Sunday, August 13, 2017

Volume 12, Number 2: The Legends Fest Fiasco

August 13 marked the first anniversary of the Legends Fest fiasco in Dudley, Georgia.

If you don't know what Legends Fest was: In a nutshell, it was a pro wrestling event created by a man named Greg Greene, who, in a span of a little over two months, managed to get a mix of current independent wrestlers and superstars of days gone by (as listed in the poster shown below)--mostly the latter--to show up for the event.  Thing is, he did not plan on paying them.

I wasn't there for this sham of an event, but it struck a nerve with me for two reasons:
  • First, because I've followed WWE since 1987 and therefore am familiar with a lot of the names on the poster.  Examples: Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard, who were two of the famous Four Horsemen in NWA/WCW, also worked as a tag team in the WWE called The Brain Busters (Bobby Heenan was their manager).  Ted DiBiase, the Million Dollar Man, main-evented WrestleMania IV (losing to Randy "Macho Man" Savage for the then-vacant WWE Heavyweight Championship).  Ronnie Garvin, I remember from that time he lost to Greg "The Hammer" Valentine in a retirement match, only to make Valentine's life miserable as a referee.
  • Second, and more importantly, I've had a number of situations in which my time and energy were wasted and I got next to nothing in return--a summer job from Hell in 1992 (it was supposed to be a research job but it ended up being door-to-door sales); the time in 1999 when I met with someone to buy a used car (they never got a cent from me, but they wasted a lot of my time), only to find that he didn't have a clear title; and a 2007 job interview with a company that claimed to be in marketing but ultimately was nothing but street peddling.

OK, enough about me.  Back to Legends Fest.  A few dozen former wrestlers, plus a few young wrestlers currently working the independent circuits, went through all the trouble to get there.

The first red flag might have been raised on July 20, when Greene announced that the event was being moved from Dublin to the much smaller town of Dudley (or, as at least a few of the talent involved would put it, "the middle of nowhere").  His explanation: "Due to overwhelming responses we have found it would be necessary to hold Legends Fest in a more suitable location."  I'd love to know what "overwhelming responses" and "suitable location" meant, knowing what we know now.  Maybe the folks at the venue Greene wanted to use in Dublin overwhelmed him with messages saying they didn't want his sham of an event in their town.  Maybe he didn't sell enough tickets to pay for the use of the Dublin location and decided a cheaper venue would be more suitable given the situation he put himself in.

Two days before the event, B. Brian Blair (one-half of The Killer Bees, a tag team that performed in WWE in the 1980s) noted that the talent Greene had listed on the poster was too expensive for the local demographic; when he called Greene, he responded by stating that they got the money from sponsorships--never mind that the poster mentioned no sponsors, and Greene probably never had any to begin with.

Greene had booked rooms at two different hotels in Dublin (Quality Inn and La Quinta), but with a credit card that got declined.

The building that Greene chose to hold the event in was an abandoned school (the Millville Alumni Association Complex, which, according to former WCW announcer Scott Hudson, had once been Millville High School).  There were no signs outside the building to indicate that any kind of event was going on--or in any of the surrounding towns, for that matter.  A number of the people listed on the poster (Garvin, Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat, Davey Richards, Angelina Love) had already smelled a rat and did not show up.

On top of all that, Greene didn't have the money to pay the talent, even though he claimed to have sold more than $10,000 worth of tickets.  Greene said that he was expecting payment from the site through which he set up ticket sales for the event, Eventbrite, but that they e-mailed him at 4am on the morning of the event to tell him they would not wire him the money, at least not as he had expected.  It is likely that Greene did not have a legal PayPal account, and that is why he did not receive the money from Eventbrite.

Paul Eubanks (another promoter, who had been in the business since 1984, and had never met Greene before the event) said Greene asked him for a loan--first for $1,000, but this request was later increased to  $5,000.  Eubanks and Hudson also said the local sheriff threatened to shut down the show unless the talent was paid.  Greene ended up writing a load of checks that bounced--many from his own mother's checkbook, which he had stolen.  According to multiple witnesses, Greene was sweating and stuttering and had a dry mouth, and nobody knew that he had no money until he gave Anderson a chair to sit in, which broke, and a fuming Anderson--1/4 of the classic Four Horsemen of NWA/WCW--then said he should pay him $1,000 on top of what he was already owed.

In spite of the money issues, the performers were determined to put on a show for the fans who came, even though they risked injury doing a job that wasn't going to pay anything.  Eubanks and Francisco Ciatso (another indie wrestler; pronounced KEE-aht-soh) did what they could to make the show happen, even after Greene repeatedly threw Eubanks under the bus for his own screw-ups, even despite the fact that some of the talent booked in the matches either left or never showed up, meaning Ciatso had to book a few matches on the fly.  Even then, things did not stop going wrong--the lights went out and the toilets backed up.

Ciatso summed up Greene as a mark who wanted to rub elbows with wrestlers of the past and set up this sham of an event just for that purpose.

On August 18, Greene was arrested in Virginia on multiple felony charges, including 23 counts of deposit account fraud, 15 counts of forgery, theft by deception, and making false statements.

As of this time, I do not know if Greene has already stood trial on these counts.

I've compiled a whole bunch of media related to the fiasco, mainly for you to peruse and enjoy, but also partly for me to refer back to at a later time.  Some of these go into a lot more detail about what happened.  Check 'em out.

The first of two podcasts Sean David Hubbard did on the subject:
The second of those two podcasts:
Del Wilkes speaking about what happened a day or two afterwards:
The Courier-Herald, a newspaper in Dublin, published a story about the event here:
Mallorie Bradley, the fiancĂ©e of "Dreamkiller" Eric Wayne (one of the independent wrestlers at the event), posted a couple videos showing herself and "Mr. Wonderful" Paul Orndorff confronting Greene.  Orndorff is the one in the blue shirt, guarding the door while Bradley chews him out:
Another video of Bradley and Orndorff confronting Greene, which I believe was originally recorded by Stormie Lee Sloane (another of the indie talent at the event):
A Gerweck Report podcast, featuring an interview with former Smackdown GM Theodore R. Long:
A Reddit thread on the subject:
Scott Hudson's account of the whole thing:
(Francisco Ciatso and Stormie Lee Sloane interview)

Monday, April 24, 2017

Volume 12, Number 1: Holocaust Remembrance Day

At some point in the mid- to late-1980s, my father gave me a small paperback book.  It was Victory--the fourth (and final) volume in The Eyewitness History of World War II, by Abraham Rothberg, which Bantam Books had originally published in the 1960s.  A little over halfway through this volume is a passage about the Shoah* that resonated with me the first time I read it, and it still does today.  I'd like to share it with you now, especially given the incredibly ignorant comments that White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer made less than two weeks ago.

On April 14, 1945, Allied troops advancing into Germany saw firsthand the horrors of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.  Among those soldiers was R.W. Thompson, a captain in the British Army who would later become the war correspondent for the London Sunday Times.  The following are excerpts from what he wrote:
The blue smoke of many fires hangs thickly in the pine woods along the road from Winsen to Belsen.  In the clearings the young corn is green and all the loveliness of spring, of budding life, is in the air, and the smouldering grasses of the pine woods bring a wonderful tang to the nostrils so that you expand your chest and feel your youth still in you, and are glad to be alive.  Then suddenly a new tang creeps into the odours of burning.  It is the stench of death.  It is the stench from the great charnel-house our armies have overrun so that all mankind shall now--and this time neither to balk nor forget--the appalling crime Hitler and the Nazis have done against humanity, against the very basis of life and faith itself. ... 
I began the unforgettable walk that you must read about.  At first it was little worse than a kind of enormous hutted camp with here and there the wooden towers where the guards had watched.  The whole enormous area hidden in lovely pine woods divided into barbed-wire enclosures containing about thirty long huts to house, on military standards, less than fifty men.  Here the inmates, men, women and children, were new, but recently brought in.  For the first time for days there was water, and for the first time for weeks these people were washing themselves and their clothes.  The only odd thing was that here and there men and women were excreting--just casually anywhere. There is no sanitation in this hell in the woods. 
And now before my eyes was the slow destruction of human beings, stripped of all human dignity, forced down to the level of the beasts, and so to die in utter ruin.  This thing, this hell far beyond the dreams of Dante, holds some 60,000 souls--souls!  These are not souls, these tragic travesties of humanity that sit and rot in their own excrement, these things that were human once, reduced now to skeleton death by slow deliberate starvation, but first stripped of all remnants of human dignity so that in truth they are dead before they die.  By the barbed wire lie the dead, some bits of clothing, others naked men, women and children, almost unrecognizable as the remains of human kind, though they died but an hour since. ... 
They lie down and they die.  Now deep into the camp the dead lie in bundles, neat bundles, grotesque limbs in terrible positions.  Here is a small cart loaded with a dozen corpses, the faces like parchment tight against the skulls.  They are only just dead.  A brown stocking is limply around a leg that a small black garter less than 4 centimeters in diameter cannot clasp.  A shock of auburn hair crowns the dead face of this woman that stares sightless to the blue sky.  The normal world of life is receding.  Horror is not yet too deep for an individual to mean something.  This woman had a life, a purpose, was beloved of someone.  But now the dead are in hundreds, the dead, the living and the near-living.  The dead in small bundles of threes or fours under the shadow of the pines, the dying in attitudes of sleep by the roadside, some dying peacefully, some suddenly sitting up chattering.  Here a woman sits with eyes round in deep sockets, and a younger woman tries to quiet her babbling.  She is babbling like a grotesque travesty of a child.  If you did not know, she might be asking for a toy to play with, but she is asking for death. ... 
And so slowly the Chaplain takes me to the great burial ground where our soldiers are scooping pits with bulldozers to accommodate all this dead and putrefying human wreckage, deliberately, slowly, brought to pass by Adolf Hitler and the so-called Aryan** race.  Morning and night the heavy truck with its trailers brings its cargoes of bodies to the great pits.  Stand with me at this brink of this death pit.  It is my job, your job, the world's job.  It is about 30 feet deep, but you cannot see how deep because it is nearly filled now with human bodies, littered together in the embrace of death.  Here are girls, boys, men, women, naked, half-naked, upside down, sideways, all ways, some staring up to the sky, others with their heads buried in human remains.  So stare in silence and let this crime beyond expression sink in.  Across the sandy clearing is the incinerator, but it ran out of petrol.  A rough record by the chief burner of bodies records seventeen thousand burned last month.  They say each body was roughly clubbed as it went in, for there is so little difference between the dead and the near-dead.  There is no differences in the faces even. ... 
I found it difficult to speak to Germans at all.  I used to walk through crowds of them--civilians or prisoners--as though they weren't there, yet feeling a kind of flaming wall around me. ... 
I am now a complete idealist.  I have given up all the "isms."  I believe in the human spirit above all things, and that only by a change of heart can civilization be saved.  For although it is the Germans who have done this thing, it is not only the Germans who can do it.  Prisoners of Germans did it to other prisoners.  Mankind can do this thing to mankind.
We must pass what we learned about the Shoah down from one generation to the next because every new generation, each being more distanced by time from the terrible events by time than the one before it, is more susceptible to being lied to.  In particular, a man named Bradley R. Smith thought that my generation, a generation for which the vast majority of their parents were born well after the Second World War ended, would be vulnerable to lies (for example, he claimed that Allied bombings of railroads were to blame for the starvation of the prisoners).  Smith published his lies in a number of student newspapers in 1991, including a full-page ad in The Michigan Daily.
"I was taught that humans, all things being equal, would be humane to one another.  I didn't hear about the Shoah until I came to the United States.  And when I did, I was rocked to my roots, because it seemed to deny everything I thought I had known about us humans!"
Prof. Ralph Williams, 9/21/2016
*I used to refer to this event as the Holocaust, mainly because it was the most widely-used term growing up; however, as Prof. Williams pointed out last year, that term is also used in the Bible to describe burnt offerings.  He added that the person who first used that term regarding the persecution and murder of millions of Jews by the Nazis later regretted doing so.

**The original wording from Mr. Thompson was "Adolf Hitler and the German race."  I changed "German" to "so-called Aryan" because, while Germany as a country was the primary guilty party, not all Germans willingly participated in the Shoah; to the contrary, a number of German-born people resisted in any way they could, with the price often being their lives.