Monday, May 23, 2011

This is Blizzard Brawl

So the last time we left off, HERE I was winding down Great Lakes Championship Wrestling (GLCW) as I was about to get married and enter corporate America. As far as I was concerned I had accomplished everything I wanted to do in the wrestling business, that was work with the greats and earn their respect. I felt that I had succeeded and it was time to “grow up”.

Fast forward about three years to 2005 and Cousin Jack gives me a call.  Anyone that knows Cousin Jack will always appreciate the “Hey cuz” tag line.  So here we go….  Hey Cuz, was my greeting on the other end of the call.  Keep in mind the Legendary Crusher, the Man Who Made Milwaukee Famous, had just died a week ago and Cousin Jack was partnering with 97.3 The Brew to promote a Crusher Tribute Show. My initial thought was that the Crusher’s body wasn’t even cold yet, but Jack and the Brew wanted an event and I was asked to come to the meeting and help out.

Now as far as I was concerned, I was done with the wrestling business. I no longer had my segment on ESPN radio, I no longer did autograph signings, schedule personal appearances, and barely talked to the “boys”.  After all I was married. To be honest, it drove me nuts. I no longer had my creative outlet and the suit and tie gimmick was driving me crazy, and I had the “itch” to get back in the business again, so for me to hear “Hey Cuz”, I knew it was gonna be something interesting.

I met up with Cousin Jack at the Clear Channel Milwaukee offices and met Jeff Lynn and Ken Kohls. Jeff was the head guy in charge for the Brew an 80’s rock station that was on fire in Milwaukee and Ken was his promotions director. I expressed my interest in working with Clear Channel and the Brew on the event because I could see it would be huge and just what I needed. Finally I was working with a big time media player.  The Brew was going to cover all the expenses and all Cousin Jack and I had to do was put the show together and book the talent. Several times throughout the meeting I asked if the Crusher’s Family was on board and Cousin Jack assured us that they were and that they were all excited to honor their father. We left the meeting and I felt like I was back, I had ideas racing through my head and people to call.  I reached out to my friends… Al Snow, Diamond Dallas Page, King Kong Bundy, Jerry Lawler, and Grandmaster Sexay. I also booked Traci Brooks on the show and it was also the first time I ever worked with her. The show was set, the plane tickets were booked, and now we just had to get the ball rolling.

Cousin Jack and I were out postering and flyering the event that was to be called The Brew’s Bolo Brew-ha.  The Bolo was the name of The Crusher’s finisher and seemed like the perfect name for the event.  We had booked the Ramada Convention Center by the Milwaukee airport to hold the show.  I liked the idea of the Ramada because we worked out a deal where we paid rent according to the bar sales, we had a number to hit and if we hit that we got free rent and a percentage of sales. I also like the fact the hotel rooms and the show were all in the same building. Less chasing around for me. I gotta admit this was all going really smooth, too smooth actually.  As Cousin Jack and I hung up one of the last posters my phone rings….. It was Jeff Lynn of the Brew informing Cuz and myself that the Crusher’s daughter had called to complain that we were using her father’s likeness for the event without her approval and that she would sue everyone if we continued the event.  Jeff told us that Clear Channel and The Brew would no longer be affiliated with the show because of legal ramifications.  I was numb. I looked at Jack and just took him home.  I asked for Crusher’s daughter’s number because I had to try and fix this ASAP.  Considering I already had about $5,000 of my own money into this show I needed to act quick because I had no desire to tell my wife that I lost $5,000 a month before Christmas.

To this day I am not sure if all the I’s were dotted and T’s were crossed with The Crusher’s family. I am sure that some of his family loved the idea and others did not. So I called Dawn (Crusher’s daughter) and told her that I had no idea she was not in favor of the show and that if the show were to continue on as planned that her father’s name and likeness would not be used whatsoever to promote the event.  After 45 minutes of really great conversation and understanding she gave me her blessing to go forward with the show and wished me luck. As soon as I hung up with Dawn I called Jeff Lynn at the Brew and asked if I could meet with him the next day.

Now you can only imagine how much I was hating life and the wrestling business at this time, I went from not having a “creative outlet” to all of the sudden being $5,000 in the hole and possibly ruining my reputation as a promoter.  So I met with Jeff Lynn, a man I had only met once before in my entire life and I told him what I was willing to do.  I said I would still go forward with the show, get another $5,000 to cover remaining expenses and then I get to keep the gate. All I needed from Jeff was the power of Clear Channel and The Brew.  I told Jeff that he did not owe me anything and that I would understand if they wanted no part of a show that was supposed to place in three weeks.  Jeff excused himself for five minutes which seemed like an hour.  All I could think of was how was I going to explain to my wife, who was not a wrestling fan to begin with that I was out $5,000 on a show that was never my idea in the first place. Waiting… Waiting… Waiting….

Jeff came back into his office, sat down and with a huge smile on his face asked me that if they backed the show promotionally if he could be the ring announcer. I said absolutely. Now I don’t want to tell you how much Jeff and Clear Channel graciously helped me with promotionally but let’s just say that the WWE does not get that much air time when they come into town. What a huge day for me, I had more advertising that I ever could have imagined, now I just have to brand the show. Needless to say that Jeff Lynn has become one of my best friends on the planet and has been my ring announcer ever since.

I wanted to get a charity involved to help get some more attention and hopefully help with ticket sales. I wasn’t sure who to use so I went down a list of local charities and came across Variety.  Variety is a charity for abused and battered women and children. Originally I was going to name the event “Season’s Beatings” but I felt that probably wouldn’t be appropriate considering the charity involved. So back to the drawing board for a new name. That’s when I decided to go with Blizzard Brawl.  Not sure how it came to be but it just worked. So Blizzard Brawl was born.

I was looking for other ways to make money on this event because I always feel that no matter how much you do to promote the event it is never enough.  So I decided to sell “attendant” sponsorships.  The way it worked is that the fans could purchase the opportunity to sit with the talent at their table during the meet and greet session, kind of like their own personal security.  I sold those for $300 to $500 each. Tremendous.

I then reached out to all my media friends that would come to Herro’s Sports page (HSP) for personal appearance events.  One of those “media guys” was my good friend from the Milwaukee NBC station and the Sports Anchor, Lance Allan.  Lance is a true wrestling fan, he was a fan growing up and eventually became one of GLCW’s undefeated stars.  Lance came in to interview Diamond Dallas Page who was scheduled to take on Jerry “The King” Lawler in the Main Event. One week before the show Jerry called me and said he had a court date that he could not miss but he was willing to send a video to be played at the show explaining that he couldn’t make the event and that he would name a replacement.  That replacement would be Buff Bagwell. Why wouldn’t this shows Main Event have to be changed, the show has been a roller coaster ride from the get go.  What else could go wrong? A Blizzard at Blizzard Brawl?? It is Milwaukee in December remember.

We are now five days out and Jeff Lynn and The Brew have been tremendous, I am hearing the commercials all over the Clear Channel Milwaukee universe. I also bout some 30 second TV spots on Time Warmer Sports for $2 each so I had lots of media presence and Lance Allan had invited DDP and myself to be on the 6am NBC TV news. I was also fortunate enough to get Steve “Sparky” Fifer from FOX Sports Radio to come and manage King Kong Bundy. I covered all my bases, I had FM radio, AM radio, Cable TV, and Network TV. What could go wrong, we are almost home??? Did I mention the show was called Blizzard Brawl?

The night before Blizzard Brawl, the  Milwaukee and Chicago area were hit with a legit blizzard. It was so bad that an airplane skid off the tarmac in Chicago.  Like C3PO “we’re doomed”. I had no faith that the people would come out to a show like this at a hotel ballroom with this ridiculous weather. Now all I could think of was that I was going to lose $10,000 on a show that wasn’t supposed to be mine in the first place…..

Al Snow, Brian Christopher, King Kong Bundy, Dallas Page, Buff Bagwell, and ODB all made their flights in the morning of the show and the roads were starting to get cleaned up. The last person I had to get was Traci Brooks. She was terrific, beautiful smile, and just happy. I wish I could find 10 Traci Brooks to use on every show, drama free and doesn’t complain. Best “diva” experience ever. Traci and I would go on to become great friends and I was even invited to her wedding.

So as I am in the back going over all the matches with everyone and making sure everyone knows what they are doing I decide to go and check in with DDP and Buff.  These two have had the same match 100s of times so I was confident everything would be perfect.  Then my brother walked in the back and asked me to come out front, he wanted me to see what was going on.  My heart stopped, we were 30 minutes from bell time and I was certain that I would walk into an empty ball room.  As we both walked out from behind the curtain the room was jam packed, the hotel was searching for more chairs.  They originally were set up for 750 people and wound up having more than 1,000 people in the Ramada Ballroom. I couldn’t believe it, I would be lying to you if I said I didn’t have a tear in my eye.

The show went off as planned and for the most part without a hitch. There was a chant for The Crusher and a chant for Eddie Guerrero as he had also just passed.  The Crusher’s daughter was there and she gave me a big hug and congratulated me. The fans were excited and happy.  It was a great experience for everyone involved and I was not out $10,000 but I was emotionally exhausted.

The very first Blizzard Brawl was finally in the books, everyone was paid, everyone had fun, everyone made some money and I was ready to get out of the crazy wrestling business again. I have said this many times, if it was not for the kindness of Jeff Lynn this would have been the worst experience for me.  For some reason he believed in me and what we could possibly do together. For this I will be forever grateful. You can be the greatest promoter alive but f you do not have the right people working with you then you really don’t have anything.  Jeff Lynn is a founding father of Blizzard Brawl.

So like I said, I was done, spent, exhausted, I just wanted to get home and go to sleep and leave wrestling behind me again. I did just that. Then about March 2006 I got a phone call from Jeff, he said “do you wanna do it again?”….. TO BE CONTINUED

1 comment:

  1. Great story. One of these days I'd like to make it up there for the show. Thanks for sharing, it was a leap of faith that paid off. Congrats!