Wednesday, 26 December 2012 12:38
So sorry to hear about the passing of Rip Hawk.
Rip and Swede Hanson were my inspiration for wanting to be a wrestler, even at a young age, I lived in the small town of Clover, SC, about 20 miles from Charlotte, NC. Back then there were no Panthers or Bobcats, and pretty much all we had was NASCAR in it's early stages and Championship Wrestling, the precursor to Mid-Atlantic.
My family didn't have a color TV till I was 10, and I remember watching my "heroes" on the small black and white screen, My first memories were the matches between the Bolos, billed as the Great Bolo and The Bolo versus George Becker and Johnny Weaver, PY Chung, Haystacks Calhoun, but the ones etched in my memory were the Blond Bombers, Rip and Swede.
Clover was a small town, consisting mainly of cotton mills and farming. There were four big peach farms in the area, and I worked in the summer, as early as the age of seven, bagging peaches for $2 dollars a day.
One afternoon, this big, pink Buick convertible pulled up. Out stepped two men with matching outfits - short sleeve white shirts, black trousers and skinny black ties. They even had matching platinum blonde flat-top haircuts. At first I was nervous, but as I bagged their purchase, Rip talked to me in soft tones and asked who my favorite wrestler was, and I told him after meeting him he was.
Years later, around 1975, as I attended the University of South Carolina, I went to the matches every Tuesday night at the Township Auditorium, and got to know the guys, which led to me starting in the business in 1976.
I carried bags for Wahoo and Tiger Conway Jr., and Sonny King. I met Rip, about the time he was paired up with Ric Flair, and though he had let his hair grow longer, with big sideburns and favored paisley trunks, Rip was just as intimidating at first glance.
I worked at a bar called Don's in the Five Points area of Columbia, and invited the boys to the bar after matches, assuring them privacy and a place to unwind. Rip came over several times, and I recounted the story about meeting him when I was seven. He claimed to remember, which I doubt, but was always the nicest guy.
Rip left the area and headed to Texas or Missouri or someplace, and I didn't see him again till 2007 at Greg Price's Mid Atlantic Reunion. Greg gave my manager, Count Grog, and myself a booth, but I just wanted to see Rip.
I ran into many other old friends - Jim Nelson, Ricky Harris and even had a nice reunion with Dustin Rhodes, who was my main job of keeping out of trouble.
But on Friday night at the Hilton, we converged on the upstairs/outdoor bar, where we could smoke. I brought my cigars, and shared with my buds Manny Fernandez and Samoa Joe, who I had just met. There sat Rip, with his Crown and Coke.
I walked up and introduced myself, thinking how in the world this short, balding old man who I now towered over, could have caused me such nightmares as a kid. I told him the story about meeting him when I was seven, and about sharing drinks when I was in college. He looked at me and in his gravelly voice said "I remember you"!
He probably didn't, as I was told when I broke into the business that all the Old Timers would always claim to remember you, even if they didn't, thinking it would get them a booking.
Anyhow, we all sat and drank and told stories until the bar closed at 2AM. I had bought Rip several drinks, and as we stood to pay our tabs and go to our rooms, Rip looked at me and asked "Where ya' goin"? I said "Rip, the bar's closing, it's 2AM". He looked at me and sneered and said "PUSSY"!
I had agreed to take him to the airport on Sunday morning, and his flight was at 9AM, so I was to meet him in the lobby at 6:30, to get him to the sirport by 7. I was five minutes late, and as I ran into the lobby, there stood Rip with his arms folded, with that same sneer, and greeted me with "Where the fuck you Been....PUSSY?!?.
I stopped and saw a grin break out on his face and knew I'd been ribbed. The ride to the airport was a continuation of our talks the night before, mostly centering around Rip's grandson, who was tearing up the rodeo circuit.
Rip was SO proud, and he also talked about training some guys in amateur wrestlign back in Texas, and the joy it brought him. His passing brought a tear to my eye, as I swear after my first meeting with Rip and Swede, I just knew I wanted to wrestle and that I wanted to be a heel. Wow.....memories.
Thanks for taking the time to read this Dave, and my thoughts and prayers for Rip's family.