As these seven tales show, the best wrestling stories are always the ones that occur after the cameras stop rolling!
Wrestling Road Stories – The Good, The Bad, and The Bizarre
Before your favorite superstars strut into the ring, they spend multiple hours on the road. There’s a chance they slept in not the cleanliest of hotel rooms hundreds of miles away from their home. It is also quite likely they spent hours on a flight sitting in an upright position, followed by being crammed into a rental car with very little leg room, unable to find recovery after the bouts they had the night before. It’s not always a glamorous profession, but it certainly comes with its set of fun stories!
Join in on this journey as many legends of the ring share their favorite stories from the road.
1. Edge on Braving the Winter Roads of Canada
The first of our wrestling road stories comes from Edge’s autobiography, Adam Copeland on Edge.
Edge: "While some of my family and friends laughed and doubted my career choice, I soldiered on. Failure was not an option, and it was too late for me to turn back. When I got home from Tennessee, my mom fattened me up for what would be my toughest winter death tour yet. Yep, even worse than the first. This one was in January, and the crew consisted of Jay [Christian], Rob, Joe, Keith, Cheech, and breaking his death tour cherry, Rhyno. He had no clue what we had gotten him into.
"This once again meant another tour of reservations via the dreaded winter roads. On the way up, while bouncing over hurdle-sized bumps, one of our two vans broke down. Breaking down out there can mean death, but luckily the other van passed by shortly after. Jay and I were voted to go ahead with that van, while everyone else stacked themselves into the ring van. Jay and I hopped in the back of the passing van and sat among several open gas canisters. We arrived at the reservation six hours later, having inhaled enough fumes to give Cheech & Chong a buzz.
"By the next night, our passenger van was still not fixed, so Jay and I piled in with the others in the ring van. Picture a wrestling ring, all of our bags, and eight wrestlers literally stacked on top of one another in a utility van. I remember being crammed beside Keith with no room to move, my nose an inch from the roof, lying straight out. We could not move, and if we had an accident, we would have been done for. Luckily we made it through virtually unscathed, until our final show at a reservation called God’s Lake Narrow.
"After the show, we decided we wanted to leave the frozen tundra of northern Manitoba behind and make the twenty-hour drive south to the balmy sub-zero climates of Winnipeg. Tony wanted to stay the night, but we were sick of making Kraft dinners in the home economics room and sleeping on blue gym mats. Visions of dumpy beds and $2.99 all-you-can-eat pasta danced in our heads. Because of this, I offered to take the first driving shift, and we’d alternate non-stop until we reached Winnipeg.
"To get off God’s Lake Narrow, we had to drive across a lake. This lake took an hour to cross at sixty km (37 mph) an hour. It was the biggest lake I had ever driven across (that sentence just sounds all sorts of wrong). It was a full moon at midnight on a frozen lake with no land as far as the eye could see. It was pretty damn creepy. I had to follow orange pylons to stay on the supposedly safe parts of the lake, all the while it made cracking noises. The locals said it was just currents under the ice, which, of course, didn’t make me feel any better at all. However, due to my superior driving skills, we made it over the lake in a little over an hour.
"Later, at about four A.M., I was drowsy, even with Pantera blaring from the speakers to keep me awake. Just about this time, I noticed that we were approaching our last lake to cross. There was only one problem: a football field-size hole filled with water between us and the shore! I shook my head to clear the cobwebs and hoped I was seeing things. I wasn’t. I pumped the brakes while screaming every expletive known to man. Before I got the van stopped, my full load of suddenly awake wrestlers were piling out onto the ice. The ring van behind us—still carrying the ring, our clothes, and three wrestlers—was able to stop before hitting us. Now, besides a troupe of wrestlers, no one is stupid enough to be on these ‘roads,’ quite possibly for the entire winter, so we found ourselves in some major trouble (as in ‘possible death’).
"We all stood on the partially frozen lake at four A.M. in minus-fifty-degree-Celsius weather looking on in slack-jawed shock at this gaping hole. Finally, Tony, in his infinite wisdom, decided it would be safe to drive across. He found a stick, jammed it in the icy water, and it was only about a foot deep. Only my ass! It could drop off at any point! That was enough for me, so I tossed the keys to Tony and said, ‘Go crazy, boss,’ although I thought he was already there. Rhyno, Jay, Rob, and I all jammed back in the van while Tony acted like he had the situation firmly under control. Suddenly, wham! He gunned it, and we were off at about two miles per hour. We dropped into the hole and set off about as fast as a flock of turtles. The water was freezing and hitting the bottom of the van. We were redlining and about to stall. All of us were screaming in Tony’s ears, while Pantera still screamed from the speakers, but I’ll hand it to the little Italian bastard, he got us across the hundred yards or so. I think Rhyno actually got out and kissed the snow-covered ground.
"This brought us to our next dilemma: the much heavier ring van. It was being driven by a wrestler named Brian Jewel, and his plan was different from Tony’s. There was actually a small, clear path to the shore beside the hole, and he decided that was the way to go. By this point we had all walked along the path back to the ring van in case they needed any help. Tony tried to tell Brian it was the wrong way to go, to no avail. He got about two feet and dropped through the ice up to the wheel wells, while still driving forward, deeper and deeper. Water was shooting everywhere, and it was damn cold. We’re talking hypothermia cold. So Keith, Joe, and Cheech all scrambled out of the ring van, trying to dodge the water. Just then, something even more surreal happened.
"I was standing next to Jay when suddenly he just dropped like someone had cut his legs off. At first, I thought he slipped on the ice. Nope, he fell through the ice up to his thighs, and that’s when all hell really broke loose! Now I can look back at this and laugh my ass off, but at the time, it was pretty scary (although the heel in me was still laughing). Seeing this finally sent Rhyno over the edge (bad pun intended). He saw Jay go through and hightailed it. He looked like Roadrunner; his thick, stumpy legs were spinning so fast. The only problem was, in his Tasmanian Devil-like panic, he took off in the wrong direction, back to God’s Lake Narrow. By the time he got his mental compass back and realized his mistake, Jay was pulling himself out of the murky depths. As we got Jay to his feet, Rhyno stampeded by us and knocked him on his soaked ass again. I think that was the birth of the Gore. It was a comedy of errors. Rhyno weighed three hundred twenty-five pounds at the time. I’ve never seen a man so thick move so fast. As Jay spun around like a frozen top, Rhyno blazed back to the safe van.
"Jay walked back to the van while his pants and boots quickly froze to his legs. The rest of us got footholds on what ice was left and, while still dodging geysers of water, tried to push the ring van back the ten feet to solid ice. Finally, between Joe, Rob, Keith, Cheech, and I, we were able to get it back to the point where it first broke through. Now we had to try and push it up about two feet onto solid ice again. By now, it was 4:30 A.M. We were tired and frozen, and we just couldn’t do it. This is where the tag line ‘Get the Rhyno’ came from. He was the strongest dude on the tour, so I went to fetch the mangy Man-Beast.
"When I got back to the safe van, I found Jay with his bare feet on the heating vents, teeth chattering away, while his boots and socks sat on the floor, frozen straight up. Rhyno was in the middle row of seats, swaying back and forth and muttering like Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man. His muttering was actually praying. He honestly thought we were going to die on this frozen lake in the middle of a forest in northern Manitoba. He was the only American on the trip, so he wasn’t quite used to this. Finally, I got him to let go of his death grip on the seat and walked him back to the lake, arm in arm like a little old lady crossing the street. Once I got him down there, the Man-Beast kicked in and helped us push that bad boy out. By now, the sun was starting to peek over the trees. The ring van took Tony’s route and made it through. We were back on our way by 5:30 A.M., de-thawing all the way to Winnipeg.
"I’d like to say that this was my last winter death tour, but it wasn’t. All in all, I did about twenty of these trips, but it was all worth it. It’s where I cut my teeth in this business, and I made some great friends along the way. Tony, Don Callis, Bad News Brown, Gerry Morrow, Johnny Smith, Cheech, Lenny, and my first meeting with two fellas by the names of Chris Jericho and Lance Storm. Most of these guys were smart and only did Tony’s TV tapings. What can I say? I’m a glutton for punishment."
The following six tales come from the highly recommended book, "Are We There Yet? Tales from the Never-Ending Travels of WWE Superstars" by Robert Cabrio.
2. John Cena on How He Created His Early Persona on a Bus Ride in England
John Cena: "If not for one specific trip in Europe, I would still be searching for my connection with the fans. My chance to develop my free-stylin’ character arose from something we were doing to pass the time during a bus ride in England.
"We were on the Rebellion Tour in the fall of 2002, and that’s one of the few times that everybody travels together. WWE chartered most of the trip for us. Our travel arrangements were covered for the two rides over the ocean, then for most of the trips in between the cities while we were over there. By the end of the week, the traveling got real long and tedious. In the span of seven days, we went from Memphis, Tennessee, to Helsinki, Finland, to Belfast, Northern Ireland, to Manchester, England, to Sheffield, England, then to Grand Rapids, Michigan.
"So we took the first charter flight to Finland. We did a show in Helsinki, then boarded another charter flight over to Ireland and one more to England. Now, the England shows were in two different towns that weren’t far away from each other, so we took a bus between them. After the last show, we got back on the bus to head to the airport. It’s quite a drive, and we’re all just kind of hanging out doing whatever. The tour’s over, everyone is exhausted, but we’re all wired with energy, you know that feeling, kind of punch drunk. I think it was because of the shows. Whenever we go overseas, the fans are incredible. They are just awesome to us. All that energy in the building was keeping us going on the bus.
"Now, we ended up having a lot of guys in the back of the bus who all like hip-hop, guys like Rikishi, Rey Mysterio, and Chuck Palumbo. We all just started rhyming. It got to be my turn, and, man, I must have freestyled for like five or ten minutes straight. It was just flowin’. Little did I know that in the front of the bus was half of the creative team who heard it and said, "We gotta do something with this."
"I’d freestyled backstage at Raw before, but just in front a few of the guys. On this bus was the first time a lot of people could hear, and it gave me a huge opportunity and pretty much launched my career."
3. Victoria (Lisa Marie Varon) on Hazards on the Road
Victoria: "There were a bunch of us in the Atlanta airport, all traveling home to different places after a weekend of live events. One of the conversations we had while we were sitting around the gate, ready to go our separate ways was about hitting animals when driving. Al Snow joked about how he has the worst luck of anyone, and although it’s always an accident, he thinks animals are magnetically drawn to the car he’s driving.
"The plane to Louisville was ready to board, so Rob Conway, Rene Dupree, and I all got on. Rob was in front of me, Rene was a few rows up. We’re cruising along and all of a sudden there was a loud boom!
"Immediately, the plane dipped so far to the right that I thought we were going to roll over. Everyone was silent — everyone, that is, except me.
"I started screaming, "Omigosh! Should we call our families?" Rob stayed real calm even though I was yelling right behind him, he reached back and grabbed my hand. Rene turned around and gave this solemn stare.
"The captain broke the silence and came on the loudspeaker to say that a bird flew into the engine. We had to return to Atlanta.
Right away, I yelled out, ‘No way! I don’t think birds fly this high!’ In retrospect, I wasn’t helping the situation at all, just freaking out everyone who could hear me. Then I felt the plane descending way too quick. I didn’t know what was going on.
"Apparently, when the engine went out, and the plane leaned on its side, we had turned around to change direction back to Atlanta. I didn’t know that. So as we were descending, I’m screaming, ‘Oh my God! They’re looking for somewhere to put the plane down! An emergency landing!’
"I wanted to call my family, but I didn’t want to disrupt what I thought was the pilot’s attempt to safely crash-land this jumbo jet. In my mind, I was getting ready to die.
"It was the first and only time in my life that I ever went through that. I remember thinking that I was proud of the life I had led and that I would be reunited with my grandparents in Heaven. I really made peace with the whole process.
"But I didn’t need to. We landed safely back at the Atlanta airport in no time.
"There were so many fire trucks and emergency crews on the runway. It seemed like a much bigger deal than it turned out to be. I got off the plane and called my family crying.
"When I hung up with them, the first thought I had was, ‘I’m never flying again!’ Well, it only took me a couple of hours to relax back in the airport before I was on another plane for Louisville. I’ll take a million more plane trips in my life, but this is one that I will never forget."
4. Kane and His Hotel Room Surprise
Kane: "When you’re sitting around the arena all day, some nights, you just can’t wait to get out of there when you’re done. At one show, I was in the last match but knew that after the bell, there was going to be a run-in on my opponent by the guy he was feuding with at the time. They were set to go at it for a few minutes after I left the ring. I knew I wanted to beat the fans out of the arena so I wouldn’t sit in traffic for an hour; these few minutes were my only hope.
"I ran back to the locker room and didn’t shower or anything. I just threw on my workout stuff from that afternoon—shorts, a tank top, sneakers. I didn’t even put on socks. As I’m sprinting to the car, I realize I still had my makeup on, too. I didn’t care. The only thing on my mind was getting out of that arena parking lot and to the hotel immediately.
"The weird looks started the second I entered the lobby. I’m dripping with sweat, wearing wrinkled workout clothes, and had half my long hair pulled back in a ponytail, half hanging in my face.
"I checked in, walked up to the room, ripped open the door, threw my bag in, and then noticed an old couple sitting on the bed. I had no idea where they came from. They started screaming at me in some foreign language I couldn’t understand.
"I just… I mean- I had already put in a really long day, so I just sort of stared at them, cussing under my breath. Not at them. But at the situation.
"They’re screaming, just terrified. They both jumped up on the bed and were now like hugging each other as if they were saying goodbye or something. By the time I got back down to the front desk, the clerk was already on the phone with this couple apologizing, telling them he was going to give them a free lunch and stuff.
"I think they saw their life flash in front of their eyes at that moment, and I can’t say I blame them.
"Think about it, if you can imagine a seven-foot, three-hundred-pound guy, wearing mascara, slamming your door open … that’s a pretty scary sight."
5. A Brush With Death for The Hardy Boyz and The Headbangers
Matt Hardy: "I wasn’t twenty-five years old when Jeff and I first got into the WWE, and in a lot of places, you have to be twenty-five to rent a car. The office would usually take care of it for us, but sometimes, once we got to the town, we’d have trouble picking it up because of our age. We’d usually grab a ride with the Headbangers when that happened.
"The four of us were riding together one time from Chicago to Milwaukee. I was driving, one Headbanger was in the passenger seat, and Jeff was in the back with the other one. As we were driving down the road, we ran up on Mark Henry, who was driving real fast, like ninety, so we settled in behind him. We’re kicking it down the highway. Then we hit a spot right before Milwaukee that suddenly slowed down. It was actually more like stopping than slowing.
"We were coming up over this hill, and all we see are brake lights. There wasn’t much warning at all. Mark slammed on his brakes. I slammed on mine but realized I didn’t have enough time—I’m going to crash into Mark if I don’t pull off the road.
"But Mark had the same idea about the person in front of him, so just as I swerve, Mark did, too. I knew I was still gonna hit him unless I pulled up even farther on the side of the road.
"Now we’re going so fast that I couldn’t just come to a complete stop. The car would have skidded, I would have rammed into Mark in front, and the person driving behind me was sure to whack us.
"Right before we came over this hill, we passed an exit. You know how, near some exits, they have those small metal retaining rails? The ones that start kind of angled up, like they’re coming out of the ground, and get higher as they move along, so if a car would actually slide into it, the rail would hold it on the road. Well, what happened was that because we had just passed an exit, I actually ended up pulling right on to one of those rails.
"As the rail rose up, so did half of our car. I was driving on it, sort of like we were rail sliding like we had invented a new extreme sport. We were only on two wheels for a while, so I didn’t have too much control over the car and couldn’t stop it.
"One of the Headbangers started yelling, ‘Oh my God, we’re gonna die!’ Now Jeff, being the person he is, just reached up from the back, put his hand on my shoulder and as calm as can be said, ‘Hold it steady now, Matt.’
"Even with all the craziness going on around me, I thought it was great advice. So that’s just what I did. I was trying to hold it as tight as I could until the rail dropped back down enough to where I could pull off it. I rode that rail for what felt like a mile, but it was more like 100, 150 feet when we got out and looked back at it.
"The car still ran after the rail incident, but there was definitely something wrong with the gas tank. From that point on, we could only fill it up to like eight dollars. I think we dented that tank pretty good, and the gas could only get in part of it.
When we got to the facility that day, Mark was the first person we ran into.
"‘Oh, man, I thought you all were dead! When I saw you hit that thing, man, I thought it was all over for you guys.’
"‘Dead? Nah, just a little rail sliding,’ I told him.
"Later on that day, I wondered why, if he thought we were dead, he didn’t stop to help us out or something. I should ask him that one day."
6. An Offer That Can’t Be Refused for The Brooklyn Brawler and Iron Sheik
The Brooklyn Brawler: "I rode with the Iron Sheik for a two-week run one time. He offered me a deal the first day: If I rented the cars, he’d pay for the hotels.
"I thought this was a pretty good deal, so I jumped on it. Splitting it up this way would cost me a lot less, so I wondered why Sheik would do it but figured he had some sort of a deal with the hotels we were going to stay at and wouldn’t be paying full price.
"Yeah, he had a deal, all right.
"While we were checking into our hotel the first night, he told me he hurt his hand earlier in the match and couldn’t write, so I had to just sign the bill. He used his credit card. I was just signing. I saw him drop his card on the counter and saw them run it through the imprint machine; this was way before the scanners they have now. It all looked legit.
"Little did I know he was using a fraudulent credit card at these hotels. Three weeks later, the office called and told me they were given information that I was traveling around the country skipping hotel bills with a bad credit card. I actually had to go to the office to explain in person to everyone what happened in order to save my job.
"They called the Sheik right after they got done with me, and he said he did it as a joke and was going to tell me the next time he saw me and pay the hotels once I knew about it. Because the hotels had called the office already, the office had to pay them right away to keep everyone out of trouble.
"That was the last deal I ever made with the Iron Sheik."
7. Trish Stratus Gets Mistaken For a Pop Star at the Airport
Trish Stratus: "This doesn’t happen often these days with how tight security is at the airports, but there was this one time when a few of the guards asked me for a couple of autographs and to pose for some pictures with them. I was only trying to be nice by signing and all, but I ended up inadvertently creating quite a buzz in the place.
"The entire walk to the gate, people were asking for my autograph, which led to even more people coming up to me. I even got a few, ‘Can I have an autograph? Thanks. So, who are you anyway?’
"When I finally got to the gate, I grabbed a seat and was immediately approached by two security guards and an official-looking guy, who asked me if I’m okay or if I need any assistance. Just as I was telling them I was okay, and it was no big deal, a group of kids headed my way to get an autograph. After I finish signing all of their stuff, the official-looking guy asked how long until my flight.
"‘A little over an hour.’
"‘Great, come with me.’
"So he took me up some elevator, into a lounge, and made sure I was comfortable. He asked if he could get me a cool beverage, and within minutes, a woman brought me over the Diet Coke I requested. The official-looking guy told me to relax and that he’ll come to get me before my flight.
"He left, and the woman who brought the Diet Coke came back over to me, this time asking to see my boarding pass. She returned with a bowl of mixed nuts and a new boarding pass with a new seat in first class.
"Wow! This is great! I can get used to this living.
"So I chill for an hour, read my book, and indulge in my snacks until the official-looking guy returns, accompanied by the same two security guards who first approached me, they took me the ‘back way’ to the gate. We pre-board the plane so I can get settled before anyone else comes on.
"This was all so incredible. The service, the luxury, I couldn’t believe what they did for me. I thanked my newly found entourage and shook their hands as I say my goodbyes.
"‘You’re very welcome, it’s our pleasure,’ they said. ‘We’re huge fans of yours, Ms. Spears.’"
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