Tuesday, June 24, 2008

A Fuller Achievement

One of the most gratifying things in this end of the wrestling business is seeing the talent you've worked with and provided a stage for reach a higher plateau in our profession.

The people who really succeed in wrestling are the ones that have that unmistakable passion and drive to be very good at what they do. You see that hold true in all walks of life, but wrestling, especially on the independent level, is something else again. The commitment one must make is extraordinary. To commit to the training, to the constant effort to improve and market oneself and to physically put yourself on the line in hopes that one day you will make it in a business that has few top level opportunities is something I find most compelling. The guys who make that effort inspire me to make the effort that I make - to build a wrestling promotion that that strives to showcase extraordinary talent in an extraordinary way.

In July, NECW will be missing three of its top stars, all of whom are working overseas.

"Die Hard" Eddie Edwards is currently in the United Kingdom and will also be appearing elsewhere in Europe. Antonio "The Promise" Thomas will be making his debut with All Japan Pro Wrestling, and will, in fact, be staying for two tours. And lastly, Big Rick Fuller will be leaving next week for his first tour with New Japan Pro Wrestling and tagging with Giant Bernard, better known to U.S. fans as the former Prince Albert or A-Train.

We in NECW are extremely proud of all three men, each of whom is richly deserving of the opportunity they are getting.

However, I am especially happy for Rick Fuller who is getting an extraordinary opportunity at this stage of his career. I first met Rick years back when he worked for the late "Boston Bad Boy" Tony Rumble, who introduced him to Kevin Sullivan, then booker of World Championship Wrestling. Fuller's WCW run was not as impactful as it should have been. Fuller should have been a main event level guy on a national basis years ago.

Locally, Fuller has done some great work in NECW. He's in terrific shape - the best shape I've ever seen him in. He has been a true asset to our company, both in and out of the ring. But I will always have a soft spot for Rick over an incident that took place in 1998 when Tony Rumble was alive and we were running NWA New England.

One of the high points of our run with NWA New England was when our company had the NWA World Tag Team Titles, being held by The Brotherhood, consisting of Knuckles Nelson and Eric Sbraccia, managed by Tony Rumble. The NWA wanted to bicycle the titles around to different member promotions, but Rumble and I had begun to make some real noise in the business with the titles.

We did a one night title change with the late, great Public Enemy. I convinced Wally Yamaguchi through his brother Shun to book The Brotherhood on a couple of independent tours to Japan - the first time the NWA Tag Team Champions defended there in many years. The NWA Tag Team Champions were all over the major wrestling magazines, thanks to Rumble's friendships with then magazine mavens Bill Apter and George Napolitano.

The NWA, however, had made commitments to the NWA promoter in Texas, Ken Taylor, to put the titles on a very good team there called Team Extreme. A deal was made where The Brotherhood would go to Dallas and appear on a big show Taylor was promoting in the Bronco Bowl, which is a bowling alley and entertainment complex with a 2,000 seat theater. I even went along on the trip at my own expense and did color commentary on the Dallas promotion's TV show for the World Tag Team Championship Match.

But there was a problem along the way. Eric Sbraccia, who was one half of the tag team champions, decided he wasn't going to Texas. Sbraccia had just gotten back from Japan and claimed that his job would have been in jeopardy and that he would "rather stay home and swim in my pool."

The NWA was having issues with The Brotherhood holding on to the belts and the appearance in Texas was a mandatory title defense. If the champions no-showed, Rumble would have been on the hook for a $5,000 penalty.

Rumble made the call to Rick Fuller, who was still working for WCW at the time. Fuller agreed to step in to replace Sbraccia at the last minute.

The next hurdle happened at the airport in Boston. The plane ticket purchased for Sbraccia bared his name, not Fuller's. Rumble managed to pull off something you could never pull off today. He told the gate agent that the travel agent made a mistake and put the ticket under Fuller's "stage name." The agent bought the story and Fuller was on the plane.

So that one night in Dallas, Rick Fuller was one half of the NWA World Tag Team Champions and saved Rumble and myself and NWA New England from what could have turned into a major problem.

Should Fuller and Giant Bernard win the IWGP Tag Team Titles at some point, me and "The Boston Bad Boy" will be smiling extra wide.

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