Ringside Remembrances: Dzien Dobry Polska (Hello Poland)
Jay Shannon draws upon five decades as a devout wrestling fan to look at the past, present and future of professional wrestling.
Last week, I had one of the busiest weeks in my life. In 5 days, I rode on 6 different planes, spent time in 5 different states and found myself in both North America and Europe. On top of all that, I got to be involved in a huge press conference with certified Legends in this industry. I thought it might be fun to share the highlights of my trip to Lodz and Warsaw Poland.
The alarm went off at 12:30 AM on Tuesday, August 28, 2012. It was less than 3 hours since I had tried to take a little nap. After a quick hop in the shower, I got dressed and my wife, Dianna, my youngest daughter, Jess, and I made the hour and a half drive from our little ranch to Reno, NV. We hit Denny’s for a little ultra-early breakfast and then it was on to the airport. Reno-Tahoe International Airport is a tiny little airport but it was still pretty busy for 4 in the morning. My journey officially started at 6 AM, Pacific Time. A couple hours later, I found myself landing in Denver. Got a heck of an exercise as I had to go from Gate 41 all the way to Gate 16. I just made it there in time to hop on the next leg of my trip. Around 3:30 EST, I landed in Newark, NJ. Due to computer issues at the airport, I spent about 45 minutes inside a plane with no air conditioning. Despite that little hiccup and a delay on my baggage, I still managed to meet my driver, Edwin, and we headed to Little Falls for dinner.
Dinner with the Legends:
Despite being over an hour late getting out of the airport, Edwin and I were the first to arrive at Rigotony’s (an awesome little Italian restaurant). We were soon joined by my business partner, Darren Antola. Soon after, 1Wrestling.com’s own Bill Apter, Kevin Sullivan and Jimmy Hart arrived. Our table was completed with several corporate people. It was the dream come true to share my end of the table with Hart, Sullivan, Apter and Darren. Over some of the best Italian food that I’ve had since my beloved uncle, Antonio Teodoro (Uncle Ted), passed away, we discussed the upcoming press conference and the big show in Poland. Hearing the brilliance of Hart, Sullivan and Apter was beyond words. After a fantastic evening, talking business and sharing stories, it was time to head to the site of the press conference, The Wisla Club. I’ll talk more about that place in a bit.
After a strategy session and some interview filming, it was time to head to the hotel for a nap. Despite being up for close to 24 hours, I couldn’t sleep, so I headed down to the hotel bar for a cherry coke. I ran into Bill and Jimmy, at the bar. Oddly enough, none of the three of us were “drinking”. Over juice and soda, we swapped stories about our various experiences. Obviously, I was way behind both of them as far as having great stories to tell. Jimmy and I took the elevator up together and he was gracious enough to sign my copy of “Monster Brawl”. (By the way, Jimmy, I’ll be sure to bring my laptop and the movie to Poland for us all to watch). After a few minutes alone to call the wife and check a few e-mails, it was time for a nap.
The Press Conference:
The next morning, I packed up my bags and had a quick breakfast in the hotel restaurant. While waiting in the lobby, I got to meet Andrew “Krusher” Kowalski. Andy, Jimmy, Kevin, Bill and I got to sit and talk. We learned, from Kevin, all about Irish Gypsys. There was a group of them on the same floor as the rest of us. Interesting group of individuals, to say the least.
Our little caravan headed over to Garfield, NJ. We went to the oldest Polish-American club in the United States, the Wisla Club. They are celebrating their 60th anniversary, this year. I want to thank Elizabeth and Walter for all their hospitality. Elizabeth has to be one of the most beautiful and sweet women that I’ve met in years. We went through a test run and then it was time to get down to business. I’ve included the press conference:
After all that excitement, there was just a few minutes to chat with Andrew Golota, Riddick Bowe, Kowalski, Merengue Warrior (mi nueva hermano), a few reporters and the corporate representatives. Grabbed a quick bite of some fantastic Polish food that the Wisla Club had provided. It was time to head to the airport, yet again.
Warsaw and Lodz
8 hours after leaving Newark Airport, I stepped off the plane in Warsaw, Poland. This was the first time that I’ve ever been out of the country. Had an afternoon to get used to the time difference. I then headed over to the airport terminal, just across the road, and strolled around for a couple of hours. I picked up a few souvenirs and just enjoying listening to dozens of different languages. May be boring to most, but I loved it.
The next morning, I was up early. A quick trip to the hotel restaurant gave me the fuel to run on for the day. My travel companion, from corporate, and I met up with four members of the show production crew and we piled into a van and headed to Lodz. Over on Facebook, I’ve posted tons of photos of the countryside. The six of us strolled through the darkened Atlas Arena and I learned so very much about lighting, staging and such from one of the top professionals in the business. The only negative was when I tripped and fell. I was ok, but felt kinda stupid. I got to hear three languages going back and forth all afternoon: English, German and Polish. Thanks to Marta for all her help. After a two hour drive back to Warsaw, it was time for goodbyes. The two of us went back through the check-in procedure at the airport and it was time to head home.
Back in the states:
I hit Newark airport kind of late and headed straight to the hotel. I went through my photos and souvenirs and repacked for the flight home. Sadly, I ended up leaving my Polish flag behind. Jet lag, I guess. I’ll get another one when I go back in October.
After finding Cartoon Network on the hotel television, I took a rather quick nap. Back to the airport and it was off to San Francisco, CA. Flights were a bit messed up and so I ended up with an hour plus delay. Not the end of the world. Soon after, I was back on the ground in good ol’ Reno. It was five days later. I was tired but happy as could be. I’d met a lot of great people, seen things that I never thought I’d see, plus I get to go back in less than two months.
Post Trip Notes:
After spending the afternoon with my wife and daughters, I finally made it home. I had a nice surprise waiting for me. The Immortal Hulk Hogan had filmed a promotional video for Rivalry Championship Wrestling:
In the last few days, I’ve just about worn my fingers to the bones with so many e-mails and such. I had no idea just how much is involved in putting on a show, this big. But to be absolutely honest, I’m loving every minute of it.
Thanks to Bill Apter, Jimmy Hart, Kevin Sullivan, Riddick Bowe, Andrew Golota, Andy “Krusher” Kowalski, Merengue Warrior, Gino, Elizabeth and Walter, the Corporate people and so many fantastic people in Poland for one of the greatest, if not busiest, weeks of my life.
I want to say this in Polish, German and English to all the fantastic people that have been so kind over the past week:
Thank You from the bottom of my heart
–Jesse “Jay” Shannon