I just walked back from my kitchen. I went out to look on my fridge of the picture I have from a television taping at BCTV. The pic is of myself, Joe Cagle and the one and only Mad Dog Rex being interviewed by Ed Karl in front of the cameras under those hot television lights. But sadly, like many of the relationships in my life, the picture has been misplaced.
I got a phone message tonight telling me of Rex’s passing. I smiled. But I always smile when I hear his name. As the message sank in, the smile quickly faded and I realized that we had lost another of the very few really great guys from the wrestling business. And one of the few that I truly considered a real brother.
Greg Oliver called me a while back giving me some bad news that Rex was sick. He said he could probably use some cheering up. I called him immediately and he told me of the cancer. I was driving my car and pulled over to the side of the road. He sounded weak and said he was having trouble kicking out. After a few minutes we were back to our old conversations, which were basically us both laughing our asses off on the phone. We talked about us living together on both coasts and the fun we had being indestructible.
One thing that really bothered me that day was he kept saying, “Denton, thanks for making me laugh.” When I hung up I almost cried. In our entire time together Rex never had to thank me for that. It was something that we shared together. Boy, did we laugh….
It is 1987 and we are sitting in a dressing room in Nova Scotia. With a gleam in my eye, I ask him if he wants to go see how big the crowd is. He says sure, and off we go.
Rex is working as Mr. X under a hood. He walks down the aisle first. There are a number of fans hanging over the walls looking down at us and just when we get to then right spot, I do the craziest thing and pants him. I don’t know why, but I grabbed his trunks and pulled them down. The people screamed and so did Rex. The problem was that his trunks got caught on his knee pads and wouldn’t come up. Plus he was wearing his mask so he couldn’t see. Anybody who knows Rex, knows he didn’t go anywhere without a coffee in his hand.
So Rex spills his coffee and is now running back to the dressing room holding his trunks which are below his knee pads while the people were chanting, “Mr. X, gets no sex!”
You would think he would be pissed but such was not the case. We both laughed so hard we were crying. And that is what I believe Neil Carr’s greatest asset was his ability to find humour in anything, including himself.
The 1980s were perhaps the craziest of crazy time to be in the wrestling business and around the boys. There were a lot of very dangerous people climbing into rings at night and touring the country. This was the era of the so-called “cliques.” In western Canada you had the boys out of Calgary and the guys out of Vancouver. Rex possessed the ability to not only fit in, but become part of our Vancouver crew. As a matter of fact, we even called promoter Al Tomko and insist on bringing him back with us.
Not only did we bring him back, we insisted that he stayed at the infamous Stan Miller place. Stan was an older guy who had been around the territory for years and would let a select few guys live at his place. Stan not only welcomed Rex on our word, but came to admire him as an equal to us which was a huge compliment.
Rex fit in well on the west coast. Tomko liked him and put him on the road right away. Al didn’t always take kindly to people as many of the boys will tell you, but there was something about Rex he liked. We were happy and once again, Rex became family, like we all knew he would.
Of course, with all being family and everything, the shenanigans continued…
We are sitting in a brand new building somewhere in British Columbia. We are early and hanging out in the dressing room. No rookies on the tour to torment but Rex is known for his weak stomach. For no reason at all, Tomko comes in the dressing room and basically threatens us not to screw up the building for him as he want to run it on a regular basis. No problem we tell him, we are mature adults. There is only myself, Rex and King Kong Jr. Bundy in the room.
Tomko walks out the door and Bundy immediately orders hot dogs for himself and me. The dogs arrive but are only half cooked as it is early. No problem. We eat them down half-way, spit them up and then rub them on our bodies. It works as Rex run to the shower and pukes. He comes back white as a sheet and tells us that he has lost 25 pounds in B.C. so far because of nights like this. We apologize and just then Tomko comes back in. He starts ranting and raving as only Al can. Finally he stops for a minute and it is all quiet in the room. “Hey Al,” I start, “Rex was sick in the shower.” Al flips out. He goes to confirm it and you can hear him yelling in the shower stalls. He storms out. It is quiet in the room. “Way to go Rex,” I say. Quiet for another minute then the three of us laugh.
Okay, next level. I look out into the hall and notice that there is a mic on the stand in the middle of the ring. A smile comes across my face.
“Hey Rex,” I yell. “Forget about all that puking, I’ve got a great idea. There is a mic on a stand in the ring. Let’s go sing the anthem nude before the doors open.”
Rex shrugs his shoulders as only he would. “Ah, what the fuck, but don’t think you are going to try any bullshit.”
I told him that was fine but this would be fun. Alas, like Lucy pulling that damn football away in the old Charlie Brown comic strip, it was all too obvious what was about to happen.
The two of us walked to the door nude, wearing only our shower shoes. Rex went through first and when he did, out of natural instinct I pushed it shut and turned the lock. With the sound of the lock turning, Rex let out one of his famous “Ah fuck’s.” Just then we both started laughing on either side of the door. Suddenly the promoter opened the front door and all the rush seats ran in to grab their chairs. The sight of a nude Rex was too much. The started screaming, “Look, it’s Mad Dog Rex and he’s naked!”
Rex continued to bang on the door. Finally he covered his private parts and ran across the floor to the babyface’s room. They gave him a towel and he ran back to our room. Of course I had unlocked the door at this point. He barreled in and we were laughing our asses off. Most guys would want to kill you at this point but he would laugh and laugh. Just then Tomko blasted in. “Rex, are you some kind of pervert or something? First you puke in the shower and then you are running around nude in front of the fans? What the hell is wrong with you?”
“I tried to tell him,” I told Al. He then turned to me, “Denton, don’t you get started, you are more demented than he is.”
Al left and we all broke into laughter again.
I learned a lot of things from Rex. He taught me the simplest of ways when it came to saving money on the road. He used to take all his change out of his pockets and put in a sock. So at the end of the week he would always have a sock full of change. Believe it or not, he saved a lot of money doing this.
The night I called him and he told me of his plight, he had sort of accepted it. I tried to tell him some inspirational stories of people I know who had fought cancer and won. He told me that this is a tough one. I felt really sad on the phone with him that night and that was a first for me.
So we just started reliving old times. We went over the stories that I spoke of above. And Rex laughed and laughed. And I smiled a very sad smile.
“Denton, thanks for calling me and cheering me up. It is so good laugh. We had some great times didn’t we?”
“Yeah,” I told him. “Rex, who ever thought it was going to end?”
“Yeah, fuck,” he said, giving me his famous quote again. Then he laughed. One more more time, he laughed.
I smiled my sad smile again. I hung up and drove home.
- Dan Denton archive of columns
- Dec. 19, 2010: Mat Matters: Rest in peace, Mad Dog Rex
- May 1, 2007: Neil Carr: The pride of Brantford