Just because you’re a fan of someone doesn’t mean that you know the type of person that they are. That’s particularly true for wrestlers, since normally you only see them in character, playing up their gimmick. What tells you if the person is really a good guy or not, is how they treat you personally after the cameras have stopped rolling. As far as I’m concerned, in real life, Johnny Grunge was pure babyface.
Of course, I was a big fan of Mike Durham’s wrestling persona. I’m a huge fan of hardcore wrestling, and he and Ted “Rocco Rock” Petty helped define the term, with their high risk, smash-mouth style of wrestling and their penchant for smashing people through tables. One of my favourite wrestling moments ever was the night they were drowned in a sea of chairs thrown into the ring by the ECW fans, one of the most iconic images in ECW history. Some of my favourite wrestling brawls are the matches Public Enemy had against Cactus Jack and Mikey Whipwreck. They were crazy violent and just plain fun to watch.
My friends didn’t understand why I marked out, waving my arms in the air like I just didn’t care, when Public Enemy won the WCW tag team championships. But I knew that these guys were pioneers, despite their goofy antics, and remained a fan, throughout, even during their disappointingly short stint in the WWF.
But, like I said, it’s the real life moments that show what a person is like.
It was after the first Hardcore Homecoming show last June. It was about two in the morning, and I was standing alone on a corner of an isolated street in Philadelphia, trying to spot a taxi cab so I could head back to the hotel. Suddenly, from out of nowhere, came this crazy guy, who started walking towards me, pointing and screaming. I tried to walk away, but I was in his sights, and he started chasing me. About this time, I figured that the next day’s papers would feature an article about me being found dead in a parking lot in South Philly. But then a car pulled into the parking lot, and Johnny got out and scared the psycho away.
“Jesus, Bob,” he admonished, “you’re gonna get killed out here! Get in,” he ordered, and the guys drove me back to the hotel. There was no reason why he had to do this. He didn’t know me — in fact, we had only met about a half hour earlier at the show, and only spoke for a couple of minutes during the post-show autograph session. But while driving by, he saw that I was in trouble, and not only saved me from a mugging (at the very least!), but also went out of his way to make sure I got back to the hotel safely.
I’ve seen a lot of Johnny’s matches over the years. But while I’ve been a longtime fan of the wrestler, it was that night that made me a fan of Mike Durham the man.
Bob Kapur is sure that Johnny and Rocco are teaming up again tonight, and smashing some poor angel through a table.