Archive for the ‘life’ Category

Looking Behind, Looking Ahead

Posted: January 10, 2014 in life, writing

I’m reading the last entry on this blog, almost half a year old, and I just shake my head at the world of difference between then and now.

It’s dated July 25, and it’s now January 8, a week into the new year that is 2014. Seems that I just have a terrible time updating this space. But it’s not like my life is so exciting that there are scores of people glued to their screens waiting to hear of my daily goings-on to begin with.

The last few paragraphs of that post are what really get to me though, because they describe my family going through a time of change and adapting to my father, Jack Ruttle, starting a ‘new phase’ of his life by moving into a personal care home. It gets to me because my Dad passed away just a month later on the morning of Monday, August 26. As things sadly turned out, that new phase of Dad’s life was also a very short one. He was 80 years old.

These days, things like emotions can change in what seems to be such a brief instant. That last blog entry speaks about my then-upcoming summer break from work, in which I flew to Las Vegas for a few days of fun and sight-seeing. I had a blast on that trip, no doubt the biggest highlight of 2013 for me, but Dad’s passing just weeks later brought a very somber end to not just my own, but everyone’s summer. Adding to the sadness was the fact that Dad died on his youngest son Brendon’s birthday. It goes without saying that my brother will undoubtedly be filled with a lot of conflicting emotions every time his birthday rolls around every year from now on. And actually, it was only three days removed from my own birthday on the 23rd.

In the immediate aftermath of my father’s passing, one of my first thoughts was the realization that I was the last person in my family to have seen him alive. I take a world of pride in that. It was two days earlier on Saturday, August 24 and I drove down to the long-term care facility in Dinsmore for the afternoon to watch a football game with him. We just sat back, enjoyed watching the Riders take the lead, and we talked about a number of things, like my recent trip to Vegas, the harvest season, and the upcoming Labor Day long weekend anniversary celebrations for my sister Laurel and her husband Shawn. He seemed happy, like he always was whenever someone in the family stopped in to see him. After the Riders eventually won, I wheeled him into the dining room so he could have his supper and we said our goodbyes until next time. Of course, I had no idea that there wouldn’t be a next time.

When Dad died on Monday morning, I just remember that entire week flying by so damn fast because there was so much to do. There were only about a million phone calls to make, and then my family and I met with the funeral chapel on Tuesday morning, followed by more planning the rest of that day. Later that night, I fired up my laptop and eventually typed out my father’s eulogy, a task that I was seemingly the only one suited for, and one I was very honored to undertake. I’ll tell ya, even though it produced more than a fair share of fresh tears, writing a tribute to my father and his long life was a great exercise in grieving and keeping lifetime memories alive and well. I got the thumbs-up from my mother (and Jack’s wife of more than 30 years), and presented it to the minister who was set to perform the funeral service on Friday. In the meantime, there were other tasks ahead of my family, such as prepping the Conquest rink for the service and going through a mountain of photos to put on display.

It was Friday morning before any of us virtually had a chance to breathe, and I walked into the rink with my family in front of more than 200 people to help celebrate the life and mourn the passing of Dad. The turnout was really quite impressive, and it looked like it was standing room only. I know Dad would’ve been happy. I was relieved to hear that the eulogy I wrote went over very well with my family, as well as a ton of other relatives and those that knew my old man. A large group of us went down to the bar and had a few drinks in honor of Dad, my mother (and owner of the place) raising a teary-eyed toast to her husband.

Such was the week in August that encapsulated the passing of my Dad. His death was a shock to all of us, and yet it wasn’t at the same time, know what I mean? His health had begun taking a steep decline in recent times, especially those two months between June and August where the poor guy kept getting moved out of one home care space and into another. Dad went from Outlook to Dinsmore, back to Outlook, a brief stay in Elrose, and then finally back to Dinsmore in his final weeks. If there was any consolation during those moves, it’s that he got to enjoy plenty of car rides in some prime summer weather conditions out in rural Saskatchewan. His driving days were obviously long since finished, but he loved just getting to go for a drive around the countryside.

Today, we’re approaching nearly five months since Dad died, and I can’t believe this much time has already passed. Every time the 26th of every month arrives, it’s another reminder of the biggest loss in the Ruttle family. I especially missed my Dad during the Christmas season, since he loved that time of the year and getting to see all his kids and their growing families. My mom, brothers and I drove out to Calgary on the morning of Christmas Eve to spend the holiday with my oldest brother Jim, sister-in-law Daniela and their two kids. It was a quiet Christmas, an enjoyable one, but Dad’s absence was definitely felt. He should’ve been there, handing out presents and sitting at the head of the dinner table, as well as playing card games of Uno by his own rules. (“What? You can’t play a red 5 on a green 9? OK, fine…”)

As painful as losing my father was this year, and still is, 2013 did contain plenty of historic, much more positive and memorable highlights for me. The list basically comes down to three big things that stood out:

– My first Comic Con experience: Brendon and I drove out to Calgary to take in the city’s Comic and Entertainment Expo on the last weekend in April. I always had an idea of what to expect at comic and sci-fi conventions, but my first time at a Con blew those expectations away. There’s just a certain energy you experience at something like this, and I loved so many of the costumes that armies of people had on. Where else can you see Batman standing in line for a Coke, while the Terminator is using an ATM? It was almost overwhelming, but I played it smart and just took my sweet time trying to take it all in, from the trade show/exhibit booth aspects of it to checking out awesome things like the DeLorean from ‘Back to the Future’ or Han Solo encased in carbonite from ‘The Empire Strikes Back’. From there it was time to check out the autograph tables and have photos taken with a multitude of stars over the course of the weekend, like WWE Hall of Famers Bret Hart and Edge, Wil Wheaton, Stan Lee, John Carpenter, Misha Collins, Norman Reedus, the cast of The Walking Dead, Lena Headey and Peter Dinklage from ‘Game of Thrones’, and Nathan Fillion. Very cool, but also a very expensive weekend. Can’t wait to go back in a few months.

– Seeing WWE live once again: It’s always cool to see WWE action live and up close, especially when you score front row seats like I did (again). But this time was different because Brendon and I actually got to meet a few of them before the show in Regina on May 25 at a gym that was located right by the arena. Yeah, we unleashed our inner stalker and staked out the gym parking lot. Sure enough, we eventually see the likes of Sheamus, The Miz, Natalya, Wade Barrett, and Alberto Del Rio come out. We didn’t hound them or anything, and we were actually pretty polite as we asked each wrestler we saw for a quick photo, to which they all said yes. Very cool, and now I know where to go for more possible photos and autographs the next time WWE rolls into Regina for an event. Hey, some people go nuts over a favorite football player or musician; I get all ‘fanboy’ over my favorite wrestlers.

– Viva Las Vegas: My Las Vegas experience at the start of August. Memorable. Eye-opening. Life-altering. I’d waited to venture to this city for many years, a trip my friends and I talked about going on since high school. But there it was laying in front of me as my plane landed down – Sin City. I got there via direct flight from Calgary and grabbed my luggage, meeting up with my driver and heading over to the Platinum Hotel. I say ‘driver’ because that’s just what she was, as I kicked back in the plush seats of my private limousine and just took in the sights and sounds of this legendary city. My hotel suite on the top floor was amazing, with a king-size bed in the bedroom, two-person jet tub in the washroom, all the kitchen appliances I needed, in-room temperature control, and a balcony that provided me an incredible view of the Las Vegas Strip and landscape of the city. I couldn’t have been happier at that point, and I felt on top of the world. I love that feeling. But the vacation had even started yet. The next few days were filled with great food, even greater fun, and only about a billion photos snapped to try and capture it all. (Except for that one night out at the strip club. I figured they wouldn’t appreciate some jackass Canadian tourist in there snapping photos left and right.)

I think one of the best things to come out of that Vegas trip, aside from things like the Mob museum at the Tropicana Hotel or seeing Penn & Teller’s magic show (and meeting Penn) at the Rio, was that time each night when I’d pour myself a drink, step out onto my balcony, and just sit down with my own thoughts as the city of Las Vegas glistened with color and stood out before me. They were like moments of zen, and it was in those quieter moments that I did a lot of reflecting on life, both in general and my own, specifically. I got to thinking about the kind of person I want to be more, some things that I want to see change for me, and I thought a lot about the future. To be able to have that time to myself, relaxing on my balcony above one of the world’s most famous cities, is one of the reasons why I’m glad that I went solo on this trip.

Mixed in with a lot of smaller things, like lazy Friday afternoons at the office before a long weekend or just something like meeting some friends out for drinks, that’s pretty much been my 2013. There are things I have in mind for 2014, but I don’t wanna get into that right now. It’s just some personal stuff and professional goals kinda mashed together. I will share two things, though. In 2014:

– I will write a novel. I’ve got a notion to put together a string of short stories and compile them into one collection, but at the moment I have a very rough draft of a singular story idea that I don’t want to lose any momentum over.
– A second Vegas adventure will come to fruition, only this time with my friends. We’ve already started talking about it, and it’s just a question of when do we fly down there. Can’t wait.

And yeah, I’ll update this thing more often than once every six months or once a year. Promise.


Here For a Good Time

Posted: August 30, 2012 in events, life, writing

Night settles in on Sidney Island, BC.

Seems that it’s been awhile since I posted anything on the ol’ blog, so I may as well rant, rave and ramble about this past summer. What I did, where I went, you know the routine.

For the most part, I think this past summer was an improvement on last year, at least from my perspective. I mean, there were things last year that were cool and all, but in the bigger picture, I’d say the summer of 2012 provided a better highlight reel of long-lasting memories.

And when I say better than last year, I’m mainly talking about what I did on my two-week summer break from the office.

What I ran into last year was a lack of things to do and/or places to go, so my holiday time from work was largely spent kicking it around home and just enjoying being away from my professional life for two weeks. The one really cool thing I did was spent a night up at Candle Lake (recap located elsewhere on this blog), but everything else wasn’t quite memorable.

This year, I really wanted to make my mark with my summer vacation. I wanted to be constantly doing something, going somewhere, experiencing this and that, you know what I mean. I didn’t want to waste any days away just sitting around the house. Luckily, my schedule prevented me from doing so.

The following is a day-to-day log of my comings and goings on my summer holiday….

Tuesday, July 31: Uploading the last issue of the paper for three weeks, I’m elated as the clock strikes 4:30 and I cruise home, blasting CCR’s “Looking Out My Backdoor” (for some reason, a tradition I’ve had since 2010) and looking forward to that evening’s dinner. I have a head-start on my holiday due to the travel schedule over the next two days.

My “I’m on summer break and it’s time to spoil myself” meal consists of two (TWO) lobster tails, a juicy rib eye steak, fries and baby carrots. I am pleased.

Wednesday, August 1: I wake up at 7:30 and pack up my car, and by 8:00 my mother and I are on the road. The destination? Calgary, at least for today. The REAL destination? Victoria, BC, where we’ll meet up with my cousin Murray and cruise by boat to his home on Sidney Island.

The road trip is relaxed with sunny weather the entire way. Not many people are fans of driving for 6-7 hours, but I enjoy it. We get to my brother Jim’s in the late afternoon, and enjoy a BBQ supper after my other brother John arrives. We sit out on the patio for hours. It’s kinda nice.

Thursday, August 2: Getting up even earlier than the day before, we’re on the road before 6:30 to get to the Calgary airport in order to make our 8:10 am flight to Victoria. After going through the usual airport stuff, we’re eventually sitting on the plane, although Ma and I are split up; she’s in row 7 and I’m in row 12. Coincidentally, my uncle Vic and aunt Shirley are on the same flight as us. To pass the time, I watch some Olympics coverage on the small screen on the seat in front of me.

Landing in Victoria at 8:30 local time (like as if the flight was only 20 minutes), I grab our luggage and we meet up with Murray and Linda, who’ll return to the airport the next day to pick us up as Ma and I are spending the day and night in Victoria. I get the key to our car rental and this thing is a beauty – a 2013 Ford Escape with all the options. Like something Bruce Wayne would drive if he wanted to appear normal.

Cruising around, we get to The Butchart Gardens, a worldly known attraction that sees over a million visitors per year. Unique flowers, lots of pretty colors, tons to see, you get the deal. I knew Ma had always wanted to see it, so I made it a part of our itinerary.

After a stop at Walmart for a pair of sandals, we get to our room at the Travelodge and are quite impressed; cool view of the harbour and the room is large and spacious. After dinner (Chinese buffet), I drop her off back at the room and I venture out to a multiplex theater to finally see ‘The Dark Knight Rises’. What’s extra groovy? It’s in IMAX format. The film is incredible, and I mentally make another appointment to see it again after my return from the West Coast.

Friday, August 3 – Monday, August 6: These four days are the obvious ‘meat’ of the vacation, as Murray boats us out to Sidney Island on Friday, which is a cool trip by itself. Over the next few days, the island is a fantastic getaway from anything even related to back home. No internet, no cell service, and very limited TV options. Murray and Linda’s home is immense; something like 7 bedrooms, 4 bathrooms, and it’s built sorta like two living spaces in one home. My bedroom at the top of the stairs has an incredible panoramic view of the backyard.

And that backyard. Amazing. It ends with a cliff-like drop leading to the ocean, with chairs located just before the drop. Incredible view, and I find myself in this spot more than a few times over the next few days.

The rest of our time there is spent checking out the rest of the island, including a fellow homeowner’s stupidly extravagant home – all 11,600 feet of it (the guy wasn’t home, and we just checked out the exterior), as well as visiting and just enjoying the peace and quiet. Yes, I would’ve loved to go fishing, but Murray didn’t have his gear on the boat.

The most kick-ass consolation prize comes on Monday morning, when we all board Murray’s yacht for a daylong cruise. The thing is a work of pure art; with a decent haul of groceries, I’d gladly live on it for a month.

We cruise to Maple Bay and dock for lunch before coming back in the late afternoon. By that point, Ma and I are headed back into Victoria with Murray and Vic, who are meeting up with someone the next morning to go on a fishing expedition of their own. I would’ve killed to go, but Tuesday is the day we fly back and we couldn’t risk the chance of not getting back before our flight. Monday night is spent at a Days Inn right by the harbour. I catch up on emails and everything Web-related and reflect on the last few days. I’m happy.

Tuesday, August 7: After Murray picks us up, Vic treats us to lunch in the town of Sidney. Murray and I have some kind of seafood soup that can only be described as vegetable soup, but just a shitload of things from the ocean (prawns, mussels, clams, halibut, salmon). Good eating.

Dropping us off at the airport, hugs and handshakes are exchanged and now it’s back to just Ma and I. She kills time reading a book, I kill time online as we count down the time to our flight. When the dinner hour approaches, we enjoy ribs at the White Spot restaurant right in the airport and look at incoming/departing flights. We then see that our flight is delayed. This is apparently because of some stormy weather in Alberta, and almost right on cue, it starts raining where we are, too.

More time is killed browsing around the duty free shop, which really is a damn scam when it comes to BC, since the PST and HST is outrageous, lending credence to the acronym BC – Bring Cash.

We finally get on our plane, and Ma and I get a nice buffer zone between us when the young lady seated beside her offers to move to a different seat after noticing the sling on Ma’s right arm. It really isn’t any trouble, but I admit that it’s nice having as much room as I want to kick back and relax on the flight. I also have a window seat, which always provides some neat visuals at 35,000 feet. But for the duration of this hour-long ride, I’m reading ‘The Book of Awesome’. Cool read, and I find myself nodding and grinning in agreement with many of this author’s choices. The flight back to Calgary is relaxed, which is nice.

Wednesday, August 8: Leaving Calgary and making the trek back home, we stop at a Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs chain in Airdrie. I remembered reading a while ago about that particular location, and when we passed it on our way to Calgary a week earlier, I made a mental note to stop in on our way home to try it out. I like it.

We get home at around 7:00, having picked up some KFC in Kindersley. We greet everyone back home, we unpack, and the trip is over.

The End.

Well, not quite. See, that was just the first week of my summer break. And I’m glad that’s how the BC trip worked out because I liked the idea of going away for a week, coming home and STILL having a week left to do whatever else I wanted. So the rest of my holiday was spent….

Thursday, August 9: Seeing ‘Dark Knight Rises’ a second time, but making it my brother Brendon’s first. Told you I’d see it again.
Saturday, August 11: Going to the Ex in Saskatoon, which I hadn’t done in five years. It was oddly relaxed, if you can call a massively crowded outdoor fair event like that relaxed. Brendon and I weren’t operating on any schedule, except for the wildlife show and the Collective Soul concert. Outside of that, we just took in the sights, probably ate way too much carnival food (gotta love them spud nuts), and the shows were awesome.
Sunday, August 12: Returning to Candle Lake for the day and night. I fished, I swam, and I took in the surroundings. Still gorgeous up there, and the only difference is now the old cabin is on the market, with a nice big ReMAX sign out front.
Tuesday, August 14: Cruising up to the city to pick up some Blu-ray releases, including ‘JAWS’ and season six of ‘Dexter’. That night, I slowly got myself back into reporter mode as I checked out the circus in Outlook held outside the Rec Plex. That night, I begin blazing my way through ‘Dexter’, episode by episode.
Wednesday, August 15: I finish ‘Dexter’ and begin the wait until season seven. Seeing how it’s my last night before returning back to the office the next morning, I just relax and reflect on an amazing two weeks.

THERE’S your ending.

So in short, a very groovy summer. I also turned 27 a week ago, so that’s cool, I guess. Plus the Labor Day long weekend is upon us, which I’ve always considered the last big hurrah for summer. Certainly not a shabby past month.

OK, I’ll shut up now.


Hard to believe that it was 13 years ago today that WWF wrestler Owen Hart tragically died in a horrible stunt gone wrong. Owen was being lowered to the ring in what was supposed to be a spectacular entrance from the arena’s catwalk way above during a live pay-per-view in Kansas City, until the harness clip snapped and he fell to his death, smashing chest-first into the top rope, which hurtled him into the ring.

I remember that night vividly, because it was the May long weekend and I was walking back from a friend’s house after having a bonfire and I turned on the TV. The local news was on, and when I saw Owen’s photo in the top right corner, I immediately knew something very bad had happened. And obviously, it did.

Monday Night Raw the following night was a tribute show to Owen, with matches interwoven with comments from guys on the WWF roster about their fallen brother. I watched with a lot of sadness that night, just like the millions of other fans around the world.

The aftermath was ugly as Owen’s widow, Martha, sued the WWF in a legal battle that finally ended near the end of 2000, when the company paid her just over $18 million. To this day, Martha has never agreed to sign over Owen’s likeness or give permission for him to be used in home video releases, video games, or even inducted into the Hall Of Fame.

Through it all, it’s always been a great shame that somebody with as much talent as Owen had died in the way he did. To my understanding, he was planning on wrestling for maybe another two or three years before calling it a career. He should’ve had that chance.

Owen’s funeral was on May 31, 1999. Almost 13 years to the day, I still have the funeral card handed out at the service.

So last weekend was the annual convention for the SWNA (Saskatchewan Weekly Newspapers Association) down in Regina, and as a finalist up for an award in the Better Newspapers Competition, held in conjunction with the convention, I was headed south for the weekend and put up in a free hotel room at the Delta, where everything was held.

To make a long story short, which isn’t my style if you know my writing, I actually won the freaking thing! I landed the Best Feature Story Award for my article on the late Lisa Rendall, a woman who was born and raised in this area and nominated as the Saskatoon Citizen of the Year on December 31, 2010. At the time, Rendall was going through Hell with the breast cancer she’d been fighting for over a decade, and sadly, it was winning. My article appeared in our January 13, 2011 issue, and although Lisa found herself physically able to attend her own award banquet two months later in March, she passed away in April.

Looking back now, I’m incredibly grateful that she gave me her time, and provided me with a look into her world as the disease ravaged her from the inside. I had no idea that the story I was writing would come back and benefit me with such a groovy accolade well over a year later.

I’m all for entertaining my readers, so I thought I’d throw together the entire weekend scenario as a journal-like series of events.


– I set the alarm on my cell phone to go off at 9 am, which it does with no problems, except for the craving I have for just a little more sleep. I set it for a half hour later, surmising that I’ll still have plenty of time to pack up, get ready and hit the road by roughly 11. Still, even though I’m really not asleep and just want the luxury of staying curled up in the warmth of my bed with my thoughts, I can hear Dad yelling from his chair in the living room that I “better get a move on”. Although cocktails aren’t until 5, dinner until 6, and the awards ceremony until 7, he must think my getting down to Regina will require a team of Clydesdales, plowing and pulling their way through thick forest while I engage in fisticuffs with the most diabolical of thieves, braggarts and shady individuals. Dad is just gonna keep hollering every few minutes until he hears my bedroom door open, so I just get up.

– I’m on the road to Regina by exactly noon, after a few errands in Outlook. These include hitting up the ATM, fueling up, and stopping at the Bargain Shop for a couple things. I’m looking for Brylcreem, but instead settle for some AXE version of pomade called ‘Clean-cut Look’. Whatever. I’m Regina-bound.

– Hitting the highway and throwing my Ford into cruise, my entertainment for this 2.5 hour drive is a blend of an mp3 disc I recently made and the best of the Howard Stern Show from the past week on Sirius. As I arrive in Davidson and hit up the A&W restaurant, I chow down as Howard wraps up an interview with John Cusack. The show never ceases to be that reliable driving partner, keeping me alert, making me laugh and passing the time when my job or other activities require me to hit the road.

– I’m in Regina by roughly 3 that afternoon, and after finally getting to my hotel and obtaining a parking pass while experiencing the superb downtown traffic the city has to offer (damn one-way streets), I’m on my way up to the 24th floor and open the door to my room. A Kong-sized bed and a cool view of the city are among the highlights of it, and even cooler is the fact that I’m not paying one dime for any of it – thanks, SWNA!

– Settling down from the day’s travel and after laying out my clothes for the night, I flop down on the bed and watch Storage Wars on A&E. At around 5:30, I start putting on my fancy evening wear – dark purple dress shirt, black pants, black dress shoes, a black/silver/red tie, and then I top it all off with a black zip-up vest. Hardly fancy when I think about it, but certainly better than sweatpants and a wrestling t-shirt, which was, obviously, my first choice.

– I find all the goings-on on the second floor of the Delta and begin the mingling process, shaking so many hands that they all seem to blend together. This is my first time at the yearly convention, so I figure a little networking is in order. There are faces I instantly recognize and new ones that I eventually meet, and then I find my table where Delwyn (my boss) is sitting and dinner begins shortly.

– What a feast! Roast beef, BBQ ribs, chicken breasts, fish, potatoes, veggies, the whole nine yards. Everything kicks ass.

– After dinner, the awards ceremony begins and my eyes are trained on the white board in the northwest corner of the room, which is showing the nominees in each category as MC Chris Ashfield (of the Whitewood Herald) reads them out. Winners come and go with each category that comes up, and the ‘Best Feature Story’ one is inching closer and closer as others collect their plaques for the best in advertising, photography, and so forth.

*Daniel Bryan mode* YES! YES! YES! YES! YES!

– Here it comes. Ashfield begins reading out the nominees for ‘Best Feature Story’ and I see the front page of my article come up on the white board. The hair on my arms raises just a little at the sound of my name, and I turn my gaze down to my table, preparing myself not to win and trying to look gracious in defeat. The only problem with that is that Ashfield says my name a second time, just after he says ‘And the winner is…’. I win. My eyebrows raise, I silently mouth ‘Holy shit!’ and I make my way to the side of the stage, where SWNA President Alison Squires greets me with a smile, hearty handshake, and a photo is snapped. “Ended up being worth the drive, huh?” she asks. Indeed it has been.

– Handshakes around my table, and Delwyn is beaming. Obviously, I am too. I never expected to win, and designated myself to that comfy “Just cool to be nominated” position in the weeks leading up to this event. Actually taking home the plaque was by no means a certainty in my mind, so this is very, very cool.

– I’m a happy man. So happy that after the evening comes to a close, I go back up to my room, grab my little Canon Powershot and shoot a number of photos, including one of the plaque resting against a window that looks out onto the city of Regina at night. But not before I make the obligatory phone call home to announce my hearty triumph to the family. Ma sounds a little choked up after I tell her that I’m “coming home with more than what I left with”. Crazy dames, with their feelings and whatnot. All kidding aside, I’m more than a little proud to tell the woman who is arguably the biggest fan of my work that my peers in the paper business seem to share the same sentiment.

– I throw the photo of the plaque on Facebook and within mere seconds (not an exaggeration), I start getting a flood of “likes” and words of congratulations from friends, family and assorted acquaintances. Ah, the power of social media.

– Having had some time to celebrate by myself and put it out into cyberspace, I head back downstairs to the ‘hospitality suite’, which is a politically correct way of saying, “Hey, you in the purple shirt! Get in here and drink with us, cuz it’s open bar and we don’t work tomorrow!” Sounds good to me. I indulge in a few rum and Cokes, shake even more hands and find myself going over the Lisa Rendall article all over again. A lot knew her name because she was a longtime radio personality on C95 in Saskatoon, or else they knew her from the endless breast cancer fundraisers she organized over the years.

– One more rum and Coke (didn’t I say that two of them ago?) and I head back up to my room, where more comments have hit my Facebook page. I’m feeling good, but now a little hungry, so I order some wings and pizza from Domino’s. I devour the wings while watching Corner Gas, but I guess that’s all I needed, because the pizza goes untouched. It’ll have to make the trip home with me. In hindsight, I probably should’ve just gotten room service.

– I didn’t think of it when I was packing, but I’m now stuck with no form of white noise so that I can actually get to sleep. I’ve been this way for as long as I can remember – I just can’t sleep without some kind of background noise. I’ve used a fan in my bedroom for the longest time, but just this past week my sleep therapy machine arrived in the mail. I now get my beauty rest with the help of ocean waves, and sometimes the sound of a summer night. A word of warning to the future (ex)Mrs. Ruttle – you land me, you land my sleep machine.


– I ended up using the Food Network as background noise to lull me to sleep. Strangely enough, that didn’t make me dream of steak, pasta or seafood, though it’s not like I didn’t want it to. Even though I set my cell phone alarm for around 10, I’m up by 8. Weird how that happens. Must be the unfamiliar sleeping environment. Also funny is the fact that despite this bed being stupidly large, I stayed on only one side of it all night. Hmmm. Guess I could’ve invited one of the many lovely ladies clamoring to be my date for this gig. Ha ha ha………… he joking?

– I’m packed up again, checked out of the Delta and back in my car by a little after 11 am. But I’m not headed home yet, as I told myself that once everything in Regina was over with, I was gonna take a trip down to Rouleau, where Corner Gas was filmed. I make my way out of the city and arrive in ‘Dog River’ after a half-hour drive.

– This is pretty cool, now that I’m here. I’m staring at the Dog River police station, as well as the bar, and I snap photos. Finally, I make the actual Corner Gas station and Ruby Cafe set the main event of the early afternoon, getting many more snapshots. As it turns out, the inside of the gas station is being renovated because that’s where the memorabilia and gift shop is being moved to as of May 1. It was in the Dog River police station, but now people will actually drive out to Corner Gas to buy something related to Corner Gas, all because of their fondness for the TV show………Corner Gas. CORNER GAS!!!

– Back in the car, and I make my way back home. Again, Howard Stern and the gang keep me company, save for an hour or so when I’m blasting tunes good and loud. I arrive home a little past 4:30, and walk into a house full of people congratulating me once again, this time in person. Feels good. They hear all about the convention, the awards ceremony and my trip down to Rouleau, and it turns out they’ve been preparing a congratulatory supper. We sit down to steak right off the BBQ, seasoned potatoes, asparagus, and then a choice of either chocolate or butter pecan cake for dessert. Good eatin’.

Such was my entire Regina experience. I went, I saw, I ate, I won, I drank, I drank some more, I ate again, I slept, and I left. All in all, a great weekend. I suppose time will only tell if I am summoned to next year’s convention to defend my title. We’ll see.

For now though, I’m happy.

Looking Back & Looking Ahead

Posted: January 10, 2012 in events, life, local, writing

Nice knowing you, 2011.

Another year has come and gone, and just as I’m sure everyone else says it, I’ll say it too – where the hell did the last twelve months go? Is it just me, or does it feel like it was only May or June a couple of months ago? Yet we’re over a week into 2012 already. Son of a bitch!

I work in a very lightning-paced environment. Now this requires some explanation, because I DO NOT mean that my two coworkers and I run around the office like tweens loaded up on Red Bull. In fact, there are days that seem to crawl by with little to no activity. No, I mean that this chosen profession of ours – the weekly newspaper gig – operates under a five business day cycle in which the ultimate goal is to be done with one issue on Tuesday afternoon and already try to have in mind what’s going in the next issue before the current one even arrives by courier to our back door. What might be the hottest topic of one week is just a memory after two or three more issues, and the cycle continues as I resume that voodoo that I do do.

It’s because of this that time seems to jet by without a moment’s notice, and 2011 is now in the record books.

With that, I feel it’s appropriate to try and make sense of the last 365 days and highlight some of the most notable occasions that I’ll take with me to my grave.

Overall, I feel that my 2011 was a pretty good year, all things considered. Work has been steady, and the raise I got near the beginning of the year was a nice boost to my morale in addition to my bank account. In non-office related news, my Stephen King project, “Mute”, saw some significant progress, though I’m still a good deal away from yelling “ACTION” on set. So far, the script has been finished for nearly a year, having been completed after an all-night write-a-thon and hitting ‘Save’ at roughly 5:30 am on Saturday, February 19. Perhaps the biggest chunk of the project’s budget was taken care of in October, when I snagged the camera I’m going to use to shoot it, as well as any other ideas in the future – a Canon Vixia HF M-400, one of the newest ones on the market. This came as a result of a car rally that my mom hosted at her bar (that’s Ma’s Tavern in Conquest, everybody!) that people paid $5 to take part in. It raised over $260, so it was a huge help in buying the camera. Yes, you read that right – people in small towns still help each other, and being neighborly is not a thing of the past.

Right now, I’m trying to get my hands on a few set pieces to use and hammering down locations, as well as working on getting the script to a few actors, although I do have my ‘deaf and blind’ hitchhiker cast, so that casting call has been heeded! If I were forced to reveal any kind of deadline, although there isn’t one and I’d only be giving myself a date that would be looming over my head, I’d say that I want to be finished shooting by the end of April and use May as my obsessive, two packs a day, mucho-cursing-from-the-basement editing period. Progress is slow, but it’s coming.

The recent Christmas and holiday season was a damn good one, at least from my point of view. We were done here at the paper on Wednesday, December 21 and had a sweet, mini-vacation of an eight day break before coming back on the 29th. From there, it was just two days of work before the New Year’s long weekend, and here we are, back into the groove once again.

My Christmas celebrations shaped up like this:

December 21: Done work for over a week, I celebrated by preparing myself a gourmet feast and popping the most enjoyable Christmas movie ever made into my PS3 – “Die Hard”. Consisting of a baked lobster tail, two seasoned chicken breasts, potato wedges and crab-stuffed shrimp, the meal cost a little more than grabbing a burger and fries (altogether, and glancing at grocery store receipts, it was roughly $38), but I had a holiday to ring in, dammit! Hardly the modest type, I snapped a pic and threw it on Facebook, claiming that I had just “won the Internet tonight” before chowing down.

December 23: The day before Christmas Eve, I got together with my gang of fellow rapscallions – Alex, Chris and Kyle – up at Alex’s condo in Saskatoon for a night of movies, cards and intelligent discussion and debate regarding the state of the world economy as we head into 2012. (Try and guess which one of those is complete bullshit. Oh c’mon, guess!) As plans have a way of changing, we ended up getting together a little later than planned, but all was well when Kyle finally got to Alex’s at roughly 8:00, having made the drive all the way from Swift Current, and a kudos to ‘Big Country’ for making the cross-province trip with no complaints. We had originally planned to watch a few movies, but once I brought out the cards, we ended up playing and sitting around Alex’s kitchen table all night, talking about anything and everything and listening to ’70s and ’80s classic rock (thank you, Sirius satellite online radio). Exchanging gifts, it turned out my friends decided to go the gift card route, as they doled them out from Best Buy, Walmart and HMV, respectively, and I think they were happy with the t-shirts I found for each of them, consisting of Ghostbusters, Mortal Kombat and Back To The Future, respectively.

Though there was no tree or turkey to tear into (we opted for Domino’s), the night was a huge highlight of my holiday, and I think it was something that all of us needed. Among the bigger news items to come out of it was the fact that Chris and his wife Kristin have found a house they want to buy and are currently in the midst of a mountain of paperwork and negotiations. Here’s hoping they get it, even if I’m just looking forward to the housewarming party. Hehehehehehehe, is he joking?

December 24: Running around and picking up a few last-minute things before all the stores close, I ran into an old chum of mine in front of the Co-op in Outlook, Kevin Guillet, who was down for his own massive family gathering out at the farm. Kev lives in Victoria, a former stomping ground of mine, and seems to be doing well for himself with film and video gigs here and there. Back at home, we had Christmas Eve celebrations over at my brother Perry’s, though by this time a stubborn and ill-timed nose congestion really decreased my enjoyment. We played Uno, ate food, joked around – a typical Ruttle family gathering. When everyone else either went home or back to their motel rooms, Brendon and I stayed behind and we all watched “A Christmas Story”. I hadn’t seen that movie from start to finish in years. After getting home, I wasn’t ready to go to sleep so some fat guy could break into my house and leave me a bunch of shit I didn’t ask for, so I watched “Christmas Vacation”, a must-see staple of the holiday season.

December 25: The main event. I was the last one to wake up – remember my duty to watch Chevy Chase attempt a family holiday at home – and open a few gifts, consisting of some new clothes, new bedding, couple of books, and some other stuff I can’t remember right now. I never asked for anything specific and made no list of any sort, so whatever I got, I had to be happy with. No complaints. We had our big family dinner, gift opening and all the aftermath at the tavern, which was an odd idea on paper but turned out great because it had tons of room. Again, more food, more games, lots of photos taken and yes, just as an Irish-Scottish family will partake in, plenty of liquid courage flowing.

The rest of my time off before heading back to work was spent unwinding and recharging my batteries, as well as blowing my nose alot and trying to get that cleared up. I also watched a ton of “Degrassi Jr.” and then “Degrassi High” on Netflix, which really took me back to my childhood when I watched the show on CBC after school every day. Someone send the guy who invented Netflix the finest bottle of scotch they can find, and send the bill to someone who isn’t me.

On December 30, I hit the city looking for some good shopping deals and came out of it pretty decent, picking up seasons three and four of “Oz” and the TRON: Legacy soundtrack for the magnificent total of just under $22, thanks to Kyle’s HMV gift card. I cruised over to Amazing Stories and bought a Batman comic collection I’ve been looking for forever, as well as a neat Freddy Krueger action figure, and he now stands on one of the shelves of my entertainment unit at home, guarding the place along with my larger figure of The Undertaker in all his finger-knived, red and green-sweatered glory.

After satiating my retail urge, I went and saw David Fincher’s North American remake of “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo”. Overall, I thought it was an incredible film, unique at times and very disturbing in others (rape is a heavy theme), but Fincher knocked it out of the park. I wasn’t exactly ‘wowed’ with “The Social Network” last year, but “Dragon” is Fincher at his best – directing an epic (nearly 2.5 hours) with real, gritty and dark drama that makes for some fantastic storytelling. Daniel Craig sure as hell isn’t James Bond here, and Rooney Mara – a relative unknown now getting some much-deserved attention – throws herself into a role that more than half the actresses in Hollywood don’t have the balls to try. As well, it doesn’t hurt that the opening credits sequence of the film is a total creative mind-fuck. Just gotta see it.

My New Year’s Eve was actually quite uneventful, to be honest. I don’t usually make a big deal out of it, as I consider Christmas to be more significant during that week-long time period where both events take place. I cooked up some skewered shrimp (or lollipop shrimp, as the marketing folks at President’s Choice call it), poured myself a rum n’ Coke or three and bounced back and forth between the South Park and Drew Carey Show marathons on TV. Man, what a bad boy I grew up to be.

Rewinding back to the summer months of 2011, I loved the Conquest Centennial long weekend celebrations back in July. I wore many hats over the course of those three days; reporter, photographer, proud Conquest resident, as well as a son, brother, nephew, uncle, and pyrotechnics supervisor as I blasted off a bunch of fireworks on the night of July 1. Saw some family, took in the events to celebrate my hometown’s 100th, and just enjoyed being in that environment.

I gotta say though, I think the village of Milden got it right with their own centennial celebrations just four weeks later. They kicked it off with a parade on Saturday morning that seemed to never end, and had a street dance that night, filling the prairie air with the sound of music. As fun as our own community’s weekend was, I wish we’d taken advantage of what we have and done the same things. Oh well.

In August, I took a day out of my two-week break from work and drove up to my late uncle’s old cabin at Candle Lake at the beginning of August. It was only for one day and night, and I was by myself, but I have to say that it was the best thing that I experienced last year, bar none.

My original intention was to just make a day of it and actually drive home late, but I’m glad I ended up staying overnight. Making the four-hour drive and armed with a loaded MP3 disc, a change of clothes and my trusty Canon PowerShot, all my old memories came flooding back to me almost instantly as I approached the cabin. This was a place where my family vacationed for many summers when I was a kid, and I hadn’t been up there in 11 years. Older, wiser, and experiencing a lot more in life since that time, I started to feel like a kid again as I saw all the same buildings and businesses that made my summers up there so memorable; the general store/laundromat that even in 2011 still rents out VHS tapes and VCRs, the walk-up fast food restaurant on the corner with vintage advertisements and a carnival-like color scheme, the mini golf course, the petting zoo, and everything else from the mechanic shop to the restaurant/lounge. There’s also quite a bit of new infrastructure up there, including more food services like Family Pizza, a clothing outlet, and even a health centre. What’s neat is the way Candle Lake has been able to adapt to the new century and capitalize on the economic boom and public demand, but a lot of things are still the same and seem to have not changed a bit. It’s an old school meets new school fusion that seems to work for everyone.

I got to the cabin and just took in the surroundings. It’s definitely an old cabin, and quite frankly you’re living a bit rustic when you’re up there, but it’s got power and four walls, so I was happy. I grabbed my camera and just took a drive around the area, taking in the sights and getting reacquainted after a decade-long absence. Saw some wildlife, checked out the trout pond used by those who just want a quaint and quiet day of fishing instead of the choppiness of the lake, and obviously, Candle Lake itself, which seemed no more bigger or smaller than when I was a kid. The water had a silvery grey color to its surface and was alive as it churned tide-by-tide to the shore.

I picked up some dinner, consisting of two medium pies from Family Pizza (pepperoni & bacon, shrimp & mushrooms), as well as a few things at the store before sitting down to watch some electrifying entertainment – whatever the hell was on either CTV or CBC. The cabin is equipped only with an antenna, so you’re stuck with whatever happens to be on those two channels. To hell with it, I say. In the middle of summer, you shouldn’t even be indoors at Candle Lake during the day. I watched the news and then went back down to the lake, relaxing in my lawn chair with my feet in the sand. It wasn’t long before I walked into the water, and doing so once again threw me back in time to when I was up there as a kid, splashing around with my brothers and tossing handfuls of wet sand at each other, which the other guy would take square in the chest and pretend he got shot.

I'll be back.

I fired off quite a bit of photos while both on the sand and in the lake, simply because my surroundings were begging me to. It was roughly 8:00 pm, and the sun was starting to call it a day. As it descended in the northwest, it created an incredible silhouette out of a bunch of tall trees, and the dimming light had begun to shine a light off the surface of the water. It literally looked like some painting a tourist would buy in a gift shop, so I snapped away. The lake is surrounded in this U-shaped section of land, and trees and lakeside cabins dot the properties, which has always made me jealous. I’d kill for a cabin right by the water up there, because I’d be driving up there all the time and nobody from around here would see much of me in the summertime. Christ, I wish I was there right now. No lie.

The next morning, I took one last drive down to the lake and just sat there for a little while; looking out at the beach, the water, the cabins all around the area, a few boats cruising around, and some family enjoying the day. I told myself that I’d be back a hell of a lot sooner than another 11 years, and I fueled up before making the long drive back home.

I intend to keep that promise. I don’t mean to get all soft and ‘deep’ on this, but I went up there to try and reestablish a connection that had gotten lost years ago. I wanted to feel like a kid again. In this hyperspeed world we live in, life jets by waaaaaay too fast at times, and we get lost in our daily lives that consist mainly of work and just waiting for Friday to come so we can recharge and get ready for another workweek. You have to wake up and smell the coffee. Step back and look at things from a different point of view. I went up to Candle Lake to try and reawaken some form of worry-free emotion in my gut that everybody had when they were growing up; to take in my former source of childhood memories and – even if only for one day – not worry about a fucking thing else on Earth and just do as Frankie says, and that’s relax. I’m happy to report that I was successful on all fronts.

And it seems that I got up there just in time, as the word going around my mom’s side of the family is that my aunt Hazel has told her kids to put the old cabin up for sale. Not that it’s worth much, and frankly it’s mainly the land that someone would be buying, but I still wish they’d reconsider and keep it in the family in some way. Hell, I’m sure my family would put some money into it and share it with someone. Time will tell on that front, but when I return to Candle this coming summer, I’ll more than likely be renting a cabin anyway.

From asking ‘Are we there yet?’ to renting my own cabin – yup, getting old sucks.

From there, I actually drove home into a somber affair. My aunt Mabel, on my dad’s side, had died in June and while there was a funeral service out where she lived in Cochrane, Alberta, the graveside service and burial was in Conquest in early August. As my clan tends to do, we managed to turn a negative situation into a positive, and the outpouring of relatives that I hadn’t seen in many years made it into a makeshift Ruttle Family Reunion as we celebrated Mabel’s life with enough food to feed two and a half countries and plenty of alcohol. Hey, it’s what we do.

Looking back, these events were really just a taste of what I encountered and experienced in 2011, but they were the ones that left the biggest lasting impression by far. I don’t know how your year was, but I can look back on mine and say it was satisfying on several different levels. Hope you can say the same.

With that, I don’t know what 2012 holds for me. I know what I’d LIKE to accomplish – getting “Mute” off the ground, shot/edited, and then submitted to film festivals around the country – and I know what I’d like to do again – return to Candle Lake – but that’s the mystery of a new year, I suppose. No idea just what will happen.

In the meantime, it’s nice to think about.


“Then we figured out we could park them in front of the TV. That’s how I was raised, and I turned out TV.” – Homer Simpson, parenting poster boy

There are some people in this world who you have to give credit for helping to raise you in a way your parents never could. Sure, Mom and Dad got us up for school, they fed us, dressed us, took us on summer trips and put a roof over our heads, but with all they did do, sometimes it was the work of complete strangers that got us through our day, that made us believe in something besides everyday ‘right and wrong’ values and gave us that fantastical look in our eyes that said ‘This is unbelievable, and I will never be the same again’.

In short, we had other heroes and they were the ones on TV. Just as Homer said, they had a part in raising us and molding us into the people we became.

The “Macho Man” Randy Savage was one of those people.

I’ve been a pro wrestling fan damn near my entire life. If you know me, then you know that’s obvious. It’s been so many years that I can’t even remember exactly how I got into it. My oldest brother Jim must have something to do with it; maybe he was watching some episode of Saturday Night’s Main Event or Superstars of Wrestling at the turn of the 90’s and I just happened to be crawling around in my diaper or something. I honestly couldn’t tell you. Regardless of its origins, when I got the wrestling bug, it stayed with me.

The first of the WWF’s colorful, bigger than life stars that caught my eye was indeed Randy Savage – the Macho King, Macho Man, Macho EVERYthing who soared off the top rope with flying elbows, left us either scratching our heads or shaking them in disbelief with his interviews and ended up as the perfect anti-Hulk Hogan to get behind and watch with awe and admiration.

Nothing against Hogan personally; he ushered in the mainstream popularity of the WWF and helped create the big boom period of the 80’s, but he was a one-trick pony. He had his legions of fans, so be it. They didn’t care that he only had three or four moves and that every single match he had was the same. They bought into the same story time and time again; Hogan showing off some power moves, the heel finding a way to beat him down, Hogan busting out his Hulk-up routine, big boot + legdrop and SCENE. Fans needed someone else to hit the WWF in a big way, and Savage did just that.

As I type this, it’s now been a little over three weeks since Randy’s shocking and untimely death on May 20. He was out driving in his home state of Florida when he reportedly suffered a heart attack, causing him to lose control behind the wheel of his Jeep and crash into a tree. It’s now been reported that Randy did indeed suffer an attack and his wife, Lynn, took the wheel and swerved the Jeep out of the path of a motorcyclist and a bus. Randy’s brother, Lanny Poffo, confirmed this report online and stated that it was almost “a beautiful way to die”, as it was believed to be quick and painless for Savage and his wife managed to save the lives of more than one person in the midst of all the chaos. Lynn sustained only minor injuries in the crash. Though the two had been a couple for a long time, Randy and Lynn had only been married for one year. Savage was 58 years old.

What’s interesting about the legacy that Randy left behind is the fact that it may not have happened at all, if he had his way. After all, Randy’s first love was baseball and while growing up, he played and practiced religiously before he was signed by the St. Louis Cardinals as a catcher straight out of high school. He was sent to the minor leagues in order to develop his skills and mainly played as an outfielder in the farm systems of the Cardinals, Cincinnati Reds and Chicago White Sox. Randy had dreams of making it as a pro, but sadly for him, he just wasn’t able to cross over into the big leagues and accomplish his goals.

Ultimately, wrestling called to him and the rest, of course, is history.

When it came to his career in the WWF, Savage enjoyed a position that from the very beginning was a fair share of the spotlight. Signing with the company in June of 1985 (two months before I was born – neat), Randy debuted on TV in a campaign to recruit a manager, which saw several top pros in the field throw their names into the hat, including Jimmy Hart, Bobby “The Brain” Heenan and “Classy” Freddie Blassie. In the end, he said no to all their offers and went with Miss Elizabeth – a sweet, stunning and flawless-looking woman that in reality, and outside the surreal world of wrestling, was Randy’s wife.

Beauty & The Beast, indeed

This was new to wrestling at the time, bringing in a woman and having her manage a top-profile name, or any male wrestler, for that matter. Managers were supposed to be guys like Heenan and Hart – devious weasels who took a cheap shot at opponents or slid in a foreign object to seal the win. They weren’t supposed to be beautiful, elegant, wear lavish dresses and look as innocent as a baby deer. Yet that was Miss Elizabeth, and together with the Macho Man, they broke down barriers and created some magical and timeless moments on TV and PPV over the following few years.

Nothing was ever average about the career of Randy Savage (rhyme!) – he was a star from the moment his presence hit TV screens across the world. A lot of times, and this is no more true than in today’s WWE, wrestlers would debut in the company and were almost looked at as… unfinished products, I guess would be the right words. They had to fine-tune their image, tweak their on-screen personalities here and there until they got the right fit and became bona fide superstars. When Bret Hart debuted, he was Buddy the Heartthrob, then just went by his real name and almost became a jobber for life before he was paired with Jim Neidhart and The Hart Foundation was born. When The Rock debuted as Rocky Maivia, fans turned on him within months and he desperately needed a change, so he turned heel, became “The Most Electrifying Man in Sports Entertainment” and made history as one of the top draws in pro wrestling.

Savage required nothing of the sort. There were no tweaks and no fine-tuning under the hood of his wild, unpredictable and egomaniacal persona that hooked viewers and fans from the start. He carried himself like he was Gorgeous George, worked the crowd into a frenzy like Muhammad Ali and used the ring like masters such as Ricky Steamboat, who, as it turned out, obviously became one of his greatest opponents.

And speaking of that, no tribute to Randy Savage would be complete without touching on his memorable Intercontinental Title bout with Steamboat at WrestleMania 3 in 1987. Many have argued that this match is overrated by today’s standards, but it can’t be denied that for its time, it ranks as one of the best. For nearly 15 minutes, the Macho Man and The Dragon fought in and out of the ring in a mesmerizing, high-flying and yet technical display that brought the colossal house to its feet for every near-fall, of which there were plenty. Known as a stickler for detail and perfection, it’s widely been reported over the years that the two practiced and rehearsed the entire match at Savage’s home in Florida prior to WrestleMania.

The extra effort paid off. Savage, the IC Champ, unloaded on Steamboat with his full arsenal and yet, amazingly, the Dragon just would not die. Finally, Steamboat was able to surprise Savage with a small package pin when Randy went for a body slam and the place damn near exploded when the ref hit the mat a third time. A new Champion was crowned, the bad guy got his comeuppance and it was storytelling at its finest.

Most lifelong wrestling fans say the match outshined the main event that night, Hulk Hogan vs Andre the Giant for the WWF Title, and I agree. Hogan/Andre was what drew people to the event, but when it was over, it was the Savage/Steamboat contest that left an indelible mark.

This seemed to be par for the course in Randy’s WWF career – he may not have been the main event all the time, but he produced the better matches than a lot of what Hogan was doing in the top money spot. In my book, Savage outperformed and outshined the main events at WrestleManias 3, 7 and 8. That last one still perplexes me to this day; what the hell was Vince McMahon thinking putting on Hogan vs Sid Justice last, as compared to the brilliant story told in Savage vs Ric Flair for the WWF Title? Ridiculous!

The Mega Powers. They soon exploded.

The Macho Man enjoyed nine years in the WWF, amassing a legacy that has stayed with wrestling fans all their lives. Among the many highlights and matches:

– Winning the 1987 King of the Ring (hence the nickname Macho King)
– Going through four opponents to win the vacated WWF Title at WrestleMania 4
– Forming the Mega Powers with Hulk Hogan (including that awesome-looking handshake)
– Holding the Intercontinental Title for 14 months (try pulling that off in today’s WWE)
– Reuniting with Miss Elizabeth following his loss to the Ultimate Warrior at WrestleMania 7
– The wedding to Elizabeth at Summerslam 1991
– Winning the WWF Title from Ric Flair at WrestleMania 8

And then, one day, the Macho Man had all but disappeared from WWF airwaves. Fans tuned in to Monday Night Raw or Saturday afternoon’s Superstars, Wrestling Challenge or Maple Leaf Wrestling (for us up North) and no longer was Savage standing at ringside and welcoming us to the action alongside Vince McMahon. Gone was the flamboyance and the charisma, gone was that unmistakable voice that commanded attention and, Hell, even gone were the garish sunglasses, outfits and cowboy hats.

Where did he go? Where was Our Macho King? What happened to The Savage One?

He went South and signed with Ted Turner’s WCW, that’s what.

Since the time Savage made the switch over to ‘Dubya C Dubya’, the reasoning behind it has never been made clear. In response, fans have long debated the mystery surrounding Randy’s WWF departure in late 1994; he felt disrespected and misused when he was demoted to doing commentary, he had an argument that ended with McMahon slapping Savage (and vice versa has also been reported), and the other big rumor that many still refuse to live down – that Savage had sex with an 18-year old Stephanie McMahon.

I, too, have heard that last one many times over the years. It’s definitely a shocker in a business where much more scandalous things have gone down both in the ring and outside it. I don’t believe it, though. Savage was by no means a perfect human being and I’m sure he would’ve been the first to tell you that he’d done some low-ball things in his life, but sleeping with the boss’s just-legal daughter isn’t one of them. Besides, even if he had, do you really think a guy like Randy would’ve tucked his tail between his legs and run for his life down to WCW for fear of what Vince would do?

No, I’m more inclined to believe the first reason stated, that Randy felt he was being misused and disrespected by being used mainly as a color commentator. I’m no insider expert, but if you’ve ever read Bret Hart’s autobiography, he says that Savage called McMahon in the middle of the night, drunk, and said he was signing with WCW. Vince apparently couldn’t talk him out of it and had no time to make Randy a counter offer. McMahon took it as a personal slap in the face and ever since then, Savage’s name was only brought up in the offices of the WWE a handful of times in the near 17 years until his death.

All smiles, but Savage belonged in the ring

I don’t agree with the way he did it, but I see Savage’s viewpoint in the whole ordeal. In 1994, he may have been 42 years old, but he could still put on a great match and yet was being held by the short leash by his boss. The last ‘big’ thing the Macho Man did in the WWF was wrestle Crush at WrestleMania 10 in a mid-card bout – not exactly on par with matches against Steamboat and Flair. McMahon apparently saw an expiration date on Savage’s in-ring career and it had passed, though no one bothered to tell Randy. I can’t say I’d deal with the situation in the same way Savage did, but apparently, something drastic had to be done if he wanted to see the inside of a ring again and continue performing. I won’t say McMahon is entirely to blame for how it went down, but maybe if he sat down and listened to Savage vent his frustration instead of silently phasing him out, their relationship would’ve been much different than it turned out to be.

I was young at the time, so I didn’t really care whether the Macho Man was wrestling in the ring or on commentary, I just wanted him on my TV. So when he left the WWF, I checked out WCW from time to time, though it was difficult as it seemed to bounce around the Canadian TV schedules. For the most part, he seemed to be a big fish in a little pond and trading the WCW World Title with Flair until the big nWo angle started. Savage was key in that, since he was the one that suffered the “backstabbing legdrop” from Hogan in the first place that kicked the angle off in July 1996.

From that point, the focus went on Hogan, Eric Bischoff and the nWo stable, and although Savage ended up as a member of the heel group, he was more or less just a face in the faction. His WCW career from that point was pretty much situated in the mid and upper card position. I do remember one memorable feud that Savage had as part of the nWo; his rivalry with “Diamond” Dallas Page that spanned most of 1997 and elevated Page up the ranks as a top name in the company. The fact that Randy put him over immensely in that time is something that Page hasn’t forgotten since, and in the days following Savage’s death, Page uploaded a video tribute to him that many have put over as one of the best memorials done by someone in the business.

Savage’s last run with WCW following a return from knee surgery wasn’t all that memorable, but he was at the top of the food chain as he feuded with Kevin Nash over the World Title, winning it for all of one day at Bash at the Beach 1999. He was still a heel, and this time walked around with three valets in the form of Miss Madness (aka Molly Holly in WWE), Madusa (Alundra Blayze) and his girlfriend, Gorgeous George (Stephanie Bellars). But things didn’t last that long and Team Madness soon disbanded. Savage’s last appearance in WCW was on the May 3, 2000 edition of Thunder, where he took part in a battle royal for a World Title shot at the next PPV.

With his career in the ring seemingly over, the Macho Man moved on to other forms of showbiz that kept his name in the mainstream media. There was his standout appearance in the 2002 blockbuster, Spider-Man (“BONESAW IS RRREEEAADDY!!!”), and then a rap album (yup) released in 2003, of which included a tribute track dedicated to Curt Hennig, who had died in February that year. There was also the title track, Be A Man, which was a diss track aimed at Hulk Hogan, who Savage was rumored to have long-standing heat with. The album turned out to be a bust and Randy was definitely no rap artist.

At the end of 2004, Savage was summoned to the ring one more time in an angle with TNA Wrestling (NWA-TNA at the time) which saw him team up with Jeff Hardy and AJ Styles in a six-man tag team match against the Kings of Wrestling – Jeff Jarrett, Kevin Nash and Scott Hall. The match was at the Turning Point PPV in December, but was hardly a big affair; Savage’s only involvement was coming down in the final two minutes – having been kidnapped and stowed away by the heel trio – and handing out punches left and right before countering Jarrett’s sunset flip for the win. No double axehandle smashes, no flying elbows, and for some reason he was decked out in jet black from head to toe. It also turned out to be Savage’s very last match, as he and Jarrett couldn’t agree on the finish to a proposed Title match at the following PPV and he left the organization.

From that point on, the Macho Man became a recluse as far as the wrestling radar goes. Aside from the odd interview here and there, and those were indeed rare, he was content to just live his life in Florida and enjoy being retired. Known as someone who’d been smart and invested wisely, Randy didn’t need the money and he’d had his time in the spotlight. He married girlfriend Lynn in May of last year and he seemed happy with how his life had turned out, a far cry from the darkness that has surrounded recent wrestling tragedies in the last few years.

And then, as we all know, that life sadly came to an end with a violent halt.

Gorilla Monsoon @ WM7: "What a woman, and what a man!"

In the days following Savage’s death, tributes poured in from all over as fans, former colleagues and current stars of the ring remembered Randy and the impact he made in wrestling. Top heel CM Punk did a Savage-like flying elbow at WWE’s Over The Limit PPV two days after he’d died, and the following night on Raw donned 80’s-era Macho Man tights in tribute. The WWE aired an impressive memorial piece that did its best to highlight the endless flurry of matches, Title victories and epic moments that he’d created in his career. Even Vince McMahon wrote a piece for TIME Magazine that immortalized Savage, highlighting the colorful persona and charisma he carried himself with, labeling him “one of the building blocks of what is now WWE” and closing it by naming him as one of the greatest performers in wrestling.

Personally, I really liked the tribute piece that WWE aired and I got a real kick out of seeing CM Punk memorialize Savage in his own way, but in the end it leaves a small, bitter taste in my mouth. Sadly, I just feel it’s too little, too late. It certainly appears as though McMahon has eased up on his hard feelings toward Savage and that he’s brought some form of closure to the longtime bad blood between them, but it shouldn’t have taken one of them to die for that to happen. The Macho Man has deserved to be inducted into the Hall of Fame for years, and McMahon knows that. One of the first thoughts I had when I heard that Randy had died was that fans would never see him take the stage to accept his place in wrestling history where he rightfully belongs. It’s something that I’ll personally hold against Vince McMahon for a long, long time.

So just what kind of impact did Savage leave in the WWE, WCW, pro wrestling in general and basically anywhere that he touched a top rope? I’d have to say that he was timeless. The Macho Man was the potent mix of wild persona and legitimate athlete that could be a superstar in today’s landscape if he had jumped in Doc Brown’s DeLorean and punched it to 88 mph. Describing Randy as being ahead of his time would be putting it lightly. He was a general inside the square circle and someone who, much like guys like Bret Hart and Curt Hennig, could have a 4-star match with a wet mop. Probably 90% of the time, Savage’s matches were the most exciting bouts on the card on any given night because you never got the same match out of him twice. He could adapt, leave you wondering what he’d do next and brought out the best in his opponents every time he stepped into the ring.

Randy Savage was The Showstopper before the nickname ever found its way to Shawn Michaels.

It’s hard to say goodbye to your heroes. I think that’s the biggest reason why three weeks have passed and this written tribute has taken that long for me to finish, because I wasn’t sure what all I wanted to say or how much of it I cared to share. Many people had their own articles uploaded all over the Web only a day or two after Savage had died, like it was some competition to see who could say ‘Rest in Peace’ first. I couldn’t, and quite frankly, I wouldn’t.

It’s hard saying farewell to them, but it’s even harder to watch our heroes fall like the normal human beings that they were. The icons of our childhood are supposed to be immortal and indestructible – they aren’t supposed to die like everyday people do of a heart attack or a car crash. Seeing Randy Savage perish like anyone else just puts another nail in the coffin of my youthful memories, and it’s a harsh reminder that some stories don’t have happy endings.

It pains me to know that I’ll never meet the Macho Man, as he was one of only two people that would’ve left me absolutely starstruck and my hands likely trembling with shot nerves. (The other person being The Undertaker) Sure, he lived all the way down in Florida and I’m up here in western Canada, but a dude could dream.

Savage left the ring nearly a decade before he passed, but there was always the slight possibility that he and the WWE could do business together somewhere down the line. A Hall of Fame induction, some part-time role on TV or maybe a guest referee spot at WrestleMania. That won’t happen now, and if Randy does go into the Hall of Fame next year, fans worldwide will be robbed of seeing Macho Madness reign supreme one last time. And that shouldn’t be the case.

The flying elbows have been grounded.

The wild, growling voice has been silenced.

The madness has come to an end.

Goodbye, Hero.

Randy Mario Poffo,

Always to be remembered as…

“The Macho Man” Randy Savage
November 15, 1952 – May 20, 2011

Over the last couple of months, it seems that the phrase “Anything can happen in the WWE” has been ringing loud and true. Fans are now starting to expect the unexpected, and the WWE has delivered that in spades.

We saw The Rock return after seven years.

Stone Cold Steve Austin is teasing some form of in-ring return of his own.

Even Jim Ross is being allowed back behind the commentary table.

Add to all of that the fact that a rock-solid WrestleMania has come and gone, where fans saw The Miz keep the WWE Championship, an intense stare-down between Attitude Era leaders Austin and Rock and an instant classic between The Undertaker and Triple H.

Yes, it’s been quite a time to be a fan of WWE and wrestling in general, (uh-oh, I said the dreaded W-word!) but last night’s episode of Monday Night Raw was shocking and headline-making for all the wrong reasons.

Edge, real name Adam Copeland and an 11-time World Champion in the WWE announced his retirement from the industry.

Saying goodbye on Raw - April 11, 2011

Citing increasing numbness in his arms due to past neck and spinal injuries, Edge took a microphone and told the fans in Bridgeport, CT that doctors have told him to retire if he wants to save his body from any further harm or damage. The fans in the arena were shocked, viewers at home were shocked and the Internet exploded with everyone trying to decipher if this was an angle or a storyline.

Even I took it with a grain of salt. After all, this is pro wrestling we’re talking about. We’re led to suspend our disbelief on everything we see on TV and the only truth that WWE will sell you is what’s good for the company. But as I’ve interacted with other fans about it and thought about it even further, I believe what I was told last night. Edge’s long tenure inside the ring is over.

Nobody wants to see their favorite Superstar’s career come to an end, but it’s a harsh reality. Edge said it himself last night; when it comes to what these men and women do in the ring, a lot of people dismiss it as “smoke and mirrors”, but the truth is that their bodies take the worst punishment of all. I don’t see NBA players doing splashes and dives off of 15-foot ladders, I don’t see NFL guys playing with a torn quadricep in their leg and I sure as hell don’t see hockey players enduring as much brute force as being thrown off a 20-foot cage through a table. But hey, they know how to fall, right? Fuck. You.

Edge is making the best decision for himself by walking away while his body is still intact. Is he at 100%? Far from it. This is a guy who missed out on two WrestleManias because he was at home recovering from a broken neck in 2003/2004. Add to that a list of knee injuries, a broken arm here and there, torn muscles in his upper body and the most recent big injury, a ruptured Achilles tendon, which is described as the worst injury to try and come back from.

By anyone else’s standards, Edge is still a fairly young guy at 37 years old. But considering he’s been doing this for almost two decades, he’s very much a veteran warhorse. He’s stepping away relatively healthy and with his body intact, but I can imagine he still feels the effects of his long career every morning when he wakes up.

I kind of liken this situation with the same one Stone Cold found himself in back in 2003. Nobody could’ve suspected that Austin had wrestled his last match at WrestleMania 19, where The Rock pinned him in the final match of a trilogy between the two. But like Edge, Austin had a history of neck problems and he was forced to step away. Eight years later, and just a week after successfully retaining the World Title at WrestleMania 27, the same issues are forcing Edge to walk away from his career while he still can.

I almost hate that this isn’t a storyline. Edge is one of my all-time favorites, and I don’t want him to retire. But on the flip side of that coin, I admire and respect him for making this decision before some freak accident happened in the ring. He’s getting out before he’s bitter, broken and confined to a wheelchair (COUGH Dynamite Kid COUGH Superstar Billy Graham COUGH). You have to respect that.

As for everything outside of the ring, you have to admire the kind of person that Edge is. He’s the kind of guy that speaks his mind and offers no excuses on his own mistakes, such as opening discussing his experimenting with steroids and the whole Lita/Matt Hardy fiasco from 2005, which WWE turned into a memorable storyline and feud.

And look at the career that Edge has had. If it doesn’t scream HALL OF FAME, then nothing does. Where does Edge rank on the list of all-time greats? If we were looking at a list of 50 wrestlers, I personally wouldn’t have any hesitation at putting him in the top 15. (the WWE’s “official” list of 50 top superstars ranked him at 19)

What makes for a top star? Three things – being able to talk, possess standout in-ring work and an ability to draw big money on all levels. Edge has done that time and time again. He’s leaving at a time where he’s still on top. Hell, until the Smackdown tapings tonight where he’ll relinquish the belt, he’s STILL the World Heavyweight Champion!

The guy has had a one of a kind career in the WWE. Among some of the biggest highlights:

– revolutionized the Ladder match with Christian, the Hardys and Dudleys
– provided countless highlight reel moments with the epic TLC matches (spearing Jeff Hardy from 15 feet in the air at Mania 17)
– won the 2001 King of the Ring
– became a standout singles star after the brand extension on Smackdown in a series of matches with Kurt Angle, Chris Jericho and Eddie Guerrero
– won the Tag Titles with childhood idol Hulk Hogan on July 4, 2002
– won the first Money in the Bank
– after cashing it in against Cena, ratings for Raw increased dramatically
– main-evented WrestleMania 24 and Summerslam against The Undertaker in 2008
– lost the WWE Title and then won the World Title in the same night at No Way Out in 2009
– returned from the Achilles tendon injury to win the Royal Rumble in 2010
– currently the man with the most title wins in WWE history, with a total number of 31 championships to his name

Retains the World Title at WrestleMania 27

Those are just a spoonful of the things that Edge has accomplished in his 13-year career in the WWE. He’s done it all. He can kick back on his back porch with a cold beer on a hot day and be more than proud of the matches, moments and memories that he gave fans over the years.

So then, what happens now? Tonight, Edge is scheduled to surrender the World Title at the Smackdown tapings in Albany, NY and I can imagine he’ll say one last goodbye on the show that he’s been the face of for the last few years. Knowing that his forced retirement is legit, I won’t be surprised if I shed a few tears myself when the show airs on Friday night.

It’s a bitter pill to swallow, but we’re only the fans. I can only imagine the hurt pride that Edge must be feeling himself. But at the same time, he had a career only a select few guys will ever have in pro wrestling, and for that he should be thankful and grateful.

I know I am.

Edge for the 2012 Hall of Fame. Make it happen, McMahon.