Since rolling out of bed at the bright-and-early hour of 9:00 a.m. this morning, I’ve been watching the better part of 20 centimetres of snow come down in blizzard form. As I ventured outside with my dogs earlier, I couldn’t help but think, “Man, I’m glad I don’t have to drive in this crap.” It got me to reminiscing though, about the many times I have had to drive in similar conditions to get to shows, and has inspired this column — Wrestling Trips From Hell.
My former traveling buddy, Zack Storm, and I used to claim that the powers that be hated wrestling; any time we had an out-of-town booking, we could count on blizzards, flash floods, tornado warnings, and a barrage of other extreme weather conditions. With my five years in wrestling having included crashing my mother’s car, contracting food poisoning in mid-flight, and being detained in a foreign country, it’s hard to decide on what trips, exactly, included the most ridiculousness, but this column will recount some of my least favourite traveling experiences.
I take you first to the early-morning hours of June 3, 2007 — Chicago, Illinois. The weekend that preceded this date remains one of my favourite wrestling trips in my career; I had three matches that I was happy with, with opponents I enjoyed wrestling, and all in all I was very happy with the weekend. Now, I should point out that, despite how well everything had gone thus far, I had suffered a broken hand in my last match of the weekend. A broken hand isn’t something that requires immediate medical attention, so instead of going to a hospital in Chicago, I opted to have my hand splinted at the show and wait until arriving home to get it treated.
Just getting to the airport on June 3rd was a challenge in itself, as I needed to have help doing my hair, tying my shoes, and packing my bags; it’s surprising how many everyday activities require two hands. I got through airport security with plenty of time to spare, despite my makeshift splint, and figured the trip home would be smooth sailing, and in a few short hours, I would be in an emergency room pretending to understand the x-rays I was being shown.
For reasons I’m still not sure of, I was denied pre-boarding, despite my obvious injury, and eventually wound up settling for an aisle seat. We had been sitting on the tarmac for about 30 minutes when the captain came on the speaker saying we were waiting to finish up some “paperwork.” Having flown on my fair share of flights, I wasn’t completely sold on the reasoning, and my suspicions were confirmed about 30 minutes later when a whole fleet of police cruisers, SUVs, and the like surrounded the plane. Despite having done nothing wrong, being a foreigner sporting an array of bruises, a freshly-broken hand, and the face of someone who hadn’t slept in several days, made me a little nervous as cops boarded the plane with guns drawn, as I pictured the many ways my day could quickly turn from bad to worse.
Luckily, the police made short work of their task, and left in just a few minutes with the 11 passengers they pulled off the flight. While those passengers were probably stretched out in a roomy holding cell or something like that, the rest of us were stuck on the plane for the next three hours, while our luggage was off-loaded, re-screened, and reloaded on to the plane. Meanwhile, the airline handed out free alcoholic beverages to keep people quiet — to pretty much everyone except me, who was 19 at the time.
Fast forward a few hours, and I eventually got to my destination, and managed to find my car. I flew in to an airport a few hours from my house. I drive an automatic, so the one-handed drive home didn’t seem like it would be that difficult until I actually started driving. As I might have predicted, given my history with weather and wrestling trips, I hit a storm about 20 minutes in to my drive, and took part in perhaps the scariest driving techniques this side of India as I attempted to navigate through three lanes of traffic amidst heavy rain and my somewhat vain attempts to keep my hand elevated.
Eventually, I made it home, some 16 hours after arriving at the airport in Chicago. A short time later, I was sporting a plaster cast, which preceded a pretty cool-looking mandible claw-style metal splint, and was out of wrestling for about seven weeks before making my return. Now, the trip and injury are just a distant memory, which I am reminded of only by the stigmata-esque scarring on my right palm.
This event was only the tip of the iceberg, as there are two more columns to come featuring similar travel difficulties. I have chosen to cut some of the more graphic trips, such as the food poisoning fiasco of 2007, out to allow for some reading pleasure. The next installment of this “riveting” series is already in the works, so watch out for it soon!