Week in Wrestling: Is Roman Reigns ready?; Ken Shamrock looks back
SI.com’s Wrestling Week in Review is published every Wednesday and provides beneath the surface coverage of the business of pro wrestling.
News of the Week
The main event to Fast Lane ended in the most predictable fashion possible.
Suspension of disbelief is a key factor in wrestling. Yes, we know this is a work. Most of the time, we even have a pretty good idea of the winner. But predictability becomes a major issue when the story line is not compelling. It was clear that Daniel Bryan was going over at ‘Mania, but the story was told in a manner where every one of his segments–and both of his matches at Mania–were appointment viewing. This main event between Triple H and Roman Reigns feels less like Bryan-Triple H and more like Sgt. Slaughter versus Hulk Hogan–you know exactly who is going over, and we all know the finish. That can’t be good for business.
After the Reigns-Triple H staredown on Sunday, the road to WrestleMania has become much clearer. Our main event is set, while Brock Lesnar and Dean Ambrose will provide an outstanding match despite the fact they should be atop the card (thankfully, the decision was made to postpone Lesnar-Bray Wyatt). The Diva’s title will be on the line in a triple threat match featuring Charlotte Flair, Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch, as well as an Intercontinental title match showcasing Kevin Owens and AJ Styles. Those four matches will provide a lot of sizzle to the WWE’s biggest show of the year. One caveat, however, still remains.
The main event–the match every fan should desperately want to see–is cast in a shadow by the impending Reigns’ spear to Triple H that will end WrestleMania. Vince McMahon called an audible last year and Seth Rollins came to the rescue, but the band-aid is off a year later and the cut still remains.
WrestleMania is going to end with boos raining down on the ring as The Rock holds Reigns’ hand high. Months later, we’ll be told this was all part of the plan. The WWE, of course, saw it all coming a mile away. But if this message sounds familiar, it’s because this is all far too predictable.
Roman Reigns cannot close out WrestleMania. Unless this is turned into a four-way match with Lesnar and Ambrose, the road to WrestleMania is going to end in a crash.
Meanwhile, Shane McMahon genuinely surprised the wrestling world with his return on Monday. His match with the Undertaker–which is in the cage for Hell in the Cell–injects a much-needed heartbeat to WrestleMania. But how much can we expect from the soon-to-be 51 Undertaker and 46-year-old McMahon? Shane hasn’t fought since 2010, and the ‘Taker needs someone who can really work to highlight his skillset, so I just cannot envision this match taking place without some involvement from John Cena. Shane’s return, for what’s it worth, is absolutely best for business.
In other news…
• Ring of Honor and New Japan Pro Wrestling enjoyed a successful weekend in Tokyo with “Honor Rising,” and the two promotions will re-engage this week in Las Vegas for ROH’s 14th Anniversary pay per view. Sports Illustrated will be present at Sam’s Town Live in Vegas for exclusive first-hand coverage.
• News broke last week that Wade Barrett will be leaving the WWE when his contract expires in June. Nerve damage in his neck has kept Barrett away from any serious competition over the past few months. The focus of the League of Nations is Sheamus, with Alberto Del Rio playing a close second, but there is no question that Barrett is the best speaker of the group. After finally catching lightning in a bottle with his “Bad News” character, WWE creative instead decided to have Barrett play the outdated role of “King” after winning last year’s King of the Ring tournament. Barrett and Nick “Magnus” Aldis should both be immediately signed by TNA and placed into the main event scene with Matt Hardy, EC3, Mike Bennett, and Bobby Lashley.
• TNA made the right call in extending Matt Hardy’s title reign. Hardy’s victory Tuesday night at Lockdown over EC3 enhances their rivalry, and opens the door–at least temporarily–for a new contender to emerge for Hardy’s title as EC3 is now officially out of title shots. EC3 remains the future of the company, and I am very curious to watch how he evolves as a face while he continues his chase for the title.
• I don’t think Vince will have Ambrose go over Lesnar at WrestleMania, but the “Lunatic Fringe” will be given the opportunity to shine against the biggest box office attraction on the WWE roster. This is the opportunity for Ambrose to show he deserves to be in the main event with Reigns after ‘Mania.
• Is there a more overrated “star” in this business than Alberto Del Rio?
• Rumors floated this past June that Bellator’s fight between Kimbo Slice and Ken Shamrock was fixed, and the same thoughts crept into mind this past Saturday during the Slice-Dada 5000 fight. Shamrock, featured in the “Five Questions with…” segment of this week’s column, “fought” Royce Gracie in a disgrace to mixed martial arts. Gracie won with a low blow that the referee failed to see, a move he perhaps picked up from watching Shamrock in the WWE.
• Chris Jericho was not a part of WrestleMania 30, partially because he was still hot over the way he was used to put Fandango over at ‘Mania the year prior. When we spoke weeks before WM 30, Jericho admitted, “Working with Fandango wasn’t my first choice. I wasn’t happy about it at all, but either I do it, or I don’t go to WrestleMania. Once Vince makes up his mind, you’re doing it. So I have two choices–go home, or I can make this the best I possibly can and try to get this kid over that no one’s ever seen before. And I don’t care what anybody says, you can go look at Fandango now and say, ‘He loses all the time. Why would Jericho ever put him over at WrestleMania?’ Go back one year, Fandango was one of the most over guys in the company. The night after last year’s WrestleMania on Raw, he was the most over guy in the building. Hands down. I’ll take 90 percent credit for that because I took a guy and said, ‘He has to beat me up every week, he has to kick the s--- out of me every week, and we have to make people get interested in this guy.’ And it worked. It’s not my responsibility what they do with him after. I can’t do anything about it. At the time, I did everything I could to make him a viable, major superstar, and we did that.” All this is relevant now, of course, because WWE is using Jericho to enhance the likes of a proven star in AJ Styles, and he’s done a phenomenal job of putting him over.
• Speaking of AJ Styles, I enjoyed his appearance in the “Social Media Lounge” on the Fast Lane pre-show. Styles revealed that Barry Sanders remains an inspiration as he explained, “[Sanders] was one of the best running backs in NFL history. Also, not the biggest guy–which, you know, is kind of the same thing I’m going through here. I’m around these big giants, and obviously I’m not the biggest guy, but phenomenal things happen when Barry got on the field, and phenomenal things happen when I get in the ring.”
• “The Callihan Death Machine” Sami Callihan defeated Eddie Kingston for the AAW championship this past Friday in Merrionette Park, Illinois. Callihan sent word to Sports Illustrated that the victory “just proves why I’m the BESTest in the world.” Callihan continues to make an impact on the indies, particularly after his victory over Zack Sabre Jr. at Evolve 55 in January.
• After a flop as a face, Charlotte is really finding her groove as a heel. And it’s amazing that, although she has one of the greatest of all time with Ric Flair in her corner, the “Nature Boy” never overshadows his daughter’s work as Diva’s champion.
Weekly Top 10
1.) Kevin Owens, WWE
Owens and Dolph Ziggler earned “Fight of the Night” honors at Fast Lane, which saw the master of the pop-up powerbomb retain his Intercontinental title. Can’t wait for Owens and Styles at WrestleMania.
2.) Dean Ambrose, WWE
Ambrose will be given his Steve Austin-against-Bret Hart-at-WrestleMania -3 chance to shine in Texas.
3.) AJ Styles, WWE
Styles and Jericho put on a clinic on Sunday. In order for his upcoming feud with Kevin Owens to work, he’ll need to be given some serious mic time to share his story and give some insight to the psyche of the “redneck rookie”/two-time IWGP champion.
4.) Brock Lesnar, WWE
Lesnar and Triple H put on a lackluster match at WrestleMania 29, so I can see why there was no rush for a rematch three years later.
5.) Roman Reigns, WWE
Credit Byron Saxton with the assist to Reigns’ mystery blood. Detroit was demonstrative in its approval for Triple H on Monday, and I’m hard-pressed to think of a crowd that will cheer Reigns over our current champion before WrestleMania.
6.) Jay Lethal, Ring of Honor
Lethal continued his title reign by defeating Tomoaki Honma at New Japan’s “Honor Rising” this past Saturday in Tokyo. He also notched a huge victory on Friday, as Lethal and Tetsuya Naito teamed up to defeat IWGP champion Kazuchika Okada and Yoshi-Hashi.
7.) Kazuchika Okada, New Japan Pro Wrestling
Okada tasted defeat twice this weekend in tag team action. His partner, Yoshi-Hashi, was pinned by ROH champion Jay Lethal in the co-main event of Friday’s “Honor Rising” card in Tokyo. Okada and Lethal opened the match, and the crowd at Korakuen Hall gave dueling chants for the opposing champions.
8.) Kenny Omega, New Japan Pro Wrestling
Omega and the Young Bucks–now known as “The Elite”–were a success all weekend in Tokyo, defeating Bobby Fish, Kyle O’Reilly and Katsuyori Shibata on Friday, then disposed of the Briscoes and Toru Yano on Saturday.
9.) Chris Jericho, WWE
Jericho’s act appeared stale over his recent WWE runs, but the 45-year-old “Ayatollah of Rock-n-Rolla” has delivered since his return in December. His work with AJ Styles has helped introduce the “Phenomenal One” to the WWE audience in a compelling manner focused on his outstanding wrestling ability.
10.) Tomohiro Ishii, New Japan Pro Wrestling
Ishii defeated Ring of Honor’s Roderick Strong and is the new Ring of Honor Television champion. The 40-year-old native of Kawasaki is a 20-year veteran of the business, and his victory over Strong is one of the most impressive of his career. He defends his TV title in a triple-threat match against Roderick Strong and Bobby Fish on PPV this Friday night.
Five Questions with… Ken Shamrock
The “World’s Most Dangerous Man” is still smarting from his controversial loss to Royce Gracie at Bellator 149 this past Friday. Before the fight, the 52-year-old discussed mixed martial arts, criticism from Dana White and the reason he left the WWE.
SI.com: You have been fighting for 21 years, but you have never received this type of criticism before a fight. At 52 years old, does this bother you? And what is your motivation to keep fighting?
Ken Shamrock: Usually the people who criticize are the ones who are insecure about their own lives. So I never take it personally.
This is not an individual sport. This is a two-to-three month journey that my team has to overcome. We’re pulling together to accomplish one goal, and it’s a great feeling to stand on top of the mountain after you conquer these goals. It takes a whole team to accomplish these goals.
SI.com: There is still unfinished business for one of the world’s greatest fighters of all time. This is a rematch of your fights with Gracie from UFC 1 and UFC 5, and he is still a man you have yet to defeat.
Ken Shamrock: Fighting was never a job for me. This is something I love. There was once a time in my career when I was desperate to be somebody and I wanted to make a name for myself. I didn’t want people to forget who I was, and I think I’ve accomplished that. I don’t have anything left to prove, and I have done everything pretty much that I could, except I want to enjoy the rest of my life. Some people hunt or fish, or run, and that’s how they find their peace of mind and keeps them happy. This is really what I love doing. I enjoy the camaraderie and all the relationships I make along the way, and the journey that we go on for a fight and to be able to stand on top at the end of it. That’s worth it to me. Imagine doing what you love to do in retirement and getting paid for it? That is what this is like for me.
SI.com: UFC president Dana White openly criticized Bellator’s decision to have you and Gracie fight. After all you have given to the growth of the UFC, did his comments bother you?
Ken Shamrock: Bellator is really starting to make a move in the industry, and that is why White made those comments. Fighters now have a choice about where they want to go fight. It has nothing to do with me and Royce and our skills in the ring, but it’s more about Dana White and his insecurities about what is going on in his world. The UFC has basically hurt fighters and taken away opportunities, and now fighters are speaking out and going someplace else to make their money. So his anger isn’t directed at me and Royce, he’s worried about the growth of Bellator and making comments that are negative so people won’t watch it.
SI.com: Do you ever regret your decision to leave the WWE?
Ken Shamrock: It’s a good time for me to be able to explain my emotional state of mind. I felt like every time my kids had a dance or a wrestling match or a football game, it seemed like I was missing all of that. I was missing everything. I was gone so much that I was missing their birthdays. I just got to a point where my heart was sinking and I felt like I was a stranger in my own house. I needed to really make some changes to fix my family, so that down the road I would have a family. So I stepped away from wrestling and fixed my family. I needed to get things back in order and be there for my kids, so I made the conscious decision to do that. A lot of people were upset that I stepped away, but I had to do it for my family. If I hadn’t done it, I wouldn’t be where I am with my family today.
SI.com: What is your take on Kurt Angle’s future with Bellator? And what are your future plans?
Ken Shamrock: Kurt and I talk when we’re around each other, and he’s a very intelligent guy. Kurt’s said this himself–his body has been through some wars. Before he makes any kind of decision with [Bellator], he needs to be sure he can train five days a week for sixty days. He needs to do know that he can do that. I assume he’ll put himself through some tests to make sure he is capable of preparing himself for a fight.
My goal is to always win the fight. But I’ll never forget who’s brought me to this point. I am still so appreciative of all of the support the fans have given to me. I am very grateful for that.
Proposal of the Week
Joey Ryan is trending again all over the internet, but for a far different reason this time. Unlike his viral video of a Japanese wrestler grabbing him below the waist, this was far more family friendly.
In an inter-gender match on Saturday against real-life girlfriend Laura James, Ryan dropped to one knee in the middle of the ring and proposed. James accepted, and the two kissed as the crowd at Finest City Wrestling in San Diego cheered. As she tried on her ring and hugged her new fiancé, Ryan reversed the hug into a small package for the win.
“We met through mutual friends,” explained Ryan. “We were both living in Los Angeles but we’re in separate wrestling circles. It wasn’t until Chris Hero invited her to one of my friend’s birthday parties that we actually met. I invited her to come to a Lucha VaVOOM show that I was performing on, and after that is the first time we really hung out with each other. That show was actually on Valentine’s Day 2014 so we have been together a little more than two years now.”
Ryan originally planned to propose a couple of weeks ago, but his plans were interrupted by… the WWE.
“My original plan was to propose at this year’s Lucha VaVOOM Valentine’s show,” said Ryan. “That would have been our two-year anniversary and we were scheduled to be part of a match together, but then she got invited by WWE to do a tryout during that time and had to cancel the Lucha VaVOOM shows.”
The extra time allowed Ryan to be even more creative in his plans to propose.
“We would have been part of a bigger match at Lucha VaVOOM involving seven people,” said Ryan. “But Saturday night at Finest City Wrestling, it was just us in a one-on-one match so I could play more with the idea to really catch her off-guard. I think it worked out better too because more of her friends could be in attendance last night in San Diego.”
Nerves were an issue, but Ryan admitted he felt more comfortable proposing in the ring.
“I think it being in a match made me a little less nervous because, on that stage, I am a showman,” said Ryan. “I wasn’t really nervous that she would say no to the proposal because we had been discussing it, which is why I did it in the middle of the match. It would be the only genuine way to catch her off guard. We had another finish planned obviously but during that last hug in the match, I whispered in her ear, ‘Don’t kick out of this,’ and I rolled her up into the small package pin. The referee was in on it. The match needed a finish and I’ve never been afraid to add a little humor to things.”
Monday Night Ran
A tribute to the “Macho Man” Randy Savage is the second track to drop on Mega Ran’s “Mat Mania” album.
Casey Van Buren is Mega Ran’s producer, and the 38-year-old is also a wrestling fan thrilled to be part of the project.
“A project like this hasn’t been done since the WWF Aggression record,” said Van Buren. “Trying to incorporate the attitude of the wrestler with the theme of the music is some of the most fun I’ve ever had.”
Van Buren was performing with Gentlemen Ether when he and Mega Ran first met in 2013. The two connected through their love of wrestling, which led to collaborating together on the “Mat Mania” project.
“As producer, I’m taking the original themes and either chopping them up on the sampler to rework them, or I’m replaying sections of the theme on guitar or keyboard and putting the drums underneath them,” said Van Buren. “WWE songs are often one note, and the main riff echoes over and over, so I’m trying to take the DNA of the song and add to it.”
Van Buren has a close connection with this song, as he grew up a diehard fan of Savage.
“Growing up, people always gravitated to Hogan and the Warrior, but Savage always seemed the most real,” said Van Buren. “Unlike Warrior’s interviews, which were a lot of jibberish, Savage’s promos were out there, too, but with a purpose.”
Van Buren spent the early years of his childhood growing up in Michigan, and watched house shows at the Joe Louis Arena. He even has his own “Gorgeous Losers of Wrestling” wrestling podcast.
“The first wrestling memory I can distinctly remember is the twin Hebner angle when Hogan lost the belt to Andre,” said Van Buren, which aired on NBC’s The Main Event that also included Randy Savage against the Honky Tonk Man. “The best characters are the ones who are themselves turned up to ten, and that was Randy Savage.”
A Review of the 2x4 Tour
“Hacksaw” Jim Duggan is working comedy clubs around the country with his one-man comedy show, the “2x4 Tour.” He sat down after a recent show to discuss the tour, memories of the business and his biggest regret in wrestling.
“This show is road stories with Jake Roberts, ring stories with Andre the Giant, rib stories with Owen Hart and a more positive look at pro wrestling,” explained Duggan. “This business has been great to me, and I just want to show that.”
Duggan covers his entire career in the show, beginning with how he broke into the business with the help of the legendary Fritz Von Erich at a time before wrestling was known as “sports entertainment.”
“In the old days, if you had clean pee, guys would run up to you and say, ‘Pee for me, pee for me!’” laughed Duggan. “Now they actually watch you pee.
“It used to be a TV show to set up the arena show. Now it’s just a television show looking for ratings. That’s the missing piece from the territories. Not only did you learn to wrestle, but you learned your mic skills. You wouldn’t do one generic interview, you’d do one for Baton Rouge, one for Freeport and one for Lafayette. That taught you how to talk on the mic.”
The trajectory of Duggan’s career forever changed in 1987. Duggan signed with the WWF in January of ‘87 and believes Vince McMahon had plans to make him the WWF champion. Everything changed that May when Duggan and the Iron Sheik were pulled over and a state trooper found alcohol in the car, marijuana on Duggan, and cocaine on the Sheik.
“That is the bust that will live in infamy,” said Duggan. “Vince never forgot. They were grooming me to be world champion, but that incident really hamstrung my whole career. That would have killed a lot of guys’ careers off, so I was lucky to be able to survive it. After that, they kept me strong but never pushed me hard.”
Duggan can still recall the bitter disappointment in McMahon’s voice as he fired him.
“‘Jim,’ McMahon said to me over the phone, ‘how could you do this to us?’”
Duggan and the Sheik, he explained, were not even friends.
“The worst part about it is that people think the Sheik and I are friends,” said Duggan. “That’s the one time I rode with the guy. But I should have known better. It was a huge blow to my career. If that didn’t happen, my entire career would have gone in a different direction.”
After he was fired, Jake Roberts tried to calm Duggan and reassure him that McMahon would eventually re-hire him. The irony that the voice of reason was Jake Roberts is not lost on Duggan.
“Jake and I were close, and he was the one who tried to smooth it over with Vince,” said Duggan. “Then Vince spoke in front of all the boys, pounded the podium, and said, ‘Duggan and the Sheik will never, ever work for the WWF again.’ That’s when Jake called me and said, ‘You’re screwed, brother.’ I was living in Louisiana and I went off the deep end for two weeks and partied hard. Then I realized I had to go back to work, and that’s when I made the meeting with Dusty [Rhodes] in Atlanta. But before I went down there, Bruce Prichard from the WWF office called and said, ‘Just lay low, we’ll bring you back.’ They did bring me back, but never with the same push.
“I’m still proud of my career. I beat all the guys, except for the ones who went onto face Hogan. People ask all the time, ‘Aren’t you upset you were never world champ?’ Listen, we’re not all lead singers. I was the drummer in the band, and that was a good spot to be.”
Hulk Hogan, unquestionably, was the leader of the band.
“Hogan is the best professional wrestler ever,” said Duggan. “He’s the marquee guy.”
In addition to Roberts, Duggan also kept a tight-knit friendship with Ted DiBiase for close to 40 years.
“A lot of guys did the ‘reborn Christian’ thing, but Ted is a guy who really changed his life. I saw one of my friends on the Christian Broadcast Network, and I asked, ‘How’s that going for you?’ And he said, ‘Hacksaw, it’s great! It really helps me sell my books and my DVDs.’ But Teddy is one of those guys who took it to heart. Ted was addicted to women like Jake was to coke and I was to weed.”
Though people think of the old WWF rosters as a sports team, Duggan explained that the better parallel is that they were like a 1980’s rock and roll band.
“There were drugs, alcohol, there is all the travel, being away from your family, the pressure of live TV, and sticking 40 guys in a locker room made for twenty,” said Duggan. “Wrestling is a pressure-cooker of a job, so you need guys who can lighten up the place.”
Duggan mentioned Curt Hennig and Owen Hart as the two individuals who kept the locker room light.
“There were so many guys who would that everyone had plausible deniability,” said Duggan. “But Curt was one of the best.”
Duggan recalled the story of Hennig ribbing the Ultimate Warrior during a non-televised battle royal. Hennig tied the nylon bands wrapped around the Warrior’s biceps into knots on the ropes Duggan and the Big Boss Man kept the Warrior pinned up against the turnbuckle. Warrior tried with all his might, but could not break the knot. Chief Jay Strongbow was forced to come to the ring with a pocket knife, and the incident earned a free trip for Duggan, Hennig and the Boss Man to Vince McMahon’s office in Stamford, Connecticut.
Not all of the pranks, however, were as good-natured.
“Fuji was a heavy ribber,” said Duggan. “He cooked a guy’s dog one time and fed it to him. That’s the serious stuff.
“The British Bulldogs were just mean with their ribs. They pushed Outback Jack out of a job by ribbing him so hard until he started fighting people and got let go.”
Duggan preferred the more harmless pranks, and was once even the target of Owen Hart.
“Bret actually told this story at Owen’s funeral,” said Duggan. “We were traveling somewhere out west and were in the hotel, and I called the front desk to ask if there was a gym close by. The man from the front desk asked, ‘Do you have a phone book in your room? Why don’t you look it up?’ Now I’m getting frustrated. ‘Hey, I spend a lot of money in this hotel, and I’d just like a little common courtesy.’ And the guy said right back to me, ‘I’m sick and tired of babysitting you wrestlers. If you have a problem with me, come down to the front desk and find me.’
“So you can bet you’re a-- that I was going to find him, but the phone rings again before I leave the room. The front desk apologized and explained that a wrestler–it was really Owen–had used the phone. I said, ‘Find out who it was!’ So the guy at the front desk asked Owen his name, and he said, ‘Jim Powers.’ That night, I grabbed Powers and said, ‘You don’t rib me, Powers!’”
Duggan also shares stories from working 54 consecutive nights with Andre the Giant.
“Andre lived a lonely life,” said Duggan. “It was a tough life for a guy that size. The guy was a giant, and he was French, so you knew he could drink. One time Andre was watching the Macho Man oil up before a match, and he got upset. ‘I don’t like oil,’ said Andre, so Savage said, ‘OK Boss,’ wiped it off, and dropped the oil in the trash can.
“It was so important for Andre to actually like you. He never liked Bam Bam Bigelow. One night, he was being really heavy handed with him, and Bammer said, ‘F--- this,’ rolled out of the ring, grabbed his bag, and left the arena. There was nothing you could do if Andre didn't like you. Even WrestleMania 3, Hogan didn’t know if Andre was going to let him slam him or not until they got to the ring.”
The lifestyle in wrestling was so chaotic in Duggan’s era that he believes that could be one of the main reasons why the WWE is now so protective and watchful of their wrestlers.
“Vince couldn’t control it back then,” said Duggan. “Nowadays, the kids are much more professional. They also don’t work the schedule we used to, but you look at the roster back then, and everybody was a character. Everyone was a unique guy and lived a unique life, and the kids seem much more normal now. But I don’t think Vince ever really controlled it, and that’s why so many guys would go off. There is a high divorce rate, a high drug and alcoholism rate, and a high death rate. You never knew what was going to happen on the road.”
Duggan credited his late parents for always keeping him rooted, and explained that he is very grateful to have been married to his wife for the past 32 years.
“My wife is my best friend, and my mom and dad, God bless them, raised me right,” said Duggan, who is the youngest child with three older sisters. “My dad was my best man at my wedding, and he was the best man I ever met in my life. The worst thing that happened when I got popped was that I disappointed him. That’s what hurt me the most.”
Duggan is grateful for all of the support from the fans throughout his career, as he explained that playing a “good guy” is still an honor for him.
“This is my life’s blood, and I still appreciate the fans,” said Duggan. “The Super Bowl could be on, but wrestling fans would still go to the show. The fans are the ones who make this all possible. Eventually, I’m going to need a walker made out of two-by-fours so I can get down to the ring.
“I love carrying our flag. I’m not the real hero, I’m just a guy who carries the flag that our heroes carry. I was just down in Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio with those Wounded Warrior kids. There was one guy whose ears and face were all burnt off, and he yelled, ‘Hacksaw Duggan!’ One guy pulled his leg off and asked me to sign it. But are you kiddin’? Those are the guys who are the real heroes.”
Duggan just finished a show at the Blue Ribbon Bacon Fest in Des Moines, Iowa, and he’s bringing the tour to Texas, Pennsylvania, and throughout Canada in the next few weeks.
“It’s like talking to a bunch of old friends,” said Duggan. “It was a little nerve wracking at first because it was a whole different format for me, but I’m really enjoying it and it’s going really smooth.”
The Hall of Fame Train
The Hall of Fame announcement even surprised the Godfather.
“It would be nice to be in the WWE Hall of Fame, but I don’t think you’ll see me in the Hall any time soon because WWE is so PG now,” Charles Wright said to me this past October. “They don’t want people pulling up the old Godfather stuff, so they might have to go back to being ‘R’ before you’ll see me in the Hall.”
Wright, whose career timeline also included work as Papa Shango and Kama, still wrestles independently and also manages the strip club Cheetah’s in Las Vegas.
“Some people might argue with you, but I am not really a pimp,” said Wright. “I work at a topless club and I like being around girls, so that ‘Godfather’ character is as close as you can be to the real Charles Wright. If you knew me, you’d know I act just like the Godfather. That’s why the character crossed over with the people. I’ve always been a big guy with a baby face, and everyone wanted me to look meaner, but I was better off just being myself. That was no act. I was never scripted and those were my words and my actions.”
Although Wright will be inducted by JBL and Ron Simmons, his best friend on the roster was the Undertaker.
“The Undertaker was and is still one of my best friends,” said Wright. “He’s as old as I am, so he has nobody else on the roster to talk to, and he calls when he needs to talk. We do a lot of texting. The Undertaker is the hardest working, most caring person when it comes to this business. When we broke into the business in Memphis, Tenn., and were making $50 a day, he was just always on a different level. I was always having fun–sometimes I think I had too much fun–but he was very serious about the business.
“Working as the Godfather was the most successful and fun time of my career. It was during the Attitude Era, and wrestling was really hot.”
Wright joins Sting as the two inductees announced so far for the 2016 WWE Hall of Fame class.
The Tweet of the Week
Could The Elite be even funnier than the New Day?
Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.