RINGSIDE REMEMBRANCES: THE GREAT (WRESTLING) PEOPLE THAT I’VE MET

Posted October 13th, 2014 by jshannon

Ringside Remembrances: A Decade of Experience, A Lifetime of Memories, Part One: The Great People I’ve Met

Jay Shannon begins his 10th Anniversary series of articles by looking at some of the best people that he’s met over the past decade working in the wild world of wrestling.

“Live every day like it was your last…one of these days you will be right” – Benny Hill

I’ve had the pleasure of sharing my thoughts and rants with you all for 10 years, as of this month. I wanted to do a few special columns to celebrate this milestone. I couldn’t think of a better way to kick this off than to discuss some of the fantastic men and women that I’ve had the honor to meet/work with.

Bill Apter:

I first became acquainted with Bill through his work in the wrestling magazines, many years ago. Never thought I’d ever get the chance to meet him. Roughly ten years back, Bill put up a notice on 1Wrestling.com, offering a chance to write for the site. I took a chance and submitted some of my work from earlier web writings. Bill (along with “Fearless Leader”) decided to take a chance on me. Thank you to both of you. Smile.

May of 2010 – Dianna (my new bride) and I headed to the Bay Area for our Honeymoon. We were invited there by Bill to enjoy Wrestlefest. We had a blast, meeting several Legends, and making some lifetime friends. That was the first time that I got to meet Bill in person. I’ve included a special picture that hangs in my living room, along with other family photos.

Bill and I also crossed paths, in 2012, in New Jersey. The two of us worked together on the Poland Project. Unfortunately, the fates didn’t allow us to go together to Poland for the show but we rode together to the Press Conference and we sat together with Jimmy Hart to talk Southern Food and good people. Seeing Bill’s name come on the caller ID on my cell always brings a smile to my face. He has been a mentor, a big brother and one of the best friends that I have.

Darren Antola:

My business partner in Rivalry Championship Wrestling. Darren and I owe our friendship to one man, Bill Apter. I had gotten a notice from a nice guy in Poland asking me to promote his upcoming show. I ran the idea past Bill and did my best to help Don (the guy in Poland). Shortly after that, Bill brought it to my attention that Darren was putting together a huge show in Poland. Darren and I have become great friends over the past couple of years. Thanks to Darren, I’ve been to New Jersey, Poland and New Orleans. I’ve learned so much about the business, thanks to Darren. Darren even arranged to have one of my favorite wrestlers, Ox Baker, give me a call. I still smile when I think about that. I can count my true friends on one hand. Darren is definitely one of those fingers. Smile.

O.D.B.:

She was brought in to Reno to work one of the Pro Wrestling Destination shows. She arrived with her mom and dad and had a really nice conversation with Dianna. At the time, she was in regular street clothes. They talked about tattoos (Dianna’s daughter is a tattoo artist) and family and such. Dianna just thought “Jessie” was the nicest young lady. Then, O.D.B. came out to perform. Dianna was like “Who the Hell is that?” as O.D.B. strolled out in her super-short skirt and pushed up…well, you know. Dianna still cheered for her, as she teamed with the local good guy, but she was shocked at the difference. As O.D.B. left the ring, she smiled and waved at Dianna and all was good. O.D.B. made a point to say good-bye to Dianna before she and her parents left. Dianna smiled and said to me “She’s such a sweet girl”.

Kevin Sullivan:

“Sully” is the perfect example of never just a book by its cover. I’d heard so many things, over the years, about Sullivan. Between his cultish like character to how he was behind the scenes. After spending a few days with Sullivan, let me tell you Sullivan is a class act. He was there to help me through the nerves of going live on an international broadcast. He also helped teach me how to cut a promo. He also was very understanding and supportive in my freshman outing into working on a super-sized project like the Poland Show. He’s still in my cell phone and I touch base with his nephew” Ron”, from time to time to make sure Sullivan is doing ok. I really would love to see him go into the Hall of Fame, soon. Then I could tell everyone that I saw a friend go in the Hall.

Greg Valentine:

I’ve worked with Greg a couple of times. Once, about 3 years ago, out here in Reno. The other time was earlier this year in New Orleans. It was so nice to talk with him about his dad and the early days of his career (since I’ve always been a bit of a historian). Greg took myself, Darren and our other partner, David, out for a fantastic night on the town in New Orleans. A fantastic meal and a police-escorted stroll down Bourbon Street will always be at the top of my wrestling memories. Despite his in-ring persona, Greg is a very soft-spoken person with a heart as big as all outdoors. He even worked together with Bushwacker Luke to pull a prank on Honky Tonk Man while we were all in Wrestlecon. He’s one of those people who helped build the business and helps keep it real.

Pat Tanaka:

I got a call from the owner of Pro Wrestling Destination, asking if I were available to help work a Micro Championship Wrestling show that was coming to Reno. Of course, I was in. So myself and my grandson, Eric, headed from out here in the boonies to the heart of town to help set up the ring and work security and such. Met a lot of great people that day but the one that really stood out the most was Tanaka. He showed such respect to all of us. We talked about his dad (Duke Keomuka) and his uncle (Professor Toru Tanaka). It was just such a nice experience. Flash Forward to earlier this year and I found myself sitting next to Mr. Tanaka and his lovely wife at Wrestlecon. He actually remembered me and my grandson. Mr. Tanaka shared such positivism with all of us that it made me proud to be around such an honorable gentleman. He’s one of the top men in this business.

Andy Anderson:

Even though he’s younger than me, Andy feels like a Big Brother. We’ve worked together, directly and indirectly, on several occasions. The wrestler, stuntman, actor, etc… first came into my life during the Poland Project. We were setting him up to become Crusher Kowalski. He surprised us all, at the Press Conference, when he suddenly began to speak Polish (who knew?). In New Orleans, he was our unofficial Ring Leader as we made our way through the French Quarter. His confidence and sense of humor are so contagious. He even came to my aid when some jerks at Wrestlecon were being rude to me. He’s one of the people that I actually look forward to working with, when the opportunity arrives.

One Man Gang (and Miss Mary):

Growing up in Dallas, I was always a big fan of “Moon”. I saw him under the management of Gary Hart and others. I also saw him transform into Akeem, the African Dream. Since Gang was almost always a Heel, I didn’t get to really meet him…until earlier this year. Shortly after arriving at the Mid-South Reunion Show, in New Orleans, I saw the big man sitting at his table. I was a bit hesitant to go up to Gang, because I didn’t want to look like a silly fanboy. I finally drew up my courage and went up to the lady at his table and asked if I could say Hello. I told her that I was working for Rivalry but also covering the show for 1Wrestling.com. She smiled one of the warmest smiles and introduced me to what would turn out to be her hubby, Moon. We chatted, off and on, that night and the next two days at Wrestlecon. We laughed about how the tattoos on his skull got Moon in the doghouse for quite some time, since he didn’t tell his wife prior to getting the ink work done. We shared a few Dallas stories between fans coming up to still show their love and respect to the big man. Moon and Mary are just the sweetest people that anyone could be fortunate enough to meet.

Abyss:

Abyss was brought into Reno, a few years back. Despite being billed as a “Monster”, Abyss was a quiet, polite gentleman who took time to meet with the kids and their parents. He even waited around a few extra minutes to meet my daughter, Jessica, who was just getting off work at her nursing job. I had to slap my fingers when Abyss started playing his own brother, Joseph. I had seen Abyss without his mask, in Reno, and knew that Chris and Joseph Park were the same person. Out of respect, I kept that little secret until the truth was revealed. Abyss even signed a copy of his DVD for me. It sits on the shelf next to the Jake Roberts, ECW (signed by Tommy Dreamer) and Jimmy Hart DVDs.

In Conclusion:

There are dozens of others that I could discuss. The PWD and RWF families out here would top that list. I’ve also had brief encounters with people like Jimmy Hart, Shane Douglas, Jim Cornette, the Young Bucks/Generation Me, Matt Striker, Joey Ryan and so many others. Almost without exception, the men and women that I have had the joy of meeting over the past ten years have strengthened my love of the fantastic sport that I began watching 46 years ago and writing about 10 years back.

Peace

–Jay Shannon
WordSlingerJay@Gmail.com

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