There weren’t any jeers on USS Iwo Jima for any “heels” — the professional wrestlers who play the bad guys in WWE matches — since, for Monday, The Street Profits, Bobby Lashley and Liv Morgan were definitely “faces.” The good guys, that is.
And when Lashley found himself in a scrum of sailors on Iwo’s flight deck, he got them started in exactly the kind of high-volume war cries that Chief Petty Officer Jeremy Duty has thrilled to ever since he was a kid in Florida and his granddad took him to matches there.
Iwo Jima has just started some of the toughest stretches of any sailor’s tour of duty, in the drydock at the General Dynamics NASSCO Norfolk shipyard.
The Iwo has turned into a heavy industry worksite. They’ve moved their own workplaces and many berths to a barge nearby. “But it’s smaller than the ship, and things get kind of compressed,” Capt. Judd Krier, the commanding officer said.
Basically, though, the issue with a shipyard spell is more than just the noise and crowded conditions and feeling displaced.
“Ships belong at sea, sailors belong on ships … I think almost everyone on the ship joined because they want to go to sea,” Krier said.
Iwo was at sea for a long February to October deployment last year — a deployment that came after months of going in an out of port for training while maintaining the Navy’s pandemic rules for social distancing and restriction of movement. The crew managed to stay COVID-19-free.
Once back, the crew was faced with a home port move from Florida to Norfolk. They moved here in December.
“We left warm sunny Florida to arrive just in time for a Virginia winter,” Krier joked.
And, more seriously: “We had to move families, children, find new places to live — there’s wasn’t much quiet time after deployment.”
So when Krier, a pro wrestling fan from the day when he happened across a match on TV as a child, was ordering tickets for WWE’s “Monday Night Raw” show at Norfolk Scope, it struck him that there might be a way to boost spirits for Iwo’s shipyard tour.
“We haven’t really had a chance to show our sailors how much we appreciate their hard work for the past two years,” Krier said.
He floated the idea with WWE — and ex-Army soldier Lashley along with Marine veteran Montez Ford and his Street Profit teammate Angelo Dawkins as well as Morgan jumped at the chance. They got a tour of the ship, climbing the half dozen ladder-ways up to the bridge, meeting sailors from every department, spending one-on-one time on the mess deck and signing autographs on the flight deck.
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“They got their steps in,” Duty said.
For Chief Petty Officer Rosalie Dasher, a division leader in Iwo’s weapons department, it was a chance to catch up with second cousin Lashley, a three-time wrestling national champion and a four-time wrestling All-American, as well as a two-time Armed Forces champion and took home the silver medal in the 2002 International Military Sports Championships.
“We see each other at family reunions and weddings, but being on active duty you don’t really get that many chances to see family,” she said.
“I’m not really a [wrestling] fan, and he teased me about that,” she added. “But I’m going to my first match tonight.”
She won’t be the only one.
“There’s probably 300 who are going …. after [the wrestlers] left, I know the sailors in my division were lining up for tickets,” she said. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen everybody so excited.”
Dave Ress, 757-247-4535, email@example.com