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At the Hall of Fame in Waterloo, Everyone Is Family

Four years ago, I visited the Dan Gable Museum, home of the Tragos/Thesz Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame, for the first time. Three years ago I made my second visit, this time during Hall of Fame weekend. I remember it being a fantastic fan experience. Not only does the museum house an incredible collection of memorabilia, the Hall of Fame event brought fans and wrestlers together in a much more personal way than any fan fest. You could sit down in the hotel lobby, a booth at the hotel bar, or any room at the museum next to someone and ask questions. To use a phrase you hear a lot during induction weekend, it felt like family.

I attended my second Hall of Fame induction this past weekend, and it was even more enjoyable than the first. I was thrilled to see attendance had grown from my previous visit, but I was even more delighted to see the open, friendly atmosphere of the event remained intact. From the Impact Pro Wrestling show Friday through the Saturday night banquet, the whole weekend was more of a family reunion than a fan fest.

What really sets this event apart is how much access attendees have to the “Distinguished Guests.” The wrestlers don’t hide out in their hotel suites or private green rooms. They’re in the lobby of the museum, the lobby of the hotel, or one of the many bars and restaurants in the area. They come to see the fans, to take pictures, and to tell stories, and I didn’t see anyone leave disappointed.

Two incidents stand out the most for me. The first came Friday afternoon, when a couple cut through the lobby of the convention center not knowing a wrestling event was taking place. They decided to stick around and joined the line to buy tickets.

That’s when Cowboy Bob Orton, Jr., entered the building.

Imagine a child coming down Christmas Eve at 1 a.m. and catching Santa. Imagine big, wide eyes filled with wonder and a mouth wide open in astonishment. That’s the look I saw on a grown man’s face seeing a legend in person.

The second incident took place a few hours later. I was carting my books back to the hotel when another man not attending the event came along side me. “You here with the wrestling show?”

“Yes, I am,” I said.

“I just bought a beer for Sgt. Slaughter,” he bragged. “How cool is that?”

Waterloo, Iowa may not be on many people’s radar for a summer destination, but if you’re a wrestling fan, I assure you, it will become one of your favorite places in the world. You’ll make friends with fellow wrestling fans from all corners of the nation and all walks of life. You’ll hear stories of days gone by and see some incredible photos and memorabilia in the museum’s collection. And you’ll make memories with wrestling heroes past, present, and (possibly) future in an environment no comic con or fan fest can match.

As master of ceremonies Chad Olsen told all in attendance Saturday night, when you come to the Hall of Fame, you become part of the family. It’s a family worth joining, and a family that will urge you to bring a friend. Mark your calendar for July 21-23, 2022, and keep an eye on the Facebook page for the George Tragos/ Lou Thesz Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame. This is one family reunion you will truly enjoy.

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Casting Star Wars with Wrestling Personalities

Today is May the 4th, which has come to be known as Star Wars Day. Those who know me well know that Star Wars has been an obsession of mine longer than pro wrestling. It got me to thinking, how would I re-cast Star Wars with some of the people I have written about in pro wrestling?

Hurricane JJ Maguire as… Max Rebo

Sure, I could have gone with Figrin D’an, but I suspect the Hurricane would have found himself taking the more upscale booking at Jabba’s versus the cantina at Mos Eisley. Plus I want to hear JJ say, “Yes, Miss Snootles, we can take it from the top again.”

Princess Victoria as… Princess Leia

A bit obvious? Yes, and she’ll be disappointed that once again, she’s cast as the babyface. But like Cinderella, the space slipper fits. Nobody tells Princess Leia what to do, just as nobody tells Princess Victoria what to do!

Tracy Smother as… Yoda

A man who poured himself into many young pro wrestlers over the last few decades could easily be cast as Obi Wan, but Obi Wan only had two pupils. Yoda trained countless Jedi, and the Smothers family is now legion across pro wrestling.

Scott Romer as… Han Solo

With that camera strap always over his shoulder, one could draw a direct comparison to Chewbacca, but let’s be honest. Romer was a survivor, a hustler, and a ladies man. Plus think of all the great Romer pics of him posing with Lando, Jabba, and the glitterati of the galaxy.

Mad Man Pondo as… Boba Fett

As we all learned to our great delight in The Mandalorian, Boba survived the ultimate death match against the Sarlacc Pit. Can’t you see Pondo vs. Terry Funk fighting it out on a skiff in a no rope, loser falls in the Sarlaac Pit match? It would be the biggest draw on Tatooine since Anakin vs. Sebulba.

Chris Candido as… Luke Skywalker

Chris Candido was a natural heel, just as Victoria was, but I have to go wth Luke. Why? Well, people said Chris was a little short for a WWF Superstar, and we all know Luke was a little short for a Stormtrooper.

Dr. D David Schultz as… Darth Vader

“Oh you think the Dark Side is fake, do ya?” John Stossel better be glad Dr. D wasn’t a Sith. He’d have never left MSG alive that night in 1984! Chris Candido would have gotten a kick out of being booked opposite one of his heroes, and just think how awesome those Dr. D promos would sound in James Earl Jones’s voice.

Click the photos above to order the books!

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Rock Riddle on Fernwood 2 Night

I’m a big comedy fan, and Fred Willard was always one of my favorite actors. After hearing him discuss the show Fernwood 2 Night on Leonard Maltin’s podcast, I looked it up on YouTube.

I saw an episode labeled “Wrestling,” so naturally, I picked that one first.

Imagine my surprise seeing the one and only Rock Riddle playing “Mr. Wonderful” Rock Mondo.”

If you know me, Rock is one of my favorite people in the wrestling business. He’s a real character, and he has great Hollywood stories as well as wrestling. The first time we met, I asked him about Chuck Barris.

Rock gives a truly wonderful performance here, and the show is a riot beginning to end. Enjoy.

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Princess Victoria: Coming in April

I am very excited about this book.

I just re-read through the wrestling chapters tonight. Vicki has some tremendous stories about Wendi Richter, Velvet McIntyre, Stan Stasiak, Roddy Piper, and more.

This will not be an easy read for some. Her childhood was a living nightmare. It’s a story she wanted to tell in the hopes that other people with similar experiences can get help just as she has.

Available in April.

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The Seated Senton Fanzine

Michael Ewing has been a friend for several years as well as a collaborator. He’s one of my go-to proofreaders and editors. Recently, he decided to launch a print fanzine called The Seated Senton. Tonight, he and Chad French from Midwest Territory joined Ed Bratz and me on Wrestling Bookmarks to talk about the magazine, classic wrestling, indy wrestling, and Aaron Williams

You can watch the video below. To order a copy of The Seated Senton, click here.

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Life Coins: Gifts for First Responders and Vets

I’ve blogged before about the Life Coins that my friend Carol Castle of the Minnesota Wrestling Hall of Fame created. I’ve told the story of how she created a program designed to get as many of these coins into the hands of first responders as a way to honor her son. Carol’s son was a first responder who took his own life, a story that’s all too common in that community. Life Coins carry an 800 phone number for Safe Call, a free, 24 hour crisis intervention center geared towards helping the people who help others when they themselves are feeling suicidal.

Carol has just introduced a new, heavier coin aimed at a new group of special people: our veterans. By using the phone number on these coins, veterans can reach out and get counseling any time day or night, free of charge. There’s no need to wait on the VA. Help is only a phone call away.

You can read more about the Life Coin program if you click here. Veteran coins are not yet available to order through the website, but you can use this link to contact Carol and find out how to order them.

This is a must-have gift for EMTs, firefighters, police, veterans, and yes… even professional wrestlers. She has a coin for them, too.

Click here to learn more about Life Coins.

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Coming in 2021

Tracy Smothers never hesitated when asked who was his favorite opponent of all time. “Candido.” He couldn’t sing Chris Candido’s praises enough, and he lit up every time we talked about Chris. It was Tracy who said that Chris Candido should be my next book, and it was Tracy who put me in touch with his good friend Jimmy Shoulders, who in turn put me in touch with Chris’s family.

Jonny Candido and I have been working hard to put together the biography of one of the most beloved wrestlers ever to set foot in a locker room. Some call him a wrestler’s wrestler, and some argue that he was one of the most gifted men ever to set foot in the ring. You’d be hard pressed to find anyone who loved the wrestling business more. His story has a tragic ending and plenty of drama, but it’s absolutely inspiring. Chris Candido truly lived and breathed professional wrestling, and I’m very excited to announce his biography will be released in early 2021.

Chris is not the only project now in the works for next year. Hot on the heels of the Elvira Snodgrass biography, I’ve just started working with one of the toughest women ever to set foot in the squared circle. Princess Victoria was poised to be one of the top women’s stars in the WWF before her career-ending accident in 1984. She was one of the first WWF Women’s Tag Team Champions, and she worked incredible matches with Velvet McIntyre, Wendi Richter, Sherri Martel, and more.

But wrestling is only a small part of the story. Vicki Otis was a warrior long before she became a professional wrestler. She endured a horrific childhood and unimaginable abuse. She survived, escaped, and ran off to pursue her dream of becoming a professional wrestler. Vicki’s tale is inspiring in a different way than Candido’s, and it is our hope that people who have endured similar backgrounds will find inspiration in her tale.

Candido’s book is entering the home stretch, and we’re shooting for an early 2021 release. Princess Victoria is just getting under way, but I’m hopeful for an early 2021 release for that book as well.

There’s more on the table for 2021, including a few more historical biographies and a new novel that has nothing to do with wrestling, but suffice to say, we’ll be kicking 2021 off in a big way.

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A Monstrous Card for Girl Fight Saturday Oct 17I

Girl Fight returned with a bang just two weeks ago after a ten month absence from Southern Indiana. Saturday night, the ladies return to Jeffersonville for what may be one of the biggest Girl Fights yet: Night of the Living Girl Fight!

The time has come to crown a new champion, and an open invitation has been sent out to any and all ladies who want a shot at the gold. The main event Saturday October 17 will be the Broad Brawl, a Royal Rumble-like battle royal, and the last woman standing will be the new champ. Dozens of old and new faces have already announced their intentions to participate in the main event including Kayla Kassidy, Hannah Henderson, Megan DiFrancisco, Arie Alexander, Destiny, Sabrina Hexx, and Hawlee Cromwell. It could be anyone’s night!

Three more outstanding matches will precede the main event this weekend. Following their confrontation at the end of the last Girl Fight show, former champion Mickie Knuckles and Charlie Kruel will face off in a grudge match. Billie Starkz will also be in action against Blair Onyx, and at long last, finally, Heather Reckless will make her Southern Indiana debut for Girl Fight wrestling Valentina Loca.

There’s a reason I’m big on the 4’9″ Heather Reckless, and if you come out to the show Saturday, you’ll see for yourself. Bring some cash for the ladies’ gimmick tables and a book as well. I plan to have the Eat Sleep Wrestle bookstore open that night!

UPDATE: Night of the Living Girl Fight will take place at Girl Fight’s old home base Grindhouse Pro Wrestling Academy, 1416 Spring Street, in Jeffersonville, Indiana. Doors at 6 pm, bell time is at 7 pm. Front row $15. Advance general admission $10. Day of the show all tickets are $15.

To order tickets or get more information head to www.girlfightwrestling.com

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When It Was: A Photo Journey Like No Other

When It Was: My Life On Both Sides of the Camera is the life story of Scott Romer, world renowned photographer. That’s a title he had emblazoned on the back of a jacket during his heyday, but it’s a title he earned, shooting athletes, celebrities, world leaders, sorority girls, mobsters, boxers, and wrestlers for nearly 50 years.

There are over 250 photos in the book and countless famous faces. Here is a very brief, partial listing of the people you will see:

Rip Rogers, President Gerald Ford, Tonya Harding, President George H.W. Bush and Barbara Bush, Ox Baker, Andy Kaufman, President George W. Bush, Joan Rivers, Eddie Creatchman, Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, Lennox Lewis, Vice President Mike Pence, Randy Savage, Yassir Arafat, Bruno Sammartino, the Dhali Lama, Muhammed Ali, Stone Cold Steve Austin, Franco Harris, Dick the Bruiser, Yogi Berra, Frankie Valli, The Crusher, Jennifer Capriati, Baron Von Raschke, Andre the Giant, Tommy Lasorda, Kamala the Ugandan Giant, Kirk Douglas, Terry Funk, Jim Nabors, Nick Bockwinkel, Rita Cosby, Bobo Brazil, Alan Alda, George Hamilton, Larry Holmes, Michael Spinks, Siegfried and Roy, Florence Henderson, and Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini.

Folks, you gotta see it to believe it.

Order When It Was now on Amazon!