WWE/WWF Iraq and Kuwait
Recently the WWE took a crew of fifteen wrestlers to entertain 5,000 troops at Camp Victory in Baghdad, Iraq. When I was in the WWF, in April, 1997 I had the privilege to spend a day and a half with the 7th Calvary Regiment, “GarryOwen” Tank Division in Kuwait. It has always stood out as a rewarding memory and while channel surfing last Thursday night I couldn’t help but see huge smiles on both the WWE wrestlers and the soldiers in Iraq.
Back in ‘91, at the outbreak of the Gulf War, the WWF built their storylines around Sergeant Slaughter, a one time American hero who was now wearing curly toed wrestling boots that, as the story went, were supposedly given to him by Sadaam Hussein, when he fought Hulk Hogan at Wrestlemania VII.
Wrestling has always parodied war time villains, even after WWII , when German and Japanese wrestlers were hated heels, but in 1991, a lot of people felt uncomfortable about the then family oriented WWF making light of such a serious conflict. I would later read in Norman Schwarzkopf’s autobiography It Doesn’t Take A Hero, that the WWF wrestling shows aired for the troops were a great help in bolstering morale and relieving stress and that “ .... (they) depended on trucks leased by civilian contractors and driven by pakistanis, Bangladeshis, Filipinos and Bengalis to haul our ammunition and supplies. We prepared sleeping quarters for the drivers, but they were used to sleeping at home.
So when they finished hauling a load of howitzer shells to the front - work they didn’t relish in the first place - they more often than not would drive back home to their company garage and go home. We’d then have to ask their employer to dispatch them again, a process that could take days given the distances involved and the roundabout manner in which Saudis did business. One day, somebody noticed that the drivers were fascinated by video tapes of American professional wrestling ...so transport officers set up a huge tent at our main supply base near Dhahran with a projection TV. Every morning, as the drivers set out, the officers would announce that night’s bouts. At the end of the day, the drivers would race back to watch and we would have them on hand for the next day’s runs.”
As someone who doesn’t often sing praises about the WWF much any more, I personally commend them for stepping up and doing something so positive. Many years down the road the participants will look back on their trip to Iraq, as I do my trip to Kuwait,, as one of the most uplifting experiences of their lives I still, to this day, get e-mails from soldiers I met over there. Switching gears towards a different kind of “few good men’ the third annual Stu Hart invitational amateur wrestling tournament is today at Lindsay Park from, 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Many of the best and brightest amateur wrestlers from across Canada and as far away as Alaska and Japan will compete.
Interestingly enough all the winners of the Stu Hart tournament last year went on to win the national championships. This year in my dad’s absence, I can think of no more fitting honor to his memory and legacy. I want to congratulate organizer and coach Mike Dunn of the King of the Mat wrestling club for assembling such a first rate tournament, one that in it’s short history has already become one of the most prestigious amateur wrestling events in the world. It’s a great way to spend the day watching some superb athletes give their all, including Stu’s own grandson, Conor, and I’ll be there to watch him do the family proud. See you there.