|ANOTHER WAR AND WRESTLEMANIA|
Déjà vu? I am certain that I have been here before. My mind is filled with memories of a DESERT GULF WAR and a WRESTLEMANIA. It was 1991, my first year portraying the Paul Bearer character for The World Wrestling Federation. I was on the road living my dreams, holding the ladder while Mark Calaway began his climb to the top of the sports entertainment industry.
My first WRESTLEMANIA was scheduled to almost fill the 100,000 seat Los Angeles Coliseum. However, due to the Gulf War security alerts, it was moved next door to the smaller L.A. Arena. But, it didn’t matter to me, on March 24, 1991; I was finally going to appear in the “grand-daddy of them all.” Celebrities such as Donald Trump, Henry Winkler, Regis Philbin, Willie Nelson, and many more, were also in the building.
The Main Event saw Hulk Hogan win his WWF Championship back from the then “Iraqi sympathizer” Sgt. Slaughter. The large under-card was without a doubt a whose-who of sports entertainment. The Rockers defeated The Barbarian and Haku. Kerry Von Erich beat Dino Bravo. The British Bulldog bested The Warlord. The Nasty Boys won The WWF Tag Championship from The Hart Foundation. Jake Roberts defeated Rick Martel in a blindfold match. The Ultimate Warrior had his hand raised over Randy Savage. Japan’s Genichiro and Koji Kiao beat Demolition. The Big Bossman won by a disqualification over WWF Intercontinental Champion Curt Hennig. Earthquake pinned Greg Valentine. The Legion Of Doom beat Power and Glory. Virgil won by a count out over Ted Dibiase. The Mountie beat Tito Santana. And in our match, The Undertaker pinned Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka.
Even before I stepped into the middle of that WRESTLEMANIA ring, my head was spinning from all my dreams coming true, one right after another. I had signed my first WWF contract just months before on December 22, 1990. Followed by my first appearance as Paul Bearer on Titan television on January 28th, in Macon, Georgia. I had my first house show match with The Undertaker on February 7th, in Knoxville, TN. I was floating on air the night of March 15, in New York City, as I walked down the aisle of Madison Square Gardens for the very first time. Somebody please pinch me and tell me I was not dreaming!
I recall that right before WRESTLEMANIA VII, we were running several other California towns. I was still the “new kid on the block” and listened to every word of advice the veterans offered me. Jimmy Hart was always a big help. He would always sit down with me, and fill me in on the best, and the worst of each town we were going to. Jimmy’s information on what hotel to stay at, to rent a car or to not rent, all his tidbits were priceless.
We worked The Arco Arena in Sacramento, The Fresno Convention Center, and the legendary Cow Palace in San Francisco. Sherri Martel was making the drive from Fresno back to San Fran alone, and asked me to be her copilot. Sister Sherri turned out to be an excellent teacher also, and quickly became one of my many friends.
Speaking of new friends, I will always remember my first day in San Francisco. I was going to have breakfast in the hotel and ran into Sgt. Slaughter and his manager “Shiek” Adnan. “Sarge” invited me to sit at their table, and realized that he was one of the nicest guys I had ever met. When he found out that I had never been to San Francisco before, he asked if I wanted to take a ride around town with them.
In those days The WWF Champion always had a company limousine at their disposal 24/7. This country boy from Alabama felt like a king riding around in a big fancy car with The World Champion. We hit The Fisherman’s Wharf, The Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, and Lombard Street. To top it off, I even got to ride to the Cow Palace with them for the event that night. I just couldn’t take it!
Little did I know at the time, I would have almost 12-years ahead of me with The World Wrestling Federation. So many memories… So many miles… So many friends… cities… arenas… If my career ended today, I have been blessed with more than I ever dreamed. I am so proud to be able to share some of my stories with you, my friends.
Join me next time right here in STORY TIME, for the continuing saga of Percy Pringle III, also known as The WWF character Paul Bearer.