This travel thing is getting old. I arose at 3 a.m. central time Tuesday morning to catch the first flight out of Columbia, S.C. to OKC via Dallas and then went right to work on our website, on www.wwe.com, selling a little Bar-B-Q, and hopefully working in one OU Football practice before Mrs. J.R. and I leave on Thursday for Orlando.
When I am too tired to go to happy hour with my pals, you know I am feeling like a beaten, government mule. Missing a happy hour with friends probably has "the Dean," Gordon Solie, spinning in his grave. More on my inspiration to become a wrestling broadcaster after this....WHOO!!
Was Ric Flair in vintage form Monday night or what? Where has that rendition of "the greatest in ring performer ever" been? Of course, "Naitch" has never left, has always been with us, and I am being a wise ass, but Monday night Flair went "old school" and was able to completely be his unedited, incomparable self. When talents are allowed to be extensions of their natural personalities sometimes one gets great results like we saw Monday night when Ric confronted HBK.
But, I have to ask, where in the hell did Shawn come up with that "Old Yeller" analogy? Wow....I hadn't thought of "Old Yeller", a real tear jerker, in years and believe you me, for a young kid as I was (no smart cracks, but I was young once, it was just a long time ago) to see the brave, family dog "put down" was a memory that this old country boy can't forget. It makes me want to drown my sorrows in a plate of Bar-B-Q Sauce doggone it! Oops, wrong metaphor.
"Mr. Wrestlemania's" choice of analogies might not get rave reviews in the younger, hip community, but it sure struck a chord with me.
Flair brought the original NWA Title Belt to RAW as many of you saw and that piece of wrestling history is still as awe inspiring as it was the first time I saw it in person in 1974. Several WWE Superstars gathered around to actually get a close up look at history and, like young kids, wanted to touch the championship belt worn by Jack Brisco, Terry Funk, Harley Race, Dusty Rhodes (Ric's first, in ring role model), Tommy Rich, Kerry Von Erich and the Giant Baba. I'm probably leaving someone out, but you get the point.
It was also interesting to see who did not move out of their comfort zones and off their backsides and make the effort to walk over and actually see one of the most significant artifacts in wrestling history. I don't want to get started on this personal, pet peeve as this is too positive a week to let the apathy of some adversely affect me.
I think I am actually more excited this year than I was last year at this time, when I was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame (what would the over/under have been on that one at various times in my WWE tenure?) because I get to induct my wrestling announcing influence into the WWE Hall of Fame and get to broadcast the Flair-Michaels match at WM24.
One can certainly make an argument that both Flair and Michaels have been the greatest in ring performers for their specific generations and one could also argue that if Ric is the #1 all time greatest in ring performer that HBK is #2. What a ride we will all go on with these two on Sunday and my goal is to stay out of the way, add something if I can, and enjoy the moment because this it will never happen again.
In 1974 when I first went to work for Lee Roy McGuirk's Tulsa based Championship Wrestling, I was told to study Gordon Solie's call of the 1972 Danny Hodge vs. Hiro Matsuda NWA Junior Heavyweight Title Bout from Tampa. The match was about 30 minutes long, Solie called it solo, and this match became my "text book" on how to call a wrestling match where athleticism, physicality, intensity and a valuable title was at stake. The call was done in such a respectful, deliberate, professional manner that one could easily forget the "show biz" aspect of pro wrestling. Not only did I "hear" Gordon but, more importantly, I "listened" to him and I "retained" what he was saying. Watching that match over and over was like watching the same episode of "The Sopranos" multiple times as I would always see or hear something I missed the previous go around.
McGuirk was totally blind as a result of an early 50s car accident when he was the long reigning NWA Junior Heavyweight Champion of the World. For the record, Verne Gagne succeeded McGuirk as the champion, as the result of winning a tournament after my first boss in this business lost his sight. Nonetheless, Lee Roy told me that through Gordon's call that McGuirk could visualize the match he was hearing which just might be the great compliment a broadcaster can receive. I've been trying to get to that level ever since.
Gordon once described his own voice as "16 pounds of gravel" thanks to, I assume, genetics, Benson and Hedges Menthols, and a taste for vodka during an occasional happy hour, for which he was known. I was lucky enough to share some of those belly up to the bar moments with Gordon and I have tried to maintain that particular "announcer's trait" that he mastered.
I hope to be able to tell some great stories of my experiences with "The Dean" on Saturday night, just as he would have wanted.
"Five letters. Two words. I Quit." (1989...Clash of Champions...N.Y. Knockout...Troy, New York...Flair vs. Terry Funk, w/ Gary Hart.)
Wrestlemania 24 at the Citrus Bowl has sold over 60,000 tickets for north of $5.7M, but there are some WM24 tickets still available. I am told that folks who have attended events at the Citrus Bowl won't recognize it, as the WWE has done an amazing job of converting the old stadium into an amazing TV set for the annual Global Extravaganza. My first experience in the Citrus Bowl was broadcasting an XFL game there. It was week one of the season along side Jerry Lawler and Jonathan Coachman. The Orlando Rage won late in the game and the next week I was elevated to the national game where I carried, er, worked with former Minnesota Governor Jesse "The Body" Ventura.
The Orlando Airport will be a zoo Wednesday and perhaps a portion of the day on Thursday as the majority of the WWE Superstars will arrive for WM24 on those days. Have your Sharpies ready!
Finally, let's all understand one thing. Floyd Mayweather is a world class performer with a world class ego and a world class bank account. Granted, none of that is new news. But the point is this, Mayweather will do all he physically can do to over achieve in his match with the Big Show Sunday night, because that is what world class athletes do, they over achieve. It might be because of Floyd's ego or simply his competitiveness, but Mayweather will most likely shock us all with what he brings to the dance. I have been told that Mayweather has been taking his preparation for WM24 extremely seriously. That's not hype but simple fact. Mayweather is really good at channeling a young Muhammad Ali inasmuch as Floyd has realized that the big money for him is being an antagonist, which encourages the consumer to pay their cash to see Floyd get his ass whipped. Ali personally told me many years ago that's what his school of thought was for, much of the early part of his career. As the legend goes and it is true, Ali was a fan of wrestling villains. Floyd "gets it" and has reinvented himself to become a persona fans want to see humbled. Stay tuned as things should be most interesting in this one come Sunday.
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