The Beginning… The best place, perhaps to begin to tell the tale of Rico's popularity while in Ohio Valley may be with his last match. Strange place to begin, but to know what it was like for all the Ohio Valley fans and wrestlers to say goodbye to him as he begins his journey up the WWF roster maybe the best way for one to appreciate his talent. It was a night that the veteran fans professed had never been witnessed before, and will probably never witness again. As kayfabe as the news of Rico's potential addition to the active roster was, word still began to spread via internet rumors and simply the story line itself. Something was going to happen, and it would be bittersweet. There are several ways to cover a wrestler's departure in an angle, the easiest being an injury that takes him out. But for whatever reason, Jim Cornette, offical OVW matchmaker, commentator and general guru of Ohio Valley Wrestling, chose for Rico not to leave on those terms. Thus, a looser leaves town match was devised, the classic screw job where the face is forced out by the conspiring heels. Not a new story, but what happened next was so emotional, even Internet reporters and people wise to the business had to fight back tears and goosebumps.
The last match was a handicap match, pitting Kenny Bolin, head of Bolin Services, and Prototype against our hero. TherE was a grudge to be settled…the student in Prototype growing too cocky, blaming the teacher/Role Model for their loss of the Southern Tag Team Champion belts at the October 29th Raw in Lousiville. The detestable Kenny Bolin choose to side with the Prototype. Rico demanded, and was granted the handicap match, and in a "paperwork error", it soon became a looser leaves town match. The match itself was executed well, with the fluke ending of Kenny Bolin pinning Rico in a state of near unconsciousness under his not inconsiderable girth. The rookie era was over that quickly. Shoulders on the mat and Rico, the golden rising phoenix of the WWF took flight.
In the ring, defeated, "forced" to leave the fed that had watched him grow, Rico rose to his feet, and with him a sea of fans did as well. The ovation was total, the chants for Rico could be heard a block away. There were tears and applause and soon the genius of Cornette surfaced again. "You've got thirty seconds Rico…take it." Absolutely unheard of for an old school booker like Jimmy, to acknowledge a work, especially amongst the core believers in Davis Arena who keep the business in business. Micropophone in hand, still breathing heavily from a hard fought match, Rico thanked the fans, Jim Cornette and Danny Davis. He looked back on his two years in Ohio Valley and were grateful for them. There, in the ring that had seen his blood sweat and tears and before a touched crowd, stood a real Role Model. Not a gimmick, not a wrestler, but a man who was finally getting his shot and appreciating every one who helped him get there. Cornette descended from his perch, precious seconds ticking away before the show resumed taping, and embraced the man he once called a prodigy. As Rico exited the ring, the applause and chants continued, and Senior referee Robert Bisko was even seen to shed a tear. He almost didn't make it past the adoring fans, the next match barely made it into the ring before the cameras began rolling again. But Rico wasn't finished saying goodbye.
Before the last, non televised match, Rico remerged. It takes a special kind of man to come out and take not only well wishes from his fans, but tears as well. Goodbyes are never easy, but rather than slink away to avoid the pain of his parting, Rico faced it. A hardened person Rico isn't depsite his years of traing in law enforement. He always senses the moods around him, and that adds to his worth as an entertainer. Everyone who wanted to wish him luck and say goodbye got the chance. Even the biggest mark of all who tried not to sob profusely, but did anyway (Sorry, Rico…I tried…) They were, by far and large tears of joy. No one deserves success more than Rico, and the world deserves to see what he can give as a performer. For the hundred or so people in the arena that night, he was definitely the biggest superstar on the planet. He signed a few more autographs, posed for a few more pictures. No one was denied a last chance to touch a rising star.
Rico has always amazed me with his ability to work a crowd. Never was that more evident than in the last few weeks of his Ohio Valley tenure. He was the top heel, and turned so easily it almost defied imagination, and some argue, logic. Then again, people always wanted to like Rico. His charisma, when channeled positively, is irresistable. True to the real Rico, he turned on that charm one last time. He sat aloft with Dean Hill for the last match, looking down on the sea of fans he had worked so hard for for the last time. The last match saw his former stable mates Mr. Black and Jerome Crony square off against David Flair and Ron Waterman. The atmoshere now relaxed, the cameras off, Rico led the crowd with wit and one final, mass executed "Shush!" thrown by almost every fan in attendence. He left us as he came, with a smile and a determination to succeed.
This site is for you, Rico, and all the people who love you! The reasons are infinite, the well wishes apparent, the caring you left behind still felt. Go, Rico, Go!