Valparaiso IN Times – April 27, 1997
CRETE – This was too good to be true, but the newspaper ad seemed to be legit.
Balmoral Park and Windy City Wrestling
Present – 1st Time Ever
Featuring Wrestling and Racing
King Kong Bundy – Koko B. Ware
Midgets – 7 title matches
Bell – 5:30 Racing – 7:30
Surely, this was a joke, or something out of the Bill Veeck school of marketing.
You want entertainment? Come see Eddie Gaedel Jr. jump over the ropes, win the WCW midget title, and then guiding Sea Biscuit home in the fifth.
But sure enough, at 5:30 p.m. Saturday about 1,000 fans of all shapes, colors and ages had slapped their fannies into the Balmoral grandstand on the second floor. If they looked out onto the track behind the makeshift ring, they could see some of the featured horses of the night warming up. Not many did.
Down on the first floor, Mr. Racing Form Vendor was trying to make a living. He didn’t want to give his name. He knew this was a slightly different kind of night.
“The people up there are not regular customers,” he said. “That’s a new crowd.”
A new crowd is exactly what the horse racing industry is trying to attract. Riverboat gambling, cable and age have thinned out the horse crowd to where many tracks nationwide are struggling, closing or both.
So it’s in their best interest to try Something Completely Different.
If Saturday was any indication, they may be onto something. Not only were Mssrs. Bundy and Ware in the house for entertainment, but also the WCW lightweight champion, Calvin Thomas, the “Chi-Town T.”
If the name doesn’t ring a bell, Thomas was a backup fullback on the ’85 Bears. In the WCW, everyone’s a celebrity.
“This is great,” said Wayne Rollins, a retired Marine and Navy man who lives in Chicago Heights. “This has to be two of my favorite things. I can come and scream and yell, and then lose all my money right afterward.”
As with many fans, Rollins had a rooting interest, and not just because of the five empty beer cups stacked in his right hand.
His nephew, “Bulldozer,” had just lost a very, very important match to WCW heavyweight champ Mike Anthony.
Dozer looks like Meat Loaf in denim. He enters the ring to the soothing sounds of “Working Man,” by Rush. He’s earnest and wrestles by the rules, unlike that cocky Anthony character, who pulled on Bulldozer’s long hair many times and had to be warned by the referee. Meanie.
In the end, Dozer got jobbed because his wife got into a ringside tussle with Anthony’s babe, Baby Doll (not her real name), and Dozer was disqualified when he left the ring to break up the spat.
Bulldozer shook off that emotional loss and was able to wrestle two or three more times before the evening was up.
It helped that he had plenty of support. Uncle Dozer sat with his brother, Mr. Dozer — Bull’s dad — and about 10 more friends and family for an evening of beer and belly-to-back souffles.
Oh yeah, and by the way, horses.
“We’ve seen him wrestle about a hundred times,” Rollins said. “Most kids have got nothing to do. He went to wrestling school, trained hard. There’s a lot of education involved here. You have to know what you’re doing.”
Yes, you do, and Balmoral did with this one. A thousand people at 10 bucks a pop plus concessions equals something for not much.
Down below, Mr. Racing Form Vendor was counting his money, and chuckling.
“They go where the show goes,” he said, motioning toward upstairs. “Will they be back? I couldn’t tell you.”
Bulldozer and his entourage will be, at Balmoral or wherever.
“It’s all about showmanship,” Rollins said. “Putting on a show. That’s what it’s all about. Nobody gets hurt. It’s a good time, right?”
Hey, whatever it takes.