One of the highlights of my career at Southwest happened 25 years ago today, when I played the role of ring announcer for Malice in Dallas. Instead of taking a dispute over the slogan Just Plane Smart to a courtroom, Herb agreed with Stevens Aviation chairman Kurt Herwald to settle their differences in a wrestling rink. It took place at the Dallas Sportatorium, which although once a fixture in the pro wrestling circuit of the 80s and 90s, had probably never held a louder crowd.
The day before, the professional announcer hired for the event became sick, and I received a call from Southwest's Executive Office asking for me to fill in. My character was “Ridley Wristlock,” and after a stop at a local party store I was ready to go with a yellow wig intended to give me a “Don King” look. I probably looked more like Bart Simpson in all reality.
The idea was to have a best two out of three arm wrestling match, and after heavy promotion of “Smokin’ Herb” not taking training too seriously with Wild Turkey and cigarettes, he actually surprised us all when we turned out to be quite a respectable contender. In the end, Kurt may have come out on top, but everyone was a winner that day with an agreement to share the slogan while also making donations to each other’s charity instead of spending it on litigation.
It was such a hit that I even heard from a friend at another airline that he saw me on CNN in Japan during an overnight trip. About a week later, I received a call from the Sportatorium offering me an announcer job. I didn’t take them up on it, but my one day in the center of the squared circle was some of the most fun I’ve had during my 35 years at Southwest Airlines.