The Wavell Starr Column

I had the good fortune of stepping in the ring with two of my childhood idols: Hacksaw Jim Duggan and Jake “the Snake” Roberts! Meeting these wrestling legends was an incredible experience, as they were mainstays of the WWF (now called WWE) during the era when the business was at an all-time high.

In the mid to late 80s, the WWF was BIG business. In my opinion, the reason business was better during that point then it is now, is because the WWF product was character based, and all the characters were larger than life.

And those characters really shined during Wrestlemania. I still remember watching the first Wrestlemania with the main event featuring Hulk Hogan and Mr. T managed by Captain Lou Albano (remember him? Sure you do!) accompanied by Cindi Lauper.

They were pitted against the hated duo of Mr. Wonderful Paul Orndorf and Rowdy Roddy Piper with their manager…(wait for it)…Bobby “The Brain” Heenan! That was a favourite Wrestlemania moment for sure.

Back then when an average person saw a WWF wrestler walking through the airport, their heads turned even if they weren’t wrestling fans, they knew the person was “someone”- perhaps a pro football player, or a rock star.

I believe many of the performers today are very talented athletes, but many, lack the “it” factor that so many of the greats from an era gone by were gifted with. Men like Randy “Macho Man” Savage, The Iron Shiek, Andre the Giant, and many others including both “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan, and Jake “the Snake” Roberts.

So when I met these two living legends the first thing that stuck out was the incredible popularity both these men continue to have wherever they go.

Listening to their stories about their experiences traveling up and down the road is something that I will always remember.

What I am especially proud of is the level of respect that they both showed me as a professional. There exists a “pecking order” in the wrestling industry and veterans of their calibre need not spend time sharing knowledge with performers on the independent level, but because these men were such good-natured people, I was lucky to have had the opportunity to learn from their stories.

The main point I learned from them was to appreciate and look after your body, as it’s the only one you get. Longevity is every bit as important as your ability to draw crowds.

Hacksaw is 60 years old and still able to perform and make a crowd go wild. Jake is 58 and truly an impressive physical specimen.

Another thing I learned from Jake was that anything is possible and one can make any changes in their life that they want or need to make. Jake made an impromptu speech on the house microphone after the match detailing his battle with his demons.

The crowd was in tears of joy and chanting his name by the end of his story outlining how he went from rock bottom to being sober and full of hope.

In a business that gets criticized all too often for being “fake”, I will remember that very real moment for the rest of my life.

In the words of the late, great Ed Whalen (long time TV commentator for Stampede Wrestling), in the meantime and in between time, that’s it, another edition of the Wavell Starr column. Bye bye now.

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