I am asked very often about the origin of the Women's Tri-Fitness. My background was in athletics, coaching, owning a health club and promotion. In addition, I had the fortunate opportunity to wrestle professionally in the late seventies and early eighties. This opportunity presented itself as the health club I owned (Boddy Shoppe Gym) in Tampa and was the home to professional wrestlers in the seventies and eighties (those living in and passing through Florida).
This is a special year for me with the WWE Hall of Fame about to induct their 2008 class of Ric Flair, Rocky Johnson, and High Chief Peter Maivia.
Friendships with all three, Rocky, Ric and the Chief were formed in the seventies and they continue today.
Rocky Johnson was one of the most athletic wrestlers of all time. Having a bodybuilders physique, the Soul Man, had a gymnastic and boxing background. One minute he was shuffling like Ali while the next he was doing a kip up off the mat and high back extensions coming off tackles.
Being a black man in the seventies in this sport was not easy. There were times we were together where he ignored racial comments. Originally from Nova Scotia, Canada, Rocky married into a wrestling family when he wed Ata Maivia. I was fortunate to be the best man. This marriage produced the most electrifying wrestler/entertainer of all time - Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson.
When speaking of Ric Flair I speak of class. To the billions of spectators from Manitoba to Miami, from Europe to Australia, people will always remember the "WOOO" from the Nature Boy from Minnesota. This 35 year veteran and of the square circle as well as the greatest wrestler of all time has been my friend for over thirty years.
We met at the Boddy Shoppe Gym and I soon found myself doing squats and pushups to a deck of cards. I know I can call on Ric for anything and he will be there for me as he was at the 2007 Tri-Fitness Fall Challenge in Tampa. I was ecstatic when he married Tiffany Vandermark, one of the athletes I had trained for the Tri-Fitness.
High Chief Peter Maivia
In 1979, I traveled to Hawaii to wrestle the Polynesian circuit. The promoters were former WWE superstar High Chief Peter Maivia and Leah Maivia. I had known them as the parents of Ata Johnson, but upon my arrival they welcomed me to their home and the living room couch became my bed.
At the time, Dwayne was about seven years of age, but we were all living Polynesian style under one roof as one family. The family also included Tonga Fifita, WWE's Haku (who hopefully will be inducted one day). There were fun days of driving around the Island in back of a pick up truck with the High Chief and Andre The Giant.
Only one can imagine what the driver behind the truck was thinking. The stories of his toughness are often told (twenty cops trying to subdue him in San Francisco or putting another wrestler through a glass plate window) and I was there to see one incident; the young twenty-one year old muscled up weight lifter/bouncer weighing about 280 lbs should not have called him an "old man" - 60 seconds later the pumped up toughie needed a knee replacement! Unfortunately, a few years later Peter passed away but he left behind a legacy.
The WWE Hall Of Fame
The seventies, eighties, nineties has come and gone. But, the thing which has prevailed is the friendship with these men and their families.
The Tri-Fitness is honored to have Dwayne Johnson as its spokesperson and the involvement of the Rock Foundation in its Children's Fitness Challenge. Dany Garcia Johnson has been a judge, volunteer and supporter of our event since its beginning.
Next to my dad, Ata Johnson has been my biggest supporter and believed in my idea of Tri-Fitness when not many did. Tiffany Vandermark was the first athlete who told me I had to put on an event. Torrie Wilson, a young girl from Boise, Idaho, was the first athlete registered for the initial 1998 Tri-Fitness event. Following right behind her was Chicago's Lisa Marie Varon who would become "Victoria." Both Torrie and Lisa have gone on to successful WWE careers.
Tonga Fifita became the Tri-Fitness Vice-President and his family would work the events (sons Tevita and Pate are presently training as wrestlers). When Leah celebrated her eightieth birthday following our 2007 Tri-Fitness World Challenge and The Rock Malibu Children's Fitness Challenge it was great to have all there.
In summation, I know millions of wrestling fans will be watching in person and on television when these men are inducted. Among those will be thousands of Tri-Fitness athletes as our event might never have evolved if it wasn't for the support of those mentioned above.
Thank you Vince McMahon!
What: The 2008 WWE Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony
When: Saturday, March 29, 2008 at 7 p.m. ET
Where: The Amway Arena - 600 West Amelia Street, Orlando, Fla.
Tickets: Tickets go on sale Saturday, March 1 at 10 a.m. ET. They can be purchased at the Amway Arena Box Office, all Florida Ticketmaster locations (including FYE stores) and on Ticketmaster.com. You can also charge by phone by calling (407) 839-3900.
Note: A limited number of additional tickets for WrestleMania XXIV at the Florida Citrus Bowl on Sunday, March 30, will also be released over the coming weeks. For ticket availability, visit or call Ticketmaster or log on to Ticketmaster.com.
For more information visit the official WWE website here.