CHARLESTON — The hardest part about returning to live professional wrestling for King Woods was that when he was finally able to step back in the ring, there was no crowd.
Woods said, “When there are no fans, there’s no adrenaline pumping through your body. You notice the pain a lot more.”
The superstars of the WWE are hoping for a big crowd Sunday night at the Charleston Coliseum when the WWE Supershow rolls into town.
The recently crowned “King of the Ring” will be there, along with Roman Reigns, Becky Lynch, Big E, Charlotte Flair and many others. The show is part of the early holiday push for WWE and the start of a busy winter season.
Woods said he was glad to be out in front of crowds again. He had a different view of the pandemic than some of his peers. When COVID-19 hit, Woods was already sidelined because of an injury.
“I tore my Achilles tendon in October of 2019,” the 35-year-old said. “When everything hit, I was doing my video game stuff and going to conventions.”
He laughed and said, “I was doing cosplay while getting around on a little scooter.”
Professional wrestling during the pandemic barely paused. WWE operated under strict protocols and taped its shows inside of empty arenas for months before resuming what appears to be mostly back to normal.
But Woods said it was interesting to watch what it all looked like from a distance. He returned to the ring in September 2020, with no fans in attendance.
“It was very weird,” he said. “Fans are such a big part of our show. Sometimes, people think they’re buying a ticket to come hang out. No, you’re buying a ticket to participate.”
Having the fans back, he said, was like flipping a switch. Suddenly, there was a lot more power in the room. Wrestling was just a lot more fun.
Fun is a big part of who Woods is. He sees himself as a kind of beacon for people, particularly children, who love pop culture, particularly the nerdier parts of it. He’s hosted video game shows and is a host on G4. He loves anime and old board games, plays Dungeons & Dragons, and is an unabashed fan of “The Golden Girls.”
“I have a mural of Blanche painted on a wall in my house,” he said. “I have a Golden Girls shrine. I just love them.”
Woods said he got to meet Marsha Posner Williams, who co-produced 76 episodes of “The Golden Girls.”
“She was just the kindest and hilarious,” he said. “I can’t imagine what it was like to be part of something like that.”
The WWE superstar said the old sitcom still holds up, and it’s even instructional for performers like him, who are interested in how comedic chemistry works.
It’s OK to like “The Golden Girls,” Woods said. It’s OK to like video games, cartoons and a thousand other things that other people think are silly.
“I have so many friends who let go of wrestling or let go of cartoons,” he said. “They let go of the things they really enjoyed, and then you get to be 30 or 40 and you feel like you’re not as happy as you used to be.”
Letting go of the little things that make you happy isn’t growing up, so much as giving up on a part of yourself.
Woods said as long as what you love doesn’t hurt anyone, you shouldn’t feel a need to quit your passions just because other people don’t get it.
Part of his role, he thought, was to be a kind of example for others. Woods wants to be a public figure who has no qualms about being who he is, which is a bit nerdy, but still authentically himself.
Maybe that would encourage others to do the same.
Woods said eventually he’d leave wrestling and spend more of his time with his other passions, like video games, but not just yet.
Recently, he captured the “King of the Ring” title, but that was only the start. He planned to go after the other championships.
“Now, we use the power of the crown to get even more shiny things,” he said.
CHARLESTON — Around this time of the year, people tend to look toward the year that’s passed and the year that’s coming.
Charlotte Flair is looking more toward 2022. The WWE superstar, who appears Sunday at the Charleston Coliseum for the WWE Supershow, knows exactly what she wants out of the coming year.
“I want to main event at Wrestlemania in Dallas, Texas,” she said, over the phone. “That was my first active Wrestlemania.”
Flair appeared in Wrestlemania 32 in 2016 and won the newly minted WWE Women’s Championship.
“To come back full circle, as a main event, would be incredible,” she said.
Women in wrestling isn’t anything new, and Flair bristles slightly when asked about whether it’s easier for women to get into wrestling.
“I wouldn’t say easier,” she said. “I would say gender isn’t a question. I would say there isn’t a question of whether men or women should wrestle.”
WWE has both male and female superstars. The only difference, she allowed, was that women headline shows now.
Ahead, Flair said she was looking at a busy season of travel and going to shows around the country, while also weaving through the holidays.
Nothing new for Flair.
“It’s the sacrifice you make getting into the business,” she said. “And it’s not forever.”
Flair added it was the same for professional athletes who have to get to games every week.
“Everyone knows what you’re getting into when you start this business,” she said.
As the daughter of wrestling legend Ric Flair, Charlotte probably knows more than most.
The holidays around the Flair house were pretty normal, she said.
“Everybody expects a crazy answer,” Flair said. “But my Dad made the holidays and made them the best he could.”
She added that she didn’t really know any different because her father was wrestling before Flair was even born.
“The only thing different is that I know what it’s like to leave on Thanksgiving or the next day,” she said.
After a long couple of years because of the pandemic, Flair thought things were looking up. Looking back, she thought WWE did a remarkable job of holding it together.
“I think we showed how creative the company is as a whole,” she said. “We were still able to bring the Thunderdome to life and still make live television. We adapted to the environment and made the best of it.”
Through the holidays she was looking forward to seeing family and excited that WWE was finishing the year much as they usually did — with live shows in front of live audiences.
“You never realize what you’ve got until it’s gone,” she said. “You just never realize how much the audience is part of the show, but we’re ending on a high. I’m just very thankful.”
HUNTINGTON — For the fifth consecutive year, more than 1,650 museum stores representing all 50 states and the District of Columbia, 24 countries and five continents will offer inspired shopping at museums and cultural institutions during Museum Store Sunday on Sunday, Nov. 28. The Huntington Museum of Art will participate in this signature annual initiative and join museum stores worldwide by offering gifts for the holiday season — with all purchases supporting its parent institution.
“The Museum Store at the Huntington Museum of Art will be offering a 20% discount on all merchandise, including consignment, in the Museum Store to everyone for this special shopping day,” said Larry Mullett II, HMA director of guest and protection services. “This is your day to get that piece of estate jewelry that you have been wanting or that piece of Cameo Glass by Kelsey Murphy. We have a variety of apparel available in addition to toys that would make great stocking stuffers. All Red Line/Dot merchandise is 75% off, and you will also get the 20% Museum Store Sunday Sale discount as well.”
For more information, visit www.hmoa.org and follow HMA on Facebook and Instagram.
CHARLESTON — There will be no Christmas music at REO Speedwagon’s show Wednesday night at the Clay Center in Charleston.
Well, probably not. The band did release “Not So Silent Night … Christmas with REO Speedwagon” in 2009, but band founder and keyboardist Neal Doughty said the band rarely plays anything off that record.
“When we get to December, we’re usually winding down,” the 75-year-old rocker said. “It would require a week of rehearsal to play one song for a show at the end of the tour.”
Doughty said fans could listen to Christmas music at home if they wanted.
“Under the Christmas tree,” he suggested.
For Wednesday’s show — and most of the band’s other shows — Doughty said they just stick to what the fans like.
“If you’re going to make a playlist of 90 minutes of REO Speedwagon, it’s probably what we’re going to play,” he said.
That’s probably a lot of radio hits, but also maybe a few other songs, as well. Their playlist isn’t built around chart numbers or gold records earned, but what the crowd really loves.
Doughty said, “A lot of it is how many of them are singing along?”
You give the people what they want. And the people coming to an REO Speedwagon show want to hear the music they love.
The band has been around for over 50 years. They have a lot songs they could pick and choose from, but Doughty said they take it easy and keep it simple.
REO Speedwagon doesn’t really record new material anymore, not that they couldn’t.
The keyboardist said, “If Kevin (Cronin, REO Speedwagon’s lead singer) or someone else had a great idea for a song, sure, we’d record that and maybe put it out on iTunes or something.”
But probably no more records. The band gets along better without making new records, Doughty said.
“We really are friends,” he said. “Part of that is we’re not making any new records. That’s when bands fight, when they’re making a new record, and everybody wants all 10 songs to be theirs.”
Doughty understood that was a necessary part of making music with a band. There are always clashes, but he said there comes a point when fighting over how many songs make it onto a particular recording doesn’t matter so much.
“Any band that has made enough records, just stop before you hate each other,” he said.
What’s enough, naturally, is open to discussion, but Doughty said, “We get along better live than in the studio.”
REO Speedwagon is in a good place, he thought. The band performs around 80 shows a year. Next year, Doughty said they were headed out with some old friends, and he was looking forward to that.
The band wasn’t precisely the band he started out with 50-some years ago, but the newest members of the group have been with REO Speedwagon for over 30 years.
“This lineup is the longest we’ve ever had.” He laughed and said, “We’re getting pretty tight by now.”