Friday, November 26, 2010

My "Match" with Billy Gunn

Me with Billy Gunn & Ian Rotten on set (2005)

There's a picture you don't see every day.  A news anchor, a former wrestling champion, and a hardcore wrestler. But I have proof it happened.

It all started in early 2005.  My friend Chad was telling me about a wrestling organization called IWA: Midsouth.  Ian Rotten was the man in charge of the group.  They put on shows in the Kentucky, Indiana, and northern Illinois area.

Chad had the idea of getting the group to come to southern Illinois. In 2005, the indy wrestling scene here was hurting pretty bad.  WWE had run a house show in the area in ages, and besides the prices were steep and when they did come close to the area, it was an hour drive.

I'm not sure if Chad emailed or called Ian, but I remember Ian ended up calling Chad at the station.  The two talked for a bit and set up a night to meet for dinner.  Ian would be visiting the area to scope out locations and get a feel for the area.  Chad and I met him at Applebee's.  Ian was joined by Mickie Knuckles, who went on to wrestle briefly for TNA as Moose Knuckles.  Seriously.

It was a very surreal feeling.  I was unfamiliar with Mickie's work, but I had seen Ian wrestle on the old ECW from the mid 90's.  I remember his bloody (that's putting it mildly) battles with his "brother" Axl.  The two ripped each other to shreds with a variety of weapons, including barbed wire covered baseball bats.

Meeting Ian you could tell immediately he was a wrestler.  His forehead was scarred over from years of being split open.  He walked with a bit of a limp.  The years had definitely taken a toll on his young body.  He's only a couple of years older than me, but that was hard to tell.

We exchanged hellos and quickly found our table.  I'll never forget, Ian ordered the endless riblets basket.  As we made small talk, we started to discuss ideas for bringing his company to southern Illinois.  Ian was a really nice guy.  Pretty soft spoken from what I remember, considering his persona in the ring.  

We figured out that the Herrin Civic Center would play host to the night of wrestling on April 1, 2005.  The event was named April Bloodshowers, and former WWE tag team champion Billy Gunn was to be the headliner.  In the weeks leading up to it, Chad and I hit the streets of southern Illinois (several different communities) hanging up posters promoting the show.

"Wrestling" Billy Gunn on the Playstation.
We made arrangements for he and Billy to appear on our morning show the day of the big event.  Since Chad was the director of the morning show, we wanted to make the appearance something fun.  The first hit (yes, we scheduled two during our 60 minute show) I just did an interview with Ian and Billy about the show.

The second hit we decided to have a little fun.  Chad brought in his Raw vs. Smackdown! game for the Playstation and created a wrestling character in my likeness.  Of course, since Billy had worked for the WWE at one point, his character was already a part of the game.  So live on the news at 6:40 in the morning, I battled Billy Gunn on the video game.  I think it's a safe bet no other news anchor in America can make this claim.

Billy was extremely cool.  I was totally star struck and incredibly nervous throughout both interviews.  It was hard to focus on the game and do the interview at the same time.  Of course, Billy laid the smackdown on me.  Luckily it was just my likeness.  I have video of this event, but unfortunately I'm having trouble uploading it.  I'll try again and post it when I get it figured out.

He signed the action figure that Chad had bought prior to the event.  The best part, just before they left to go back to their hotel, Ian asked if I'd be the ring announcer for the night.  How could I turn that down?  Of course I said yes.  If I had butterflies in my stomach before the morning show interview, I had eagles bouncing around at the wrestling show.

More on that experience to come.  Stay tuned.

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