Akron Beacon Journal – June 12, 1995
By Terry Pluto
In Carl Banks’ locker, you find two magazines that deal with personal computers. You’ll also see a copy of Inside the White House by Ronald Kessler.
So why is this man talking about professional wrestling, and discussing it in remarkable detail? It would be like John Updike telling you that he has a passionate interest in beer-chugging contests.
“It’s a lot tougher than you think it is,” the Browns linebacker said.
Banks was talking about wrestling, not football or beer chugging.
“I know that 90 percent of it is fake,” Banks said. “But those guys sometimes get violent with each other.
They hit each other the wrong way, then get mad and the next thing you know — you’ve got a real fight out there.”
Kind of like football, right?
“Something else,” Banks said. “They all have aching knees, bad backs and crooked fingers.”
That is exactly like pro football.
Banks’ exposure to the World Wrestling Federation came on April 2, when he was a cornerman for old New York Giants buddy Lawrence Taylor. For $1 million, Taylor was grappling with Bam Bam Bigelow.
For a reported $30,000, Banks was to spend a night in Taylor’s corner. Other NFL types wandering around the ring were Reggie White, Steve McMichael and Chris Spielman — they also were well compensated thanks to a Pay Per View audience not only in the United States, but in places such as England and Japan.
“I’ve watched wrestling for a long time,” Banks said. “When my daughter heard that I was going to be in a match with LT, she said, ‘Daddy, are they going to throw you around the ring like that?’ She was worried about me getting hurt.”
Well, 6-year-old Carla Banks had the same concerns as Browns coach Bill Belichick. The last thing either wanted was Banks blowing out a knee trying to tackle Bam Bam Bigelow.
“My son, (C.J., who is 4 years old) told me, ‘Daddy, you go in there and just bop ’em.’ But I promised everybody that I’d stay out of the ring,” Banks said.
Banks said he spent most of the match in his corner — standing behind Reggie White.
“I did a lot of taunting and finger point at Volkoff,” he said. “He got mad at me and told me to come out from behind Reggie and fight like a man.”
Volkoff is Nikolai Volkoff, a veteran wrestler-turned-manager. His act was to be the Big Bad Russian. He also is the cornerman to the 6-foot-2, 380-pound Bam Bam Bigelow.
Bam Bam features some very striking fire tattoos on his shaved head, and his approach to wrestling is to get you under his massive gut and smash you with it.
“I was surprised how little preparation they did,” said Banks, who maybe expected 40 hours of team meetings and film sessions the week before the match. That comes from all the years Banks spent with Belichick as his football cornerman.
“The two wrestlers get together before the match and say what moves they were going to use,” Banks said. “They didn’t say when they were going to use them, they just said they were coming.”
What about the match?
Taylor won. Naturally, he was supposed to win. That part was planned. “But I think LT thought he was going to get through it without breaking a sweat,” Banks said. “By the end of the match, he was exhausted. He was as tired as any time I’ve ever seen him, worse than after any game.”
Taylor also was more than a little scared, Banks said.
“There was this move where he was flat on his back, and Bam Bam stood on the ropes and then jumped down on top of LT,” Banks said. “When Bam Bam was flying down on him, LT’s eyes were about ready to pop out of his head. You can’t fake a look like that.”
Bam Bam landed the right way — making a lot of noise in the ring, but no damage to Taylor. So, all was well – and everyone was well-paid.
“I enjoyed it and it’s good family entertainment,” Banks said. “But you’d never get me in that ring. I don’t think my body can take all that falling down.
“But if someone wants me to stand in their corner, I’ll be there.”