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.
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.
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.
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.
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.