Young Lion and the God of Wrestling

Mike Messier (left) and Kevin Nash
Mike Messier (left) and Kevin Nash photo: Jonathon DelPonte

 

CROWMELL, CT:  It was an odd day and it may or may not happen again. A moment of pure peace and responsibility, power and knowledge. Of coming full circle and breaking through to a higher path.

For a wrestling fan or for anybody, it’s not every day you get to meet, let alone work security for a Legend… or a Giant… or Both. On the set of Blue Line, an Action feature film in the tradition of Thelma & Louise , starring JORDAN LADD, and TOM SIZEMORE as New York CIty cop assigned to a small town.  The film was shot in CROWMELL, CT, the home town of one of the producers DAVID GERE. Gere had invited me to be a part of the Switzer Entertainment production in various roles and encouraged me to help as much as possible. Towards that end, he was putting me over to use a Pro Wrestling term. “Offering me a promotion” in business terms. Getting me “in the game.”

I was assigned to Head of Security for both Mr. Sizemore (Saving Private Ryan, Black Hawk Down) and the former WWF (WWE) and WCW Champion of the World, Big Daddy Cool/Big Sexy KEVIN NASH.This was a huge responsibility.

Once known as DIESEL, Nash bullied and battered opponents like  The Undertaker, Big Daddy V, and Psycho Sid among other legends.  Nash was part of the famous NWO, New World Order, a Biblical reference, that sold many black, white and red T-Shirts, and effectively replaced Ric Flair and The Four Horsemen as the resident bad boys of Professional Wrestling.  Nash was part of a late 90s surge of “break the fourth wall” era of Professional Wrestling. Nash was part of an  infamous Madison Square Garden “curtain call” by “The Kliq” that pulled back the curtain of good guys and bad guys as friends. The circumstances and repercussions of “The Curtain Call” changed the business for years. Reference:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Kliq

Nash and his “Kliq” buddies Triple H, Shawn Michaels, Sean Waltman and Scott Hall changed the game for better or worse, leading to “The Attitude Era” of Professional Wrestling in the late 1990s.. Like Penn & Teller of in the world of magicianship, Nash and his friends invited the fans to see the inner-working behind the stage, and this controversial approach earned Nash many criticisms among wrestling traditionalists. Nash was not among his detractors. These circumstances were a long time ago. Nash is without a doubt headed to the WWE Hall of Fame.  Still, Nash feels the sting of the business. Decisions made, right and wrong, that haunt him.

In the  infamous “Young Lions promo” on the nationally televised WCW Nitro, an enraged Nash took aim at 1980s wrestling stars and promoters who were guilty of promoting their own family members over other qualified wrestlers, like Nash himself. According to Nash, the older generation has left nothing behind for his generation. Nash said he and his contemporaries were going to clean up the business and “the potholes” left behind. Nash was perhaps accurate in his words, but the delivery was brutal. Nash also once mocked an injured and recently retired Four Horsemen member, “The Enforcer” Arn Anderson with a biting and cruel impersonation. Nash was known for his sense of humor but some wrestling fans, including myself, were often offended by his candor and brashness. He was controversial to say the least. In fact, Nash was even once brought in to run the WCW booking office, deciding who won and who lost. So Nash, still an active wrestler, decided to have himself beat the previously undefeated Bill Goldberg. Again, controversial.

Nash always spoke his mind in and out of the ring. Who was going to shut him up, after all?

Nash told me his favorite match was actually one he lost, to Brett “The Hitman” Hart at Survivor Series at The Capital Center in Landover, MD, a venue I attended many times. I found it interesting that Nash – like many wrestlers – favors a match he did not win.

Wrestling is serious business. It’s not a joke. Wrestling fans are among the most informed and passionate of any form of popular escapism entertainment. So as you think of me working for Kevin Nash, imagine a Rock n Roll fan helping Elvis or Gene Simmons or Tori Amos. Or John Lennon, LED Zeppelin’s Robert Plant, AC/DC, Mozart, Johnny Cash, Reba McIntyre, or whomever. As a Sports Fan, imagine working for Joe Thiesman, Cal Ripken Jr., Chris Everett,  George Foreman, Troy Aikman, John Mcenroe, UFC’s Ronda Rousey, Howie Long, etc. Maybe a science fan could relate to bodyguarding for Einstein. For Psychology, Freud. For comics, Stan Lee. You get the idea.

The other stars of the movie are worth noting. Jordan Ladd is a highly accomplished and beautiful Actress with a strong Hollywood pedigree http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0480465/ Mr. Sizemore’s work and reputation as a film star speak for themselves, for those that don’t know, look him up on his IMDB.com resume http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0001744/?ref_=nv_sr_1 There was a moment when it was just me, Sizemore and Kevin Nash talking business on a flight of steps and at that time, I felt very entrusted by Mr. Sizemore. But I mostly worked with Nash.

There are many stories I won’t tell about Nash and Sizemore’s interaction in the film on-set and off. Suffice to say, these two have lived some crazy times and have had rich, wild lives. The stories they told are adult in nature and just plain hilarious. They also bonded over Pro Basketball and I was able to contribute a few thoughts on the subject.

The heart of this story is different. It’s a moment I’ll never forget. Footsteps in the snow.

standing guard for Actor Kevin Nash
Mike Messier standing guard for Actor Kevin Nash on the set of Blue Line. photo: David Gere

My job was to protect Mr. Nash that day from any unforeseen circumstances that may arise. I was also in charge of arranging a surprise visit from Bob Backlund himself, another former wrestling champion (who spoke of his matches vs. Harley Race and Magnificent Muraco), who Gere arranged to stop by the set. Overall, my job was to make sure nothing went wrong.

As Kevin had his arm in a sling for the movie, it was my responsibility to lead him to set, along with my co-worker, a cool guy named FRANK. As we headed down a flight of treacherous steps into ice and snow, I realized I better not screw up. This was Big Daddy Cool I was leading, who I was in charge of! If he were to fall and hurt himself, it would be me who was responsible! It was my job on the line and more importantly, the safety of the talent.

We got there – to set – and for just a moment it was just me and Nash walking side by side- as Nash approached the ambulance used for the scene. Nash was going to act as a bad guy shot and receiving help in the ambulance.

In real life, I’ve been a bad guy. And I’ve received help in an ambulance. Without getting into details, I’ve spent the better part of my life overcoming my faults and weaknesses to be a productive member of society and a powerful creative force, working towards a big break.

Now, even in a movie, it seemed full circle, that I was leading this man – KEVIN NASH – into the same ambulance scenario. As we got closer to the ambulance and shared a few footsteps in the snow,  I said to Kevin four simple words: “I got your back”.

Before, and as I spoke these words, I felt purely that God the creator was in this moment. It would take a lot to explain, but Pro Wrestling has meant a lot to me as it means a lot to my friends and millions of others worldwide.

So, as Nash and I walked and impressed our own large footsteps in the snow, I felt the power, and the peace of God.I truly felt unstoppable, as if the world was in sync and even the Universe at my command.

This feeling goes back to my many years of a Wrestling fan and a potential rock ‘n’ roll lead man and a period of time in my life when I was writing stream of conscious lyrics to songs that I wanted to somehow get to the band Guns ‘n’ Roses. Many of these lyrics included references to Pro Wrestling, which such diverse artists as The WU-Tang Clan and Eminem have also used to convey messages to the youth.

Seeing myself at that time as somewhat of a time traveler and even arc-angel, with the power of God, my ideal notion as a lyricist  was to resurrect the dead spirits of my wrestling heroes, including Public Enemy and The Von Erichs, Rick Rude and Curt Hennig. Andre the Giant and Big John Studd, Jay Youngblood, Crusher Blackwell. Even the murdered Bruiser Body. Even Owen Hart. Certainly, I had a plan that exceeded the reality of most people (see my Mental Illness or A Non-Linear Approach to Living? blog).

But the plan never came to fruition. Human dysfunction and idiotic intervention broke my path to greatness. As a child of divorce, it’s unfortunately quite often that I’ve had stumbling blocks, misunderstandings,  and lack of respect from my family. I’ve had to be the police-man for others old enough to know better. Not to complain, but it’s true. So wrestling, Pro Wrestling, has served as the escapism from this supposed family’s drama. Few may understand, perhaps many, but this is just the way it goes in this world of human frailty.

It would take a long time to explain the depth of the aforementioned writings and the pain I felt when my father and step-mother casually, and perhaps cruelly, threw them away when I was away from their home. Not my home apparently, but their home. Often, I think, some parents just “don’t get it’. They don’t see their children’s potential. Or they are jealous. Or don’t care.

Whatever the case, I  truly felt my writings could change the world and save lives. Call it naivete or blind confidence if you like. But… we’ll never know. Due to those choices by others, those circumstances and that intervention beyond my personal control, my life’s path was interrupted and effectively destroyed the way I thought “it should have been.”

So, as a fan of wrestling, and as a person, I had to move on. I couldn’t live in the past. Even though I was robbed of my writings, which would take me years to get over and reclaim my trust in people, I had to seek life to engage in it. Yet, still I was enraged and rightfully so, in my opinion. Maybe this put an edge to my future writings and personal sensibilities. It probably did.

And I pursued life, in every opportunity, both good and bad, even getting into the wrestling game and rock n roll world, to smaller extents however, than I had hoped. Like Kevin Nash himself, I had my disputes and obstacles. Mine were not on the grand stage of pop culture and fame. In obscurity, which I have a high disdain for.

So some years later, in my short walk with Nash,  I truly felt that whatever potential as a writer and rock star that was robbed from me, was somehow at “peace now”. I would have a second chance. A shot at redemption. I will achieve great things. This was the start.

As Nash’s bodyguard, there was not much room to go from here in the big picture of my life, not for this day anyway.  Except to the ambitious goal to write, produce and star in a series of feature films myself, that may or may not take a lifetime. I have big goals for a big life. These objectives may happen or not… but I’ll die trying.

Living in Rhode Island, in the film business, it’s not “Swimming with Sharks”. It’s swimming in mud.

Yet one way or another, someone will remember the name Mike Messier. Vanity? Perhaps.

But something about this day was spiritual, touched by God. Let me explain to the best of my ability.

I grew up with tough times, and was hospitalized many times for situations both within and beyond my control. It’s a story for another time, but suffice to say it’s the school of hard knocks and the college of pain. There has been some light, but much darkness in my life. Some happiness, but often, more than not, the cloud of other people’s reality, holds me back. Just the truth. Yet my faith holds me together.

In the Nash/Messier Moment, I was reminded of a poem I once saw in a Dr.’s office:

The Footprints Prayer

One night I had a dream…

I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord, and Across the sky flashed scenes from my life. For each scene I noticed two sets of footprints in the sand; One belonged to me, and the other to the Lord. When the last scene of my life flashed before us, I looked back at the footprints in the sand. I noticed that many times along the path of my life, There was only one set of footprints.

I also noticed that it happened at the very lowest and saddest times in my life This really bothered me, and I questioned the Lord about it. “Lord, you said that once I decided to follow you, You would walk with me all the way; But I have noticed that during the most troublesome times in my life, There is only one set of footprints. I don’t understand why in times when I needed you the most, you should leave me.

The Lord replied, “My precious, precious child. I love you, and I would never, never leave you during your times of trial and suffering. When you saw only one set of footprints, It was then that I carried you.

footprint_in_the_sand

Was it odd to think of this poem while walking with Nash – a 7 foot tall Professional Bouncer turned Wrestler? Probably. But that’s me and that’s how I correlate things. That is what I do.
In the wee mornings after the shoot, Nash held court with several members of the production team, telling even more stories. Mostly, I listened and a few times it was even difficult to stay awake, the night was going on forever. Producer Gere proceeded to tell me to stay attuned and “Carpe Diem – Seize the Day.” In other words, roll with it, enjoy the moment. Enjoy the stories.
I learned a lot about Kevin Nash, the nature of celebrity and myself that night. We are all people and none of us are immune to feeling bad, or having regrets. Kevin expressed his thoughts on the “Death of WCW” which was once the most popular Wrestling federation in the world until Vince McMahon bought his chief competition (long story). Nash seemed to be holding onto that situation and even take some responsibility for it, although most Wrestling fans in no way take him accountable. For more details, reference: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monday_Night_Wars
It was surprising for me to hear Kevin Nash was worried about his legacy. But he is only human with regrets and emotions like the rest of us. With things like “What I should have done…” He is just a guy, although a Giant and Legend to me, he looks himself in the mirror like the rest of us.
As a Wrestler, Kevin Nash has given countless hours of entertainment to millions of hard-core and even casual fans. Yet he still has a strong sense of humility and humanity. He still is a member of the “regular people” world.
Towards the end of the evening, Nash told a story about another Giant – a young man from a foreign country that Nash meant on an airplane by chance. This Young Man, whose name I don’t know, comes from relative obscurity and Nash is helping guide this raw talent in life and career, as somewhat of a brother/father figure. Nash showed us a picture of himself and this Young Man, a Young Lion himself. This guy is about 7’7″ tall and towers over even Nash. Nash says he is taking a mentor-ship role to this young guy, helping to guide him into college and athletics. The young guy does not want to be a professional wrestler or athlete of any kind – he aims to be an astrophysicist! Nash said something to the effect of: After all the things I’ve done in my life if I can help one guy,  it will be worth it.
In these early morning hours, Nash even expressed an interest in his role in eternity, wondering about his fate after death. Certainly, Kevin has seen many of his contemporaries in the Pro Wrestling business come and go at an early age (BRIAN PILLMAN, Hawk, Kerry Von Erich, Yokozuna, among others.) Where would Nash find his salvation? Perhaps he would get help from Shawn Michaels, Nash’s best friend in the business, a born again Christian. Or perhaps I could help. Perhaps.
I didn’t really make a big effort to sell Nash on any doctrine. Although a member of South County Baptist Church (Rhode Island) myself, I consider myself more of a monitor of sorts, not a Bible Beater. I am here to witness not push. Perhaps I am wrong in this myself. Perhaps I am a coward. If I believe in something, why not share it? But the time did not seem appropriate to talk with Kevin Nash about Jesus Christ or God in general. It was time to call it a night and go to sleep.

But I did offer this. I said to Kevin Nash:

“You are the God of Wrestling.”

Nash responded “I am just a business man.”
Me: “Don’t sell yourself short. You mean a lot to a lot of people.”
Thank you, Kevin Nash, for the years of entertainment and a day of adventure and a night of stories. It was an honor to work for you and best of luck in everything. May you power-bomb your past into oblivion and embrace your own Greatness and place in Pro Wrestling History. The best is yet to come.
For myself, it’s time to move on. Beyond the pain, beyond the hate, into my own New World Order.
Thank you for reading.
– MIKE MESSIER
Edited by Mary DeBerry
Production Co-ordinator Jonathan Del Ponte, Mike Messier, Producer David Gere,  Actor Tommy DeNucci from BLUE LINE
BLUE LINE’s: Jonathan DelPonte, Mike Messier, Producer David Gere, and Tommy DeNucci.

[Note:  Thanks to the City of Crowmell, CT,  Sheffield’s Restaurant, the entire Blue Line team including producers David Gere, Richard Switzer and Thyme Lewis and The Quality Inn in Cromwell, CT for excellent lodging during production.]

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