WHAT HAPPENS IN VEGAS
By: Damian Slater
My first international trip was in the summer (well… their winter) of 2007. I was 19-years-old, had just started to find myself being booked around Australia, but by all intents and purposes, was just a clueless kid looking for something cool to do before heading back to University.
The home-base was supposed to be the Inoki Dojo in Los Angeles, following in the footsteps of my mentor Hartley Jackson, however I received a message 3-days prior that the Dojo was shutting up shop. Fortunately, some of the Dojo’s orphans were able to hook-up with Jesse Hernandez’s School of Hard Knocks in San Bernardino, California so we had a new home and some incredible training/wrestling opportunities were to follow.
Whilst I do have a bunch of wild stories from that 3 month trip, I’m going to talk about one of those said wrestling opportunities, when a few of us Aussies hopped in a car and made our way down to the bright lights of Las Vegas, Nevada. Ever since Clark Griswold’s shenanigans of 1997, I knew that Vegas was the place for me and boy did it deliver!
The thing is, we had no business being in Las Vegas. The NWA, who we were working with at the time, had planned to run a show at the 9,500 seat Orleans Arena and as far as I can recall, we were told we weren’t booked but there were a few extra car seats and a hotel room for a couple of wide-eyed Australians just happy to be there (Bobby Marshall & ‘Azazal’ Drake Wallace were the other two, for those playing at home).
Upon arrival we were given the keys to a sweet hotel room and left to our own devices. So we made a night of it. And that night became a morning. I believe we arrived back at the hotel room at around 8am.
Now I wasn’t much of a drinker, and I certainly didn’t want to push the legalities of doing as a minor. ESPECIALLY being that I almost found myself deported at customs on the way over (another story for another time). So I felt somewhat relatively fresh at 10am when we received a knock on the door telling us that due to snowstorms and flight issues affecting the roster, we were all now booked for the large NWA Fiesta Lucha event… with call time in 2 HOURS!!
Headlined by El Hijo Del Santo & Billy Kidman taking on Super Parka & Psicosis, with Nick Bockwinkle making an appearance… my 19-year-old rookie brain couldn’t really comprehend that I would now be wrestling on their undercard in front of 4,500 people. I remember putting my tattered high spots kickpads on and wondering “what the hell am I doing here?”
I was only in a battle royal for the evening but the loud hush of the crowd was something I had never experienced before and not too many times since. What an incredible life experience, especially at such a young age!
The fun wasn’t ending there though. We were told that a fan (who later became a friend… hey Caesar!) had invited a few of us to attend his Las Vegas wedding immediately after the show. Bob, Wally and a few randoms I met backstage named Bryan Danielson, Adam Pearce and Colt Cabana, jumped into a limo with us as we made our way into the little chapel to celebrate the late night unity of two individuals we had never met in our lives. I’m not sure there were more than about 20 people there but if you’re asking yourself “was one of them an Elvis impersonator?” well you would be absolutely bang on the money!
The moral of the story is ALWAYS BRING YOUR GEAR! You really, just never know.