My Trainers

January 14, 2009

I think I’ve been fortunate over my handful of professional wrestling years to be trained by some great people. Because it’s painfully evident that most of the miscreants have little or no training anyone, I thought I’d take the opportunity to highlight some of the men that shaped much of what I became drawing a sharp contrast to much of the upstarts these days. Many of the core wrestling techniques that was once passed on have all but been abandoned or forgotten to a generation that seems to be more so playing wrestler rather than respecting a craft. I can only hope that explaining some of these experiences could help those looking for a possible edge or way to stand out from the crowd.

Dick Woehrle

Few would even know that legendary referee Dick Woehrle even played any role in my wrestling training in my early onset but nothing could be further from the truth. At the time, my group of backyard wrestling friends had been renting the ring from Larry Sharpe to perform shows for our own personal entertainment but the training fee was very much out of the question for any of us. One in our group casually knew Dick Woehrle and we were made aware of the training center shortly after it opened in Voorhees, New Jersey.

At the time, the few of us in the group that attended knew how to bump but that was about it. We actually had wrestling boots and could do a few fancy moves so the other students believed we had more training than we actually did. While we did pick up more of the trade secrets at a deep discount compared to the Monster Factory, the most powerful training came from the messages Dick Woehrle provided. It was interesting because he offered a much different perspective being a professional referee. The situations he would detail were that of an outsider looking in rather than the performer entertaining the crowd. Because he had been a part of and or witnessed some historic moments over the years, he had a keen understanding of how your actions or reactions would or could be perceived. He was able to offer an interesting take on how to capture the interests of the people sitting in the seats that I was able to take with me throughout my career.

“Pretty Boy” Larry Sharpe

Ironically, Larry Sharpe spent only a handful of minutes with me during my time at the Monster Factory but that was the mantra during those days. I paid him a ridiculous amount of money to slap me in the face one time and talk me through a flying hammerlock on another. I didn’t enjoy the slap in the face and it took me years to even understand how the flying hammerlock was supposed to be done. I endured a lot of punishment because I came after D-Lo and he skipped town without paying the full training fee. After close to a year of little to no training, I did very much the same thing. I only ran into Larry twice since then and each time I wondered if he would slap me again.

The amazing thing is that my time before becoming an official Monster Factory student was when I got my best training. This was a good year prior when D-Lo had first signed up and East Coast independent standout Glenn “The Spider” Ruth was the trainer. Glenn was harsh and brutal to green horns but a good trainer none the less. It was often that Larry was not at the school and I was D-Lo’s ride to training. I would regularly get pulled in the ring as a test dummy and sometimes taught along as part of the class. Some may or may not believe this but Glenn was able to express wrestling psychology in a way that it was impossible not to grasp. It took me sometime to make that magic happen in a ring but I still understood what was supposed to be done. Like many, those were great experiences in that ring worm infested ring that I will cherish.

Al Snow

You will find a reoccurring theme with just about all of my trainers that D-Lo played some part or had a heavy hand in how my training came about. This was never more evident than when he opened the door for me to train at Al Snow’s school in Lima, Ohio. An agreement made between Al and D-Lo completely shaped what was to come of Reckless Youth. Notwithstanding the agreement that has been discussed in previous stories, the Al Snow training opened my eyes to a completely different style of wrestling.

My Al Snow training experience began after I abruptly left the Monster Factory in the middle of 1995. At the time, I had been training for about 2 years and thought myself to be very knowledgeable about many of the basic techniques and holds. I was very much in for a rude awakening once I attended my first day to class. Al proceeded to teach about five counters to every one counter I knew for any particular hold and taught several variants on various holds that I had not ever even seen at the time. It was almost as if I was starting from the beginning all over again with the overwhelming amount of knowledge I received on one day alone. In general, his training techniques were much different as well because it was a dojo style center with you living onsite for 3 to 4 months and training several times a day. Every day included two wrestling training sessions, weight training, cardio training, and video study. It felt as though there was barely enough time to eat. To top it off, he actually had a waiting list of potential students and he picked who was going to be attending each class. I felt it an honor that he even let me be a part of it especially considering that I was not officially a part of any graduating class. Al definitely opened my eyes to all the endless holds and counter holds that could make you student as long as you called yourself a wrestler.

Tom Pritchard

Back in the late 90’s, it was all the rage to get invited to Stamford to participate in the WWF training camps. I don’t think you really needed to be all that special since each of the camps I was at were filled with more people that had little to no training at all. This is the point that Fed began the campaign of how there was little talent on the independents and they had to grow talent themselves in order to preserve any kind of future. I would say that it’s a crock but most of the people at the camps couldn’t even do the basic drills that encompassed most of the training week.

During my times at the camp, they were run by Tom Pritchard. I had always been a fan from following his Continental days so I had a great amount of respect for him. Because he wasn’t big by wrestling standards, I had even more respect because he had been very successful in the big man world of wrestling. To cap it off, his training techniques were among thee most impressive that I had witnessed to that point in my career and have yet to have seen since. I don’t know if he appreciated or even liked being relegated to a trainer position but he was definitely meant to be a teacher. It was from his training techniques that I shaped my own in the later years when I began seminars across the country. I’m not sure if it’s because he had to work with thee most rudimentary of students or not but he could easily get anyone to perform the necessary skills and could reason as to why it was applicable. While all the training was core techniques, those are the most fundamental as the building blocks to become a wrestler. Believe me when I say that there are too few performers these days that don’t need the good Doctor to fix them up.

Jim Neidhart

Most people would probably think this a joke that I put Neidhart as one of my trainers but I’d be lying if it wasn’t the truth. During my first several months under developmental contract with the WWF, Neidhart was the official trainer in the Memphis territory. Because we didn’t have many shows in the beginning and the office wanted to keep any of us out of trouble, we spent a great deal of time training under Neidhart’s care. If you thought that Jim and Memphis was not a good mix, you should have been a part of his training sessions.

I was never a football player but I would say Neidhart’s training resembled more of something you would see at those types of camps. We probably did more squats in one week than most people would do in a lifetime and I still remember the burning sensation just writing about it. Most of the sessions seemed to be a hodge-posh of unscripted ramblings in his brain that confused most of us in the process. I wasn’t always sure if he was aware that we were supposed to be wrestling training. They were always interesting events to say the least but I actually learned quite a bit from my time under his care. I learned much about the importance of how to organize and structure my own training sessions if I were ever to do them myself. It was amazing that was about the extent of what I got out of someone that was supposedly trained by Stu Hart. I think Jim was just so burned out on the business. The bright side was that he was great to party with. Ron Killings and I would have a ball with him all the time.

“Lord” Steven Regal

Most that read my blogs would know that I was a huge Regal fan before I even got in the business. In my backyard days, I actually copied any of his movements and style along with Curt Hennig. During my developmental days, I learned that he was coming to be the trainer and I couldn’t be more excited. Because you can’t all mark out, I could never tell him how much of a fan I was of his work. I’m sure he knew it but it was never spoken but probably understood.

The challenges that Steve posed were more of a realistic approach to everything you did in the ring. It was also about challenging perspectives to open new possibilities in movements. I know that sounds like some goofy hippie talk but I’ll try to give an example. He was always about paying attention to the subtleties that are often overlooked in the grand scheme but make the techniques more convincing. It may be focusing on reducing wasted movements or tightening of gaps to make a hold more credible. You definitely can’t say that anything he does looks phony and the man has no wasted movement making the overall product more believable. I often referred to him as a master illusionist. His challenges continued to echo in my head long after he was no longer my trainer and definitely tested me the rest of my days. The cool European styles taught were just a plus but the exercises on subtleties were what will stand out most in my memories.

As I said in the beginning, I was fortunate enough to have great trainers throughout my career. If I had my choice, I would have loved to add Dean Malenko, Ultimo Dragon, and Lou Thesz to my list of trainers. I know you can’t have everything but I did have it pretty good from where I’m looking. Thanks much to those great trainers that I could only wish had more of a hand on all the goofs out there today.

Sacrifices made

December 9, 2008

I’ve often compared independent professional wrestlers to starving artists. Not because any of us can paint but because we share that common bond of not having a penny to our name until we make it big. Fortunately, there are those of us that are lucky enough to have a “regular” job to somewhat support our wrestling habit. There are those of us that are not so lucky for various reasons but we still share the same trials trying to sell our painting in the hopes to one day be famous. This is a little piece of how my journey started as an artist named Reckless Youth.

Some background

I was a starving artist in the sense of the word that I was going broke financing my wrestler career through the paychecks of my regular job. To be clear, I wasn’t making very much money working an average of three days a week and at the time I was an hourly employee. I was lucky enough that the job allowed me the flexibility to be gone just about every Monday and Friday while I gallivanted around the eastern half of the United States. The health insurance benefit was a definite plus especially at the rate at which I got various injuries including repeated concussions. *Total side note* It got to the point that remembering many of the towns I worked across the country were filled more so with thoughts of malls and hospitals. *Total side note end* Part of the flexibility agreement required that I travel with a company issued laptop to complete many duties while I was off playing wrestler in some VFW in the middle of nowhere. I remember wrestlers and promoters making comments that I must have a good job if they gave me a laptop to travel with. Because I enjoyed the mystique, I never let on that I wasn’t being paid for the additional laptop time and what little money I made from promoters wrestling was typically funneled right back to travel and food. I’m a crazy tax guy now and I have held onto my Federal Tax returns for many more years than I needed. I can remember in 1996 making about $2,000 wrestling and spending close to $8,000 doing so. At the time, I made around 16,000 that year at my day job after taxes. It’s safe to say that I was very thankful that I lived with my grandfather. He didn’t charge me for my room and food.

A little more

Some may know that my professional wrestling career more or less started in the Ohio and Michigan area. This wasn’t because I wanted it to but more so because I could not get booked in the various promotions minutes from my house in New Jersey. At the time, I had been black balled by Larry Sharpe because I refused to pay him any more money for wrestling school. That is another story for another time but he was the only promoter that supplied the few matches I had up to that point of my career. We are talking two matches just so we are clear. At the time, there were only a handful of promotions in the area and they all comingled. This basically meant that I couldn’t get work elsewhere in the area because Larry would and could put the kibosh on me. Because of this, I sought to reinvent myself by taking advantage of an opportunity to train in Ohio at Al Snow’s wrestling school. Little did I know that this chance would launch me farther than I had ever expected to.

Getting into it

I was working on a somewhat regular basis by late 1995 in the Ohio and Michigan area that filtered right into 1996. I was a monthly regular on Global Championship Wrestling in Lima and Great Lakes Wrestling in Detroit. As Global faded for normal independent wrestling reasons, I still found myself traveling out to work Great Lakes shows in Detroit. It was actually a suburb of Detroit called Wayne but it’s just easier to say Detroit so those that don’t know the area understand. For those reading that were from Wayne, please don’t be offended because I’m just trying to make it easier on all of us. Anyway, I have terribly fond memories of Great Lakes Wrestling probably because they were the first promotion to ask me back. Because I felt a certain bit of loyalty to the company for that reason, I always gave everything I had when performing for them even while getting $25 handshakes at the end night. At the time, I adored the business and could care less figuring that everything would pay off on the other side. While many of you might think that my sacrifice was with the low pay to high expense ratio but that couldn’t be further from the truth. My sacrifice came more from the associations and arrangements while working Michigan.

Enter the Machine Gun

Great Lakes Wrestling was run by a mark turned promoter named John Muse and a Michigan mainstay wrestler known as “Machine Gun” Mike Kelly. I don’t think there was a person that didn’t like and respect John Muse. The same could not be said for Mike Kelly. Don’t get me wrong, Mike was not a bad guy by any means but he was definitely a character. He was known as the Midwest Japanese Wrestling tape supply guy and for good reason. He had mountains of VHS tape (yes it was that long ago) with regular weekly deliveries. He was always kind with giving out tapes and much of the style I worked would not have been possible if not for his tape giving generosity. That being said, I can’t really say he was ever thee most gracious host.

It’s cold in here

During this time, I was a regular travel partner with Don Montoya. The Great Lakes guys were kind enough to book Montoya on shows as well and this definitely eased the 13 hour car rides to Detroit especially sharing the travel costs. Mike was kind enough to put us up in his house saving us from sleeping in the car or renting a hotel room but it always seemed to be an odd experience. Thinking back now somewhat, I guess Mike’s conditions were not terribly odd but not always as gracious as you might think someone would treat invited guests. I’m definitely stressing on the gracious part and you’ll understand in a minute what I mean.

Food and Drink

Mike never offered any food or drink for us while we stayed with him. The drink part makes this particularly odd because he worked for Pepsi Corporation and usually had cases of various soft drinks all around his house while we were there. It wasn’t unusual for him to reach in his Pepsi Corp beverage stocked refrigerator and pull out an individual bottle of Pepsi while he was talking to us without so much as offering anything to drink to us. I can remember one time Montoya asking for Pepsi but Mike actually told him he could not have any as he was leaning against cases stacked almost as tall as him. I guess he didn’t have enough or was stocking up for Y2K. He eventually caved in and one time he left two bottled waters between the both of us during a 2 day stay. Towards the end, Montoya just started sneaking cans when Kelly was somewhere else in the house or asleep.

You have to leave

One of the other many oddities was that we had to be out of Mike’s house in the wee hours of the morning because he was leaving the house for work. Mike typically worked his day job on a show day regardless of weather it was on Friday or Saturday. I’m not sure what he actually did for Pepsi other than having cases of various Pepsi brands stacked around his house for which we could not drink. We usually had to be out around 5am and would be left to fend for ourselves in a town we did not know. The last few times we stayed with him he directed us to a local gym that we could sleep in the locker rooms and take a shower. Since most places really didn’t open until much later, we often found ourselves huddled in Montoya’s extremely small and uninviting car for a handful of hours trying to catch up on sleep. Keep in mind that only a few hours prior, we had been driving to Michigan for 13 or so hours and would typically be in between wrestling events or our day jobs. It would be safe to say that we were very exhausted and much of my independent traveling years were lived on with the aid of Vivarin. A few times during the lake affect temperatures of 10 or 15 degrees, Mike would let us stay in his pool house and watch wrestling videos while he was working. To put it in perspective, this wasn’t a pool house like you would think of in the movies. This was about three sides of wood board and one side of sheer netting separating from the pool. On a 15 degree day, it felt like negative 20 in there. It wouldn’t be unusual for both Montoya and I to come home with colds after every Michigan trip.

Whales and Popsicle sticks

Staying with Mike Kelly wasn’t always that bad and I can understand his thinking looking back now. I can’t say how comfortable I would be letting some strangers have run of the house while I was not there. I think the food and drink thing might be a little much but it would definitely depend on if it was pay week or not and how many bills needed to be paid at that time. We all know that we are not making the big bucks running around in our underwear playing wrestler. There were the positives of having exposure to Mike’s massive Japanese wrestling tape library that did shape much of what I became at a time when no one was exposed to it the way they are now. There’s also the fantastically funny memory of Montoya, at a time when he was very big, trying to fit on the Army cot that we were given to sleep. It was like a whale trying to lay on a Popsicle stick elevated by Popsicle sticks. That night of much laughter was worth what little sleep I got. Too bad that was before camera phones and YouTube.

Everyone independent wrestler has stories of sacrifice in their road to selling or trying to sell their art. Some stories are long and painful while others have ben lucky enough to have been short and jovial. Most stories fall somewhere in between. While I did not make it rich selling my art, I do have fond memories that are priceless pieces of craftsmanship. These vivid accounts are the art that I can share with anyone that will enjoy reading them.

I hope no one heard that

September 12, 2008

Have you ever woken in the middle of the night to the sheer pain of a muscle spasm? This typically happens at that point in the late night when you are enjoying thee most euphoric dream you have ever had in your life. Suddenly, you have fallen off the bed clutching your hamstring or you are hobbling around the room favoring your calf. Those experiencing this type of pain are barely lucid crying out loudly in pain similar to a severely wounded animal. A muscle spasm does not discriminate and even the strongest amongst us have been crippled by this common affliction in the embarrassing presence of those we wish to impress or idolize.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines that a spasm is a sudden violent and temporary sensation. It is an involuntary and abnormal muscle contraction. Well I can assure you that a spasm is far from voluntary and the sensation does not feel like it is only temporary when you are experiencing it. I personally have broken out in a cold sweat between crying out like a school girl in pain thinking that this is seriously reducing my life expectancy in measurable months at the very least. At this point, I’m sure I’ve been graphic enough for any of you reading to be thinking about your last experience with a muscle spasm and quite possibly are rubbing a hammy right now. So now that you have been properly uncomforted, let me share with you one of those embarrassing moments.

I could not tell you how much I completely despised filming two or three television tapings in 100+ degree temperatures at outside summer shows in my good ole days in Memphis. It was not uncommon for a wrestler to be in the middle of a match and roll under the ring to loose what little lunch he did have. That’s nothing a little production room editing won’t fix though. I seem to remember an ambulance or two in those days as well carting away fans due to heat exhaustion. There is nothing like little hospital run for our fans to keep what little we had coming back. In the thralls of the heat, we use to joke about slogans for the company. It actually annoyed the promoter quite a bit and I would naturally always push the envelope that would later lead to some kind of disciplinary action. My vote was Memphis Championship Wrestling: You think you hate wrestling now, wait until we come to town. The laughter that I still experience to this day thinking of that line and that you are probably now experiencing after reading that bit is what got many of us through much of that developmental territory drama.

During this time, the developmental group was under the guidance of “Lord” Steven Regal. He is better known these days as William Regal but this was a period prior to his resurgence in the WWE. Some of you readers would know that I was a great admirer of his work and did my best to cling to him much like a lost puppy. Because he had a fondness for mentoring, he was very much accepting of my interest in whatever experiences or skills he might be willing to share. When we later began a wrestling program together where we wrestled each other in various towns countless times over a several months, it was common that we traveled quite often between venues. Towards the conclusion of this run, we both had the opportunity to participate at the Brian Pillman Memorial Show hosted by Les Thatcher in Cincinnati. While we did not know it prior to the event, the Pillman Memorial would mark a significant resurrection for Regal that quickly propelled him back into the national spotlight.

Despite the toxic heat, Regal recruited me to train with him vigorously for weeks leading up to the event. We would train for hours on a daily basis between the ring and studying recorded matches. This would be intensified even further at live events where he typically had our matches last at least 30 minutes. Couple this on top of the blistering heat of a Southern Summer, you can imagine that both he and I were quite depleted to the point that even Gatorade was just not enough. Obviously, the lack of essential fluids and proper nutrients to balance the aggressive training regimen in such heat would naturally react with constant muscle spasms. Many of the guys were experiencing the spasms and sharing remedies as to avoid them. You would think that many of the workers could be pharmacists with their pharmaceutical knowledge or even doctors with their medication recommendations. I guess it could be a possibility if the whole wrestling thing does not work out but how many people do you think would really adhere to the recommendations of a 6’5” bold headed, tattooed from head to toe, steroid looking pharmacist.

Before I knew it, the Pillman Event was upon us and this was the time to shine for all the respective intelligent wrestling fans as well as talent scouts for the major promotions. The previous month leading up to the memorial Regal had been running through a scripted match in his head that he would bounce ideas off me. I honestly added nothing to his ideas but had heard it so many times I could probably take Benoit’s place although it would not be nearly as memorable. I’m not sure that many may have known that he and Benoit were very close. Benoit had a very strong respect for Regal and the layout was agreed.

On a complete side note that only adds to this story and accentuates a major weakness in the business today, Regal was respectful of every piece of Benoit’s style in laying out a match for the both of them. Rather than Regal being only concerned about what he could do and how well Benoit could make him look, Regal was concerned about them both putting on a stellar performance and emphasizing both of their strengths. They were both concerned about having a good match. I have far too often seen the new crop of talent these days only stressing about them. They think a good match is making sure they can hit their premier move or moves during the match and heaven forbid if their opponent is not familiar or skilled enough to do take it. I think I made a name for myself over the years because I was able to elevate those that I worked with or had the ability to work around my opponent’s weakness to ultimately produce a quality match. This is the type of measure that came to be known as the difference between a wrestler and a worker. Both Regal and Benoit were highly respected throughout the business because the fact that they were workers.

I had never had the chance to see the Malenko-Guerrero series live in the ECW arena but I heard it was magic. It was the type of magic that solidified wrestling fans to that brand and ushered in a new era of wrestling talent lining up at schools to train. I watched it on a poor quality VHS tape but it still gave me a tingle and still does to this day just thinking about it. I can tell you that this wrestling magic was captured this night at the Brian Pillman Memorial when Benoit and Regal faced each other. I was lucky enough to witness the magic in person as a fan once more sitting in the crowd. Many wrestlers become jaded after being in the business for some time and can no longer find the magic that made them a fan in the first place. There are rare moments that spark that feeling deep in their stomachs that make them proud again to say they are a professional wrestler. This was one of those moments for me. I had never been more proud to say that day that I was a wrestler and loved the sport. It was one of those moments where I became a fan again sitting on a hard wood bleacher cheering on to classic entertainers. Even though I knew every movement they were going to make I still sat on the edge of my seat as if I was a child. Of course, the performance propelled Regal right back into the national spotlight and altered much of the content of many WWE matches for some time to come.

Because Regal and I had been traveling quite a bit during this time, we shared a room that night on the same floor as many other performers at the event. This was common especially to ease the overall traveling costs that many fans think are just taken care of by promoters or companies. After a late night, he and I both were looking forward to some sleep before our early morning flights back home for a few days. Please try to keep in mind that the day before the Pillman we had both finished one of those infamous multiple hour television taping in the sweltering Memphis heat. Suddenly, I woke in the middle of the night to the howls and screams of Regal having one of those infamous muscle spasms. I believe that it may have lasted a minute or two but it felt as though it was an hour. For reasons that I thought he might be embarrassed, I never let it be known that I was awake during his screaming. I’m really not sure how anyone could sleep through it anyway but as it went on for what felt like a month, I started to think there were other people in rooms all around us. People that knew Regal and I were in this room in the middle of the night with him howling in such a way that might be misconstrued. It figures that my mind went right to the gutter and I completely blame the lack of sleep on my thinking. At this point, I could not go back to sleep and I was devastatingly embarrassed as his episode went on from what now is feeling like a year. My mind is thinking that everyone is awake hearing this on our floor as well as the floors above and below. My mind is rambling that someone is standing outside the door recording every moment and just waiting for one of us to walk out of the room in the morning to make the situation out to be something it is not.

I can remember creeping out of the room early the next morning as to not wake Regal to find the cleaning lady doing her business in the halls. I can remember her looking at me suspect and me thinking that she heard everything and thought something more was happening in the room than what really did. More than likely, she was probably wondering why I was leaving so early in the morning. I don’t even think the sun was out. I’m sure I had a better chance that she was thinking I was a vampire rather than even knowing what happened that night. Either way, over the years, I’ve told the story to wrestlers and fans alike just in case one of them was in ear shot of Regal screaming or possibly have heard the story handed down from another. I mean I’m just trying to clarify the WHOLE story so it’s not “taken out of context” when I run for public office. Last thing I need is a scandal that could hurt my chances for election. Well now I come to think, it might actually help my election chances depending on what party I run. The only thing I regret about that entire event, I never did get a chance to thank Regal for the magic that was that match. If this story ever does make it your way, skip all the goofy spasm stuff.

Earning Respect

June 20, 2008

I had always been under the impression that the key to the respect of a person was not through actions to impress that person. This meant that I would not go out of my way to emphasize myself or cater my actions to their desires in an effort to attract their attention. This typically led to me often be characterized as stubborn, disrespectful, or conceded.

To be clear, I grew up most of my young life disaffected by peer pressures. I think this clearly had an affect on my lack of need to conform and or be accepted by my peers. This is not to say that I was popular by any means with loads of attractive women throwing themselves at me or building bombs in the basement because no one wanted to sit with me during lunch hour. I witnessed many around me that struggled to fit in somewhere and this directly contributed to how they would garner respect while losing identity. Thinking back to my young years, I don’t necessarily remember trying to get the respect of anyone. I can more so remember disappointing people.

I always have said that the professional wrestling scene reminded me much of high school. It was almost as if those around me never left or would forever think their best times were of high school. The childish behaviors and antics are interwoven throughout the professional wrestling business. In the past, I’ve touched on some of the comedic and or destructive happenings that would make you wonder if any of us ever grew up. I would say that for many of us were fueled into wrestling careers based upon childish love of the business. I’m basically saying that many of us are very immature in the most polite way I can think.

Coming back from a way off course beginning, the intertwined respect aspect of the wrestling business was introduced to me very early in my up start. Again, the emphasis of my focus was different on how to go about earning that respect. I was typically surrounded by those trying to out-shining someone while others chose to mimic someone. Those that tried to out-shine more often than not ended up injured and those that mimicked were typically labeled as clones. Being a clone gave you something of a fighting chance of being labeled as a good or bad clone but the injured out-shiners often were labeled as idiots. I can think of five off the top of my head that were as much of idiots as they were labeled.

So all during this time, like the song says, I did do it my way. Many may have not agreed but I definitely did it my way with little compromise or abandonment of who I am as an individual. As far as getting back to the whole point of respect, I often earned it in a much different way than those around me. I would say that this is the reason that I may have been able to stand out amongst of talented crop of workers for a short period of time in the wonderful world of independent wrestling. This was never more evident than the victory of winning over an old-timer by the name of Lance Russell.

Shortly upon bursting onto the rather lack-luster independent wrestling scene in the Memphis territory, I had a chance to meet a wrestling commentating legend and perennial Memphis wrestling announcing staple Lance Russell. I knew enough to know that he had been around almost as long as dirt and there were few in this particular territory that didn’t admire and respect him. He had been involved in wrestling in this capacity for more than 50 years with so many of the wrestlers and fans alike growing up with this man at live events as well as on local, and for a short time national, television.

Because I was from the North East, my only exposure to him was his short television stint as a commentator in World Championship Wrestling. While it wasn’t technically the fleeing days of that promotion, it was definitely in a period of rocky transition to the eventual Turner product and I was not a fan of the Russell commentating style. Honestly, I was still daydreaming about how well David Crockett could sell anything and how much he added to the overall product. I wasn’t much for Tony Schiavone and I could never get into Gordon Solie either. Russell reminded me much of Gordon Solie and their commentating style did not make me a fan the way David Crockett did. Despite all of this, countless fans adored Russell and many wrestlers were desperate for his respect.

The privilege of Lance Russell’s commentary during my matches was made aware to me shortly upon my arrival to Memphis. At the time, I had come from working shows throughout the country in front of audiences ranging in the hundreds to thousands. This period of time was definitely an upswing in the business but it was not reflected in the burnt out territory of Memphis. We were doing television tapings with notable wrestling names in front of 15 to 30 people on a consistent basis. It’s kind of hard to get excited even if you are cashing cool checks that say World Wrestling Federation on them each week at the bank. It made for interesting stares by the cute cashiers behind the counter but they were probably looking at me like that because they thought it was a counterfeit check.

So it was safe to say that Lance Russell had little fluff at all during my matches. He was usually plugging away about the local restaurant or the weather. It would be one thing if he was actually talking about an angle going on with other wrestlers at least but I couldn’t even get that. Commentary during my matches was relegated to local food or weather events in and around Memphis. It was painfully apparent that he thought little enough of me to even watch the matches in progress. This carried over to any backstage interaction with him as well. I would occasionally get a polite response when I offered a hello to him. Where the story begins to twist is when I began a lengthy series with Steve Regal.

It was obvious that Russell and Regal knew each other from their World Championship Wrestling days. They would often talk amongst themselves about the last time either of them saw another from that period. Russell was equally as polite and attentive with commentary to Regal matches as well for good reason. I luckily turned Russell’s eye when the series became during a television taping he was doing the color for. I would say that he emphasized me only because it was a match involving Regal but I don’t think that was the case. His complete attitude towards me changed to the point that he would comment positively on my work and even go out of his way to offer critiques that were openly accepted by me.

While I may have not always been a fan of Lance Russell’s work, I found a new respect for him once he recognized me. I never took anything personal for his lack of interest at all. I actually began to appreciate more the years of wisdom he brought to the business and took a great deal of pride that I was able to catch his eye. I’m sure he probably wouldn’t even recognize me these days if I bumped into him on the street but it felt good to earn his respect my way. The little yankee that did things much different was able to acquire the respect of a man that many desired.

Heroes in the Business

April 1, 2008

I would say that the largest majority of people in the wrestling business were inspired by another wrestler creating a strong enough interest for them to eventually become involved in professional wrestling in some capacity. Those that are in the business have probably been positively influenced as well throughout the years through their experiences with different performers as well. I’ve decided to focus this excerpt into my wrestling life about those that I felt that have influenced me in either or both of those circumstances I’ve mentioned. I would consider these gentlemen to be my heroes in the business and I wouldn’t be surprised if they are a stark contrast to your wrestling heroes but please allow me to elaborate on each so that you may be able to identify.

 

I want to take a moment or more to clarify that there are a small minority of performers in the industry over the last handful of years that were lucky enough to trip up to the spotlight that had little interest or desire in the business at all. I’m sure you know these people that call or called themselves wrestlers at one point between their football and acting careers. You can replace football with bodybuilding or acting with writer or a number of other things but I’m sure you get the idea. Many of these people saw professional wrestling as a logical platform to a higher goal of something they might consider as more respectable. Jesse Ventura is definitely not someone that comes to mind because politics was an afterthought of a successful wrestling career that he retired. I don’t want you to think that women in the business are exempt either because I feel that many today are more goal oriented beyond professional wrestling than men. I couldn’t say whether that is a good thing or not but I look at it as a betrayal of the business especially for those that have paid dues and linger in obscurity while these people occupy a spot they don’t respect. Any tested independent wrestler that has sacrificed and endured knows of the people I speak and can sympathize with exactly what I’m talking about in this paragraph.

 

As I’m sure most in the wrestling industry today, they have found respect in the eyes of those they might not have ever thought prior or a level above what they had come to already have previously. I can tell you that they have been heroes of mine that have tragically disappointed me in personal experiences with them in the course of my career as well. Regardless of that fact, those that can’t recognize or appreciate these experiences will be stunted in their wrestling maturity and will be realized by others that will be able to acknowledge these encounters to grow as a performer. The common differences you can see is how a young person in the business will respect the words of those that have been tested in the industry. How is advice is taken or adhered to is a testament of how they will be gauged going forward. You and any reading this can probably name at least 20 people that have or will go nowhere because of an attitude or lack of respect. There have definitely been arguments made about me to that respect over the years and I welcome the chance to rationally debate them at any point.

 

Anyone that has read any interviews or profiles on me would know that I had many favorites prior to getting into the wrestling business. I can remember being completely overpowered with emotion watching the Road Warriors destroy opponents in the ring during their NWA stint. Before hardcore wrestling was ever popular, the feelings that would overwhelm me would make me want to destroy furniture and people in my wake similar to how I perceived anything they were challenged with. I was at many Philadelphia Civic Center events solely because the Road Warriors were performing screaming along with all of the fans that adored them. Despite all of this, I couldn’t call them influences or inspirations for me getting into the business especially because of my rather small statue. My heroes or influences were those with a subtle style that might be missed by a casual fan but I’m sure they were well respected by those in the business.

 

One of my original idols prior to getting into the business was “Lord” Steven Regal. He is now known as William Regal but those that have been around him for years still refer to him as “his Lordship” or Steve. During my brief involvement with WWE, he was highly respected by all of his peers for good reason. There’s not a person in the business that can’t know his contributions to the sport unless they were too self-absorbed to recognize them. I was privileged enough to adore him from afar as a fan as well as personally during my tenure with the World Wrestling Federation. Before any of you get the wrong idea with my connotation of the word adore, I mean it in the context to revere, idolize, respect, and admire. I would challenge you to expand your vocabulary if you were searching to find a more devious meaning in what I was trying to explain.

 

The truth of the matter is that there’s no better word to describe the emotion around the entire experience. He was truly a mentor to me prior to me even knowing him personally. While I realize that he has had his share of personal demons, there’s no discounting the fact that his ring expertise were second to none. I’ve spent the greater part of my wrestling career mimicking his work and studied him during my time in the Memphis developmental territory while he was the trainer. By this point, he had exercised his demons and was trying to make a concerted effort to dedicate himself to returning to the spotlight in a prime spot with the major wrestling company. He was able to achieve this goal and I’d like to think that I may have played a small part in it but I doubt it. Either way, it was an even greater experience in his presence learning from him that it ever could have been just watching him on a televised broadcast.

 

We might find our influences in odd places and some might think this by me saying that Raven played an intricate role in my development prior to and during my wrestling career. Many of you would think of his ECW, hardcore style, and wonder how he influenced me considering there was a big difference. In my upstart as the Reckless Youth character, I even dressed similar to him and greatly stressed over being labeled as a clone. I was quickly able to break the mold more so because his Raven character embodied a style. That right there speaks to how influential he was to the rather newer generation of wrestlers getting into the business. I was more so wrapped into his characters portrayed from the past like Scotty the Body and Scotty Flamingo.

 

This guy grew up two towns over from me in New Jersey and would be one of my most influential people in the business to this day. I spent quite a bit of time studying his movements in the ring to the point that I emulated much of his pre-Raven style. And make no mistake, Johnny Polo was a great color commentator and his Saturday morning antics with Gorilla Monsoon were classics. For obvious reasons, He will be remembered most for his Raven character but I’m not sure he will be appreciated correctly for his contributions to the sport. Because of this reason, I’m going to try to touch on it out of respect for his accomplishments.

 

The Extreme Championship Wrestling spirit was embodied in him. People that have profited off that brand should be playing royalties to him for the rest of his days. It was his controversial ideas and his character that put ECW on the map. He enjoyed a cult following and personified a movement. He truly was ECW and was responsible for ushering a new era of wrestling that affected the major companies in the industry. He was responsible for blurring the lines between characters where there was only shades of grey. This distinction carried over to both major companies at the time and their styles were influenced as well. Raven will not be properly credited for his role in the change of an industry from the grade school appeal to a more hard edged young adult appeal. While they are many positive qualities I can take from his Raven character, my biggest influence was in his earlier years during a short period in WCW as Scotty Flamingo.

 

My last influence came later in my wrestling career to the hands of someone that I never cared for much growing up. The man known as Rick Martel was never on the top of my list for anything growing up watching the sport. I didn’t care much for Strike Force and “The Model” didn’t do much for me. I couldn’t especially stand that he wore his laces outside of his boots. Prior to training, I couldn’t put my finger on why it didn’t seem ring but I learn later than laces are supposed to always be tucked in. I wouldn’t become more enamored with Rick Martel until a show I did in front of about 5 people in Boston.

 

As with the late 90’s in the business, promoters with money were popping up all over the country with good payouts and headline names galore on a show. Such was the case with this one promoter running an all day show at a venue in Boston. The promoters name escapes me at this point but he had quite a bit of talent on the show including many names that were once headliners in the WWF. The venue was nice but as with most wrestling stories of that time the ring was in horrible shape. It was most definitely a boxing ring and the ceiling was so low that you could not go to the second turnbuckle let alone the top. Some of the taller wrestlers actually had to squat as to not hit their heads on the ceiling while running the ring. Couple this with the fact that the ring ropes were not designed to bounce off of, it made for very uninteresting matches. Many of the younger guys and some of the bigger names refused to do much of anything considering the poor ring conditions and the very weak crowd. Despite any of this, Rick Martel worked as if it were Wrestlemania. He worked harder than I even considered and went way above the bump quota anyone set for the night in one match alone. I actually cringed with each bump he took thinking how horrible the ring was but remember that the old WWF rings were pretty bad too. I started to think this might feel like “normal” to him or might feel soft. Either way, within a few minutes into the match I was intently watching and the in found respect grew to the point that it has carried to this day. Shortly after that point, he began working regularly in WCW but was later injured. I followed those matches and even began to watch older tapes of his work. He was definitely an influence as to how not to forget where you came from and to always respect the business.

 

These are the major influences that I have carried over the years and will not loose site of. There have been some others that come to immediate mind like Curt Hennig, Rick Rude, and the Great Muta but these 3 gentlemen are the foremost in my mind as those that influenced me before and during my entire wrestling experience. Many will find their influences in many different places but mine have definitely played heavy roles in my overall work in my handful of interesting wrestling years.

The Death of Friendships

March 28, 2008

I really enjoy sharing some of my stories of experiences I’ve had over the years in professional wrestling. I think that many of them are quite entertaining and hope that those interested can get a good laugh. Unfortunately, every story doesn’t always have a fairy tale happy ending. This will be the case with the next two experiences I plan to share in this weblog. This story as well as the next will be of a far more personal nature and dig a little deeper into my personality. I really have nothing to hide and don’t mind sharing these pieces of me because I’m sure those that may read this can identify with these experiences whether they are in the business or not. The focus of this story is about the death of friendship.

 

Before anyone reading misunderstands the context, no one has literally died but rather the friendships I had with these individuals is now non-existent. Arguments could be made that the professional wrestling business has played a role in the demise of these friendships but this is more just the harsh reality of life. Depending on your personal desires, ambitions, strengths, or weakness, things can dramatically or gradually change in your life that can adversely affect relationships with those you call friend. I am by no means taking the moral high ground in any of these situations and will try my best to be completely objective about each of these situations.

 

I’d like to interject just a touch more clarity into the psyche of Tom Carter before we go a little further. I am and always have been introverted by nature. While some of you have witnessed the extremely extraverted antics of my Reckless Youth character, nothing could be further from the truth of my true personality. In many cases, after the short periods of public display of that character, I would spend a great deal of time to myself to offset the uncharacteristic behavior. I would find myself doing very much the same before an event as well and this behavior seemed to confuse many people in or around the business. It was very much thought that my in-ring personality was an extension of my true self or my actual personality and nothing could be further from the truth.

 

Because of the nature of an introverted person, it was common to only maintain a small close network of friends. An investment is made in these individuals that you would feel would be lasting relationships that would transcend an event or specific periods in your life. I would consider many people acquaintances and hold a select few close to my heart. This might not sound like the reinvention of the wheel to most but those with extraverted or far less introverted personalities can make friends and or associate with people generally much easier than an introverted person. Couple this with playing a character far different from your true personality my subconscious self would counter balance by reacting even more introverted in every situation but an actual performance itself. Now that I’ve completely bored you to tears explaining details of my idiosyncrasies, I’ll delve more into the thick of it.

 

My oldest friend, Accie Conner, has been more affectionately known in the wrestling business as D-Lo Brown. Some may be surprised to know that he did not grew up on the mean streets of Chicago but rather the far less controversial streets of a little town in New Jersey called Burlington. I’m not sure what he is or isn’t admitting to these days since we no longer talk but much of the persona he projected in the D-Lo character was nothing more than a guise. Much of my character was as well but those that questioned me I would openly admit to that fact. Accie and I went to high school together and were first acquainted on the school wrestling team. We both shared a love for wrestling to the point that we would stage events during wrestling practice, start impromptu matches during gym, incorporate interactive interview sessions during speech classes, and hold public displays after school on public property for anyone to watch. I can fondly remember one time where he and I began wrestling in his neighborhood on his front lawn. After a short period of time, cars passing by stopped in the streets and neighborhood kids passing by all gathered to the point where we had quite a few people cheering each of us on until the end. This actually became a regular event in his neighborhood that was appropriately dubbed lawn wars. I actually have a smile on my face thinking about it now. This continued on and off even into our somewhat turbulent college years. I can remember holding indoor events at my house while family was away and lining the living room with mattresses. We gathered a few other interested people and it would typically end with neighbors calling the police and or furniture being broken. You can do the math on the type of destruction when you have a bunch of wired kids using reclining chairs as the turnbuckle and bouncing off the walls as if they were ring ropes. Again, I have an ear to ear grin.

 

Through a set of circumstances, Accie and I ended up at Larry Sharpe’s Monster Factory. All during this time, our friendship grew outside of the business while we began to develop success inside of the business. Contrary to what you might think, Accie’s World Wrestling Federation success was not the downfall of or friendship. Actually, we remained quite close all during that time and he championed me to the point that I was eventually signed much due to his diligence. Our downfall was due to relationships formed outside of the wrestling business and lack of communication at a critical time in our friendship. The death of our friendship was on September 11, 2001. Circumstances surrounding this day eventually drove a wedge between us to the point that I did not attend his wedding a few short days after that historic event. It was a culmination of events that led to that point but we would not speak until many years later which was the ultimate demise of the friendship. It pains me to think about it to this day but I’m sure he felt and still possibly feels just as betrayed as I did. We spoke on probably two occasions for a short period of time in the recent past but it has been abandoned by both of us considering how drastically our lives have changed in all this time when we did not talk.

 

If any of you have read many of my stories or been around me at events, you would know that I was very close with a wrestler by the name of Don Montoya. I struggled to refer to him as his character name over the years because he and I began so close outside of the business. It was common for me to refer to him as his real name Tom Alvarez. Most of the time people in the business would think it a joke when we both introduced ourselves as Tom. He and I became friends during the time that I was training at Larry Sharpe’s Monster Factory. I had been there on and off over the years and his class was at a point where there was no trainer. I had no respect for him or his friends that all seemed to join at the same time. This was a point where independent wrestling focus seemed to begin to shift from workers to ticket sellers. He and his friends had little or no training and would get prime spots on Monster Factory shows because of the amount of tickets they sold. I had a lot of resentment towards them because I had more of old school thinking with paying dues and earning spots. Because of money and booking arguments I had with Larry Sharpe, I was not allowed to wrestle at shows and often would be relegated to trivial duties at shows if I was at them at all.

 

Tommy began to distance himself from this pack of misfits and take the business more seriously after a few months. He would ask me quite a few questions about how I did certain moves outside of the normal course of what little training there was and I would refuse to answer him. He would ask me how I did the Texas Cloverleaf and I would tell him to learn how to do a hip toss or an abdominal stretch first. It wasn’t till he later would come back showing me that he self taught himself much as I did that he began to earn my respect. He and I seemed to share the more old school aspect of the business as far as getting your name out at your own expense. Over the next few years, he and I would regularly travel all over the eastern half of the United States for chances to wrestle for little or no money. It was not uncommon for us to get a $15 dollar payday in Ohio after a 12 hour car ride at our expense and we sucked it up. We bounded on these long trips working in Detroit on one night and Boston on the other. All this time we were financing our trips from money we made at our regular weekly clerical jobs.

 

As time went on, our friendship transcended into our personal lives sharing holiday or special family events with each others families. I had joked that over the years he had become more of a family friend than my friend alone as the years went on. This all changed drastically with an odd set of circumstances where he completely cut off communication with me and members of my family that deeply hurt everyone involved. The death of this friendship was one Christmas morning in the not too distant past.  It was not until some time later that individuals in my family tried to pull him back into the fold. For obvious reasons, it was no longer a comfortable or trusting relationship for anyone involved. Because of these reasons, it fell apart again recently and the wounds of the past were reopened. I think it’s safe to say that there will no longer be attempted reunions. I would say that this relationship fell apart due to immaturity and a self-defeating personality on his part but I’m sure I had some part in what may have precipitated his reactions. Despite all of this, I laugh to myself and write quite a bit about all the jokes we played on each other and others around us during our wrestling experiences. It still makes me smile to this day regardless of everything that has become of our friendship.

 

I have one other friendship with a guy named Dave Keller that gradually ended more so because of changes in my life than anything he did. Accie, Dave, and I were intertwined in our early years backyard wrestling that eventually migrated to professional wrestling. Many of you would have never heard of Dave’s name because he stopped wrestling within the first year of his wrestling career. He was older than Accie and I with a family that he needed to provide for. Accie and I had the ability to sacrifice time and money to make our way in the business and Dave didn’t have that same luxury. As he pulled away from the business, our common bond with the wrestling business was shattered eventually leading to the death of that friendship. Dave was a key friendship in my life at a point that I was slow low that I considered killing myself. You read that right and this was a period probably 3 years before I even began training. I can remember Dave trying to recruit me for a weekend of backyard wrestling one time and I was very depressed in general over a long time girlfriend leaving me. He told me that no matter how down on myself I felt that I should always take comfort in knowing that I had a really good dropkick. Again, you read that right. He went onto explain with passion how difficult it is to have such a good dropkick and to never forget that whenever I allow myself to feel lower than what I truly am. As silly as those words may sound, it kept me alive and I still utter them to this day whenever I feel down on myself for any reason. It makes me chuckle to myself and realize that I can get through however difficult anything may be. I truly miss that he and I can no longer connect due to the fact that time pulled us apart.   

 

I write all of this just as incite into my experiences that I’m sure many of you can identify with. At this point, those close friendships are gone and much of my focus has been on my family and career outside of wrestling. I have been fortunate to have met wonderful people in the business over the years but the three mentioned above were intertwined more in my personal life that transcended the business which hit a lot closer to my heart when they failed. May be you can get nothing from this story but entertainment and maybe that’s all there is from it.

The Music Contest

March 7, 2008

Over my few years in the Professional Wrestling circuit, I was witness to many odd things performers did to entertain themselves. In many cases, it would be manifested in harmful or harmless practical jokes played on those in or around the business. In other cases, it may have been in a more destructive form unto themselves such as drugs, deviant behavior, or violence towards those in or around the business. While I have seen many harmful and or destructive acts, I tended to be more drawn to the harmless joking aspects of entertainment. Looking back, I realize that many of these moments were at my expense entertaining others. The “music contest” would be an example of one of my more prominent entertaining acts that was well-known throughout the independent wrestling world. 

The first time I ever heard an intentionally ridiculous, out of character ring song was when Billy “Highlight” Reil used the theme from the movie Titanic as his entrance music at a New Jersey based hardcore promotion called Jersey All-Pro Wrestling. Billy Reil was a Philadelphia born independent wrestler with a good deal of talent but an attitude that tended to get him in trouble. His ring character was not a far stretch from his true personality making it hard to judge the level of coherency when making his song choice. While his song choice was intentional, I couldn’t speak to whether he would pass a urine test when he made the decision to use that song. I say this because, to my knowledge, he never used such a ridiculous song again anywhere. Regardless of that point, he garnered the much needed reaction from the crowd because of his song choice at that moment. 

While the other wrestlers gathered around me poking fun at him laughing at the song choice, I realized that these guys put far too much stock in their choice of ring music. Over the years, I had often seen wrestlers flip out on the guy in charge of the music or refuse to go out before the crowd if the wrong song was played. I saw many wrestlers invest a wasteful amount of time trying to find the perfect entrance music to accent their character. In my early wrestling years, I was guilty of doing the same thing. At the point I was standing around these guys one night in Bayonne, I realized that nothing would be more entertaining to the workers and fans than if I started coming out to intentionally ridiculous ring music. 

When I began discussing it with my regular traveling partner at the time Don Montoya, he responded with how he knew a number of ridiculous ring entrance themes to use. In the course of the conversation, we agreed that we would have a contest to see who could come out to the most outrageous ring entrance song. This is how the music contest was born that rippled throughout the independent wrestling world mainly due to our lengthy travel to various areas of the country. I can’t say that many joined the contest but many offered songs as well as judgment on who may have won on a particular night. It was not long before fans became aware and would be more interested in our competing song choices on a given night rather than who we might be working or any storyline. 

The song contest did last more than a year and spanned across promotions throughout the eastern half of the United States. Ultimately, I won the contest in a little town in central Pennsylvania coming out to “Copacabana” sung by Barry Manilow. I understand in later years that independent standout, Colt Cabana, used this song as well but I think he was more inspired through his ring name although he once admitted to being entertained by the rumored music contest. To solidify my win, I actually began to sing the words while in the ring before requesting the music stopped to continue with a promo. About five seconds into the music, prior to my entrance, you could actually hear Montoya screaming in disbelief over my song choice basically locking my win. In his defense, he almost had the title using “I’ll tumble 4 Ya” by Culture Club on that same night but the edge was given to me and agreed upon by both of us. 

I’m sure there might be those of you reading this might think that “I’ll tumble 4 Ya” was more outrageous and you may probably be right. At the end of the day, it provided a great deal of entertainment to the fans and wrestlers for a good period of time at the expense of me and Don Montoya. I doubt the contest or the idea behind it has endured at all but from time to time I do hear wrestlers use a ridiculous ring song and wonder what inspired them to do so. Unfortunately, you’ll always still find those that are completely consumed about their song and I still get a good chuckle out of that to this day.    

Beating up on women

February 11, 2008

I was deeply saddened to recently hear that the Fabulous Moolah passed away. She made great contributions over her storied years to not only the sport of women’s wrestling but to professional wrestling in general. She was well respected by her peers and served as a mentor to many people in the sport regardless of gender. I can tell you that I had a profound respect for her as a professional wrestler and as an individual. Those that know me will say that is significant considering the fact that I have very little respect for women in the business but that is a whole different issue left for another time. The sharpest memory of her that I will not soon forget was the time she gave me an unsuspecting kiss. 

Most remember the diabolical duo of Moolah and Mae Young taking on male World Wrestling Entertainment superstars in the not too distant past. Their storylines were more comedic in nature but they were able to garner strong positive reactions for the crowd considering their age and gender. However outrageous the parodies were, the pure entertainment value was considerable enough that they regularly appeared on broadcasts. Most don’t know that the proving ground for a lot of the entertaining ideas that eventually make there way onto national television were matured on the independent wrestling circuit. Such was the case with the team of Moolah and Mae Young several months prior to them appearing in such a role on a national syndication.

There is a promoter and agent still lingering around in the business today that goes by the name Mike O’Brian. Mike ran stellar events in the State of Connecticut on a consistent basis that regular independent wrestlers were eager to be a part. The complete product was first class with top stars from major companies performing in front of several thousand fans at any venue he choose. He was a class act and it was well reflected in his production. Mike made an investment in me and Don Montoya at the time which was a positive for both the company and us as individuals. He would position either or both of us into key positions on the shows against bigger name opponents. To my knowledge, Mike O’Brian was the first promoter to ever dare book Moolah and Mae Young against a male tag team. Don Montoya and his manager Paul Atamovic were the honorable first to compete against the ladies in the ring. I was not a part of that particular show but I did have the privilege to team with Montoya on what was his third tag team match-up against the tandem. 

Don was pretty comfortable since he had worked with the two on a few occasions and more or less gave me the ropes of how the whole match would play out. At the time, I had come from working matches that typically lasted somewhere in the neighborhood of twenty minutes including entrance and promo. So when Montoya started explaining where the “filler” went I just took it as we would have our usual control barring anything complicated or extraordinary considering our opponents. It wasn’t like I was going to expect to give a huracanrana anyway. I was only obsessed with giving one of them a knife edge chop during the heat. I know I sound like a complete heel for saying that but I had an odd feeling that if women were in the sport that they should be taking much if not anything that a guy would have to regularly suffer. I thought how appropriate it was that Chris Benoit gave a chop to Medusa Michelli when they faced on an old World Championship Wrestling broadcast. Montoya cursed me for even thinking about it but I was going to do it none the less. Between me and Don discussing how I would take the finish, I joked how I would convulse my legs during the spot like the old school WWE TV finishes. Sometimes you’ve got to just try to make yourself laugh to keep sane. 

With the match in mind and the knowledge that they had the ultimate control during the event, we began our trek out to the ring with Montoya garnering the normal heated reaction after his typical microphone work. The balance of the match saw the control on our favor since we were the heels and the crowd was behind Moolah and Mae Young. Mae Young took the heat which led to the corner chop stop by me. I made sure to do it right in the corner with Montoya looking at me and his eyes were opened so wide I thought they might fall out. Moolah didn’t take to kindly to that and definitely made me pay for it by coming in to punch me square in the face. I only briefly traded blows with Moolah during the match but she hit me harder than just about any man had ever hit me. She was a tough cookie. Somewhere close to fifteen minutes onto the match was when we started to wrap it all up. Mae Young could barely do what was required because of the lengthy heat she took at my hands. I later came to find out that their matches were usually only four to five minutes in length. Montoya was yelling at me afterwards about how I kept her in the heat too long. In my defense, I didn’t even realize it and had thought it was a relatively short match. It was not a malicious attempt on my part at all. Regardless, the match went without much of a hitch and the final sequence could have gone better but it was still rewarding to the crowd none the less. At the point of the finish with my legs jokingly convulsing and mouth wide open laughing at Montoya, Moolah took the opportunity to plant a very big kiss on me. 

After the match while being read the riot act by Montoya for the Mae Young heat, I was more concerned about Mae Young’s health than the kiss. Apparently, she requested a doctor after the show and I later left worried for the rest of the weekend if she was fine. It turned out that she was alright and they both expressed appreciation for us both treating them to more of a match than they had in quite some time. I take some solace in the fact that I walked away with a great story about how I was kissed by one of the true wrestling legends. If she’s not smiling down on me, I’m certainly smiling up at her.

Don’t take propeller planes

February 4, 2008

I really started my wrestling career in the Midwest territory. I had only wrestled about two or three matches at Larry Sharpe’s Monster Factory during my training period. I had an opportunity to train at Al Snow’s school in Ohio and wrestle on a more consistent basis out in that territory. The Reckless Youth character was actually born in that territory and the first match wrestled was in Kentucky. In the next year following my Midwest upstart, I would regularly travel back to do a handful of shows a month. Because I was young in the business, my travel was at my expense. On the occasion that I could fly, I would aggressively seek low fares to reduce my overall out of pocket expenses. During one such low fare exploration, I became intimately aware why you should not take a propeller plane. 

I very much enjoyed wrestling in the Michigan territory for various reasons but it was also the place that I first became aware of wrestling politics. The politics I’m referring to in this case is when a promoter tells wrestlers that they can not work for a rival promoter if they want to expect to work for them. This practice was going on for some time in the Michigan territory long before it made way to the East Coast. I assume that it became more prevalent on the East Coast once wrestling was de-commissioned in New Jersey and the enforcement became much more lacks in Pennsylvania and New York. Then you had company after company pop up competing within a few short miles of each other on the same night with the fans and wrestlers being the ultimate losers. Unfortunately, this process was going on for some time long before in the great State of Michigan. 

The City of Detroit was home to three independent wrestling companies that ran on a consistent monthly basis. They were respectful in the fact that they would run on different weekends on the month but they were very strict about locking talent down to each promotion. It was rare to find talent moving between companies unless they quit or were fired from another. I found this practice to be quite odd especially since the companies ran in sharply contrasting areas of the City with the attendance being very different at each. What was even more disappointing was that the promoters that didn’t want you to work anywhere else wouldn’t pay you to work anywhere else. I mean how fair is it for a promoter to pay you for one booking a month when you were offered three. I’m getting way off subject but you get the idea about the shadiness in this business that has seemed to engulf the independents across the whole country. 

Because of my friendship with D-Lo Brown, I was one of the few that were lucky enough to bounce around companies along with him. He had a just come off a good deal of success with Smokey Mountain Wrestling and he was considered a headliner on independent shows. He would get me work throughout the Midwest territory and I would throw his name at East Coast promoters in turn. The East Coast promoters were chomping at the bit to get in someone like D-Lo. He would get flown home to the east coast to visit family and make a few bucks wrestling. I would get shows in the Midwest that eventually led to me becoming well known throughout the business. It worked out for both of us well except the day the propeller plane got me. 

D-Lo had been home for a week with family leading up to a Friday show for Blaine Desantis’ Pennsylvania Championship Wrestling (PCW). He got me on a show in Detroit the next day for a company named Insane Championship Wrestling (ICW) run by a guy named Malcolm Monroe. D-Lo was supposed to fly back to Detroit on Saturday morning on a different flight than what I was leaving on. For some reason, D-Lo convinced Don Montoya to drive him back to Detroit. They left right after the PCW show and had planned to drive through the night because it was going to take somewhere in the neighborhood of 10 to 12 hours. My plane ticket was already purchased and I was not going to toss an opportunity to fly to drive all those hours especially because the plane was at my expense. It was funny because as they set off I was making fun of them and how silly it was for them to drive especially after he had a returning ticket that was purchased for him by the promoter. Little did I know that karma would haunt me for poking fun at them. 

 The next day I woke and headed down to the airport for my early afternoon flight. I was thinking that my timing on this particular trip could not have been better. I had a connecting flight through Cincinnati but I was still going to make it to Detroit in more than enough time without having to leave at a crazy time in the morning. I was well rested and ready for the trip. The first leg of the trip actually included a lunch which is a far cry from how things are done in the post 911 era anymore. Once I landed in Cincinnati I knew that I’d have to eat some food right before I jumped on the connecting flight because I would more than likely have no time to eat between the arrival and the show. I filled up again making sure to also splurge on a delicious chocolate chip cookie that was about as close to heaven as you could get. At this point, I began making my way to my terminal for departure when I came to a strange set of steps leading down and doors that opened to the runway. I immediately asked the representative at the counter where my plane was located. While looking at me confusingly, he pointed out the window to a tiny propeller plane way out on the runway. I was told that beyond the doors I would be bused over to the plane and board. I swear my full stomach started to churn right there. 

To be completely honest, the take off and general flight were not terrible at all. I have definitely been on city buses bigger than this plane and was a tad bit uncomfortable. The plane maybe sat twenty people with a single row on one side and a double row on the other. I’m not a Closter phobic person but the walls felt like they were closing in on me. The plane literally felt big enough to hold me, the stewardess on my lap, and a can of coke. I felt like I was in the clown car of planes. I was pressed up against the window in the single isle but it’s not like I really didn’t have a choice of seats since there was only 2 other people on the flight. Including the crew, there was a total of 6 people on this matchbox with wings. At one point, the stewardess actually got on the intercom to announce that she was going to start beverage service. I know the prop engines are loud but the space was so confined that she could have just told us sans the intercom that drinks are coming out. It was small enough that she could have passed us our drinks from the cockpit door without issue. I guess you’re getting the idea that this thing was small. Believe me when I say that the right steroid cocktail and I think I could’ve lifted the plane in the air. Despite all of the concerns, it was pretty easy flying until descent.  

I would have to say that Detroit should have been named the “Windy City” on this day instead of Chicago. You don’t have to be a math or physics major to figure out the impact of extreme wind against the paper mache airplane I’m trapped in at 20,000 feet above the ground. In general, people that have never been on a tic tac with wings on a windy day have never experienced true turbulence. I mean I feel for those that think they have but try my flight on an empty stomach and you wouldn’t be feeling great. So now couple the wind along with the fact that the plane is as big as my pinky toe and you have the never ending descent of doom into Detroit metro. The worse feeling is when the floor feels like it just gave out on you. You know that feeling if you’ve been on an amusement ride. The difference on a plane is you have no idea when it’s coming or how long it’s going to last. And when you start to feel a tummy ache coming on, it’s just makes 1 minute feel like 30 minutes. I’m not sure how long we were descending into the airport but I know I lost a piece of what little sanity I have up in those clouds that day. Right after the lady in front of me go sick in the airplane bag, the stewardess announced that we had arrived in Detroit in the intercom. Maybe a minute later after a slight push and shove out the door I got sick on the runway. The other guy on the plane later told me that he made it to the airport bathroom before getting sick but I don’t know if that counts because airport bathrooms alone would make me sick. After lifting myself off my knees on the runway, I staggered in the terminal doors where D-Lo and Montoya were there waiting for me. Upon their concern for how I looked, I explained about the wonderful flight. D-Lo replied with something about that he could have told me not to fly a propeller plane and then going into a similar story with him. I chalk that up to well if I knew I would’ve never got on one. 

In the end, I was not well enough to wrestle the show that night. We had to pull over multiple times on the way to the building so as not to get sick in Don Montoya’s car. The horn blowing by local Detroit residents as I repeatedly vomited into the wind were greatly appreciated. Thanks for the kindness Detroit. I’ll put you on my “list” along with Boston. The good thing was that if not for that incident Don Montoya would never have been introduced to Michigan independents. He took my place that night and was forced to take his first Frankensteiner off the top rope that he ever took. He also had the pleasure of being the only man to receive the most beautifully perfect twisting crossbody off the top rope from a wrestler known as EL Fuego. The building had no power due to a blackout and the show was held under construction lamps. Couple that onto the semi-automatic weapons fire across the front of the building and you have the makings of another story you will have to wait to hear. As far as this story is concerned, I didn’t learn my lesson because I jumped on a few since then but I have Dramamine to thank for not loosing any chocolate chip cookies.

The Day the Business Died

January 24, 2008

There are many that talk about “the day the business died” in all sorts of terms over the last several years. Some say it died when WCW was closed and the major competition in the industry ended. Others have suggested the collapse began when the focus shifted from realism to entertainment. I have been witness to “ole-timers” talk in locker rooms about how the generation of today destroyed it just because they are the generation of today. I guess it depends on if they personalize it or mean it as a generalization. I know the day the business died for me. It was the day it became a job. 

In the fall of 1999, I was “fortunate” enough to get a developmental contract with the World Wrestling Federation. I say that with a good deal of sarcasm because I never envisioned myself as having much of a chance in the “land of giants” at that time. I can say with certainty that the scope of the wrestlers overall size has changed dramatically since but at that time the only person around my size was Crash Holly and he was continuously destroyed by guys averaging double his weight. I wasn’t getting the “warm and fuzzies” from anyone there and thought that if I would ever get on national TV in the United States it would have been under the WCW banner. 

At the time, D-Lo Brown was working for the company and his influence actually got me to that try-out camp led by Terry Taylor. I had been to the camp on a few prior occasions but my size really led to a lack of overall interest by members of management like Bruce Pritchard. The “word” was that company management felt that there was no real talent on the independent circuit and they were better off developing their own talent with monsters from other industries such as football or body building. They thought of independent wrestlers more as damaged goods because of the lack of proper training and education in the field. Not only did many lack the size that management was looking for but they also had to be re-conditioned from a more intimate independent wrestling style to that of the WWF wrestling style. Don’t ask me what that was because I spent a good year trying to be “educated” on this style that seemed to change from week to week. Thanks for all those traumatic memories Kevin Kelly. I was definitely one of those guys that reflected that intimate style that needed to be re-conditioned at great length. 

I just want to say that I always had the utmost respect for those that actually put on a pair of tights and learned the craft. Whether I may have agreed or not, I would always listen and respect words from guys like Tom Prichard and Terry Taylor while with the WWF. Tom Prichard alone was a small man that survived many years in a big man sport and he was well deserving of all of the respect he had in the business. If he told me something, I listened with the respect like how a son would have for his father. The same could be said with just about wrestler I was surrounded during my tenure there even down to Jim Neidhart. My problem came more with members of management like Bruce Pritchard and Kevin Kelly. 

I found it very difficult to take the ever changing advice especially from those who did little or nothing in the business accept reap the rewards of the work of others. I would regularly be lectured on how I needed to conform to the company style that changed from week to week. One week I would be lectured by either of those two individuals on how I had to work fast and just get spots in. The following week I would be told that I needed to slow down and sell more when I was trying to do what they told me the week prior. I really think it was them just messing with me. Whether it could have been my downfall or not but I was very vocal about my distain even on some cases saying it directly to either of them. I definitely never really conformed to the standard and played the little guy that was just happy I had a job. That’s probably much of the reason that I’m here writing about it and not on TV doing it. I can laugh though because whatever it may have been I definitely did it my way and really have no regrets. I decided not to renew with them and never looked back at it as a bad decision. 

Without getting too far off track on a different subject than how this started, that long year as a developmental talent in their Memphis territory changed my perspective completely. I remember sitting next to Rodney of the Mean Street Posse while was wondering out loud a few weeks prior to his contract expiration if he was going to be renewed. As the days got closer, he talked more about whether he was even going to be resigned. I remember thinking that this is supposed to be Shane McMahon’s friend and he’s worried about a job. A few days before his contract was supposed to expire, he got his renewal papers. He was relieved and revived. It was only one week after he had signed his new contract that he was terminated. 

I loved wrestling but was terrified to become a slave to it as my only option in life. I guess I didn’t love it enough. I respect and admire those that do but I couldn’t wear that cross for me or any family I would plan to have in the future. Something as volatile and unstable as that was far too distracting to me. I knew at that point that I would not be one of the “lucky” that would make my life in the business. Not long after that, I notified the office of my intention to not renew my contract. A few months after I left Memphis, they closed support for that territory and released all but one of the guys remaining there. I’ll never really know what my future may have held with them but I certainly don’t loose sleep at night about it. Some guys are trying to make a dream of being on TV, having an action figure, or appearing in a video game. I was just having fun entertaining a few people along the way. Once it stopped being fun and became my job was the day it died from me.


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