ROLLERCOASTER WEEK: Rob Schamberger Newsletter 27AUG23
Funny how impossible dreams manifest.
Hi. My name's Rob Schamberger. I'm that guy who paints rasslers. And other stuff. But you don’t know about the blood, sweat, and tears and losin’ some of your peers and losin’ some of yourself to the years past, gone by.
MY FRIEND WINDHAM
Windham passed away on Thursday and I’d like to share some stories about him, if you’ll oblige:
Ten years ago. Damn. Ten years ago I made my first Wyatt Family painting, the one above. Windham aka Bray Wyatt reached out to me privately to get a print of it for himself. I can’t remember if I sent him the original or not, I want to say I did, but regardless it led to us occasionally corresponding until we finally met in person at the first show I worked for WWE towards the end of 2013. I went to shake his hand and he knocked it aside and gave me a huge hug. We were friends and friends give hugs.
The week prior to WrestleMania 31 in San Jose I went with some of the boys to a Korean barbecue restaurant and when we walked in we were excited to see Windham and the Rotunda family at another table. Katy was nervous to finally meet him but he was the type to immediately make her feel at ease and welcome. Anyway. I go to the restaurant at the same time as ‘IRS’ Mike Rotunda. Half a minute later the door cracks open, a hand reaches in and turns off the light.
“RUN.” The door is slammed closed.
I hear Mike exhale and yell, “Damn it, Windham!”
Windham was always doing hilarious things just to make a small group laugh. When he knew that ‘airport guys’ were flippers and not genuine collectors he intentionally did the wrong autographs to mess with them. One time at a convention, he and Brodie/Harper were doing a signing with Rowan at the end of the line. He and Brodie would alternate doing Rowan’s signature, which was just an all-caps ROWAN, leaving the poor guy to figure out how to do their sig’s to make the items look right. So if you were at their first Wizard World appearance, that ROWAN might’ve actually been signed by Windham instead!
When my Mattel WWE Elite figures came out, Katy’s stepmom’s mom, Linda, was at a Wal-Mart trying to find them but was completely lost as she didn’t know anything about WWE or toys. There was a man toy shopping with his daughters and Linda asked him if he knew anything about WWE. He said he did. She asked if he was familiar with me and yes, as a matter of fact he was. Linda asked him which toy she should get and he pulled one off the shelf saying, “This one’s me.”
It was Windham.
After I shared this on social media and the story blew up, he told me this was actually frustrating WWE’s PR department because they had him doing media calls to promote an upcoming event and the reporters only wanted to ask about him helping Linda do some toy shopping instead!
When he was developing the Fiend persona he texted me simply saying, “Get your paintbrushes ready, this is going to be wild!” When the Firefly Funhouse segments started airing but before The Fiend was revealed, I did this painting for fun:
The bottom half was a negative of an upside-down shark mouth, speaking to the danger beneath the surface. He texted me within minutes of when I posted it asking, “Dude, how did you know?” and then sent me what The Fiend actually looked like. Crazy synchronicity.
While he was away from WWE he got into painting and drawing and would occasionally reach out for tips and tricks. His paintings looked exactly how you would expect, by the way. Dark and scary. But in one of the progress shots he sent there were his kids’ toys all around his easel, which was the most Windham picture I could imagine.
When he came back just last year, the first time we got back together was in Indianapolis. He invited me back on his bus (my first time being on a tour bus, believe it or not) and we spent around an hour catching up, talking art and creativity and family. He loved the Wrestling Landscape paintings and especially dug the Roman Reigns vs Brock Lesnar one.
At this year’s Royal Rumble he was naturally too busy to talk much, but he walked past me on his way to go out for his match, all decked out in his gear and said, “You’re gonna f***ing love painting this one.” You’ve probably seen the picture of him and Jojo with their kids that’s been shared this week. That was taken that night, right next to where Katy and I were set up. He was having a blast playing with the kids and thanked the photographers for taking those pictures.
The last time I saw him was back in March at a house show in Indiana. We spent another hour or so talking about paint brushes, the creative process, and haunted houses. We hugged, said we loved each other and that we’d see each other again down the road.
I’ll miss my friend Windham. I’m glad I knew him.
Ink and watercolor on 12” x 9” watercolor paper
A two-time Olympian figure skater, the 2008 World bronze medalist, a two-time Grand Prix Final bronze medalist, the 2001 World Junior Champion, and a three-time U.S. National champion.
UPCOMING WWE PAINTINGS
Triple H Wrestling Landscape
Cody Rhodes acrylic
LA Knight. YEAH.
Card subject to change.
Hopefully we’re back on our regular schedule starting next week. Leveling up in such a big way with WWE means that there’s a lot more components to what I do now. Thanks for your patience and passion throughout this time!
This section is called ‘You Good?’ because it’s what everyone asks each other backstage at WWE. Mostly it’s a shorthand way of asking if the other person needs your help in that moment, but it’s also just asking if you’re doing good. I imagine it’s going to feel a little different for a while.
So. This was a rollercoaster week for me personally and professionally.
Monday I worked with my former studiomate, good friend and photographer Paul Andrews to shoot our model Nicole Wood for a personal painting I’m developing. Paul and I hadn’t gotten together since before the pandemic and it was like no time had passed at all. I’m excited to get to work on this painting for a lot of reasons.
Tuesday afternoon I got the notification that my prints were FINALLY up on WWE Shop. I started this process with Fanatics and WWE back in January and seven months later we got the deal done. It’s been…a hard road. A lot of times I thought the deal was going south. It legitimately triggered a lot of the things I struggle with emotionally and has been the primary topic in therapy. My therapists and Katy have really gotten the brunt of how hard this has been on me. But I held onto hope of how big of an opportunity it could be, much bigger than just having my stuff on WWE Shop.
And…less than a week in, if sales continue the way they’re going and as we add more artwork, this is going to be a very big win for me and my art. Now, a lot can happen in between here and there, a lot already has, but it’s huge so far.
I’m experiencing this epic career moment and my friend died. Like, I still wasn’t really letting myself be excited about the WWE Shop launch because there’s been so dang many starts and stops and then Thursday night I got the text about his passing and it’s less that I don’t know how to feel and more that I’m not feeling at all. It’s an unfortunate skill I learned early in life that allows me to keep functioning while my brain tries to process these emotions.
I’ll be making the most of therapy this week, that’s for sure.
I know that what I’m experiencing right now isn’t how it’s going to be forever. The emotions will come in, they’ll be processed appropriately, and eventually that joy will settle in.
Love you more,
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