As a part-time WWE ring announcer, Justin Roberts generally works at shows when Tony “SmackDown!” Chimel takes time off, which is rare.
So it was a real treat when Roberts got the opportunity to ring announce in front of his hometown crowd last week at the Allstate Arena in Chicago, following the recent overseas tour.
“I grew up going to all the shows there,” Roberts said. “I never missed a WWE show at that arena.” Throughout the year, he even posts various photos from the arena on his Web site (JJRoberts.com).
Friends and family were on hand – about 20 in all – with cameras ready to capture Robert’s homecoming on film. But they almost didn’t get the opportunity.
“It was straight out of a movie,” Roberts said. “There was no flight delay. The rental car place wasn’t out of rental cars. I got to the arena, the family was in the crowd, the friends were in the crowd.
“And at 7:15, I opened my dressing room door to go out to get ready and -- boom! – the door won’t open.”
That’s right. Roberts was alone in the dressing room 15 minutes before show time, and he got stuck inside. The door was broken before it shut, and now it was jammed. Plus, it wasn’t a regular door; it was a heavy-duty, secure, fireproof dressing-room door weighing an estimated 250 pounds, with steel on the outside, filled with concrete on the inside. It wouldn’t budge.
“When it closed, that was it,” Roberts said. “It wouldn’t swing open again, from the outside or inside.”
Apparently a piece of metal had become dented and locked in place, and the only way to get the door open was to unbend it from the inside.
Roberts recalled: “I asked myself, ‘What would MacGyver do?’ I looked for a screwdriver. But since it was a dressing room and all I had in there were my briefcase and suitcase, there was no screwdriver, gum or tinfoil. I had no idea what I was going to do, and figured I finally ran into my Chicago obstacle that I had been awaiting.”
Roberts heard Jimmy Tillis, WWE’s head of security, on the outside, and tried to explain what had happened. At first, Tillis thought Roberts was pulling a prank; it was difficult to hear because the door was so thick and heavy. Once Tillis figured out that Roberts was not kidding, and was stuck, he tried to open the door, but to no avail.
Roberts might’ve been trapped all night but, as luck would have it, WWE’s SmackDown! roster includes a superhuman giant.
“Big Show came to the door and asked me what was going on, and I told him,” Roberts said. “He tried pushing it and shaking the handle. … Then he told me to step away from the door.”
Big Show said, “I told him to stand back away from the door, and in one big thrust kick, I kicked the door in and set him free. I was his knight in shining armor.”
Roberts agreed, saying, “He was my hero, no joke.”
Tillis, the security guard, has an extensive background in martial arts, but even he said he’d never seen anything like it. Paul Heyman was also standing nearby.
“You have to realize, this man has superhuman strength,” Heyman said. “It’s not just the way we market him and advertise him and promote him. If you ever meet him or get up close to him, just look at the size of his hands. They’re bigger than any part of anybody’s body in the locker room. He is a real, true-to-life giant. He’s superhuman, and knocking down a door is nothing for him.”
Big Show said he can legitimately break through walls and pick up cars; he added with a smile, “And I still take out the cat box when my wife (Bess) tells me to.”
What was also impressive was the manner in which Big Show booted down the door. He kicked it in just the right spot so the door would open but not break. Big Show proved in one thrust kick that he’s not only inhumanely strong, but also intelligent.
“I kicked it in the lock area so I wouldn’t break the door,” he said. “But I sheered the lock right off it.”
Roberts said, “He did not break the door. He just fixed the problem.”
On the other hand, if you get Big Show angry, sometimes logic can fly out the window, and he turns to his brute strength. In those cases, you want to get out of his way.
The former WWE Champion has had at least one other door-kicking experience. Soon after he arrived in WWE, he was staying at the Howard Johnson in Boston (since converted to a Holiday Inn) with Bess, his fiancйe at the time, when the fire alarm went off at 3 a.m. Since their flight was at 6 a.m., Big Show – wearing only sweatpants and a sweatshirt, and no shoes -- figured they’d just collect their belongings and leave for the airport.
Big Show had left his key inside his room, so he asked the hotel manager to let him in, but Show recalls the manager responding in an angry tone, “You’ll have to go down to the front desk to get a key. I can’t help you now.
When Show realized that the manager had a master key, he got extremely upset that he’d been lied to. With one kick, the door to his hotel room bent in half, went flying off the hinges and at least eight feet into the room, where it knocked the television off its stand and onto the floor. And he was wearing no shoes!
“The fire marshal and the hotel manager just stood their with their mouths open,” Show said. “They couldn’t believe what they saw.
“Even I was impressed with the force it flew off the hinges.”
Big Show said that if he’s motivated (or upset) he can pull off just about anything, physically speaking.
“People underestimate me sometimes,” he said. “If I had a Bengal tiger on my ass, I could outrun Shelton Benjamin.”