Those that know me really closely probably do not know one little fact about me: I loved watching pro wrestling when I was a kid. OK..there it is, I said it. I tuned in to WAVE 3 every Saturday at noon to watch our heroes decimate the bad guys and listen to Lance Russell and Dave Brown call the action. I used to make my brother wrestle me in the living room with a blanket thrown on the floor acting as the the ring....the squared circle. I would always have to win in stunning comeback fashion of course. A punch to the head with a chain on my fist or a pile driver would always get the job done just when it seemed I was down and out. Sorry Derek, being a big brother comes with benefits. Sort of like us boxing with winter mittens on. I know those combinations had to hurt a little, but you are better for it. AmIRite?
Jerry "The King" Lawler dressed like a Chippendales Dancer.
The Fabulous Ones dressed (barely) like Friday night "weeny flop" contestants at Sparkies Lounge.
The Fabulous Ones again, looking like they are about to exchange vows.
Jeez, how did I miss the obvious homo-erotic sub text that was so prevalent in wrestling? I think I'll just leave that alone. (Backing slowly away from the topic)
So, anyhow, as a wrestling fan worth his salt, I always rooted for the good guy. I didn't appreciate actually rooting for the bad guy until I was an adult (and it became movie or TV villains as I long ago stopped watching "rasslin"). Rooting for the good guys means that there are villains to hoist your anger on. When your ego needed to whip a little ass, you took it out on Jimmy Hart, Killer Karl Krupp, or the Iron Sheik (no doubt we allowed what basically amounts to nationalism and racism to play a part into our hatred of the bad guys....it was implied in their characters that it was alright to do so). You shout at the TV and think horrible thoughts about the bad guys. If you actually went to an event you heckle the bad guys and they respond with threats and obscene gestures. I know this because I shared the front row at a wrestling event at Adair County High School back in the early 90's with a few baseball teammates. We had a bit too much to drink in the parking lot and went in to heckle and berate the bad guys without mercy. It was all in good fun, especially when the ringside promoter basically told us to keep it up! We rooted for Dick The Bruiser in the last man standing match (yeah, he won.....but I'm not sure that wasn't rigged, he was at least 70 years old going up against guys in their 30's), and had to endure the shame of watching Leon Spinks "fight" a wrestler. Yeah, you read that right. Former heavyweight champion of the world Leon Spinks was in a wrestling ring "fighting" a wrestler in front of 100 people at a high school gym in south central Kentucky. It's the second most shameful thing I have ever paid to see. The first being that I actually paid money at the Kentucky State Fair to see a "freak" attraction. The world's smallest woman. I can still see her sitting there on her tiny stool, eating a bologna sandwich while Brian and I just looked at her. We didn't even have the decency to say hello or ask how her day was. Ahhh, the memories, right Brian? Anyhow, back to the story at hand.
One of the villains that we loved to hate when we were young was Jimmy Cornette. Cornette was a "manager" and a wrestling bad guy. He would make us furious by saying outrageous things, cheating the good guys during a match, distracting referees, and just generally being an arrogant pud. He was hounded without mercy at every wrestling event and those of us at home would scream at him through the TV. We felt proud of ourselves. We were contributing to the cause of righteousness. We hated on someone that was easy to hate and impugned his character at every chance. What recourse did he have? He had to endure it. He was a bad guy after all, and we got away with it. Or so we thought.
Jimmy Cornette, doing what Jimmy Cornette does!
I had the pleasure of speaking with Mr. Cornette at the Louisville Flea Market. He was there selling sports memorabilia and basically just selling "being Jimmy Cornette". He was very affable and seemed to enjoy speaking with me and my friend of 30 years, Larry. We laughed a little and he shook both our hands like a gentleman as we parted ways. "What a nice guy." I confessed to Larry. He agreed and we took a walk down memory lane in our conversation for a few minutes. Recalling some of Cornette's past exploits. We commented on how young he looked after all these years. What a positive experience. Jimmy was a good guy! I thought at some point I need to tell my old college buddies Greg and Joey about it, since they appreciated old school wrestling, often goofing on it when we were having good times (which in college, was quite often).
Little did I know that Jimmy Cornette had not shed his bad guy ways. It was a farce. Larry and I thought he had reformed. If Jerry Lawler could come back from being a bad guy, so could Jimmy Cornette, right? Jimmy was now one of us now. Someone to root for. A man of redemption. We just knew that he stood for truth and justice and would now be battling the bad guys for supremacy.
Well, we were wrong. Just a few days after shaking hands and leaving Mr. Cornette on what we thought were good terms, both Larry and I came down with a virus. Sore throat. Congestion. Weakness. Nausea. The whole deal. It dawned on us after we told each other about our illness that it had been Cornette's handshake that we had in common. Cornette had gotten revenge on us! He was now retaliating by pretending to be a good guy and spreading a virus to all of us that were celebrating his reform. He knew that we were middle aged fans that had likely been haters of his as teenagers. He was exacting the ultimate revenge while smiling to our faces and fooling us into thinking he had seen the light and went to the good guy side!
I went through several stages trying to come to terms with this situation. Denial. Now, Jimmy is a good guy now, he wouldn't do that. Anger. Dammit Jimmy, how could you use someones good nature against them!? Depression. I now have no way to trust the motivation of future reformed bad guys I may meet. Acceptance. Larry and I had gotten "got" and that's all there was to it. Jimmy is probably gloating about it right now at the complex where all the bad guys live, train, and conspire. The snake had bitten us. We should have known better, but you know, you sorta have to admire that sort of dedication to vengeance in a strange way, even when you are the victim.
Well played Jimmy Cornette.....well played.