April Fools’ Day has come and gone, but in the world of professional wrestling, it doesn’t need to be April 1st to pull a practical joke. Ribbing has been part of wrestling since its inception. Whether from boredom on the road or just being a joker in nature, it seems like everyone has a rib story — or 20.
That isn’t to say that ribbing is always popular. Ric Flair, for one, isn’t a fan.
“I am not a ribber. Never have done that. I didn’t like guys who ribbed people. I think usually you only rib people when you can bully them. When athletes rib guys, they get ribbed hard. I have seen guys put baggage claims to a foreign country.” Flair told SLAM! Wrestling at an event in Edmonton. He did however share some stories of ribs that didn’t end up the way the ribber intended.
“The worst rib I ever heard about was back in the 1960s before I started. Jay York who had asthma, and somebody put lighter fluid in his inhaler. Buddy Rogers and Johnny Valentine were in the locker room, and they were pretty heavy ribbers. It almost killed him, but Jay came back into the locker room with a shotgun and blew up everybody’s bags.”
Valentine was featured in the other story Flair told.
“He was a big ribber. There was a guy named Smasher Sloan who had just gotten his starting date in Florida. He had waited a long time to work for Eddie Graham in the old Florida territory, so Valentine decided to rib him by going the wrong way and getting him late to the show. Valentine was driving him all over the state of Florida as a rib. Smasher finally figured out what Valentine was doing, and they pulled over somewhere so Valentine could get drinks. He came out and Smasher shot him with a spear gun. Ribs aren’t always funny.”
Paul “The Butcher” Vachon told Greg Oliver another rib-gone-bad story.
“Don Fargo and his brother in wrestling Jackie Fargo were known as pretty wild guys. After a match in Tennessee they left in separate cars, loaded down with beers, and were speeding into the night when Don, the braver or drunker of the two, got a few miles ahead. He got the bright idea of setting a road block of flame across the highway to scare the hell out of his brother. He could do that because in his trunk he had all the paraphernalia to make bullets that he and his brother used as members of the fast draw and shoot gun club that they belonged to. So in his semi-drunken state, cigarette in his mouth, he is spreading a line of gunpowder across the road, as his brother is bearing down on him. Just as he about finished (and none to soon) the ashes from his cigarette drops from the butt in his mouth and explodes the gunpowder that he is standing over, blowing all his clothes off except his cowboy boots. Then instantly his brother drives up, screeches to a halt, and all he saw was Don Fargo completely naked, bald of hair, eyebrows and eyelids with a cigarette still in his mouth.”
Rip Hawk loved to torment Swede Hanson, his tag team partner for 16 years. One night they were traveling to Spartanburg, S.C., in the heart of the Mid-Atlantic territory they ruled for years. Hawk was behind the wheel, and since it was winter, it was dark by dinner time. Hawk shared the rest of the story with Steve Johnson.
“We’re wheeling along in my Cadillac, it’s pitch dark, and Swede fell asleep. We pulled into the edge of town and my mind was always working. I woke Swede up and said Swede, ‘God almighty, go in there and get our beer so we can have it on the way home.’ ‘Yeah, OK.’ ‘The matches are over. We need a beer — we’ve been in the car for a while.’ He got out, he ran in and got a couple of six-packs. He started to pop one and I said, ‘Wait a minute; you’d better not drink. We’ve got to wrestle.’ He said, ‘What the hell do you mean?’ I said, ‘Hell, it’s only 6:30.’ He went crazy, popping a beer and saying, ‘It’s going to go flat, it’s going to get warm by the time we get out.’ Finally, he said, ‘You son of a bitch. You got me again.’ ”
It’s been nearly a decade since Mick Foley’s Have a Nice Day was released, but Mick told Bob Kapur his favorite rib remains one written about in the book, the Diamond Dallas Page cookie story.
“Dallas was such a high-strung guy and he was easy to crack on the road. He took himself so seriously, which is actually a great thing, it’s a very endearing part of his personality. Stone Cold and I used to wonder how quickly we could crack the poor guy. On this night, we realized he was one day away from cracking. So I decided to put some chocolate chip cookies that a fan had given us into Dallas’ bed. He came out of the shower — he liked to walk around naked — and he would pin up the shades to the wall. He would actually bring thumbtacks and pin them to the wall so that not even a hint of light could escape through the cracks. And he would wrap his knees in Saran Wrap in some type of mineral tonic underneath it. So he came out of the shower and you couldn’t see it, but could hear the crinkling of the Saran Wrap as he snuggled into his bed. Then you could hear rustling around and him muttering ‘What? What?’ as he came to the realization that somebody had put these blankety-blank cookies into his bed. He didn’t take it well, and wanted to know who the culprit was, and he couldn’t see our faces, but I had this kind of suppressed laugh kind of giving it away. Dallas said, ‘How do you like it?’ and he put those cookies all over me and threw them on me and started jumping up and down and rubbing them into me. ‘How do you like it?!?’ I told him, ‘It’s not the cookies I mind so much as your naked ass rubbing all over me.’ At that point he realized he was defeated, and he laid back down on the cot, and he said, ‘Guys, I think I’m going to get my own room tomorrow night.’ So we did crack him. That was a pretty good rib, but by no means the best, and certainly one of the most innocent when you take into account some of the pretty brutal ribs that wrestlers have played on one another.”
Many rib stories come from the 1960s and ’70s, such as one told by Paul Leduc to Gary Howard, author of The Rassler from Renfrew.
Before he hit the big time as one half of the famous Leduc brothers out of Quebec, Paul Leduc was a young wrestler willing to learn and gain experience. As such, he worked in Larry Kasaboski’s far-flung Northern Ontario promotion in the early 1960s. As a rookie he was eager to please so he was quite receptive when Kasaboski asked him on one occasion to drive his (Kasaboski’s) car from Pembroke to Sault Ste. Marie, a return trip of about 700 miles. Along with Kasaboski for the ride were legends Killer Kowalski and Edouard Carpentier, heroes of Leduc. All three were Polish and decided to converse in the Polish language only, for the entire trip, much to the chagrin of young Leduc who struggled with the English language at the best of times. After the lengthy trip Leduc told the veterans in no uncertain terms to kindly find another rookie for their next trip. True story. Apparently during Paul’s tour on the circuit he was designated to work against a wrestling bear, a feat that amused Kowalski and Carpentier to no end.
We couldn’t do a story on ribs in wrestling without including one of the most loved and notorious ribbers of all time, Owen Hart, as recounted by Terri Runnels.
“One of my favorites of Owen’s was when we were invited to Harley Race’s house after one of the shows in Kansas City. Harley was famous for, and took great pride in his chili. As we all know, Harley Race is a very prideful man. You don’t take away from what he has done. It was Dustin, myself, Owen and Mick Foley for dinner with BJ and Harley. Harley made this humongous vat of chili, and Owen took a giant bottle of hot sauce and poured it into the chili, so much so that we couldn’t eat it,” recalled Runnels, a.k.a Marlena. “The next night at TV, Harley came to the show. Harley found out that it was Owen that did it, and he was so pissed off he brought his stun gun. He was on the hunt to get Owen back. Owen didn’t know he had it in his hands and Harley started reading him the riot act. Owen tried to convince him that he had only meant to add a couple of drops and the lid fell off and it all dumped in. Harley comes out with the stun gun and sends Owen to the ground. Both sides of that were hilarious.”
While many ribs are spur of the moment, others take a great deal of planning. We end this story with a tale from “Supermouth” Dave Drason about Rey Urbano, a.k.a. the Great Kabooki. After breaking the unwritten rule of not falling asleep on car trips, Urbano was ripe for ribbing. Drason, Tony Marino and Fred Curry put phase one into effect while driving Urbano’s car.
“With all seemingly calm, Tony rolled down his passenger side window, leaned out of the car, and with a wind up bigger than Nolan Ryan, he smacked his hand loudly against the side of the car door, making such a loud thunderous thud, that Kabooki’s eyes opened up faster than the speed of light. At the simultaneous moment that Tony hit the side of the car with his open hand, Fred began to swerve the car from one side of the pavement to the other a few times before finally pulling the car off to the shoulder of the road. With that sequence of events taking no longer than 10 seconds, confusion and chaos reigned inside the vehicle. Rey questioned aloud, ‘What happened?’ Tony began screaming at Fred ‘What the hell are you doing.’ As Fred began a series of never ending cuss words in no particular direction, I chimed in ‘Didn’t you see him?'”
They convinced Rey that they had hit someone on the side of the road. Things only got worse from there.
“Fred volunteered to get out of the car to go check on the condition of our wounded ghost. He walked out into the darkness about 100 feet behind the car. Before too long, he came running back to the car. Huffing and puffing, he leaned into the drivers window and asked Tony to open the glove compartment to hit the switch to pop the trunk open,” continued Drason. “‘The guy is still alive back there but he’s hurt pretty bad,’ Fred explained. ‘We can’t take the chance that he saw our car and license plate number. I don’t think anybody saw else us or what just happened so I’ve got to put the poor guy out of his misery. I’m getting my gun.'”
With the trunk opened, Fred ruffled through his bag and then returned to the car, showing that he had an actual weapon.
“At this point, he runs back about 100 feet, unloads a few bullets (into the air of course), runs back to the car, reclaims his position behind the steering wheel, puts the go pedal to the floor, as we leave our imaginary victim left helplessly hopeful in a cloud of dust.”
After vowing to never breathe a word of it to anyone, the three let Urbano stew for two weeks before executing the final portion of their plan in Toledo.
“We initiated the help of Iron Mike Loren, one of The Sheik’s right-hand men. He arrived in the room with a uniformed Ohio State Police officer in tow who asked ‘Is there a Rey Urbano in this room?’ Kabooki nervously answered ‘Yeah, that me,’ probably thinking that he left his car headlights on or something. The officer approached Rey, who remained seated, hovered above him and began to explain to him . ‘Sir, a few weeks ago a corpse was found on the side of the road near Columbus, Ohio, shot 2 times in the head. Not that we have any evidence to support any wrongdoing on your part, but your license plate number was etched in the dirt found next to the man.’ Before the officer could get out another word, poor scared Kabooki started singing like a canary. ‘It was Fred Curry, he did it. I was sleeping and had nothing to do with it.’”
The officer slapped handcuffs on his wrists and read him his Miranda Rights.
“No one else in the room dared make a sound, all remaining silent with looks of horror and dismay on their faces. Half dressed, in full make-up, Kabooki was being led towards the dressing room door probably thinking he was going directly to jail for a crime he didn’t commit. As he reached to grab the dressing room door, the officer, who had displayed one of the greatest straight man acts we had ever witnessed, spun Rey around and asked him if he’d like to say any last words to the boys. He began to beg and plead for assistance when at one simultaneous moment we all lost it. We broke down in such a loud bellyaching laughter, it could have been heard clear across the Maumee River. It was at that moment, Rey knew he had been had. It was all a rib. He plopped down in his seat, shaking his head, as one by one, we came up to him, shook his hand, and laughed right along with him. We mapped out the whole plan for him, asking him what he had thought when it happened, how he felt having to keep it quiet all this time, and how he felt now that it was all out in the open. He could only laugh and throw a few well chosen swear words in our direction.”