Leturgey Musings and Goings On

These are some of my writings...from events going on in the Keystone State Wrestling Alliance and elsewhere, to observations from the rest of my decidely unformulaic life.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

An Open Letter to Virgil (And Other Payday Meddlers, To Boot)

by Trapper Tom, Indy Wrestling Personality

Let me preface my remarks by saying that none of us has worked Andre the Giant, Ted Dibiase and the Heartbreak Kid Shawn Michaels. We’ve never held the Million Dollar Belt or lagged behind a leather-jacket-clad Eric Bischoff and a rag-tag menagerie of New World Order cast-offs, either.
You’ve been to “The Show” and we haven’t.
However, there might not be a more fortuitous “D-List” career in the history of sports entertainment. Sorry to say that while you’ve enjoyed an interesting, inauspicious 23 years in the biz, the Hall of Fame push isn’t coming.
Stop pricing yourself out of work and “give back” to the industry.
How that “out of the blue” pairing with Dibiase all those years ago parlayed itself into a lengthy career is quite metaphorically “anyone’s guess.”
In the Million Dollar Man’s first memoir, which was so bland that it spawned a second that no one read, you may not have even been mentioned at all.
When your character finally went rogue after years of degrading servitude and rebelled against Dibiase, the action spawned yawns.
When Hulk Hogan called you to join WCW and the NWO, it’s been well documented that the conversation took place because Bischoff and the boys were over-spending Ted Turner’s money on anyone and everyone ever associated with Vince McMahon’s WWF.
In actuality, you are Mike Jones, an athletically-gifted collegiate wrestler from the near outskirts of Pittsburgh. The wrestling name given to you—Virgil—was meant as a rub against Virgil Runnels. When you arrived in NWO land, copy write infringement forced a change to Vincent—another not-so-subtle jab aimed at Vincent Kennedy McMahon. Vince must have been so amused by the honor that he’s never brought you back in any capacity, despite the fact that most “name” members of the NWO have since been used in some capacity. It appears that you and Horace Hogan remain on the sidelines together.
In fact—and interestingly enough—the real-life Virgil collects a check from the real-life Vincent to this very day.
Meanwhile, Curly Joe hocks his wares anywhere he can.
All that being noted and declared, your situation remains an enigma. You’re generous with your time with workers and fans alike. You are friendly without forcing it. Your stories are entertaining, albeit they all end with information regarding what a guy takes home in his wallet.
Pittsburgh relishes professional wrestling like few other regions in the country. Had the brains behind Studio Wrestling had the foresight to not tape-over each and every episode of the beloved spectacle, someone would have scored a nice honorarium.
In some circles, Bruno Sammartino ranks second only to Jesus Christ in terms of heroics. Jesus could sell out The Garden more than anyone, if only he tried. Bruno is held, by some, in higher regard than Terry Bradshaw, Mario Lemieux and Roberto Clemente.
Lots of people need to be reminded that Virgil still lives here.
There’s an infamous autograph convention picture of Virgil sitting alone at a table, his gimmick printed behind him. The rest of the convention hall is empty, as if abandoned. The image is that of a solitary figure sitting at a table with nary a soul in the vast hall. The pic exhibiting widespread apathy for the guy, who wore his black NWO t-shirt everywhere he went until just recently, has been circulated as a joke. He was one of the last “official” members in 1999.
Truth be told, you show up early. You show up way earlier than most “names.” Chances are you opened that exhibition center with the janitorial crew, in hopes of chatting your way into a $15 headshot sale.
Virgil, in the arena, your excitement and enthusiasm is palatable. You’ve climbed into the ring with a green rookie and shared tips on throwing punches and running the ropes. The next “legend”—and that term is thrown around WAAAAY too loosely—who hooks a collar-and-elbow tie-up with a rookie two hours before an event might well be the first.
But it does come at a cost. All of your road stories are punctuated with dollar signs instead of exclamation points. In today’s era of economic hardships (auto companies are getting pinned to the matt), there isn’t a wrestling fan alive that wants to know what Honkey Tonk Man was paid in Middle America.
Practically no one outside of Vince or Dixie Carter’s employ makes a living at our craft these days. For most, wrestling is a terrific diversion from the mundane, every day toil that otherwise defines our existence.
Myths regarding finances of fable are gone. Only an egomaniacal lunatic would pay $750 for a 10-minute dance with anyone who cannot draw fannies into seats.
Only a moron would toss $500, $400, or $300 at someone whose mere presence cannot or will not pay for itself.
There’s a scene early in “The Wrestler” in which Randy “The Ram” is handed a slightly-less-than-expected wad of cash. “I thought the draw would be bigger” is the paraphrased answer given by Frank from 30 Rock.
Selling tickets is the name of the game. “Virgil” didn’t sell tickets in the day, nor does that brand mean gold at the box office now. Perhaps that’s why Virgil isn’t prominently displayed in any of the 8x10’s you sell at various venues. In one pic, Virgil is just a little more than a shadowy figure two steps behind Dennis Rodman or some other schlub in a bizarro NWO.
It says something that Virgil doesn’t sell tickets in his home town. There weren’t any Virgil sightings behind the scenes at the latest Smackdown taping.
My only advice, albeit it’s from someone who sometimes feels guilty about collecting a few shekels for being involved in the world’s greatest entertainment venture, is to cease and desist with the money talk. And maybe tone down the cascade of vulgarities.
Perhaps it’s time to “give back” to the wrestling community and its fans with some matches, regardless of the bottom line. How about $200 and $2 for every scalp that walks through the doors. Take the deal. You’ll be on shows in no time. At 48 and in apparently decent shape, you’re in far better straights than Randy “The Ram.”
All you have to do is ask yourself it’s in about the business, or the buck.


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