There are moments that you remember forever; different generations have different moments. Moments in time when you hear about something, when you receive news that is bad or you hear that something terrible has happened. We remember the bad stuff in far greater detail than the good stuff. I guess it's human nature. For my generation, it was September 11th, a day that will forever live in infamy. For many, we can recall where we were the very moment we heard that sad news. Hopefully we were with loved ones to help console each other. Sad news should never be received alone. There is nothing more powerful than support from friends and family in those times. I often pray that in my lifetime, more importantly in my kid's lifetimes, that nothing remotely as devastating as that 9/11 memory will ever occur. Yet, from time to time, bad things will and do happen. As they do, I remember when and where I am when I receive the notification.
Just a few short months ago, my 75 year-old mother, a cancer survivor, handed me a WWF Wrestling lunch box. She said she kept it all those years because it was a huge part of my childhood. Front and center on the blue plastic Thermos lunchbox that I so proudly carried to elementary school some thirty plus years earlier to Mrs. Bunce's second grade class at Tamarac Elementary School was the "Hulkster" Hulk Hogan, Andre the Giant and "Rowdy" Roddy Piper. Hard to imagine but kids once cherished trapper keepers and lunchboxes, long before Sprint iPhones and iPad tablets with unlimited data. As a child, I adored wrestling and became a fan in the days when the WWE was the WWF. The three wrestlers on the lunchbox were paramount to my childhood, my all time favorites. The only one missing from this lunchbox was Mr. T! My mom told me to open it, to look inside. So I did. I clicked the clasp and it popped open, like a time capsule to my childhood and inside was a kilt! I took it out and smiled big; my mom told me that in the 1980s I asked her to make me a kilt to wear to Piper's Pit and I wore it to watch Roddy Piper wrestle against Hulk Hogan at Nassau Coliseum in second grade. I grasped the kilt tightly in my fingers, closed my eyes, and returned to that day. My dad was still alive back then (he died when I was 12) and in my trip back in time, in my memory, he was rooting for Roddy Piper too!
Who knew that as a man in my thirties, a good part of my life in the rearview mirror, I would be the president of Legends of Wrestling? I certainly would never have guessed that. My childhood friends Mike Tempia and Richie Smith would have said no way too. We were too busy trading Garage Pail Kids and watching movies on our VCR. As a kid, we must have watched The Princess Bride movie a hundred times, just to see Andre the Giant. Ok, maybe as an adult too! I was devastated when I heard Andre died, he was bigger than life in so many ways. A couple of weeks ago, I heard more devastating news. Another one of my heroes, Hulk Hogan had done and said some horrible things. In my mind, I understood that Terry Bollea was the one who whose actions were reprehensible. I rationalized that it wasn't Hulk Hogan, it was Terry; Hulk was no more than a TV Character, he was the one we grew to love as children. But still, it was like another of my childhood heroes was gone in an instant. Erased. Hulk Hogan and I never really saw eye to eye in this business, he even blocked my twitter account but again I rationalized; that was Terry, not Hulk! Funny.
July 31st was to be one of my most triumphant days in the Wrestling business since being appointed the president of Legends of Wrestling. We were performing at a Major League Baseball park for the second time in two months and to top that off, I was presenting one of MLB's best pitchers (Jose Fernandez) with a special Championship Wrestling Belt with his likeness etched in gold, adorned with Legends of Wrestling medallions. I was very proud to be a part of this, proud of my team, proud of what we accomplished. Before the show, at the hotel, we boarded a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter van; Tyrus (Brodus Clay) sat to the back with the Nasty Boys (Brian Knobbs and Jerry Sags) with them sat Gabe Osceola who I spent the afternoon with after doing a full morning of radio promotions at iHeart Radio. WWE Hall of Famer Luke of the Bushwhackers sat towards the middle with former WCW Announcer David Penzer. I was in the front with Kevin Nash (Big Sexy) and Mick Foley (Cactus Jack) sharing stories. We were all in great spirits; chatting, laughing and catching up during the ride from Coconut Grove to Marlins Park. As we approached, Brian Knobs spoke up, gave last minute instructions to the Wrestlers and thanked everybody for being a part of this. We all felt terrific and nobody knew the tragic news we would soon receive.
Within minutes, we were in the Suite of the Miami Marlins' owner, overlooking the field as we waited to take an elevator down for a press conference prior to the start of Legends of Wrestling Night at Marlins Park. It was at that moment that I received a text message from Rey Rey World Championship Belts. I thought Rey Rey was letting me know that he had arrived with our belts. Instead though, he asked me if I had heard that Roddy Piper had died. My stomach dropped. I looked at Brian Knobs who immediately asked me what was wrong. I showed him the text message. He was in disbelief. We were in disbelief. Both hoping it wasn't true. Kevin Nash heard us, his face froze. He and Mick Foley stopped talking and instantly took out their phones, taking to the internet in hopes that this was just a cruel hoax. It was at that moment, in that place, with those friends, that I learned Roddy Piper had gone to heaven.
Roddy Piper was one of my childhood idols but to the wrestling legends in the suite with me, he was much more. He was a friend. No, he was family. The Nasty Boys were no longer nasty. Jerry exclaimed "we lost Roddy" and Luke burst into tears. I hugged Luke as he sobbed. Knobs began to cry. Jerry cried. We all cried, he all hugged. We all missed Roddy. It was as if at that moment, we forget the world around us and as we mourned together, I closed by eyes and in my mind, I popped open that lunch box, put on my kilt and returned to the past to say good bye to Roddy. All Legends go to Heaven, some just go too soon...God speed Hot Rod!