Pro wrestler run ins: My brushes with celebrity

chris grahamDeadspin today was highlighting at the top of its front page an article from four years ago about fans’ chance encounters with famous pro wrestlers, and naturally I clicked to see what it was all about.

Turns out that the fans who shared their stories had all had awful negative experiences, which, yeah, Deadspin.

Funny thing to me: two of the guys I actually know, Goldust and Shawn Michaels.

Who were the furthest thing from the dicks they were portrayed as in the article, and actually, were far from it.

First, Goldust. I got to know him while promoting an indy show in Virginia in 2013. He was in between WWE gigs at this time, and at the time had been very recently let go by WWE as an agent for a botched move in a match that he had been responsible for.

Which is to say, he could’ve come in and tried to Hollywood us all, basically collected his paycheck, half-assed his way through his match before a smaller-than-expected crowd (we had about 500 on hand on a January night with snow in the forecast) and gone about his way.

Dude was anything but that guy. He posed for an endless series of pictures with people, chatted up the young indy wrestlers in the locker room to encourage them to keep on keepin’ on, and was generally speaking the light of an otherwise dark night for a lot of us, considering the small crowd and the weather.

Next, Michaels, who we booked for an autograph signing in the summer of 2013. We’d been warned by a few folks that Shawn could be a prima donna, most explicitly by his agent, who had us on edge for weeks leading up to the event.

Night of, the agent texted to ask us what the hell was going on with the limo driver that we’d arranged to pick Shawn up at the airport.

Um, what? was our response, and then we learned that the limo driver had brought his son along, and his son was a huge Shawn Michaels fan, and the agent blistered the hell out of us for subjecting Shawn to such a situation.

The drive from Dulles to Waynesboro had Shawn arriving at the hotel we’d booked for him right around midnight. We met him there to apologize, and he seemed confused.

“Please don’t say anything to the company about the limo driver,” he said, telling us that he enjoyed talking with a big fan, and then told us that he wanted to get to the venue early the next day to be able to work in a little extra time with fans.

In my time as a promoter and backstage guy on big indy shows, I’ve had the fortune to meet and get to know big names like Mick Foley (he took a 90-minute ride in the front seat of my VW bug), Kevin Nash (worked with him four times, three of them very positive, the last not so much), Diamond Dallas Page, Hacksaw Jim Duggan, negotiated with Ric Flair’s lawyers (they wanted more money for less time with The Nature Boy than I was willing to pay, so I passed, in the face of a slew of counteroffers).

We worked with Lita, Tammy Sytch (one of my favorites), Baby Doll, Ricky Morton (another of my favorites).

The only negative experience we had was with among the smaller of small fries – Robbie E and Brooke Adams, the only people who ever acted Hollywood in their dealings, and by far the least among those who could have and should have acted that way.

All told, we worked with a couple of dozen of the bigger names in the business dating back the Attitude Era, and I’m counting exactly two asshats in there, and the rest were awesome to work with.

That’s a pretty good batting average, as far as I’m concerned.

Column by Chris Graham

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