Jarrett Payton noticed something different about his dad – Bears legend Walter Payton -- as he escorted WWF Superstar Razor Ramon to the ring in 1994 for his Summer Slam match at the United Center: His arms were enormous.
Sure, Walter had always been in great shape. You don’t break the NFL record for career rushing yards and miss only one game in 13 seasons without being in great shape. But on this night, which took place exactly 20 years ago today, Jarrett said his dad fit right in with the superhero-like wrestlers.
“He had guns,” said Jarrett, a radio host on The Game 87.7 FM. “His veins were coming out. He told me he did upside down pushups against the wall beforehand so his guns would look huge. He’d been retired for a little bit. To see him standing next to these guys: ‘Dad, you could be a wrestler.’”
Walter retired in 1987 at the age of 33. Jarrett said his father wasn’t an avid wrestling fan but guessed he teamed up with WWF (now WWE) because he was at a point in life where he was looking to try new things.
Prior to Summer Slam, Walter and Ramon taped a promo at Payton’s office in Hoffman Estates (the promo is where wrestlers stick out their chests and boast about what they’re going to do to their opponents). The subject of this promo was Ramon’s Summer Slam opponent, Diesel, and the man who would escort him to the ring, “The Heartbreak Kid” Shawn Michaels.
“Shawn Michaels, you’ve been doing a lot of talking,” Walter said in the promo. “And talk’s cheap. I can back my words up. My words are if you try anything, there will be a vacancy sign hanging in your heartbreak hotel.”
The war of words continued at Summer Slam. Michaels taunted Walter in the ring before the match and outside the ring during the match. Walter got his revenge when he prevented Michaels from sneaking into the ring with his Tag Team Championship title (most likely to knock Ramon out with it) and again when Michaels tried to stop Ramon from pinning Diesel. In the end, Ramon won the match and the Intercontinental Championship title and celebrated in the ring with both Walter and an extremely excited Jarrett.
The experience was a dream come true for Jarrett, a big wrestling fan at the time. He said it was a thrilled to see the wrestlers he looked up to approaching his dad backstage to say hi or take a photo.
“I was a huge Razor Ramon fan,” Jarrett said. “Everybody in middle school knows this guy. And he’s hanging out with my dad. It was one of the coolest things ever.”
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