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The Top Ten Things I Overheard While At Syracuse - #9

I have a lot of funny, weird and disturbing memories from my time at Syracuse University ('96 - '00) that span many different places, events and situations. But all of them have one thing in common...someone uttered words before, during or after each of them. And so, I'd like to take this opportunity to remember my favorite utterances and what made them so memorable. At best, you'll find these explanations and stories as noteworthy as I do. At worst, you recognize a campus building that I reference in passing and think to yourself, "Hey, I too remember that building and I now feel as though I have some common ground with this fellow."

#9 – "Say your name, where you’re from and say your wrestling name."

The day you first arrive at your freshman dorm is a nerve-wracking one to say the least. And that’s before you find out your RA is a pro-wrestling nut.

I remember it clearly. I arrived at Brewster and began unloaded all the various Bed, Bath & Beyond products from the car. Made my way up the elevator for the first time to the 9th floor. Exiting the elevator, I got my bearings and heading down the hallway to Room 931. My home-to-be for the next 9 months. I arrive at the door, go to put the key in and…wait…why is there a cardboard paper championship belt taped to my door? And why is my name on it?

Unbeknownst to me, I had already been crowned Intercontinental Champion of the 9th Floor. I had apparently missed that part of my intro packet but nevertheless it was a nice surprise. My roommate, whom I had not yet met, also had a championship belt waiting for him, but he was merely the TV Champion. Remembering what I knew so well when I was nine, in the hierarchy of professional wrestling belts, Intercontinental trumps TV. Dibs on the electrical outlet!

(Not to get off topic, but I think if I had to choose to be anything kind of wrestling champion, it would be the Intercontinental Champion. The World/Heavyweight Champ has too much pressure on his shoulders. Everybody is gunning for you, you get attacked in the parking lot or in the dressing room after pretty much every match, people are always talking trash about you on Jumbotrons and the owner of the company is usually way too invested in the outcome of your title reign, for better or worse. Tag Team champion...I don’t really like the idea of relying on someone else to keep my title. Unless we get to wear masks and matching outfits ala The Killer Bees and could just switch places when the ref wasn’t looking. TV Champion/US Champion/Hardcore Champion…all pithy titles for lower level guys.

But the Intercontinental Champion…that’s perfect. First, your reign is recognized in exactly the same amount of places as the World Champion. Intercontinental means "spanning several continents." Who’s to say you’re not as recognized in North America as yo
u are in Asia or Antarctica…doesn’t matter where you are, as long as you’re within the designated borders of a continent, your championship is valid. Second, the World Champ is almost always required to be a muscle-bound freak of nature which requires hours in the gym and syringes full of God-knows-what being pumped into your tuchus. The Intercontinental Champ can be svelte and it’s cool, no one seems to have a problem with it. Third, you’re never the headliner. Who needs that headache? Especially with all the absent-minded referees, people hiding underneath the ring and aluminum chairs purposefully left around the ring area despite being fire and health code violations…you have too much to lose being the World champ. If you lose the Intercontinental title at Wrestlemania, everyone’s too busy worrying about the World Title match to notice.)

ANYWAY, so that evening all of the new tenants on the 9th floor gather in the lobby. A rather jolly guy takes a seat in the middle and introduces himself. His name is Brent and he’s our RA. As I would come to find, Brent was actually a rather funny guy (he did a 20 minute stand-up routine in the dorm lobby that involved a bit about blood in his shit, always a crowd-pleaser). But at the time, Brent seemed like a big, innocent kid. Constantly red-faced, a little chubby, too nice for his own good. He was, in many ways, like the "It’s still real to me, dammit" guy. And one of those ways was his love for professional wrestling.

After he gave us his schpiel about the rules of the dorm (rules we would go on to break multiple times in various, beer-related ways throughout the year), he handed the reigns over to us. He asked us all to introduce ourselves, and therein lay the horror.
"Say your name, where you’re from and say your wrestling name."
I look around the room and immediately went cold. As anyone who was in Brewster/Boland in 1996-1997 could attest, Brew 9 was a motley crew. You would never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. There was the white Rastafarian from Massachusetts, the Indian student who knew limited English and all of his v’s sounded like w’s (he would make many a trip to the wending machine and always got the weggie whopper at that mini-Burger King in the basement), the Straight Edge kid from Oklahoma, the Scottish Bermudian who wore nothing but soccer jerseys, the black guy from D.C. who wore nothing but holey t-shirts, the hippie stoner named Jebediah, the pimply nerd who would play drinking games with water and later became known as "Tecmo Dave" (for what I hope are obvious reasons), the elitist snob from New York City and the Italian guy from Providence. We were a bad college movie worth of stereotype characters come to life.

Everyone took their turn. They’d say their name, come up with a wacky wrestling alter-ego. Some would elicit chuckles. Some would get polite guffaws. One or two earned belly laughs. But every one had garnered a positive reaction.

And then it was my turn.

Up until this moment I had toyed around with a couple different ideas. I thought about something tough-sounding (which would be ironic coming from the 5’9" Jewish kid sitting Indian-style in the corner). I thought about something about New Jersey (The Jersey Kid?) but that seemed lazy. No, I had to try and be funny, cause, you know, that’s what I do.

The name that finally came to me was The Potato Knish. First, it was absurd. It made me sound like one of those guys they trot into the ring on Saturday mornings to get his ass beat by King Kong Bundy. Second, it told a story (I’m an Irish Jew). Third, it was the kind of thing that would at least earn some courtesy chuckles from my newfound friends. It was perfect.

And to this day, I still don’t know why I didn’t go with it.

Instead, I blurted out "Stunnin’ Sean."

The reaction was swift. I heard groans. I saw a couple eye rolls. Two guys gave each other "the look" (you know, the "how bout THIS asshole" look). There was nary a laugh or even a smile in the room. I knew right away that every single person in the room thought I was an obnoxious, suburban prick who probably listened to Radiohead and Fiona Apple and thinks he’s so much better than the rest of us.

So much for first impressions.

There are actually a handful of guys from my freshman floor that became my best friends throughout college and remain friends with me to this day. I once asked one of them about that day and what his impression of me was.

"Oh, I thought you were such an asshole."

Let that be a lesson to all of you. When someone asks you what your wrestling alter ego is…never, EVER up-sell. It didn’t work out well for Ravishing Rick Rude and Adrian Adonis and it won’t work out for you either.

Check back for the #8 Thing I Overheard While At Syracuse tomorrow. You can check out #10 here.