Star Wars Cantina Bar Of Wrestling; Weekly Rankings

Ken Napzok








Star Wars Cantina Bar of Wrestling…

            As I mentioned in my previous column, I spent the last weekend of January at the LAX Hilton enjoying, taking in, and working (sitting quietly behind) a booth at WrestleReunion 5.  I got there Friday afternoon and found myself waiting in the hotel check-in line behind Sinn Bodhi while Terry Funk and Torrie Wilson lingered in the lobby.  Grown men were wandering to and fro holding… well, in most cases, actually wearing… replica championship belts. A father wearing Zubaz pants lead his eight year-old, Cena T-shirt wearing daughter down the escalator to the convention floor.  All signs reminding me that I was deep in the wrestling waters now.



The event was fun. Bottom line. Does that mean there weren’t a few sad moments watching past legends hobble around? Does that mean there weren’t a few pathetic moments watching a former top draw sitting alone at a booth with his Panda Express lunch?  Does that mean there weren’t a few scary moments when you’d look into the eyes of a really hard core wrestling fan and think he was about to yell “It’s still real to me!!” while pulling out a loading hand gun? No. Of course not. All those elements were there, but the event was full of great moments.  

 

Both the Ring of Honor and Pro Wrestling Guerilla shows were great efforts. They both had a “big event” feel to them. 900 plus enjoyed the ROH show their crew really put on some four star matches and five star moments.  PWG’s show started late, way too late. It’s a common theme with PWG and something that won’t change, but it was almost done with a bit of arrogance.  Like, “Yeah, we said 8 PM, but we’ll get to you 1,200 fans when were ready.”  Tsk, tsk, but the show was fun.

 

PWG has a strong following and clear cut “way” of presenting their shows and it is rather entertaining. The Legends Battle Royal… aka the WrestleRoyal… was spectacular and, on paper, it shouldn’t have been. Throw twenty or so legends in a ring (and “legends” apparently includes Vampiro and Hurricane Helms) and it is supposed to be a nostalgia act, nothing more.  While the nostalgia was thick and heavy, it actually turned into a barn burner of a match in which the last two participants Terry Funk and Roddy Piper absolutely went all out with a hail of blood, guts, and storytelling. Piper and Funk had never been in the ring together and when it came down to them, they put on a clinic in how to work smarter not harder that should be marketed to the young grapplers of the day. After battling for a few spots, Funk stopped the match and led the crowd in a prayer; pleading for everyone to bow their heads. Piper refused at first, but finally relented. He bowed his head and Funk began a quiet, rambling prayer for the safety of the crowd while driving home from the show.  Just when you thought the borderline senile Funk has finally lost it (After greeting “Dangerous” Danny Davis at the autograph signings, he asked his security “who was that?), he turned the prayer into a highlight reel spot by pounding Piper in the head with the microphone. The loud “thunk” of the mic resonated in the LAX Hilton ball room and Funk bellowed, “You think I’m stupid!” The pop was tremendous and they carried this on, actually climbing under the ropes and brawling ringside, for awhile. Each audible thunk followed by Funk’s gravelly voice screaming, “Come on you, pig.” Blood poured down Funk’s face as they climbed back into the ring. Piper recovered; his head shaking, hair flailing, and fists pounding. He tossed out Funk and every person in that crowd realized that they hadn’t just relived a past memory… they had all witnessed a new great moment in the long careers of these legendary warriors.

 

Other highlights of the weekend included The Iron Shiek cutting a promo in the hotel lobby on a Hulkamania T-Shirt wearing mark while fifteen grown men chanted “Shiek, Sheik, Shiek” behind him.  All this while dignified foreign travelers crossed the lobby with looks a pure fear on their faces. There was seeing Jake Roberts break down in tears as the crowd chanted “Thank you, Jake” before the start of his retirement match. Roberts has battled a lot of demons and everyone knows each one, so to see the moment where Jake realized his career meant a lot to the very people he broke his soul to entertain was almost humbling to witness. Then there was Paul Orndorff and Bob Orton catching up over coffee in the lobby restaurant. And, finally, there was Christy Hemme and Maria Kanellis. Just… you know… Christy Hemme and Maria Kanellis.  

 

Yet above all of that… the highlight of the WrestleReunion weekend was getting to hang in the lobby bar and take in one of the most surreal evenings of my life. Shortly after Friday’s Ring of Honor show, my compadres from Millennium Pro Wrestling were hungry.  A trip to the local fast food joint down the block was discussed, but I campaigned for the bar. I just had a feeling that it would be the place to be. For once in my life I was right. (Why did I invest in Friendster?!?!?!) We walked in and found a table in the center and far enough back to watch the entire room. To our far right was a table of Indy workers, mostly female, lost in their own world of tasseled outfits and career hopes. They drank, laughed, and joked so loud that didn’t seem to care that to their left was a table being hosted by Edge. Surrounding the World’s Heavyweight champion was Sinn Bodhi, The Kat, Ryan Shamrock, Gangrel, some unknown giant of a man, and a collective sense of kinship that years of the working the road brings. Diamond Dallas Page and Hurricane Helms popped in from time to time to shake hands and swap stories. Shelton Benjamin made a quick appearance. Raven made eye contact with my friend’s left over french fries. SoCal Val wandered in. Katie Lea Burchill aka Winter aka Katarina Waters aka “Wow, she is really, really pretty in person” joined the group followed by Christopher Daniels and some of the now showered and relaxed Ring of Honor roster. Moving across to the left was the table of tables. “Superstar” Billy Graham was locked in a conversation with Harley Race. They were then joined by Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart and his fanny pack. Shortly after that a man in a San Francisco Giants hat quietly slipped in. It took us a few moments to realize that the Hart Foundation had just reunited in front of us. And to add to the surreal mix, Graham then started an in-depth conversation with ODB, complete with headband and beer.  To the far left was the Insane Clown Posse. Not their juggaloo fans (those they were out in force all weekend.  Avoid. At. All. Costs.), but THE Insane Clown Posse.  Wrestling fans, the kind that shouldn’t have left their Mom’s basement were filling the gaps, interrupting personal conversations to grab a moment with the star of their choice. One such fan handed Edge a business card. The generous champ took it, but turned away and made a face that said “I think I’m ready to leave the biz now.” A fan in an electric wheelchair made continued loops around the tables the ENTIRE night as he successfully flirted with all the girls.

 

With these groups before us and in a space no bigger than an average living room, my friends and I ordered up, nursed our drinks, and casually and quietly observed the most surreal mix of just about everything the pro wrestling business has to bring. We barely uttered a word between us, said nothing to any of them, and thoroughly enjoyed what we were now calling the Star Wars Cantina Bar of Wrestling.

 

I can’t wait for next year.

CONTINUE ON PAGE TWO FOR KEN’S RANKINGS (THAT DON’T REALLY MATTER)>>>

 

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