Gene Kiniski & Nick Bockwinkle
April 14, 2010 (Originally posted Nov. 21/00)
There were three of us on this particular trip to Winnipeg, for what turned out to be another one of Tony Candello’s annual TV tapings for WFWA. (West Four Wrestling Alliance) Tony would tape four weeks of TV in one night, which would cover his weekly TV show for a month. Tony planned to tape every month, but due to money being tight, he would often skip tapings and just rerun previous shows. He averaged about one taping a year, which made for exciting TV in Winnipeg. It’s amazing anyone watched that show. I think some of our early stuff is still airing in Winnipeg today; Tony likely promotes his show as having stars from ECW, WCW, and the WWF.
Chris Jericho, Lenny St. Clair, and I made the 13-hour drive from Calgary to Winnipeg in Chris’s pickup truck. If it wasn’t for Chris, I’m not sure I would have been able to make any shows, my first few years. I rode with him everywhere and when in Winnipeg, he even put me up in his mom’s house.
We did the drive non-stop as we always did, with Chris doing most, if not all of the driving. Chris had this trick for driving long trips. If he got tired, instead of stopping to change drivers he would just have me steer from the passenger seat so he could rest his eyes. After 30 to 60 minutes of not having to stare at the road Chris was ready to go again and we would avoid a stop. We would arrive in Winnipeg late the night before TV and get a night sleep at his mom’s then head to the show.
Chris and I were still tagging as “Sudden Impact” at this point and this was our first show back after our trip to Japan, for FWM. We wrestled in a hotel ballroom, and to make it worse we had to wrestle 5 matches including a Battle Royal for our nightly paycheck of $75.00 cnd. The matches were easy enough, and we were eager to get all of our new moves done, on TV, so we would have them on tape.
Looking back the matches probably weren’t all that good, as we, no doubt, tried to do too much, but hey, we were green and getting a big push. The first three matches were straight tag matches just to get us over and with the exception of the finish in the third one they went well enough.
In the third match we were wrestling Lenny, and Randy Rudd, another friend of ours. For the finish we were going to steal an old British Bulldog finish. I gave Randy a superplex and as I covered him, Len ran in for the save. As Len came running in I scooped him up on my shoulders, carried him to the corner and tagged Chris who was going to jump off Lenny’s back and hit Randy with a splash or head butt, I can’t remember which. What I do remember is that Lenny wrestled in a shirt back then and when Chris jumped, his feet slipped on the shirt and he didn’t go anywhere. Chris landed flat on his face, way short of his intended target. To cover this lovely move and finish the match, I dumped Len off of my shoulders and small packaged him. If we had had more experience, we would have regrouped and did another big move a minute later and let them edit the screw up out, in the studio. We didn’t have that much experience then so the matched air as it was, screw up and all.
Tony brought two “big names” in for this TV taping, Nick Bockwinkle, who did colour commentary, and Gene Kiniski, who did a short program with “Bulldog” Bob Brown, Tony’s booker at the time. Our forth match was to be the Main Event, one week on TV and it was a six man tag: Sudden Impact & Gene Kiniski vs. Bob Brown, Gerry Morrow (WFWA Champ), & The Natural (Don Callis/Natch).
Before the match we were sitting back stage talking with Gene, and we realized he was three times as old as Chris. Chris was 21 at the time and Gene was 63. Before too long I heard our music play, so I told Gene “That’s us, we’re up.” Gene looked at me with his trunks in his hand and asked, with a completely straight face, “Do I have time to put my trunks on first?” He was sitting there in what I guess were either under-tights, or a Speedo, and I thought to myself “No you don’t, but put them on anyway!” Once Gene put his trunks on we headed to the ring for our match.
The only thing I remember in the match was this really stupid spot, which Chris wanted no part of. It wasn’t a planned spot, at least if it was, no one smartened Jericho and I up to it. Gene was in the ring with Natch. He brought him to our corner and started ramming his shoulder into Natch’s stomach. Gerry ran in for the save, but Gene grabbed him and put him in the corner in front of Natch, Bob then followed suit. Once Gene had all three of them in the corner he told Chris and I to get behind him for the battering ram. Chris did not want to get in the ring but reluctantly did, after I got behind Gene and yelled at him, “Get in here!” We lined up and started ramming Gene Kiniski into our opponent’s midsections. We looked ridiculous; we later dubbed the spot “The Conga line butt F---.”
After our four matches was the Battle Royal. Fortunately for me, I banged my knee earlier in the night, and managed to get out of the Battle Royal. Even back then, I hated those stupid things.
In the back, after the show, Nick Bockwinkle came back and introduced himself to everyone. I still remember what he said to me, nearly 9 years after the fact, “Nice stuff kid, I hope you live to be thirty!” He was of course referring to my, high risk, style, which really wasn’t all that high risk. I didn’t dive to the floor once and all the bumps that I did take were in the ring. I guess Nick was from the days when a backdrop was a finish, so the stuff Chris and I were doing scared him. Sort of an interesting note, a month or so ago, Nick came to a Nitro taping and I said hi to him. He didn’t remember me, but I told the story to Gene Okerland and pointed out that I, had indeed, made it, I’m 31, and still pretty healthy.
After the show, it was right back to Calgary, we drove all night. Normally we would spend the night in Winnipeg, but we were scheduled to wrestle in Vancouver, and couldn’t afford the time. We got to Calgary the next afternoon, with enough time to shower and drive another 13-hours to Vancouver. My knee was killing me, so I pulled out of the trip. Chris, Lenny, and Bret Como (Thunderbird Como, Black Dragon) made the trip without me. They arrived in Vancouver just in time for the show, but the promoter had cancelled them, and forgot to call and tell anybody about it. After a long debate, they did work the show, and then headed back to Calgary to conclude the, far too long, road trip.
In total the trip was 52 hours in a pickup truck, to wrestle 6 times and make $125.00 cnd. Thankfully I only did half the trip. I got off easy with 26 hours, 4 matches, for $75.00 cnd. It’s paying dues on trips like this that makes me appreciate what I have today. When the bus ride gets a little long, or the hotel isn’t as nice as I had hoped, it’s good to reflect back to remind myself, things could be a lot worse. Paying dues like this builds character, it’s a shame breaking in the way that Chris and I did, is dying out. I think in the end, it makes for better people and better workers.
Till next week,