updated 12/16/2005 10:17:41 AM ET 2005-12-16T15:17:41

RITA COSBY, HOST:  Good evening, everybody.  Tonight, we‘re going to give you a rare look behind the scenes at some of the best professional wrestlers in the business.  What are they like outside of the ring?  Well, we spent almost a week with these supersized stars when we went to Afghanistan last week to visit the U.S. troops.  We‘re going to show you how dangerous it still is for these soldiers on the front line and how they feel when we and the WWE, World Wrestling Entertainment, came directly to them right in the war zone.

Now with us, some of the best WWE superstars in the business who joined us on this incredible trip, JBL, we also have the current WWE champion John Cena, WWE diva Trish Stratus, and at WWE headquarters, superstar wrestler Triple H and the head of it all, we have WWE chairman Vince McMahon.

JBL, let me start with you.  This is your fifth visit to Afghanistan. 

What‘d you think?

JBL, WWE SUPERSTAR:  It was remarkable what a difference that it has made in just several years.  You know, I was there in 2002, right after the Taliban was kicked out of Kandahar.  You could still see blood on the ground.  There were cartridge shells everywhere.  Our guys were using troops (ph) that had been taken over from the Russians and then taken over from the Taliban.  To see that and to—we always—we had a blackout every night.  You could hear mortar fire at night.  You could hear small arms fire.  You had to use a green flashlight to get around because if you use a white light, the Taliban would sight into that with their mortars.

To go there now and to see the safety that is at least existent in Kandahar and Bagram, just outside of Kabul, it‘s an amazing difference.  Our guys have done an unbelievable job.  I know it‘s not, but it seems as safe as Ft. Hood and Ft. Polk, at least right now, in Kandahar and Bagram.  Now, there‘s a lot of deadly fighting still going on, but it‘s remarkable the difference and what a great job our soldiers have done.

COSBY:  It is really impressive.  And we want to show, JBL, our viewers what you guys are like in the ring.  JBL, let me start with you.  And everybody, take a look.

You know, JBL, there‘s a shot there of you pounding on this guy.  Are you guys friends outside of the ring?

JBL:  Oh, absolutely not.  And I‘m glad you showed shots where I was winning!

(LAUGHTER)

JBL:  Yes, I mean...

COSBY:  Not with any of them.  You‘re not friends with any of them, right?

JBL:  None of them whatsoever.  They‘re all extremely jealous of me.  I‘m really a wrestling god.  I‘m actually a wrestling media maven now, with my own talk show, my own Web site.  And they‘re very jealous of me.

COSBY:  I can imagine.  Well, someone who I think is probably pretty jealous is John Cena, although he was a WWE champ, right?  Is he jealous of you, John?  What‘s the real story?

JOHN CENA, WWE SUPERSTAR:  I don‘t know.  He may be a little bit jealous because I took this title from him.

(LAUGHTER)

CENA:  But I‘ve been on the wrong end of a lot of those punches a lot of times, so I know JBL can do his thing and kick ass in the ring.  That‘s for sure.

COSBY:  Is that right, John?  How did you feel, JBL, losing it to John?

(LAUGHTER)

JBL:  Well, you know, actually, what hurt me most was the demo.  You know, my demo is kind of the middle-aged woman, who, like, three kids, divorced.  His is kind of the young 20-year-old model.  I don‘t understand the difference.

COSBY:  Well, let me show some of the difference because John Cena‘s pretty impressive in the ring.  Take a look, everybody.

John, you are so intense in your character.  What was it like to perform for the U.S. troops?  Was this a whole different audience?

CENA:  It was fantastic.  It was like our audience personified.  This is our demographic.  These are the people we preach to.  And more importantly, these are the soldiers who very rarely get entertainment over there.  A lot of entertainers will go over there, but very few entertainers will be able to perform their craft over there.  For us to do a live show over there for a crowd hot as hell, man, it was awesome.  It was fantastic.

COSBY:  You know, John, how much of is it is planned out ahead of time?  How much do you say—some of the guys I saw backstage saying, Look, I may flip you over here, I may do this.  How much of it is planned, how much of it is sort of unpredictable?  Does it depend on the opponent?

CENA:  If there is an amount that is unpredictable, you can call me Captain Unpredictable.  I live off of...

(LAUGHTER)

CENA:  I live off of just intensity, and really I enjoy the energy of not only being in the ring but the energy of the crowd.  I mean, half of our audience—you know, our audience makes up half of what‘s great about our show, so I just like to go out there and just be in charge of the moment.

COSBY:  And sort of feed off of them.  Another person who feeds off of them is Trish Stratus.  They were thrilled to see you out there.  What‘s it like being a woman in the business, Trish?

TRISH STRATUS, WWE DIVA:  Oh, it‘s—well, you know how it is being a woman in an industry that‘s male-dominated.  It‘s—you know, you got to really kind of prove yourself every time you‘re out there and try and hang with the boys.  And you know, I think there‘s a handful of women in our industry.

And it was neat to go over to meet with the soldiers, the women soldiers.  It was cool to kind of discuss with them what it‘s like living in this environment where, you know, they are—as women, you are the minority.  So it‘s kind of interesting to hear their take and kind of like seeing that they‘re strong women and we‘re strong women.  And it was really interesting to chat with them about that.

COSBY:  You know, Trish, speaking of hanging with the boys, you do a pretty good job.  You‘re a gorgeous lady.  Let me show you in the ring.  You‘re pretty incredible there.  Take a look, everybody.

Ouch!  You know, Trish, when I see you flipping these women and you getting flipped, how much does it hurt?  It‘s got to hurt a little bit, right?

STRATUS:  A little bit, yes.  No, it—you know what?  It just goes with the territory.  You take your bumps and your bruises, and it‘s—I wear mine like a badge of honor.

COSBY:  Well, you wear it well.  And I‘ll tell you, all the guys over there felt that.  In fact, we‘re showing some pictures of you talking to the troops.  They just thought you and the other divas were absolutely just the—to do (ph), hugging you, kissing you, the whole works.  Have you ever had any broken bones, though, in the process?

STRATUS:  Oh, my gosh, yes.  Let‘s see.  I don‘t know if you can get the camera shot of that.  I‘m missing a knuckle.  I‘d show you the missing tooth, but then you wouldn‘t think I‘m that glamorous.  I‘ve had a bone chip in my ankle, herniated disks.  I mean, it‘s just—but it‘s one of those things.  It goes with the territory.  It‘s, like, I played, you know, sports growing up my whole life, and it‘s just—contact sports was the kind of thing I liked when I was growing up, and I continued on as an adult.  And I love what I do.

COSBY:  Well, we love what you do, too.  You‘re great in action.

We‘re going to have more with you in a second.  We want to bring in Triple H because this guy is no slouch in the ring.  Do we have Triple H with us now?

TRIPLE H, WWE SUPERSTAR:  I am here.

COSBY:  Are you there?  OK.  Good. I want to...

TRIPLE H:  Can you hear me?

COSBY:  I want to first of all—let me—yes, I definitely can.  There you are.  Let me show you, first of all, in the ring because you look very dapper now, you got this great, elegant suit on, but you are one tough person in the ring.  Let me show everybody.

You know, Triple H, those guys out there in Afghanistan loved you.  I think you—they think that you‘re the U.S. troops fighting the Taliban because you are one bad guy out there.  Why do you think they were rooting for you so much?

TRIPLE H:  I don‘t know why they‘re right rooting for me.  I‘m pretty much the bad guy.  I think they were just troops excited to see all of us.  But I mean, as excited as they were to see me or John Cena or JBL, I think the divas were the main event of the entire trip.  They kind of lit the whole place up.

COSBY:  You know what?  We‘re showing a picture of you.  We just showed a picture (INAUDIBLE) the soldier, you out in the field.  You got a very different persona outside of the ring.  In the ring, you got this great character spewing out water.  How did you create this character, this tough, bad character?

TRIPLE H:  You know, my character just came about over time.  It was just—you know, in this business, attitude is everything, and I just took what I did in the ring at one point and turned it up to another level, turned it up to 11 and created this larger than life, badder than anything character.  Or at least, that‘s how I see it, anyways.  And you know, for the most part, my job, like JBL‘s, is to go out there and make people not like me.  And I have a very easy time doing that.

COSBY:  Well, I ended up liking you.  I‘m sorry about that.  I don‘t want to break the rules.

Let me bring in the guy, of course, who started it all, Vince McMahon, who‘s sitting next to you.  But first, everybody, let me show you a little bit of Vince McMahon in action.

Vince, you yourself have a great character.  You‘re obviously a great businessman.  Was this just an amazing opportunity for to you go perform for the troops?

VINCE MCMAHON, WWE CHAIRMAN:  It‘s really the biggest night of the year for us, notwithstanding “Wrestlemania,” which is, generally speaking, thought of as the biggest night.  But I think if you ask every performer who was there, to a person, they would say that this was the biggest night perhaps of their entire career.  When you perform before the most appreciative audience ever, which is the men and women of the armed forces, you never forget that, you know?  And it‘s a feeling that you always want to embrace.

COSBY:  You know, were you surprised at the reaction that you got, too?  Because they looked at you—I called you “the general” on the air because they truly did look at you as the general on the base.  When you arrived there, Vince, that was a great feeling for you, I‘m sure.

MCMAHON:  Well, I‘ve been around for so long, Rita, some would say that I‘m a father figure, others would say I‘m a grandfather figure.  So I‘ve been around for a while.  It was nicer...

COSBY:  Why—why do you think it‘s worked out, Vince?  Why do you think the business has done so well?  You seem to kind of keep it fresh, and you surprise everybody with these new twists and turns all the time.  Is that part of it?

MCMAHON:  Sure.  I think part of every entertainment company is reinventing yourself every now and then.  But aside from that, you know, this is a natural thing to do and to watch, wrestling.  You know, when you think about it, it‘s a natural sport.  If you go back to, you know, ancient history, it‘s just a natural.  It‘s what you do when you‘re playing on the playground.  I mean, it‘s—you wrestle.  It‘s a natural thing to do.

And when you can add these colorful characters and storylines and a little soap opera and a little action adventure and comedy and everything else, you know, with the music and the pyro and the panache and the grandeur of what we do, there‘s nothing like it.  It‘s a variety show, and there‘s nothing like it in the world.

COSBY:  (INAUDIBLE) absolutely (INAUDIBLE)  It was great to see it firsthand.

When we come back, everybody, we‘re going to talk about memorable moments.  Stay with us, Vince.  And of course, we‘re going to have all the great wrestlers also.  When we come back, we‘re going to show you what happened behind the scenes, outrageous and some heartwarming moments as the superstars gave it their all for the troops with us in Afghanistan.

And we‘ve got the latest about a young and very brave Marine who we met on our trip.  He survived a deadly attack in Iraq where 10 of his comrades were killed.  We are going to tell you how he‘s doing.  It is all coming up.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I‘m Tech Sergeant Brad Satin (ph) in the United States Air Force, based out of Colorado Springs, Colorado.  And I just want to wish Christa and Marlene Kyle a merry Christmas.  I love you.  I miss you.  Thanks.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I‘m Corporal John Chriswell (ph) stationed at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan.  I‘d like to say hi to A.J. and Beverly, my mom and dad, Christie, my wife, Becca, my daughter, Joshua, my son, and Samuel, my son, and Sydney, my daughter.  Merry Christmas to all of you.  Happy new year, and I‘ll see you next summer.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSBY:  Well, we met a lot of amazing soldiers, had a real amazing experience traveling with the WWE as they visited and performed for those brave men and women fighting the war on terror.

We now want to show you how they put together this incredible mission.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(voice-over):  These giants of the wrestling world have performed at thousands of shows and entertained millions of fans across the country, but they all told me nothing compares to our recent visit to Afghanistan, which they say was one of the most important events of their lives.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Everybody was going, Thank you, thank you, thank you.  I mean, these are the people who give us the opportunities we have in life, and they provide, you know, safety for us throughout the world.  And it‘s just awesome.  A little girl, 23 years old, saw Shawn Michaels, she started (INAUDIBLE) on her eyes, woke up, she started crying.  She said, We didn‘t believe you guys were coming because nobody comes here.  She said, Nobody comes here.  They always say they‘re going to come and they don‘t come.  And that alone was the most—you know, that was the rewarding moment or one of the most rewarding moments of my life (INAUDIBLE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  What I do is entertain.  What these guys do is kick ass.  And that‘s what we‘re here to show support for the guys who are kicking ass for the good old USA.

COSBY (on camera):  How was it to perform in front of these guys?  Was this the best audience?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You know what?  These guys are great.  They‘re huge WWE fans.  The WWE is big fans of them.  And you know what?  This is going to be awesome.  We‘re going to have a lot of time and we‘re going to have a good time.

COSBY (voice-over):  It takes a massive effort to send the actual WWE ring all the way to Afghanistan inside the already packed C-17 cargo plane, which contained all the wrestlers, including one appropriately called Big Show.  Despite the long journey, everyone agreed it was worth the effort, especially the eager troops on the front lines who couldn‘t wait to see their wrestling idols.

(on camera):  How far did it take to get here?  How long?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  About five hours, four-and-a-half to five hours.

COSBY:  Was it worth it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It was totally worth it, ma‘am.  Totally worth it. 

We enjoyed it, and it was the best thing we‘re probably going to have.

COSBY:  What does mean to you to have the WWE here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Well, it means a lot.  We‘re over here.  We‘ve been over here nine months.  And to have these guys come in really shows the support of the American people and the WWE.  And I‘ll tell you, it‘s got everybody‘s morale up.  Huge, huge event for us, and we‘re all very excited.

COSBY:  What is it like for to you see the wrestlers?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It was a really great thing today, and it really boosted morale for everybody and it was a nice change-up from the daily grind.

COSBY (voice-over):  And this event is not just for the captive American audience but for the Afghans, as well.  For the very first time, Afghan TV will be showing a wrestling event.  They‘ll also be showing the divas, but only from the neck up.

KHALID PAJHWOK, AFGHAN NEWS AGENCY:  No, no, no.  It‘s impossible to show (INAUDIBLE) clothes, no clothes -- (INAUDIBLE) woman, but because here is Islamic country and we can‘t and we don‘t have information from (INAUDIBLE), and we will show the close shot of them.

COSBY:  This is the first time you‘re broadcasting wrestling, right?

PAJHWOK:  Yes, first time.

COSBY:  How do you think your audience will receive this?  Do you think they‘ll like it?

PAJHWOK:  Yes, yes.  We have a lot of audience.  We have Web site.  We broadcast (INAUDIBLE) publish news from the Web site.  I‘m sure 100 percent (INAUDIBLE) audience (INAUDIBLE) and will be—they‘re happy.  (INAUDIBLE) first champion in Afghanistan.  It‘s very exciting things for (INAUDIBLE) .

COSBY:  How tough is it, General, for the troops being here during the holidays?

BRIG. GEN. JAMES G. CHAMPION, COMBINED JOINT TASK FORCE 76:  It‘s very tough, especially for those that have been back a second, third, fourth times, in many cases, myself included.  This will be my second Christmas here.  But—you know, but we‘ve got a family.  We‘re here.  We‘re all together.  It‘s actually probably, in some cases, a little bit easier on us because we‘ve got each other, and our families are back home.  But, it‘s still tough.  Thanksgiving was tough, and Christmas is usually the toughest one of all.  But this‘ll help.

COSBY:  Is this Christmas for you?

CHAMPION:  Oh, this is Christmas.  This is—everybody‘s having a great time out here.  Weather‘s good.  A lot of pretty ladies out here and great wrestlers.  We‘re having a great time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes, it was awesome.  One thing I always say is we come in here, we‘re dressed like this, we get them all hot and bothered and then we go, Good-bye.  We feel bad for them a little bit.

COSBY:  Like a typical woman!

ASHLEY, WWE DIVA:  Yes, it was a lot of fun.  The best crowd ever, definitely.  And we‘re just so lucky to be able to perform in front of them.  It‘s been a great experience.  The best—one of the best experiences of my life, definitely.

COSBY:  Are you going to remember this forever?

STRATUS:  Oh, for sure.  You know—hey, I‘ll tell what.  I know performing in front of the guys is great, but there‘s a lot of women here, not too many because they‘re amongst men.  But you know what?  There are some kick-ass babes out there, and that‘s what we try do when we go out there.  And they were, you know, representing (ph) for them.  So it was cool.

COSBY:  Shawn, what was it like to perform for the troops?

SHAWN MICHAELS, WWE SUPERSTAR:  That was the single greatest show I‘ve ever done.  I mean, you always want to get a crowd where they‘re behind you 100 percent of the time, and that‘s what you get here.  Both guys.  They root for both of us 100 percent of the time.  They were so appreciative.

This was—you know, it‘s so humbling to come here and see these people thinking we‘re a big deal after everything that they go through, everything that they‘ve done for us, that they find us special.  It‘s truly the most humbling experience I‘ve ever had.

When I go to work, I just see myself as, you know, going to work as a wrestler.  I mean, and for these people to think that—we‘re a little piece of home for them, and that is so wonderful.  And at this time of year, going into Christmas, it truly makes you come back and be thankful for absolutely everything that we have.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COSBY:  And we‘re joined once again by the WWE superstars who joined us on our amazing trip—JBL, John Cena, diva Trish Stratus, Triple H, and of course, WWE chairman Vince McMahon.  Vince, let me start with you.  Why do you think, in Shawn Michaels‘s words, he finds all the wrestlers so special and you so special?

MCMAHON:  Well, this was a very special occasion, again, for us, the most appreciative audience, as I said earlier in the broadcast, than we‘ll ever have.  And again, when you have the ability to give like that, it‘s an amazing feeling, you know, that Shawn was making reference to.  And to know that you can put a smile on someone‘s face, you know, who is serving our nation, that‘s a big thrill for us.

COSBY:  Yes, I bet.  It must have been just—talk about the best Christmas present for all of you and certainly for all of us.  JBL, why do you think the soldiers are fascinated with wrestlers?  What is it, the size, the style, the fight?  What is it?

JBL:  I think it‘s because the WWE crosses all demographics and all boundaries.  You know, you take a musical group, you‘re going to alienate certain people.  You take the WWE, and everybody, from young to old, no matter what their race, culture, can appreciate what we do.  And I think also they understand that we are much bigger fans of theirs than they‘ll ever be of ours.  We really admire what we do, and I think they know that.

COSBY:  John Cena, what do you think it is?  What‘s the draw?

CENA:  It‘s just—it provides escape.  It provides escape from your daily grind.  And for us to go over in a scenario like that, that provides the ultimate escape.  We just wanted everybody to know over there that we‘re not forgetting about them, and none of the people at home are forgetting about them.  If they‘re willing to risk their lives for us, we‘re willing to provide them with a little escape before the holidays that they can‘t be home for.

COSBY:  You know, and Triple H, it definitely provided an escape.  You can tell there.  I think the memories that these guys saw and just the vision of seeing you guys is going to stay with them for a long time.  But what was it?  I mean, when they saw you guys, there was this—this “I can‘t believe they‘re here” look.

TRIPLE H:  I honestly think it‘s—you know, when you think of the WWE, I think you think of United States.  You think of America.  We are a piece of Americana.  And I think that, you know, for a lot of guys that are in a faraway place that are very homesick, we brought them a piece of home and let them feel it again, let them feel what it was like to go crazy and have a good time.  And we just let them reach out and touch home just for a minute, maybe not the home they exactly wanted to be at but something from home.  And I think that‘s the key for the guys there, anyways.

COSBY:  And Trish, we‘ll just take one look at you, and we know why they were happy to see you.

(LAUGHTER)

STRATUS:  Oh, well, thank you!  Too bad we were only shown from the neck up.  I had a great outfit.

COSBY:  Yes, what did you—what did you make of that, the Afghan—

I thought that was so funny, the Afghan TV, because tradition...

STRATUS:  Yes.

COSBY:  ... they‘re going to show the divas, but show you from here up.  You look pretty good from here up.

STRATUS:  Yes.  Well, you know, it was neat to just talk to some of the women about the progress that they‘ve made with the—you know, restoring the women‘s rights because, you know, just the thought that we‘re out there performing on a center stage in a women‘s wrestling match in a country where women‘s rights have been—you know, just only four years ago, women couldn‘t even leave their houses.  You know, they had to be fully covered.  They couldn‘t go school.  They could not work.  So I mean, it‘s quite empowering as a woman, for sure.

COSBY:  Absolutely.  It definitely was neat to be there.  All of you, thank you.  Stick with us because still ahead, we‘ve got new details about a Marine who all of us met who survived a deadly terrorist attack while we were in Ramstein.  We‘re going to tell you how he‘s doing.  There‘s some good news.

And you‘ll see some amazing moments as the WWE superstars had some fun in the middle of the war zone.  Everybody was thrilled.  I got some of the best laughs of my life.  Stay tuned.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I‘m Sergeant Angel Silva (ph) with 164th MP Company, combat medic.  Just want to say hi to my wife and kids back in Alaska, Joshua and Melissa.  I miss you guys, love you guys.  See you guys soon.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSBY:  Well, there were many memorable moments during our entire trip.  One of the most emotional was the day that WWE superstar Triple H and I, along with some of the other wrestlers, had a chance to meet the wounded soldiers at Landstuhl Medical Center, right near Ramstein in Germany.  This is where seriously wounded soldiers are taken directly from the front lines.

One Marine, the guy that you see there, really touched our hearts.  That was Lance Corporal Michael Larson.  He was injured near Falluja in Iraq when a roadside bomb went off on December 1.  Ten of his fellow Marines were killed in that same blast.  I had the chance to talk with Lance Corporal Larson from his hospital bed.  Here‘s what he remembered about that fateful day in Iraq.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LANCE CPL. MICHAEL LARSON, 2/70 FOX COMPANY:  As I was walking over, I remember all of a sudden I was knocked to the ground.  And I couldn‘t move my leg or my right arm.  So we called for the doc.  And I guess doc was working on other people.  Eventually, he got to me. 

COSBY:  What were you hit by? 

LARSON:  Shrapnel. 

COSBY:  How serious are your wounds?

LARSON:  I‘ve got an open fracture to my right femur.  There‘s a pin holding it in.  They pulled a piece of shrapnel about that big out of my right butt cheek and three smaller ones out of my right arm right there, this here. 

COSBY:  But you‘re alive? 

LARSON:  Yes. 

COSBY:  How thankful are that you survived? 

LARSON:  Very thankful. 

COSBY:  Are you proud, still, to serve your country? 

LARSON:  Yes, I am. 

COSBY:  And you‘re 21 years old? 

LARSON:  Yes. 

COSBY:  Why are you proud to be serving this country still? 

LARSON:  Because the people I serve with, like my buddy (INAUDIBLE) he‘s the guy that saved me, the guys that I‘ve worked with. 

COSBY:  How tough was it what you went through, when you look back at it?  That must have just been frightening.

LARSON:  Yes.  They just told me now that other people died in there, so—I didn‘t know that. 

COSBY:  Did any of your fellow marines died that day? 

LARSON:  Yes. 

COSBY:  How tough was it when you heard the news about your fellow marines? 

LARSON:  It‘s pretty tough. 

COSBY:  You‘re the lucky one.

LARSON:  Yes. 

COSBY:  You‘re lucky you‘re alive.

TRIPLE H, WWE SUPERSTAR:  It‘s hard (INAUDIBLE) kids, you know?  They have no idea what it means to us. 

COSBY:  What are you going to remember most about this visit? 

TRIPLE H:  Smiles.  Smiles on these—on the faces of these kids that are over here, whether anybody appreciates it or doesn‘t appreciate it.  And half the time I don‘t think people do.  Whether they appreciate it or not, they‘re over here doing good. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COSBY:  And there‘s some good news.  We talked to Lance Corporal Larson‘s parents today.  He is now back in the States, had surgery, but is recuperating. 

And let‘s now bring in WWE superstar Triple H.  You know, Triple H, that was clearly emotional for you to be there and to hear this guy‘s story. 

TRIPLE H, WWE SUPERSTAR:  Yes, I mean, it definitely was, you know, to

it‘s one thing to see it on TV.  It‘s another thing to go stand there, you know, face to face with a young guy, 21 years old, that could be anybody on the street next to you, you know? 

And there he is in a faraway place defending our country, you know, the people that are—have now become his family that he‘s with are getting killed around him.  I mean, it‘s a very emotional story, but I think the thing that touched me the most about it was how much pride a guy like that still has and what he does there. 

Most of the guys that we talked to that had serious injuries like that can‘t wait to go back.  It‘s that pride and that sense of honor that they have and belief in what they‘re doing is right and the right thing for this country that that‘s what touched you the most.  It‘s the sacrifice that they made, but their pride in doing it. 

COSBY:  Yes, it really was inspiring. 

You know, John Cena, you were out and about, going to all the different bases.  What‘s your, sort of, most memorable moment of the trip? 

JOHN CENA, WWE SUPERSTAR:  Well, it‘s along the same thing.  I just couldn‘t believe that the pride these troops had.  We did a basic C-130 flight from Salerno back to Bagram.  We flew with these six guys.  They were all about it.

It was called the D-Sanchez (ph) gang.  They were unbelievable.  I mean, they were high-fiving each other.  Their heads were on a swivel.  They knew the ins and outs of the aircraft.  And they were proud to be there.  They really just enjoyed themselves.  They enjoyed what they were doing.  And you can see that‘s a bond, that‘s a friendship that‘s going to last them a lifetime.

It was amazing that over there, in times of conflict, in such, you know, conditions, that they‘re still—you know, those memories will last those guys a lifetime.  They‘ll be friends for life. 

COSBY:  Tell me a little bit more about the Deuce (ph), that group? 

CENA:  It just, it was—they separated themselves from everybody, obviously, with the mustaches.  They have their own t-shirts.  They‘ve done it all. 

And it was just—their morale was so high.  You know, we were on a basic flight.  And it was like that all over the place.  We went to Salerno on the front lines, where they have an area called the big guns, that‘s patrolled by Sergeant Zeneca (ph). 

All those kids, about 20 kids who were in charge of these Howitzer long-range cannons, that are, like, first in line for the attacks.  These guys were all about it. 

And they were not only all about their mission, but all about each other.  And that‘s really what struck me.  I mean, I knew that soldiers fighting together had that certain camaraderie, but just to see these guys work was just something else, man.  They really enjoy each other‘s company.  And they really are just all about it. 

COSBY:  That‘s so great.

Trish, what inspired you?  What struck you? 

STRATUS:  I was actually sitting with a young guy.  And we were having some lunch in the mess hall.  And, you know, so I got up, I said, “Thanks for lunch” and gave him a hug.  And he just said, “You know”—I said, “Thank you.”  And he said, “No, thank you,” and he actually started to tear up. 

And he just said, you know, the fact that we come over here to say thank you, and you guys are—we appreciate you guys, it just—he said it makes us feel like we‘re not forgotten, and it reminds them that what they‘re doing is not for nothing. 

And you know, he just said, “I can‘t thank you for that, to just to go on and know that we are making a difference, people do care about us, and we‘re not forgotten.”  And it was just a touching moment.  And it was really special to know that we can touch their lives like that. 

COSBY:  JBL, what about your fun moments and memorable moments? 

JBL:  I have a little bit of a different one.

(LAUGHTER)

COSBY:  You had a lot?  You probably had about 30 or 40 of them just on the plane over.  I saw you in action. 

JBL:  I had a great time.  Let me tell you, going to see these troops over Christmas just makes my year.  It‘s something I hope I get to do the rest of my life. 

One of the most memorable instances this year, we landed in Kandahar.  And they had a jousting pit set up, where you stand up on a pedestal, you have a foam pad you can land on.  And this young soldier—you might call him wiry; I would call him skinny—called out all the wrestlers. 

So we send our young bull, Chris Masters—we call him the masterpiece; he has these huge arms, this great big body.  And Chris proved that, while he looks like Tarzan, he fights like Jane.  The soldier beat him 3-0.  The soldier proved he was extremely tough and that Chris probably should retire. 

(LAUGHTER)

COSBY:  Yes, I understand that Chris is—couldn‘t make it tonight. 

He‘s at a lady‘s psychiatric clinic, is that correct? 

(LAUGHTER)

JBL:  Chris is on a show right now with Dr. Phil.  He‘s going through counseling right now for losing to a person that is 150 pounds smaller than him. 

COSBY:  Why do you think, even just the jousting and seeing these folks, putting a laugh on their faces meant so much, right? 

JBL:  Absolutely.  These guys—you know, we‘re there to entertain.  We‘re there just to let them have fun for awhile.  They have the most mundane and sometimes boring jobs.  But they do it because they‘re soldiers.  They do it because they bleed red, white and blue.

And when we‘re there, we‘re just there to let them have fun.  Let them tell us whatever they want.  If they want autographs, if they want to tell us about their weapon or whatever they do, that‘s what we‘re there for.  And we had a great time, except for Chris Masters.  He didn‘t. 

(LAUGHTER)

COSBY:  Yes, he‘s going to need a lot of years of therapy from what I understand. 

Vince McMahon, your favorite moment?

MCMAHON:  I guess, maybe, my favorite moment is I get to hear almost all the stories from so many of the superstars.  And, you know, when you listen to all of them, it‘s heartwarming, to say the least. 

But then when you walk out in front of that audience, and you feel all of that emotion from these men and women, it‘s just...

COSBY:  Vince, I‘ve got to interrupt you, because that‘s not a walk; that‘s a real strong strut. 

MCMAHON:  OK, some things come natural.  But it just washes over you. 

You know, I mean, this emotion, this wave of emotion just washes over you. 

And it‘s a feeling that you will never, ever forget as a performer. 

COSBY:  Yes, what was that like?  What a rush, Vince.  I mean, you performed and been everywhere.  I mean, all the decades you‘ve been at WWE.  But what does that feel like?  What‘s that energy, when you walk out and you see thousands of troops just so happy to see you? 

MCMAHON:  I‘m not eloquent enough to describe it, really.  It‘s so heartwarming and so thrilling at the same time and so satisfying.  But yet, at the same time, you want to be able to give them more. 

You know, it‘s an amazing experience.  There‘s nothing like it.  I mean, a Wrestlemania moment is supposed to be the height of what we do.  And to a certain extent, it is.  But nothing equals this. 

COSBY:  Well, it was great to see you in action. 

Everybody, stick with us.  Still ahead, more of our amazing trip to Afghanistan.  Some of the other parts that you have not seen.  We‘re going to take you back into the air.  We‘re also going to show you the treacherous terrain that our troops are encountering every day.  And you‘re going to meet some of the terrific and very dedicated U.S. men and women serving overseas.  Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RIC FLAIR, WWE SUPERSTAR:  Whew. 

COSBY:  Wow. 

FLAIR:  Whew. 

COSBY:  Wow. 

FLAIR:  Whew. 

COSBY:  Wow. 

FLAIR:  Whew. 

COSBY:  Wow. 

FLAIR:  Whew. 

COSBY:  Wow. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSBY:  Well, that was WWE legend and—not so much of a legend—me.  But that was WWE legend Ric Flair and I having a little fun during our visit to Bagram Airfield. 

Even though we literally spent less than three days in Afghanistan, it was one of the most powerful and meaningful trips of my life, to be able to say thanks to those men and women on the front lines who‘ll be stuck there for the holidays in rough weather, rough terrain, and still with a very unpredictable enemy. 

One of the highlights for me was going out with the 164th Military Police Company from Alaska, as they went outside the wire, the safety of the base, and they patrolled. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COSBY (voice-over):  We drove many miles through rural villages, unsure of who or what may lie ahead. 

(on-screen):  Captain, as we were driving up here, lots of cars on the side of the road, lots of people. 

CAPT. JEFF WOOTEN, 164TH MILITARY POLICE COMPANY:  Yes.

COSBY:  How do you know they‘re not Taliban? 

WOOTEN:  That‘s the one thing that‘s about this area you don‘t know.  You really won‘t know until you‘re getting, you know, small-arms fire on you, and then you go ahead and return fire. 

But we have a good working relationship with the AMP and the AHP in this area.  And we‘re pretty confident with the patrols that our guys are doing, with the joint patrols that they‘re doing with the AMP, that the area here is pretty secure. 

COSBY:  But still, something could surprise you. 

WOOTEN:  Something can surprise you at any moment, yes. 

COSBY (voice-over):  Ultimately, we end up at this extremely remote Afghan police checkpoint in the middle of the mountains located at an altitude of 5,700 feet. 

(on-screen):  Sergeant, tell me about what you brought in for these guys. 

SGT. DAVID CAUSER, 164TH MILITARY POLICE COMPANY:  Oh, well, a couple of days ago, we brought them up 1,500 sandbags, along with all the other checkpoints.  We dropped them off there. 

What we end up doing is we give them to them so they can place them and fortify their positions through here.  As you can see for most of the terrain around here, this is pretty much a strategic position for this area. 

We walk them through, show them the best place to set them up for fallback positions, and everything like that, so they can better defend themselves.  This checkpoint alone gets hit more often than not.  You can see brass casings underneath the bunks over there and stuff.  So they hit a lot. 

COSBY:  This is a key sort of strategic point? 

CAUSER:  Roger that.  Roger that. 

COSBY:  Just because of the visibility, the high altitude? 

CAUSER:  The visibility, the interest into the Taga valley (ph), everything.  So we pretty much—we established this checkpoint about a month ago for them.  And we continue to build it up for them, because, like I said, it is pretty strategic for the area around here. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COSBY:  And we also got to see Afghanistan from the air.  Minutes after we landed—literally minutes—we were taken up in a Chinook helicopter to two forward-operating bases in northeastern Afghanistan.  That was me and that was my executive producer, Angie Door (ph), on the other side.  A big show, as you can see. 

We went up in that Chinook near the Pakistani border in the heart of Taliban country.  It was incredible to see the security around us and the great reaction from the soldiers when we arrived.  Many of them had not seen a visitor in a long, long time. 

And behind us in the Black Hawk that you‘re seeing there was Vince McMahon and Triple H.  So they were not too far away. 

Well, these chopper pilots really know their stuff.  I met one Black Hawk pilot who just won the Silver Star for flying into enemy territory and saving some U.S. soldiers, some special ops under heavy fire.  Both he and his wife are pilots and they shared their story with us.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COSBY:  How many husband and wife teams are there out there? 

CW3 CHRISTOPHER PALUMBO, BLACK HAWK PILOT:  There‘s quite a few, actually, like four or five out there.

COSBY:  In terms of the Black Hawk pilots?

C. PALUMBO:  I believe there‘s three or four Black Hawk pilots.

COSBY:  What is it like as a woman to fly a Black Hawk? 

CWO ELVIA PALUMBO, BLACK HAWK PILOT:  It‘s great.  It‘s great.

COSBY:  Do you put the guys to shame? 

E. PALUMBO:  It is better when we have two females flying the Black Hawks together.

(LAUGHTER)

COSBY:  Yes, because you‘re much smarter than any guy, right?

E. PALUMBO:  Yes.

(LAUGHTER)

COSBY:  Now, who is the better pilot of the two of you? 

C. PALUMBO:  She is. 

COSBY:  Yes, that‘s the right answer.

(LAUGHTER)

Was that the right answer, guys? 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COSBY:  Of course, all the married men said that was, indeed, the right answer.  Well, something that really meant a lot to me was reuniting, also, a father and a son.  The father I met in New York.  He actually gave me a letter to hand-deliver to his son in Afghanistan.  That was before I left on the trip. 

So we surprised them and invited them on the show, both of them not knowing that the other would be on. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COSBY:  Neither one of you knew about this surprise.  You got a very happy son right here.  What do you want to say to your dad who‘s listening? 

SGT. JACK KILBRIDE, U.S. ARMY:  Well, you know, I thought the voice-over-Internet was pretty cool, but this is awesome. 

(LAUGHTER)

COSBY:  What do you want to say to your dad about the letter? 

KILBRIDE:  Hey, Dad, I appreciate the letter.  Thanks.  And tell Mom I said hi, tell her I love her and merry Christmas to the rest of them.  And I‘ll give you guys a call later.  My wife, I love you, and I‘ll call you later, too. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSBY:  What a great moment. 

Well, there were some other ones, especially seeing these wrestlers interact with the soldiers.  Here‘s WWE superstar Shelton Benjamin in action. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COSBY:  You feel pretty safe out here with all of these weapons? 

SHELTON BENJAMIN, WWE SUPERSTAR:  I feel pretty safe out with all of these gorgeous ladies. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  And he smells real good, too.

(LAUGHTER)

COSBY:  Is this your future husband? 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Yes, this is my future ex-husband. 

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  We‘ll go in the ring to take me on for that.  I take you on, in the ring.  I challenge you.  Female—no male-female, just equal opportunity.

COSBY:  What do you say to that?

BENJAMIN:  I said we‘re going to have a coed match.  You‘ve got to leave the guns outside, though. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COSBY:  I think Shelton got a few marriage proposals there.  And he, of course, is a big guy.  But believe me, he looks like a midget compared to one wrestler, appropriately named Big Show. 

Big Show weighs more than 500 pounds.  Needless to say, he really stood out on the trip. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COSBY:  (INAUDIBLE) you guys are not strong enough to pick him up.

(AUDIENCE CHEERING)

BIG SHOW, WWE SUPERSTAR:  (INAUDIBLE) is the new flap-jacket (INAUDIBLE) it‘s the freshest look (INAUDIBLE)

JBL:  We‘re doing a special operation drop when we get to Afghanistan.  It‘s called Operation Dumbo Drop.  And we‘re going to have a cargo plane actually drop him in the middle of the desert. 

COSBY:  This is Big Show, who is 500 pounds.

JBL:  He must have lost weight. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSBY:  You know JBL‘s going to be in big trouble now when Big Show sees this. 

(LAUGHTER)

All right, well, still ahead, everybody, the WWE superstars didn‘t travel halfway around the world just to have some fun with each other and fun with the troops.  They also had some big work to do.  You‘re going to get a sneak peak at their tribute to the troops with Vince McMahon and the other superstars.  They‘re all coming up. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  My name is (INAUDIBLE) Carter.  I‘m with TC CAB Aviation (ph).  And I‘d like to say a shoutout to my parents out in San Antonio, Texas, and my wife in Germany.  And I‘ll be home soon to see the baby being born.  So happy holidays to everybody. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Actually, I want to say to my mom, my wife, and especially my son, Nicolas, I love you, you‘re in my prayers everyday, and I think about you everyday.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSBY:  Well, we had a great trip.  And the WWE is going to be highlighting the trip next Monday night on USA Network during an action-packed special appropriately called “Tribute to the Troops.”  It‘s going to be on USA Network.

Let‘s bring back in WWE Chairman Vince McMahon and some of the superstars to tell us all about it.

Vince, what do you think people are going to take away from it, from the special?

MCMAHON:  Well, they‘re going to see a lot of exciting matches.  There‘s a boot-camp match between Triple H and S Michaels.  There‘s a match -- I think the first time ever—Good Santa versus Bad Santa.  There‘s a diva tag-team match.  There‘s John Cena competes.  I mean, there‘s all kind of action there.

But the most important aspect of it is the emotion that you will feel, that raw emotion you will feel from the troops, the men and women of the Armed Forces.

COSBY:  JBL, what do you think people are going to take away?  What‘s the biggest thing, the commitment and dedication of these guys? 

JBL:  Absolutely.  That‘s why we do it every year.  That‘s why the WWE films this.  We try to show the troops.  We show as many as we can.  And we try to show the environments that they live in, what they go through. 

And I think, when people see this, they‘re going to see the quality of the people that we have defending our country.  It really is awesome.  It‘s going to be a great show. 

COSBY:  Triple H, do you think they‘ll have a better appreciation?  I did.  You know, I‘ve always respected the military, but I really learned a lot about what they go through day in, day out.

TRIPLE H:  I think so.  I think this will give you a little bit of flavor for that.  I mean, this is the one show a year that we do this.  And it‘s not really about us.  This is about them.  You know, they‘re the stars of the show on this one. 

And like Vince said, there is a lot of action.  There are a lot of great matches.  But the stars of the show really are the troops that are there. 

And speaking of impressed, Rita, I got to say, I was impressed with you.  You hung in there that whole trip.  You know, you want a job?  Maybe I can talk to Vince for you, you know, if you want to get in the ring a little bit.

COSBY:  The only thing is...

TRIPLE H:  You seem pretty tough.  I think you could hang. 

COSBY:  Can I take a job behind the scenes, so I don‘t have to go in the ring?  Would that be OK?

TRIPLE H:  You know, we‘ll have to work on that.  You might have to pay some dues in the ring first, but we‘ll get there. 

COSBY:  Ouch.  Can I do it with Chris Masters? 

(LAUGHTER)

TRIPLE H:  Yes, that‘d be an easy win for you to start with, probably, yes. 

COSBY:  I got to get a win under my belt. 

Speaking of someone who‘s had a lot of wins under their belt, John Cena, the champ.  What do you think folks are going to take away from the event on Monday night when they see it? 

CENA:  I just hope that they get an appreciation for the men and women over there risking their lives for this country.  You know, there‘s still a lot of stuff going on, maybe a lot of stuff people don‘t know about. 

And I just hope—this is a two-hour segment—to the people who loyally watch WWE that it can get them up to speed on really who is out there on the frontlines.  I mean, this is WWE doing what we do, but it‘s a two-hour special, like Triple H said, like Vince said, like JBL said, devoted to the troops, and that‘s what‘s most important. 

COSBY:  And, John, can you hold up that belt, because, you know, one thing I learned about you on the trip, you‘re a real gentleman, you‘re very gracious.  And JBL has told me that this would be a good time for you to give him the belt back. 

(CROSSTALK)

JBL:  You know what, I lost to you three straight.  Just give it back to me, please. 

CENA:  I‘m not taken any more beatdowns from JBL.  I‘ve taken my last potatoes from JBL.  I got it now.  I‘m keeping it.  I‘m not letting John Bradshaw Layfield anywhere near this.

(LAUGHTER)

COSBY:  Well, we‘re going to watch Monday and see who the big winners are on Monday night.  And, you guys, thank you so much.  All of you, it‘s been just a real pleasure to be with and spend some time with in Afghanistan.  Just true heroes in the ring and outside of the ring.  All of you, thank you so much.

And, everybody, be sure to tune in Monday night, USA Network, WWE, “Tribute to the Troops,” Monday night.  Everybody, you‘ve got to see this.  It is awesome.  And we‘re going to be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSBY:  Well, tonight, our LIVE & DIRECT team is working hard on new developments in the Natalee Holloway case.  Representatives from the Aruban government are meeting in Washington, just days after an official on the island made a decision that could set back the case for months.  Will their meeting in Washington bring out any new efforts?  Find out tomorrow night.

And that does it for me this evening from Los Angeles.  Joe is up now.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

Copy: Content and programming copyright 2005 NBC.  ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED. transcription Copyright 2005 Voxant, Inc.  ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon NBC and Voxant, Inc.‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.

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