AS I SEE IT
by: Bob Magee
The good, the bad, and the ugly all came out in wrestling this week.
First, the good, the Eddie Gilbert Tribute Weekend...
On Friday, October 1, the Eddie Gilbert Memorial Dinner was held at the Ramada Inn in Vineland, NJ.
The Dinner was full of the usual videotaped memories from Long Island's Brian Last...including a classic and hilarious Eddie Gilbert interview by Mick Karsh from Grand Slam 1993 in Minnesota.
It also included taped matches of Gorilla Monsoon...with the moment many will remember him for (back in an era where wrestlers making national news was an almost shocking rarity)... the night weeks prior to the Ali-Inoki match, when Ali "challenged" Monsoon, jabbing away at Monsoon and doing his trademark dance, followed by Monsoon putting Ali up in his airplane spin. Bob "Gorilla Monsoon" Marella wasn't present for his honor, for reasons I'll mention in a moment.
His son, former WWF referee Joey Marella was also honored at the dinner by friends and family that still treasure his memory 5 years after Marella's tragic death in a automobile accident.
George Steele was also present, with taped footage from old PRISM wrestling shows (Philadelphia fans will get that reference) and other WWF footage, as well as old Georgia Championship Wrestling TV footage with Steele in his full turnbuckle chewing, slobbering glory. In his honor, the Ramada Inn served cream of broccoli soup (green, like Steele's tongue of old).
Chief Jay Strongbow was honored, with footage available of his WWWF days for the crowd to view. A very touching piece was written about Strongbow in the program by my fellow Utican Donny Liable.
Donny Liable was later honored along with NWA staffer Kathy Fitzpatrick for their years of work on the Eddie Gilbert Memorial Weekends. Others honored included Jose Rivera, Sr. and Christine Jarrett.
Bob Marella wasn't present at the dinner after his recent heart attack, with severe kidney and other complications resulting. According to family and friends, Mr. Marella asked to be taken off of kidney dialysis this past Wednesday. Please keep Mr. Marella in your thoughts and prayers.
Saturday's events featured the WRESTLETHON '99 Convention with numerous tape, wrestling figure, t-shirt, plaque and related vendors. These sorts of conventions are always great for providing many hours of viewing pleasure and, as I've been mentioning over the last few columns, great for remembering where you were when you saw these matches, interviews or whatever originally.
Over the last year, we seem to be doing a lot of remembering....of people who've left us in wrestling. That sad fact is a good reason to be sure to experience all that you can as often as you can.
Speaking of remembering things I saw years back, I also got to spend a little time after the WRESTLETHON '99 Convention with Jim Myers, better known to fans as George "The Animal" Steele. It was interesting talking to him about the Sheik's old Detroit territory, and the wrestling I got to see when I was seven years old, on CKLW Channel 9 out of Windsor, Ontario.
Now for the bad...
As for the Gilbert Memorial Brawl itself, a razzberry goes out to the WWF for pulling three of its workers from the show at the last minute to attend a Michael Bolton sponsored charity softball tournament. One also wonders if the personnel changes in the WWF's staff for handling third-party bookings. These were formerly handled by Jim Cornette, who's now working for the WWF doing talent development through NWA/Ohio Valley Wrestling.
Someone should remind the WWF that having young and undercard talent work independent shows helped them get their name out there when they were fighting to get back in competition with WCW in the ratings wars. If WCW had any sense (and we all know the answer to that one), they'd farm out their unused young talent on developmental contracts out to these shows, get the WCW name out there again, and begin the slow, painful process of rebuilding.
WWF commentator Kevin Kelly got left there to make the announcement about Droz and Prince Albert to the crowd, though fans were informed of the change when coming in to the show. Kelly redeemed himself in the eyes of the fans by doing a hilarious skit where they were "looking for new talent for developmental contracts" in a match with Inferno Kid, going from mock-serious concern after hitting Kid's opponent Judas Young, into a full-blown (and well-done) heel turn by Kelly.
Even the the crowd was slightly smaller than last year's, it was as enthusiastic, if not more so. One of the nice signs was when young indy worker Lupus reminded the crowd why they were there. Lupus wasn't even born when Eddie Gilbert started his wrestling career, yet he had enough respect to plug Eddie Gilbert's memory and style to the crowd. A nice, classy touch by this young man.
Now the ugly...
Earlier this week, a wrestling writer used a post on the PWBTS newsboard to take what many, including myself, considered to be an unnecessarily personal shot at Tommy and Peggy Gilbert, as well as NWA-New Jersey promoter Dennis Coraluzzo, the promoter of the Gilbert Tribute Weekend.
I'm hardly an advocate for the canonization of Dennis Coraluzzo. I know Dennis for who and what he is, and have for a long time. We haven't always gotten along. But the one thing he's done that shouldn't be questioned, is that he has sponsored these events for four years, at a time when no one other than the IWA's Ian Rotten bothered to do so. He remembered a friend.
I've publicized events like the Gilbert Memorial and the NWA 50th because I have friends who work in the company. Longtime readers of this column are aware of that fact. But I also did so as a wrestling fan who enjoyed himself as a wrestling fan at those events, not as an employee of Coraluzzo's or anyone else's company, as I've mentioned earlier in this column.
I also consider Tommy and Peggy Gilbert to be a gentleman and a lady, right out of the Southern tradition. I was fortunate enough to be introduced to them at the first Gilbert Memorial. Anyone questioning the behavior of Mr. and Mrs. Gilbert toward loud-mouthed smart marks who insulted their son's memory by attempting last year's Gilbert Memorial Brawl needs some lessons on the nature of loyalty.
Eddie Gilbert taught a lesson to anyone who ever worked with him, worked for him, or was ever a fan of him. It was that loyalty to friends, family, and the business was an ultimate virtue, one that you practiced without thought of the cost or consequence to yourself.
Perhaps some people need to learn that lesson again.
In a year where we've had to spend far too much time remembering those who've left us, loyalty to those people while they're still with us is more important than ever.
Until next time.....
If you have comments or questions, I can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org