Gone But Never Forgotten – Wil Riggs
Now that I have had the weekend to digest and reflect on the career, life and legacy of General Skandor Akbar, or Ak as those of us in the business call him, I can calmly, and less emotionally write about what he meant to me.
First let me say that the news of his passing was a devastating blow to me. Ak was always someone I could call and talk to about any problem I had, in the business or otherwise. He was always kind and patient and gave great advice on how to deal with problems and people in the business. He was a man’s man but wanted harmony between workers because it was good for business. He didn’t care if we liked each other, but we better respect each other.
Growing up in Dallas, the only thing that ever mattered to me as a kid was World Class Championship Wrestling. Friday nights were spent at the Sportatorium, and Saturday night we would tune in to KTVT Channel 11 to watch Championship Sports presentation of professional wrestling commentated by the one and only Marc Lowrance. The Von Erichs were larger than life heroes to all of Texas! They were the ultimate good guys and the fans loved them. But with the ultimate good guy, you had to have an ultimate bad guy, and nobody was better than the General!
He brought in wave after wave of menacing bad guys to his stable, Devastation Incorporated, to oppose the Von Erichs. His plans to ultimately take over World Class Championship Wrestling were always foiled in the end. He would have succeeded with his plans too, if it wasn’t for those meddling kids!
My dad was always cheering for the bad guys. They were his favorite! So, of course, it just riled me and my brother up. We hated Devastation Incorporated, and believed in the stories so much as children that we even blamed the General for the death of David Von Erich. It seems funny to me now, but I was 9 years old then, so if I believed it, then they were doing their jobs!
It was a lifelong dream of mine to work in professional wrestling. When I finally broke in, I was elated. I learned the respect for the business, for the workers, and for everything and everyone who came before me to pave that path. When I started New Millennium Wrestling and planned my inaugural show, there was no other name that came to mind than Ak. He and I talked about the show every other day for nearly 2 months before the show. He gave me advice and pointers on what the show had to have to be successful. He was instrumental in teaching me the intricacies of putting a show together for it to flow from one match to the next, and for everything to make sense in the long run. The little things he taught me along the way were nothing compared to what he taught me about life.
His passion for life and the business rubbed off on me. I began to work harder in the business and tried to expand my horizons in the business. Thanks to his advice, and his connections, I began working as an announcer in Oklahoma and Arkansas as well as Texas. If it wasn’t for Ak’s constant pushing me to be better and do more within the business, I would never have been able to succeed the way I have.
I would get calls from Ak randomly just to say hello and check on me. I returned his random calls with random calls of my own just to say hello and check on him. Always offering to get things done for him if need be. He never took me up on the offer, but I know he appreciated the offer just the same. He enjoyed working with me and often asked when I was going to get my shows running again. He often asked when New Millennium Wrestling was going to be moving forward and making waves on the independent wrestling scene. I kept telling him “soon”. I talked to him last Wednesday afternoon and I told him that I had a meeting setup with the City of Balch Springs to work out a deal to do our wrestling shows in the Recreation Center. He was overjoyed and told me that when I got the green light to call him and give him the date because he wanted to work the show.
I had that meeting, and the City of Balch Springs was happy to work out a deal with myself and nMw that will allow us to run shows once a month starting in October for as long as we want. It was my time to be overjoyed and I called Ak first to give him the good news. I got his machine and left a message for him. He usually took a day or so to call me back. When I received the news that my friend, mentor, and teacher had passed away, I was devastated. So much so, that I almost cancelled a weekend wrestling trip to Arkansas.
My road partners and I had a great time talking about Ak. We found out Saturday morning the arrangements for Ak’s funeral.
The funeral proceedings for this legendary wrestler and manager was beautiful. I got to stand and share stories about Ak with Danny Hodge as well as speak with WWE Hall of Famer, Jim Ross. The guests in attendance were a veritable who’s who of World Class Championship Wrestling and Mis South Wrestling Alumn. It was great to swap stories and talk about a man who meant a great deal to all of us in our lives.
The highlight of the day was when Cowboy Johnny Mantell and several others gave The General the traditional 10 Bell Salute with the original bell from the Sportatorium. It was truly an amazing moment, and something I won’t forget as long as I live.
*IN HIND SIGHT*
As I close this blog, I would like to say that I was proud and honored to know such an incredible man. He was instrumental in my life and career in this business and I will forever miss him as I move forward in my life. It is all too often in this business that we are burying a loved one that we have known or worked with. In the past two weeks, we have had to suffer the deaths of Lance Cade, Ted Allen, and General Skandor Akbar. The mortality rate appears to be higher in our industry than any other industry. For all of you workers out there who log on to read this, stay safe and take care of yourselves, and each other.
To those of you who are getting but a glimpse behind the curtains, this should give you a bigger appreciation for what these men and women do night in and night out to entertain you. Please appreciate them and support them.
Until Next Week…