Sunday, May 28, 2017

The Greatest Gift and the Night I Turned Heel

I may or may not have written about Bob Armstrong's heel turn in the mid 80's in the old Southeastern Championship Wrestling territory.  Austin Idol, who was so over with crowds everywhere that he was considered by Vince McMahon, Jr. as Bob Backlund's successor as WWF world champion, had come to town with his Idolmania leaving too many baby faces and not enough heels.  With the women and girls screaming for Austin and the men teaching their boys that it would be good and honorable to grow up and be just like him, a previously unthinkable idea was born:  turn baby face of all baby faces, Bullet Bob Armstrong, the Georgia Jawjacker, into a crowd hating heel.

I was such a big fan of Bullet Bob's that when when the unthinkable happened, instead of turning on him for Austin, I, at the grand old age of 12 years old, turned heel with him!

Yes, I sat at ringside with my older brother and screamed my lungs out for Bullet Bob and all of his dirty tricks.  The more the crowd booed my guy the louder I got in support of my guy.  So much so that a toothless lady sitting next to me tried to save my lost soul right then and there.  She told me to "turn from evil and root for the good guys" just like Austin Idol.

But, no.  Good, bad, or indifferent, I am loyal to a fault.  I was with Big Bad Bullet Bob all the way, and I didn't care what the well-meaning toothless lady thought about it!

I even managed to provoke the crowd around me to boo me when I turned around and faced them with a smug look on my face as Bullet Bob gained the upper hand by dastardly means, of course.  Yet, as the script usually goes, the baby face Austin Idol eventually came back to win the match with his patented Las Vegas Leglock.  Bullet Bob's bad buddies came in and broke things up only to have another referee to come in and tell the match referee that Bullet Bob had submitted before the interference came.

Image result for bob armstrong vs. austin idol
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The crowd jumped up and down as they heartily cheered the victor with the bobbed blond hair.  I sat quietly with my arms folded and my bottom lip poked out mad at the world because Bullet Bob had lost.

However, the night was not a complete loss as I discovered something about myself.  I actually enjoyed being booed!

Image result for bob armstrong vs. austin idol
Fair use: I do not own the rights to this image

This would resurface later in high school when I was on the basketball team.  I prided myself in being a tough defender in the middle and crashing the boards to get the ball back for my team.  Dirty Detroit Piston Bill Laimbeer had become a favorite of mine.  And just like Bill, I realized that I LOVED being booed at road games.  I had no problem with hacking a guy that tried to come down my lane and score.  One day, my coach just looked at me and shook his head and said, "Just don't commit a flagrant or technical foul, and just don't let the guy score!"

I embraced that role, and as a result my teammates embraced me.  You see, they knew the real me.  They knew that I was kind, loyal, and generous to a fault.  Having them know who the "real me" was gave me license to go do the dirty work and get the job done on the basketball court.  Not necessarily for my benefit, but for the benefit of my team.  And being booed just made it all the better.  You see, being a dick sometimes is okay if that's not who you really are.

All of this makes me realize that I was born probably ten years too late.  Had I been born earlier, and had I worked towards my dream of being a professional wrestler, I could have been a great heel.

The truth is, I thought it was pretentious to have a big dream and to say what that dream was to someone else in all seriousness.

I wish that I had trusted myself more and really believed in myself.  I know now that the root of my problem with confidence was the secret that I was hiding about my sexuality.  The older I got the more it felt like to me that people could see who I really was.  It shouldn't have been a problem.  But it certainly was back then.

Once in a while, we all have someone reveal to us who they really are.  It's an honor and a privilege when someone does that with you whether you like or agree with what they tell you.  The greatest gift that you can give to someone is to listen to them and to tell them that you see them for who they really are.  Don't discourage them, encourage them.  It's easy to be someone who mocks or ridicules.  It's harder to be a good friend and tell them it's okay to be who you are.  Now, maybe more than ever, we need for young kids to dream big, and to not be afraid of doing so.

Just a little food for thought ......

AC Yates


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