Published on October 10th, 2015 | by Pro Wrestling Stories0
A Day in the Life of the WCW Traveling Circus in Europe
“Shoe thieves, wisecracks, and catcalls.”
Gary Michael Cappetta offers a tremendous insider’s view of professional wrestling. Having spent more than 20 years in the middle of the pro wrestling ring as a ring announcer and backstage interviewer for companies such as the WWWF/WWF, AWA, NWA, WCW and Ring of Honor, he has seen it all.
Cappetta’s self-published autobiography Bodyslams: Memoirs of a Wrestling Pitchman covers the nature of the environments behind-the-scenes as well as shares stories about Ric Flair, Vince McMahon Sr., Vince McMahon Jr., Mick Foley, The Undertaker, Verne Gagne, Bruno Sammartino, and scores of others in-between. I would highly recommend this book to any fans of pro wrestling, past or present. Through his book, you receive an intelligent and honest view of the inner and outer workings of the business. Additionally, there are numerous entertaining stories shared, much like the one featured below, which takes place during a particularly odorous WCW Europe trip in 1991.
I hope you enjoy this week’s installment of Pro Wrestling Stories. If you do, grab a copy of the book via the link above and let us know what you think!
“In the States, the wrestlers travel by rental car with their buddies, lodge wherever they please (or could afford) and eat at their favorite spots; when we toured Europe, everybody was required to conform to a set itinerary. This was a drill that was foreign to them. And it didn’t take long for the personal animosities that independent travel had tempered to escalate from verbal attacks to hostility and eventually to brutality.
The average traveling performer of other entertainment forms would scoff at the wrestlers who complained about life on the road. Unlike those who travel with a circus or tour as a musical act, many of the wrestlers, making top money, just didn’t appreciate how well they were treated.
Customarily, being part of a traveling unit of circus performers or rockers requires everybody to travel together, to room in the same place and often to eat together. It is a self-contained community that roams from place to place with the neighborhood squabbles that are a natural part of communal living resolved quickly and forgotten, knowing that “the family” will be moving on with you or without you.
Pro wrestling is a self-contained community that roams place to place with squabbles quickly resolved and forgotten – unless you’re with Mr. Hughes!
But it took only one 161-mile bus trip for the wrestlers to begin turning on one another in Europe. The first guy to shatter the brotherhood’s brittle bond was Curtis Hughes.
Under the rules of independent travel in the States, whether or not it was the right thing to do, we were able to overlook Hughes’ self-destructive abuse of drugs. But it was impossible to ignore the consequences of his addiction while in Europe, where everyone was forced to spend long periods of time together on tour buses. Although his mood swings caused most to stay clear of him, Curtis managed to offend the entire troupe from a distance. His crime, his social violation: he farted. No, Curtis didn’t just fart, he farted repeatedly and continuously as he slept slumped in his seat on the bus. And the foul odor, this repulsive stench that pervaded the stagnant air from the time we left London until reaching Sheffield, was nauseating.
At first, Kevin Nash and Grizzly Smith alternately shook Hughes into consciousness and asked him to control himself. In response, Curtis taunted them with more farts. Lex Luger sneered in disgust, but aware of his limitations, knew better than to take on the big man. The Freebirds unlatched the overhead hatch to inhale as much of the frigid English atmosphere as possible before our shivering bus driver ordered them away from the portal. But the farts never stopped.
Ultimately, I was convinced that Curtis began feigning sleep to gas up the bus just for the fun of it. But laughing gas it wasn’t. By the time we were halfway to Sheffield, it was a toss-up over whether Nash, Arn Anderson or referee Nick Patrick would be responsible for lighting a match under the big man’s butt for the vengeful fun of watching him blow up. And coming to blows was about to happen when Grizzly dragged Curtis to the back of the bus as if he were a misbehaving juvenile delinquent on an ill-fated class trip. And this Friday the 13th only got worse.
By the time we arrived in Sheffield, the weather had turned as foul as our tempers. There was fear that our commercial flight to Dublin the next day would never get off the ground. While this wasn’t of immediate concern, the news only served to stir the uneasiness of the more squeamish flyers in the group, an anxiety that swelled to near fisticuffs that night, when it was discovered that we had a thief on board.
“I always believed that Curtis’ gross behavior was the anti-social act of a guy who felt like he didn’t belong.”
During the intermission at our Sheffield debut, I learned that a watch and a couple hundred dollars were missing from the lockers of a few of the wrestlers. All eyes darted to P.N. News, since many of the boys believed he had been the culprit in past petty heists. While the mystery was never solved, the Steiner Brothers were convinced that News was guilty and decided to get back at him the next day at the airport.
The weather predictions proved accurate, as our commercial flight from Sheffield to Dublin was grounded by a dangerously slick runway. Our beleaguered British hosts, who by now not only avoided the wrestlers, but each other as well, found a private air carrier willing to fly us from Manchester to Dublin.
So it was back on the bus to the Manchester airport for forty more miles of farts and fits and fights. Everyone stayed clear of Curtis. P.N., still pleading innocent to the charges from the night before, sat alone.
With the bulk of the commercial flights canceled, the Manchester airport was swarming with disgruntled travelers trying to get home for the holiday. But English disgruntled is very different from American disgruntled. In America, we would be pounding the ticketing counters and threatening defenseless agents. The reserved Brits just sat at the boarding gates and silently simmered. You’d never know they were peeved, because it was a reserved kind of peeved. Nothing much seemed to shake them. That is until the WCW wrestlers descended upon the boarding gate. The troupe always caused a stir with their overbearing appearance and loudness alone. They were accomplished disturbers of the peace.
Soon after settling in, Curtis and P.N. fell asleep on opposite sides of the crowded concourse. I became lost in my book of cryptograms, my way of escaping the rigors of the road. Suddenly, it sounded as if the roof was about to blow off the building. An eruption of snoring and wheezing and gasping, the intensity of which was no match even for the whirling gusts of arctic air that whipped around the terminal, rocked the noisy concourse to its foundation. The bustling of the busy airport settled to a disquieting silence as passengers peered about in search of the source of the beastly sounds.
Over the top of my puzzle book, my eyes settled on the 350-pound heaving hump of Curtis Hughes. His immense frame overflowed into the adjoining seats of an impeccably attired businessman on one side and a demure grandmother on the other. His dark shades had slipped down the nose of his contorted face as he instinctively began scratching his crotch. Repulsed passengers peered at the grossly offensive sight of Curtis’s restless ritual. Tourists from other gates began wandering over to find out the source of the hideous sounds that he spat through his vibrating lips. As luck would have it, they were not the only ones disturbed by Hughes’s outbursts — P.N. News was shaken from his snooze in the midst of the commotion. And that’s when the storm hit.
When News woke up, he looked down at two naked feet. When he realized they were his feet, he shook his head to be sure he was awake, and then began to panic. It seems that in the midst of his deep sleep, the Steiners had carefully stripped his feet bare. You would expect a road-wise traveler to have packed an extra pair of shoes. But not P.N. He was missing the only footwear he had brought with him to Europe.
The shoeless, sockless News stood in the middle of the busy boarding gate as the boys taunted him with wisecracks and catcalls. He shot back with a string of vulgarities that would have made the gangsta rappers after whom he patterned his wrestling persona cover their ears. If News expected the culprit to come forward with his missing moccasins, he was sorely mistaken. When nobody did, he began to pitch a fit. His cussing and fussing, pouting then shouting, only added to the amusement of the boys who were roaring at the sight of P.N.’s hissy fit.
Embarrassed before our British host promoters and what seemed like the rest of England, road agent Grizz tried to quell the family squabble. Several minutes passed before he was able to calm the 400-pounder down. For the next half-hour, Grizz did his best to break through the boys’ wall of silence. When his best wasn’t good enough, News began to threaten the Steiner Brothers, who thought this was funnier than a Jim Carrey film festival. Grizz, who demonstrated the patience of a saint, took P.N. shoe shopping.
The Steiner Brothers, WCW’s top tag team for many years, were a handful on the road.
A while later I decided to remove myself from the scene in search of a safer and quieter haven. As I wandered over to the next boarding gate, my attention was drawn to a commotion at the far end of the concourse. Two bobbies marched in lock step with the distressed businessman who had most suffered the effects of the erupting Curtis. He was the unfortunate chap who had been sitting beside Hughes when the big man exploded.
Not wanting to be roped into that scene, I made an about-face to wander in the opposite direction, only to find Grizz and a tearful P.N. returning from their expedition to a few of the airport clothing boutiques, none of which carried the extra-wide size News required in footwear. I tried not to look down at P.N.’s bare feet as an exasperated Grizz spotted the bobbies behind me.
When our private jet was finally ready for boarding, Scott Steiner slipped into the ladies room, reached into a recessed ceiling tile and retrieved P.N.’s moccasins.
The private aircraft was nothing more than a puddle jumper used to transport corporate execs. As the pilot assessed the weighty cargo that boarded the plane before him, he began to have second thoughts. Twenty athletes with an average weight of 250 pounds would tax the plane to its limits. After we found our assigned seats, the pilot decided to distribute the weight of his passengers evenly throughout the aircraft. When Freebird Michael Hayes was told that he and his wife had to sit apart for the safety of the flight, another donnybrook ensued. He was so vehement that the separation for the one-hour flight would be a hardship, that he threatened to punch event coordinator Coulter in the face. It was one nightmare after another until finally we arrived back home two days later.
Our subsequent tours of Europe made headlines. Not for the success of our shows. Or for the arrival of celebrity American athletes. But for the brutality the boys heaped upon each other.”
SOURCE: Bodyslams: Memoirs of a Wrestling Pitchman by Gary Michael Cappetta.
Here’s a November ’91 Steiner Brothers vs Lex Luger & Mr Hughes match, because, why not?
Gary Michael Cappetta sat down with Colt Cabana for an interview for the Art of Wrestling Podcast on October 8th, 2015. You can check out this interview by clicking here.