Saturday, April 26, 2008

A Piece of my Mind April 26th 2008 by "The Big Cheese" Sal Corrente

I broke into the business in the nineteen eighties. I had the chance to work with a lot of stars and be exposed to a lot of other guys that I still work with today. When I first started out helping in the WWF I would get the coffee and soda’s for the guys. It was coke, or coffee those were the choices. I think back to guys like Big John Studd that are gone now and Jesse Ventura who sat there so quietly. Now when I see Jesse on TV I laugh when I think back because he is just the opposite.

I would have never dreamed that Jesse would have achieved the success that he has. In the same token I find myself thinking that if he was running for President I would vote for him. I think he is just what the country is looking for someone who is ready to stand up and fight. I can’t tell you much about how Jesse was in those days because he never said much. He really only spoke to one guy he is a wrestling photographer named Bob Mulrenin. I don’t know if they are still in touch but it wouldn’t surprise me if they were.

The other thing that stands out in my mind was that Jesse wanted sixty thousand dollars to make an hour speech at WrestleReunion in Tampa. It was clear to me at that time Jesse was at a point of no return and that he was no longer "one of the boys". It wasn’t feasible to even consider that offer, but if I had, Jesse would have been a wrench sitting in a bowl of fruit. The price alone tells me that he wouldn’t have fit in.

I can remember sitting in Madison Square Garden the night that Howard Finkel announced that Jesse was in the hospital. If I remember correctly, he was scheduled to wrestle Hulk Hogan that night. It seemed to be a serious issue. In retrospect, that almost seemed like "the end" for Jesse but in reality it was really "the beginning".

The first time that I met Michael Hayes I was very excited about it. I thought The Freebirds were big time. I had been watching them wreak havoc on TBS for quite a while. I was at Afa’s house and the then WWF was running at the New Haven Memorial Coliseum. The Samoans were not booked that night but Afa was supposed to pick up “The Birds”. He asked me if I wanted to go and get them I said "sure I did".
It was a short ride to the airport in New Haven. When the plane landed I saw Buddy Roberts, Michael Hayes and a huge mountain of a man named Harley Davidson. As a side note to other stories Harley Davidson and I got along great and we became good friends when he took on his more famous persona of Hillbilly Jim. I can tell you that the small plane started to leave when Michael figured out his bag didn’t come off the plane. He tried to chase it down the runway swearing he had seen it put on the plane. The airline staff told him that yes it was but it had been taken off at the other location for weight and balance issues.

So here are the Freebird’s minus Terry “Bam Bam” Gordy whose non-appearance was disappointing to me. I believe in never checking your wrestling gear. There are too many potential issues that could go wrong. So when we got to the arena and told Strongbow ( the agent that night) what happened he put “The Birds” on last in a match against The Moondogs. I went back to the airport and met the last flight and got their luggage and made it back to the arena in time for them to change and have their match . I know Michael had no intention of not getting paid and was more than willing to go in the ring bad street style. I have always wondered what the very opinionated Jay Strongbow would have done about that. The WWF was not a territory to wing those kinds of things.

As far as I know that was the one and only appearance of Harley Davidson in the WWF. When the night was over we all went to Afa’s house for a late dinner and some laughing and joking. I bet Michael isn’t laughing as much today as he did that night.

The picture for this article is of Michael from the dinner that night at Afa’s house on Shepard Avenue in Hamden, Ct. He used to have a ring in the backyard where we would train. That is where Rikishi got his start and Virgil also. Those were really the days.

This has been a piece of my mind