I watched Virgil wrestle the Million Dollar Man for his “freedom” (this was in 1991). And I watched the Brain Busters destroy Tito Santana with a spike pile-driver, only to see El Matador team with his former archnemesis Demolition to defeat Rick Martel and the Fabulous Rougeaus.
I got into it. As Hawk and Animal would say, “Oooooooo, what a rush!”
So the idea of being anywhere near wrestling was both thrilling and weirdly intimidating. It was like being cast in a remake of Caddyshack—did I really want to go up against the memory of greatness?
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From the beginning, Stephanie McMahon (who invited us to WWE) kept telling us, “This is all leading to an appearance at WrestleMania.” Which we heard but never fully processed. It’s like an NFL rookie being told, “Ideally, this ends with you playing in the Super Bowl.” Sure…but let me catch a couple passes in preseason first.
As I quickly learned: There is no preseason in wrestling.
The WWE is the largest traveling show in the world. Our first stop was Monday Night Raw in Philly and there were eighteen 18-wheelers in the parking lot. It was a random Monday in March and they had sold out the entire Wells Fargo Center. They do this every single Monday in a different city. And every single Tuesday for SmackDown. Sometimes they’ll fly to Japan for a weekend of shows, then fly back to, like, Indiana for a show that Monday.
These guys*1 work.
After seeing their schedule, I thought, Wow. The Rock is the only person who could film a movie or a TV show every single day and it would feel like a relief compared to the WWE schedule. So I guess Dwayne Johnson is almost lazy now? Let’s get that rumor started.
I was so impressed by the whole operation and how much everybody cared about every last detail. They were performing in arenas, but if one element of a costume was off, or one line of dialogue seemed hacky, they were all over it. That requires serious dedication.
And it starts with Vince McMahon, who is clearly the Lorne Michaels of wrestling. (Not to say Lorne couldn’t hold his own in the ring. Not many people know this, but he was a luchador in Tijuana from 1972 to 1974. That’s why if a sketch is going particularly poorly, he’ll stare into the distance and whisper, “Que lastima…”) Vince was literally directing WrestleMania from a booth next to the stage, all while putting out production fires and rewriting dialogue for a match in ten minutes’ time. Yet if you went up to him and said, “Hi, Mr. McMahon!” he’d stop everything and look you in the eyes and say, “Colin, thanks for being here.”
I thought, Vince McMahon knows my name? Also, “Thanks for being here?” I would be there even if I wasn’t wrestling. At least twenty of my friends showed up at WrestleMania without knowing Che and I were on the card.*2
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Before we were allowed to wrestle, we had to pass a physical. This seemed like a smart precaution. Dr. Ronald Primas (to this day, not sure how he became our doctor) came to our offices at SNL and started drawing blood, which must have really freaked out the other cast members. “Holy shit! Is NBC doing drug tests now? We are fucked.”
He called me up a few days later and said, “Well, the good news is, you don’t have hep C.”
“But you’re not immune to hep C. So if you get in the ring and one of the wrestlers has hep C, you could get it.”
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