Being On The Road With A Wrestler
Last week, I embarked on a journey that I knew would be one hell of an experience. Kris Rex and I traveled to Tampa for Wrestlemania weekend. A sports writer and a professional wrestler on the road together. To say that it was a life-changing experience would be a major understatement.
I landed in Tampa from Dallas. Kris landed a little over an hour later. We finally met face-to-face. Honestly, we were long overdue for a meeting face-to-face. Kris picks up his suitcase and we go to pick up our rental car. Well, that's the first mishap of the journey because the agency canceled our reservation because you literally have to pick up your car at the exact time. Usually, you have a certain window. But this company? Nope. Not to mention, the employee was unprofessional. Did I mention they require a $400 hold on a debit card? So the best thing was to simply take our business elsewhere and we did. Kris was already frustrated and I said to him we'll go with someone else and I'll take care of it.
There were plenty of options. Avis, Enterprise, Dollar, etc. I suggested Avis since I had done business with them before and my Dad has done business with them for well over 20 years. We wait in line really hoping that we'll be able to get a car. We finally get called over by a rental agent and I ask if he has any cars available for our schedule. Luckily, they did, and for a reasonable price. The rental dude was a gentleman. He simply asked to see my I.D., asked a few simple questions, gave us all the info we needed, had me sign, and we were set. Kris and I told the dude the story about the previous agency that screwed us over and the man reacted in a way that tells me that this isn't the first time he's heard this from a customer. Seems like the other agency has a history of terrible business. I read reviews and customers explain that the agency is known for scamming customers. Yikes.
Kris and I get our car and we make our way to the hotel to check-in. Obviously, not the best hotel. Keep in mind, Kris and I have very tight budgets and we have to save as much cash as possible. Again, a sports writer still paying his dudes traveling with an independent pro wrestler, so life is very tough for us. So we check-in, go to our room, chill for a bit, and make our way to our first show.
Our first show is Bloodsport 6. This introduced me to a style of professional wrestling that I was absolutely unfamiliar with. The ring had no ropes or turnbuckles. This wasn't traditional pro wrestling. Matches ended either by submission, knockout, or referee stoppage. A very interesting card. A few familiar names were on the card. Chavo Guerrero Jr., Simon Grimm who's formerly known as Simon Gotch in WWE, Davey Boy Smith Jr., Allysin Kay who was known as Sienna at Impact Wrestling, Lio Rush, and Jon Moxley. It was great. I met a beautiful and very talented Russian wrestler who wrestles under the name Masha Slamovich. The main event featured Josh Barnett vs Jon Moxley. It was quite an experience seeing both dudes bust each other open the hard way and being less than 20 feet away! After the match, Moxley cut a great promo which I filmed. Oh, and did I mention that Virgil was there, as well! Yep, Ted Dibiase's former bodyguard. He tried to sell me something, but I wasn't having it. I loved being at the event. The only regret? Didn't get to meet Moxley. I am a huge fan of his and was really hoping to get a chance to meet him and thank him for all he's done and currently doing.
Bloodsport 6 was something unique. As I mentioned, it was a learning experience as I was introduced to a style of pro wrestling that's different than the traditional style I am used to seeing. Kris and I drive back to the hotel and we call it a night.
Our second day in Tampa was...well, not quite as I expected. Imagine being in a venue for 14 hours watching independent professional wrestling. For me, it was exciting and very cool as I was learning, meeting wrestlers, buying a few t-shirts. Did I mention I ran into Lio Rush? A very cool dude. I told him that I was not only there as a fan, but as a sports writer wanting to gain some inner knowledge of the wrestling business and he was impressed. I met Jeremy Gomez, the promoter of Generation Championship Wrestling and we're already good friends. He's a great dude. When I told him how determined I am to learn the wrestling business, he was thrilled. Kris and I truly had quite a time at the event.
Everything about GCW that I saw was fantastic. That's why I personally told Jeremy that once Kris and I review the event on our podcast, I WILL PUT YOUR SHOW OVER. In other words, I was going to praise you, your promotion, everything. And I did. Our review of GCW "We Run This Town" is out! Check it out! I had a great time. There was a match between KC Navarro, a very talented and charismatic wrestler, against Mike Bennett. The match was great, but it's what happened after the match that brought tears to my eyes. I am not going to spoil on here. Listen to the episode to get the full scoop! Trust me...you want to hear it. Even KC Navarro was grateful to hear what we said.
I ran into a wrestler who's a friend of a friend. Her name's Kate Folan and she wrestles under the name "Killa Kate". I had been following her on Twitter for a few weeks and I knew she was in Tampa. Although I wasn't aware that she'd be at the Egypt Shrine Center! So when I saw her make her entrance, I was excited! Soon after, I was very blessed to meet her and befriend her. She's very sweet and I told her how hard I've been working to get my big Journalism break and she told me she's rooting for me as did Jeremy along with several other talents who spoke to me. And I promised her that I would do my very best to attend more indy shows where she would work. I am a man of my word. You root for me and I root for you! God bless you, Kate. And thank you. Looking forward to seeing you perform again soon.
Day 2 in Tampa is in the books. Kris and I head back to our hotel. We got the business out of the way and now we were in for something special...Wrestlemania 37! We knew we had to get some rest! Because before we could make our way to Raymond James Stadium, we appeared on Pipebomb Radio NYC with Ricky Litwinkowich and Darnell "The Playmaker" Sallins for a Wrestlemania preview show! It went well but the best of our day was yet to come!
Kris and I head out to our car to make our way to Raymond James Stadium and it appears to be pouring rain! Right before our appearance on Pipebomb Radio, it was sunny outside! Now, it's pouring and we're told it'll continue for the next four to five hours! Nonetheless, we get in the car and drive. We get close to the stadium and find parking. The rain is not letting up and we walk in rain. Here I was in a shirt and shorts with no raincoat, no poncho...yeah, I was completely soaked. But we get in, find our seats, and wait until it's showtime.
After a brief delay due to lightning in the area, the show finally begins and it was absolutely amazing! I was blessed to finally be at a Wrestlemania. Kris felt the exact same way. It was an amazing experience. The main event was phenomenal. The entire night was great. I couldn't wait to come back for night 2.
Night 2 ends so Kris and I head back to our car and we're in a great mood. However, little did we know that we were in for a very rough night. We arrive at the hotel, Kris heads over to a gas station to pick a few items, while I go to the room. Upon entering, I notice that the ceiling is leaking. Kris heads to the lobby to ask for another room and he's told that it can't happen. The employee offers to simply move the TV, which was soaked because the leak was above it. Our safety was at great risk. The employee says there's nothing that can be done. The manager didn't even care. Kris informs the employee that the situation is in serious violation of safety codes, which the employee simply shrugs his shoulder with very little to no concern. The refund was an issue because it would take a few days for it to be back in our pocket, but we check out.
After trying at least six other hotels, none had any rooms. Finally, Kris finds one and it seems that everything is okay. However, Kris notices that the check-in time is 3:00 pm the next day. That means we literally have no place to stay and it looked as though we'd have to sleep at a rest stop.
As we prepare to find a rest stop, Kris notices that Jeremy had been online on Facebook five minutes ago, meaning he was still awake. It was 2:30 am and Jeremy had just returned from a show. Kris informs him of the situation and Jeremy invites us to stay with him. What a blessing. We arrive at Jeremy's place and are given a great welcome and we have a place to sleep. God bless you, Jeremy. Thank you for everything, dude!
After hanging out with Jeremy and his wife that morning, Kris and I needed to kill some time before checking in to our new hotel. We stopped by a Walmart to pick up a few supplies. I needed a poncho and found the perfect one! Kris found what he needed. Next, we decided to grab a bite to eat and found a delicious place called "Tijuana Flats" and it is a great place to eat. We get done eating and check-in to our hotel with no problems whatsoever and get ready for our second appearance on Pipebomb Radio. Everything goes great. Even better, the rain stops. We were told it would rain until 9:00 pm non-stop! That meant Wrestlemania Night 2 would be delayed. Yeah, it stressed me out, but Kris was calm about it!
Again, we make our way to the stadium, find the same parking lot, and begin walking. Kris asks me about grabbing a bite to eat at Burger King, which according to the map, is south of the stadium. So after nearly an hour of walking around, looking for it, we don't find it and we give up. Keep in mind, we didn't want to eat the stadium's food due to the poor quality and how expensive it was. It was going to be tough getting through tonight because I was starving.
However, I made it through as I was enjoying myself big time watching night 2 of Wrestlemania. It was a great night. The main event didn't finish the way I hoped, but still, I had a good time. After the show ended, I was beyond blessed to have gotten the chance to attend Wrestlemania. It's the dream of any fan of professional wrestling. Did I notice that it didn't get delayed this time. Yep, the rain didn't interfere as it ended an hour before the show. After everything Kris and I went through the previous night after Night 1, everything was fine. God, it felt good.
Kris and I make our way back to the hotel. We get into our room and I am thinking of ordering a pizza, but realize they're all closed. And I don't want to get up to drive anymore, so I just gave up and went to sleep. My flight was the next day and I couldn't deal with any more drama.
The next morning, Kris and I wake up, pack our luggage, check out, and drive towards the airport. I stopped to refuel the rental car and we get to the airport. My flight was a 3:30 and Kris's was at 7:30. We get to the rental car return and apparently, even though I fully refueled, the meter shows I didn't and I get slapped with a $26 fee. I just decided to move on because I was tired of all the drama. Kris and I board the train towards the terminal and we say goodbye and go our separate ways.
I get to my terminal, I grab a bite to eat and I wait to board my flight. I board and the plane begins to make its way to the runway until the captain announces he must return to the terminal because two passengers were hammered and had to be ejected from the flight. So my flight is delayed and I hope that it doesn't annoy my parents. Thankfully, it didn't.
As soon as I land and exit the plane, I turn my phone on and I received a text from Kris. Apparently, he lost his wallet and Avis wouldn't let him search the car because it was registered and paid under my name and card. I received the text after I had departed so I was completely unaware. Thankfully, Kris was able to make his flight, but it wasn't easy. I was able to give him the information he needed, but I am not sure how much help it gave him. The drama truly would not end for Kris. Kris had to cancel all his cards. The next day, someone turned his wallet to the police and Kris received a call that his wallet was turned in.
This trip truly was an experience. Despite all the drama, it was fun. It was a learning experience. The biggest lesson is the difficulty an independent wrestler faces while on the road. It was tough for both of us. But it was a learning experience. Life is very tough. But Kris and I continue to fight through it.
Quite frankly, I can't wait for the next adventure!