Chapter One: Play The Hand Dealt YouLife Goes On
The great poet Robert Frost said he could sum up everything he's learned about life in three words: It goes on.
Only when you realize that the past cannot be changed and only the future remains will you be able to plan that future. It is very easy to know where you want to be, but if you don't know where you are, then you will have an extremely hard time planning a route to get there.
There are counseling offices around the world full of people that want to blame the system for their circumstances. The sun was in their eyes, their shoes were untied, or -- ever popular -- their environment was not conducive to success. For goodness' sake, if Abilene Christian University had not discriminated against me with such silly rules as attending class and making good grades, I would have graduated with honors.
Dr. Carl Jung said, "When you realize that the whole world has problems, then you are on your way to mental health."
Once you realize that you are not the only person in the world who has a mortgage and other problems, then you can figure out a way to a better future. Everyone has problems to deal with; the key to success is how you deal with those problems.
If all your time is spent thinking about how badly life has mistreated you, all your time is spent in the past and you are ignoring your future. You are gravely mistreating yourself, and there won't be any improvement in your situation. However, you can't spend your time patting yourself on the back either, which is also doing your future no good. You simply have to play the hand dealt to you.
Where you are in life, good or bad, there is nothing you can do about it. You can only control where you will be in the future.Sigmund Freud's Couch
I have never been to Dr. Jung's office, but I have been to the office in Vienna, Austria, of his main rival -- Dr. Sigmund Freud. In 1994 I was working in Vienna for Otto Wanz and Peter William for the Catch Wrestling Association. On a day off, my wife, Cindy, and I decided to go sightseeing. Actually, we spent most of our time sightseeing; I once told Otto that this wrestling every night was really getting in the way of us seeing the world.
We decided this day to go to see Dr. Freud's preserved office. As we entered the office, I realized that we were standing in front of Dr. Freud's famous couch. It was roped off, and there was a guard there. I couldn't resist the temptation of sitting on the couch, so I waited for the guard to leave the room, then I moved past the barricade and sat on the famous couch. Nothing happened. I did sit on the couch, but the envy that Dr. Freud was so famous for talking about never materialized. If it did, I sure wouldn't admit it here.
You can spend all your time griping about the past, talking about opportunities missed, or you can spend it planning a better future. A lot of people around the world do exactly this. They gripe about where they are in life and the circumstances that got them there. They spend so much time griping about the past that their future is affected negatively by the fact they won't spend any time planning to make it better. The cards you are dealt have to be played in the best possible way. Griping about the dealer won't help you any.
My options when I was released from the World League were simple. I could gripe about bad knees and unfortunate timing, or I could go on with my life and figure out what I was going to do next. I had wasted what I made financially, though I had an extremely good time doing it. And I do mean a good time. Actually, I had a great time.
It's always fun to blow money. The problem was, I didn't find a medium where I was enjoying life and also preparing for a future. I had priced perfection into my future, something virtually everyone does. However, pricing perfection into your future can be extremely dangerous. You will see this phrase quite often in this book.
Remember, I don't believe in making yourself miserable now because you are planning for your retirement. You have to enjoy life now; there is no guarantee you will be on this earth until retirement.
Life is about living, not just existing.
However, money and opportunities are too hard to come by to waste foolishly, and I decided not to let that happen again.Life on the Bread Line
The day I was released from the World League, I didn't have many options. I kept going on up I-35 back toward Athens, realizing that there was nothing I could change about what had happened with my career and my finances. The past was gone; there was nothing I could do to change the fact that I was broke. I had to have a plan. I had realized this at last. I guess some things have to be learned the hard way for some people -- but learn I did. I knew that whatever I did, if I were fortunate enough to make decent money again, I would not blow a second chance.
I came to the realization that five years from that point, I needed to be better off than I was then, or I would have just wasted five more years. Although having $28 in my bank account would have been a little bit better, I also realized I needed to quantify how much better off I wanted to be.
It was hard admitting to myself that where I was financially was not where I should be, but I knew that was the truth. I had to come to the realization that I had not been good with my finances. It is extremely hard to admit failure. Remember, I said this was easy, not painless.
Convincing yourself of that reality is the first, and usually the hardest, step in figuring out your next move. A lot of people know where they want to be. But unless you know where you are currently, you can't plan the most direct route to get there.
I had spent three years playing professional football, and fulfilled one of my childhood dreams. I thought I would play a lot longer, but that didn't come to pass. I had always thought I would enjoy being a wrestler. I am not one of these guys who got into wrestling because I had no other options. Being a wrestler was appealing to me. I wanted to be part of this great entertainment genre.
I was a big fan at a time when Texas wrestling was in its heyday. I used to love to watch wrestling every Saturday night at ten o'clock with my grandfather, Cato Sheerer, who I thought the world of. I remember pulling for Fritz Von Erich and rooting against Skandor Akbar. Little did I know how fond I would grow of Akbar as my manager when I started out as a bad guy in Texas, and how much he would help me in the wrestling business.
I even set up a wrestling ring made of garden hose wrapped around trees, and the neighborhood kids and I would wrestle. I was the reigning champion of Hailey Street.
I actually have a past of violence in my family. I am descendant of the MacGregors from Scotland, of which Rob Roy was the most famous. In fact, Rob Roy was the one that got our name banned for many years. I still plan on returning to Scotland and reclaiming my homeland one day.
Back during its heyday, wrestling was done in territories. The Von Erichs in Dallas and the Funks in Amarillo ruled Texas. These were the two wrestling shows I got to watch when I was growing up in Sweetwater. There was a World Wrestling Federation then, but it was a northeastern territory, and we didn't get any of their television programming.
Some guys could be one character in one territory and a completely different one in another territory. There were no national television deals like there are now. A wrestler may have been a good guy in Minneapolis, but when he came to Texas, he could be a bad guy and few, if any, fans knew. Television deals were syndicated locally or, at best, statewide.
Even though I was basically starting over, I looked at my situation as a chance for a second career. I had always thought football was going to be my career path. Now I was getting a chance at another dream, and
a second chance at my financial future.
There are all kinds of stories about people breaking into the wrestling business. There is no one tried-and-true way. There's no college draft, no true farm system. You have to promote yourself and learn the hard way how to get to the top. Some make it through a certain contact. Some are second- and third-generation wrestlers. Others spend years on the independent circuit, hoping someone from WWE picks up on them or hears enough about them to give them a look. There is only a certain amount of WWE television time each week. People who make it to WWE aren't exactly happy about giving up their roster spot; they worked too long to get there. Of course, out of the many that try, most never do make it to WWE.
When I got started, options were there, but I had already defined my goal. I knew where I wanted to be. The hard part was planning the road map of how to get there. That was the first part of my route. I wanted to go to the best wrestling school around.
Right or wrong, I felt playing at a Division II college hurt me in the NFL and World League drafts. Some great players have come from smaller schools -- the best receiver to ever play, Jerry Rice, went to Mississippi Valley State; Walter Payton, one of the NFL's all-time leading rushers, went to Jackson State; and Tennessee quarterback Steve McNair played at Alcorn State. There are plenty of small-school NFL success stories. But for the most part, players at that level have a mark against them.Brad Rheingans
I got in touch with Brad Rheingans, one of the best 220-pound Greco-Roman wrestlers in our country's history. Brad finished fourth in the 1976 Montreal Olympics. He was the favorite to win gold in the 1980 Summer Games in Moscow, but the United States boycotted the games. It's amazing how something like the Olympics that is supposed to be apolitical could be used as political leverage. All the boycott did in 1980 was hurt the dreams and goals of a bunch of our young men and women who wanted so badly to represent this g...