Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Great Lakes Championship Wrestling is born....

Okay #SuperFriends, when we last left off I was explaining how Herro's Sports Page (HSP) got its start, how it grew and who was involved. It was a #tremendous experience.  Then one day a monster of a man walked thru the doors of HSP. 

This guy was as tall as me and looked like a mean dude. I gotta admit he was rather intimidating. Rich Finke was his name and at the time had the personality of a potato chip and a very dry sense of humor.  Rich was a local independent wrestler that was trained by AWA Tag Team star The Texas Hangman (WCW's Disorderly Conduct's Mean Mike) and Verne Gagne prelim guy, Tom "Rocky" Stone.  Rich heard there was a wrestling store in Milwaukee and wanted to check it out.  We chatted on and off for a couple weeks feeling each other out and we decided we should do business together.  Sitting in the office at HSP we decided that we could make some money being a player in the independent wrestling scene in Milwaukee.  With his connections in wrestling and the popularity of HSP and my radio show we felt we could take over the area.  All we needed was a name..... Great Lakes Championship Wrestling (GLCW) was born.

Our very first show was to take place at Texx's Victory Hall in Cudahy, Wisconsin in October of 1997.  I was nervous, I never promoted a live event before so I had no idea what to expect. We agreed to bring in "The Brooklyn Brawler" Steve Lombardi as the headliner.  I believe we had seven matches and rolled the dice.  The show was selling pretty well and a few weeks in we had already presold 200 plus tickets, I could feel a home run on our first show.  During this time I was working with Jim Cornette in the WWF offices (Jim was the talent relations guy).  I called Jim up and asked him if I could book Mick Foley on an upcoming show in 1998. At the WWF was still allowing their talent to take indy bookings, but obviously that was about to change.  Jim, Mick, and I spent well over a week negotiating a fee for an autograph appearance at HSP and a match for GLCW, lets just say knowing what Mick gets now for a personal appearance I got a #tremendous deal. I know I am getting ahead of my self as I haven't even finished the story of my first show, but just hang in there, I will get there.... now.

So the night of the first GLCW show we were ready to rock, the place was jammed packed, I believe we did over 600 paid, so I was very pleased.  The crowd was hot and they were spending money on gimmicks and the bar. I was even booked in the Battle Royale, one of a handful of matched I would book myself in over the next 13 years.  No, I didn't win... I am not a wrestler and even tho I may have the size, I have always had more fun promoting and booking the shows, besides it drives me nuts when indy owners book themselves to get themselves over.  Col. Corruption won the GLCW title that night and right after his match we announced that he would defend his newly won title at the next show against WWF star...... Mankind.  The crowd went nuts and I knew that we had a huge show in the making.

Over the next couple months all I did was plan and promote that show. We booked it at The Rave in Milwaukee, WCW and ECW ran the Rave and I felt it was the right size of a building to hold an event with Mick Foley.  Over the next few weeks we also added "Cowboy" Bob Orton, Ken Patera, and Bastion Booger. I guess looking back at it, I really did not take any baby steps from show one to show two, I jumped in head first. proves the fact that patience is NOT one of my strong points. Everything was running smoothly, GLCW was about to be put on the map.  Tickets were selling fast and it looked like we would easily hit 1,000 tickets sold. I was feeling very relaxed and comfortable knowing that everything was falling into place.  Then the day before Mick was to get in town for his appearance for me at HSP, I got a phone call from my Mom..... My grandfather has just died......... Wow, I couldn't believe it, I had no idea what to do, how to feel, I was numb, my grandpa was gone, he was a huge part of my life and I was too busy living out my childhood dreams to visit him as often as I should have. I was crushed and felt extremely guilty that I didn't give him more attention. The next few days were just a whirl wind of emotions.

When Mick landed in Milwaukee he had just finished a WWF European tour and he was exhausted.  He even mentioned this Milwaukee show in his book, the New York Times Best Seller, "Have A Nice Day".  Mick and I caught up and I told him what had happened with my grandpa and assured him that everything would go as planned, and it did.  We had a huge turnout at HSP for his appearance, I think we had over 500 people show up on Good Friday to meet the Hardcore Icon. After the signing we had a quick dinner then back to the hotel to get ready for the next day..... Mick wanted to go Easter Basket shopping for his kids, so I asked Mick is he wanted to go to the Mall, specialty stores, candy stores???? He said "Walmart". #ButYouAlreadyKnewThat. After all the shopping was done all that was left was the show......

I almost forgot to mention that the Monday Night Raw before my show, Mick cut a promo in the ring saying that Cactus Jack was leaving the WWF and that he was not appreciated. I was elated that the guy that was gonna be headlining my show just told the world that he wanted to quit wrestling and was given a lot of TV time. I had FOUR tv commercials during that RAW.

We got to The Rave and was met by a pleasant surprise, about 600 people waiting in line two hours early..... Mick was impressed and Rich and I were very pleased. The show went off without a hitch, we had 1800 plus fans yelling and screaming and Cactus Jack became the 2nd ever GLCW Heavyweight Champion. I learned a lot from Mick Foley that weekend, he taught me a lot about running indy shows, promoting, running the locker room and perhaps the most important lesson of all...... 50/50 split on in ring Polaroids.  Happy Easter to me :) About 500 fans purchased an in ring Polaroid with the new GLCW Champ for $20 each.  Yep #Winning.

After the show Mick told me that he was impressed the way I handled everything for only having run one show prior to my super show and dealing with the death of my grandfather.  He told me he looked forward to returning and defending the GLCW Title.  Vince McMahon had other ideas for Mick.....  That was Mick's last true "Indy" match as he went on to become Corporate Dude Love and feud with "Stone Cold" Steve Austin. Austin vs Dude was the Main Event of the WWF Over The Edge PPV held in Milwaukee.  SO needless to say, Mrs. Foley's baby boy never defended the GLCWtitle and I had no choice but to take the belt off him.  Mick and I have remained good friends since that day and I even got a bit mention in his latest book "Countdown To Lockdown".

GLCW was now a player on the Milwaukee Indy scene.  We were able to run events for SummerFest, Dan Jansen Festival, Wisconsin State Fair, and numerous County Fairs and High School Fundraisers.  Cousin Jack Koshick and I even branched out to do three casino shows in Minnesota and Miami with Jim Cornette and the WWF. Yes, GLCW ran shows with WWF talent Al Snow, Test, Val Venis, Gangrel, Terri Runnels, Mankind, and others. Those were great shows, lots of fun and we sold a ton of merchandise (remember I was able to buy direct from WWF so I had all the tshirts :) )

Over the next five years Rich and I ran shows all over Wisconsin. What a cast of characters we came across.... Rock N Roll Buck Zumhoffe, The Honky Tonk Man, King Kong Bundy, Iron Sheik, Luna Vachon, Jerry Lawler, The Crusher, Nick Bockwinkel, Greg Valentine, The Bushwhackers, George Steele, Nikolia Volkoff, Larry Zybysko, Haku, and of course one of my favorites...... Gillberg.

Yes, that's right, I said Gillberg.  Duane "Gillberg" Gill was on top of the world, he was the current WWF Light heavyweight Champion.  Gillberg was the brain child of Al Snow.  I remember sitting in a Denny's with Al when he told me about the Gillberg idea.  He thought that what a great rib it would be on WCW and Goldberg if the parodied Gill as the undefeated WCW superstar.  The WWF even pumped in the "Gillberg" chant. You are probably wondering why I am taking th etime to explain this "phenomenon".  Well, I was all set to run a show with the super amazing Luna Vachon, and one month before she was supposed to make her GLCW apperance she called me and told me she was going into rehab and would not be able to make the show.  First call I made was to Jim Cornette and asked him if anyone was available to come in. Knowing that Vinny Mac did not let any of his Superstars work the indies I knew the chances were not good. "How about Gillberg?", Cornette asked. "Absolutely", I said.  How could I pass up having the current WWF Light heavyweight Champion on my show. He was on TV every week and his fee was more than fair. I had four weeks to change all the advertising and flyers and get the word out that WWF Light heavyweight Champ, Gillberg would be in Cudahy, Wisconsin.  Jackpot, over 800 people showed up to cheer on the sparkler waving, jack hammering, lovable JOB Squader.  Victory for GLCW.

May of 2001 would be the last show I would run for a while.  I was getting married in July and I knew that  the wrestling business is not conducive for a successful marriage. So I called my good friend Road Dogg Jesse James, Road Dogg was just released by the WWF and I felt he would be a great draw.  So I was able to book him in Green Bay on a Friday night, Saturday for me, a Pay Per View Party on Sunday, and his birthday party / RAW party on a Monday.  What the hell was I thinking!?!?!? Turns out Road Dogg wound up staying with me for a week, remember when I said wrestling is not conducive for a successful marriage??? Ha Ha.  I am proud to say that the BG James that I know today is NOT the same Road Dogg Jesse James that I worked with in May of 2001.  He is a stronger, more disciplined, and wiser man. I am very proud of his growth as a man and am inspired by his strength. BTW, BG is also accepting bookings, message me for details :)

When Road Dogg hopped on that plane to go home, I decided that my four year run of GLCW shows was more than I ever could have asked for.  I had nothing left to prove, I was an established promoter and I was about to start a new chapter in my life, I was getting married. It was time to move on. I had just closed up HSP, wrestling was not as hot as it once was and WalMart and Target were now selling wrestling merchandise cheaper than what I paid for my own inventory.  I decided to go corporate. I was working for someone for the first time in 10 years and I was frustrated, wrestling is who I am, it's a huge part of me, and I was going crazy without my creative outlet. For almost five years I was wrestle free because that's what I thought was the right thing to do.

October 2005, one of my idols and good friend, AWA Legend, The Crusher has died. Once again I felt that guilt when my Grandfather had died, once again I had forgotten another. I was involved in my own life and now new family and did not take the time to visit Crush when I had the chance.  Seeing everyone in the "biz" again got me feeling restless, but I knew that wrestling wasn't a good fit for me. Two weeks later the phone rang..... "Hey cuz".        TO BE CONTINUED...... The story of Blizzard Brawl

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