Phone date with a wrestler

by Rachel Brear

I’ve never had the pleasure of interviewing a celebrity with a mediator on the line until last week. The mediator’s name was Joe and his job was to make sure I didn’t ask inappropriate questions to the talent. Because of this, of course, I inadvertently asked a few inappropriate questions. I got nervous.

Shelton Benjamin, one half of the World’s Greatest Tag Team and, as of press time, a member of WWE RAW, was on the phone from Denver about to catch a plane to somewhere to do something – I said I was nervous, I forgot to ask. Joe prepped me before Mr. Benjamin got on the line, telling me that the WWE draft was Monday night and could determine whether or not Shelton Benjamin would stay with his tag team partner Charlie Haas or be partnered with someone else, or perhaps move to another part of the WWE family.

“Now Rachel,” Joe said, “Are! You! Ready! to be connected to the two-time WWE Tag Team Champion, Shelton Benjamin?” His voice was equally melodic and enthusiastic, I felt like I was about to get in the ring with the man.

Shelton Benjamin, standing 6-foot-2, is 245 pounds of pure USDA Choice prime beef. Pictures of him conjure up lyrics from George Clinton songs like “Oh baby with all that anatomy, don’t be mad at me.” The man is packin’ with nothin’ lackin’. I forget all my views of equality and beauty being skin deep because I get hypnotized by his rippling muscles and that weird vein that pops out of his neck when he’s yelling at someone.

But I remember I’m interviewing him for the paper and not for my own dirty fantasies, plus I can’t see him over the phone, so when he gets on the line I manage to clear my mind and tell him “hello.”

I asked him how he was feeling the night he debuted on WWE RAW back in 2002. He told me it was one of the most nerve-wracking moments of his life. He was walking down the ramp to the ring, lights flashing and music blaring, trying to hide his excited smile because he’s supposed to be an “ass kicker.” It wasn’t the first time he’s been on television, but premiering on RAW was a really big deal.

I wanted to know if there were hard feelings back in the locker room if he whooped someone’s ass silly in the ring, and he reminded me this was wrestling, not ballet. The guys who are professional wrestlers are that exactly, and when an ass whoopin’ is needed it’s expected. He did mention there was some beef between the guys behind the scenes but wouldn’t tell me who it was. I’m thinking John Cena, that pretty boy.

He’s on the road about four days a week, every week. This doesn’t leave a lot of time to hang out with his friends from outside the WWE, and he assured me he and most of the guys have developed pretty strong bonds.

Shelton’s signature move is called the “T-bone Suplex” which is better seen than described. He stumbled and laughed as he tried to explain how he gets a guy with his left – or his right – no, his left arm and puts it over the guys shoulder and head, then facing each other he pulls the guys crotch from behind and makes his opponent do a front flip.

I asked him about some of his other moves and asked if any of their names were double entendres, like the Benjamin Frostkick, the Samoan Drop and the Shell Shocka. He thought for a moment before telling me he’s never heard of those moves, that sometimes people come up with their own names for the styles of ass kicking he does. Joe popped on the line to tell me anything I found online that wasn’t on the official WWE website isn’t correct and not to quote that.

When Shelton started talking about going overseas to visit our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, my feelings for him turned more to respect than enamoration of his celebrity. It’s easy to get burnt out traveling from city to city, and he said visiting our troops gave him a new appreciation for life. It was a humbling experience for him, meeting these men and women who have their lives threatened every day and still wake up every morning to do it all over again. When you try to put yourself in their place, you wonder how they muster up the courage, but he found most of them don’t share the same fear that the rest of us have about their jobs. He told me since his last visit to Iraq, he always has something sewn on his shorts to show his support for our military.

I told Joe I wouldn’t mention the parts of the interview where I asked stupid questions that were “old storylines” or “not relevant” and I’m going to stick to my word.

When WWE RAW is in Raleigh this Sunday, it’s up in the air whether I’ll get to meet Shelton Benjamin. But I hope I get the opportunity to shake the man’s hand. And maybe pinch his butt.