Thursday, June 30, 2011
“NIGHtMARE ON NORTH ALBANY STREET” By AUSTIN IDOL
I do remember back when I was in high school studying about the Roman empire and maybe it’s my morbid sense of humor but, I often thought what it must have been like if you were a Christian about to be thrown into an arena with hungry lions? Can you imagine the fear and also the mindset of the one who knew it was survival time? The Christians had little chance, much like what was getting ready to happen to me but, I didn’t know it! This was probably a good thing because had I known, I’m sure I wouldn’t have agreed to the so called “Workout.”
The plan was to meet my friend Mike Graham, who was the son of Eddie Graham, over at his house around 7:00 p.m. Thanks Mike for at least giving me the heads up not to eat anything for at least four hours prior to arriving at his home. I felt like there was good reason not to show up with a full belly. We went in Mike’s car to the scene of what was to be a bloody nightmare. It was an eerily quiet drive to the Sportatorium on North Albany Street which added a little more drama to what was about to unfold.
I had the feeling I was in for a fight but, what kind of fight and what game plan could I hurriedly come up with? We arrived at the building and went into a dressing room where I changed into a pair of shorts, a sleeveless tee shirt, and a pair of sneakers. We entered the small arena which had a wrestling ring set up with bleachers around it. Standing in the ring were the hungry lions ready to feast on the unsuspecting Pro Wrestler wannabes
. There was the 315 lb. Greco Roman champion Bob Roop. Bob was from Carbondale, Illinoisand had a tremendous amateur background. Big Bob had also been a Greco Roman champion while serving in the Army
. Then there was the charismatic legend himself Eddie Graham who also had his combat gear on. My friend Mike a great amateur himself, was also preparing for battle. Lastly, was two time NCAA heavyweight champion Jack Brisco. Jack was a Native American and hailed from Oklahomawhere he attended college and was a Monster star in the red hot Florida Championship Wrestling territory.
Now, not only were these guys great amateurs but, also they were huge TV Stars! This ramped up the intimidation factor to another level! Before I continue this story I want to make you aware that back in those days, it was very difficult for an outsider much less a local kid, to have an opportunity to break into the wrestling profession, especially in the state of Florida. Professional Wrestling in Florida was like the NFL. It was highly revered and seldom did you ever hear anyone question its legitimacy. The reason for this was Eddie always had top amateur wrestlers in his stable and it was a totally different time when Pro Wrestling was seen on TV state wide and not nationally. In other words Eddie Graham, who possessed a brilliant mind, controlled Florida Championship Wrestling and built a dynasty. He was damn good at that and people throughout the state of Florida had a great deal of respect for the wrestling business – unlike today since it’s pretty much viewed as entertainment. I say all of this in hopes that you will ascertain the intensity of the situation that was ready to explode!
I was invited to step into the ring where the lions were licking their chops. After doing so Eddie had everyone introduce themselves to me and each of them were quite cordial but, I knew that the deck was stacked and I was in deep you know what!
Eddie said to the “Goliath “Roop, “Bob why don’t you go first and see what the kid can do”. I knew absolutely nothing about amateur wrestling but, I was getting ready to be introduced to the sport.Greco Roman wrestling is specific to the upper body. As Bob and I wrangled for arm positioning he used all of his weight and strength to lean on me all the while inching his arms around my back so that he could clasp his hands together and form a death grip that was squeezing me like a python snake. I knew something bad was about to happen when the big behemoth, now in total control, lifted my 265 lb. body straight up and in a flash we were both airborne and spinning so that when we hit the mat I was on my back and T Rex was on top of me. He maintained the death grip and squeezed harder as I tried my best to extricate myself. The harder I tried, the harder he squeezed and not only was it becoming harder for me to breathe but, fatigue was setting in as well. Eddie said, “OK let’s try that again” as I attempted not to show that I was already exhausted.
This time I was determined to put up more of a fight but, Roop really cranked it up a notch by wrapping his arms around both of my arms and my back. Here we go again but, higher into the air which created that much more impact when we hit the mat, of course with him on top of me. This maneuver is called a belly to belly front suplex. Not fun for the recipient!
Now I’m pretty much toast when Eddie says to Brisco who at the time was the Floridaheavyweight champion, “Jack why don’t you show this kid something about wrestling”! With that Jack bull rushed me, dropped to both knees and fireman’s carried me over his shoulder and I was flat on my back while Eddie is yelling escape, escape! Get off your back kid, get off your back but, there was no way in hell that I was going to escape from the “wice” NCAA heavyweight champion. No Way!
I fought and the more I fought the more Jack would tie me up in a different knot that was stretching my entire body in ways that it had never been stretched. This reminded me of the old movie “The Exorcist” starring Linda Blair when she would spin her head around in a complete circle. All of this came with great pain and discomfort but, I literally had no offence so I just tried to hold on and survive. Eddie called for Jack to let me go and by the time I could get to my feet Jack charged again, this time clinching his arms around me and suplexing me to the mat
. He rolled me up on my side and slid his left arm behind my neck into a half nelson while leveraging his body perfectly. This hold was called the sugar hold because once you get your opponent in this position it was checkmate. My body was actually working against me since I was big and muscular and had very little flexibility. Jack had me in the dreaded sugar with my head being jammed into my chest, my arms being stretched back as far as humanly possible, I could feel myself losing conciseness. I was paralyzed and couldn’t move or breathe when thankfully Jack let go. He knew I was on the threshold of passing out and set me free.
The great Jack Brisco is no longer with us but, I still thank him for taking a little pity on me. I finally rolled over onto my all fours when the fresh and skilled Mike Graham pounced on me and again Eddie was yelling, “Escape, escape”, and believe me if I could have found a way to do so I surely would have done it! Mike rode me around like a damn cowboy on a dead horse until he released and immediately Eddie jumped on my back. Eddie started yelling “So you want to be a wrestler uh? Come on punk, is this all you’ve got. Fight me damn it fight me!”
I had nothing left in me to fight anybody and about that time Eddie slammed his left forearm across my face flush on the jaw and twisted my head to the extreme right while he clinched both hands together. This maneuver is appropriately named the cross face. Duh? My head could not turn any further then it was, and I could taste the blood in my mouth from the blow that Eddie just delivered. He kept the pressure on for quite a while and never stopped the yelling. Finally by the grace of God he released and it was over. I don’t know if this sounds as excruciating as it was but, I promise this was a hellish night that taught me a lot about myself. I discovered my inner core and in the deepest cavern of my constitution I proved not only to myself but, to everyone else who was there that night that “I wasn’t a Quitter”! I’m sure that must have impressed them because I firmly believe few would have withstood that extreme punishment without giving up.
On the way back to Mike’s house I said to him, “Can’t wait to do that again”! I wanted Mike to tell his dad this in hopes he would keep me in consideration. Of course, the thought of repeating that scenario was the last thing I would ever want to do again. I left my DNA in that wrestling ring or “Torture Chamber” that night, as well as learning something that they don’t teach you in school? That something is, in order to be successful at anything you must have an Iron will and never, ever, quit or give up. Never!…..
What do you want?….. When do you want it?…….. What are you willing to do to get it?…..I’ll be right here next week with more stories of the life and times of “Austin Idol”! For booking information on Austin Idol please contact him here: http://www.austinidollive.com/your_event.htm