Even though it’s been years since his death, it’s still hard for me to believe that Merle Vincent Griggs is no longer with us.
Merle loved pro wrestling – in fact, he promoted the first and likely only NWA Indianapolis event, which featured such stars as Dan Severn, Buddy Landell, and many others. He even gave me the opportunity to work in the main event, managing Mad Man Pondo against New Jack. It was possibly the most horrifying night of my life!
But it had to have been worse for Merle, as there was bad weather, and the ring didn’t show up until an hour after the show was supposed to start. Once everything was finally set up, the event drew only like 200 people, and Merle lost tons of money. I told him I was sorry that things turned out that way. He just looked at me, shook his head, and said, “Who cares? Money comes and goes. I promoted a wrestling show – this is the greatest night of my life.”
A while after the NWA show, I was kicking around ideas for doing a website and came up with the concept for WrestleCrap. He said he’d love to work on it with me, and I was elated – Merle had an awesome mind for the business, and I knew that people would really get a kick out of reading what he had to say. Basically, though, we just started this stupid website to give our friends something to laugh about while they were waiting for Raw and Nitro (hey, remember that?) to come on the air on Monday nights.
Little did we know we would wind up with so many friends.
And that, to me, is the saddest part of Merle’s passing – he never knew just how many friends he had, or how many people we made laugh. Sadder still was the fact that Merle was just 28 when he died.
At his wake, there were people of every race, every demographic. There were folks there that drove there in Mercedes, and there were folks that were quite literally homeless. There were all these people that he impacted in some way, and it was just mind-boggling to all of us that he was gone.
I think that Steve Hammer, a columnist who writes for the local Indy independent paper Nuvo may have said it best: “On a personal note, I can testify to the fact that there was nobody who met Merle who walked away disliking the man. Large in stature, he was also large in humor and generosity and all of us who knew him, even slightly, are the richer for it.” You can read that whole article here.
Merle was a great man, and a great friend. I still miss him, and think about him every day.
And hope that I am doing him proud.