Have you ever woken in the middle of the night to the sheer pain of a muscle spasm? This typically happens at that point in the late night when you are enjoying thee most euphoric dream you have ever had in your life. Suddenly, you have fallen off the bed clutching your hamstring or you are hobbling around the room favoring your calf. Those experiencing this type of pain are barely lucid crying out loudly in pain similar to a severely wounded animal. A muscle spasm does not discriminate and even the strongest amongst us have been crippled by this common affliction in the embarrassing presence of those we wish to impress or idolize.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines that a spasm is a sudden violent and temporary sensation. It is an involuntary and abnormal muscle contraction. Well I can assure you that a spasm is far from voluntary and the sensation does not feel like it is only temporary when you are experiencing it. I personally have broken out in a cold sweat between crying out like a school girl in pain thinking that this is seriously reducing my life expectancy in measurable months at the very least. At this point, I’m sure I’ve been graphic enough for any of you reading to be thinking about your last experience with a muscle spasm and quite possibly are rubbing a hammy right now. So now that you have been properly uncomforted, let me share with you one of those embarrassing moments.
I could not tell you how much I completely despised filming two or three television tapings in 100+ degree temperatures at outside summer shows in my good ole days in Memphis. It was not uncommon for a wrestler to be in the middle of a match and roll under the ring to loose what little lunch he did have. That’s nothing a little production room editing won’t fix though. I seem to remember an ambulance or two in those days as well carting away fans due to heat exhaustion. There is nothing like little hospital run for our fans to keep what little we had coming back. In the thralls of the heat, we use to joke about slogans for the company. It actually annoyed the promoter quite a bit and I would naturally always push the envelope that would later lead to some kind of disciplinary action. My vote was Memphis Championship Wrestling: You think you hate wrestling now, wait until we come to town. The laughter that I still experience to this day thinking of that line and that you are probably now experiencing after reading that bit is what got many of us through much of that developmental territory drama.
During this time, the developmental group was under the guidance of “Lord” Steven Regal. He is better known these days as William Regal but this was a period prior to his resurgence in the WWE. Some of you readers would know that I was a great admirer of his work and did my best to cling to him much like a lost puppy. Because he had a fondness for mentoring, he was very much accepting of my interest in whatever experiences or skills he might be willing to share. When we later began a wrestling program together where we wrestled each other in various towns countless times over a several months, it was common that we traveled quite often between venues. Towards the conclusion of this run, we both had the opportunity to participate at the Brian Pillman Memorial Show hosted by Les Thatcher in Cincinnati. While we did not know it prior to the event, the Pillman Memorial would mark a significant resurrection for Regal that quickly propelled him back into the national spotlight.
Despite the toxic heat, Regal recruited me to train with him vigorously for weeks leading up to the event. We would train for hours on a daily basis between the ring and studying recorded matches. This would be intensified even further at live events where he typically had our matches last at least 30 minutes. Couple this on top of the blistering heat of a Southern Summer, you can imagine that both he and I were quite depleted to the point that even Gatorade was just not enough. Obviously, the lack of essential fluids and proper nutrients to balance the aggressive training regimen in such heat would naturally react with constant muscle spasms. Many of the guys were experiencing the spasms and sharing remedies as to avoid them. You would think that many of the workers could be pharmacists with their pharmaceutical knowledge or even doctors with their medication recommendations. I guess it could be a possibility if the whole wrestling thing does not work out but how many people do you think would really adhere to the recommendations of a 6’5” bold headed, tattooed from head to toe, steroid looking pharmacist.
Before I knew it, the Pillman Event was upon us and this was the time to shine for all the respective intelligent wrestling fans as well as talent scouts for the major promotions. The previous month leading up to the memorial Regal had been running through a scripted match in his head that he would bounce ideas off me. I honestly added nothing to his ideas but had heard it so many times I could probably take Benoit’s place although it would not be nearly as memorable. I’m not sure that many may have known that he and Benoit were very close. Benoit had a very strong respect for Regal and the layout was agreed.
On a complete side note that only adds to this story and accentuates a major weakness in the business today, Regal was respectful of every piece of Benoit’s style in laying out a match for the both of them. Rather than Regal being only concerned about what he could do and how well Benoit could make him look, Regal was concerned about them both putting on a stellar performance and emphasizing both of their strengths. They were both concerned about having a good match. I have far too often seen the new crop of talent these days only stressing about them. They think a good match is making sure they can hit their premier move or moves during the match and heaven forbid if their opponent is not familiar or skilled enough to do take it. I think I made a name for myself over the years because I was able to elevate those that I worked with or had the ability to work around my opponent’s weakness to ultimately produce a quality match. This is the type of measure that came to be known as the difference between a wrestler and a worker. Both Regal and Benoit were highly respected throughout the business because the fact that they were workers.
I had never had the chance to see the Malenko-Guerrero series live in the ECW arena but I heard it was magic. It was the type of magic that solidified wrestling fans to that brand and ushered in a new era of wrestling talent lining up at schools to train. I watched it on a poor quality VHS tape but it still gave me a tingle and still does to this day just thinking about it. I can tell you that this wrestling magic was captured this night at the Brian Pillman Memorial when Benoit and Regal faced each other. I was lucky enough to witness the magic in person as a fan once more sitting in the crowd. Many wrestlers become jaded after being in the business for some time and can no longer find the magic that made them a fan in the first place. There are rare moments that spark that feeling deep in their stomachs that make them proud again to say they are a professional wrestler. This was one of those moments for me. I had never been more proud to say that day that I was a wrestler and loved the sport. It was one of those moments where I became a fan again sitting on a hard wood bleacher cheering on to classic entertainers. Even though I knew every movement they were going to make I still sat on the edge of my seat as if I was a child. Of course, the performance propelled Regal right back into the national spotlight and altered much of the content of many WWE matches for some time to come.
Because Regal and I had been traveling quite a bit during this time, we shared a room that night on the same floor as many other performers at the event. This was common especially to ease the overall traveling costs that many fans think are just taken care of by promoters or companies. After a late night, he and I both were looking forward to some sleep before our early morning flights back home for a few days. Please try to keep in mind that the day before the Pillman we had both finished one of those infamous multiple hour television taping in the sweltering Memphis heat. Suddenly, I woke in the middle of the night to the howls and screams of Regal having one of those infamous muscle spasms. I believe that it may have lasted a minute or two but it felt as though it was an hour. For reasons that I thought he might be embarrassed, I never let it be known that I was awake during his screaming. I’m really not sure how anyone could sleep through it anyway but as it went on for what felt like a month, I started to think there were other people in rooms all around us. People that knew Regal and I were in this room in the middle of the night with him howling in such a way that might be misconstrued. It figures that my mind went right to the gutter and I completely blame the lack of sleep on my thinking. At this point, I could not go back to sleep and I was devastatingly embarrassed as his episode went on from what now is feeling like a year. My mind is thinking that everyone is awake hearing this on our floor as well as the floors above and below. My mind is rambling that someone is standing outside the door recording every moment and just waiting for one of us to walk out of the room in the morning to make the situation out to be something it is not.
I can remember creeping out of the room early the next morning as to not wake Regal to find the cleaning lady doing her business in the halls. I can remember her looking at me suspect and me thinking that she heard everything and thought something more was happening in the room than what really did. More than likely, she was probably wondering why I was leaving so early in the morning. I don’t even think the sun was out. I’m sure I had a better chance that she was thinking I was a vampire rather than even knowing what happened that night. Either way, over the years, I’ve told the story to wrestlers and fans alike just in case one of them was in ear shot of Regal screaming or possibly have heard the story handed down from another. I mean I’m just trying to clarify the WHOLE story so it’s not “taken out of context” when I run for public office. Last thing I need is a scandal that could hurt my chances for election. Well now I come to think, it might actually help my election chances depending on what party I run. The only thing I regret about that entire event, I never did get a chance to thank Regal for the magic that was that match. If this story ever does make it your way, skip all the goofy spasm stuff.