I can’t believe I’m going to share this photo with you. No not the one you see here. The one still to come. It’s beyond embarrassing. But the story behind it is a fun childhood memory. I was an enormous pro wrestling fan as a kid. Rowdy Roddy Piper was my hero. He didn’t have many fans like me. Everyone would boo when he would walk to the ring, slam an opponent, pick up a mic … or even just turn his head. The way he got a reaction out of an audience probably in some way inspired my career choice. So back in the 80s, when I heard Roddy was coming to Maine, I flipped out.
I had to meet my idol. And lucky for me, I had a connection.
My grandfather was a professional boxer back when wrestling matches were part of the card. He was friends with Jackie Nichols. Jackie was a pretty big deal in wrestling back in the 40s and 50s. He was a world lightweight champion and beat Classy Freddie Blassie to become one half of the tag team champions in 1956. But to be honest, I was a kid. I’d never heard of Jackie Nichols the wrestler. I just knew him as that nice old man who’d come into my family’s Italian grocery store. When I saw him in a suit walking around at WWF matches, I was in awe that he was lucky enough to be friends with all the guys I watched on TV every week. I’m sure it was probably my uncle Rick or mother who told Jackie it’d make my year if I could meet Rowdy Roddy Piper.
Alright, enough of that. Yes I’m stalling. You want the pic. Here you go. Yup. Here’s a 13 or 14 year old nerd Geno in his “I’m gonna be a serial killer someday” dark rim glasses at the Cumberland County Civic Center in Portland, Maine. With my “Hot Rod” t-shirt and foam Roddy’s #1 finger, clearly I wasn’t there to meet “Macho Man” Randy Savage.
Jackie was friends with Angelo Poffo, Randy’s father. So thus, I met The Macho Man instead. It was the first time I’d ever been “backstage” to anything so I felt like I was pretty damn important.
When Jackie motioned for me in the crowd of fans to come back to the locker room, I got nervous as all hell. What would I ask Roddy? Would Roddy be cool? What if Roddy was a dick like his TV persona? Should I ask for Roddy’s autograph? A photo? He was a bad guy after all. So that might not be a good idea.
I walked through the curtain with all these Roddy questions buzzing around my head. And then I saw Randy Savage there waiting. I feel terrible saying this because Randy would go on to become a legend and I was really a lucky kid to meet him. He was soft-spoken and glady took a pic with me.
But I was bummed out. I didn’t get to meet Roddy that night. In fact, I never even got to meet Roddy when I became a pro wrestling ring announcer. Yup. I was that guy in the tux for about 5 years.
I’d have to wait about 25 years for that photo with Roddy. I was working for 98.5 The Sports Hub in Boston when I heard Roddy Piper was downstairs in the studio with one of our shows doing an interview. I saw him in the lobby and the teenage kid in me had to get that pic with him. The guy was beyond gracious. After we snapped the photo, I started to head back to my office when Roddy grabbed my arm to come back to take a second shot just in case the first one didn’t come out.
Both Randy and Roddy are no longer with us. Nor is Jackie. But I’ll always be appreciative to all three of them. Appreciative enough to show you that ridiculously awful picture of me in my awkward teenage years. Now go burn your computer so nobody else sees this.