By Mike Mooneyham

Oct. 13, 2002

Some familiar names – The Red Rooster, The Million Dollar Man, The Russian Bear, Little Naitch and Gorgeous George – will all be in town this week. But they won’t be wrestling.

[ad#MikeMooneyham-336×280]They’ll be pursuing another passion – sharing their testimonies and spreading the Gospel – as part of the “Isn’t Jesus Wonderful” crusade that runs through Wednesday at Miles Road Baptist Church, 816 Miles Road, in Summerville.

To a man, their lives have changed dramatically since they first stepped into a wrestling ring. During the four-day crusade they will talk not only about their wrestling days, but also about what led them to a higher calling.

Terry Taylor, whose “Red Rooster” role during the late ’80s ranks at the top of wrestling’s lengthy bad gimmicks list, will kick off the crusade at 6 p.m. today. Despite the unsettling image of Taylor clucking, bobbing his red-dyed Mohawk and crowing like a rooster, Taylor was an accomplished grappler with in-ring ability and charisma to spare. He was an even more effective force behind the scenes, working in a creative capacity in both WCW and the WWF as a booker, writer and producer during the ‘90s.

Taylor, 47, who began his mat career in 1979, once noted that his 15-month run as The Red Rooster was cutting edge but 10 years ahead of its time. It just so happened that Vince McMahon was looking for a rooster to add to his cadre of cartoonish characters when Taylor arrived in New York in 1988. The articulate, clean-cut Taylor looked more like a school teacher than a wrestler, and when McMahon spotted him backstage impersonating Ric Flair’s famous strut, the WWF owner knew he had found his rooster.

Taylor would endure a couple more bad gimmicks in WCW during the early ‘90s- as Terrence Taylor, part of the forgettable York Foundation, and later as the tuxedo-clad “Taylor Made Man,” a role similar to Curt Hennig’s “Mr. Perfect” character in the WWF. Saddled by lame gimmicks along with a bad knee that hampered his ring mobility, Taylor was drawn more toward the creative side of the business, working alongside the likes of Vince McMahon, Eric Bischoff and Vince Russo, and teaching eager students such as Paul Levesque (Hunter Hearst Helmsley) the art of ring psychology.

On the flip side, Ted DiBiase, who will speak at the church at 7 p.m. Monday, parlayed “The Million Dollar Man” into one of pro wrestling’s most successful gimmicks. DiBiase had long been regarded as one of the top workers in the business, but his career reached new heights when McMahon gave him the “Million Dollar Man” moniker. A serious neck injury, though, ended DiBiase’s in-ring career in 1994.

“God is continuing to blow open doors for me in terms of opportunities to go to churches” DiBiase, 48, said Friday. “I’m an evangelist at heart, and I really believe we have to stop doing ‘church’ as ‘church’ has been done traditionally. It’s time to get out of the box and to go out and touch people and touch their lives. You’ve got to go and meet people where they’re at … You can’t go out and hit people over the head with a Bible. If you genuinely do things the way Jesus did, you understand that Jesus touched people’s lives first. He healed them, he fed them, he met their needs and then he ministered to them.”

“The Russian Bear,” Ivan Koloff, made his first mark on the business when he ended Bruno Sammartino’s nearly eight-year run as WWWF champion in 1971. His career would continue for another two decades as one of wrestling’s top heels, a menacing “Muscovite” mat terror (raised on a dairy farm in Canada) who spoke in a raspy Russian voice, wore heavy stomping boots, toted his trademark Russian chain, and sported a hammer and sickle emblazoned on his ring garb.

Koloff’s life is much more relaxed now. He has done fundraising for the Children’s Miracle Network for nearly a decade, along with charitable work for other worthy causes. He also visits prisons to offer his testimony and encouragement, and, of course, talk about wrestling.

“I found out that whenever you make a commitment like that, that old devil tries to come around,” says Koloff, who will share his testimony at 7 p.m. Tuesday. “You’ve definitely got to stay in the word. He’s a real heel, that guy.”

Current WWE referee Charles Robinson, who patterned his officiating style after the great Tommy Young, is regarded by many as the top referee in the game today. The 37-year-old Robinson realized a lifelong dream when he was used in an angle emulating real-life hero Ric Flair in 1999. Known as “The Little Nature Boy,” or “Little Naitch” for short, Robinson dyed his hair platinum, had a robe specially made and added a strut for good measure.

Robinson, who will speak at a 7 p.m. Wednesday service at the church, will be joined by longtime friend “Gorgeous” George South, who has spent most of his 40 years following pro wrestling – as a fan, a wrestler, a trainer and owner of his own promotion.

For more information on the crusade, call 873-7887.

- Tickets will go on sale at 10 a.m. Nov. 2 for the Nov. 25 Monday Night Raw at the North Charleston Coliseum. Tickets will be available at the Coliseum box office and through Ticketmaster.

- I will be signing copies of my best-selling book, “Sex, Lies and Headlocks: The Real Story of Vince McMahon and the World Wrestling Federation,” from 7-8 p.m. Oct. 20, prior to the No Mercy pay-per-view, at George’s Sports Bar, 1300 Savannah Highway, West Ashley.

- Southern Wrestling Federation will present a show at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Northwoods Gym on Greenridge Road. A 20-man battle royal for the SWF heavyweight title will headline the card. Also on the bill: Solitude (with Tank Lewis) vs. Mack Truck (with Reginald Vanderhoff); Talon and Vordell Walker vs. Crash The Milkman and Tony Platinum; Jess Bradley (with Jasmine) vs. The Amazing Velvet vs. Mykata for the SWF cruiserweight title. Tickets are available at the Northwoods Gym. For more information, call 863-9401.

- The U.K.’s Daily Star reported last week that Vince McMahon has offered Lennox Lewis $5 million to fight Brock Lesnar at next year’s No Mercy PPV. Lewis appeared at the 1992 Summer Slam.

- The new court date for Steve Austin’s misdemeanor assault trial has been set for Oct. 24. Austin and wife Debra appeared in court last week and were granted a continuance in the case.

- Superstar Billy Graham (Wayne Coleman), who has suffered a series of health problems over the past decade, had another health scare last week when he experienced severe breathing problems. Tests indicated that he does not have liver cancer, which was originally feared.

Graham, who suffers from hepatitis C, remains in desperate need of a liver transplant but received some good news last week when he was informed that he had been placed at the top of the Mayo Clinic’s transplant list.

Graham’s health insurance, though, doesn’t cover many of the medications he needs to stay healthy while waiting for a donor. He does not have prescription coverage, and his medications run approximately $50,000 per year.

- Sam Kent, who booked and promoted the North Georgia Wrestling Alliance during the early ‘90s, passed away recently in Griffin, Ga. Among those who worked for the North Georgia promotion before moving on were New Jack and Mustafa Saed (Sheik Mustafa Ali), Bull Buchanan (Sunset Sam McGraw), Disco Inferno (Glen Gilbernetti), Raven (Scott Anthony), Glacier (Sugar Ray Lloyd), Road Dog (Brian Armstrong) and Scotty Riggs (Scott Anton). Steve Prazak and Scott Hudson handled the announcing.

- Bubba Ray Dudley (Mark Lomonica), coming off a pinched nerve in his neck, suffered a concussion during Monday night’s TLC spotfest and is expected to be sidelined for several weeks.

- Longtime indy performer C.J. Jackson, who works under the name Colt Steel, suffered a pair of heart attacks on Sept. 28 and Oct. 4. A stint was placed in his artery following the first attack, but it collapsed and caused another artery to collapse. He is currently recovering at his home in Concord, N.C.

Jackson worked Jim Crockett’s NWA promotion during the ‘80s and most recently wrestled for Rikki Nelson’s Mid-Atlantic promotion.

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- Tommy Dreamer (Tom Laughlin) and Teresa Hayes (former ECW personality Beulah) are tying the knot today.

- To virtually no one’s surprise, a Brooklyn federal jury last week ruled against female bodybuilding behemoth and former WWE performer Nicole Bass in her sexual harassment lawsuit against the WWE, Jurors came to their verdict after 4 hours, rejecting Bass’s claims that male wrestlers and managers regularly invaded the women’s locker room during her five months working for the WWE in 1999 and that defendant Steve Lombardi groped her on an airplane headed to England, later threatening to have her dropped on her head in the ring if she told anyone.

The jury foreman spoke out against the muscle-bound Bass after the jury ruled in WWE’s favor.

“I think this kind of stuff belittles all those valid arguments by women,” jury foreman Pete Sutich told the New York Post after the trial. “Her and many of her witnesses, we felt, were not telling the truth.”

WWE defense lawyer Jerry McDevitt also took a shot at the manly-voiced Bass, going so far as to accuse her of attempting to blackmail the company. “I think Nicole Bass miscalculated. I think she thought the WWE would buckle under. We don’t pay blackmail and we won’t ever.”

McDevitt earlier in the week had ripped Bass over allegations that her male counterpart made unscripted sexual advances and intruded on her while she changed in the locker room.

“There is not one person at the WWE who would risk their dream job . . . to see her naked,” McDevitt told the jury.

Despite the ruling, the 6-2, 230-pound Bass referred to the verdict as a “personal victory” and claimed to have lost 16 pounds during the trial.

“I stood up for women,” Bass, 38, said. “I stood up to a huge corporation. I stuck to my guns. It was very much an ordeal for me, to have to go through this process.”

“Nicole’s trying to put lipstick on a corpse,” responded McDevitt. “That’s all she’s doing.”

McDevitt claimed the frizzy blonde was fired in July 1999 after only five months because she was a lousy wrestler and bombed on TV. “Ms. Bass wasn’t good enough and that’s what this lawsuit is about.”

Bass’s lawyer portrayed her hulking client as a good-natured, dedicated employee who wanted to be treated like “any other employee,” but was met with hostility and abuse during her five months with the WWE in 1999.

Linda McMahon said during the trial that she regretted hiring the massive bodybuilder.

“I regret the lawsuit, and it never would have happened if we hadn’t hired her,” McMahon said.

Lombardi, whom Bass accused of sexually assaulting her on an airplane in May 1999 by pushing her against a wall, grabbing her breasts and grinding his groin into her body, said he wasn’t bothered by her accusations.

“I don’t feel tarnished at all. Look who made the allegations.”

Paul Levesque (Triple H) was among those who testified at the trial. Bass had charged that he was a frequent intruder in the women’s locker room in 1999 when he was dating former WWE star Chyna.

“To me, it would be disrespectful to women,” Levesque said. “I would knock on the door and ask for Chyna to come out … or I would ask if everyone was decent.”

Questioned by Bass’s lawyer about WWE employee Alicia Webb’s claim that he once surprised her while she was going to the bathroom in the women’s locker room, Levesque said he had no recollection of the incident.

“Nicole had a look which the WWE was banking on, that being a physically imposing female that really turned heads,” said Levesque, who is currently dating the daughter of WWE boss Vince McMahon. “But there wasn’t a lot that Nicole could do in the ring and make it look good. She couldn’t get the moves. She was not coordinated for it.”

Bass had testified that she was “horrified and disgusted” when wrestler Shawn Michaels once called her “mister” during a live spot in which she acted the part of bodyguard to female wrestler Sable.

“You’re just trying to throw dirt against the wall, trying to make something stick,” said Vince McMahon, who had called the lawsuit “a smear” against his company.

McMahon spent two hours on the stand and denied any knowledge of sexual harassment of Bass. He said he hoped to make a star out of the female bodybuilder, but because she had “two left feet,” he fired her after five months. “She just didn’t have the coordination to develop her skills,” McMahon testified. “In our business, she was not a world-class athlete.”

- According to a USA Today article, among children ages 7-11, pro wrestling apparel is the fourth most popular among all sports apparel, behind the NFL, MLB and NBA.

- Randy Orton, who has been suffering chronic shoulder problems, suffered a torn shoulder during a recent match on Raw and underwent surgery on Thursday. He is expected to miss three to four months.

- Bob Holly has a ruptured disc in his neck and will be out for approximately one year. He had a previous injury that was aggravated during his Smackdown match with Brock Lesnar.

- Little Guido (James Maritato) and Brian Kendrick (Spanky) have signed WWE contracts. Both will be joining Smackdown as cruiserweights in the near future.

- Brian Adams, formerly one half of Kronic with Bryan Clark, will make his professional heavyweight boxing debut on the “Never Surrender” pay-per-view Nov. 16. The show, headlined by a World Boxing Council featherweight world title fight between Erik “El Terrible” Morales and Paulie Ayala, is promoted by Bob Arum and Top Rank, Inc., and will emanate from the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas.

The 6-6, 270-pound Adams, who will challenge an as-yet unnamed heavyweight opponent, is scheduled to be seconded by “Macho Man” Randy Savage.

Mike Mooneyham can be reached by phone at (843) 937-5517 or by e-mail at [email protected] He is the co-author of “Sex, Lies and Headlocks: The Real Story of Vince McMahon and the World Wrestling Federation,” published by Crown.