Fearing death when a photograph will do
TOMMY DREAMER - For SLAM! Wrestling
As a professional wrestler, I have literally travelled the world. I have wrestled on six continents, in 52 countries, every Canadian province, 49 U.S. States (Alaska being the only one in which I have not competed) and I currently have two passports, though I have had a total of 10 — all with extended pages.
I have established friendships along the way in Canada, the U.K. and Japan, people with whom I keep in touch via e-mail. I have a strong core of people that I trust to be my guides or be there for me in case I need help in a foreign land.
It was while working for World Wrestling Entertainment that I went to the majority of the countries I have wrestled in. The WWE’s overseas shows are amazing. The fans are so respectful of the superstars of the WWE visiting their country. They may only see them once a year, but they are sure to let the performers know how much they appreciate them.
As a WWE performer, you have a complete itinerary of what you have to do on the tour, which basically tells you what time you have to be in a certain place, simplifying the tour for the talent. Your two responsibilities are simple: show up on time and perform in the ring to the best of your ability.
Everything else — from transportation (luxury buses) to catered food, five-star hotels, phone numbers, personal security — you name it, you got it when with WWE outside of the U.S. or Canada. I certainly missed that this week as I went to Mexico City, Mexico, on Sunday.
I wrestled Friday in New Jersey, made an appearance in Queens, N.Y. on Saturday, travelled back to New Jersey Saturday night, then Sunday morning flew to Mexico via Chicago. Why would I fly in a northwest direction to go south, you ask? Well to be honest, I have no clue as I didn’t book the plane ticket, but I digress.
As a result, I did not sleep at all Saturday night because I had to drive home, shower, repack my things and head to the airport for 5 a.m. I really hate waking my kids up that early, but they get upset if they don’t take me to the airport. In my heart of hearts, though, I truly love their daddy-leaving-home rituals.
After six hours of flying, I arrived in Mexico City. I arrive to some fan fare, as two camera crews and three photographers greeted me. This show was sponsored by Super Luchas Wrestling Magazine, a weekly lucha Libre (wrestling) magazine. It is like People or US magazine, but all about wrestling. In Mexico, wrestling is the No. 1 sport, followed by football (soccer, to North Americans).
Lucha Libre is a different style than modern professional wrestling.
There are different rules and six-man tag-team action is most common.
The wrestlers often wear masks and are characters. To lose your mask is a great disgrace. It is much more acrobatic style with many dives from the ring to the floor. Lucha Libre style was first introduced to the U.S. in Extreme Championship Wrestling, which I am most famous for being in (and if you didn’t know that already, why are you even reading this article? Haha).
I have wrestled in Mexico before with the WWE, but that was all the WWE style. This time, I was taking on a country by myself. Maybe I can be the new Extremeo Dreamer Luchador, but diving to floors is out for a couple of reasons: 1) My back has seen better days; and 2) Who would want to catch me?
My liaison, in his own car, took me to the hotel, which was about an hour’s drive from the airport. He checked me in and then informed me would will be back at 6. I said “doesn’t the show start at 6?” He told me it did, but the venue was only a couple of blocks away and that I was the main event.
I am accustomed to getting to shows two hours before bell time, but when in Mexico, do as you are told because you don’t have a WWE itinerary anymore.
My hotel was comparable to a Super 8 or Motel 6. I had brought a bottle of water and my own protein bars so that was my fine dining for the trip. I guess the only perk at this hotel was that only two channels were broadcast in English, but they both were pornography channels, which, of course, nobody watches for the dialogue anyway.
I rested for two hours — surprisingly free porn gets old real fast — though I kept the TV on just in case so as not to lose my Red Hot Asians that was on a constant loop. I went to the lobby at 5:50 p.m., where I then waited and waited and waited. It was now 7 p.m. I asked a woman — in my broken Spanish — “whereo is the lucha libre arenao?” The lady looked at me, put up four fingers and pointed to the left.
Off I went. I walked with my bag for two blocks. Along the way, I notice many posters with my face on them on display in shops or on poles. I also notice I am being followed by three men. I was warned by many people about the crimes in Mexico City and about the hijacking of people for ransom. I start to walk slow, they walk slow. I walk fast, they walk fast.
My mind begins racing.
Two of the guys go in front and look right at me, while the other remains behind me.
By this point, I know it is about to go down, this is my demise, but I am going down with a fight. I stop dead in my tracks. They stop. I say “what’s up guys, problemo?” By this point, I am ready to fight for my life. They look at me and one guy reaches into his pocket. At this moment, I can’t believe I may never see my family, my kids or my dogs again. I can’t believe this is happening.
The guy says “picture” as he pulls out his camera. I am beyond relieved. I pose for pictures and it turns out to be a blessing they came along as I would never have found the arena myself.
I arrived at the building, spotted my liaison and asked him where he was. He said he was sorry and was busy, but that he would have gotten me eventually and asked me if I had seen my tag partner, Raven. I should have been mad, but after what I just went through, I thought to myself, ‘hey if he didn’t care that I got there late, why should I?’
The arena was jammed packed, the crowd was awesome and the match was great. I walked back to the hotel at midnight, which was like being in a old-fashioned western movie. I got to my hotel room, my TV was still on, I took a shower with no soap and ate my fifth protein bar of the day.
I then reflected on my crazy day.
Even though I didn’t have an itenerary, five-star hotel or any of the perks that I became accustomed to while with WWE, I still went in the ring gave it my all and entertained the thousands that sold out the arena to see me in the main event.
I shrugged off all the problems of the day because life is an adventure and everyday is a gift. I certainly had an adventurous day.
Thanks for reading.
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Tommy Dreamer is a legendary and influential pro wrestler and a father and husband who has worked for World Wrestling Entertainment, Extreme Championship Wrestling and Total Nonstop Action. His column appears in the Kingston Whig-Standard and on SLAM! Wrestling. Follow him on Twitter @THETOMMYDREAMER and check out his website at thetommydreamer.com. He can be booked for live appearances through his website.