Day 3 of the 2013 Cauliflower Alley Reunion began with me making my way down to the EWF table in the Nostalgia Room, and to my delight, was happy to see Jesse Hernandez had finally made it out. After saying hello to Jesse, as well as Frank Mott and Jake Alexander, it was time to spread the word about EWF while chatting up the CAC visitors and enjoying just being in the CAC nostalgia room. What’s funny is how obvious the generation gap is when you are at Cauliflower Alley. There was a guy walking around who was wearing a name tag which read “Paul Jones.” I made the joke to a few of the EWF wrestlers that Paul Jones sure looked a lot different nowdays, as well as a lot younger, and it just fell flat. Of course, #1 Paul Jones wasn’t exactly a household name north of the Mason-Dixon line, and probably hasn’t been on TV since before Raccid Najjir or D.K. Murphy were born. Sigh. It is what it is.
The morning was kind of slow in the Nostalgia room, a sure sign of how busy the bars were the night before, and those who did make it down went to check out the seminar. I missed them all again today, so the youngsters could attend, and for those interested, here is a list of the three seminars:
Dan Murphy, “The Art of Self-Promotion: Stand Out From the Pack”
Sinn Bodhi a/k/a Kizarny, “Spots: What, Where, When, Why”
Ron Hutchison, “Inside the World of Training”
I saw the Kizarny seminar last year, and I told all the wrestlers not to miss this one. That guy has an amazing mind for the wrestling business, and has so much he can teach the up and coming wrestlers. About the middle of the day a bunch of us headed downstairs for lunch, and when I arrived back in the nostalgia room there was a big crowd over near the corner where RVD had been signing autographs the entire day. I couldn’t imagine the crowd was still that big for Van Dam, but when I got closer I saw that Adam Copeland was posing for pictures. Unlike a lot of guys who were selling stuff, Copeland was just there to be available to fans for photos and to chat. Everyone who approached him seemed to have a story. Here is a typical conversation:
Fan- Hey Edge, remember me? I gave you a ride to the Kansas City airport in 2000? We stopped at that place for food and you ordered chicken and a side of pancakes?
Copeland- Man, I have the worst memory. I can’t tell you what I had for breakfast this morning, let alone that many years ago.
Fan- But you were totally cool, you told me you dug the new gimmick you were doing, and you gave me a pair of Black Fly shades. I still have them.
Copeland- I’m sure I did. Thanks again for the ride, but ya know? I’ve hit my head a lot of times. Thanks so much for the support. I’m sorry my memory is so bad.
He was greeting fans right next to the EWF table, so I could see and hear what was going on for quite sometime, and he was so nice, never talking down to any of the fans. He even obliged those who asked with the infamous 5 second pose. I’ll have some more good things to say about Copeland later on in this report.
The Nostalgia Room closed down early, as it always does on the night of the banquet, so everyone can tear down their tables and get their things put away and still have time to put on their Sunday best for the banquet.
I arrived at the banquet to see everyone in a fantastic mood. In a three day event filled with all kinds of things for people who truly love the wrestling business, the banquet is the true definition of a main event. Guys who can’t fit the whole event into their busy schedule still make time to be in Vegas on Wednesday night. For example, before the banquet started Frankie Kazarian walked right up to the EWF table to say hello to Frank and Jesse. This, to me, is why Frankie Kazarian is a class act. He is living his dream, and in a room where tons of people were vying to get his attention as not just a famous wrestler, but one who is on TV every week, he stepped away from the people asking for autographs and paid respect to the guys who set him on the path. He was talking about how happy he is to be on the road taking Impact all over the country, and how no longer being tied to Orlando finally gave him the opportunity to buy a house in California. While the event was filled with wrestling superstars I have grown up watching on TV, it was even more awesome to see a guy from right here in SoCal who I have watched make his way up through the ranks stand there and talk about achieving his dream. After talking to Frank and Jesse, he said hello to the rest of the table before making his way around the rest of the room.
The banquet opened with usual host JJ Dillon welcoming everyone. JJ is a great host, and in past years it has been JJ alongside Terry Funk. I’m not gonna lie, the Funker’s presence was missed this year, as JJ is the straight man who plays off Funk’s silliness.Without the goofball the straight man isn’t nearly as fun. The first award of the night was the men’s award to an active wrestler. This award went to Matt Riviera. He is the promoter for Traditional Championship Wrestling, and had a fantastic match with B. Brian Blair on Monday night.
The second award was a woman’s award which went to Sandy Partlow. She is a veteran of some 40 years in the wrestling business and her award was presented to her by her daughter, who is a wrestler as well.
The third award of the night went to Nora Greenwald, better known to wrestling fans as Molly Holly. Her award was presented to her by Ivory, who was presented with an award at last year’s banquet. Ivory told the crowd that prior to last year’s reunion, she really didn’t know anything about Cauliflower Alley. She then announced she was now a lifetime member, and would continue to be at the banquet every year. This is exactly what one trip to the CAC reunion can do to a person. Ivory talked about what a great wrestler, as well as a great human being Nora was, and then presented the award. Molly talked about her current work as an alcohol and drug counselor in Minnesota, as well as her work with a prison ministry. The video recapping her career really made me remember how awesome she really was in the ring, back when WWE’s women’s division was filled with women who were wrestlers, not models who can (kind of) bump. She worked with Trish Straus, Ivory, Victoria, Gail Kim, Jazz, Lita, Christie Hemme, and Mickie James. Also, she had her head shaved at Wrestlemania XX. I can think of very few women wrestlers who would do that. I’m sure she got a fantastic payday, but still, I can’t think of any females who would do that, except perhaps The Fabulous Thunderkitty. All in all, Nora Greenwald is another person who really defines what the ring of friendship is truly about.
Next up was Diamond Dallas Page to present an award to Jake “The Snake” Roberts. Let me tell you, listening to DDP is amazing. I realize he is a motivational speaker, so he does this for a living, but his speech was fantastic. His main topic was that it is never too late in life for anything. Whether it was him becoming a wrestler in his late 30’s, Jake getting sober after years of struggle, or anyone else who wants to accomplish anything. He talked about how Jake taught him psychology when he was working in WCW. He would watch his matches with Jake, and Jake would ask him all kinds of questions about why he did different things in his matches. He apparently was letting Jake crash at his place all through the 90’s, and detailed a time he had to throw Jake out after the snake got loose and scared the shit out of Kimberly. The snake (which was not suppose to be in the house) then crawled under the sink in Kim’s bathroom and wouldn’t come out. Apparently Jake said it was no big deal, and left. Three days later, when Jake finally came home, Page had to throw him out on his ass. Jake also taught him to hit the Diamond Cutter out of nowhere, and therefore make it the new DDT. Instead of making it like he was now helping Jake just to be a good guy, Page made it sound like he owed Jake for many things, and helping him get clean at this point in his life was his duty as a friend.
Jake then stepped up to the mic and opened by saying he couldn’t believe he was wearing a suit. He said he always thought the next time he’s wear a suit would be the day they lowered him into the ground. He then made it clear he thought he would already be in the ground due to the way he had lived for so many years. He basically said everyone in the room knew his story and his problems, so there was no need to bullshit anyone. He even talked about how messed up he was two years ago at Cauliflower Alley, when he cut a very drunken promo at the Baloney Blowout right before his sister (Rockin’ Robin, for those keeping score) was presented with an award. He talked about how he had a lot of regret, and he was happy that 3 of his 8 kids were there to watch him get this award. He also talked about how working with DDP and following the diet and doing the yoga were really keeping him on the straight and narrow for the first time in many years. He also said the program was also working for Scott Hall, who was pretty much in the same boat as himself. He stressed, though, that the main reason it was working was because he was at a point of his life where he was ready to change. He said that a few years ago this wouldn’t have worked. He announced that he had a match or two left in him, then looked right at the WWE table right in front and said, “Steamboat, ya hear me? I’m gonna knock you on your ass one more time.” At which point Ricky Steamboat approached the podium saying shit like,”Bring it old man!” Let me tell you, I’m not one to tell anyone how to go about their business, but if the Vendetta Pro show next year could be headlined by Roberts/ Steamboat, a lot of money could be raised for the Cauliflower Alley Club through ticket sales, as well as raise the profile of the organization as a whole.
The next award was the award presented posthumously to Paul Bearer/ Percival Pringle III. Cowboy Bob Kelly presented the award, making a touching speech, then Percy’s best friend Ethan Emerson and his good friend Adam Pearce accepted the award for him. Emerson said a few words, then Pearce began to speak and had the entire room in the palm of his hand. He talked about how Percy and he had never talked about wrestling, even though wrestling was what brought them together. He said they talked about things like family, love, and friendship. He told a story about how right before Percy’s death he told Emerson to call Pearce and tell him he loved him. This was a very touching story, then Pearce read a poem he said John Ian had written for Percy. A very sad moment indeed, especially since Bearer had presented an award last year at the CAC reunion.
After the Paul Bearer award, the room was a little depressed, and thoughtful, and the next presenter was just the man to pump some life back into the room. Good ol’ JR made his way to the podium and said he was there to present an award to a man who didn’t know he was getting one. He said he should really make the speech without mentioning the guy’s name, but since he wasn’t any good without Vince McMahon talking in his ear, he’s just have to ruin the surprise right off the bat and say the award was going to Edge. He mentioned that Edge had a ridiculous name as an independent wrestler, that being Sexton Hardcastle. He talked about how Edge was “a very good hand in the ring” which in JR speak is a great compliment. He mentioned all the women he had been involved in over the years in storyline form, and how Edge was a guy who really defined the Attitude Era. Much like Molly Holly, I started to think about all that Edge has done in the wrestling business as JR listed all his accomplishments, and it’s amazing when you think of all those things. One of the best parts of JR’s speech is when he told the crowd that when he thinks of the tag team champs Edge and Hulk Hogan, it was obvious that Edge carried that team. Then he said,”Meltzer(who was in attendance), I want you to report that I said that. I want Hogan to hear that, and if he has anything he’d like to say about it, maybe he will put his money down and join Cauliflower Alley Club. Next year I’d be happy to talk about it with him, after he’s decided to support all his brothers in this organization” That might have gotten the pop of the night.
When Adam Copeland stepped up to the microphone, he started talking about the men who trained him, and listed Ken Hutchison, Sweet Daddy Siki, Bret Hart and Leo Burke. He talked about growing up a huge fan of wrestling, and how he really was a man who lived his dream. He talked about how all the guys he wrestled brought out the best in him, and he seemed almost in awe of his own career. It was like he he was a kid unable to believe what he’d done,like he snuck into the circus, then became part of the show when nobody was looking. It was amazing to see anyone at CAC have this much enthusiasm. He came off as a man who was completely happy with what he had done, and what the future holds. He mentioned making movies and TV, and talked about how much he had enjoyed the WWE Hall of Fame and Wrestlemania this year. This, coupled with what I witnessed earlier in the day, puts Copeland right at the top of my list of good people in the wrestling business. He didn’t come across as the least bit jaded, like so many people in wrestling. He just seemed like a guy determined to enjoy everything he has and be thankful for it. Maybe it has something to do with going out as the champ, and not experiencing a time in wrestling where he slid back down the card. That may be part of it, but he just seemed like a good guy to begin with. The kind of guy who was a fan of wrestling, made it to the top of the business, and was able to go back to being a huge fan.
The last award of the night went to “The Russian Bear” Ivan Koloff. The award was given to him by “Boogie Woogie Man” Jimmy Valiant. For those who do not remember, Jimmy Valiant was a wrestler who was always a blast to watch. He was never the best wrestler, but you always knew he was going to entertain you. He started talking about his matches with Koloff, where Ivan would call stuff in the match, and Valiant would be blown up after ten minutes, even though it was Koloff who was doing all the work. Then Boogie would call long rest holds to get his wind back. It was kind of odd to be at CAC, where the guys frequently talk about doing 60 minute broadways three nights a week in the old days, to hear a guy talk about getting blown up in a few minutes, but that’s just how Boogie is. He doesn’t care. The point he was making was that Ivan always made people look a lot better in the ring than they really were, and that was why Ivan was the best.
Ivan Koloff made his way to the podium, and the first thing everyone noticed was this “Russian’s” Canadian accent. It’s always funny when you see a guy who’s character’s voice you are so familiar with speak without using it. He spoke about all the things he had accomplished in his career, and many in the room learned a huge fact. While a lot of the younger visitors to CAC didn’t really know much about Ivan Koloff, they do know the name Bruno Sammartino. They know that Bruno won the then WWWF championship in 1963, and held the title until 1971. What they don’t know is the man who ended Bruno’s 8 year reign was Ivan Koloff. Granted, he lost them belt three weeks later to Pedro Morales, but what counts is he ended Bruno’s reign. Ivan talked about having many problems in his life, and how becoming a Christian changed his life. He talked about how he now is a pastor, and he is represented by the same guy who manages Nikita Koloff and Ted Dibiase in their respective ministries. He only spoke for a few minutes, then said he wanted to wrap things up.
This was another fantastic year at Cauliflower Alley, and I recommend the event for anyone who loves professional wrestling, but especially for aspiring wrestlers who would like to talk about the business with those who have been around the world in pro wrestling. The key word at CAC is respect. It’s about the younger guys showing respect for those who paved the way, and it’s about the older guys respecting the younger generation and giving them advice on how to keep the business alive in a world that keeps changing, especially in the age of the internet. For the price of a beer at a bar, and a tone of respect in your voice, anyone can approach a legend and ask them questions about craft, psychology, gimmick, or whatever.
I put it up in part one, but the website is www.caulifloweralleyclub.org all the information can be found there, and if anyone has other questions, just talk to me, or one of the guys I mentioned in these articles. And hell, since this is my article, I’m gonna close by reminding everyone that EWF is celebrating the 17th anniversary of the Empire Wrestling Federation on May 3rd in Covina and on May 4th in San Bernardino. Come on out and congratulate Jesse on keeping things together for 17 years, in a day and age where 4 years is considered a good run for a federation. All the info is available at www.empirewrestlingfederation.com
I saw someone on Facebook the other day talking about how fantastic it was to have run two successful shows and thanking everyone involved. It made me think of how much shit Jesse had dealt with to still be here packing venues after 17 years. It’s quite an accomplishment. I’m not knocking the guys who put on two shows, I hope in 17 years they are talking about how long they have kept it together, because the scene is better off with more legitimate places for local wrestlers to hone their craft, learn something new, and hopefully pick up a few bucks in the process.
Since I’m in the process of talking about longevity, I’d also like to thank the guys who have kept SoCaluncensored together for as long as they have. Despite changes in staff and guys like myself dropping in and out over the years, they have maintained a place for people to find out where and when they can see some local wrestling. Right now Jay Cal is at the helm, and there are some writers like Mike Draven and Chad who are turning in content and keeping things alive. I’ll be honest, I’d love to see some content from The No Holds Bard. Until you go out of town and try to find an indy show, you don’t appreciate the fact we have something like this here, as few “territories” do. It’s really nice to have a lot of info available in one place. Who knows, maybe I’ll get around to writing another article before next year’s CAC piece.
Thanks for reading,