Life is funny and we choose the people we admire. A lot of people put stock in A-list celebrities, sports stars and talentless hacks that somehow get reality shows. But for the last four years I have admired a man that only a small subculture of humanity is even aware of.
His name is Kevin Steen.
Steen is an independent professional wrestler who weighs in at 240 pounds, is billed from Marieville, Quebec, Canada, and has a body type that best resembles a panda bear. As a showing of support I own a number of Steen’s wrestling shirts and I talk about him more to my wife than I do important household decisions.
I am not one to get star-struck. Through my career I have had the opportunity to meet so-called famous individuals and the encounters have meant little to nothing to me. Yet secretly, I have always wanted to shake Steen’s hand.
Why do I place so much merit in the likes of a French-Canadian professional wrestler? To me, Steen speaks to my inner-introvert and he appeals to my most basic nature and instinct — nay, he is an embodiment of it. I vicariously live through him, not because I lead a shallow life devoid of joy. It’s mostly because I can’t go around giving people I disagree with a piledriver through a table.
I ran into Steen once before with less than stellar results. Our paths crossed at a wrestling show two years back. I was headed back from the can in the bowels of Hara Arena after a few outrageously over-priced beverages when the chance encounter took place.
Suddenly, Steen rounded the corner and we awkwardly walked toward one another in an otherwise vacant hallway. My heart went aflutter like a school girl in love. As we passed I sheepishly turned my gaze away. Yet secretly, I wished nothing more than to shake the man’s hand. I felt like I needed to offer some rudimentary showing of gratitude for not only what he does, but also how he — in a way too long to explain — has helped me profoundly.
I vowed that day if ever afforded a similar situation I would not be so cowardly.
On most nights Steen is package-piledriving opponents up and down the eastern and western seaboard, but one night last month he was at a show in the palatial urban paradise that is Dayton, Ohio.
I told my wife, Christine, that I was going to try and get my picture taken with him at the show. But I asked her to hold me to it as I am apt to buckling under pressure and chickening out.
As my wife, Chris-Steen (as I call her) is exposed to an unhealthy amount of professional wrestling. I call it secondhand wrestling, which is like secondhand smoking only it doesn’t kill a person as quickly. She, too, wanted her picture taken with him.
Leading up to the fateful encounter I was adamant about trying to meet Steen, a sentiment that eluded me the moment I spotted him at the show. He was manning an autograph table next to a fellow professional wrestler, Chris Hero (who ironically graduated the same year I did from my high school’s football rival, Northmont).
It was $10 to get one photo with Steen, and since Chris-Steen and I had nobody there with us, we could not get our picture taken with him together. So, I plopped $20 on the table for two pictures, one for her and one for me. Because Steen is such a nice guy, he refused to charge us $20, made change, and handed me back $10. I promptly and ever-so-politely told him I could not accept the money back and insisted he keep it. Partly because that’s how he makes a living for his family, and partly because of the guilt I feel for occasionally watching bootlegged copies of wrestling events.
So I threw my arms around him like I was hanging on for dear life, smiled and gave a thumbs up. I was so nervous that I don’t remember any more of the encounter, which is why I am elated that I have photographic evidence of the monumental occasion.
Despite the fact that I forgot to shake his hand and thank him for what he does for a living.
Contact Will E. Sanders email him at email@example.com. To learn more about Will E. Sanders, to read past columns or to read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.