It’s April Fool’s Day, so our thoughts naturally turn to the goofiness of time on the road and the ribs that get pulled. Some are hilarious, some are devious, and some are pretty evil, if we’re being honest. This year, we tell the story of a detailed rib pulled on Rey Urbano, who was best known as The Great Kabooki, from former Detroit-based manager “Supermouth” Dave Drason. Enjoy!
One wrestler who experienced mild success throughout his career, using numerous character persona along the way, was Rey Urbano. Be it as Rey Urbano, Tokyo Tom, or as The Great Kabooki, probably his most famous ring distinction, he entertained fans over the years and became a friend to all he came in contact with. With a low-key, shy personality, along with a wry sense of humor, he became a ripe target for a number of unsuspecting pranks — yet he was one of the most beloved members of the wrestling fraternity.
Rey had one character flaw that anyone who ever traveled with him knew like a book. Without fail, as fast as that ignition key was turned, like clockwork, Rey would fall asleep. It has always been an unwritten rule in the business that, when traveling from town to town, it was common courtesy among the boys to engage in conversation or play any number of verbal word games in able to keep the driver alert and awake.
Bull Curry was a master at this practice. He loved to play games where you would have to ask a million questions to guess a person, place, or thing he was thinking of. And who wouldn’t want to give their full undivided attention to him when he was telling one of his classic stories from his long illustrious career? He was a joy to ride with.
Though it was fun to be in his company, Rey must have been pretty darn sleep-deprived to conk out so rapidly. It never really bothered any of us boys but at one point we figured, boys have to be boys. A rib was right for the making. It took us a few weeks to concoct just the right ingredients for this rib, careful planning had to be put in place as we waited for when the time was just ripe to be able to pull the trigger, so to speak, on our devious plan. From concept to execution, our notion was to cure our friend of this nasty habit. It certainly worked for years to come.
For this story, we need to flashback to June 1, 1973. We began our journey in Toledo, Ohio where myself, Tony Marino, Fred Curry, and Kabooki met up to drive to a show in Hamilton, Ohio, a two-and-a-half hour ride. Rey suggested that we take his 1972 Dark Green Cadillac but asked if someone else would drive. It was agreed that Tony would handle the duty on the way down, Fred on the way home. We stowed our gear in the trunk and off we went. Moments later, Rey was out like a light, softly snoring and enjoying the ride from the backseat of his own automobile. The three of us kept ourselves amused and entertained with jokes, rude stories, and a heated debate over one of Fred’s favorite topics, college football.
This was a sensitive subject with Fred, since he played college football at his alma mater, Ohio State in Columbus, where we were headed. I am a huge Michigan fan, so you can only imagine the egg shells I had to walk on when discussing this heated rivalry. It was always fun to have Tony pipe in about his hometown Pittsburgh Panthers, not quite the powerhouse of a team that Fred and I were bragging about. I got Fred so worked up that he started to rant and rave. I just wish I had a tape recorder to play it back for all to hear, it was uproariously funny.
The lively discussion made the time fly right by as we neared our destination. We had to stop a few blocks from the arena as to let myself and Kabooki out of the car with our bags, for the fact that we were heels riding with a couple of babyface workers, which was something at the time that you never let the fans see. You prayed the last few block journey came without incident as fans back then would harass the villains without ever thinking of the potential consequences.
Once in the dressing room, we informed a few others of our impending prank that today would be Phase One. Our plot was not one that everyone would be able to sit back and laugh at this evening, it was not a short and sweet quick one liner. We would wait for Rey to take the bait. When we caught our fish, he was not to be fried immediately. He was going to dangle and die a slow death. We hoped anyway.
After the final bell rang, sending the fans home happy and fulfilled from another successful wrestling card, we showered and were ready to grab a few cold beverages and a bite to eat before we headed back home. We found a place a little ways out of town, and Fred and Tony sat at one table, and Kabooki and I sat at another as to not draw any attention in case any fans were among us. With our stomachs full and thirsts quenched, we nestled back into the Caddy, Tony and Fred in the front seat, Rey and myself in the back and off we went.
It didn’t take long for you know who to go you know where. Like a baby in a crib with a pacifier in his mouth, Rey was off into the land of nod. The highway between Hamilton and Toledo for the most part was a dark four-lane road stretching for miles before hitting the interstate. With Rey fast asleep, it was time to put phase one into action.
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 exact 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 asked in, “Didn’t you see him?”
“See who, see what?” Rey nervously asked.
Tony responded, “Goddamn, Fred hit some guy on the side of the road!”
The tension and anxiety inside the car was quite uncomfortable. Even though Tony, Fred and I were merely selling the staged event, we almost had ourselves believing that it had actually occurred. As we sat there pondering the situation, we all wondered out loud what are we going to do. Tony asked what if he hurt.
“Hurt?” I said. “What do we do if he’s dead?” At this point 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 driver’s window and asked Tony to open the glove compartment to hit the switch to pop the trunk open.
“What are you doing?” asked Rey.
“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 goes to the rear of the car, ruffles through his bag and produces an actual weapon. He comes back to the window, leans in, as to show us all that he did have a gun with him. 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.
For the next hour or so, all that was discussed between us was that we were never to breathe a word of what just happened to anyone. Vows were taken, tracks were covered, every possible piece of evidence that could tie us to this horrific crime disposed of and forgotten. Our greatest accomplishment, besides for the fact we never broke character by laughing or revealing any clues that would have spoiled any part of the rib, was that Rey was fully attentive and awake the remaining time it took to get back to Toledo.
Upon our arrival, we again swore to each other that this was never to be discussed, talked about, or mentioned between us, any of the boys in the dressing room, wives, family or pets. Agreed, we went into our separate vehicles to go back to our own homes. Phase One complete!
Over the period of the next few weeks, we all played it very low key. Whenever we were among ourselves, as a unit or as individuals, there was nervous tension in the air. But we stayed the course. Never a word was spoken about the incident. Even though we informed some of the boys that the first part of the rib had taken place and went off without a hitch, no one ever let on to Kabooki that they had any idea as to what was going on.
After the first few days, it almost became a non-issue. We executed Phase One perfectly, each of us feeling a sense of self-pride with our acting ability, all the while laughing aloud inside from Rey’s reaction to the whole ordeal. We could only imagine what he was thinking because we agreed to never discuss the situation. As quiet and shy as he was, it had to be weighing heavily on his mind. It was a lie we were living but we were amusing ourselves until the time was right to execute Phase Two. But we did hit one goal — whenever Rey rode with us, he no longer fell asleep.
Two weeks later, June 14, 1973, and it was time to play out the final act of our rib. For the past few days, Tony, Fred and I were laying out the groundwork for Phase Two. We initiated the help of Iron Mike Loren, also known as Porky Pig, one of The Sheik‘s right hand men, to help with the most intricate piece of the puzzle. We decided to execute Phase Two of our plan at the Toledo Sports Arena where we knew most of the boys would be working that evening, and where Mike Loren was able to employ the help of one of his close friends.
With everyone gathered in the dressing room prior to the start of the show, we all found a sliver a space in the cramped room to don our ring attire. Kabooki was usually one of the first to arrive since he needed an extra hour or so to get ready because of the face paint he required to get into character. Once his painted mask was in place, it was Mike Loren’s cue to leave the room. A few moments later, he arrived back in the room with a uniformed Ohio State Police officer in tow.
This scene seemed a little odd to everyone because the police who provided security for us usually stood outside the dressing room, respecting the space as our private domain. Then the officer spoke up.
“Is there a Rey Urbano in this room?” Kabooki nervously answered, “Eah, that’s me.”
The officer approached Rey, who remained seated, hovered above him. “Sir, a few weeks ago a corpse was found on the side of the road near Hamilton, Ohio, shot two 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, Kabooki started singing like a canary. “It was Fred Curry, he did it! I was sleeping and had nothing to do with it!” As Rey kept rambling on, throwing blame in every direction, the officer placed his hand under Rey’s arm, lifting him to his feet, and asked him to turn around, reaching for his handcuffs and slapping them around Rey’s wrists in the process. Dazed and confused, Rey kept on ratting out Fred Curry as the trooper began reading him his rights. No one else in the room dared make a sound, all remaining silent with looks of horror on their faces.
Half-dressed, in full make-up, Kabooki was being led towards the dressing room door 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 all at the same moment, we all lost it. We broke down in such a loud bellyaching laughter, it could have been heard clear across the Maumee River.
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.