The Worst Wrestling Pay-Per-View Ever: Chapter 4

Foreword | Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5 | Chapter 6
Chapter 7 | Chapter 8 | Chapter 9 | Chapter 10 | Chapter 11 | Chapter 12
Afterword, Acknowledgements, About the Author

The Worst Wrestling Pay-Per-View Ever“Didn’t we have Funk going over?”

Six years later, I’m still trying to unsort everything that happened sort of minute by minute, with so much that was going on.

I don’t remember keeping up with my phone much, for example, but it does strike me that at some point during the day word got back to us that we had a leak backstage.

I’ve been a journalist and broadcaster for 22 years, so I know how the business works, and I have to give credit to Mike Johnson at PWInsider, because he was getting items up online about who was walking through the dressing room door almost before I was able to greet them.

We were so much in the bubble in the days leading up to the show that I didn’t know this until much later, but apparently there was a good deal of speculation online about whether any of our advertised talents were actually booked and would actually show.

Looking back, yeah, I can see why people would doubt us. I mean, who the hell was AWE, anyway? Kevin Nash was supposed to be in the main event? Sure. He’s in WWE now. He’s advertised for Raw on Monday night.

Hacksaw and the Rock ‘n Rolls, we’ll give you that. They do a lot of indies on weekends. But Diamond Dallas Page? Tammy Sytch? Had anybody even seen Tammy Sytch lately? Was she still even alive?

I’ll address that one right here, right now. Marvin had been in contact with her, by phone and texts, but we were as surprised as the Internet when she walked in the door, and then when she did, OK, yeah, we were a little scared.

Was she going to be drugged out to the point where we couldn’t use her, for example, was one thought.

First glimpse of her, and we had lucked out. Not only was she not drugged out, but she looked … damn good. Not exaggerating at all. She wasn’t quite the Sunny from 1996 who was the most downloaded woman in the world, but she was close, and charming as hell.

Everybody backstage, from our volunteer security to family members of our sponsors to the guys themselves, lined up to get photos with Tammy.

Looking back, it might have been the last time anybody in wrestling would want to put an arm around Sunny for a photo and not feel the need to take a hazmat shower afterward, but for one night, she was gold.

Mike had that report on PWInsider, then later got word out that Nash, indeed, was on-site. Part of me was upset, initially, that somebody who had snagged a VIP backstage pass or had gained access backstage by volunteering was leaking, but then it occurred to me that it was probably going to work in our favor.

If guys who had been booked for a show who then showed up for said show was considered newsworthy because folks were doubting that we could pull it off, maybe, hmm, yeah, maybe this helps push sales for the pay-per-view, because, OK, the guys you didn’t think were going to be here are here, so now don’t you want to know how we’re going to use them?

Oddly, we had a brief respite in terms of being able to breathe a bit once the pre-show started. The TV folks were shooting the matches for a planned DVD, but Marvin and I had nothing to do with any of that, and the production folks, geniuses that they were, hadn’t thought things through enough to loop in the on-air commentary team on the plans, so we had video with no commentary.

We stationed ourselves at Gorilla, just behind the curtain from which the talent would emerge for their ring entrances. A TV monitor was set up just to the right of the curtain, so we could watch the broadcast of the matches going on live maybe 100 feet away from where we were standing.

One thing we could sense standing at Gorilla was how hot the crowd was. I hadn’t been outside the bubble of the dressing room since about 3:30, so it didn’t hit me until I made my way out to Gorilla that the place was packed to the rafters, and as loud as any arena I’d ever been in, and just for perspective on that, I have been a sportswriter for 20-plus years, and covered ACC Tournaments and Sweet 16s, so I know loud.

But this experience, producing a live TV show, was new to me. It didn’t take long to figure out that the TV monitor was going to get one eye, and that the other eye was going to be with the guys set to go out next.

It was like an assembly line, for all intents and purposes. You send two guys out to do their thing in front of the live crowd and the cameras, and the next two move up the line.

Not for the entire match ahead of them, necessarily, but they’d sort of wander around backstage within sight the whole time, and check in with us occasionally, offering thoughts on the live match, making sure we were all on the same page for their match, just working off nervous energy.

We all had nervous energy. I decided that my job, since I was pretty much done with my own time on the camera, with my interview segments already in the can, and it’s not like there was anything more I could do with the script, was to just be somebody to talk to.

It was a little like an out-of-body experience, honestly, because for both Marvin and I, I mean, I’ve said about how we’d been dreaming this show into existence for six months, and now here it was, playing out in front of us, only we weren’t in charge of this thing that we had dreamed into existence anymore.

There was a TV director in the truck outside, with him and Tully Blanchard calling the shots.

Chris Cruise, Zbyszko and Dirty Dutch were reading our scripts.

There were the guys in the ring bringing it all to life.

Now it just needed to happen.

I almost felt like I was in the way, because what was I going to do now?

Reality is a smack in the head.

“You don’t expect me to go out there and work an hour now, do you?” Kevin Nash, towering, glowering, said to me.

I wanted to say, Of course not, because, seriously, Kevin Nash in his prime, such as he had a prime, wasn’t good for more than 10 minutes.

But all I could muster was: “I don’t know what we’re going to do.”

How we got there, and what there was, gets a bit complicated.

Once we went on the air, right at 9 p.m. Eastern, we came out hot, with Terry Funk and Tommy Dreamer, a match that totally had fallen into our laps.

Marvin had connections to both, and we had each committed to the show, but we hadn’t planned on putting them together at the outset.

I think it was Marvin who remembered that Funk and Dreamer were supposed to go at it on an ECW pay-per-view back in the ‘90s, but one or the other had gotten injured in the walk up to the match, and it never happened.

Why not have them work? Good idea, so Marvin reached out to Funk, and he confirmed that not only had the ECW match never taken place, but he and Dreamer had never had a singles match against each other, ever.

Wow, OK. Here’s something to help sell our pay-per-view. Two hardcore ECW legends in their first-ever singles match against each other.

You could say that the rest of the card felt slapped together, but this one, hell, this should have been our main event, right?

We booked Funk-Dreamer as a hardcore match, but something got seriously lost in translation on the way there.

The big thing was, there wasn’t a single folding chair anywhere near ringside.

The host venue, Augusta Expo, had an abundance of bleachers and curved hard plastic chairs, but no folding chairs.

So, now we have a hardcore match, where you expect guys to be whacking each other with metal folding chairs, only they have to resort to doing what they can with plastic chairs.

And yes, this was embarrassing to watch play out from Gorilla, the moment the realization hit, that we hadn’t thought that detail through.

If only that was it, in terms of embarrassment.

I need to backtrack to the production meeting for just a moment here to set the stage for the major fuckup that befell us next.

This being 2011, Marvin and I just assumed that our refs would have an earpiece connecting them back to Gorilla so that we could communicate with them about the match in progress, most importantly to signal when we needed them to signal to the guys that it was time to take it home, vernacular in the business to get things moving toward the end of the match.

That’s one of many unseen roles that a referee plays in the match, and easily the most significant one, in terms of pacing for the show, especially a live TV show.

We were stunned when Nelson Sweglar, the TV guy, told us that the refs didn’t need earpieces, that a hand-signal system would work just fine.

The system that was worked out, in essence, had a signal being sent from Gorilla to the guy in charge of ringing the bell at ringside, with the ref getting his cues from there.

Why this was better, or whether it was better, or just doing things on the cheap, it was how it was done, and it bit us in the ass when the ref thought he saw the guy ringing the bell at ringside give him the signal to take the Funk-Dreamer match home about seven minutes in.

They’d been booked for 20, with Funk going over. So, when Dreamer rolled Funk up in an inside cradle, and the ref counted a quick three, all hell broke loose backstage.

OK, actually, not at first.

We were initially just all dumbfounded. I didn’t even see it happen live, because I was talking to somebody about one of the later matches on the card.

I can’t remember who it was that I heard first, but it began to dawn on everybody that something seriously stupid had just happened.

When I looked up, though, I was confused even more when I saw Funk going after the ref, slapping him, eventually setting him up for a piledriver.

No, he wasn’t angry that the guy had messed up, though maybe he was. What Funk was trying to do was eat up some time, because suddenly we were about 15 minutes off, with a card that had been stripped of two segments due to dumb decisions made that morning.

It was around this time that I felt the presence of a giant lurking nearby.

“You don’t expect me to go out there and work an hour now, do you?”

Yeah, Nash, my good buddy.

Continue reading. Go to Chapter 5.