Tom Leturgey recently wrote a piece on former WWE and WCW star Virgil for the Slam Wrestling website. Leturgey spoke with Shawn Raneri for the piece, who is Virgil’s friend and roommate.
Raneri confirmed that Virgil has had two minor strokes, but he’s also suffering from stage one gastrointestinal cancer (the Virgil social media pages announced stage two colon cancer in May), and the onset of dementia.
It was noted that a real crowdfunding campaign was launched a while back to cover Virgil’s doctor bills, but “tricksters” also created a fake GoFundMe campaign “just to besmirch Virgil and make him a millionaire.”
It was also stated that Virgil’s Twitter, Facebook and Instagram pages are ran by someone else, kind of like the pages for WWE Hall of Famer The Iron Sheik that are ran by other people. Virgil does not own or operate a computer, and just makes phone calls on a mobile phone.
Leturgey noted how he recently met Virgil, indie referee Mark Charles III and Ken Jugan (Lord Zoltan) for dinner. The intent was to see how Virgil was mentally and physically, and to chat with Virgil, and also interview him. Virgil arrived to the dinner with several 8×10 photos to sell for $20, but he was frail and couldn’t raise his arms. With that said, he was in a good mood.
Charles recently drove Virgil to a wrestling show and personal appearance in Sunbury, PA, a booking that was secured by Jugan. Virgil has lived with Raneri for five years, so these are all people who are actual friends of the former Vincent of the nWo. It was noted that Raneri happened upon and quickly befriended Virgil. Not long after that, Virgil, who is well-known for spending a lot of time and money at casinos in and around Pittsburgh and Wheeling, had fallen on hard times. Virgil was close to homelessness when Raneri helped him out, and took him in. Raneri has looked after Virgil ever since.
One of Virgil’s brothers, Warren, Jr., has passed away and another brother, Donald, is reportedly in his 80s and in an assisted living facility. His sister, Antoinette Jones, keeps in touch with Raneri about her brother, and still lives in their hometown of Wilkinsburg, PA.
It was noted that the “Lonely Virgil” memes and jokes are still a thing, but ever since the health diagnosis, wrestling fans have warmed considerably to Virgil as he’s still recognized just about everywhere he goes, and every interaction is pleasant. Raneri noted how Virgil sometimes appears to be disheveled, adding that he and others have noticed the change for the worse in Virgil’s grooming habits. He’s also not nearly as aggressive in selling his wares as he once was.
Jugan often travels to Ohio to visit friends and to see Cleveland’s drag show scene. He recalled taking Virgil to four drag shows in two days earlier this month. During one of the stops, the drag performers pooled their tips together and gave around $300 to Virgil. Raneri said Virgil didn’t really understand what the drag shows were about, and sadly he won’t remember them after a few days.
Raneri said Virgil doesn’t have much income besides a comparatively minimal Social Security payment, but his overhead is minuscule in their shared, modest home in rural Brownsville, PA, which is around 40 miles south of Pittsburgh. Virgil does not own a $400,000 home in Las Vegas, as has been reported.
Virgil has reportedly referred to Raneri as “a fan” but he’s much more than that. Leturgey said the two men share an affinity for one another.
“I don’t do this for charity or to get anything from it,” Raneri said.
It was also noted that Virgil’s days do not consist of two-mile runs, as he still maintains. Due to the strokes, Virgil doesn’t have much use of his arms, so he isn’t lifting weights or running. He usually hangs out at home, watches the news and game shows, and a lot of pro wrestling. Virgil often borrows Raneri’s car to “visit his brother” but GPS trackers on the car show that Virgil is at Wheeling Downs race track and casino, which is often confirmed by social media photos with fans who have run into the wrestler. Virgil has damaged two of Raneri’s cars over the years.
WWE Hall of Famer “The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase does not check in on Virgil, and the same goes for two other wrestlers who Virgil speaks highly of – Rick Martel and Tito Santana. Leturgey wrote that the “years of Walter Mitty-esque lies have clearly taken their toll on many of the wrestlers who knew Virgil.”
Raneri said Virgil was a talented defensive back for Virginia Union, a Division 2 college, and he hears from those former teammates more often than the pro wrestlers Virgil once worked with.
WWE Hall of Famers The Undertaker, Ric Flair, Tony Atlas and Sting have been there for Virgil in recent years, as well as Chris Jericho. Taker once took a considerable amount of time and interest with Virgil while in New York for a WrestleMania Week event, while Flair took Virgil to dinner and expressed any help he could. Atlas and Sting have called to check on Virgil, while Jericho has also been supportive.
Raneri recalled how Virgil was in town for a WrestleMania-season event when a current WWE Superstar inappropriately approached a woman. Virgil reportedly stepped in and defended the woman’s honor.
I was right there and I was surprised and happy to see that,” Raneri said.
Regardless of Virgil’s health issues, it was noted that once someone gets him going with familiar stories, he’s energized, enthusiastic, and engaging.
Leturgey wrote, “Again because of the arms, he sometimes stands when others are seated at a restaurant. He will drink a Cherry Coke, but insists he does not do illegal drugs or alcohol. He says he didn’t take steroids back in the WWF days; however, colleagues who admitted to their own use, refute those claims. At the recent dinner interview, Virgil stood, didn’t eat or drink a thing, but told his usual tales with all of the crass, slight vulgarities and verve one would expect.”
Leturgey ended his piece by recalling how Virgil was happy after the dinner interview. He even took the aforementioned 8×10 photos to a comedy show and made a few sales.
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