We begin this Special PPV edition with a story from the Bakersfield Californian, the subject of which is Solie's contributer, fitness expert and professional wrestler, Ric Drasin.
By LEONEL MARTINEZ
Californian staff writer
TOLUCA LAKE With his Mr. Clean pate, bodybuilder physique and bushy goatee, Ric Drasin looks like he might be willing to rearrange your body parts, free of charge.
Instead, he's cracking jokes in that teen-age-sounding voice of his, the one that makes him sound like he's decades younger than his 53 years.
"My estrogen's a little bit high today," he says as he sips a steaming cup of coffee outside Priscilla's Gourmet Coffee Shop in Toluca Lake, a popular hangout for actors and other entertainment types. "I'm feeling very feminine."
Then he locks gazes with you and offers a hint of a smile. It's a grin that looks weird on a 6-foot-tall, 220-pound scary guy who has tattooed shoulders the width of a gorilla in its prime. Drasin is a former professional wrestler, bodybuilder, personal trainer and in the 1970s, training partner for a young unknown named Arnold Schwarzenegger.
And his look scares people.
So hearing him talk about his inner femininity is freaky. But get used to it. Drasin, who is an artist, personal trainer, actor, tattoo artist and 1962 graduate of Bakersfield High School, is a stand-up comic trapped in a hoodlum's body. "People are usually scared of me until I run up and kiss them," jokes the Bakersfield native. "Then they realize I'm an OK guy. The look works for me and gets me the work I want, as it's unique and I use it to my advantage. The gang members can't even figure me out, so they stay away."
Who wouldn't? At his peak, Drasin had 19-inch arms and a 52-inch chest over a 34-inch waist. His best bench press was 455 pounds, which means he was stronger than the aforementioned gorilla.
During his professional wrestling career, he worked with masters of mayhem like Buddy "Killer" Austin; Mr. Moto, whose idea of a great day was throwing salt in his foes' eyes; Mil Mascaras, the so-called Man of a Thousand Masks; and Freddie Blassie, who enjoyed calling his opponents "pencil-necked geeks" and chomping on their foreheads.
Those years left scars. On the mat, Drasin says he was never able to perfect the art of slitting himself with a razor so he could bleed on cue, but he managed to lose a couple of teeth. His back and hips ache sometimes. Once, he blew out a triceps muscle while trying to do an exercise with some inhuman amount of weight. He has a torn knee ligament, frozen shoulder, and, he likes to add, minor brain damage that makes him more creative.
Although he doesn't look as muscular as he did during the 1970s, Drasin still pumps iron 45 minutes a day. And he still frightens people. With a slick, shaved head, earrings and a silver bracelet in the shape of several human skulls, he looks like a Hell's Angel in a very bad mood. "Sometimes, I like to walk behind him on the street just to see people's expressions," says his wife, Randi, who is a gymnast and personal trainer.
That fear ends when you hear him tell a joke or play his new demo tape, in which his character raps about being in such horrible shape his posterior virtually takes on a life of its own. Drasin dreams of doing a video to the tune, wearing pads like Eddie Murphy's in "The Nutty Professor."
"I'm working on a new stand-up comedy routine I want to do," he says as he pours sweat after his morning workout dressed in tights, an oversize shirt and black boots designed as equipment for SWAT team members. "I have a lot of friends who are comedians."
His aim in life seems pretty simple: Make some money and have a hell of a lot of fun.
And he says he has succeeded at both, earning, on average, six figures per year, including $50 an hour as a trainer, $100 an hour as a tattoo artist and frequent residuals for commercials and bit parts on television shows like "The Incredible Hulk."
"Everything I do is fun and everything I do pays well," says Drasin, who trains people at Gold's Gym in North Hollywood. "I'm talented in many ways, and we are meant to explore our talents to the max. You have to step out of the box and make that commitment. It's the only way to live."
Although it may not seem like it to look at him, Drasin was a baby once. He was born at Mercy Hospital in Bakersfield in 1944 to Oscar and Claire Drasin, who owned Drasin's Little Folk's Shop on Chester Avenue when downtown was booming. He attended Emerson Junior High School, where his unorthodox approach to life began early. As a joke, he and two friends once tried out for the cheerleading squad.
They were picked.
At Bakersfield High School, during the 1960s, he played lead guitar for one of city's top rock `n' roll bands, the Epics, and later, a group called The Addams Familie. In his junior year, Drasin had a girlfriend whose cousins were weight lifters. He hung around them so much he began hitting the weights, and put about 20 pounds on his 5-foot-11-inch, 145-pound frame in a year.
But he was still a prankster, according to high-school buddy Denny Phillips, 55, a teacher at Beardsley School. When the teen-agers went to the Kern County Fair, Drasin often would stoop over, contort his face and act like the classic horror-movie hunchback, Igor, Phillips says. "We'd ride the Ferris wheel and he'd do his Peter Lorre imitation," remembers Phillips. "People would say, `Look at that poor guy.' "
Another time, he got Christmas presents even though he is Jewish. Phillips teased him about it. Drasin denied the gifts had anything to do with the holiday. "He would say, `No, this isn't a Christmas present,"' recalls Phillips.
Drasin was such a joker than even when he began training regularly, his friends didn't take him seriously. "When he first started going to the YMCA and working out, we'd make fun of him," says Phillips. "We'd say, `C'mon Richard, your stomach is still bigger than your chest."'
But soon, Drasin started teaching at the YMCA. He graduated, did a stint in the Army and returned to Bakersfield, where he wound up managing Joseph's Gym on Niles Street. At the YMCA, he met some professional wrestlers who thought that with his physique, he could do well in a tryout at the Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles. Drasin took them up on the offer.
He paid the price. "They took me into the ring and showed me a couple of things," Drasin says. "I ended up with mat burns all over my hands and knees."
Drasin sucked up the pain and began training four times a week, traveling from Bakersfield to Los Angeles. During the next two decades, he traveled the United States and had three or four matches a week in Bakersfield. He went under several names, including The All American Boy, The Mad Bomber, Headlock Drasin, Rick "The Hulk" Drasin and the Equalizer, a masked grappler.
When he was 24, Drasin moved to Los Angeles. Soon, he met a young, shy Austrian bodybuilder at Gold's Gym in Santa Monica and began to train with him every day.
His name: Arnold Schwarzenegger.
"He didn't speak English very well," remembers Drasin.
They dated a few women together and "he wanted somebody to go along so he wouldn't feel awkward, so I'd go with him."
Drasin trained with Schwarzenegger for four years, and while the Austrian went on to win several top bodybuilding titles and start a movie career, Drasin captured honors like Mr. California and Mr. USA.
He didn't make much money as a bodybuilder, but because of his physique, he began landing roles in movies and commercials. Currently, Drasin has seven commercials and three films in circulation. He is one of the two wrestlers having a casual conversation as they beat the beans out of each other on a commercial for Bud Light. He also played the Demi-Hulk on the "Incredible Hulk" television series starring Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno. Drasin's character was supposed to be a middle stage between the brilliant scientist and the unstoppable monster he became.
But browse Drasin's tidy home, which he shares with his wife and three children, and you see he is a new-experience junkie who has lived enough for a half-dozen Demi-Hulks. In the hall is a blurry, black and white photo of him and actor Jeff Goldblum, who is flexing puny biceps. In a testimonial for one of Drasin's pamphlets, Goldblum bragged that after training, he could outrun the dinosaurs.
Beside it is a decade-old article from Flex, a bodybuilding magazine, that shows black-and-white photos of a young Drasin with an unbelievably huge Schwarzenegger. He also has trained Kiss member Gene Simmons and actor Erik Estrada.
And then there's the computer, one of Drasin's newest addictions, where he is developing a cartoon named "One Man Gang." The main character is a bald guy with gargantuan pectorals who looks suspiciously like Drasin.
"I have fun with it," says Drasin in an uncharacteristically philosophical mood. "Every day, I wake up and it's a new experience. I love my lifestyle."
How long will that lifestyle last?
Drasin says he plans to semi-retire next year and spend his days training, looking for acting roles, and pecking on the keyboard at home.
In other words, he'll be doing much the same thing he is doing now: Telling jokes, looking mean and squeezing as much fun out of life as he possibly can.
Copyright© 1998, The Bakersfield Californian
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Amid swirling rumors that Vince Russ has been released from his position at WCW, and another that Chris Benoit is among seven WCW stars who have asked to be released from their contracts, and yet another that Terry Funk will be prevented from appearing due to a still-existing contract with the WWF, WCW Souled Out is on the air from Cincinnati, Ohio.
Both Vampiro and Konnan were involved in backstage attacks during the pre-game show. For Vamp the result was changing his one-on-one match against David Flair to a Three-Way Dance with Crowbar involved. For Konnan, his participation was ended for tonight as he was hauled off to the hospital.
As for the Triple Threat Theater matches - with Jarrett on the shelf, WCW has substitued sole remaining Filthy Animal Kidman against various Revolution opponents. His cage match will be against the Revolution's "Mystery Partner" - whoever that is...
First up - Kidman in his "Dungeon" match against Dean Malenko. Originally the ropes were supposed to be taken down - but that stip has been dropped. Otherwise the rules are the same - anyone who leaves the ring will lose the match. The match barely gets started before Malenko rolls out to the floor and immediately loses because his feet touched the floor. That was disappointing...
During the interview segment with Scott Hudson and Vampiro, Masahiro Chono suddenly ran in and grabbed the mic away - spouted some Japanese (I assume) and then ran off.
The Three Way Dance - really a handicap match with the Tag Team Champs against Vampiro - Devon...er...Crowbar continued to display his underrated talent while David Flair continues to show improvement (hard not to really...) But it is Vampiro who controls most of the action. He puts on a lucha-style clinic throughout this match. You know - looking closely at Daphne - I believe that is Mona. As the match progressed it appeared that Vampiro began to be worn down from fighting off this dual assault. Towards the end of the match, Flair and Crowbar started to lose their focus - Crowbar came cloes to getting the pin over Vampiro but David pulled him off. Eventually this led to a situation where Daphne entered the ring to try and steady them down only to cause her man David to be pinned by Vampiro.
Marinero's Boyz took on the Harris Twins with Disco Inferno in their corner. These guys are alright I suppose, but I'd much rather see Disco wrestle. Keep in mind that although "Johnny the Bull" is a Power Plant rookie, Big Vito is a former member of the ECW Baldies and a well experienced grappler. The Harris Twins are huge, and certainly have the experience-as-a-tag-team edge here as well. As expected they dominated the match with Johnny as their constant victim. For his part, Disco seemed reluctant to be helpfull in the corner. In the end he almost accidently interfered and helped Big Vito win the match.
In what was undoubtedly the most stupid concept for a match on the card, Oklahoma took on Madusa for the Cruiserweight Title. This guy is at least 50lbs too heavy to be considered a Light Heavyweight. He wisely admitted to not being an athlete in a rant before the match but said that he is a man> and implied that he could beat any woman. To maintain the ridiculous nature of this contest, Oklahoma ended up winning it (thanks to his bar-b-que sauce bottle) despite interference against him by Spice and Aysa
Brian Knobbs defended his newly won Hardcore Title in a "Four the Hardway" match against former Champ Norman Smiley, Meng and Knobb's mentor, Fit Finley. Before the match there is still some indication that Smiley (who dressed up as a riot squad member complete with nightstick, body armor, shield and helmet) and Meng are working in concert as the two shake hands. That impression is dashed immediately after the match gets underway. The crowd really got into this one as the chairs, trashcans and tables went flying. The camera repeatedly dwelt on a very sweet looking young blonde at ringside who was really screaming for blood. In the end, Meng and Finley brawled off into the stands as Knobbs beat Smiley with his own riot shield to retain his title.
Kidman took on Saturn for his Bunkhouse Brawl match. This could be full of flying moves from both competitors. Saturn, with his size and power advantage is the odds-on favorite here, but you never know, especially with a Cruiserweight of Kidman's calibar. The added factor here is the fact that it is no-DQ - so that means weapons are likely to come into play and equalize the field a bit. In fact, as the match progressed it developed into more of a standard mat-wrestling contest then anyone might have expected. Kidman took the pin almost as a surprise to win the match.
Harlem Heat squared off against each other in a grudge match. Before hand we took a little stroll out in the "hood" where Stevie Ray explained that this is where they came from and that Booker has forgotten his roots. Against his brother, Stevie really only has a size advantage - in every other fashion, Booker is the better athlete. Then again, Stevie keeps his "slap-jack" handy. This is a fast-paced match considering the size of both competitors, with Booker dominating the early going as expected. As the fight was really heating up, Ahmed Johnson (calling himself Big-T) ran in and turned the tables in Stevie's favor. Even Midnight was unable to help her friend Booker as Stevie took the win then declared himself and Big-T as the "new improved" Harlem Heat.
"Talentless" Tank Abbot's "Shoot-fight" against Jerry Flynn was mercilessly short. the less said the bet...
One of the more anticipated fights on the card was Buff Bagwell taking on the seemingly cuckold Diamond Dallas Page. This was a "last man standing" match with no pinfalls of submissions, no DQ, no holds barred. It immediately went to the floor and out into the crowd then back to the ringside area. This one was brutal and the best match to this point on the show. Towards the end, Kimberley came out and seemed to be signalling to Bagwell, who went on to take the win. Page assaulted him afterward and left him laying as he and Kimberley left - with her looking a bit reluctant. Something tells me this angle is far from over.
Kidman faced the "Mystery Partner" in his final match of the evening. It was in a oversized, roofed cage which was not unlike the one used for the WWF Hell-in-a-Cell matches. Shane Douglas came out to recite the laundrey list of Revolution accomplishments then introduced their mystery man...the Wall..? Give me a break! Talk about disappointing mysteries - WCW has finally outdone the WWF in this regard. Not that the Wall isn't worthy as an opponent, but as a "mystery partner" he leaves something to be desired. The "real" mystery partner of the night appeared in the Harlem Heat match for my money. Kidman went on the attack with chairshots immediately, just about the only thing he could do considering the overwhelming size of his opponent. It avails hiim nada as the Wall just shakes it off then goes to work. It is Kidman's incredible resilliance that sees him through this brutal contest but he is finally overwhelmed in the end.
The rumor about Terry Funk proved to be untrue as the Commissioner did indeed make it for his match against Kevin Nash. Nash entered first then backtracked to the aisle to start the fight as Funk made his entrance. Early on in the match, Funk was jack knifed through the broadcast table then Nash went right to the ring and made a speech telling Funk that if he could crawl back into the ring, he could keep his office job. Funk made his painful, bloody way back...then Nash stated that he had been fibbing and the match continued. Nash continued to beat on Funk with a chair as the merciless crowd chanted "In the Face! In the Face!" Then Funk came back with a piledriver and almost got the pin! Nash continued to dominate but Funk just wouldn't stay down until Nash powerbombed him through three chairs in the ring. Nash is the new Commissioner.
Arn Anderson was the special referee for the main event World Title contest between Chris Benoit and Sid Vicious and made a dramatic speech in a backstage interview just before the match, saying that WCW as a company would change forever based on the outcome of that last match. Another rumor that I didn't mention earlier is that Benoit is slated to win the title tonight, as he was slated to win the US belt under the original scheme. Michael Buffer made the introductions and then Arn was handed the mic to give instructions to the two competitors. He told them that one of them would be the "flagship" of the company and ordered them to shake hands before the match got underway. Perry Saturn and David Flair were observed coming to aisle to watch, then moments later it was shown that the entire locker room has emptied out to watch this match as well. The level of crowd interest in this card has been very high all night. This match is no exception as the fans are standing everywhere you look. The fight went to the floor where Benoit used the ringsteps to injure Sid's left leg, thus evening the odds considerably. Sid was limping severely as they returned to the squared circle. Benoit slapped on a figure four but Sid managed to turn it over. Benoit was forced to release the hold but went right back to work on Sid's injured wheel, living up to his nickname in a most convincing fashion. After taking a severe beating, Sid bulked up and came back but Benoit drop-kicked the knee and re-asserted his control. He went for his German suplex series but Sid fought him off after the first one and almost got the pin. Benoit was back up and attacking the leg again then hit another German suplex followed by his dfiving headbutt. Sid forcefully kicked out and then executed the chokeslam, but only got a two count because Benoit got a foot under the ropes. Suddenly the Crippler came back with the Crossface and Sid tapped out. Chris Benoit is the WCW Heavyweight Champ!!
Mean Gene interviewed Benoit after the win. Benoit spoke from the heart as he congratulated Sid on his effort and talked about his upbringing in the wrestling business. Arn Anderson joined them to congratulate Benoit then Kevin Nash showed up to promise Benoit that the nWo would return the belt to their stable as soon as possble.
As low as the expectations were for this PPV, World Championship Wrestling really pulled their cookies out of the fire.
At least that's the way I see it...
Editor, Solie's Wrestling Newsletter
This page is a personal tribute and is in no way connected to any of the wrestling promotions mentioned on it. It is dedicated to the Dean of Wrestling announcers, Gordon Solie.
Copyright 1999 - Jump City Productions