SEAGAL LEARNS A LESSON. In the martial arts world of the 80’s, Steven Seagal was a big star. But he was also kind of a jerk. He was known for being too rough with stuntmen, even kicking them between the legs to see if they were wearing protection there or not. One day in 1991, when filming Out for Justice, one of his stuntmen was a 58-year-old pro wrestler and Judo expert Gene LeBell (the man who trained Roddy Piper and starred with Andre in Micki + Maude). Seagal was boasting about his Aikido training, claiming that he was immune to choke holds. LeBell wanted to give the man a chance to prove this, and he was happy to do so. The hold was applied, Steven said “go,” and in seconds he had not only fallen asleep, he had also crapped his pants! This led to the action movie star getting a restraining order on LeBell, on top of learning a tough life lesson. Now Seagal is truly a well trained and gifted fighter, something LeBell continues to affirm today. But you just can’t be a badass and a deuce at the same time.
BIG SHOW AND LITTLE JOHN. Ever hear of The Big Show? He is Paul Wight, and stands over 7 feet tall and weighs over 380 lbs (Yes, in real life. In fact, when he was 14 years old he was 6’8”. I know what you’re thinking and, yes, he played basketball.). A little over ten years ago he was in India for a WWE promotional event. Before the event started he went quickly to his room to “take care of business” after a very long flight. There was no way he would be able to use the bathroom in the airplane, something that some of us regular-sized people can barely pull off. And though this one was a much more accomodating size, the toilet was one of those European style models that are built right into the wall, with no support underneath. He was thinking what you and I are thinking right now… but he had to go! Deciding to take the risk he was pleased to discover the wall-mounted john was supporting his frame, which is impressive considering that back then he was well over 400 lbs, at times pushing 500. He was half-way through his mission when he heard what he says sounded like a bomb siren going off. In those rooms in India they had doorbells, something we are not accustomed to. But they also tend to have the volume turned up to a crazy level. DING DONG!! It scared Big Show, which caused him to do what most of us do when startled by a loud noise. His enormous frame leapt up off the toilet and back down on it. Yup, it all came crashing down. He did manage to avoid falling down on broken porcelain and… other dangerous materials… by grabbing a hold of the sink and towel rack, which thankfully and surprisingly held his weight. He made it out alive, and according to him, the mess was cleaned up, and the toilet was replaced and installed, by the time he got back to his room 4 hours later.
PIPER HATE. Back in the 70’s, a “heel” wrestler’s goal was to get you to hate him. The greater and more dangerous their hatred was toward you, the better. It was their work that made people love the good guys and pay money to see them beat up the bad guys. And they would do anything to get that “heat” from the crowd. There is no shortage of stories of riots breaking out because of what a bad guy did to a local hero in a ring. Rowdy Roddy Piper had this down to a science, and while he was in a southern Californian promotion he chose to make fun of the Latino population there on a wrestling TV program. His antics and insults worked so well that the network threatened to remove the show entirely. Immediately Piper got back on TV, apologized, and said that if they all would buy a ticket and come to see his match he would play the Mexican national anthem for them on his bagpipes. It was a sellout crowd who all rose with deep respect (hands on hearts, helping elderly stand, etc.). Piper was in the middle of the ring with his bagpipes, took a deep breath and played, “La Cucaracha.” It was at that moment that audience chairs started to get thrown into the ring…
ANDRE’S ORDER. Google “Andre the Giant stories” and you may just end up binge reading for hours. There are so many awesome Giant tales told by so many wrestling legends, but one of my favourite came from Bobby “The Brain” Heenan. One day while settling into his seat on a flight, Andre was having trouble with his armrest. While he was fidgeting with it a flight attendant came by to take orders for drinks. “Screwdriver,” he said. She looked a little puzzled, but came back promptly with not the drink, but an actual screwdriver tool. Andre looked up at her and said, “What would you have brought me if I’d asked for a bloody mary?”
There is just one more Andre story that I’d like to share, this one coming from “Mean” Gene Okerlund. This one also took place on a flight, one where Andre approached Gene who was sitting in coach. “You come sit with me, boss.” Andre sat in first class, more from necessity than luxury. Andre ordered a drink (surprise, surprise), then turned to his friend and said, “You know, people think that I have a great life…that I can travel all over and everything…but I see them when they point at me…little kids laugh and say, what kind of a man is he?” Then Okerlund says, “I saw him cry. He was a very sensitive man. Nobody realizes this.”
Congratulations Micki + Maude and Andre the Giant. This is your week.
And the Oscar goes to…
Best Actor: Paul Walker as Brian O’Conner in Fast Five.
Best Quote: “To all my love slaves out there: Thunderlips is here. In the flesh, baby. The ultimate male versus… the ultimate meatball. Ha, ha, ha.” — Hulk Hogan as Thunderlips in Rocky III.
I do realize that in wrestling, there are many stories that get elaborated on and grow over time. Well, I read a lot of them and have gotten to know the ones that have been inflated, the ones that have been confirmed, etc. The ones above I have confidence in sharing with you as actual events.