Wednesday, March 14, 2007

R.I.P. Arnold Skaaland

I was very saddened to hear of the death of Arnold Skaaland today.

Arnold Skaaland was a key figure in the wrestling business for decades. While most fans knew him as prelim wrestler and the manager of Bruno and Backlund, in fact he was also a partner in the old Capital Wrestling corporation that was the parent company of the World Wide Wrestling Federation. The other partners were Vince McMahon Sr., Gorilla Monsoon and Phil Zacko, who promoted Philly and Baltimore.

He was the guy who deposited the gate receipts for Vince Sr. and Jr. for years - a position which demonstrated that he was one of the most trusted figures in the company. Anyone who ever worked a dark match will tell you that it was Arnie Skaaland who sat at a table behind his trademark Haliburton suitcase that was loaded with cash, checking his list and making the payoffs.

At WrestleMania 14, the late Tony Rumble and a group of us were cast as the Undertaker's Druids. It was an unforgettable experience, but for me, what was most fun was Tony Garea telling us to get in line to get paid. When I finally got to the front of the line, Arnie looked up at me and said, "What's your name son?" He peeled off the cash and put it in an envelope. I thanked him and he winked at me. I looked into that Haliburton and there had to be at least $75,000 to $100,000 in cash in it. I thought to myself, "Now I know why they call him 'The Golden Boy'."

I couldn't help but think after that, how many other guys that I respected and admired stood in that same line and what a priviledge it was to do so. I apologize if this goes over people's heads. It's a little hard to convey the significance of that experience to people whose frame of reference for wrestling is just watching it at home or in the stands. Guys like Arnold Skaaland, who most of today's fans wouldn't even know, was such an important figure in the business. He was one of the "keepers of the castle", another irreplaceble legend who will truly be missed.

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