Bill's Pro Wrestling Bio
Bill's Pro Wrestling Bio

Following the example of Mike B. of Off The Top Rope, I thought that maybe it's time I provide my pro wrestling bio. Here you won't find much about me as a person, but you will find out a lot about me as a pro wrestling fan. You all know me as "that Arn Anderson nut with the wrestling web page", so, for those of you who are interested, I thought I'd share how I got to this point. And, if you don't care how I got here, you can always go back to DDT Digest.

As a kid, believe it or not, I was not a pro wrestling fan. I was, however, a kid who spent a lot of time alone and probably did way too much thinking for a kid. Wrestling was definitely on TV in Poughkeepsie, NY in the 1970s, but I never really watched it. This may sound weird, but whenever I saw pro wrestling go by as I was changing channels, I thought back to Woody Allen's movie, Sleeper. For those of you who've never seen it, it's a classic comedy about a guy who lapses into a coma in 1972 and is woken up 200 years later. In a great scene, they are showing him artifacts from his time that they don't understand, hoping he'll explain what they are (i.e. someone from 2000 years ago explaining Stonehenge to us). They show him a clip of Howard Cosell doing a report, and the scientists from 2172 say "We are of the opinion that prisoners were forced to watch this as a form of extreme punishment". Woody pauses and says, "Yes, that's correct". Priceless. Anyway, in my brief glimpses of pro wrestling, I'd always thought that two hundred years from now, people would see tapes of it and laugh at us for having watched it. It was obviously fake and every tag team match I watched always seemed to have all four guys duking it out at the end.

All this would change. It was the Summer of 1985, my second summer home from college. Wrestlemania had just occured and it wasn't even really a blip on my personal radar because I was not a fan. There was a little bit of mainstream coverage, with Mr. T. being involved and all, but I didn't notice. At some point during the summer, a friend of mine from high school, Kevin Coghlan, invited me along to go see professional wrestling at the Mid-Hudson Civic Center in Poughkeepsie, NY. He and especially his younger brother, Greg, were big fans. I figured I'd go as a goof, what could it hurt.

I could not believe the spectacle that unfolded before me. I didn't even know who any of the wrestlers were at the time, yet what I saw was so unbelievable. I guess a little background should be given here on the Mid-Hudson Civic Center and the WWF. In the eighties, the Mid-Hudson Civic Center was a hub for the WWF. Poughkeepsie is less than a 90 minute drive from the home of the WWF, Stamford, CT. As a result, Poughkeepsie was the home of all of the TV tapings for one of their weekly shows at the time. The WWF would roll into town every three weeks, sell tickets really cheap ($6.00) to get a full house, and film three weeks worth of shows in one night.

Given all that, the action was fast and furious. Rather than see drawn out 30 minute matches that were the norm at house shows at the time, all of the matches were five minute squashes. The name wrestler in each match would be exercising their personality fully for the TV cameras. Even a couple Piper's Pit sequences were filmed. The main event at the end, which was probably a dark match, was a $10,000 Battle Royale, where B. Brain Blair ousted "Iron" Mike Sharpe at the end to take home the cash prize.

Once I knew more professional wrestling, the shows were even more enjoyable. I could appreciate seeing someone taken out on a stretcher and realize that it was the same guy who came out an hour later (aka "next week") all showered up with different tights. At the third show I went to at the Civic Center, every single guy on the WWF roster with the exception of Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant were there. Plus, although I didn't witness most of them live, many of the WWF's greatest moments in the mid-1980s happened at the Mid-Hudson Civic Center. Paul Orndorff turned on Hulk Hogan, Rotundo and Windham won the tag titles for the second time, and the video Land of 1,000 Dances was filmed. I've never been able to confirm it, but the infamous coconut incident with Snuka and Piper may have happened there as well.

The audience was great. At this time, there was still a percentage of people that didn't realize that it was "sports entertainment", so it was a great mix. People were screaming their heads off as they were egged on by the heels. And, certainly at this time in the WWF, everyone cheered the faces and everyone booed the heels. There were absolutely no 'tweeners in the WWF at the time, not even the jobbers were 'tweeners, and it was not yet chic to cheer the heels.

Of course, I realized even then that pro wrestling is, well, pro wrestling. However, in that one night I came to understand why people still loved it. Going to see a live event was like attending a screening of the Rocky Horror Picture show. The fact that you know what is going to happen is what makes it fun (more on this later). And, to top it all off, we ran into Vince McMahon and Gene Okerlund at a diner in Poughkeepsie later that night. At the time, I had no idea who these guys really were. I do remember that Okerlund was a complete jerk to us. And, in contrast, Vince, who was seemingly travelling with a bodyguard, couldn't have been nicer. The bodyguard initially seemed to want to push Vince past us, but Vince took the time to stop and autograph our ticket stubs. He said he had left early and he wondered who had won the Battle Royale (as if he didn't know). He asked us if we'd had a good time and he seemed genuinely happy that we did.

I was hooked. Of course, like many marks of the mid-1980s, I did not know there was a world outside the WWF. I thought the WWF was all of pro wrestling. This changed when I bought my first copy of Pro Wrestling Illustrated. Of course, PWI covered WWF, but they also spent time covering the NWA and the AWA. Both of these federations were on TV in my area, more AWA than NWA, but I began to watch them both. I remember seeing Rick Martel lose his AWA World Title, submitting to Stan Hansen's Brazos Valley Backbreaker (Boston Crab). I even remember Hansen pushing his head against the turnbuckle to get additional leverage on the move. I also remember seeing Scott Hall and Curt Hennig lose their AWA World Titles while sitting in a bar in Downtown Troy, where I went to school (R.P.I.). Still, I was a WWF mark, and the WWF would regularly make appearances at the R.P.I. Fieldhouse. I never missed a show and I even went alone sometimes as my roommates were not quite as rabid as I was. I even went to see the Wrestlemania II simulcast in the R.P.I. Fieldhouse, paying something like $25 for a seat. Eventually, my roommates did come around and began joining me. It was at the R.P.I. Fieldhouse that I saw the late Andre the Giant my first and only time, defeating King Kong Bundy via DQ when the late Big John Studd interfered. And it was outdoors at the Albany Coliseum that I saw Hulk Hogan for the first time, pinning the late Adrian Adonis.

It was an exciting time to be a wrestling fan. WWF was putting on Saturday Night's Main Event. We watched the late Uncle Elmer get married, including his bride getting hit in the face by a big wad of trash thrown by a fan during the ceremony, to which Vince said "Oh, my goodness!" Interestingly enough, on the local UHF station, they began broadcasting the UWF at some really odd hour, and I began watching it. It was a much more hardcore style than the WWF, and boasted such stars as Steve "Dr. Death" Williams, Ted DiBiase, and "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan. Also, the Blade Runners, Rock and Sting (Ultimate Warrior and Sting), debuted as heel jobbers. Who could have ever guessed what they'd eventually become? My pro wrestling world began to open up.

Still, however, since we didn't have cable in the dorm, I didn't really get to see too much mainstream NWA stuff. However, after a couple years of reading about this World Champion Ric Flair but never seeing him, I finally got my chance. On a UWF broadcast, they showed a match lasting all of about a minute with Ric Flair wiping up the mat with some jobber. The end came quickly, with the figure-four. Just as Ric was about to lock it on, he paused and yelled out, "Now, it's time to go to school! Whoooo!!" The obvious ring presence shown in just that one minute showed me that everything I'd read was true, this guy was the real World's Champion.

After graduation, I moved to Northern Virginia to work for AMS. The local cable system, Media General, has about 80 channels, so I was now able to get a steady diet of both NWA and WWF. The AWA, by this time, was pretty much history. It was at this time, I began to truly understand what it was to be one of the Four Horsemen.

The local cable system supported pay-per-view events, so even though I was a recent college graduate and totally green in a professional firm, I stuck my neck out and invited people over to watch pay-per-view wrestling events. They were a blast. I had some twenty people over for Wrestlemania IV, the Royal Rumble, and Wrestlemania V. We attended the occasional WWF house show at the Capital Centre, which has since been renamed the U.S. Air Arena. There I saw Ultimate Warrior, Rick Rude, Bret Hart, Curt Hennig, and even Akeem the African Dream.

For me, the big WCW turnaround came in 1990 when I went to my first WCW live event. The WCW Capital Combat pay-per-view was held May 19th at the D.C. Armory. It was like nothing I'd seen before. Unlike a regular house show that is not being filmed, there was an incredible level of excitement, because there was a very good chance that belts would change hands. We got to see the Road Warriors come to the ring on Harleys and I got to see "Mean" Mark Callous (who would later become the Undertaker) pin Johnny Ace following a heart punch. We saw the Midnight Express win the now-defunct U.S. Tag Team belts from Tom Zenk and Brian Pillman and we saw Doom (Butch Reed and Ron Simmons (Farooq)) win the World Tag Team Belts from the Steiner Brothers. This was also the only time I ever saw Arn Anderson in person, as he made an appearance but didn't wrestle.

I lucked into incredible seats. They were on the floor, some 20 rows back, but the seats happened to be right on the aisle where the wrestlers came in and left. What I remember most was the main event, World Champion "Nature Boy" Ric Flair, escorted by Woman, defending his title against U.S. Champion "The Total Package" Lex Luger in steel cage. This was right after the Horsemen had turned against Sting and Luger had turned face again. The steel cage match was to make sure Ric Flair got his come-uppance, and the Horsemen would have no way to interfere. Of course, the WCW Executive Committee neglected to take Horsemen guile into account. The Horsemen attacked the person controlling the raising and lowering of the cage late in the match when Flair got into trouble, and they raised the cage did a run-in and got Flair disqualified.

The highlight was yet to come. Ric Flair came back down the aisle, busted wide open with crimson flowing. He stopped right where I was, less than three feet away from me. He started ranting and raving into a microphone, which brought out Sting. Sting and Flair started duking it out right in front of me. If I had just stuck an arm out, I could have tagged either one of them. It was incredible. I was "Four Horsemen For Life" at that point, marking out completely, screaming "C'mon, Flair, kick his ass!" at the top of my lungs. And if that wasn't enough, there was one surprise yet to come. I hadn't been following WCW that closely at the time, so I hadn't heard about El Gigante. So Flair and Sting are duking it out at arm's length from me, blood and sweat flying, I'm screaming my head off, and all of a sudden I look up and this 7' 5" guy is a couple of feet away from me. As Joey Styles would say, "Oh, my God!"

So, such was my transition from WWF fan to WCW fan after having seen some 15 to 20 live WWF house shows, although I did and still do watch WWF on occasion. I was hardcore WCW for another year or so, and eventually got burned out. The last straw was when I ordered a pay-per-view of a WCW event from Japan, it sucked, and I just kind of fell out of the loop. So from around 1992 to 1995, at any given moment, I could tell you who the major champions were in each federation, but I wasn't really paying close attention, following storylines, or ordering pay-per-views. I happened to attend one WWF house show in Poughkeepsie, NY in 1994 or so. I was so out of touch with the storylines that all I remember about the event was how hot by buddy's fiancee got when she saw the Smokin' Gunns.

That all changed with Nitro. In late 1995 and early 1996, Nitro caught my attention. The first time I watched it and realized it was live, I was blown away. I saw Arn Anderson beat Hulk Hogan two Mondays in a row (once via pinfall and once via disqualification), and I was hooked. Live wrestling, good quality matches, what's not to like? I began to follow rabidly, back in the loop of ordering pay-per-views every month to make sure I didn't miss anything.

As for DDT Digest, that's another story entirely. I had had Web access at work since early 1995. I became a Webhead way back when the Web was a simpler place, and certainly not a denizen of commerce. It's so funny to think about how just two years ago when the Web was in its infancy, how many Web sites had the motto "Corporate Web Sites Kill The Web Dead". At the time, the "purists" were still trying to keep the Web a commercial-free place, the infrastructure being supported by tax dollars. Well, you know where that idea went. And isn't it interesting how many of those "purists" now have advertising on their sites...

So fast forward to the middle of 1996. Every site with cool stuff on it was riddled with advertisements, tried to sell you something, or wanted you to pay for access. At the same time, with me being a technical consultant, getting some hands-on experience with the Web couldn't hurt. So I set up a presonal web page and had a section with Nitro reports and told a few friends about them. I listed with a few services (Yahoo, Altavista, etc.) and, all of a sudden, within two months of being on-line, I was up to 3000 readers a week.

Since then, I've gradually grown to 30,000 readers (that's hits on the main page) a week and still slowly climbing. Obviously, by doing the reports every week, I'm very much following what's going on in WCW. In September of 1997, I attended my first live event in approximately three years and at the end of October, I attended Halloween Havoc and got to meet Arn Anderson. I then got a chance to see Starrcade '97 live and and the Baltimore Nitro the next night, seeing all four singles titles change hands in 26 hours. I also attended Thursday Thunder on March 26th, 1998, in Fairfax, VA. Pay-per-views and Nitro have really taken the emphasis off of live events as the major focus of WCW. In fact, one of the big differences in the economics between the WWF and WCW is the WWF's reliance on house shows for revenue whereas WCW uses house shows mostly for Nitros, pay-per-views, and Saturday Night tapings. The non-televised WCW house show is a rare event, indeed. One need only to check the Ticketmaster events under the category of wrestling to see what I'm talking about.

That, to me, is probably the biggest downside of being a WCW fan right now. Granted, from Ted Turner's point of view, the economics are hard to argue with. It's hard to justify paying Ric Flair, Kevin Nash, and Lex Luger to appear in an arena in front of 5,000 people when, for the same amount of work on their part, they can appear in front of millions on live TV and draw down millions of dollars in advertising revenue. Heck, if I were a professional wrestler, I'd rather work a Nitro than a house show.

Maybe, rather than bitching, I should be grateful that I am getting a live wrestling feed every week. However, I do feel something is truly lost when one doesn't have the opportunity to attend live wrestling events. Every sociologist waxes on and on about the death of "neighborhoods" and "communities". People don't share emotional experiences anymore. Movies are slowly but surely being replaced by people sitting home, "cocooning", and watching the VCR. The only thing left where you are in the company of stangers all experiencing the same emotions is sporting events. And, although, by most anyone's measure, pro wrestling is not a "sport", it captures the best of sport and live theater.

Everyone chuckles when they see Atlanta Braves fans doing the tomahawk chop or Packers fans wearing cheeseheads. Little do the people who don't follow pro wrestling know, pro wrestling fans captured that spirit years ago. Whether it's counting to ten as someone's head gets repeatedly rammed into the turnbuckle, screaming "Whoo!!" when Flair comes out, or even just giving the Diamond Cutter symbol, pro wrestling is a participatory event. To me, going to see pro wrestling is like going to see the Rocky Horror Picture Show. You just know that if Ric Flair is wrestling as a heel, he's going to climb to the top rope and come down the hard way. You just know that if Roddy Piper is wrestling, his opponent is going to get a two-finger eye poke. And, you just know that if Buff Bagwell is wrestling, he is going to pose in the middle of the match. In some sense, knowing exactly what to expect and knowing what you, a member of the audience, are supposed to do as a result is what makes pro wrestling, and the Rocky Horror Picture Show, fun.

But, in early 1998, things seem to have done a 180-degree turnaround. Due to the enormous popularity of wrestling, and the bulging WCW talent roster, WCW is holding shows pretty much six days a week in early 1998. In fact, in May of 1998, there is a show every day except one. Of course, many of these are Nitro, Thunder, or a WCWSN taping, but some of them are old-fashioned house shows. So, folks, go see a non-televised house show while you have the chance. Someday soon, the pro wrestling house show in small arenas without TV cameras will go the way of the X-rated movie theater. Come to found out, plenty of people like X-rated movies, but no one wants to be seen going into or out of one. Hence, X-rated theaters go away and video sales boom. The same thing is happening to pro wrestling. Live wrestling on TV is making the popularity of wrestling go through the roof. As a result, the big stars get more and more money as the promotion makes more and more money. The bad side is that as the ante goes up it is no longer financially viable to put on a house show for 5,000 people. You've got to fill up an entire stadium to make it worth getting the talent together. The only problem is that, just like X-rated movies, everyone will watch wrestling at home but won't buy a ticket for fear of their friends finding out.

So, please, if you are a fan, buy a ticket. Bring your Slim Jims, bring your signs, you can even paint your face white or wear a La Parka mask. Give the four fingers up, or the four fingers down, depending on your opinion. But, above all, go and participate. Your participation lets the stars and promoters know that even though the show may not be turning much of a profit, they are making a long term investment by earning fans for a lifetime. Do it soon, as you may not have the chance in a couple of years.

And, for whatever it's worth, if you still have your voice the next day, you probably didn't participate enough.

So, what was meant to be my pro wrestling bio has turned into me getting on a soapbox about going to see pro wrestling live. Sorry. Nevertheless, I hope that this gives you an idea of my background and where I'm coming from as the author of this Web page. Now you know why I'm always pointing out the funny people in the crowd.

Update on 12/8/06: I received an e-mail from the President of the Board of Directors at the Mid-Hudson Civic Center, which is the place where I saw my first few live pro wrestling shows, and where I got hooked on it. He found me via this page. He wrote that the Civic Center was celebrating its 30th anniversary, and he wondered if I had any artifacts that they could use as part of the celebration. As a result, my ticket stub from my first wrestling show, the one signed by Vince McMahon and Gene Okerlund, will be part of the celebration. Maybe I'm overly sentimental, but I feel really good about that.
Oddly enough, they weren't interested in the Leaping Lanny Poffo frisbee with the poem on it that I caught at a show there. Go figure. ;-)

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