Written by: ‘Duke’ Kieran Burns, retired 20 year Pro Wrestling Ring Announcer.
One More Time ? (Part 2)
After what had now by this time become a very familiar plane trip with QANTAS, I arrived at JFK airport in New York and prepared for a further 3 hour bus ride to Allentown Pennsylvania. More so than the previous 20 hour combined plane ride, this 3 hour bus ride was always brutal. I have a never conquered inability to sleep on planes, I was always awake for the entire trip. The only consolation was getting to Allentown to be greeted by Samu and his family who after so many years were familiar faces that felt like extended family.
I’d head back to his house for a couple of days of relaxation and discussing the upcoming WXWc4 tribute show and how much it meant to him but also the late Salvatore Bellomo’s family. The gravity of the importance in paying tribute with this show was certainly sinking in and I looked forward to it happening after my stay in New York for WrestleCon and Wrestlemania. Within a few days I was on a bus back to New York. I met back with Paul at his apartment which was a short trip from the famed MET Gallery alongside Central Park.
The next day I made my way to the Hilton to watch some Indy shows that were happening as a part of Wrestlecon. Getting to see wrestlers on the show such as Road Warrior Animal, Ric Flair, X- Pac and many young stars, a Japanese Wrestling legend was also having one of his final matches before retirement. I was having a great time but realised by the time it was over, it would be late evening and I’d still have to get back so I decided to leave a bit early to beat the crowd. I get 2 streets away from the Hilton and who did I run into , none other than WWE Hall of Famer and infamous Legend, The Iron Sheik. After a brief conversation and his amazement I’d travelled all the way from Australia, he happily obliged my request for a photo.
I walked back to Paul’s apartment buzzing from a great night and a cool experience. The following day I met up with Samu’s son Lance and his cousin Jacob Fatu back at Wrestlecon, I watched them both do their thing as a part of Wrestlecon Indy shows. I’d seen Lance wrestle many times but this was my first time seeing Jacob wrestle. As the son of WWE Legend The Tonga Kid and part of the Samoan Dynasty, Jacob was really making a name for himself . Both he and Lance were extremely talented in the ring and had clearly inherited their Dads and families naturalness for Pro Wrestling.
I then did my fan thing and walked around to personally meet some of my wrestling heroes. Meeting Bret Hart, Ric Flair, Shawn Michaels, Ted Dibiase, Sgt Slaughter and many more, I was living that long held dream. It meant the world that I could thank them for so many years of entertainment. It was also cool running into Samu’s brother and my friend Lloyd “LA Smooth” Anoa’i, other wrestlers I’d worked with in Australia such as Sabu, Jake ‘The Snake’ Roberts, Diamond Dallas Page and Chris Masters, all of who thankfully remembered me from shows we’d worked together and locker rooms we’d shared.
Feeling like not just a fan but a contemporary was a cool feeling and unexpected. Also seeing my new friend from the previous year, Pro Wrestling Illustrated and Pro Wrestling photographer and journalist Legend, in incomparable Bill Apter, was a treat also. After an event of relaxing back at the apartment, I would meet back up with Lance and Jacob the next morning to drive to where The Bullet Club were having a Block Party just down the road from Wrestlemania . Unfortunately Lance couldn’t get me a ticket to attend so I waited just outside. Thankfully Jacob came and grabbed and took me in anyway. A fun little event sitting in the VIP area and meeting plenty of Indy wrestlers but also getting to see Mr Juicy from Australia who was at that time a part of The Bullet Club was an extra bonus.
I also unexpectedly ran into Aussie Wrestlers Jack Bonza, Mick Moretti and CaveMan Ugg who were there visiting. Getting to sit in the VIP section, drink free beers, score free merchandise from visiting Indy wrestlers and hang with friends was fun but I had somewhere I had to be. Time had come to leave and catch a shuttle bus 1 kilometre down the road to Meadowlands Arena to meet up with Paul for Wrestlemania.
Time to fulfil that childhood dream….