April 5, 2003
News & notes from Vegas
By GREG OLIVER - SLAM! Wrestling
LAS VEGAS - The annual Cauliflower Alley Club reunion keeps growing and growing. This year, at the Plaza hotel in downtown Las Vegas, the event expects to draw 700 people for the gala banquet Saturday night. Some of the attendees are regulars, and show up every year. Some are here for the first time.
One of the surprises on Friday afternoon was the arrival of family patriarch Bob Orton, Sr. and his son Barry Orton, aka Barry O in the WWF and The Zodiac in Stampede Wrestling. Both Ortons live in Vegas, but have never attended the event. Others who live around Vegas include AWA great Nick Bockwinkel and NWA-TNA announcer Mike Tenay.
Here are some other news and notes from the reunion so far:
- For the first time, the reunion has tried to incorporate more up-and-coming wrestlers. A local wrestling ring was brought in, and on Thursday and Saturday, different legends gave young, indy grapplers a schooling. Among those who took time out of their day to train include: Killer Kowalski, Bruce Hart, Les Thatcher, Buddy Rose, Nick Bockwinkel, Jimmy \'Boogie Woogie Man\' Valiant, Harley Race and Eddie Sharkey.
- On Friday night after the Baloney Blowout buffet (consisting of cold cuts, salads and chips), 28 of those young wrestlers took to the ring to put on a show for the crowd. In the afternoon, the show\'s bookers, Les Thatcher, Harley Race and Scott Casey, had a hard enough time lining people up. It was like a day at school as they called out attendance.
- Ben Nelson, 24, was one of those who made the trip just to be a part of the teaching sessions. The Vancouver grappler works for All-Star Wrestling in B.C., and has also worked for ECCW and for a few promotions in Washington State and Oregon. He currently works about three times a month, usually as the Mad Bomber. \"I thought it would be mostly unrecognized talent,\" Nelson said of the turnout. His goal was \"to establish some contacts.\" He said that he succeeded, and was invited to come out to various wrestling schools, such as Les Thatcher\'s promotion in Cincinnati, the Hart Brothers school in Calgary and Harley Race\'s group in Kansas City. (He just has to come up with the cash for some of them.)
- The introductions of the various legends after the Baloney Blowout is always a challenge for MC J Michael Kenyon. For one, it\'s easy to bruise feelings by leaving someone out. Some of the biggest names got the biggest reactions from the crowd, which numbered about 400. Former NWA World champion Jack Brisco, at just his second reunion, looks like he could step in the ring again and dominate; he got one of the biggest rounds of applause. When Dominic Denucci and Baron Mikel Scicluna were introduced, their table was soon surrounded by friends who hadn\'t realized that the two were there.
- An oft-repeated complaint from some attendees is that the more recent stars from the \'80s and \'90s don\'t get involved in the reunion. That is slowly changing. B. Brian Blair returned to the event, and Vader (Leon White) was out as well. Playboy Buddy Rose gave an emotional speech about his late friend Curt Hennig, who had been to a couple of previous reunions. \'Macho Man\' Randy Savage has been announced as attending the banquet, but he has not been seen yet.
- It seems like the entire family of Don Leo Jonathon is in attendance. The Mormon Giant from Hurricane, Utah is being honoured this year at his first CAC reunion. On Friday night, a short 20-minute video of his career was presented by his business associate Dr. Phil Nuyten. Throughout his wrestling career, and especially after retirement, Jonathon was a very well known for his interest in the sea and SCUBA diving. Don Leo took that love and converted it in various businesses around British Columbia that made suits and subs for underwater exploration.
- The memorabilia fair was a good success. Among the items being peddled were photos, autographs, t-shirts, posters, cards, and videos. The Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame from upper New York State was there, as were the Vachons. Paul Vachon and his wife Dee sell therapeutic magnets. Watch for a story on their business in the coming weeks.
- Coverage of 2002 and 2001 Cauliflower Alley Club reunions
- The Cauliflower Alley Club web site
Greg Oliver founded SLAM! Wrestling with John Powell way back in 1996, and has been writing about pro wrestling since 1985. He is the author of the recently published book The Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame: The Canadians from ECW Press. Order it in Canada from Chapters-Indigo or in the U.S. from Amazon.com. Greg can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.