Then one of the guys I didn’t know asked, “You think we can hit the wrestlers with a balloon?” The general response was, “There’s no way one of us can shoot a ballon that far. Let’s try it!”
After over 30 years, I think I can safely tell this story to the public. During my sophomore year at Wofford College in Spartanburg, SC, I almost got a beat down Mid-Atlantic Wrestling style. Some details, and names, are hazy, but there are parts I’m retelling that I will never forget.
One lazy afternoon, most likely in 1989, I had nothing to do on the Wofford campus. A freshman, named Bill, asked me if I’d like to check out a guy’s water balloon slingshot. I’d never heard of that kind of slingshot before, so instantly said “Yes!” We walked over to the Wightman dormitory, which had open hallways, like a motel, that faced into campus on one side and over the shared parking lot of the Spartanburg Memorial Auditorium on the other.
We walked up about four flights on the auditorium side and saw two or three Wofford guys standing around a marvelous apparatus. The water balloon slingshot was basically surgical tubing, most likely stolen from the science lab, tied off of two of the building’s vertical support posts, with some kind of pocket in the middle that held the balloons. These guys were slinging water balloons onto cars in the parking lot. I’d say the range was maybe a few hundred feet; about halfway into the fairly large parking lot.
It looked fun, so Bill and I tried a few to see how it worked. My attempt wasn’t that good: the balloon didn’t go that far into the lot and it totally missed what I was aiming at. “You’ll get better with practice,” someone told me. A second try was about the same.
At some point during our senseless fun, three pro wrestlers walked out of the back exit of the auditorium, far up on the other side of the parking lot. I only remember the two legends: Roddy Piper and Ric Flair. We stopped slinging the balloons and had a moment of starstruck awe. Wrestling gods, in the flesh, and just chatting behind the auditorium.
One of the guys I didn’t know asked, “You think we can hit the wrestlers with a balloon?” The general response was, “There’s no way one of us can shoot a balloon that far. Let’s try it!”
I cannot remember who pulled the slingshot back, possibly a second person helped, but I do remember that we opened a dorm room door to pull the slingshot further back to make the extra distance across the parking lot.
With no real way to aim, a direct shot on Piper and Flair was remote and against the odds. When the balloon was launched, we all watched with low expectations. It went past the middle of the lot where we were hitting cars. It kept going over the other cars, towards the exit where the wrestlers were talking. Our excitement grew. I can almost remember leaning in to try to help the balloon keep going. Then, the small dot of a balloon, most likely red or blue or white, keenly headed home… onto Ric Flair and Roddy Piper!
IT WAS A ONE IN A MILLION DIRECT HIT!
“Holy shit, you hit them!” someone shouted.
As time slowed down, Piper and Flair literally didn’t know what hit them. The “punch” was wet, with rubbery bits all over their splashed faces and clothes. Like they tend to do on TV, Piper and Flair went from a friendly chat to being 100% pissed off. As we stood frozen, hundreds of feet away and watching, they looked towards Wightman. From all that distance, they made eye contact with us.
“Take this slingshot down now!” one of us screamed. It was too late, because Piper and Flair were pointing at us and screaming. We couldn’t hear them, but I clearly saw what Flair’s mouth said: “We’re going to f—king kill you!!”
“What the hell do we do?!” someone asked.
“Split up and hide! Run!” someone answered.
As the wrestlers ran across the parking lot to beat our asses, and probably send us to the ER, we took the slingshot down and ran into one of the guy’s dorm rooms. What Piper and Flair didn’t know was that the Wightman rooms were suites: four different rooms shared a toilet and shower in the middle. Fortunately, we ran into the room where the wrestlers knew we were and went on the other side of the dorm through another room’s open bathroom door.
We didn’t bother to explain to them what was happening, but did manage to tell them “don’t open the doors! Don’t open the doors!” We split up, and I ran with Bill and a few guys that hastily pulled their dorm room keys out of their pockets. We ran down the campus-side hall into one of their rooms and hid. Maybe the other guy split off and went to his own room. I recall trying to hide under a bed, but it was a wooden bed frame like you see in hotels. Instead, we cowered in the dark and shut the hell up.
For a good 20 minutes, Piper and Flair (and the third guy) slammed on doors and yelled “Come out and get a beating, you bastards!” “We know who you are! We’re going to be waiting for you!” Eventually, after final threats and insults, they left.
Out of the group that I hid with, I was the only one that lived in another dorm. My peers weren’t going anywhere soon, but I had to leave at some point! My memory is vague, but definitely I left well after dark. I may have changed into a shirt that Bill loaned me. I went down a different exit on the campus side and took a very long route to my dorm.
Looking over my shoulder and under every bush, I never saw Piper and Flair, and didn’t want to. I told myself that they wouldn’t hide behind bushes; they had better things to do. I didn’t take any chances during my fast walk and was glad that I got through that with my face and ribs intact.
I have told this story for years. You may not believe it, and I get that. Like that moment when the launched balloon hit two wrestling legends, I still ask “how could this have possibly happened?” Yet, when Ric Flair wiped the water and balloon bits off his face, tensed up in anger and screamed at being assaulted by a strange object, I’ll never forget what I thought: “That REALLY happened… and they’re going beat the shit out of us!” Did I learn a lesson form this experience? Beyond believing that miracles happen in twos, not really.