Friday, January 01, 2010

A Piece of my Mind-Jan 1st, 2010 by "The Big Cheese" Sal Corrente

I recently posted a blog that was inspired by the passing of one of the first guys that I managed Cary “Colt Steel” Jackson. He passed away not long ago and very unexpectedly. I am sure that shock and grief are still a part of his wife Sharon and son Cary’s day to day life. It was to be my last blog of two thousand and nine. I truly don’t write many blogs anymore or I haven’t in the later part of two thousand nine for two reasons I was so involved with my lawsuit and Live Nation Television Holdings and truthfully what was there to be said about the wrestling business. I found it to be very stagnant and uninteresting most of the time. I had given my opinion on things to a point where I felt that I was just repeating and rehashing the same stuff over and over again. I thought to myself I’m guilty of the same things that I point to in regards to WWE and TNA. I decided that I would write when there was something to say and perhaps with the potential for Monday Night Wars again and my buddy Hulk Hogan infused in TNA perhaps there will be a lot more to talk about so I will write more in two thousand and ten. I will see how it goes and when and if I have something relevant to say I will say it. I do hear from fans from time to time telling me how much that they appreciate my writing and thoughts. If I have educated amused or informed you over the last few years you really only have a few people to thank Jerry “The King “Lawler is clearly at the top of the list. If it wasn’t for my incident with him I’d have never started writing these blogs. The others are Corey Maclin who gave me a chance in Memphis Wrestling and put me in a main event program with him and Koko Ware. I still believe to this day that if we had continued on and ego and bullshit hadn’t gotten in the way Jerry “The King” Lawler vs. The Big Cheese would have drawn a pretty darn good house when we got to that point. The people of Memphis and the surrounding area just flat out don’t like cocky NY’ers coming into their backyard and messing with them. If it wasn’t for Brian Tramel giving me this forum to write I wouldn’t have been able to get started. The last one is my buddy “The Mouth of the South” Jimmy Hart who fulfilled my request of wanting to work Memphis TV. If you have enjoyed these articles those are the men to thank if they aren’t your cup of tea other than pointing at me those are the men who created this forum for me. So with that being said I find myself writing again soon after the last blog and sadly death is the reason one more time.

I recently got an IM from Michael Bocchiccio of advising me that “Doctor Death” Steve Williams had passed away. It was only a few weeks ago that I saw a photo of Steve from a recent fan convention and truly I didn’t know who he was. I was stunned by his appearance but he seemed vibrant and happy can we really ask anything more out of life? I never had a problem with Steve back in my Jim Crockett days he was easy to work with I referred matches his was in with not one bad memory of them but one of those matches did change my approach and perspective to how I referred a match. It was Norfolk, VA the TV Title was on the line it was “Dr. Death” Steve Williams vs. Mike Rotundo this particular match was being refereed by Tommy Young but I was to do a run in towards the end of the match. I didn’t pay much attention to the details but I knew what I was to do which was hit the ring after a suplex from the outside in and make a three count. It would come after Tommy took a bump and a potential DQ move that the prone Tommy Young would see while on the ground. I didn’t pay any attention to anything other than what I should do. It turned into a nightmare because the DQ never happened and we ended up having a title change. The idea was that Tommy would get up and inform me that was had a DQ before I ever made the three count. Well it all hit the fan once I counted three because there was no DQ, Tommy started hollering but what was done was done. Those guys didn’t do what they were supposed to do and we had to live with the result. When we got to the back Flair was screaming bloody murder that we killed the club. At that time I had never seen Flair react that way before I still haven’t forgotten it and probably never will. I kept very quiet and said nothing because it was clearly a mess I was worried that I might lose my job not because I did anything wrong but because I didn’t adapt to what was happening around me and not put us in that position. It was a week later when I was with Nikita on the way to a show I said what happened at TV how much trouble am I in. He said “You aren’t in any trouble at all Dusty (the booker at the time) blamed it all on the guys in the ring they didn’t follow the plan”. So I was basically clear of any problem but I still regretted the mess that occurred.

This incident with Doctor Death was identical another incident with Lex Luger and Ric Flair in Baltimore where once again Tommy Young was the referee and I was to do a run in. It was the same finish basically once again I had no clue what was happening only what I was supposed to do. It was a sunset flip by Luger after he was “shit canned” to the outside by Flair after a ref bump by Tommy Young who
“luckily” saw the DQ. I did my thing ran down there and with perfect timing counted three at that point still not knowing what was happening I was looking for Tommy to jump up and call for a DQ. I notice he isn’t coming so I go to him and he tells me to announce Lex Luger as the winner and new champion. I was stunned and said “are you sure” now he was pissed he said “just go do it”. So I went over to Gary Michael Capetta and told him what to do he looked as surprised as I was. When the announcement was made the packed house at the Baltimore Civic Center went crazy. At that point Tommy got up screaming called for the DQ and reversed the decision. I was the hero of the fans poor Tommy was the goat that night but those two incident told me I needed to know more about what the hell was happening in case something went wrong.

I was working in the NAWA for George Scott and Paul Jones I was one of the referees in the territory along with George’s son Byron. We were working the Lawrence Joel Memorial Coliseum in Winston Salem, NC we had a tournament that night for the title. I had some matches and Byron had some matches but I made sure I knew what the hell was happening and it’s a good thing I did. I had a semi final match with Brian Knobs against my good buddy Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat. I was the done for the night but something went wrong. It was supposed to go down like this Knobs hurts Steamboats leg but Ricky pulls out the win anyway then Robert Fuller leader of the Stud Stable comes down and the finals starts immediately. I still to this day don’t know what happened but Byron was nowhere to be found I ran to George Scott and said what do you want me to do he said get back in the ring he was clearly frustrated. It was a good match with two great minds in there which boiled down to Steamboat not being able to overcome the “injury” and being pinned by Fuller. I made the three count, by this time Byron showed up hit the ring and made sure I knew what was happening. I sure as hell knew this time what was going on and we didn’t have another fiasco or embarrassing moment.

The match with Williams and Rotundo truly changed my outlook to how I approached each match as a referee. Those guys along with Flair Tommy Young Kevin Sullivan (Rotundo’s manager in the Varsity Club) all played a part.

The other moment with Steve that really stands out in my mind was when I decided to contact him about getting back in the ring at WrestleReunion 2 in Valley Forge, PA. He was concerned and rightfully so with what he was going through that everything would have to go well. I assured him that I had the perfect opponent in mind for him. It was Mike Kaluha from Pennsylvania I had met Mike early on in my career I knew he was the right man for the job. He was solid in the ring and a credible human being outside the ring. He understood why he was there and I knew he wouldn’t let me down. Well although Steve knew me he didn’t know Mike and I could tell he was plenty worried. After a while he kept coming to me with his concerns I asked him to trust me that I wouldn’t put him in harm’s way at all. If I hadn’t had the right guy we wouldn’t have even done this. Well Steve had his comeback match and afterwards came to me and apologized for giving me so much grief and to let me know I had made the right choice of opponent and how appreciative he was. I am not sure exactly what has gone in with Steve’s in ring career since that match in August two thousand and five but I am sure that was a very special moment for him if not his last really great in ring moment. It was a great moment for me as well it will always be with me.

I heard a funny story about Steve Williams that we still laugh about from time to time. He was getting on a plane coming back to the US from Japan after one of his successful tours there. He had been drinking in the airport bar so when he got on the plane he was feeling it a little. He looked at this woman sitting on the plane thinking he recognized her. He said “Hey aren’t you Yoko NoNo” she meekly replied yes she was he said “Steve Williams nice to meet ya”. I don’t know if John Lennon’s widow Yoko Ono knew who Steve was since he was such a huge star in Japan or not but it had to be a classic moment. I couldn’t even imagine her trying to correct his mispronunciation of his name. If you knew Steve that was him just a big old regular guy who you didn’t want to cross but never bothered anyone either. If he did I never heard about it.

I hear that the media in Japan is covering this story in a big way and they should. I picked up a USA Today newspaper it’s in there as well. I can’t imagine that television all over Oklahoma and perhaps Louisiana hasn’t grabbed on to the story as well. I can tell you that Steve fought hard to live once he was diagnosed he didn’t live as long as he may have wanted to but he got the most out of every day that he was still alive. I will always remember him with a smile. I am just sorry to say that it was just another wrestling death in two thousand and nine that comes far too soon in someone’s life and makes you wonder who will be next. It could be anyone of us so embrace life every minute you can because it can be gone quickly. I guess part of what bothers me is the three recent deaths Eki “Umaga” Fatu, Colt Steel and “Doctor Death” Steve Williams all appeared to me as guys practically impervious to pain and yet they are gone in the blink of any eye. It makes no sense I don’t know many guys that would have challenged any of them but yet they passed way too soon.

As I write this article from thirty thousand feet in the sky its New Years Eve. I spoke to Jimmy Hart just before I boarded the plane he was headed to Ocala to work for Dory and Marti Funk. It’s New Years Eve and tomorrow is Jimmy’s birthday but he loves this business just like I do so when Dory called him he said sure I will go. He managed the Funks in the WWF years ago he was always appreciative of what the three of them accomplished up there so he was happy to do it. When many people will be out partying ringing in the New Year Jimmy will be driving back from Ocala to Tampa from helping Dory and Marti keep the dream alive. He could easily be ringing in the New Year somewhere else while people shout Happy Birthday Jimmy at the stroke of twelve but that’s not who he is. I can tell you that Jimmy embraces life and the wrestling business that’s what we should all so embraces your passions every day. It will make your world a better place for sure.

On Jan 9th I will head to a CCW show at the Concord Rec. Center the place where basically The Rat Patrol was born. The building is still being promoted by “The Wild Thing” Willie Clay out old rival but on this night I won’t be there for angles or to get heat. I will be there with Carolina’s Own David Isley to say a few words in tribute to our friend and partner Colt Steel. I haven’t been in that building in a long time I truly wish I was going for another reason but life throws curve balls all the time it how you react to them that counts. I know all of us hope that two thousand and ten is a better year in all respects.

The wrestling business is probably like Hollywood in one way you work with people that you may not see for a long time but you can still have somewhat bonded with that person and look forward to seeing them again. You can also work with someone and the relationship goes beyond the work environment as is the case with me and the Anoai and Fatu families (Afa and Sika, Samu, Rikishi, Tonga Kid) “Carolina’s Own” David Isley , Jimmy Hart,“Sweet” Stan Lane,Rob Russen and "Wrestlings Living Legend" Bruno Sammartino. These are all people that I met in the business that became a part of my daily weekly or monthly life for many years and still today. In the case of someone like Steve Williams although we never interacted outside the business he and some others you just feel a connection too. You may have never and never would have interacted with them outside the industry but the shock and affect can still be felt because of the bond real or imagined through the work. It may be hard to explain or understand but the deaths in two thousand nine have lingered on more so than in previous years perhaps it’s because I am getting older so you look at it differently. I don’t believe that there is an acceptable or expected time to die but seems of these hit you right out of left field. I hope two thousand and ten in all ways is better than two thousand and nine.

I did have one funny moment that I will close this article with my attorney Chris Rodems took his son Nick to the recent WWE event in Tampa FL. As I was talking over the details of our upcoming appeal in the Live Nation case with him I asked him how things went at the show. He thought that it was great he hooked up with our mutual friend Brian Blair who got Nick to meet some of the wrestlers. He said that Nick met and took pictures with Hornswoggle and Jericho and maybe some others. He told me how thrilling it all was then he told me that he also met Jerry “The King” Lawler. He said” listen I know you have had your problems with the guy but Lawler couldn’t have been nicer. It made me laugh because there was a time I’d have told you the same thing about Jerry. He was truly one of the easiest and most pleasant guys I have ever worked with and had work for me in the wrestling business. It’s really wild how things can change. I told him that I was sure that was exactly what happened and I truly was. I asked if he told him he was my attorney and he said “no I thought about it and decided against it”. I wonder how that interaction would have gone if he had told him. Well, I guess we will never know but I’m sure it would have amused me to say the least.

The picture on top is of course of "Doctor Death" Steve Williams it was taken at WrestleReunion 2 in Valley Forge,PA. It was taken on August 27th 2005 shortly before his comeback match. The picture below is of his opponent that night Mike "King" Kaluha.

This has been a piece of my mind two thousand and nine take a hike hopefully two thousand and ten will be a year that we like.