HEAVEN HAS A CHAMPION
A Special Edition of "Into The Fire"
Another turning point, a fork stuck in the road
Time grabs you by the wrist, directs you where to go
So make the best of this test and don't ask why
It's not a question but a lesson I learned in time
It's something unpredictable
But in the end it's right
I hope you had the time of your life
So take the photographs and still frames in your mind
Hang it on a shelf of good health and good time
Tattoos of memories and dead skin on trial
For what it's worth, it was worth all the while
It's something unpredictable
But in the end it's right
I hope you had the time of your life
"Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life)"
- Green Day
On October 2, 1999, I witnessed what was probably one of the most heartfelt independent wrestling shows ever exhibited. The Allied Powers Wrestling Federation held their "Diceman Forever - Robert Hornack Tribute Show" in Punxsutawney, PA and it was one that I, nor anyone in attendance, will ever forget.
Chris Lash is the owner and proprietor of the APWF. He was also one of the driving forces behind the "Break The Barrier" show held at the ECW Arena back in May of this year. Robert Hornack was Chrisí stepson from the time he was 5 years old. Robertís passion was professional wrestling. It was what he lived for and what he loved. Chris began the APWF because of his son so it was only fitting to pay tribute to such a talented young man in the only way possible Ė put on one hell of a tribute show.
Robert had just begun his training in pro-wrestling within the past couple of years. At the tender age of 17, he already exhibited an amazing amount of talent and was enjoying a tremendous fan following. A little over a month ago, Robert was headed down to Maryland to work with some of the wrestlers from Maryland Championship Wrestling. He and his fellow travelers decided to stop off and go swimming near the shore. Robert was standing in the sand and was struck from behind by a heavy wave as was the other young man standing with him. While the other young man rose from the surf, Robert was not quite so lucky. Currently, the medical experts have not determined the exact cause of death. Unfortunately, this has also left the family in a financial bind due to the fact that they cannot collect life insurance until a cause of death is determined. Similar to Owen Hartís death, it was a freak accident that took this young up-and-comer entirely too soon.
Robert would have been 18 years old on Monday, September 27.
Karen Deats, a former wrestler and friend of the Lash Family, invited my husband and I to the Diceman Memorial. I was honored to have been asked and wasnít going to miss this for the world. We arrived in Punxsutawney in the early afternoon of October 2. After we checked into our hotel, we immediately headed over to the Community Center to see if we could help with the show. As we arrived, we were greeted by Chris Lash and introduced to the many APWF wrestlers who were there lending a helping hand. We were immediately treated as if we were part of the APWF family. It was a tough afternoon for those setting up because evidently, Robert was always the first person to arrive and start setting up and was the last to leave after helping tear the ring downÖ. the ring which, might I add, he built with his own two hands.
Chris was so proud of the video that had been created in Robertís memory that he wanted to show it to us before the show. It was created by Ed Emelett of Phantom Productions (http://www.phantom-productions.com). It was a beautiful video montage of some of Robertís finest moments in the ring and was set to the song "Good Riddance" by Green Day. The video was one of the most tasteful tributes Iíve ever seen and would be played to start off the show.
The atmosphere backstage did not have the normal electricity that shows have due to the circumstances being what they were but you could see that everyone was ready to work together 250% to put on the best show possible in honor of their friend, brother, son and fellow worker. Before the show, all the workers came out and surrounded the ring. I was asked to sing the National Anthem and was honored to pay tribute to Robert in my own manner. After I sang, they saluted Robert with a 10-bell salute and commenced with the video montage. There wasnít a dry eye in the sold-out arena. At the end of the video, the words scrolled across the screen that read "One thing Robert always wanted was a standing ovation. Letís honor him with one NOW." At that point, the applause and cheers were deafening for the young Diceman. A championship belt was presented to Robertís high school in his honor and heartfelt words and memories were expressed by Robertís father, his older sister, Karen Deats and Robertís stepfather and APWF owner, Chris Lash.
The tribute show was then started with the first match, Convict Charlie Manson accompanied by The Warden vs. Tyrone Sanford. Sanford came to the ring to the theme from "Sanford and Son" and had the rousing support of the crowd. Manson initially got the offense on Sanford but couldnít keep the streak rolling. Sanford is an incredible worker, executing a smooth hurricarana and a picture-perfect leg drop on Mansonís head from the top rope. However, Manson got the win with a version of the bossman slam.
Next up was The Midnight Rider, brandishing an all-black biker type gimmick, vs. Eli Yoder, The Angry Drunken Amishman. Eli is unbelievably over with the crowd and comes to the ring to the tune of "Amish Paradise" by Weird Al Yankovic. Rider attempted to work on the already injured leg of the Amishman but Yoder was resilient and wouldnít tap out. After taking a couple of swigs of whiskey to block out the pain and heeding some well-versed advise from his stuffed sidekick, Dog, Yoder got the win over the Midnight Rider.
Maryland Championship Wrestling also was in attendance to honor their friend, Diceman. They featured an elimination match for the Maryland Championship Wrestling heavyweight championship. The match pitted Romeo Valentino, Corporal Punishment and the MCW Champion, Bruiser against one another simultaneously. The almost 20 minute match consisted primarily of Romeo and Corporal Punishment double-teaming the MCW Champion. Romeo attempted to do The Rockís shtick several times which elicited a large amount of booís from the crowd. These three incredible athletes put on an amazing match. It was fast paced, full of energy and smooth moves. In the end, Bruiser retained his MCW Championship by locking submission moves on both of his opponents.
Next up was the Brutal Battle League match, which is the APWFís newly created hardcore division. This match featured the independent sensation Fang (who many remember from "Break The Barrier") accompanied by Pig Vomit against Sheik Abdul Hussein. In honor of Robert, they shook hands and pointed to the sky before starting the match then proceeded to wrestle one of the most incredibly technically sound matches Iíve ever witnessed. Fang has proven himself to be both hardcore and technically sound and a given asset to any promotion whose card he graces. This is the first time Iíve witnessed Hussein and I was absolutely impressed. With a look similar to Taz, heís incredibly agile and funny as hell. He makes the perfect heel while still managing to entertain the crowd with his wrestling talent. In the end, Fang captured the Brutal Battle League title while the Sheik vowed to get even.
The APWF Tag Team Championship was next featuring APWF Champions G-Moe and Pig Vomit against former champions, The House of Kane. From what I understand, the House of Kane were stripped of the tag titles four months ago and had vowed retribution ever since. After an intense battle both inside and outside the ring, Mohammed Kane and the Combat Kid regained their tag team titles.
Next up was Rock N Roll Bob Keller vs. Jayce North accompanied to the ring by Hollywood John Tambo. Keller mounted an excellent initial offense and dominated a majority of the match. Donít let that 80ís haircut fool you, heís a smart and talented young man. Jayce attempted to crack Keller in the head with a foreign object but it backfired. Keller grabbed the object and cracked Jayce with it and stuffed it in Jayceís own tights. Keller climbed to the top rope, executed a top rope splash onto Jayce and got the win.
One of the main events of the evening was the competition for the Robert Hornack Memorial Cup. The top APWF students were pitted against one another Ė Pig Vomit, The Fairy Godfather, Blaze and The Postman Eric Evans. The Postman was the last to enter the arena. In true heel fashion (and postal fashion), he threw letters at many of the fans and told them to shut up and read their mail, except for me. He came over to me and said, "Except you, youíre beautiful. I like you. Here." and he handed me a letter which at first, I thought was merely blank paper. It wasnít. I opened it and began to read the touching poem he wrote. As he was still making his way to the ring, I was in tears. Eric positioned himself in the ring and told the packed arena of the wonderful friendship he shared with Robert. He then read the poem that he wrote to everyone in the arena:
MY SPECIAL LIST
I have a list of folks I know all written in a book
And every now and then, I go and take a look.
That is when I realize these names Ö. They are a part
Not of the book theyíre written in but taken from the heart.
For each name stands for someone who has crossed my path sometime
And in that meeting they have become the reason and the rhyme.
Although it sounds fantastic for me to make this claim,
I really am composed of each remembered name.
Although youíre not aware of any special link
Robert, just knowing you has shaped my life more than you could think.
So please donít think my greeting as just a mere routine.
Your name, Robert, was not forgotten in between.
For when I send a greeting that is addressed to you
Robert, thatís because youíre on the list of folks Iím indebted to.
Robert, so whether I have known you for many days or few,
In many ways you have a part in shaping things I do.
Robert I am a total of many folks I have met.
You are a friend I would prefer never to forget.
Robert thank you for being my friend Ö and for giving me the opportunity
To perform against you. Thank you for opening your home to me.
- Eric Evans
This prompted an earth-shattering "Diceman" chant and thus, the match began. This was undoubtedly the most exciting match of the night. Battles raged both in and out of the ring. The Fairy Godfather (dressed in a pink tutu and a white feather boa) and Postman were both eliminated when the Fairy Godfather executed a moonsault off the top rope onto the awaiting Postman on the floor. This resulted in a double-countout. Inside the ring, Pig Vomit was on the receiving end of Blazeís stunner. However, Blaze didnít see APWF President Chris Lash laying in wait. As Blaze turned to celebrate what he thought to be victory, he was nailed in the head with a stiff chairshot from the President. He then dragged a seemingly lifeless Pig Vomit on top of Blaze and the ref made the 1, 2, 3 count. Pig Vomit won the Memorial Cup and proceeded to celebrate in the ring with Chris Lash, Robertís sister and Robertís father. The Fairy Godfather attempted to celebrate with them as well by trying to run up and hang on Pig Vomit twice. Both times resulted in the Fairy being thrown to the mat. On his third try, The Fairy received a tigerbomb as well as two vicious powerbombs from the APWF President, Chris Lash.
Next up was Grunge, who came to the ring playing his electric guitar, vs. Doink, who came to the ring with a super soaker pistol. Doinkís aim with the supersoaker was perfect as he got the ref and Grunge square in the ass. Grunge mounted the initial offense but Doink eventually got the best of him. Grunge went for an arrogant cover by sitting on Doinkís chest but Doink rolled him over on his back for the 3 count. After the match, Doink went after Grunge with a bucket of water but missed Grunge and soaked the ref instead.
Finally, the main event of the evening pitted High Society (Jimmy Cicero/Cueball Carmichael) against current APWF Champion, Julio Sanchez and former APWF Champion, Bubba Brewer. High Society came to the ring to the tune of "You Sexy Thing", dancing around in their hot-pink tights. Ciceroís presence started chants of "Sissy" which of course, Cicero took great exception to. Cicero got the microphone and said that he had two things to say. Number one, he was not a sissy and number two, he and his partner are not gay but rather are very, very happy. They also treated the fans in Punxsutawney to a "special dance routine" that they created just for this occasion. Cicero also stipulated that he better not see this re-enacted on Monday night by the Nitro Girls. Cicero and Cueball have an excellent gimmick and their workrate is top-notch. Both teams were undeniably at the top of their game for this match. Each team dominated their share of the match but in the end, Julio Sanchez and Bubba Brewer got the victory. As an aside, Julio Sanchez will be on the Heroes of Wrestling Pay Per View this Sunday, October 10. For more information, visit http://www.heroesofwrestling.com/.
All proceeds from this show went to the Robert Hornack Memorial Scholarship at Punxsutawney Area High School and for a tombstone for Robertís gravesite. Additionally, my hat goes off to the workers and everyone involved with the show as this was a labor of love. Everyone worked this show out of the goodness of their hearts, not for the betterment of their wallets.
I had the opportunity to talk with a couple of the APWF wrestlers who wanted to make sure that my readers knew what kind of person Robert Hornack was. The first I spoke with was Vampire Fang. Fang gained a great deal of notoriety at the Break The Barrier show back in May of this year by working Abdullah The Butcher. Iíll let Fang fill you in on his favorite memory:
"Robert and I spent a great amount of time together wrestling and working with each other at the old training facility. He was willing to try and do anything just to learn the game and become a master at it. He was well on his way to doing that, too. We spent a great deal of time just stretched out in the ring talking and thinking about what the future was going to hold for us both. He was one of my very best friends. Then one day at training, Chris Lash came in and said "Hey man, youíre working Abby at the Break The Barrier show." I donít know who was more excited, me or Robert. All he kept saying was, "Abbyís Gonna Kill You! Abbyís Gonna Kill You!". He was excited for me and I was nervous as hell! After the show, he was laughing at me and telling me that I was the man. No, he was the man. Robert had more guts and more desire than I could ever dream of and he deserved all the respect in the world. I wish I could have told him how good he really was and how much I respected him. He always had time for everybody and would do anything for you. He lived his life to make others happy."
The next person I spoke with was Bubba Brewer. I watched Bubba intently at the show. He is one of those workers who has a true love of this business. He smiles, no matter what heís doing and he took time to sign every autograph and pose for every picture. He was supporting everyone backstage and was genuinely thankful to those who came to the show. Bubbaís heart is the industry and itís a heart that filled to the rim with gold. I knew that Bubba considered Robert his brother and best friend but I think he can express his feelings much better:
"Robert was a genuine person and he loved this business. That kid knew this ring and was like a wizard when it came to fixing it. It was his baby and if something was wrong, he could fix it with gum and a paper clip. He also was one of the funniest kids I ever knew. We were training once and the Iron Sheik left his trunks behind. Robert ultimately found them. We were all training one day and Robert came out with a robe on. He took off the robe to show off the Sheikís trunks. He even wrestled in them. The whole class was hysterical laughing.
I feel like I was his big brother and he respected me. His mother, Laurie, showed me his journals. He had a gift for writing. I read this one article about wrestling that he turned in for schoolwork. The article was about Hulk Hogan and he was wrestling a worker in a title match. Robert wrote that the wrestler upset Hogan for the belt. In the end, I saw that the wrestler he wrote about was me. Reading that article made me cry and it was an honor to be mentioned like that."
The Postman Eric Evans held Robert in very high regards. He had so much more to say that just the poem that he wrote for the show:
"Robert had a passion and vision for wrestling. He was a true mentor for all of the workers in the APWF. My biggest memories of Robert are that at the inaugural APWF show, he and Chris found me outside and started talking to me. From there, we became acquaintances. After a few months, Robert taught me how to build a ring. He then made me part of the ring crew. One night last October, Robert asked me if I wanted to train to become a pro-wrestler. I replied "Sure, what do I have to lose?" Needless to say Robert made arrangements to have me trained by T.C. Reynolds. This was without a doubt the happiest moment of my life. I trained for six months and I can remember vividly the day Robert called me to tell me that I was working on a show in June. I asked "Against who?" and he responded "Against ME". Needless to say, he carried me through the match.
Itís interesting because I was ten years older than Robert yet in so many ways, he shaped my life and made me a better person. Robert was a young man who didnít use drugs or drink alcohol, who would give you the last buck out of his pocket, who would call you just to say "Hello, howís it going?", who took pride in his family.
Robert was a 17-year-old teenager with the heart and mind of a thirty five year old man. The Good Lord didnít need a good person, he needed the best, and thatís what he got in Robert."
Last but not least, special words from Chris Lash, Robertís stepfather, written the day before what would have been Robertís 18th birthday:
"I miss you real bad...thank you for touching and changing my life. I will never ever forget you. I think of you constantly and I cry out for you everyday. You were and will always be one of my best friends. Iím sorry I didn't tell you I loved you too many times. But I do say it everyday now...and I know you can hear me. Wrestling isn't the same without you...but we will push ourselves because that is what you would want."
This is a time in the professional wrestling industry when so many have needlessly been taken from us in such a short amount of time. Unfortunately, small independent promotions are often overlooked when such tragedies come to pass. It makes my heart ache for Robertís family, friends and fans because a young man with a heart of gold, an immense amount of talent and a bright future ahead of him was lost in an absolutely and completely freakish accident. We cannot help but question why even though there is no concrete answer when asked. However, perhaps it can serve as a reminder to love those around you a little more, appreciate what they do for you, hug them a little tighter and donít ever, ever forget to tell them how much they mean to you.
To Robertís family and friends. I cannot pretend to understand the grief you currently endure. However, my heart goes out to all of you. I have always found comfort in the following poem in dealing with death. I offer this to you from my heart and hope youíre able to find the same comfort.
Do not stand at my grave and weep;
I am not there, I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning's hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry;
I am not there, I did not die.
- - Anonymous
In a project for his English class last year, Robert wrote the following words around the perimeter of a championship belt. These words are most fitting in memory of Robert Hornack.
"You have trained hard, fought all the top contenders and won. Now you have a chance to compete for the glory and the chance to become Champion".
Carrie A. Zohn Ė IntoTheFire@iname.com
The Robert Hornack Scholarship has been started at the Punxsutawney High School in remembrance of this fine young man. All donations should be sent to:
Robert Hornack Memorial Scholarship
Punxsutawney Area High School
424 East Mahoning St.
Punxsutawney, PA 15767