Vince McMahon Saves the Day for Fired Wrestlers

I’ve been thinking about my own experiences in the beautiful country of New Zealand and how my old boss Vince McMahon once saved the day for a lot of workers who had been wished luck on their future endeavors.

Lanny Poffo shares why he appreciates Vince McMahon for what he had done for a lot of future endeavored workers back in 1990.
Lanny Poffo shares why he appreciates Vince McMahon for what he had done for a lot of future endeavored workers back in 1990.

Vince McMahon Saves the Day in New Zealand

Back in the autumn of 1990, Mr. Vince McMahon wished me luck on my future endeavors.

About a week later, Pat Patterson called me and said that Don Muraco’s friends were running a tour down in New Zealand and asked if I could be a part of it. It wasn’t a WWF promotion, but they were going to borrow some talent for their shows. The main event featured The Bushwhackers vs. The Nasty Boys. As you know, The Bushwhackers are indigenous to New Zealand.

It was going to be two weeks for $2000, and I said yes. I had just been fired, and this opportunity opened the door for me to get another country under my belt. Besides, I can think of many reasons to say yes as I don’t know many people who are given the opportunity to travel to New Zealand for free. Not to mention, my stock wasn’t up too high after being canned like that. So I said okay.

Pat Patterson told me it would be me against Jimmy Powers on this tour. “Jimmy Powers likes to work with ya!” is what he said, and I liked working with him. We were going to be in the opening match of all the towns, which was great.

We go to Auckland, New Zealand, and as I said, it wasn’t a WWF sponsored event, so they did a few things wrong that I noticed. For example, the first time we went to Auckland, we drew half a house. It wasn’t a big venue either, but it wasn’t full. Not even close. It was a bad house.

So the next morning, we weren’t on the “Sports” page, but we’re on the newspaper’s front page. But see, Vince would never allow that. Vince would have had all of the publicity in front of the show, not behind it. Why would you want to advertise something afterward? That’s something that Vince knows from being a good promoter. After working for WWF, you can tell the difference in the smaller promotions. We never did draw a good house while we were there, as Vince didn’t promote this.

We went to a couple of more towns, including a fascinating town called Rotorua, which smelled of sulfur and was famous for its baths and geysers. You can look it up. It’s a notable town because it has its healing waters. While I don’t know about that, I paid the money and took a bath in their public pools. I don’t know if it was any good for you or not, but they had some outlandish claims, and I took them up on it. I noticed no difference.

In between shows, I remember driving really fast in the mountains, and there was nothing there to protect us but sticks and rope. It was raining hard, and I thought of myself flying off the mountain and killing myself! Siva Afi was the driver, and he was going too fast. I said, “Please slow down!” and he started laughing, drinking more, and speeding up.

I thought, “Well, I’m screwed…”

I had remembered Matthew Broderick killed some people in Ireland a few years before because he wasn’t used to the driving. It’s not paranoia. It’s facing reality. I didn’t want to be a statistic in the newspaper like this!

“It’s not paranoia. It’s facing reality. I didn’t want to be a statistic in the newspaper like this!”

We got to Wellington, the actual hometown of The Bushwhackers, and I got to see a lot, but before we got to the south island and Christchurch, the tour got canceled. Just like that, we were flying home.

Before leaving, we all got checks, checks for the dates that we worked pro-rated for whatever we were promised.

On the first leg of the trip home from Auckland to Honolulu, I met a deadheading flight attendant. She took a liking to me and put me in first class next to her. We got along really well, but no precious body fluids were exchanged! I sure had a nice flight home.

I fly back and everything and I’m very exhausted. As soon as I hit spine to feathers, my now ex-wife goes, “Lanny, are you asleep?”

I said, “Not yet!”

It was Vince McMahon’s secretary on the line.

She said, “I’m sorry that you had a bad tour. Did you cash your check yet?”

I said, “No.”

She said, “Good. Don’t, because it’s going to bounce. Even though it wasn’t Vince’s promotion, he felt he was responsible because he sent you on this tour, so he’s going to make it good.”

A few days later, I got a check in the mail from Stamford, Connecticut, and it’s signed by Vince. Sure enough, that check was good.

Vince saved the day by making the check good for all of the workers on this tour. He didn’t have to do this.

But the truth of the matter and the moral of the story is that some people know the price of everything and the value of nothing. I still got a free trip to New Zealand, and I got to see Auckland, Wellington, Rotorua, and a few other places. I got to do all that sightseeing, and then Vince made the check good. Had he not done this, I still would have been happy because very few people have made that trip to New Zealand from America, and if they had, it cost them money. So I feel fortunate in all ways because of that opportunity. I had a fantastic time out there also because of The Bushwhackers.

As for the person in charge of these shows, I don’t remember his name. What I do know was Mark Lewin and Don Muraco were friends of the promoter. He was a local guy from Auckland.

Back in the old days, the biggest stars that hit New Zealand were Don Muraco, Curtis Iaukea, and Mark Lewin. Those were the men that were the biggest stars in that small area. Mark Lewin was famous as “The handsomest wrestler that ever lived!” He isn’t now, but he was then! He was a handsome pretty boy wrestler as well as a helluva worker and big star. He made a lot of money where he went but burned bridges everywhere he went too.

When Rick Martel made his debut, Curtis Iaukea interrupted one of his promos and was accused of being the illegitimate son of Mark Lewin. It’s an outlandish claim made by an outlandish heel, but it got Rick Martel over immediately (not that he wouldn’t have gotten over anyway).

Then there was Steve Rickard. He was the man who had the territory out there back in the day, and he was one-half of the big promotors down under. You see, you had Jim Barnet in Australia and Steve Rickard in New Zealand, and for years they made a lot of money. They kept that place hopping.

As I look back on my life, this was one of those things that I relish. I appreciate Vince McMahon for what he had done. Some people have bad things to say about Mr. McMahon, but he has never bounced a check in his life, and he has replaced the divot of a few others.

I never made it to Christchurch.

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The late-great Lanny Poffo, formerly known as "The Genius" and "Leaping Lanny" of the WWF, was a published author, motivational speaker, host of Pro Wrestling Stories' The Genius Cast podcast, and brother of WWE Hall of Famer "Macho Man" Randy Savage. And while Lanny may be sadly gone, his memories and written work now have a chance to live on through our site.