Friday, July 17th, 2009
By Robb Hemmelgarn
Wrestling and VFW forming a tag team
The Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) has flown under the radar for over 100 years with generous donations, scholarship gifts, and various other non-profit community service projects.
This Saturday in Coldwater, Post 5135 will use flying dropkicks, full nelsons, and cross body blocks, in their own fundraising event, as "Wrestle for the Vets," will take center stage featuring several former professional grapplers, as well as local entertainers.
"It has been very exciting preparing for this event," explained Ernie Miller, who is currently enjoying his second stint as the post commander. "It will all be outdoors rain or shine and we want to invite the general public young and old to come and check out the VFW as well as enjoy a great show with plenty of refreshments."
Participating in the event, which has an initial bell time of 4 p.m., are former professionals Haku, Barbarian, and "Buff" Bagwell. A local flavor will also be featured with Dusty Dillinger, Sean Casey, DBA, and Mr. Fitness making appearances as well a match featuring female wrestlers.
From 11 a.m. - 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, the wrestlers will be on hand at Wal- Mart in Celina for an autograph session and fans can arrive to the Coldwater VFW anytime after 2:30 p.m. for the 4 p.m. start. The cost of the event is $15 for general admission, but you need to provide your own lawn chair. There is limited ringside seating still available at $20 per seat, while kids age 12 and under are admitted for just $6. For more information, you can contact the Coldwater VFW Post at 419-678-2994.
Local referees Dave Bettinger, Zack Champ, and Nick Hahn will preside over the matches during the course of the afternoon.
"My wife has been the canteen manager for the past two years and I have been involved with the VFW for a little over a year, and during these challenging economic times, we were trying to develop ways in which we could use fundraising to help the club in any way we could," explained Pat Tanaka, former World Wresting Federation (WWF) wrestler and current event promoter. "The VFW puts so much time and effort into giving to the local community and right now, the club also needs to raise money in order to continue doing that."
Haku began his career in the WWF (now WWE - World Wrestling Entertainment) more than 20 years ago when he teamed up with Tama to form the tag team aptly nicknamed "The Islanders" in honor of their Polynesian background.
Following his break up with Tama, he joined forces with Bobby "The Brain" Heenan's family and along with Andre the Giant, formed the "Colossal Connection," which eventually captured the world tag team championship. His last event inside the squared circle with the WWF came in 2001 at the annual "Royal Rumble."
The Barbarian began his professional career in the early 1980s in the NWA. In 1987, he teamed up with Ivan Koloff to form the tag team "The Powers of Pain," and immediately began their feud with the "The Road Warriors." Within a couple of years, the duo jumped to the WWF, where they became the nemesis to "Demolition," another burly tag team that enjoyed bearing face paint and metal-spiked shoulder pads.
Within a few years, "The Powers of Pain" dissolved, and Barbarian turned his allegiance toward Heenan's family as well, and for a brief period, partnered with Haku, before eventually heading to the WCW, where he won the tag team title with Dick Slater. Over the course of the next few years in the late 1990s, he hopped back and forth between federations before trying his hand in the independent circuit, where he has been since.
Following his debut in professional wrestling's independent circuits in the early 1990s, "Buff" Bagwell moved on to the WCW (later purchased by the WWE) a few years later. In 1999, he developed an interesting feud with veterans Ric Flair and Roddy Piper, which escalated into a three-round boxing match with Piper, in which Bagwell was victorious. Later on, he and Shane Douglas captured the WCW tag team championship, which they held for less than a month. Over the course of the next few years, Bagwell participated in several different professional wrestling outfits and currently spends his time grappling independently, mostly in the south.
With the lineup in tact, beautiful weather ordered, and plenty of excitement in store, Tanaka feels the event will be a great success.
"I know professional wrestling has a reputation of catering to a certain demographic, but this is truly a family event. We will have brats, hamburgers, and hot dogs for sale, as well as pop and beer to drink."
He concluded, "An event like this would be impossible to pull off without the help from many different people. Ernie Miller, Terry Linn, Wayne and Marlene Tekamp, Gary Delzeith and all of the V.F.W. volunteers have been phenomenal to work with out here along with my wife, Juliet. We owe so many people a lot of thanks. The V.F.W. has a wonderful facility with gorgeous land and this is an opportunity to show it all off and hopefully get people in the community interested in the organization while raising money to assist them in continuing to help in the area with various projects and donations."
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