Yes, that was our very own John Vitale of Salem, N.H., better known as "Fabulous" Johnny Vegas in pro wrestling circles, WWE's Monday Night RAW last week. "Vegas" appeared as wrestling star John Cena's Little League coach, Will Gray.
Vitale is a 15-year veteran of pro wrestling and currently appears across New England. He is also a 2011 inductee into the New England Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame.
As a roster member of Chaotic Wrestling and an instructor at the New England Professional Wrestling Academy in North Andover, Vitale got the call Friday morning to be a part of Mick Foley's tribute to Cena in: "This is Your Life." Vitale was introduced by Hardcore Legend Mick Foley and appeared in the ring with Foley and Cena to deliver his lines.
The show was broadcast live from the TD Garden in Boston this past Monday night in front of a sold-out arena.
Despite Vitale's lengthy experience on the New England wrestling circuit, it was the first time he met Cena.
"He's first class ," said Vitale. "I sat with John Cena, Mick Foley, John Cena Sr., Bull Buchanan (Cena's tag-team partner) and a WWE writer prior to our segment. John was very sociable and gave me free reign on my stuff. We embraced on the program with a hug and he came to me later stating 'That hug was great.' It was quite an event. I was treated like a superstar."
Chaotic Wrestling and the New England Professional Wrestling Academy (formerly Killer Kowalski's School) has had a long standing relationship with the WWE. Past graduates of the school include WWE Superstars, Triple H and Kofi Kingston among others.
According to Vitale, when WWE is local, they will call for some talent.
Vitale fit the bill as Cena's Little League coach and appeared world-wide with the broadcast.
"What a production they have," said Vitale. "It was quite an experience. It's amazing how big of a crew WWE has at these events, constantly hustling to put on this live show. They do this every Monday night all over the country."
As for Vitale's "act" as a baseball coach, well, it wasn't all an act. He started coaching youth baseball in 1981, including Little League for six years and about 14 years of in Jr. and Sr. Babe Ruth.
"I believe John played through high school (Pentucket Regional) and possibly Legion," said Vitale. "I know he was a pretty good athlete growing up."
Another honor for Lawrence native
Another year, another honor. It seems our very own Steve Holman, a Lawrence native, receives a new accolade each year and this year is no different.
The longtime Atlanta Hawks play by play announcer was honored recently in Marietta, Ga. for his induction with a "Career Achievement Award" into the Georgia Radio Museum and Hall of Fame.
Holman, a fixture in Atlanta radio for the past 31 years, is preparing for his 27th season of Hawks basketball and he looks to continue his consecutive games streak of 1,890 straight broadcasts (both regular season and playoff games).
The 57-year-old Holman, who also served as the morning sports reporter with fellow GRHOF members Tom Hughes (at Atlanta's WGST-AM) and Scott Slade (WSB-AM) over his career, was also a member of the Westwood One/NBC broadcast team at the 1996 Atlanta Summer Olympics games, as he called the action for both the men's and women's gold medal basketball.
Holman broadcast his 1,500th consecutive Hawks game on March 5, 2007. His 1,700th consecutive Hawks broadcast came in the 2009 playoffs.
His current consecutive games streak stands at over 1850.
"It's a tremendous honor to be voted into the Georgia Radio Hall of Fame by my peers, and to be included with the great professionals that are already members," said Holman.
"It's been a privilege to work in the Georgia radio industry for over three decades, and to bring Hawks games to our wonderful fans for the last 26 years.
"The Hawks and the NBA are my family, so they all share in this honor," said Holman. "I'm truly living my dream, and I hope, as Todd Rundgren says, 'the dream goes on forever.'"
Having entered the radio business as a high school senior at WCCM in Lawrence, Holman honed his craft under the legendary Baseball Hall of Fame broadcaster Curt Gowdy, and got his first start calling NBA games in the 1970s when he was the broadcast assistant to Boston Celtics' renowned play-by-play voice Johnny Most.
In fact when Most lost his voice during a Celtics' game in 1975, Holman stepped in for his mentor, and started his outstanding career.
"I do remember it like it was yesterday, even though it was 36 years ago this month," recalled Holman.
"The game was against the Denver Nuggets in the first year of the merger. Celtics won.
"John had a cold for a while, and he had me do the stats at halftime. Then midway through the third quarter he was struggling and just said 'Now while I am having some voice problems, Steve Holman will handle it for a while.' I wasn't nervous until after I wrapped up the broadcast. I had done the games in my mind for years. I still have the tape in my iPad."
As for his favorite "Johnny" moment?
"It actually came after I came to Atlanta to do Hawks games," recalled Holman.
"I was with him in the Garden press room before the game and he wasn't doing well. I asked him if it would be OK if I used his 'High above court side' in my opening every night as my tribute to him. He got very emotional and said 'Yes.' He cried. I cried. He passed not too long after that. I still open every broadcast that way."
After relocating to Atlanta in 1980, Holman's first broadcasting opportunities came when he worked on Atlanta Falcons football and Atlanta Chiefs soccer games. He started on Hawks broadcasts in 1985, doing play-by-play and color commentary for 3¬ seasons before taking over full-time in 1989.
He is still living a dream, particularly lately with the Hawks as legitimate contenders.
"It is more fun winning," said Holman.
"Of course, I have been lucky that for most of the time I have done the games we have been very good. The '80s with 'Nique and Doc, the '90s with Dekembe, Steve Smith and Mookie Blaylock etc. Wining or losing, though, I look at every night as a great chance to do what I love."