LAS VEGAS – Damn, if you are going to have a wrestling reunion in hotter-than-hell Las Vegas (108°F / 42°C during the day) you might as well have a main eventer who was a part of Doom.
Such was the case on Tuesday night, as Ron Simmons closed the Baloney Blowout at the 57th Cauliflower Alley Club reunion at the Plaza Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.
Before Simmons received the Lou Thesz/Art Abrams Award, his partner John Bradshaw Layfield—JBL in the Acolytes Protection Agency — got the opportunity to speak. “I could live a thousand lifetimes and never have a better friend than Ron Simmons,” he said. Simmons was the best man at the wedding of JBL, who said he delivered a great speech there: “I can’t even follow him at my wedding.”
JBL ran through Simmons’ football career as a nose tackle until arriving on his wrestling career, from his time in Doom with Butch Reed to his run as the first major African-American World champion. “We had more fun than anybody should be allowed,” JBL said of their time together, concluding with, “Our Jackie Robinson … Mr. Un-F–k-Withable, Mr. Ron Simmons.
There was an early “Damn!” from Simmons, who had followed a uncontrolled, profane speech by the Nasty Boys. Simmons was humble and appreciative of all that he has been able to do. “I’ve been an athlete my entire life,” said Simmons, with the importance of being a “good teammate” in football and how that translated to pro wrestling. “I’m extremely grateful to accept this award,” he said, listing many that helped him along the way. Among them his trainer, Hiro Matsuda; all the organizations and promotions; Cuban Assassin David Sierra, in attendance, who was his first match in Florida Championship Wrestling; Bob Cook who he beat up a ton, “You played a very integral part in Ron Simmons’ career”; JBL, “You can just feel the magic when you get in a tag team … I’ll never be able to repay you.”
Simmons noted that the award was from his peers, which makes it even more special, and it will be tough to ever get another award that “will top this one.”
There were three hosts for the evening: “Madusa” Debrah Miceli who co-hosted last year; the ageless “Mouth of the South” Jimmy Hart acting as part presenter, part shill, enjoying himself all the way; and MLW announcer (and many other places) Joe Dombrowski. “It didn’t take long for me to realize how special it was,” said Dombrowski, attending his first CAC reunion. He considered the evening “our love letter” to the characters in the “wonderful mosaic of madness that we call pro wrestling.”
The Nasty Boys, Brian Knobbs and Jerry Sags, received the Tag Team Award. Hart, who managed the Nastys, was given the job of bringing the boys from Nastyville to the stage. He noted that they met beforehand in Florida, got their outfits coordinated, and started a big tour five days later. “What a great time we had,” he recalled, saying that the Nastys were always called upon for unique matches, like Street Fights, in WWE. Knobbs, using a cane, was the first to use profanity, every word loud and proud in his unique gravely voice. “First of all, I can’t believe I’m still living,” said Knobbs, and his health has been “the shits” for the last five years. “This is one of the greatest, greatest honors,” Knobbs confessed. CAC’s Benevolent Fund had helped Knobbs in the past, for which he expressed his appreciation. Turning over the mic (eventually) to the “fat, toothless bastard” Sags, Knobbs confessed his love for everyone, and wanted to get off the stage for another gummy to help with the pain.
Sags could only say, “Good God, somebody help me … it’s all true … the Nasty Boys are f***ing alive!” Sags thanked Hart for getting them to the events, admitting they probably wouldn’t have gotten to shows without him. “We were the right time and the right place, and got to be around the greatest of the greats,” said Sags. “Thank God, timing is everything in this business.” Like with their promos, Knobbs had to get in a one of the final words: “This business really f***ed up my brain.”
To sum up the Nasty experience — they could have talked all night, Knobbs dominating, Sags adding that it was all true: “He’s not lying about that either.” “We’re not going to stop,” warned Knobbs. But they had to shortly thereafter, to make way for Simmons, an old foe in Doom. “I do not know how to shut him the hell up,” ended Sags. (JBL cracked, “There’s not enough drugs in the world to follow Brian Knobbs.”)
A Men’s Wrestling Award was presented to Joe Malenko (Jody Simon), the son of the legendary Boris Malenko and older brother of Dean Malenko. Cook, a Malenko trainee, talked about his friend of more than 40 years, but first put over his hero Terry Funk. “I’m way out of my comfort zone,” said Cook, who gained success as an underneath wrestler, losing more than winning. Cook encouraged people to check out the matches of the Malenkos and to support all of pro wrestling as an art form, telling since Cook is the social media manager for the CAC.
Malenko, part comedian, part honoree, admitted he was “ready to go to bed right now” and wondered whether he had ever been in a room with so many Canadians, at least not ones in their old age driving slow in the fast lane. Malenko understands that he has always been overshadowed by Dean. “I’m his older brother too, it shouldn’t be that way,” he deadpanned. “I’ve been doing this since I was a kid,” he summed up, going back to working as a kid for Eddie Graham in Florida. Malenko, a pharmacist by trade — “which the guys loved,” he joked — mentioned he made his name in Japan. The last shot was for his brother: “Screw you, Dean Malenko!”
An Independent Wrestling Award was presented for the first time, and it went to Riea Von Slasher, a veteran from British Columbia. She was introduced by Vance Nevada (Vern May), who is on the CAC board, produces The Ear newsletter, and is a long-time independent wrestler . He asked anyone who had ever worked on the indies to stand up, which was just about everyone in the room.
“What a challenging environment to learn your craft,” summed up Nevada on indy life. “Through her true grit that she has become a Canadian legend,” hyped Nevada. Von Slasher (Riea Jagodnik), without some of her intimidating ring gear, was emotional, appreciative for her “wrestling father” Nevada. “Who the hell am I and why am I here?” she asked. “I’ll take this moment and be very grateful for it.”
The Courage Award, the only one not announced prior to the reunion, was given to Patricia Sutherland, aka Sunny the California Girl from GLOW. CAC VP/treasurer Rich Ingling was the one who introduced Sutherland. She has been facing colon cancer since 2021, and recently has battled cervical cancer. Sutherland began noting that last year’s Courage Award recipient, Joyce Grable, is currently hospitalized, fighting for her life.
“Smile” because “that’s how I got my character,” she noted, adding that she was the original Sunny. “I’m still here, I’m out here, and I’m going to give that message to everybody,” she said. Sutherland was funny and honest, from having “half an ass” after surgery, to wearing adult diapers for eight weeks. Her health? It “Depends.” She ended with, “Don’t be too proud, get checked” for cancer.
Celebrated posthumously was Killer Karl Kox (Herb Gerwig), who died in 2011. One of his two sons, Cody Kox, accepted on his behalf. A Texas ring announcer and commentator, Cody figured that if his father had been here, he would have been “speechless, for once in his life.” For those note familiar with the villainous KKK, one of his legacies is the brainbuster move. Cody lit up telling stories about his father’s favorite ribs, including selling an atomic drop with a chocolate bar in his trunks, then reaching in, covering his hand in chocolate and roll out of the ring to scatter the crowd.
He also loved to tease Dallas Cowboys fans, pretending he didn’t know who “America’s Team” was. Kody ended with a story about the late, great Terry Funk, who was one of KKK’s favorite people and greatest friends. KKK once went duck hunting on the Funk property when the Funks were away, killed a handful of ducks and left them on the Funks’ doorstop, but denied he’d done it until revealing the truth to Terry at the 2010 CAC reunion — that’s selling a rib. The award was followed by a video tribute to some of the names who had died since the 2022 reunion, to the tune of “My Way” sung by Pat Patterson.
The first award of the evening was REEL Award, presented to “Mr. Outrageous” Al Burke, who springboarded from his wrestling career to a multiple screen roles, television, movies, music videos and more. Burke was introduced by his friends/posse of more than 30 years Sabrina Ruggiero (who wrestled as Sabrina Fury) and Denise Nelson (who was Nyah Kennedy and Satin Doll) who listed a number of his accomplishments, from being on a Cardi B album cover to standing up for Billy Idol in an Adam Sandler movie. “We love you, Al, come on up here,” they said in unison. Burke’s speech was pretty short. He said thank you to former CAC vice president Karl Lauer, who helped him get his first break in the acting world. “I’m just a working guy,” summed up Burke.
TOP PHOTO: JBL, CM Punk and Ron Simmons at the Cauliflower Alley Club Baloney Blowout on Tuesday, August 29, 2023, at the Plaza Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. Photo by Brad McFarlin
2023 CAULIFLOWER ALLEY CLUB HONOREES
- Iron Mike Mazurki Award: CM Punk
- Lou Thesz/Art Abrams Award: Ron Simmons
- Women’s Wrestling Award: Mickie James
- Tag Team Award: Brian Knobbs, Jerry Sags “The Nasty Boys”
- Men’s Wrestling Award: Koko B. Ware
- Lucha Libre Award: Damian 666
- Men’s Wrestling Award: Joe Malenko
- Posthumous Award: Killer Karl Kox
- Independent Wrestling Award: Riea Von Slasher
- Charlie Smith Referee Award: Kevin Jefferies
- REEL Award: Al Burke
- James C. Melby Historian Award: Koji Miyamoto