As I pulled up to the Municipal Auditorium on Thursday afternoon to do promos for the upcoming week, my heart began to speed up in anticipation of the match that was to happen that night.
This was to be the night that Roger Kirby would fight for the coveted title of Central States Champion. He would do battle with the current champ, Danny Littlebear, a great fan favorite and a favorite of promoter Gust Karras.
I parked in the rear of the building where most of the guys were parked and got my bags and briefcase from the trunk. I proceeded to the dressing room area, where a lot of the stars of the Heart of America Sports were seated. I said hellos to Harley Race, Dutch Mantel, Ron Bass, Yasu Fuji, Juan Sebastian, Roger Kirby, Billy Howard and a few others.
I sat down and started to dress for the night and began to mentally do interviews in the back of my head to fine tune the superlatives that would entice not only fans but foes as well. I was a master at getting heat with everybody ... not just fans. I had made a point early on in my career of being a very vociferous manager like my idols of years gone by. Men like Red Berry, Captain Lou Albano, The Grand Wizard and Leo "The Lion" Newman.
Those men could cause riots just with a glance of their eyes to a crowd and often did. They could entice fans to the point where they would turn out in droves to see them get their just due. They were true professionals.
Behind the huge black velvet curtains in the rear of the Municipal Auditorium, the local Kansas City television station had set up, as they did every week, a makeshift studio to do our promos in. There was a huge backdrop with the logo of Heart of America Sports on it. Special lighting was added to further give us spotlight effects. A beautiful red carpet had been laid out. Everything that could be done to make us more comfortable had been done. Promoter Gust Karras had seen to that. We even had a snack table with coffee and soft drinks as well as sweet rolls available.
At roughly 6 p.m., we left the dressing room areas and went backstage to do our weekly promos (interviews). With Roger at my side, I went down the long hallway to the backstage area. Huge men were quietly puffing away at big cigars and reading newspapers and books. We were seated on both sides of the area, awaiting our moment of glory when we would get in front of the camera and holler at the fans.
I was dressed in a beautiful red jacket with a canary yellow shirt and a paisley tie with royal blue slacks and red, white and blue Dingo boots topped off with a multi-colored tam. I looked like a peacock in full strut with all the colors I was wearing. Roger was decked out in his wrestling gear with a simple red jacket to stay warm.
We had gone through a bunch of towns for the upcoming week's matches when announcer Bill Kersten began talking about Mexico. Roger's eyes got big and the hair on his arm began to rise. He grabbed my hand in front of the camera as I was speaking and shook it with more vigor than he ever had. He thanked me for giving him the opportunity to go to Mexico. He had never been there and said he will give the Mexican fans more then a hundred percent of his ring ability.
As the interview progressed, Bill Kersten turned to Roger and said, "That's Mexico ... Missouri Mr. Kirby..." Roger stopped right in his tracks of giving praise to me and looked right into the camera and said "They probably don't even have an airport big enough to land my Lear Jet, let alone a limo service to get us to the arena."
Roger went on that evening to beat Danny Littlebear in a two out of three fall match in front of a sellout crowd and become the Central States Champion. He did accomplish what was his and my goal, and we held the title for over six months before losing it to Archie Gouldie "The Stomper."
Roger did go to Mexico, Missouri, but he went in the rear seat of my Cadillac. As to the answer ... about them having an airport big enough to land a Lear Jet? Mexico, Missouri was lucky enough to have dirt roads leading to the big school gym we wrestled in. There were over 5500 excited fans that came to see us. The town only had a population of 3000 at the time.
Till next time...
Percival A. Friend, Retired
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