TNA’s Mick Foley Remembers Skandar Akbar

From Mick Foley’s blog:

REMEMBERING THE GENERAL
 
My beloved Ford Fairmont had finally hit the deck for good, following many a glorious road trip from Cortland, NY to Pittsburgh, Pa., as I slowly worked my way into the fold and some sort of respectability at Dominec DeNucci’s school in Freedom, Pa. The school was about 380 miles, one way from my college at Cortland, I came to understand that certain sacrifices were going to be made out of necessity if I was going to follow this foolish dream of becoming a professional wrestler Sacrifices like foregoing the relative luxury of the Admiral Perry Motor Inn, which offered up a semi-clean room and a regular hissy fit from the owner, all for $15 a night.

That Fairmont was good to me though; traversing the rugged terrain of the Ohio and West Virginia independent scene, sometimes with big stars from Bill Watts’s UWF in tow (Chris Adams, Terry Taylor),sometimes an NWA star or two (before they became WCW) that I’d been lucky enough to drive from their hotel to the Pittsburg Civic Arena. On one specific night, I saved the whole bleepin’ show, in the eyes of the Lightning Express, Brad Armstrong and Tim . U nfortunately for the Express, they figured out en-route that they had forgotten their ring music. “Well, maybe I could help”, I offered up meekly. “Armstrong looked at me and smiled. “Brother, I seriously doubt you can.” he said. “Not unless you happen to have “Train Train” by Blackfoot laying around. Within two seconds, a Blackfoot cassette was in their hands, and the night was saved for the Lighting Express and all who loved them. I felt a special sense of pride that night when Brad and Tim hit the ring; really feeling that I’d made my first, honest to goodness contribution to the business.

I believe it was Terry Taylor who described my car this way: “Shitbox car, kickass stereo”.- a fairly accurate assessment. But unfortunately, Ford Fairmonts do not run on tunes alone, and as I saw it resting in Billy’s (no last name, just Billy) garage/home, and got the bad news from the man himself (he’d tried to save it, but there was nothing more that he could do) I got the distinct feeling that one name Billy was going to euthanize my beloved pet Fairmont in order to put him out of his misery.

I was devastated; that car had meant so much to me. Not only had it held my sleeping bags and an inordinate amount of fast food wrappers, but for a short time, the back seat had paid host to some rather spirited make-out sessions with a post-flower power free spirit who had a most persausive tongue. I never even attempted to cop a feel in the cracked burgundy backseat of that piece of crap Fairmont, but to this day, I can’t listen to Jefferson Starship’s “Miracles” without thinking of the cop that should have been but never was.

But life moves on, and the fact of life was that along with Gorgeous Gary Young, I was being requisitioned to Texas, to the vast frontier of World Class Championship Wrestling. After sifting through the wretched refuse that made up the Nashville used car scene, an unlikely angel appeared in my life; the twisted facade of Mike Davis of the Rock’n’Roll RPM’s. Mike may have been the most poorly cast “rocker” of all time, but he was a good guy, and a hell of a worker, and later found his true calling as “Maniac” Mike Davis, who, among other things, would dress up as a red and white barber pole, and then spin out of control all over his opponents. “I’ll tell you what Jackson”, Davis said, using a name for me that almost made sense at the time. “I heard you need a car, and my old lady has one to sell. How does a hundred dollars sound?”

To tell you the truth, it sounded like all the money in the world, and the car, a Plymouth Arrow, with one unusable front door, made the piece of crap Fairmont look like it was a custom George Barris muscle car by comparison. In fact, of all the uncool cars I’ve owned, this Davis Arrow was undoubtedly the least of the least. But at least it got me to Dallas. Whizzing and banging, puffing and sneezing, but it got me to Dallas.
I’m not sure that Gary and I were ever supposed to be a big deal in Big D. Certainly not by the way we were booked in our first even, a twenty minute broadway (time limit draw) with Steve Casey, and the returning Tony Falk, who had donned a rugged cowboy hatin order to transform into “Cowboy” Tony, from the Androgenous “Boy Tony”, a name that raised many a goosebump up and down the spine of many an opponent.
We must have made a decent impression that night, especially when I went to get the Arrow in the parking lot, only to find that two of the tires had been slashed, by angry fans. In most lines of work, having tires slashed would not be looked on as a good thing. But wrestling is not most lines of work; it’s wrestling, where slashed tires meant “heat” from the fans, which meant people care, which meant this cactus Jack/Gary Young team had to be given another look. Indeed, within two days, we were given the news that we were going to go with the General. The General? Scandor Akbar, the founding father of Devestation , Incorporated, the most hated heal group in the territory. I think, by that time, they were also the only heal group in the territory. No doubt about it, being with Scandor Akbar’s Devestation Inc. was the biggest honor of my career at that point.

What a group it was, too. The Black Ninja, Keiji Muto, who would return to Japan and become one of the greatest wrestlers of all time. Jimmy Jack Funk, Kamala and Kamala 2, and now, the new guys, Cactus and Young.

Perhaps that Plymouth Arrow was actually a blessing in disguise, the way it chugged from town to town, barely making it most of the time, once in a while not making it at all. When it finally stopped for good, in the mountains of Pennsylvania, I just took the plates off and left it on the side of the road; hitch-hiking to the wrestling show because that’s just the way you do things when you wrestle.

But knowing the limited lifespan of the Arrow, I was far more open to the possibility of riding with a couple of our more seasoned veterans, Akbar and Bronco Lubich, a grizzled old main-eventer from Charlotte who did 40 mph in the fast lane and actually refereed slower than he drove. But, oh, the stories they could tell! Most of Bronc’s started out with “I remember one time, I was working in on top in Charlotte…it was sold out”, a precurser to Ricky Morton’s oft-heard declaration, “Brother, me and Robert sold this sonuvabitch out”. Bronc was a lovely man, though and a perfect foil for the tough as nails Akbar, who showed no signs of weakness for at least two weeks, as we lumbered through the rugged Texas countryside, doing 40 in the fast lane.

Akbar liked to yell every now and then. One night, without the reassuring presence of Bronco to comfort him, AK went on a tear, throwing around the F-bomb in much the same way Vince McMahon did twenty years later. I was barely 23, and though I could drop an elbow off the apron from 12 feet with uncanny precision, I was absolutely petrified. Ak did this on a fairly regular basis after all. After a couple minutes, he started laughing. “General, are you ok?” I asked. Ak kept right on laughing for a while, then got serious and turned to me. “God damn I love going off, Jack”, he said with a big smile. “I love it!”

“You mean, you thought that was fun?”, I said

Ak looked at me philisophically. “Jack, after I go off, I just feel so great. I sleep so well. I try to go off at least a couple times a week.” He even encouraged me to give it a try, an offer I turned down at the time, but in my own way took up several years later, during my ECW promos. I’ll be darned if the General wasn’t right, too; going off in those promos – on the fans, my opponent, myself, whoever, made me peaceful, almost serene, and
I slept really well as long as I had that outlet to go off.

But “going off” was just a small part of Skandor Akbar. He was a true gentleman who looked out for and cared about the guys in his flock. We may have been a fictitious band of bad guys, but there was a definite family feel to Devestation, and even after leaving, I would talk to the General about the possibility of putting together a Devestation reunion party. From time to time, as I travelled around, I’d run into guys who had served under the General and we’d share our favorite story about our time in the Sportatorium or laugh about something Ak had done or told us. We finally got to do a little Devestation Reunion Party in 2000, though it was only a handful of his guys, representing different eras inside Ak’s incorporation: me, Kamala, King Kong Bundy and the Missing Link. I think I’ve still got a couple of those show 8×10’s laying around the Foley house.

More than anything, I remember Skandor Akbar as a man who took a genuine interest in my life. He was concerned, not only that I was doing a few too many things that might not lend themselves to career longevity, but that I might be hurting my status as a bad guy by being too nice to everyone outside the Sportatorium. “Jack”, he said, his big expressive eyes awide with genuine concern, with those impossibly furry eyebrows dancing around for added emphasis. “You work so hard, and you put yourself through so much. I just don’t want you to lose your heat because everyone knows you’re the nicest guy in the building.” I nodded, but didn’t truly understand. I think Ak sensed that I just wasn’t going to be the guy to be rude to fans or yell or brow beat them in order to stay a heel. “I’m not saying you have to be mean or anything. Just stop making it so hard to boo you.”
He was a great guy. He loved the oldies, and to this day, I steal an Akbar line verbatim anytime I’m asked if I have music at an independent show.

“Yes, I do…This Magic Moment”

I heard about the General’s passing two days ago. I don’t feel the sense of tragic loss that I do at the deaths of others in the business, because unlike so many in this wrestling business, he’d lived a full life. He was a figure who commanded immediate respect, but who reciprocated and gave back in so many ways. I was proud to be one of his “boys”, and he never hesitated to tell me how proud he was of me every time we got together over the years. It was twenty two years ago that the General bestowed on me the two most lasting gifts of my career: he took me to my first Whataburger, and showed me that saving money can be a joy, not a sacrifice.

So the next time I head through the Lone Star state, and see that majestic “W” slicing through the blue Texas sky, rest assured that I will honor the General’s memory. A double meat and cheese Whataburger, hold the onions please…and a cup of tap water. The tap water’s free, right?

Rest in peace General. You were such a great help to me and so many others.

Tags: ,