My Memories of Wrestling Legend Bobby “The Brain” Heenan

Bobby The Brain HeenanBobby “The Brain” Heenan has passed away at the age of 73. He suffered from throat cancer for the last 15 years of his life, which ironically hindered his ability to communicate verbally. His verbal wit is what his fans love the most about him.

And I was one of them. He, along with one of my uncles, inspired my sense of humor as a child and an adult. For the people who I know and annoy with my one liners, zingers and puns, that’s what I got it from mostly. I enjoyed listening to him on commentary as the bad guy contrast to Gorilla Monsoon & Tony Schiavone.

I was also entertained by his antics as a kid, whether he was a manager, broadcast journalist (a job title he made famous in my mind) or even in the ring wrestling on occasion. The older I got, the more I appreciate Bobby Heenan for all facets of his work even when he was serious.

Some of my favorite Heenan moments include commentating the 1992 Royal Rumble, him saying that he could do a body slam when reversing a leapfrog like Rick Steiner during the Steiner Brothers’ debut match in the WWF & how out of left field most of his comments were towards the good guys.

I also read both of his autobiographies Chair Shots and Other Obstacles: Winning Life’s Wrestling Matches & Bobby the Brain: Wrestling’s Bad Boy Tells All. I’ll have to reread them at some point since there’s a lot I learned from them the first time around and now would put to better use in my wrestling career.

RIP and thank you for everything.

My Memories of Nigerian Nightmare Aaron Gainey

Nigerian Nightmare Aaron GaineyIt always hits home harder when someone you’ve met and interacted with passes away. Even if it’s been years since you’ve seen the person.

That’s the case of Aaron Gainey, who wrestled on northeast independent companies as one of the original Nigerian Nightmares. I feel badly that I don’t know his exact wrestling name, but I know the tag team name has more of a legacy.

And that may have been intentional since other wrestlers teamed with Aaron or his partner on various indies. I was lucky enough to work with the original duo and their manager, who was one of their wives.

Let’s go back to 2009 when I first started doing ring crew on rentals. My first impression of watching Aaron wrestle was that of awe since he flew through the air like someone who was 200 lbs lighter.

It gave me inspiration as a student knowing that I can be agile, too if I put my mind to it. I really trained hard to be as flexible as possible and jump as high as I could.

Months later, I got to officially meet Aaron in the locker room when I was reffing as Chris Green. I got to referee a tag match with the Nigerian Nightmares against two small wrestlers, one dressed as a goat and the other like another animal.

I listened to him, playing scared and going along with their African savage gimmick. I remember that match distinctly because I had to carry the goat back to the locker room.

Distinguished Gentlemen vs Nigerian NightmaresI was supposed to defend the NDIW Tag Team Championship against the Nightmares a couple years later, but they were unable to be there that day. I was disappointed since I wanted to wrestle the Nigerians based on my experience with Aaron and his partner. I felt the savage vs snob match would have been entertaining.

Aaron was always friendly to me in the few times I met him. I know he inspired other bigger guys like me, so I thank him for that and the advice he gave me early on before I ever had a match.

It’s clear that Aaron Gainey was loved by many and I hope he’s able to rest easy.

My Memories of JL Chico Mr Wonderful

JL Chico Mr WonderfulJL Chico was probably the oldest independent wrestler I’ve ever gotten into a ring with and I did so on multiple occasions. I know he had been having some health issues, but it was still tragic to hear that he passed away at the age of 59 on Sunday April 9, 2017.

I didn’t know Chico particularly well, but we shared many locker rooms and the ring. The 1st time was in one of my very 1st matches at UWA Three Kings Extravaganza run by Bandido Jr in Newark NJ on Jan 5, 2010. I won with my original big finishing move: the spinning fisherman (the pendulum elbow was always a secondary move).

The 2nd match we had was a triple threat match with PJ Storm being the 3rd man for ECPW in Brooklyn on April 17, 2010. That happens to be the day that a post was missing from the ring truck, which I’ve previously blogged about here.

Our 3rd and final match was a 6-man tag team match on April 20, 2013 where I teamed with my ex-partner WASP and Matt Macintosh against Chico, Junior Flow and Marc Static for SWF’s precursor GCW on an event that was a cancer benefit for a wrestler who faked having cancer. Only in wrestling.

We also shared the ring in 5 battle royals over the years and a lot of locker rooms. He was always nice enough to me and trusted me since the first time we wrestled together. We had some brief conversations about him being the original Mr Wonderful and wrestling. He held some sort of respect with a lot of the independent wrestlers because of his years in the business, the most notable I know being Dan Maff.

My condolences go out to the family and loved ones of JL Chico. Rest in peace to the man that many in the wrestling business are calling Uce or Uncle.

My Memories of Chavo Classic, Nicole Bass, George Steele & Ivan Koloff

Three very different people passed away in the world of professional wrestling: legendary star Chavo Guerrero Sr, WWE Hall of Famer George “The Animal” Steele, former world champion Ivan Koloff and former bodyguard Nicole Bass.

My memories of all 4 are very few since my acquainting with them was brief.

George Steele Ivan Koloff Chavo Classic Nicole Bass

Chavo Guerrero Sr

Chavo Guerrero Sr was the more prominent figure in terms of in-ring stardom. My fondest memories of him were as Chavo Classic and his time on WWE SmackDown.

I remember being entertained by his antics and charisma, even when he became the WWE Cruiserweight Champion. I’ve been equally entertained by the few matches like the 6-man tag he was in with his brothers Mondo and Hector against Cactus Jack and the Rock & Roll RPMs at SuperClash III.

Nicole Bass

Nicole Bass was a much different case. I remember her watching her as a fan when she debuted at WrestleMania XV and through her brief WWF tenure.

I would meet her many years later in 2014 when I wrestled on the Scott Epstein Memorial Event that PWS ran. Like many other big names and small-time indy wrestlers, my only interaction with her was introducing myself.

Ivan Koloff

I read Ivan Koloff’s book and wrote about the lessons I took from it. My memories of Ivan Koloff come from the aforementioned Scott Epstein Memorial Show where he was a guest timekeeper for a match. My interaction with Koloff was unique in that I was carrying in a piece of the ring and Koloff gave me the right of way with a smile. My hope is that he saw my effort to pay my dues.

George “The Animal” Steele

I read George Steele’s book and wrote about what I learned from it. I remember Steele as a little kid, specifically his match at WrestleMania II against Macho Man Randy Savage and his appearance at WrestleMania III during the famed Savage/Steamboat match.

They all had health issues leading to their passing, but it doesn’t make their deaths less sad. My condolences to their family and loved ones.

My Memories of One-Time Opponent Superfly Jimmy Snuka

Superfly Jimmy Snuka DeathPro wrestling legend and WWE Hall of Famer Superfly Jimmy Snuka passed away today at the age of 73 after his battle with cancer. I first knew of him as a wrestling fan, but met him many times as a wrestler.

As a Fan

WrestleMania VII was the first time I ever watched wrestling and that’s where I saw Snuka wrestle The Undertaker. I also saw him in various other WWF events over the years renting from Blockbuster Video, as well as a random WCW Nitro from 2000 doing his famous splash from the top of a steel cage.

I also watched older footage on DVDs, such as both of his initial steel cage splash against Bob Backlund & his more noteworthy one against Don Muraco. I also read about him in books and heard about his influence on many wrestlers like Mick Foley & being one of the first to hit a big move from the top rope.

As a Wrestler

I will admit I wasn’t a huge Superfly Jimmy Snuka fan growing up since he was a bit before my time. However, I was a fan of him in the multitude of locker rooms I shared with him in ECPW.

Every time I would see him in the locker room, he’d say “bruddah!”and give me a big hug. We didn’t really have many in-depth conversations, but we did share some words about how we were doing and other things (likewise with his wife Carol).

No matter where we were, he would always have sandals on. Ice skating rink… sandals. Snowing in New York City… sandals. If I would have done that, I would have been sick all the time.

My biggest memory with Superfly happened on June 17, 2011 at an ECPW event in Brooklyn, New York. I had the honor of being one of the Masked Superstars (along with my good friend Tony Myers) and we wrestled Jimmy Snuka & Tony Biella. I got into the match being nervous since Snuka was the most notable wrestler I was matched up against at that time.

I remember being so worried about how the match would go, I didn’t even think I’d be tagged into the match to chain wrestle with Snuka. And that I did, which was an experience in of itself. Every small movement, from a wristlock reversal to taking his signature double chop, had the crowd roaring.

My condolences go out to the family of Superfly Jimmy Snuka. Rest in peace bruddah.

My Memories of “Quick Count” Al Soprano

Quick Count Al SopranoOne of the first people I met in wrestling was “Quick Count” Al Soprano since he was the Senior Referee at ECPW, the place where I first trained. Sadly, he just passed away at the age of 63 due to failing health.

It’s said that people that get into wrestling are characters and Al Soprano was no different between his $5 pizza, the sense of humor he had and the stories I’ve heard from others about traveling with him like getting a flat tire on the way to an event at the Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame and him slapping his arms to stay awake behind the wheel.

I even have an Al Soprano road experience that I had on August 7, 2010. That was the day I had my steel cage match with Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake and I drove to the event with Al and Andrew Anderson. After the match, we went to a buffet and ate (probably too much).

The car ride home was most intriguing since Drew decoded to go with Beefcake, leaving me and Al alone. It was a 2-hour drive and he told me his life story from officiating pro and high school wrestling to losing his wife to cancer. And yes, he slapped his arms a couple of times during the drive.

I think that was the one in-depth conversation I’ve ever had with Al, showing the bonds that can be made on a wrestling  road trip. There was plenty of locker room banter and joking outside of & in the ring including doing many purposeful pinfalls since he hated going down to the mat and back up.

There was also our time in the ring together. I learned valuable lessons from having Al as my referee, which I still use to this day.

Al had his demons, even being in a coma for a period of time as a result. I never spoke to him after our intersecting time at ECPW, but heard he was never the same after his health issues took over. I hope he is at peace.

Have a story or fond memory about “Quick Count” Al Soprano? Feel free to share in the comments below!

 

Chris Avery Queling’s Memories of Mr. Fuji

Mr Fuji DiesThe wrestling world lost Mr. Fuji (real name Harry Fujiwara) at the age of 82. I hear that he wasn’t in the best of health in his later years after he left WWF full time in 1996, but don’t quote me on that.

I never really watched him wrestle, outside of always having WrestleMania V on loop where he and the Powers of Pain went against Demolition and Fuji got his comeuppance when Barbarian and Warlord were knocked down.

His devious mannerisms were what I remember from that match and his managerial career.

I watched him with Berzerker, Orient Express, Powers of Pain, Yokozuna and others. People say he wasn’t like the typical WWF managers with how he spoke, but he stood out to me because he wasn’t.

That and the fact that he dressed really sharply, just like a future superstar wrestler.

cropped-Big-Ben-Cromwell-Face.jpg

Hopefully Mr. Fuji enjoyed that little rib, as I heard and read about his notorious reputation as a prankster. I also took my basis on Japanese wrestling personalities on him (until I discovered actual wrestling from Japan) and that’s how I played the Japanese Assassin: a 6’4 white guy trying to be stealthy and devious like a ninja Mr. Fuji.

Writing this post truly shows how Fuji must have had a subconscious influence on me between Big Ben Cromwell and the Japanese Assassin. That and calling Fallah Bahh “my Yokozuna” in Fuji’s accent in the locker room.

My condolences go out to the family and friends of Harry Fujiwara & Mr. Fuji alike. Feel free to share your memories in the comments!

My Memories of Patrick Furilla (aka Eric Anders)

Patrick Furilla

Photo Credit: Christian Michael Navarro

 

I’ll be the first to admit that I lose touch with people in wrestling when they step away, which was the case with Patrick Furilla. He wrestled a few matches as Eric Anders before taking time off. Little did I know that he would tragically pass away at the way-too-young age of 31 to the shock of everybody who knew him.

Death is always worse when it’s someone you personally know. I’m not saying that I was good friends with Patrick by any means, but I knew him decently since he was a student at the Create-a-Pro NJ school who tried his very best to understand pro wrestling.

When I looked at him, I saw a younger version of myself when I first started in wrestling (tall, quiet, a little bit quirky/awkward & worked hard to get better), so I often gave him advice based on what I saw when training with him (even during practice matches) and what worked for me.

We also had some conversations about wrestling in general as well in between during training and when we set up the ring for events & when the doors opened. We wrestled in 2 matches together: one battle royal at a taco festival (pictured above) and a Royal Rumble-style match at a bachelor party, which essentially became everyone chopping everyone and we all had fun that day.

Although I didn’t know him long, he was well liked by all. My condolences go out to the family and loved ones of Patrick Furilla.

My Memories of Chyna (aka Joanie Laurer)

Chyna DeathThere have been quite a few deaths in pro wrestling lately and Chyna is a case of another one who passed on too young at just 45. I think Chyna was the most prominent woman in wrestling history between her storylines and the fact that she got recognition in a way many of the men did before women became more wrestling oriented.

I do remember watching Chyna as a youngster during the Monday Night Wars and I was always intrigued when she came on screen because I knew something interesting would occur, whether it was her beating up men or in a love story with someone like Mark Henry or Eddie Guerrero. When she went for the WWF Women’s Championship at the time, I thought maybe the women would be elevated to be more than a bathroom break. But alas, we had to wait.

I met Chyna once during my time in wrestling last year when she made an appearance for PWS. I spoke to her briefly and she seemed like a nice woman. I hope she rests in peace and my condolences go out to her loved ones.

I also want to do the same to Blackjack Mulligan who passed away recently, but I don’t have any specific memories of him since he was a bit before my time.

My Memories of Balls Mahoney: Co-Worker, Good Brother

Anyone’s passing hits home, but it does a lot more so when it’s something you’ve known and worked with for a while. And the person being genuine and a really nice guy makes the blow even worse. That’s the case with Balls Mahoney, who passed away last night at the age of 44.

Balls Mahoney

Photo Credit: WWE.com

I started off a fan of Balls Mahoney, who was on the very 1st episode of ECW I ever watched as he swung chairs onto the FBI. I watched him in ECW and didn’t really see him again until he emerged in the revival of ECW on WWE TV. I even saw him in a memorable segment on Saturday Night’s Main Event when he made Mr. McMahon say that he doesn’t have balls (which would be cut and redone at a later date).

When I first got into wrestling, I did a lot of ring rentals. There was one in 2009 at Hofstra University where I met Balls for the first time and I was a bit intimidated since he was one of the first big stars I met. I saw him a few other times down the road at other ring rentals and events I was on once I started wrestling, but I really got to know him and be comfortable around him during my time with PWS.

Balls would be in the locker room for pretty much every event I was on with him, doing something in some capacity on the actual show. We would have extended conversations about wrestling and life in the locker room and at the merchandise table. He even once fed me guacamole during an event at a taco festival. No matter what kind of mood I was in, I would always feel better when Balls arrived because of his kind-hearted personality.

I even had the honor of wrestling him once and here’s a video of that match (fast forward to 5 minutes in). Thanks for all the good times Balls Mahoney… rest in peace my friend. My heart goes out to his wife, his son and his family & friends affected by his death.