I loathe Buffalo.I love Buffalo.
In just about four hours I will be walking into an arena where every step I take reads like a photo-album in my minds eye of one of the greatest nights of my life.
The First Niagara Center hosted the site, the locale, the setting for the very last "Bionic Elbow". It was October 6th 2013...it was WWE Battleground.
-but before I speak to the event, let me provide you with a little bit of exposition. I never wanted or had the tag-team encounter that took place in mind. When I was fired during an episode of RAW and had a bit of a "Freudian" moment(as I was being escorted from the premises) with a backstage interview; I selfishly left that arena, suit slacks over a pair of rasslin' boots, thinking I had reached my brass-ring. I thought I would be returning as the competitor I always envisioned...a seasoned, finally properly trained, "battle born" solo competitor vying for the richest prize in the game. I even pondered that maybe I would return in a vigilante manner...a modern-day Midnight Rider(had a mask commissioned inspired by Wildstorm/DC Comics' Grifter and everything) or like my childhood hero Sting did in 1996. As I transitioned to voyeur over the next few weeks, I realized the ship was now at the mercy of the sea and who knew what would happen next. My Half-Brother Dustin, as Goldust, walked down the ramp to a welcoming Air Canada Centre and captured the imagination of a whole new generation of fans with his match against Randy Orton. People may not agree with my attitude-shift at this point, but during all the magic and noise...I was silent as a mouse. Silent and selfishly angry. I love Dustin Runnels. Know that. He and I are sixteen years apart, grew up in different households, and spent very little time together throughout my informative youth. So I dreaded the idea of a tag-team match. What was I gonna' take on Seth Rollins and The Shield by myself?? Madness. I look at the current WWE programming and usually discourage nostalgia and most moments relying on some of the industries' greats and legends. Not because it isn't wonderful pageantry, but because lose-or-win I want the success of all pro-wrestling to be this generation of talent's fight. Without going into detail, my Father had a very high-tolerance for pain. Not in a bravado tough-guy sense, genuinely he was able to shrug off most things as a minor inconvenience of his nemesis, aging. Where as a lot of folks would be seeking specialists and monitoring ones self cautiously.
My Dad was sick.
I think of when I got my first big break in pro-wrestling. February 2nd 2011. Smackdown. A public apology to future WWE Hall Of Famer Rey Mysterio. Dad tried to appeal to Rey, setting the scene to ensnare the master of the 6-1-9...and somewhere as those two stood in the ring and before my music hit I remembered what he said to me privately and would say several more times on WWE programming..."there's nothing a father wouldn't do for his son".
That statement still looms in the air. Distorted slightly but undeniable.
Fast-forward to Autumn 2013. Once I had stopped bitching and realized the unique and real opportunity before me, I think I took that flush statement of his and pushed him. Pushed him to fly to Biloxi(in coach), pushed him to remember my stats for his face-off with Stephanie, just pushed him...the nerve. Yet he would tell any soul that would listen, this is "whatever Cody wants and envisions". We often joked he was like Anthony Hopkins in Legends Of The Fall. A lion in winter.
And when levity meets the callous rusty constraints of reality, guess what?? He was a lion in winter. He was a God Damn lion. Throughout that day I caught him several times standing by the steps and propping a single one of his famous hunting boots on the steel...saw him talking privately to various superiors of mine. He was concerned about getting in the ring and didn't want to fall...he disliked when legends would return with gray hairs, broken bodies, or just a shell of their former-selves, because he always wanted the fans to remember his peers and himself as he was when he/they moved you...and here he is making sure he doesn't fall. Dammit. All the while I am slightly complaining that I wasn't coming out to "smoke and mirrors" but instead we would be coming out to his legendary cowbell laced theme. I always wanted the crown, but I wasn't the king.-
So onto today. A day where I am gonna' stand in the spot...the exact spot where the very last "Bionic Elbow" would happen. The spot where almost 12,000 fans voluntarily or even involuntarily provided a thunderous bellow to accompany said elbow when it hit a young Dean Ambrose's head. The spot where a 67 year old, masking a concerning amount of pain, man did what none of us in that ring had yet to do in the encounter, bring the people to their feet. Bring them to a frenzy. Steal the show. For the last time.
I am going to stand in that spot and remember. I am going to look in that ring and wonder...is the fire ever gonna' come back?? Is it gonna' rise in my gut and burst through my retinas and provide an unmistakable hue?? What in the blue Hell am I doing??
And I am going to stand in that spot, the same boy who complained about using my Dad's music, and now I'd be willing to cut off both my legs just to hear said music one more time and see him walk out to it. It's like that song you liked...🎶keep on dreaming, even if it breaks your heart🎶
I even packed his old Tumi as my gear bag these past few weeks. I can hear you saying "tighten-up those abs" or "get you a tan". Can even see you on this bag's bag-tag where you just used a trading card that says "wrestling legend".
As I wrap this up, I want fans of his to know...we had a memorial service for Dad. A memorial service, not a funeral. I wouldn't...my family wouldn't allow that. Because what he stood for isn't gone. How he stood for it isn't gone. The idea that you can do anything, no matter what deficit you begin at...that your critics and naysayers can stand in your way...but you can clench that fist and raise it to the sky and deliver your own "Bionic Elbow" and keep moving down your path. It's not an idea, it's a dream. Virgil Runnels passed away. "The American Dream" still lives.