|The Nerd Group
by Mike Pachuta
Al Snow lives for them.
Scotty 2 Hotty raves about them.
Edge says they relieve stress.
What are they talking about? Roller coasters. World Wrestling Federation Superstars compete in front of millions of people on television each week. The adrenaline rush is unmatched, they say. But so is the pressure.
"Roller coasters are a great outlet for us," said Edge, a member of what Al Snow dubbed the "Nerd Group." "They really help us get rid of the stress and pressure that is pretty much a constant in our lives." The Nerd Group consists of superstars who love hanging out together and having a great time by going to amusement parks and riding roller coasters. It's not an exclusive group, but only a few are willing to join - Edge, Al, Christian, Scotty, Mick Foley, Jeff and Matt Hardy are among them.
"We all are pretty crazy about roller coasters," Al said. "So I guess that's why other people sometimes look at us like we're crazy. And maybe we are. But I can tell you this - these things are so much fun for me, that I really have a life goal of riding every single major roller coaster in the world."
The roller coaster club had humble beginnings. One day, Mick realized that there was a theme park nearby and he asked a few guys if they wanted to go with him. Some said they would, and from that day on, whenever there was a little time to kill, someone would be looking up where the nearest roller coaster park was.
"Sometimes, there is a lot of down time on the road," said Edge. "So when we go out and ride these roller coasters, it really breaks up the monotony of the day. We get to go out, forget about work, laugh and feel like kids. It's so much fun."
As Mick said in his No. 1 best-selling autobiography "Foley is Good," "I find ... that life on the road is just a little more tolerable if I look at it as a paid national amusement park vacation." The other members of the "Nerd Group" agree. "It's a great adrenaline rush," said Jeff Hardy, one of the Federation's biggest daredevils. A daredevil who still gets a rush out of riding coasters. "It's so much fun, and if you really look at a roller coaster from a distance, it's a beautiful, intense, amazing structure to see. They are amazing." His brother Matt agreed. "Roller coasters are an extension of what we do in the ring. It's a big adrenaline rush."
Mick, the unofficial founder of the Nerd Group, has been through some of the most intense matches in Federation history, and he says that the best matches are compared to a good roller coaster - with several ups and downs and twists and turns along the way
"It's all the thrills without any of the mental duress," Mick said. "But a lot of the fun for me is being scared on the way up. People used to say when you stopped being nervous before a match, it's time to find a new job. It's the same thing for roller coasters. When you stop being nervous, it's probably time to find a new hobby." But that won't be happening anytime soon for this group of superstars. Scotty 2 Hotty has a season pass to Walt Disney World (Mick says Scotty is "a complete Disney psychotic"). Al Snow lives in Lima, Ohio, a place he calls "the middle of coaster heaven," because he is only an hour's drive away from some of the biggest coaster parks in the world. Edge and Christian both lived near Canada's Wonderland for years. Mick is now seemingly the Federation's ambassador to the coaster world. Jeff Hardy wants to own his own coaster.
"That's probably my biggest fantasy," Jeff said. "It's funny isn't it? My biggest fantasy is to have a roller coaster and put it somewhere in my back yard."
So what kind of coasters do these aficionados prefer, wooden or steel? Mick - "They both give very different feelings. They're both special in their own way. Steel is smoother and you can go faster and do loops. Wooden ones offer you a 'connection' with the track, kind of like a psychic connection that steel can't duplicate."
Mick loves the hanging coasters, but not the ones that you have to stand in. "Unfortunately they have a seat that you kind of stand on. If I wanted to subject my groin to further injury I'd return to wrestling," he said. Edge - "That's like trying to decide who you favorite child is. Steel ones are great because they are so fast. The wooden ones throw you a little bit. One time I actually whacked my elbow on a wooden coaster because it was such a rough ride."
Al - "I'm not going to decide that. I like every roller coaster." Jeff - "I just love the steel ones. Don't get me wrong, wooden ones are cool, but I have that need for something fast, and the steel coasters just work for me."
Matt - "I'm like my brother here. We're both daredevils, and the steel ones are where it's at. I really love the coaster where they have you hanging or standing."
Scotty - "Steel and wooden coasters are two completely different things. And I like them both. I like to compare wooden coasters to watching a Chris Benoit match - he throws you around and he's real physical, and those high points are going to be rough. Steel ones are like watching one of my matches - it's fact paced and it has a lot of ups and downs." Christian - "Every single roller coaster is great. They all are." What is their favorite coaster?
Jeff - The Volcano at King's Dominion in Virginia. "It was so amazing. You ride around and then at the end of the ride, they shoot you out of this volcano. That's the one I love the most." Mick - "My favorite wooden coaster is the Boulder Dash at Lake Compounce in Bristol, Connecticut. That was actually the 100th coaster I've ever ridden, not counting carnival coasters." Boulder Dash was also voted the No. 1 wooden roller coaster in the world by the National Amusement Park Historical Association. "My favorite steel coaster is the Nitro at Six Flags Great Adventure in New Jersey." Matt - The Volcano. "I went there with Jeff, and I could have ridden that all day, it was amazing."
Al - The Beast at King's Island in Ohio. "It's the world's longest wooden coaster, and it's right near where I live. Let me tell you though, it's really tough to pick a favorite one." Scotty - Space Mountain at Walt Disney World in Florida. "I'm a Disney freak, and I just love how that coaster is so classic." Edge - "Oh I'm going to say I have two favorites. I love the Spiderman coaster at Universal Studios in Florida. It's so fast. And my other favorite is the Sky Rider at Canada's Wonderland outside Toronto. That's a stand-up coaster, and it's pretty intense."
Roller coasters - and amusement parks in general - are a great escape for the superstars and the beatings they take almost daily. "It's like I have a new family when I run into an American coaster enthusiast. It's kind of nice not to be asked about the Hell in a Cell all the time," said Mick