Upcoming match is dream come true

Posted 3/3/19

Flying through space in a galaxy far, far away was a the biggest dream for a 4-year-old little guy growing up in Empire, Ala.

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Upcoming match is dream come true

Posted

Flying through space in a galaxy far, far away was a the biggest dream for a 4-year-old little guy growing up in Empire, Ala.

Fighting off bad guys with a light saber in an effort to save a beautiful princess was about the coolest thing that kid could think of doing. That was until February of 1983 when that same child watched something that would change his life forever.

Andre the Giant was known as the 8th Wonder of the World. He was larger than life. Seeing him team up with “Superfly” Jimmy Snuka to battle the Wild Samoans was incredible.

That’s the first wrestling match that I remember ever watching. A little over a year later, I remember seeing Hulk Hogan defeat the Iron Sheik to win his first World Wrestling Federation championship, starting Hulkamania and giving little James Phillips a real-life hero.

I’ve been a wrestling fan since that time.

Some of my favorite personal moments around the sport include seeing Andre the Giant in person. By that time, he was a bad guy. My dad had scored my brother and I tickets on the second row, right by the entrance way. It was the first matches I had seen in the arena at the Birmingham-Jefferson Civic Center. I was about 10 at the time, and my little brother Haven was either 7 or 8. As this massive man walked near us, my kid brother started giving him as much heat as his little lungs could give. He booed and hissed, but all Andre had to do was turn and growl at him to make that little punk shut up for the rest of the night. On that same card, I witnessed Hogan battle “Macho Man” Randy Savage as well. That card was unforgettable. I can still name almost every match.

Another favorite moment was getting to meet “Nature Boy” Ric Flair when he filmed a commercial at Old York USA in Oakman. Flair strutted and let out his famous “woooo” for a teenager who had just gotten his start in the newspaper business.

Another perk of being a sports writer back in the day was getting to do a phone interview with Hulk Hogan. It was for a reality show that featured Jasper’s own “Butterbean” Eric Esch that was hosted by Hogan. We talked for 20 minutes or more as Terry Bollea and James Phillips, two adults doing an interview for a newspaper story. The last two minutes of our conversation, I asked my childhood hero to cut a promo for the show as the Hulkster. He ended that phone call with, “Whatcha gonna do James Phillips when you misquote the Hulkster and Hulkamania runs wild on you!”

Throughout my life, I’ve had two dream jobs.

The sensible dream job was to one day be the publisher of my hometown newspaper. It is actually pretty rare that a hometown guy gets that opportunity, but it happened for me nearly three years ago now. I’m honored each day to do what I do. Our newspaper plays a vital role in our community, and that is such a source of pride for me.

My more ridiculous dream job would be traveling around the globe with World Wrestling Entertainment. At first, I wanted to be a wrestler. Then, it was maybe being a member of its writing team. The craziest idea would be to actually own the company like Vince McMahon.

I never took a job with WWE. My family is a little too important for me to be on the road that much. But about a year ago, I got to start making some of my wrestling dreams come true. I became the owner of a local wrestling organization that I renamed New Era Wrestling. That gave me the opportunity to feel like Mr. McMahon on a small scale. It also gave me the ability to participate in the creative side of the business, which is what I felt like was the one job I could actually do in WWE. Seeing our shows grow over the past year and getting some great feedback from our fans lets me know that I could do this on a bigger scale.

I still didn’t think that I would ever be a wrestler. Little did I know that I would be getting ready for my first match a year after taking over the company. There are a few guys on our show who want to run roughshod over everybody. They’ve attacked other wrestlers. They have even attacked me. They talk bad about our fans. They have even talk bad about my wife and children. That is what has led to this “one time only” match for me. I’m teaming with wrestling legend “Action” Mike Jackson and a good friend of mine from California, “The Future” Dave Dutra against three guys who call themselves “The Southern Mafia.” It will take place Saturday night at Swann Gym in Jasper. I hope we have a full house to see my team get a little revenge on those guys.

The Hulkster always told me to train, say my prayers and take my vitamins. I’m glad that I listened.

James Phillips is editor and publisher of the Daily Mountain Eagle. He may be reached at 205-221-2840 or james.phillips@mountaineagle.com.