AS I SEE IT 6/29: Eleven years...
AS I SEE IT
It's been 11 years ago this Monday, July 4th (NOTE: I'm posting this column a bit earlier than usual, as I'll be on vacation from July 2-8, when I'll return home for the IWS/CZW doubleheader at the ECW Arena on July 9).
Pro Wrestling: Between the Sheets
When I post this column each July 4th weekend, I remember how many years its been since the death of former WWF referee Joey Marella in an automobile accident on the New Jersey Turnpike, while traveling to Newark, NJ from a WWF show in Ocean City, MD.
But since that tragedy happened, so much has happened in our world and in all of our lives since that day a decade ago. The world is a very different place than it was in 1994, with terrorism and war now an everyday concern for those of us in the United States, as well as the rest of our world. The fruit of our country's youth is coming home in bodybags from Iraq and Afghanistan on an almost daily basis.
Nonetheless, the passing of one person and the need to remember it, still stands out above and beyond things that we often can't understand or control, like terrorists using the name of God as a justification for what they do, or the actions of world powers toward other countries.
One thing we can control, however, is to remember those who are and who were important within our lives...or within our areas of personal interest, like wrestling.
Thus, a remembrance of former WWF referee Joey Marella, who left this world 11 years ago on July 4th...
"Looking back on the memory of...
The dance we shared...
'neath the stars alone...
For a moment...
all the world was right...
How could I have known...
that you'd ever say goodbye...
Dance, (Garth Brooks and Tony Arata, 1989)
Every July 4th, most people remember the holiday for fireworks, barbecues, and patriotic speeches. But some of us remember it each year for different reasons.
I remember July 4, 1994, all too well. I was sitting down, eating lunch, getting ready to watch an early round World Cup soccer game when the phone rang...two friends, one of whom was a ECW referee; had left messages on my phone within five minutes, but I didn't think anything of it.
Then the phone rang again. I finally picked it up, realizing something had to be wrong. I heard the agonized voice of a friend over the line... I could make out about every third word being said. Gradually, I pieced together the news.
Joey Marella had been killed in an automobile accident while returning from a WWF show in Ocean City, MD the previous evening. Joey had fallen asleep at the wheel on the New Jersey Turnpike; and was involved in a one car accident together with Bruno "Harvey Whippleman" Lauer. Joey wasn't wearing a seat belt, and was killed, only miles from the Marella family home in Willingboro, NJ.
Only hours before, my friend had been with Joey and friends after the show...they'd tried to get him to crash with them up in Baltimore, but Joey told them he had to get going, up to Newark Airport. The person was on the phone going through horrible, but unnecessary, guilt for somehow not making Joey come to Baltimore with them.
For many readers of this column who might not have been around back then, Joey Marella was a WWF referee who worked many high-profile WWF matches during the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Joey's career highlights include PPV main events, such as the legendary Hogan-Andre the Giant match at WrestleMania III from the Pontiac Silverdome in March 1987, Ric Flair's first WWF title win at Royal Rumble 1992, Bret Hart-Davey Boy Smith at Summer Slam 1992 from London's Wembley Stadium, and Owen Hart-Razor Ramon in the final match at King of the Ring 1994 from Baltimore. He also worked many high profile WWF TV events, including the NBC and Fox Saturday Night Main Event shows, and the 1993 debut of Monday Night RAW. Joey even made a brief appearance as himself in the Hulk Hogan movie "No Holds Barred".
Aside from the ring, some readers may even know he was the adopted son of Robert (Gorilla Monsoon) Marella. This led to a running inside joke on WWF TV of Monsoon telling viewers how "horrible" that referee Joey Marella was, each time Joey "missed" heel interference in a match.
But some of us knew another side to Joey.
Joey Marella was a "big brother" to many within the wrestling business, particularly the World Wrestling Federation. He was always there with a shoulder to lean on, or with time to listen to those who needed it. Joey was loved by many, including a friend of mine who was quite close to him, who's kept a special place in her heart for him to this day....the same friend of mine I told you about earlier.
I knew Joey through this friend, so on that July 4th, the feelings weren't from the death of someone distant. They were strong and deeply personal. Joey's loss was felt deeply by many in and out of the World Wrestling Federation. The loss is still felt deeply to this day.
As one example, WWF ring announcer Tony Chimel (the announcer on Smackdown and house shows) named his newest son after his friend (and Godfather to his other two children) Joey Marella. Some would argue young Joey Chimel is just as mischievous as his namesake. One hopes he's half as good a person.
On this upcoming July 4th holiday, please keep a special place in your thoughts for Joey Marella, who left this world at the age of 31. Keep also in your thoughts those others who left wrestling far richer for having been a part of it, yet poorer for having left the business and their loved ones too soon, including Owen Hart, Rick (Renegade) Wilson, "Hot Stuff" Eddie Gilbert, Art Barr, Brian Pillman, Louie Spicolli, Sylvester Ritter, Jay Youngblood, Rick McGraw, David, Mike and Chris (Von Erich) Adkisson, and Buzz Sawyer.
Finally, on this upcoming July 4th weekend, I'll repeat the motto I leave you with frequently: Be sure to treasure those in your own lives... for we are never promised tomorrow.
"And now, I'm glad I didn't know...
The way it all would end...
The way it all would go...
Our lives are better left to chance...
I could have missed the pain...
But I'd of had to miss the dance..."
There are far too many within wrestling that have left this world too soon, just since that list above was first compiled in July 1999: Elizabeth "Miss Elizabeth" Hulette, "Bruiser" Brian Cox, Kodo Fuyuki,"Mr. Perfect" Curt Hennig, Naoto Morishita, Yukon Braxton, "All American" Jeff Peterson, Billy Travis, Davey Boy Smith, Shoichi Arai, Randy "Pee Wee" Anderson, Dave Casanova, Jeff "Rattlesnake" Raitz, Russ Haas, Rhonda Singh, Terry "Bam Bam" Gordy, Masakazu Fukuda, Bobby Duncum Jr., Gary Albright, Tony Rumble, Brian "Mark Curtis" Hildebrand, Jackie Sato, Alex "Big Dick Dudley" Rizzo, Dave Casanova, Chris Adams, Mike Davis, Gary Albright, Jumbo Tsuruta, Rick Rude, Rodney "Yokozuna" Anoai, and The Sheik.
There was Stu Hart, Road Warrior Hawk, "Classy" Freddie Blassie, Michael "Crash Holly" Lockwood, Anthony "Pitbull #2" Durante, Hercules Hernandez, Larry "Moondog Spot" Booker, Jerry "The Wall" Tuite, Mike Lozansky, Sandor Kovacs, Buck Moore, Jack Tunney, Beetlejuice, Hard Boiled Haggerty, Dave Levin, Dinty Parks, Danny Hawke, John Heath, Dano McDonald, Hercules Hernandez, Power Mike, Texas Outlaw #1, Dr. Destruction, Stephan DeLeon, Goliath, Rattlesnake Brooks, Pepper Gomez, Kurt Von Brauner, Malcolm Monroe, Victor the Bodyguard, Pat O'Hara, Balk Estes, Sandor Kovacs, Billy Redwood, Pat Roach, Gentleman Ken Timbs, J.W. Hawk, Dr. Wagner, Jim Barnett, Enrique Llanes, Ray "Big Boss Man" Traylor, Chuck Molnar, Billy Spears, Jack Donovan, Misterio de la Muerte, Xtreme, Samson Kutsuwada, Ray Villmer, Pez Whatley, wrestling photographer Tony Lanza, Roger Mackay, George Culkin, Chris Candido, Guy Brunetti, and independent wrestler Spider, among many others.
Recently, of course, there was the passing of Chris Candido, as the result of a blood clot that occurred after he broke an ankle during a routine in-ring spot; just as his career was on the upswing after years fighting drugs and the imcompetence of those promoting his considerable talent.
Back about 2 years go, I received a kind letter from Joey's sister Valerie regarding the version of this column that was published in 2002:
" I just happened to come across your article about Joey while I was at work, and I wanted to thank you. You really seemed to know alot about him, not just as a referee, because we both know he was so much more than that.
I am his younger sister, and in addition to Tony Chimel naming his son after him, I had twin boys 2 years after he died; and named one Joey after him, and named the other Gino after my father.
Thanks for making my day."
Hopefully...in an era when lives seem to mean a lot less, with daily deaths in foreign lands reported on the evening news as if scores in some obscene video game; we can remember Joey's passing in some manner similar to the way his sister did...and to remember those important in our own lives.
Take a minute to say a prayer for or give a thought to them, as well as all within wrestling who've left us too soon as you approach this holiday weekend; and remember to see human beings, and not just anonymous performers when you watch RAW, Smackdown, TNA, and syndicated TV shows...or your local independent promotion...because some of those performers were and are remarkable human beings.
Until next time....
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