By Peter Schwartz
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Under normal circumstances, any kind of physical altercation at a middle school would be grounds for a trip to the principal's office. However, this coming Friday night on Long Island, that type of behavior will be commonplace and encouraged when Big Time Wrestling makes a stop at Jonas Salk Middle School in Levittown.
It's a fundraising event that benefits the PTA for Lee Road Elementary School in Wantagh, and Long Island native Mick Foley is one of the feature stars who will appear.
The longtime WWE superstar gets to do his thing in his own backyard.
"Anytime I get to appear on the Island, especially a wrestling event -- knowing that my children can hang out with me and knowing that we're going to be helping out a good cause -- is a source of pride," said Foley, who will be joined at the event by wrestling legends Jake "The Snake" Roberts and Matt Hardy.
Big Time Wrestling promotes these benefit shows throughout the country. The company started in 2005, with shows taking place in the Boston area. Today, they're all over the East Coast, while also making road trips to places like Montreal and San Bernardino, California.
"We not only promote our own events, but we do county and state fairs, street festivals, corporate functions and most importantly, fundraisers," said BTW co-owner Steve Perkins, who got into the wrestling business at the age of 15 when he started setting up rings in 1997.
A year later, he ran his first fundraiser.
"I've been in the business ever since," said Perkins, whose company will be making its Long Island debut on Friday. "We love the New York area, as it has always been a wrestling stronghold."
Perkins has to feel fortunate to have Foley on board with his organization. After his contract with World Wrestling Entertainment expired, Foley was able to get back to his roots and do shows at smaller venues.
So he called three promoters from across the country and decided to join Big Time Wrestling.
"They do put on a great show," said Foley, a WWE Hall of Famer, whose alter egos in wrestling have been "Mankind", "Dude Love," and "Cactus Jack". "They bring in name talent. They've got great young talent who are looking to steal the show and they do it in a family-friendly environment. I like these guys and I think everyone will be very happy with what they see."
One thing you will not see is Foley re-creating some of the wild moments from his WWE career. His body has taken quite the pounding over the years. Just as many major-league pitchers have had to reinvent themselves as they got older, Foley has found a new way to entertain his fans.
"I made the conscious effort to make things lighthearted," said Foley. "I may have been involved in some of the wildest matches in wrestling history, but I'm also part of the most innocent and foolish vignettes in wrestling. And I'm equally proud of both."
At Friday's show, Foley just might get involved physically. He'll take on an authority role and will enforce a match from outside the ring. He'll certainly ring up some "pops" from the crowd on hand, but he doesn't want anything in his body to pop.
"I won't be putting my poor knees and back through the hardships of an actual match," said Foley.
In other words, don't expect to see anything that resembles his classic 1998 performance against The Undertaker in WWE's "Hell in a Cell."
In addition to staying involved with wrestling, Foley has also found time to develop a new career. He is now a comedian and has developed a one-man show that will take him back to Long Island on June 4 when he performs at Governors Brokerage in Bellmore.
Foley said he likes the intimacy of his one-man show, but he also appreciates the wrestling shows at smaller venues, like the one will take part in on Friday.
"I really enjoy it," said Foley. "Most of the guys who have done both types of shows find equal enjoyment in both types of venues. I've probably done far more of these types of shows than I have the packed Madison Square Garden. So for me, when I say coming home, it's not just coming home to the Island, but it's coming home to the type of shows that I did the first several years of my career."
What makes a night like this Friday really neat for wrestling fans is that the action inside the ring is not their only chance to see Foley and the other wrestlers. Big Time Wrestling events also feature the chance to meet some of the wrestlers before the card gets underway.
"It's not just a wrestling show, it's an event," said Perkins. "Allowing fans to meet their heroes of today and yesterday at a pre-show meet-and-greet."
There are tickets available for just the wrestling event, just the meet-and-greet or for both of them combined. Those who take part in the meet-and-greet can get autographs as well as photos with the wrestlers. It's a chance to get up close and personal with some of the biggest names in wrestling history.
"We really enjoy that as well," said Foley. "For people who just want to see the show, there's an opportunity for that. For the ones who want to get up close and personal and have things signed and have photos taken, that opportunity exists as well."
Foley, along with his wife and four children, moved back to Long Island 14 years ago. Anytime the WWE has ever had an event at the Nassau Coliseum, or even at Madison Square Garden or in New Jersey, Foley has enjoyed a true "home-ring advantage," as he's always drawn plenty of familiar faces in the crowd.
While there won't be 16,000 people at the Salk Gymnasium on Friday, Foley's appearance will certainly include plenty of people who are there to see their hometown hero.
"Having Mick on any show certainly helps at the gate, but to have him in his hometown, I know that's exciting for not just the fans, but for Mick too," said Perkins.
There will be six or seven family-friendly matches on the card that will be suitable for all ages. From the meet-and-greet event before the card to the action inside the ring, it's a great night of pro wrestling for the fans and all parties involved.
It sounds like there will be a terrific crowd on hand.
All ringside seats are already sold out for Friday's event, but there are still general-admission tickets available at www.btwtickets.com. Tickets will also be available at the door.
It shapes up as a big night for everyone, especially the Lee Road Elementary School PTA.
"Everybody comes out ahead," said Foley. "The wrestlers make some money, the promotion makes a little bit of money and then the organization becomes the main beneficiary."
Foley has enjoyed quite a career in pro wrestling. He's also proud to be a Long Islander. On Friday night, he gets to combine two of his passions for an event that raises money for a great cause.
Here's hoping that Mr. Socko makes an appearance!
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