Memories, pressed between the pages of my mind
Memories, sweetened thru the ages just like wine
— “Memories,” lyrics by Bill Strange & Scott Davis
SLAM! Wrestling has been around 10 years. It’s true, it’s damn true.
Yes, it’s hard to believe that a decade has passed since this humble little website opened its doors and ushered in an era of pro wrestling journalism that has, from the very beginning, intended to be informative, entertaining and news-breaking.
To say we’ve gone through a lot over the past 10 years would be an understatement. We’ve overcome layoffs, rose up from a blackout period and battled a (still-present?) Internet media ban. We’ve also had the highs of having live chats with some of wrestling’s greatest personalities, covered the biggest events in the industry and gained the respect of those who step between the ropes night in and night out.
Of course, along the way, each writer has had their own personal highs and lows. From road trips to rejections, the SLAM! Wrestling staff has seen it all.
Last month, after several online discussions, the SLAM! Wrestling crew decided that there was no better way to kick off our second decade in the biz than to look back at our favourite moments of the past 10 years. We certainly hope that you enjoy reading these stories of the life of SLAM! Wrestling, and take the time to follow some of the links to see just what we’re talking about!
I have had an amazing time since Greg Oliver took a chance and let me join the team in August 2005. My favourite memory with SLAM! Wrestling took place during the Great Canadian Wrestling Expo in Oshawa for two days last November. Not only did I get to meet some classic wrestlers like King Kong Bundy, Koko B. Ware, Kamala and Jim Neidhart, I also got to go out for a couple of pops with Greg and some of the indy guys at the end of the night. But the highlight of the Expo had to come when myself and photographer Josh Crocker were asked by two indy wrestlers to accompany them to the ring as their managers.
To get into the ring and act as a heel manager on the outside was unreal.
A highlight moment for me would be, when Jim Ross contacted me to say he looks forward each week to my next cartoon. He also commented that he is concerned as to if or how I will draw him up at some point. I admire and respect the man, so, at some point, I will have to take up that challenge.
A definite highlight for me was interviewing Dirk Benedict for the story on the movie Body Slam. As a kid, I was a big fan of Mr. Benedict from his work on Battlestar Galactica and especially The A-Team, so this was a huge mark-out moment for me.
I may have made my SLAM! Wrestling debut less than a year ago, but in that time I’ve had the opportunity to speak to a lot of interesting people. However, it will be of little surprise to note that my conversation with Bret Hart is the highlight of my fledgling SLAM! Wrestling career. In the UK to promote his new DVD, I had the occasion to speak to Hart for almost 30 minutes in January 2006. Whilst he had been doing publicity work the entire previous day — and was whisked off to a television studio minutes after speaking to me — he was both humble and forthcoming, and had every ounce the class that to this day, makes him a wrestling ambassador. I’m only sorry that, in my attempts not to completely mark out, I didn’t take the opportunity to truly thank him for being one of my favourite ever performers.
Looking back, I remember talking to Superstar Billy Graham. Graham, at the time, was writing his book (with the help of his wife). He had just started his web site, and I wanted to get some quick quotes about the site. It wasn’t until three hours later that we were done talking that day. Graham really opened up for the first time in detail about his drug use. He did not seem to hold anything back, and he seemed to be confessing his sins to me. He also mentioned writing both Vince McMahon and Hulk Hogan, looking for their forgiveness for the past. He had not heard back from either and thought his life was ending. Graham treated me like I was not only a reporter, but his best friend. I have met many wrestlers over the years, and even though I never met Graham in person, I had made a friend that day.
My favourite SLAM! Wrestling moment certainly comes out of the phenomenal opportunity that Greg gave me to help put together the SLAM! Wrestling Movie Database. Specifically, it felt really good to get an e-mail from Joseph McBride, one of the writers for the vintage movie Blood & Guts, thanking SLAM! Wrestling for bringing some attention to the film that he watched get unceremoniously swept under the carpet and left to disappear. It’s easy to think of ourselves as SLAM! writers as fans, and we are all incredibly lucky to be able to watch, talk and write about wrestling as a (part-time) vocation. As Mr. McBride reminded me, though, it’s also important to remember how we have the chance to make the people we write about feel honoured for their efforts as well.
I get a real thrill from my writers when they mark out. Some examples: Steve Laroche getting Hulk Hogan on the phone (though no interview), John Molinaro with Ric Flair on Johnny Valentine (which, like the team player that he was, just got lumped into a bigger tribute piece), Jason Clevett eventually landing Bryan Danielson (a tribute to Clevett’s dedication to covering Ring of Honor), Jon Waldman on Shawn Michaels, Bob Kapur landing Ed Asner to talk about The Wrestler… like with title belts, sometimes the chase is the best part.
One of the coolest memories I have comes from covering the independent scene. It was right after a show and I was doing a piece on ECCW’s TV show and had managed to get an interview with both Mauro Ranallo and the producer of the show, Kevin MacDonald, that was to take place directly after a wrestling show. The only place we could do it in any privacy was in Kevin’s car. “The Stampede Kid” T.J. Wilson was getting a ride with them as well so it was the four of us crammed into this compact little Sedan. It was the coolest thing because for half an hour in the pouring rain, we just sat in the car and talked about wrestling. It was like the ultimate indy interview — gritty, real and the conversation was so impassioned.
My favorite SLAM! Wrestling moment hands down had to be when I was fortunate enough to attend the Cauliflower Alley Club reunion in 2005. I could easily remark how great it was to see a wrestling legend every time I turned around but for me, I’ll never forget how I got to pass Sir Oliver Humperdink potato salad. Weren’t expecting that were you? Fresh out of journalism school, I found myself sitting and having lunch, in Las Vegas of all locales, with Barry Orton, Barry’s mother and sister, Ox Baker and Monsieur Humperdink. Where else do crazy scenarios like this happen but when you are chasing down a story for SLAM! Wrestling?
The World of Wheels was in Calgary and they traditionally had wrestlers do autograph signings at their events. February of 2005 saw them bring both Lita and John Cena to the event, and the promoter invited me to meet with both wrestlers during the weekend, and I would get the chance to speak to both of them. Cena was first up that weekend and was very happy to sit down to talk to me. We ended up being very comfortable talking and I caught him off guard by asking him about UPW and Samoa Joe. His face broke out in huge grin and he got more excited as we talked, saying “This is awesome, you can only answer ‘How did you get into wrestling?’ so many times.” The interview went from just another guy with a tape recorder to something the future world champ was really enthused to talk about.
Ironically, my favourite memory is closely linked with the worst moment in my six-plus years with SLAM! Wrestling. Just a year and a bit after I said farewell to SLAM! Wrestling as a writer — before we went into a blackout period — I returned as a member of the editorial staff in the rebirth of the site. My first assignment was a story on Joe Aiello and Don “Cyrus” Callis’ wrestling radio show, No Holds Barred (R.I.P.). Of course, all it took was one smart-ass comment about Triple H (like you’d expect any less from me) and I was live on the air; Callis ribbed me for a solid half-hour. In the process, I had the honour of officially re-launching the website, which was set to officially go live the next day. It was definitely a highlight of my career in journalism, period.
Just nine months after joining SLAM! Wrestling’s writing crew, I got to cover Bound For Glory in my home state of Michigan and needless to say, I was in all my glory. Just to be able to meet and talk with Kevin Nash, Rhino, A.J. Styles, Christopher Daniels, Eric Young and Brother Runt was a blast. To also meet other media members there and mention SLAM! Wrestling and have them know who we are really made me feel honored to be involved with such a tight fraternity.
I don’t know how this fits in, but my favorite SLAM! Wrestling moment was in August 2004 when I got to interview Greg Oliver in studio for my radio program, The Great Canadian Talk Show in Winnipeg. My op for the series happened to be Doug McColl — a veteran of Tomko and numerous other indy promotions across Canada — and between the three of us and Greg’s wife Meredith, it was probably the most intelligent discussion about the wrestling industry, characters and lifestyle that has ever been aired locally. Along with his tag team book Greg and I got to discuss his trip to Vegas for CAC hanging out with some of my longtime friends including Dan Denton and Brian Howell. The feedback about that episode was as positive as any other interview I had done and if we are able to finalize the plan to soon return to the local airwaves, Greg and the stories available on SLAM! Wrestling will be at the top of the list for my first week of shows.
August 16, 2001. One of the proudest moments of my lifetime. A story I penned on Australian-based “Canadian Hellraiser” Jason Helton was published on SLAM! Wrestling. My first contribution to the website. It’s a moment I’ll never forget. I was a precocious 17-year-old kid and I remember that day feeling like a true journalist. See, writing for SLAM! Wrestling is an honour. Its industry credibility is second to none. Excellence in journalism, upholding journalistic integrity, this is what the website epitomizes. Regardless of pro wrestling’s state, take solace in knowing that SLAM! Wrestling will consistently provide the people with unparalleled A-grade coverage of the game.
I’ve been fortunate enough to do a bunch of cool things for the site, but attending WrestleMania X-7 in Houston stands out among all of them. I had to pay for a seat in the nosebleed section of the Astrodome, though I was able to get a press pass for entry into the Fan Axxess event — as a photographer, which should be amusing to anyone who’s ever seen me try to handle a camera. In any case, when I reached the front of the line for press credentials, the PR lady looked at me, saw that I was with SLAM! Wrestling and said, “You’re not Greg Oliver!” While I aspire to be recognized in my own right someday, it dawned on me that day that if the WWE knew my editor that well, I was part of something a little bigger than I suspected, and I’d be well served to stick around.
I’ve only been around for a few months but my best moment goes back to the beginning of it all when Greg gave me a chance to write about the best sport in the world. I was surprised by how magnanimous most wrestlers have been in talking to me, although admittedly, there have been a couple pains. It’s been everything I thought it would be and more.
Being a fan of SLAM! Wrestling since it started in 1996, it was a pleasure to write for the site starting in August 2000. In particular, being the first wrestling writer to publish an interview with Kamala was special as he was my favourite wrestler growing up. I’ll always appreciate the opportunities I had writing about wrestling for this site and offer my sincere congratulations on 10 years of setting a lofty standard for online wrestling journalism.
Separating reality from “a work” isn’t always the easiest thing when you’re interviewing wrestlers. But this SLAM! Wrestling/Sun Media gig took me to Raleigh, N.C. in late March of 2005. In mid-afternoon, in a quiet RBC Center, I sat beside one of my wrestling heroes, Ric Flair. He was honest, eloquent and most importantly, he was Naitch, the limousine-ridin’, jet-flyin’, kiss-stealin’, wheelin’-dealin son of a gun. It’s moments like that, an hour with The Dirtiest Player in the Game, that keep this column energized.