Professional Wrestling Meets Baseball at Dutchess Stadium
WAPPINGERS FALLS, N.Y. – Two American pastimes, baseball and professional wrestling, formed a tag team at Dutchess Stadium on Friday night as former WWE superstars George “The Animal” Steele and Mickie James were on hand at the Hudson Valley Renegades game to meet fans and promote an upcoming show at the ballpark in September.
“Baseball and wrestling are a great combination at this level,” Steele, a WWE hall of famer said. “Minor league baseball is one of the great things left in this country. Families can afford it because the prices are reasonable. It’s very entertaining with activities for the kids and the players aren’t prima donnas yet. It’s Americana the way it should be.”
Steele began wrestling in 1967. Older fans will remember his feuds with Bruno Sammartino while those growing up in the 1980s will recall his memorable feud with the late “Macho Man” Randy Savage when the Vince McMahon led promotion was known as the World Wrestling Federation.
“Wrestling is so mainstream now,” said Mike Lombardi, promoter of Northeast Wrestling which will host “Wrestling Under the Stars 2” on Sept. 21 at Dutchess Stadium. “Everybody from all generations knows who George is. He’s been in movies and on television and brings a lot of people back to their youth. The fans love to see the wrestlers and they are great with the crowd.”
James, a former WWE Divas Champion, was on hand as well to sign autographs and take pictures. Having worked for various wrestling promotions, she said she has “ruled the world everywhere” during her career which began in 1999. James said that she likes meeting fans at minor league baseball games because of the “hometown feel” it provides people.
“It’s great being part of America’s pastime whether it be baseball or wrestling,” James said. “There are a lot of people here. Here, the fans can actually meet you and talk to you. They see your persona on television but when they get a chance to shake your hand and say hello, it’s kind of cool.”
And the experience of meeting fans was not something Steele could do while working for the WWE in the 1980s due to the popularity and large crowds the shows would draw.
“It was a totally different situation,” Steele said.
Northeast Wrestling champion Brian Anthony, said that he works retail during the week but on weekends he gets to be a hero to some kids. A native of Bethel, Conn., Anthony said that meeting fans is his favorite part of the wrestling business, adding that baseball and wrestling mix well since they are both apart of Americana.
“The best part of the business is how I can make a kid’s day or night,” Anthony said. “I can’t tell you how many people told me they saw me wrestle here last year.”
Lombardi said that he has brought many different wrestlers to both minor league baseball and hockey games over the years to interact with fans. Lombardi said that the show at Dutchess Stadium on Sept. 21 will be no different as fans will get a chance to meet some of the wrestlers before the show kicks off.
Headlining the show will be Kevin Nash and Scott Hall, known for their time in WWE as Diesel and Razor Ramon, respectively, the two formed the influential New World Order (NWO) stable with Hulk Hogan in the now-defunct World Championship Wrestling (WCW) in the 1990s. Hogan appeared at Dutchess Stadium for the first “Wrestling Under the Stars” event last year.
The show will be hosted by longtime WWE ring announcer Howard Finkel and will feature former and current WWE stars like John Morrison, Jerry “The King” Lawler, Jim Ross and The Godfather. Lombardi said that former major league pitcher and current Renegades front office employee Joe Ausanio will be stepping through the ropes as well. Lombardi said that he is working on convincing another former major leaguer to come wrestle as well only saying that he played for both the New York Mets and Yankees during his career.
“When fans go to the Izod Center or Madison Square Garden they might see the matches but they don’t get the chance to get up close and personal with the superstars,” Lombardi said.