April 2, 2003
CAC reunion year's highlight
By GREG OLIVER - SLAM! Wrestling
Forget Celine Dion and her big, ridiculously expensive Vegas show. There's an even better reason to head to Sin City for me this week - it's time for the annual Cauliflower Alley Club reunion.
WrestleMania and its overused 'showcase of the immortals' tag is behind us now, thank God, and it's time to focus on honouring the greats of pro wrestling, the men and women who have entertained us for decades.
Depending on whom you believe, the reunion on April 3-5 is the 36th, 37th or 38th annual event. (It's a long story.) Since the move to Las Vegas from Los Angeles, the reunion has just kept growing and growing. This year, more than 750 people are expected for the banquet. Former and current wrestlers, promoters, referees, managers, announcers, fans and media get together for a special event.
For me, this is my third reunion in Vegas, and I went to another in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. As a fan, there is nothing in the world that compares to the awe one feels looking around the banquet room. There's Killer Kowalski! Antonio Inoki! The Destroyer! Bobby Heenan! Roddy Piper! Even Playboy Buddy Rose!
Unlike the WWE's Fan Axxcess, this is not really an event designed for fans, and it's certainly not a money grab like that either. It is first, and foremost, a reunion. Old friends like Lord Al Hayes and Stu Hart get to visit for the first time in years; Red Bastien gets to honour the family of his old tag team partner Hercules Cortez; Sharon Valentine, Shirley Newman, Betty McKenzie get to bravely thank their husbands' friends for their support and love during their times of trial.
In a sport rife with back-stabbing, political games and vendettas, it is a chance to say sorry. Everyone knows it was just business. It's also a chance to embellish those frequently-told stories, re-live some of the great ribs from the road and the dressing rooms and to be reminded of some long forgotten memory.
Fans (and the media) get their spots at the reunion, and get to break bread with the warriors, chat about the days gone by, and snap pictures. Some of the fans themselves are veritable legends, and just as much fun to talk to as the wrestlers: Tom Burke, James C. Melby, Harry White, Vince Fahey, Diane Devine.
This coming week, starting on Thursday, I'll be filing stories once again from Vegas and the Plaza Hotel & Casino. Like in previous years, I'll come home with tapes and notebooks full of stories, tributes, and even a few lies.
It'll be even more special for me in other ways. My book, The Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame: The Canadians, is finally out on shelves and features many of the men and women in attendance at the reunion. I've got a special copy that was signed by all the legends at my own book launch back in March that I hope to get signed by the likes of Don Leo Jonathon, Killer Kowalski, Moose Morowski, Stu Hart (and family), Bruce Swayze, Reginald Love, Buddy Roberts, Dominic Denucci, Mikel Scicluna. Let's just say that that copy will never, ever find its way to Ebay to be sold.
So be sure to stop in at the re-launched SLAM! Wrestling all weekend for the happenings from the Cauliflower Alley Club reunion.