I haven't followed wrestling in about 8-10 years. Last night might have changed all that.
To say the opportunity to go backstage at a WWE Raw show was one that brought me back to my youth, is an understatement. The Fed reeled me in big time.
Rhodes later appeared for more grub in full Golddust regalia. I don't actually recall seeing him perform later that night, so I guess he just dresses up for fun.
A friend of mine, JD, is a South Jersey lawyer who represents one of the WWE's on-air talents. (Don't worry, nothing criminal). JD scored four 6th row seats just above floor level and backstage passes for himself, me, Dr. Oppo and Twa.
We were told to arrive around five and to meet him at the Wachovia Center's loading docks. For 3 hours, we "broke bread" with WWE wrestlers, agents, alumni, referees, divas and crew alike - not to mention, World Champion Jimmy Rollins, whom I personally thanked on behalf of all Phillie fans and saw drive away later that night in a brand new Bentley with Florida plates.
Below is a quick chronology of the highlights of my pre-show night as documented through my giddy e-communications with the HHR staff, including some of my notes and their responses.
It was the best I could do. Shortly after actually entering the backstage area, our hook-up leaned in and
asked told us to keep our cameras and camera phones away. Not wanting to immediately ruin the connection (or get a steel chair across my skull), we begrudgingly obliged.
5:39pm mysterio, hacksaw and jim ross. smoking
After parking and seeing tailgaters - Yes, tailgaters. With a tent and grill at 5:30on a freezing December night for a Philadelphia wrestling show - we made our way down the loading ramp to the service entrance, where we met our hookup, his buddy, and what I thought from a distance was his buddy's 10-year old son. Turns out that wasnt his son, but Rey Mysterio, sans mask. We were introduced, bullshitted briefly, and walked inside saying "Holy shit, he's even smaller than we thought." Very welcoming and down to earth.
When we got inside, Jim Ross was off to the right puffing away and Hacksaw Jim Duggan in his garb (drab blue shorts, shirt, knee pads and boots) walks past us with two American flags in tow.
We are lead down a hall that is taken over by the costume and props crew. I chuckled at a sign that read "HBK Chaps Pants." And we are told to grab something to eat. As I grab my plate, I am in line right beside Dustin Rhodes sans facepaint.
The buffet was astounding. I had about 3 plates of terryaki ribs, sloppy joes, salad and cheesecake. We are told the caterers actually travel with the crew.
6:04pm Steamboat schooling Santini.
We are introduced to Santino - who turned out to be our favorite in-ring performer of the night with his Eye-talian accented shtick and "scrotuitous" injury. Nice Italian boy from Toronto we learn.
As he is eating a shorter, stockier, grayer, bespectacled Asian man walked over and started chatting him up. Ricky the Dragon, you've actually aged well.
6:18pm 5 ft from John Cena watching film and he claims he can't see me.
Not to rumor monger, but I get a note back from a gay friend: "He may or may not play for my team, sources tell me =)." Cynic: "Hit him with a steel Chair. I dare you."
Cena propped himself in front of a flat screen with all sorts of high def video equiptment and starts reviewing his matches. We are told he is more into "watching film" than most athletes in any sport.
6:27pm I am done. pack it up. edge, teddy long & arn fckn anderson.
Edge seemed to hold court with a lot of the younger guys.
I send this note in a follow up to staff: "Told teddy long I was a "big fan" from his nwa days. That I loved Doom. He gave me a shake/shoulder bump, said that was long ago and ron simmons was here, thanked me and wished me a happy holidays. Slaughter is eating with hacksaw. Both are in garb. Are they fighting?"
I resisted calling Theodore R. "Peanuthead."
Dunbar: "I get the feeling that rens smiling muscles are going to be sore tomorrow."
Willard: "this is what they call in the wrestling biz 'marking out'"
6:44pm I am 3 feet taller than Dean Malenko and know more holds.
"You'd change your story if he got you in the Texas Cloverleaf."
I asked if Malenko was a trainer. He's an "agent." Whatever that means.
7:09pm just got a "thumbs up" from Tommy Dreamer.
7:34pm Am in the company of world champion jimmy rollins.
While, with the exception of Teddy Long, I resisted approaching talent unless introduced, I couldn't resist walking over to J-Roll as he scooped out some salad and whisper in his ear how happy he made me.
Twa saw Hornswaggle ironing his pants while looking for a place to drop anchor. Didn't know he was a wrestler and came back telling us that the WWE hired midget costume people.
He was also amazed by the size of Khali's hands and I am certain the gargantuan overheard him not-so-quietly reveling over it. Twa, not a fan per se of sports entertainment, only knew Khali from his appearance in the Longest Yard remake.
He has a thing for pituitary problems, apparently.
Here's a map, as best I can remember of some of the WWEers we saw in relation to where we ate. Directly above us was a table of newer guys I didn't recognize.
Alright. On to the scavenger hunt.
I'll tell you flat out, I failed miserably. Had I been among the common folk more, I'm sure my story would be different, but we essentially went from backstage to our sweet-ass seats.Austin 3:16 or 'Smell What the Rock is Cooking' t-shirts
Sadly, I think this time has passed. Now, I am old. Everyone seemed to rock the Cenawear.
A legitimately hot chick with all her teeth
The masks were everywhere. Mostly were of the Mysterio variety.
When hunting the black Hulk Hogan, I accosted this fella who claims to work for local radio station Q102, along with his buxom companion. Apparently they were on a scavenger hunt of their own and fell short of making it backstage. The guy cleans mics for all we know.
I'll count the lady-friend as a "legitimately hot chick with all her teeth" if for nothing more than her "Lady Andreas." (Give me a break. It's the WWE...in PHILLY.)
Homemade Championship belts
I am giving myself a push on this one. Today's kids have no creativity. It's bad enough their parents shell out the big bucks for the tickets, but most had souvenir belts around their wastes that sell for $250 at the gift stands.
Of course, grown-ass men also waste their hard-earned money on such novelties as well as throwback jerseys...
I give myself the push because in a John Cena bio video on the Titan Tron, he was holding one.
"I'd Rather Be In Chyna" sign (bonus if held by Triple H)
A mullet (bonus points for torn sleeves to go with it) - not on a wrestler
Plenty of these. I opted to snap one on a legitimately unhot toothless chick.
Picture of me putting a random kid in a headlock
This should have been the easiest. But it was my timidness that prevented it. Mainly I was scared they'd: 1. kick my ass; or 2. have their mulletted, drunk, Cena-loving parents do so.
"That black guy that dressed up as Hulk Hogan at every ppv event, provided he is not dead"
This guy was glad handing everyone in sight. We believe he's deaf. Real showman though, and very friendly.
Does a t-shirt count?
If not, I'll do you one better, the Blue World Order was repped:
Word is he doesn't leave the Jersey Shore much nowadays.
Stone/acid washed jeans
Was on the lookout. Had to settle for light-colored pegged cargos.
Mother nature finally got the best of Philly's Phinest. Even the cheese-steak fattened legs of the City of Brotherly Love are no match for her elements.
Philly's own "ECW Hat Guy"
Sadly and suprisingly, MIA.
Not one tie dyed shirt in the entire Wach. Disappointing.
I patted J-Roll on the back.
Spanish Announcers' Table Being Destroyed
No longer exists. I guess it can only be destroyed so many times.
Finally, I don't know if this was broadcast on USA last night, but I'd like to congratulate Chris Jericho on being named "Jerk of the Year."