I met Christopher Pallies at a high school gymnasium in Mishawaka, IN on a cold February night about a decade ago. I was serving at the Town’s Mayor, Pallies was in town for a professional wrestling event called “Clash at the Cave.” Many knew him better by his stage name, King Kong Bundy.
I first became familiar with the 6-foot-4, 458-pound giant as a kid watching him mix it up in the wrestling ring on some of the biggest stages on the planet. Perhaps the highlight was 1986 when he wrestled in the main event at Wrestlemania II, where he faced off against the immortal Hulk Hogan. Hogan was able to defeat Bundy that night.
A few years later, Bundy would leave the WWF. Some 20+ years later, he found his way to Mishawaka for a championship match against local favorite, Mishawaka native, and former WWF wrestler Brian “The Crippler” Costello. The event would raise money for the local high school wrestling program. Wrestling was pretty important in town, with two high schools with a rich tradition of success on the mats.
As I got to do many times when “big-time” celebrities came to town, I often was afforded the opportunity to meet and interact with them. I’d met the likes of President George H. W. Bush, Terry Bowden, Cub Radio Announcer Pat Hughes, and Evander Holyfield to name a few during their stops in our area.
This time, I had special duties, I would serve as the special guest ring announcer for the IAW World Heavyweight Championship bout between Bundy and Crippler. More about that later.
Prior to the match, I had a chance to sit down with Pallies and get to know him a little better. He seemed like a really nice guy, we had a terrific conversation, he had a lot of questions about the town, he genuinely liked it and commented that he could see himself settling down and retiring in a place like this. He quickly thought again and suggested instead he’d likely be on the road traveling, doing what he liked to do best, wrestle.
I got to do a lot of fun things when I was Mayor. I had cameo appearances in local musicals and plays, I was a frequent guest speaker, I participated in a paczki (polish donut) eating contest, I dove into a big pool of green slime, I rode a donkey in a donkey race, I generally was willing to try about anything, except dunk tanks. Little did I know what I had gotten myself into.
As the matches on the undercard came to an end, the anticipation and excitement of the heavyweight championship was building. And be honest, I was getting a little nervous. I wasn’t sure what to expect. It was a little different than Madison Square Garden or some of the other venues that Bundy had headlined, this time several hundred fans wait their chance to cheer on local hero, the Crippler, and the villain, Bundy. Bundy relished that role, and he played it well.
As I welcomed Crippler and Bundy to the ring, I decided this match needed a little twist. The fans deserved to see a real winner, it just didn’t seem fair for Bundy for example, with a history of dirty tricks, to escape the match with the title because of a disqualification. I quickly reminded the participants that this was my town (I was the Mayor after all) and in my town, I make the rules. I had decided that this match would be a no disqualification match.
Wow, did that decision set off a firestorm and didn’t set well, especially with Bundy. He quickly forgot about that nice conversation we’d had prior to the match about the town, the cost of living, property taxes, what it was like to live here, and where people worked. Instead, he now decided that he wanted to break me in two, just because of one little stipulation I had inserted in the match.
I was pretty sure he could inflict some serious pain on me. After all I’d watched him as a kid drop all 458 pounds of his frame on countless victims, very rarely had any of them gotten up after. And I was sure Bundy was going to do the same to me, if for no other reason to send a strong message to Mayors in other towns who might try to add a similar stipulation to a future match.
I decided I better get out of there as quick as I could. Some said they’ve never seen me move so fast, both prior to this night, or since. I was headed for the ropes and I wanted out of that ring just as fast as I could. I have a vague memory of a brave referee trying to calm Bundy down and hold him back, and I think the Crippler might have intervened as well, and somehow, I managed to get out of there and escape the wrath that so many way more athletic and talented superstars had experienced previously.
To be honest, I don’t really remember who won the match that night. I seem to remember the Crippler taking some pretty hard blows from Bundy, some that I have to think would have come my way had I not escaped so quickly earlier from the ring.
Christopher Pallies passed away today, he was 61. I remember him as a very kind man, a talented performer, and despite his in-ring persona, someone that seemed to be liked by those around him. I have fond memories of his trip to Mishawaka and I had a lot of fun with him. RIP Christopher.