AS I SEE IT
by: Bob Magee
This week...looking back at AS I SEE IT, and the fact that I've been doing this column for just under three years.
AS I SEE IT started out as part of the old Pro Wrestling: Between the Sheets snail mail newsletter in January 1997. From that monthly PWBTS newsletter came the PWBTS.com website, which is now approaching 2,000,000 hits.
In three years, the AS I SEE IT column has gone from appearing on one newsletter seen by a few hundred subscribers to being seen on 21 websites and newsletters with millions of combined hits; including PWBTS, SCOOPS, LordsOfPain.Net, Pro Wrestling Daily, TCN, the Chokeslam Newsletter, InsaneWrestling.Net, Y2KWrestling.com, Wrestling Media News, WrestlingNews 2K, and 316News.com.
What are some of the issues and people AS I SEE IT has talked about over those three years?
I've tried to talk about the real-life human beings in the wrestling business, and the people behind the characters...people like Sherri Martel, Eddie Gilbert, Eddie Guerrero, Chris Benoit, Dean Malenko, Chris Jericho, Terry Funk, Mick Foley. I've tried to give an idea of the side of those people that I've been lucky enough to see.
Here's an example from the 8/24/97 column:
"In a business populated by many who never seem to understand the fact that while their business is a work, the way they deal with others doesn't have to be; Sherri Martel has always been one of the exceptions to that rule. In the time I've known Sherri, she has always shown herself to be a person who genuinely treats fan or friend with anything less than grace, kindness, and decency.
To illustrate: One night, while with some of us at the legendary wrestling hangout, the Philadelphia Airport Marriott (now a Hilton); some kids continued to wait in the Marriott lobby well onto midnight, hoping to get Martel's autograph. While Sherri was working heel at the time, it was obvious that even the kids had long before figured her out for who she really was. After she found out about the kids, she excused herself, saying 'Sorry, guys, I'm a mother, you know how that is'. She then spent at least 20 minutes with them in the lobby."
In those columns, I've also talked about those who've left us far too soon, including Joey Marella, Eddie Gilbert, Brian Pillman, Rick Rude, Louie Spicolli, Owen Hart. Most recently, this column also talked about Brian Hildebrand's courageous 2 year fight with cancer and the living example that he gave to anyone remotely concerned with or a fan of the wrestling industry.
From the 9/12 column: "I will always remember Brian Hildebrand as a man who lived and loved the wrestling business, who got to live his dream of making a living in wrestling as referee Mark Curtis for World Championship Wrestling. I remember a man who lived to his last day with more courage than anyone I've ever had the privilege to know....
Brian kept himself going through sheer will and determination that he refereed a match for a local independent promotion only days before his death. He had the often-expressed hope of returning to work fulltime for WCW, and never gave up that dream. It can be said that at the time Brian Hildebrand left this world, he knew he was loved and respected by all within the business he himself loved so much.
While a small man in stature, Brian showed us all a giant heart that is an example for us all."
Another example comes from my 5/30/99 column on one of the most tragic days in the history of professional wrestling:
"Real men do cry. If there were any doubts of that fact before, there were none after May 23rd, a night which will be remembered for one of the worst tragedies in the history of the wrestling business.
Along with millions, I watched the Over the Edge pay-per-view that night at home. It was a pay-per-view starting out pretty much like many WWF pay-per-views, with Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler trading their usual entertaining banter.
Then, as a video package promoting the match between 'The Godfather' and Owen Hart for the Intercontinental Title began, I could hear Jim Ross say 'we have a problem...'. When the video package finished, the camera was showing a crowd shot. At first, I didn't understand what had happened. Then the faces and the words of Jerry Lawler and Jim Ross made it clear that something had gone horribly, tragically wrong.
....Because on May 23rd, a man known for tremendous talent, for a sense of humor legendary within the wrestling business, and known for his great love for his wife Martha and his children Oje and Athena was taken from this world far, far too soon. I think I had this feeling so strongly because I've had the privilege of seeing the human side of the business and writing about it. These are very real people that work as professional wrestlers. They aren't just characters to me."
But the most frequently mentioned issue discussed in AS I SEE IT has been drug use in the wrestling business.
11/29/98 column: "Just think about what Melanie Pillman said....'We all knew it could be someone, and that someone was my husband'. Without a major change in the thinking of those working in the wrestling industry... I'm sure all too soon, I'll be writing another obituary."
And I had to write the obituary of Rick Rude only months later. But it continued....
2/21/99: "...I remember hearing over the phone from ECW referee Jim Molineau about Eddie Gilbert's death in February 1995; as I prepared to go down to Baltimore for SuperBrawl. Then I remember saying to someone that I was 'shocked but not surprised'.
I remember being online early in the morning a year ago, and finding out that Louie Spicolli had died...and remembering the times he'd come back into the TraveLodge after an ECW Arena show... barely able to walk. Given what I'd seen, I guess I wasn't surprised about Louie's death, either.
Sadly, I'm sure I won't be the least bit surprised when someone dies again.
Because promoters like Paul Heyman continue to operate with a 'business as usual' mindset. They find it very easy to do damage control. They find it easier and easier to wash the blood from their hands.
Vince McMahon and Eric Bischoff aren't any better in this regard, though. Hell, Eric Bischoff STILL hasn't ever admitted that somas can be tested for; an issue that PWBTS brought up after Louie Spicolli's death. It's funny how PWBTS was able to get that information through a little online research; while a major corporation wasn't willing to do so."
And only a week after THAT...
"A former pro wrestler, despondent over the loss of his job, committed suicide in front of his girlfriend Tuesday morning, police said.
Richard C. Wilson, also known as "Renegade" with World Championship Wrestling in Atlanta, died of a gunshot wound to the head in his home on Amy Drive just off North Marietta Parkway, according to the report.
Wilson, 33, lost his job with the WCW about four months ago and was upset about that as well as his financial situation, Marietta police spokesman Lt. Rick Townsend said. He was arguing with his girlfriend, who lived with him in the home, when he suddenly pulled out a .380 caliber pistol in the kitchen and shot himself, police said.
"Nothing was said that would lead her to believe he would kill himself," Townsend said.
Has the problem of drug use changed? Yes and no. From the 8/29/99 column:
"Then there's the people who have survived...so far. In past PWBTS AS I SEE IT columns, I've mentioned Tommy (Dreamer) Loughlin's painkiller use, something he admitted to publicly at a ECW CyberSlam Q&A after Louie Spicolli's death. Thank God, he's gotten himself clean. ECW needs him, even if only to have one person in their management with a conscience.
Then there's the recent situation of Brian James (Armstrong), better known as the WWF's Road Dogg, who had the good sense to pull himself off the road for awhile, because he felt himself becoming addicted to somas prescribed for an in-ring injury. He did so until he felt right.
Or there's the other time that I reported on in a previous AS I SEE IT... regarding an ECW worker who was handing out percosets at the door of the Stadium Holiday Inn hotel bar like they were candy. Since he's publicly admitted to his problem, I can mention that the person I was referring to was Axl Rotten. Axl's getting himself clean. Thank God for that, too. Lots of people would miss his hilarious Dusty Rhodes impressions.
But then there are the other cases. Like the one with the independent wrestler, known for drug use, who came up to a person working a ticket counter at a small indy show. She had some sort of stomach medicine she was taking.
The wrestler came out of the locker room, looked at her taking the pills...and said to her 'What do those do to you?'. Those of us standing there were uncomfortably silent. Even he stopped and took a step back and realized just what he'd said.
Too many wrestlers think they're immortal. They think they can use painkillers to ease the pain of working night after night, or use various growth-enhancing substances to get big and stay big, or any one of a dozen other drugs, and think that nothing will happen to them. It's always someone else it happens to.
And there's always some unscrupulous bastard who will help feed their addictions for a price. Just because they wear white coats doesn't mean they aren't drug pushers."
The AS I SEE IT column has also talked frequently about the reality behind the perception of the most unique promotion in the United States, ECW. In 1994, 1995, and 1996, ECW and its fans were viewed by many in the Philadelphia area as "Team ECW". That phrase was even used by the Observer's Dave Meltzer in describing the unique relationship that the company had with its fans. But backstage politics soured the atmosphere of ECW in 1996.
The effects were all too visible, as commented upon on 10/19/97:
"...You probably know which company I mean, and some of you may be the fans I’m speaking about. Let’s see if you recognize this picture:
...Fans, drunken even before entering the building, leaving broken beer bottles all over the parking lot, the street and even piled up in the stairwell entering the wrestling venue.
...Hundreds pushing forward in a stampede to enter the building, with no attempt made at establishing a line, with no regard given to those who had been there as long as three hours before the show, no concern for the women, children, or others that were being hurt in the crush of humanity at the door.
...Supposed 'fans' throwing a infantile tantrum because they’d been asked to move from bleacher seats early in the evening, throwing it during a 10 bell memorial count that was given for Brian Pillman, disrupting the ceremony that has been unique to wrestling and boxing for decades.
....The sound of the chant “you f---ed up” when a chair shot was thought to be 'too light'... a chairshot by a worker who was in the ring with a orthopedic cast on a broken foot, a man whose heart is far bigger than his body, believed to be working frequently while on the same type of painkilling drugs that killed one of the business’s superstars only two weeks before, doing it because he actually believes in the fans of the business that just showed him their disrespect.
....The biggest crowd reaction of the evening given to a woman and her boyfriend, who thought it appropriate to flash the crowd and pull her top down; rather than having given that kind of reaction to the man who was memorialized earlier in the evening, or another man, one of the top workers in the world who had worked a match just minutes before, even with a knee that will require major surgery."
Then again on 7/19/98:
"[There has been] personal and public harassment of former employees and fans by ECW employees and those associated with the company; harassment ranging from anonymous e-mails to telephone calls at home and work, as well as harassment of a more personal nature...."
In the same column, the lack of professional discipline that had poisoned the atmosphere between fans and workers was discussed:
"...[Then there is} the verbal and physical altercations between ECW workers and fans. These incidents have happened in town after town, venue after venue; most recently including the riot that occurred at the Staten Island show on July 17, 1998, with reports of as many as 30 police and 3 ambulances needing to be summoned to the venue after the Dudleys went berserk in the crowd, not once but twice....
[Also included is] the continual disorganization by ECW ticket/office personnel, including shows habitually starting 30-45 minutes after the scheduled belltime, and poorly organized lines to enter the ECW Arena and other venues..."
At first, only a few people were willing to discuss those situations. Many fans didn't want to hear that criticism. But as time went on, as the talent left ECW for greener pastures, as the product's quality dropped, as paychecks started bouncing, as entering ECW venues just to see a show became a physical encounter... the truth became impossible to ignore.
Suddenly this column and others at PWBTS weren't one of just a few voices. Those voices grew into a chorus. If it hadn't been for the ECW TV deal with TNN, ECW would likely have closed its doors by early 1999. Things have stabilized for now for ECW as a company. But the future is still constantly in question, with each time that the company has with TNN and other networks/stations censoring the product calling things into question.
Then there are just the experiences of being a fan that are sometimes amusing, annoying, and unbelievable...all at the same time. This particular example is based on certain types of um....creatures you see around wrestling. It's from of the 3/28/99 column, which was written in a diary format, of experiences around WrestleMania weekend in Philadelphia this year:
"....I met another family, these folks from Lima, OH who came out for the weekend. We talked about the atmosphere at the hotels at PPVs. The mother laughed about someone claiming he was 'an insider' giving them a hard time at last year's King of the Ring PPV, claiming they were 'nothing but groupies'.
I said to her 'First of all, he'd have called you a ring rat....if he was 'an insider'...since that's what he was trying to say'. At the mention of the phrase 'ring rat', two women looked up, annoyed, as if being insulted. The Lima family and I all burst into laughter together. No further comment was necessary...."
Then later in the weekend from the same column... and the same subject:
"Oh, guess the hotel never got the time to call the exterminator. The 'arenacus rodenticus' infestation was in full swing at the DoubleTree Hotel. At some points in the evening, I damned near felt the need to put on a full body condom. It was also easy to see that some people were NEVER meant to wear Spandex.
I should make a note to remember to bring the swiss and gruyere tomorrow. Maybe then we'll have some room at the bar tomorrow night."
So there it is.. a review of three years of doing AS I SEE IT. As I've said when debuting on a new site: I may enlighten you, I may make you angry, I might make you cry. But I will never bore you.
Finally, most times, you will always leave after reading the column thinking.
If you'd like to go back and read some past AS I SEE IT columns, you can do so by linking below.
Until next time.....
To Order Mick's Book
If you have comments or questions, I can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com