a mane and beard that Hogan would have given the WWF title for.  So yeah, to see him old and thin was a bit odd but he was still Jimmy Valiant.  The eyes still sparkled and that great big smile was still there.  

I got to talk to Valiant for a good bit.  I know his friend Brien “Magnet Man” Powell through comics so we talked about that and I asked him about his wrestling camp.  I got some autographs and my dad snapped a couple of pictures.  It felt like Valiant would have been happy to keep on chatting with me for a while but I politely slid away so other folks could get their handshake/autograph/photo.  My dad and I picked up some popcorn and sodas and sat down for the show. 

A lady entered the ring and got on the mic.  She welcomed us to the show, made some jokes and laid down the ground rules.  She pointed out that the barrier between the crowd and the ring would collapse if anyone put much weight on it and made it clear that at no point ever could anyone cross that barrier.  She did however encourage the crowd to yell at, threaten and insult the wrestlers as loudly as possible but to try and keep it PG.  She followed that with a prayer then played the Whitney Houston Super Bowl version of  “The Star Spangled Banner”.  And with that, it was time for some wrasslin’.
(Zen Riley.)

The first match was a singles match and one of the best of the night. The face was a good looking, fit young guy named Kyle Styles.  The heel was a guy named Zen Riley who looked like Jack Black with really long hair and beard.  He wore a t-shirt that said "I AM WRESTLING".  He was hilarious.  His wrestling shtick was basically to act like an angry Jack Black and yell at the audience.  And I don't mean the Jack Black that made a wrestling movie.  I mean the Tenacious D/School of Rock Jack Black.  Part of his shtick was to repeatedly call out his next move to the crowd and then totally fail.  Now all of this may sound lame but it was great.  This guy was hilarious and Styles helped sell it by laughing with the crowd and mocking the hairy guy's missteps.
(Zen Riley feeds Kyle Styles some arm sweat.)

  It was a fun match and great way to start the show.  I don't think anyone in the room knew who most of the wrestlers on the card were but these guys did a good job of setting up wresting 101 for the crowd.  Making it clear how this thing was going to work.  How to root for the face and yell at the heel.  And these guys were good showmen.  Good match.  The face won.
(The Boogie man and a lady who may or may not boogie.)

Next the MC lady invited Jimmy Valiant into the ring.  His theme song “Boy From New York City” played and folks were dancing and really excited.  Valiant walked the crowd.  High fives and hugs all around.   Valiant still had it in the ring.  He turns into the Boogie Woogie man.  You can see it.  The dancing, the strutting, working the mic... I guess it is like riding a bicycle when you are Boogie Woogie.   Now, I thought that the Boogie Man was just there to sign autographs but in the ring they announced that he was going to be in a tag team match.  However, Jimmy sadly informs us that his tag partner Rufus did not show up.  Awwwww.  Then from out of nowhere (the back room) came his scheduled opponents, tag team champions Frank “the Tank” Parker (formerly of Death and Destruction) and Scott Sterling with their goon and/or manager Doctor Death.  
(Scott Sterling and Doctor Death say some less than polite things to The  Boogie Man and Stan Lee.)

They of course mocked and threatened Valiant.  The crowd really gave it to the heels.  Valiant asked who could be his partner.  Half the crowd volunteered.  And then, out of nowhere (the back room) came Stan "The Man" Lee.  (No, not that Stan Lee comic book nerds.)  Lee was in street clothes.  The heels asked Lee to get in the ring and help them beat up Valiant but Lee shocked them right out of their trunks and said that he would be Valiant's partner.  The crowd approved.  But everyone left the ring because obviously, that match would be the main event and would be later.

Quick sidebar:  Notice that I talk about them coming out of the back room.  Notice I don't say locker room.  That is because I know exactly what is behind that door.  It is some really nice little offices and a couple of bathrooms.  Not at all a locker room.
(Mini Muta and Freight Train.)

The next match was between a tag team made up of Alex Kage and D.P Holliday versus the 320 lb Freight Train and a little kid called Mini Muta.  Freight Train is a big dude.  He looks like a pro football offensive lineman.  He came out to this Ozzy Osbourne “Crazy Train” hip hop mash up theme which allowed him to mime the pulling of a train whistle and yell "choo choo" at select parts of the song.  Freight Train had the title belt from something called 5 Dollar Wrestling.  The crowd did not know what to make of Freight Train.  The little kid looked like the Gabe character on that “Good Luck Charlie” show my kids watch on the Disney channel.  I'd be surprised if he was older than 15.  He came to the ring in a trench coat which had some Japanese looking face painted on it with what looked like poster paints.  His face was painted up kabuki style and they announced him as being from somewhere in the Far East.  I'm guessing eastern Florida or the Carolinas.  
(D.P. Holiday and Mini Muta.)

Kage and Holliday were the heels but it took a while for the crowd to figure out that they were supposed to be behind Freight Train and the kid.  Kage and Holliday looked more like faces than Freight Train does and, well, let's just be honest; Freight Train was the only African American in the room.  Possibly in the town.  Possibly in the county.  

The match started slow.  This match was mostly Freight Train throwing people down and people running into Freight Train and bouncing off of him.  Freight Train was pretty great.  He speaks in third person with a Forrest Gump accent and a high Mike Tyson lisp.  There was something really endearing about hearing that voice yell insults at the wrestlers he was destroying.  A few minutes into it the crowd got behind Freight Train and started following him in chants.  
(Getting smashed by Freight Train makes you need to lie down on the floor for a few minutes.)

Then Freight Train let the kid in.  At first the kid did a good job of embarrassing the bigger heels.  And Holliday is a really big dude.  The kid put on a hell of a show with some solid lucha libre spinning and flipping.  And when the heels finally got the upper hand on him he did a great job of selling the abuse.  An old man on the front row threatened to attack the heels and their manager with his cane.  The crowd loved that old man so much.
(Old timer ain't playin' around.  He will cane you.)

Mini Muta escaped long enough to make the tag and then Freight Train came in, got down in a three point football stance, yelled "choo choo" and killed everyone.  Freight train and the kid won the crowd but Kage and Holliday won the match on some sort of manager interference gimmick that I don't even remember.  Freight Train celebrated anyway though and this time when they played his music the crowd was going "choo choo" with him.
(The Man Scout and Caleb Konley.)

The next match introduced “The Man Scout” Jake Manning.  This guy was great.  He came out in a Boy Scout outfit.  He had the hat and a canteen and copy of what might be the first Boy Scout manual ever printed.  His onesie was uncomfortably too small for him and it had a Boy Scout hand signal right above his naughty parts.  He was clearly a heel.  The audience was really giving it to him.  He yelled back at someone that they must have failed to earn their English merit badge.  This is probably the best wrestler heel shtick I've seen since... ever?  “The Man Scout” is genius people.  And get this.  Guess where his announced home town was?  "Frommmmmm Troop 83, The Man Scout!"  Genius.
(It is hard to take pictures of things that are moving.)

The face of the match was Caleb Konley from somewhere in Florida.  He looked very young.  I'd guess 21ish.  He was small but he was good.  You could tell this kid had put the work in.  He worked the crowd well.  What few ladies in the crowd that were under 60 were losing their minds over him.  He was pretty.  But the Man Scout ain't no slouch.  These guys put on a solid match.  Better than at least two out of three hours of what you would see on RAW.  At one point the Man Scout takes a swig from his canteen and spits it in Konley's eyes.  Canteen.  Boy Scouts.  Man Scout.  Genius!  But Konley recovered and won.  The Man Scout apparently suffered brain damage during Konley's finishing move and put his scout stuff back on very sloppily then staggered out of the ring and for the door like a drunken Boy Scout.  It was hilarious.  Genius.
(The Champ!  Freight Train.  Choo Choo!)

Then there was an intermission which obviously existed so that people would have nothing better to do than buy some merchandise, drinks and food.  I bought a 5 Dollar Wrestling DVD called “A Train Wreck” featuring Freight Train and co-hosted by Colt Cabana.  Freight Train autographed it.  It cost $5.  I watched it later and it was hilarious.  I recommend it.   I also bought Mello Yello, popcorn and a Milky Way.  $2.50.  I said hi to Ralph Kiser.  He seemed very nice and very humble.  You could see he was making a real effort to actually have a conversation with everyone that wanted to talk to him.  He talked about farming and hoping to get on another reality show.  I heard him speak with a lot of enthusiasm about the idea of getting back on Survivor but it sounded like he mostly wanted to be on The Amazing Race.  
(Sexy Kevina gets ready for some bidness.)

Back from the intermission the next match was a ladies title match.  The contender was a young lady named Kayla Bishop.  Her nick name was something country girl related so the good people of Russell County were clearly going to be on her side.  The ladies champion was Sexy Kevina who is a man.  I used to work in a book store in midtown Atlanta GA so I've seen a lot of transvestites.  Kevina is the ugliest transvestite I've ever seen.  But, she's the champ.  Kevina was wearing a ton of crazy stuff.  Nighties, teddies, garters, stockings, a huge pink wig and fairy wings.  Yeah, fairy wings.  It took her a while to get all that stuff off and she finally wrestled in the pink stockings.  She kept the garter on.  She took the wig off and had short spiky pink hair underneath.  She demanded that the announcer call her the San Francisco Treat even though her accent was clearly that of a man from the south.  Kevina had a manager with a glove on one hand.  Of course, this hand was used for choking Miss Bishop.
(This old man will cane your wrasslin' transvestite buttocks.)

Kevina was hilarious.  Of all the heels at the show none of them got the crowd as crazy as Kevina.  Poor Kayla was really just an afterthought.  The match was Kevina versus the crowd.  The crowd won but Kevina kept the title.  The old man with the cane literally chased Kevina to the locker room.  It was great.
 (Good thing he was old and slow.) 

I was thinking the old guy was a plant but my dad said that while he was outside smoking, the heel manager guy was assuring people that the old guy was for real crazy and that he had actually hit him with the cane at a previous show.  All of the wrestlers stayed just out of striking distance.
(Mister Electric and some big nasty looking dude who's name I forgot.)

The next match featured a big giant sweaty slobbering allegedly Canadian dude whose name I can't remember.  The crowd would name him “Canadian Bacon”.  He was the champion of something.  His belt had a WV on it that looked like the West Virginia college athletics symbol.  As soon as he came out of the back room he was yelling at the audience to shut their mouths.  The crowd started a USA chant because we hate Canada for all those times it did awful things to us.  Like the time they.... and the time they... and Beiber?  I'm not sure but you know what, this was wrestling and we needed to get a USA chant on at some point so screw you "Canadian Bacon".  The Canadian played it up really well and demanded that the announcer instruct the crowd to be silent during his wrestling match.  The crowd chose not to.  
(Canadian Bacon just needed to rest for a minute before killing that guy.  You gotta pace yourself.)

His opponent was a tall lanky kid called Mister Electric.  I think?  This kid had his face painted up.  He did a Jeff Hardy imitation.  Poorly.  But the crowd did not care.  The crowd hated "Canadian Bacon" so all skinny kid had to do was not get killed.

But, "Canadian Bacon" was a huge nasty dude and skinny kid got killed.  Then the big Canadian got bored and challenged a guy in the audience to get in the ring.  That dude did not but the old guy with the cane was ready.  The Canadian made fun of the old guy and called him Moses.  But from a distance at least two cane lengths away.
(That lady and Ralph Kiser.)

And finally we had our main event which was set up earlier in the evening.  MC lady brought Ralph Kiser into the ring to have him involved as a special something-or-other.  Kiser was soft spoken but had that big smile and the crowd loves him.  The match featured the heels Frank “The Tank” Parker and Scott Sterling with goon/manager Doctor Death versus “Handsome” Jimmy “The Boogie Woogie Man” Valiant and Stan “The Man” Lee.  The heels were the champions of something and the belts were on the line.  The heels came to the ring to the tune of “Mean Streets” by Van Halen which was a pretty great song for heels to come out to especially if it was nineteen eighty something.  Valiant and Lee came out with valet?/manager? “Precious” to Valiant’s standard “Boy from New York City” theme.  The crowd got to see Jimmy shake hands, high five, strut and dance for the 2nd time in the show.  And that was great because really that was what we all came for anyway.  
(The Boy from New York City.)

I never imagined coming into this thing that Valiant would wrestle but the match starts off with him in the ring first against Frank “The Tank”.  Parker is huge.  I was a little scared for Valiant.  Not that I don’t think Valiant knows what he’s doing but because if Parker accidentally fell on anyone it would hurt.  A lot.   They went through the standard tests of strength and Valiant quickly had Parker in a side head lock.  Valiant was very quick and good on his feet.  I was impressed.  
(Frank the Tank and The Boogie Woogie Man.)

The match soon turned into a silver age Superman comic book where the good guy beats the villain not through strength but through ridiculous and cruel trickery.  Jimmy got Parker in a standing half nelson with his back to the ref.  When the ref was blinded by Parker’s massive back, Stan Lee darted through the ropes, between Valiant’s legs and head butted Parker in the groin.  And by groin I mean nuts.  Parker wanted no part of this and tagged in Sterling.  Very quickly, Sterling suffered the same exact fate.  Sterling and Parker wanted none of this nonsense.  Neither wanted to be in the ring with Valiant anymore because he kept tricking them like some kind of crazy wizard.  They were terrified of the insane Boogie Woogie man.  Sterling refused to wrestle Valiant anymore and called him a “crazy old man”.  So, Valiant showed them mercy and let Stan Lee in the ring.
(Stan Lee and his superman trunks will break your arm.)

Lee worked over Parker and Sterling pretty well.  They are all big guys so there were some thunderous hip tosses and body slams.  Good old fashioned wrestling.  Somewhere in all the action Valiant took a shot to the head and was knocked off the apron.  This instigated a bit of a scuffle with Doctor Death.  Eventually all of the participants were in the ring and in the chaos the ref was knocked out.  Valiant and Lee slammed Parker’s and Sterling’s heads together then Lee went for the pin on Parker.  But wait!  The ref was knocked out!  How would this end?  Out of nowhere (the side of the ring) Ralph Kiser jumped into the ring and slapped the mat, one, two, three and Valiant and Lee won!  New champions of whatever their belts were for!  Valiant, Lee and Kiser celebrated the win with the belts.
(Best in the world!)

But not so fast.  The ref came to and declared that the heels retain the belts because Kiser was not an official licensed official.  Boooo!  A travesty like this could not stand!  MC lady and some old timer from the Amateur Radio club came into the ring and huddled up.  The crowd was heading for the door but Valiant and Lee told them to hold their horses.  MC Lady announced that to make this thing right that the NWA All-Stars will return to Lebanon VA in October when Parker, Sterling and Doctor Death will face Valiant, Lee and Ralph Kiser!  I can’t wait!
(Frank The Tank is taking his belt and going home.  Until next time.)

Your best pal ever,

Shannon Smith

p.s. Say you want a leader but you can't seem to make up your mind. I think you'd better close it and let me guide you to my twitter feed.
p.p.s. Let's pretend we went to high school together on facebook.
p.p.p.s. Google + is another place you can read the same thing I posted here.
p.p.p.p.s. I'll tumblr for ya.
Post a Comment