Sunday, January 31, 2010

Mike Mooneyham's column for 1-31-10


Pro wrestling loses its best friend

By Mike Mooneyham
Sunday, January 31, 2010

Professional wrestling lost its best friend with the passing last week of Georgiann Makropoulos.

“Georgie,” as she was known by nearly everyone in the business, died Monday at the age of 68 of a massive heart attack.

Along with her, I’m afraid, went a part of pro wrestling’s heart.

If you’re a casual fan of pro wrestling, chances are you may have never heard of Georgiann Makropoulos. She wasn’t a wrestler, a valet or an on-air personality. What she was, quite simply, was a delightful lady who spent more than half a century around the business — as a fan, a friend and a respected journalist.

Georgie had been a fixture at Madison Square Garden since the early ‘60s, and had the same ringside seats at the venue for more than 20 years until the arena ended its reserve seat practice. It was there she befriended many of the top wrestlers of that era, including the legendary Bruno Sammartino, with whom she remained close until her death.

I first crossed paths with then Georgiann Orsi nearly 45 years ago when I began writing for various wrestling publications. She was already established at that time, authoring her own fan club column in a national magazine, as well as serving as fan club president for stars such as Bruno, Buddy Rogers, Cowboy Bill Watts, Bob Orton Sr. and Bill Dromo.

Georgie was there long before the Net and the newsletters. While other wrestling writers and sheet editors went the way of the digital age years ago, Georgie continued to print and send out via snail mail her popular Wrestling Chatterbox newsletter every month, like clockwork.

The Chatterbox, which she started 22 years ago, was a fan-friendly, information-packed periodical in which members were more like family than subscribers, and whose pages contained random tidbits about the business in addition to a fan forum and monthly listing of wrestlers’ birthdays and personal appearances.

Georgie was able to make the transition to the Web, and wrote columns for prominent wrestling sites in addition to keeping the most accurate and comprehensive list of wrestling autograph and memorabilia events. In recent years she had dedicated a site of her own, wrestlingfigs.com, to the wrestling figurine business.

Her reach in the wrestling industry, though, extended well beyond the Internet and the pages of her monthly publication. She was a driving force for a number of independent wrestlers to get tryouts with major promotions, and even was involved in setting up contract negotiations. She literally touched fans in every corner of the globe.

She was a link bridging the generations from Bruno to Hogan to Austin to Cena, a common bond between eras, and although she had become disenchanted with the direction the industry had taken over the years, she nonetheless remained one of wrestling’s biggest boosters and always strove to make the profession a better place. Her admiration and love for “the boys” never waned.

Professional wrestling was a labor of love for Georgie, and those in the business loved her for it. No one ever had a bad word when talking about her. That’s a rarity in this profession, but it was true with Georgie.

Georgie, who had successfully battled cancer in 2004, served as a caring, motherly influence to many of the younger stars in the business, always willing to give advice, promote appearances and help them in their careers. She regularly undertook causes for wrestlers, and spearheaded a drive to raise money for Konnan’s hip replacement surgery and kidney transplant in 2007.

As expected there has been a tremendous outpouring of support and love for Georgie since news of her passing broke. That’s only natural, as she never failed to bid a fond farewell whenever the final bell tolled for a member of her extended wrestling family.

More than a generation of wrestlers, fans, promoters and pundits were part of that extended family. Georgie was a house mom, a den mother, to a legion of wrestling folk over the years.

“I don’t know what I’ll do with out you Momma G ... you were my support, my ear, my momma. I love you,” Tammy “Sunny” Sytch wrote on her friend’s Facebook page.

“Thank you for being an awesome friend. It breaks my heart to know you’re not a phone call away anymore. I’m going to miss those calls. You did so much good in this world. I love you,” wrote Marc Mero.

I knew Georgie since I was a fan —- back in my teen years. She was the first Lady of Wrestling bar none,” posted longtime wrestling magazine editor Bill Apter. “She had a warm and wonderful heart and glowed with enthusiasm for this business no matter what phases it had gone through. I cannot believe she’s gone.

“The last time I talked to her was a few months ago. I called on her cell phone to discuss something but she couldn’t stay on the phone. She was busy cashing in her winnings at the Atlantic City casinos she loved so much! ‘Hi baby,’ she said. ‘I just hit it big on the slots again — talk to you later!’ I spoke to her a few days after that but I never thought it would be the last time. What a sad day for all of us.”

Georgie was well connected, to say the least, in the wrestling business. Her amazing circle of friends ran the gamut from top stars to newsletter editors, to those long retired and those new to the industry. Her sparkling personality and infectious spirit endeared her to all.

But she also could be delightfully saucy and use her tough-as-nails New York demeanor to tell it like it was. She had, after all, been around the business longer than most, and couldn’t be worked by the most seasoned practitioners in this smoke-and-mirrors profession.

What I’ll remember most about Georgie is how passionately she loved this business and the people in it. She was the quintessential fan. A link to the past that sadly is becoming all too rare in a world that moves steadily along.

If there ever was a “friend to the business,” it was Georgiann Makropoulos.

She truly was pro wrestling’s angel, and now she can be heaven’s. And with the best seat in the house.

-- WWE is expected to announce Atlanta as the host city for Wrestlemania 27 in 2011 on Monday.

The Atlanta Business Journal reported Friday that the announcement of a “major sporting event” has been scheduled at the Georgia Dome, and the list of dignitaries for the press conference includes Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed and members of the Atlanta Sports Council, executives of the Atlanta Falcons and state officials.

The event could bring at least 65,000 fans from around the world to the Georgia Dome. Houston hosted Wrestlemania 25 in 2009 with an attendance of 72,744 with an economic impact of $49.8 million.

This year’s Wrestlemania is being held in Phoenix.

-- WWE performers Chris Jericho and Gregory “Hurricane” Helms were arrested and charged with public intoxication early Wednesday in Kentucky.

Helms also allegedly struck three people during an altercation inside a cab that occurred around 4 a.m. Witnesses told police that Helms struck three people, including Jericho, a female passenger identified as Ashley Storer and another man.

Helms was not arrested for the alleged attack because the alleged victims have not pressed charges.

Helms and Jericho were arrested for “alcohol intoxication in a public place.”

Storer, the woman who was allegedly struck by Helms’ elbow, told TMZ that the police blew the situation out of proportion. She said Helms and Chris Jericho were “play fighting” when things “escalated because we were drunk,” and that she may have exacerbated the situation.

“I was crying and drunk and tired from being out all night and I just wanted to leave,” she said.

Witnesses told police that WWE star Matt Hardy was in the taxicab with the two when the incident took place, and that he took off on foot when the driver pulled over at the gas station to call 911. Helms also allegedly ran away when the cab stopped but came back shortly thereafter.

Storer told police that Hardy, who didn’t return to the taxi, was completely sober when the incident occurred.

C.M. Punk (Phil Brooks) and Christian (Jason Reso) posted bond for Jericho and Helms later that morning.

Helms subsequently was removed from the Royal Rumble.

-- Mick Foley weighed in on the recent unpleasantness between TNA Knockout Awesome Kong (Kia Stevens) and shock jock Bubba The Love Sponge.

“She probably should have handled the situation differently, and in retrospect, I think even Kia would admit that she may have let her emotions get the best of her,” Foley wrote on his blog. “I happen to like both people involved — and, no, I’m not just saying that because Bubba is Hogan’s buddy. But I hope people — TNA management, Bubba himself — can understand why the situation was so emotional for her. I don’t want this situation to hurt anyone involved — Bubba included.

Foley also reprimanded Bubba on his language usage when the TNA on-air talent declared “(expletive) Haiti” regarding the disaster in that country.

“Bubba and I had a little conversation about the F-word, and how a comment that may not have seemed so offensive to him, could be so hurtful to others. We even had a good, respectful conversation about it on his radio show the next day.”

Foley said he told Bubba the day after the incident that he couldn’t have disagreed with him more concerning his offensive remarks.

“Bubba later said it was so much worse than being yelled at by some irate listener; it was like your dad giving you the dreaded ‘I’m disappointed in you son’ line,” wrote Foley. “Bubba looked sad, maybe even sensitive, as he tried to explain himself to me. ‘You know, I don’t think I really said anything that bad, Mick.’ I looked at the Love Sponge in disbelief and laughed. ‘Bubba, you said ‘(expletive) Haiti.’

“I like Bubba. I’ve known him for over 10 years, ever since the epic battle with Gerald Brisco in Tampa that made the Brisco-Patterson evening gown match look like Flair-Steamboat. I understand that it is sometimes Bubba’s job to shock his audience, even if, in this case, I thought the shock was in the poorest use of words imaginable. Hey, I even wrote a letter to the ‘O’Reilly Factor’ when I’d heard that Bubba had been fired a few years ago, because one irate father happened to hear the show, and took offense to it. Granted, my letter was hand-written, and probably never made it to New York City, let alone onto Mr. O’Reilly’s desk, but at least I tried — an effort that the Sponge man has never forgotten.”

-- TNA creative team member Vince Russo revealed in a blog last week that he’s been battling health issues lately.

“I’ve got to be honest with you, for the last month I haven’t really been myself because I’ve been dealing with a health issue,” Russo wrote. “A health issue serious enough that I was forced to go to a doctor for the first time in a decade. Now grant it, as I stated in ‘Forgiven,’ I am a hypochondriac, but believe me — this time there was something to worry about. As the days grew long, and the symptoms persisted, I just couldn’t help but to think every day about my life.”

WWE announcer Jim Ross said he hopes to return to WWE TV by Wrestlemania 26.

“I’m doing all that I physically can to be ready to participate in WM26 which is a huge, personal goal,” Ross said. “There is nothing in my professional career that I have been lucky enough to participate in that remotely compares to Wrestlemania.”

-- Honky Tonk Man (Roy Wayne Ferris) said on his Web site last week that he’s close to signing a deal with TNA.

That was news to TNA’s Eric Bischoff, who said Friday that he would “rather drive a rusty ice pick through my thigh” than work with Honky.

Honky “couldn’t draw flies if he were rolled in horse (manure),” Bischoff said in an interview with Bubba The Love Sponge.

HTM’s last major wrestling appearance was to induct Koko B. Ware into the WWE Hall of Fame last year.

He also revealed last week that he declined an offer to be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame this year due to a scheduling conflict with a comic book convention in Toronto.

-- Any chance of TNA star A.J. Styles defecting to WWE? He said no way in a recent interview with The UK Sun.

“All the horror stories I’ve heard about WWE, there is no reason why I’d want to go,” said Styles. “ I’m going to tell you what I know as the main difference between the two companies ... They will stab each other in the back to get themselves to the next level. It’s not about me. It’s about us in TNA.”

-- Rey Mysterio recently told the Chicago Sun-Times that his 12-year-old son is already taller than him, and that he’s teaching him some wrestling maneuvers.

“He’s 12 years old, so I still gotta teach him who’s boss around the house. He likes to learn moves, he likes to learn holds. So we sometimes do a bit of mat wrestling. That’s the only way that I put holds or show them some of my moves. No aerial stuff. It’s just body movement and touching, wrist locks and what not.’’

Mysterio also has an 8-year-old daughter who’s already showing an interest in sports entertainment.

“What scares me is my daughter might like it even more. She’s only 8 years old. She’s taking acting lessons right now, so hopefully we’ll have some sort of connection between wrestling and acting/movies/soap opera.’’

-- A major legends tag-team convention will be held March 12-13 at the Sheraton Atlanta Gateway Hotel.

Legendsmania’s Tag-Team Series will feature some of the top teams in wrestling. Thus far confirmed are The Rock and Roll Express (Ricky Morton and Robert Gibson), Demolition (Bill Eadie and Barry Darsow), The Midnight Express (Bobby Eaton and Dennis Condrey with Jim Cornette), Ivan and Nikita Koloff, “The High Flyers” Greg Gagne and Jim Brunzell, and Ivan Putski and Tito Santana.

Others scheduled to appear include Tommy Rich, Mr. Hughes and Johnny Valiant.

Iron Mullet, an ‘80s hair tribute band, will be kicking off Legendsmania on March 12. “Luscious” Johnny Valiant also will perform his one-man show at the party.

Visit www.legendsmania.com for prices and details.

-- Old School Championship Wrestling will put on a show at Halligan’s, 3025 Ashley Town Center Drive, West Ashley, prior to tonight’s WWE Royal Rumble pay-per-view. Bouts begin at 5:30 p.m. and end directly before the pre-PPV show. The Rumble will air at 8 p.m. Adult cover is $7; kids 12 and under $5. For more information, call 743-4800 or visit www.myspace.com/oscw.

Reach Mike Mooneyham at (843) 937-5517 or mooneyham@postandcourier.com

http://www.postandcourier.com/

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