Archive for November, 2007

Connecticut rings hurt

November 13, 2007

During my early upstart days, the power of the internet worked in my favor more times than not. I got started working shows just after the famed Malenko/Guerrero series in ECW. I was a huge fan of the more technical wrestlers for some time while training and the Malenko style really appealed to me. In the upstart and throughout my career I tried to blend a style between Malenko, Ultimo Dragon, and Steve Regal. Somehow or another, partly because of my ring name, people seemed to imagine that I was more of a dare devil Sabu style wrestler or insane acrobatic stylist like Rey Mysterio Jr.. The first insult I received during my career was at the hands of a fan from a wrestling show I did in New Britain, Connecticut.

 

This was my first venture into Connecticut and it was working for two Pennsylvania based promoters by the name of Ed Zohn and Doug Flex. The venue was at an indoor astro-turf arena probably used for soccer. Considering the beautiful open areas around the town, I didn’t understand the need for an indoor arena. Maybe it was for a non-seasonal league of some sort but who really cares. I had already logged quite a few wrestling miles by this point and the venue really didn’t matter much to me. My only concerns revolved more so around the condition of the ring I was expected to perform in.

 

I think a lot of guys take for granted the rings they work in nowadays. I know I sound like an old man but that is because I am. When you are talking about the mid ‘90s you can safely say that most rings were not up to par with the coming changes of ring styles or the overall decrease in average wrestler size. I was at the time about 180lbs. soaking wet and a typical bump in the ring for me did not feel nearly the same as the average wrestler at the time being about 65lbs. more than me. Couple this with the fact that these heavier wrestlers were not only bumping considerably less but not doing any of the aerial techniques that had become commonplace for the lighter weight wrestlers like myself. It was safe to say that both Ed Zohn and Doug Flex did not do such a good job in the ring rental department that cold rainy day.

 

I typically would walk a ring prior to the opening of the venue to the public. It’s funny how this practice has become so commonplace these days especially when many guys are working in the same ring every week. In the mid ‘90s, no one walked the ring but me. It was usually thought of as an odd request I made to a promoter. Most of the time the ring crew might not even have the ring assembled until just before they opened the doors to the fans. I actually began the practice because I have poor vision and did not wrestle with contacts. I needed to be able to measure steps and gage the limitations of the ring in general. When you were wrestling in California one day, Texas the next, and Delaware on the last, you were sure to encounter quite different rings across each area of the country. The focal point these days is on the wrestler you are working because many of the limitations of the ring have been eliminated. We have Smokey Mountain Wrestling (SMW) to thank for the mainstream overhaul in wrestling rings from the late ‘90s to current. That’s another story. No one got the memo on what a wrestling ring was supposed to be at this particular venue in Connecticut.

 

I went out to do my normal ring walk to gage what kind of limitations I’d be working with as far as the ring was concerned. The location of the locker room was such that you actually walked through the waiting fans to get to where the actual event was taking place. I was recognized by a fan that claimed to have driven a few hours from a remote place just to see me perform. He said that he had heard a lot of positive things about me and was looking forward to seeing me in action. I thanked him and said that I hoped I wouldn’t disappoint. Upon entering the area where the ring was located, I immediately knew I had my work cut out for me if I was going to please anyone.

 

I don’t really expect it but often time fans don’t take into consideration what limitations a performer might be working with. I guess it’s understandable because they parted with their hard earned money and expect satisfaction in return. Regardless, you can’t drive a car without gas. If you have no money to gas in the tank, it’s not the cars fault. Well the limitation as plain as the eye could see this night was the boxing ring that was being used for a professional wrestling event.

 

In the eyes of any wrestler, whether they a once-a-month or every night worker, would cringe at the site of a boxing ring at a wrestling event. There have been many jokes made in such situations that bumping on the floor would have more give. Couple this with the fact that the top rope was sagging somewhat below the second ring rope you could plainly see the ring was not designed much for aerial wrestling. I mean we are clear that the ring was not meant for wrestling at all but even more so that climbing to the top rope would require significant circus skills that I missed on “circus wire act day” of professional wrestling school. Needless to say, the style of every match that night was going to starkly contrast their typical ring style including mine. My saving grace was that I was going to compensate by blending comedic aspects into my match. Unfortunately for me, this fan that had traveled to see me was not particularly happy with my performance and was more than willing to let me know after the event.

 

The fan told me how disappointed he was and how poor of a wrestler he thought I was. He complained about driving the distance he did and then went on to say how I was not nearly as good as a handful of his favorites. His favorites included Rey Mysterio Jr. and some top names at the time in the World Wrestling Federation (WWF). Despite his attack directed at me and him associating me with a class of wrestlers far greater than I, I said very little other than apologized for disappointing him. He began to get more ignorant until at which point that Don Montoya stepped in and began to tear into the fan for knowing nothing about some of the limitations discussed in this writing. Shortly after that, Ed Zohn came over and tried to calm down Don not knowing the situation that had taken place. Ed said something about never allowing the fan in the events at that venue again but I spoke against it.

 

Ultimately, Ed Zohn and Doug Flex ran a few more events at that location with that same fan in attendance each time. This fan was entitled to his opinion regardless of the scar that it left on me after his attack. This is part of the entertainment business anyway so I had to endure it as part of the trade. The promotion did come through with attempts at getting a better ring in the remaining events which was welcomed by all of the wrestlers. I take solace in the fact that I eventually won over the discontent fan by showing him exactly what my character, Reckless Youth, was live as opposed to the often skewed interpretations of print. I was able to do this despite the shortcomings of my first appearance in Connecticut in the stiffest ring in the state.

 

Next Time around: You’ve got nice boots.

All the prostitutes in Uniontown

November 9, 2007

Norm Conners was a notorious manager and promoter in the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania independent wrestling scene for more years than most can remember. I’m sure Norm could bore us all with exact numbers but this is more about a booking that came from the famed Steel City Wrestling (SCW) days when the promotion was one of the few independents that had a legitimate weekly TV program for more than a minute.

 

At the time, Mike Quackenbush and Christian York were Steel City Wrestling’s main babyface wrestling. I believe my character, Reckless Youth, served as more of a tweener and Don Montoya was a full blown out heel. It was normal for Quackenbush, Montoya, and myself to travel together to many shows at the time and would regularly hook up with York during our travels. Norm Conners’ TV taping shows ran in a little town of just outside of Pittsburgh called Irwin. During this time, it was not uncommon for our group to get bookings on other nearby independents because of the strength of the SCW TV product. One such town that will always stand out in my memory is that of Uniontown, Pennsylvania.

 

Uniontown was home to an independent promotion that I have no idea of the name at this point after several drops on my head throughout my storied career. The promoter had originally booked Quackenbush, York, and I in a triple threat match. Montoya was scheduled to wrestle some local guy. I was infamous for showing up to shows and rebooking my match and or others to a more agreeable form to me. In my opinion, most promoters had little sense of booking a show. They may have had a handful of cash to have a show but that is about where their brains stopped. Contrary to popular opinion, my changes were not about selfish wants but more about a concern to entertain the people that paid a ticket to the show. These changes eventually led to the triple threat match being reorganized to a tag match pitting Montoya and I against Quackenbush and York. This match would later become known as the greatest tag team match ever wrestled at least in the minds of Quackenbush, Montoya, and I.  We weren’t sure where it stood in York’s mind more so because he seemed to be a in a drug related daze before, during, and after. If the event was captured on video, I’m sure it would not be as perfect as it was in our minds. As usual though, nothing went without a hitch.

 

It was no different than any other wrestling venue that we normally worked but there was not a worker on the show other than ourselves that we knew. This was very uncommon since I could easily run into someone I knew in a locker room across this country because of the lengthy travel time I put in. The promoter was not too receptive to me changing the main event more so because he did not know or care much for Don Montoya. Don hadn’t really been on the uphill swing yet on the SCW TV so the promoter didn’t really know who he was and looked at him as nothing more than a huge fat guy. Montoya was tipping the scales over 350lbs. and most people didn’t think much of him unless they worked him. The local guy he was supposed to work thought him too fat to do anything with so he really didn’t want to wrestle him at all. Montoya always had an uphill battle anywhere he wrestled because people initially judged him only on his size. Those that knew his work knew he had one of the best cardio conditioning compared to anyone in wrestling and moved like a lightweight in the ring. He was able to easily adapt to various different styles and could judge his opponent or crowd to gage a match. Unfortunately, this particular night his ego was terribly bruised after the repeated assault by the promoter and the wannabe wrestlers in that locker room.

 

You would think things couldn’t get much worse but like typical indy wrestling they did when the ring broke a handful of matches prior to the main event. Now the promoter was walking directly up to Montoya and specifically telling him not to bump because he would make it even worse with his size. Don was easily the biggest guy on the show and bore the brunt of the promoters ring breakage issues.

 

Montoya was really upset and pacing back and forth in the locker room. He was going on about just sitting in the car until everyone was done and that he just didn’t feel good about competing. I can remember within the minute prior to us going out of the gorilla, I looked at Montoya and told him to channel all his pain and aggression from tonight into a killer promo that none of these goofballs would soon forget. I could see his mood change and it was almost as if I unleashed the beast. I more of less believed that we would never be wrestling in that venue ever again and took it as “gloves off” when I hit the ring. My promos were never a work. They were always a shoot especially when I was cutting someone down terribly prior to working them. As we were the heels out first, typically you run down the town a little and talk down your babyface opponent. I took the opportunity to run down each and every wannabe wrestler in the locker room and rip to the promoter on how low budget the promotion was. When Montoya took the microphone, the beast was unleashed. He cut a promo the likes of which I have never seen to this day from anyone. He systematically ripped apart the promotion, wrestlers, and town completely in a 10 minute promo that had me laughing and clapping at the end. Always leaving on a high note, Montoya pointed to the promoter’s wife, mother, and sister, thanking the hooker population of Uniontown for taking the night off to come see wrestling. They were on the balcony and I was sure each of them was considering jumping over the edge as they railed him profusely after Montoya’s tirade.

 

The match itself had a beautiful opening exchange, a classic turnaround that drew major reaction from the crowd, a nice swerve with a rarely seen double heat, and an escalating finish that ended with a thunderous reaction from the crowd when the babyface team went over. The match had all the elements of a classic and the night embodied the spirit of independent wrestling. Despite that, I fondly remember more so to this day to how the hookers of Uniontown took to the balcony’s edge as they were called out by one of the original microphone riot inciters.

 
Next Time around: Connecticut rings hurt.