First “match” in the books, albeit as a manager and a falling out between the business partners of the USWA… this was intro into the world of professional wrestling.
As my journey continues, there’s been a lot of present day talk between those in the business, about the backyard wrestlers and promotions, and the overall quality of today’s product. Back when I was getting my ears wet, around 2000, we were already past the collapse of the territory system, however, wrestling still had somewhat of a barrier to get into. At the same time, some of the indy companies were quality, but the backyard wrestling was starting to become a phenomena. Wrestling was white-hot on the trails of the WWE Attitude Era and WCW’s nWo… but all would soon come crashing down.
During this period of time, the fall and winter of 1999, I was a young 18 year old kid in high school, totally in awe of anything pro wrestling. To say I wasn’t at least a bit naive would be lying. I took everything at face value and believed that what I was doing wasn’t incorrect in any way. I’m getting ahead of myself however…
There was a down period between the transition of the old USWA and Randy’s start up of RWW, “Real World Wrestling” (yes, a blatant rip-off of the MTV show’s name.) During this time I started hanging out more often with Shade and Lucas, who both lived in this tiny community of Garrettsville, which was about halfway between where I lived in Youngstown and Cleveland. G-Town wasn’t exactly “on the way” to wrestling, but being a young kid and looking up to these other kids, albeit older yet not so mature, I constantly pined for the opportunity to learn more about the business.
That opportunity would come at a “new” training center located in Cleveland. I can’t remember the exact address, but I could spot the building today if it were still standing. It was located somewhere in the East 100 block, the same lovely neighborhood that the group Bone Thugs-N-Harmony would rap about. Lovely of course is sarcasm, as I should’ve been more aware of my surroundings and came equipped with a flak jacket and a conceal and carry permit!
That may be a bit unfair judgment of that neighborhood, as I grew up in what could be a fairly hostile environment. Sure, it wasn’t a warzone, but you also had to know how to carry yourself. Walk like you own the joint and don’t give the right person the wrong look, and you’d do fine.
The “training center” was housed in an old bus station. Many old vehicles were in the garage area, and the actual wrestling setup was in the old lobby area. I remember the building having little to no heat. I don’t recall the exact first time there, but I do remember going there many times. Eventually another guy joined myself, Shade and Lucas, whom I introduced earlier as John Henry. A friend of Shade’s, now all of a sudden he was going to “become” a wrestler too. The only thing I really remember about John Henry was his station wagon, where I always rode in the backseat with his subwoofers that made my ears painfully ring. Not cool.
Inside this converted bus lobby with no heat, stood a ring; it was made of wood, sat on the floor and was basically a 10×10 or 12×12 pillow surrounded by ropes and the nicest turnbuckles I’ve ever seen; when compared to the remainder of the “ring” made you wonder. The writing should’ve been on the wall right then and there, but I just went with the flow.
The head trainers at this facility were a guy named Bear, whom I never learned much about other than he claimed to have wrestled in Minnesota and his partner in crime, let’s call him “Angel,” who was both helpful and harmful to my early wrestling career.
The first few trips to train were semi-productive. I still hurt quite a bit, as my bumps weren’t near perfect and they could hardly be when running on the feather filled “mat”. Most people think that wrestling rings are like a trampoline, well compared to an ACTUAL pillow-like ring, I would definitely take the concrete feeling of ANYTHING else. The pillow had little to no give and since the rest of the contraption were made of wood, well, need I say more.
Also combine the construction of the ring with the training regimen: Shade and the others wanted to work on high spots rather than basic wrestling training that would benefit me. Hence how I learned how to perform a moonsault before a headlock. The moonsault lessons were also a lesson in pain, as I landed on my face more often than not.
Before long the horseplay finally came to an end, as Angel tried to organize and have us all work on actual basics and psychology. It was at this time that I became exposed. Apparently, without the others telling me, the center was supposed to be a place for trained wrestlers to practice. They had pawned me off as trained to Bear and Angel, which did me no favors, as I had no clue what I was doing and it showed.
Also at this time, Bear and Angel had brought in a few new students to train. Vince was a stuck up white kid, whom I thought might come from a background of money, or so he acted. His shit never stunk. Joe was a scraggly white kid with tattoos all over his body. Rumor had it he just got out of prison, and was living in one of the abandoned offices in the bowels of the building. The other student was Earl, a black kid who looked the part and was fairly athletic. I felt he had the best chance of all of them and took to wrestling like a duck took to water.
A few others rounded out the usual suspects at the school. Dennis, aka the Hellraiser, used to show all the time, but he’d never get in the ring. I knew right off the bat that I already had more training than he did. “Black Mike” was a DMX looking guy who also apparently had a prison rap sheet for his resume. He always wanted to hot dog doing a few flashy moves; he’d do that and be done for the day, then disappear for weeks at a time.
Another frequent visitor was a wrestler known as Pyscho Mike. Actually, he was very well known in the Cleveland area. Mike used to run a local cable access show which featured wrestling and heavy metal music. From what I know, he used to do work all over, and actually did some undercard stuff with the WWE. The best way to describe Psycho Mike is that he looked like Bam Bam Bigelow. He was tattooed up and just menacing to look at. His large frame hid his overall happy demeanor. He was genuinely a nice guy, but I started to notice that he would not get in the ring with the rest of us, instead waiting for everyone to clear out before taking a hand in personally training his daughter the auspices of the ring. I noticed right away that the drills he had her doing were vastly different than what we were doing.
The mix of new and old was good for me, but with the new students living nearby and being able to train more often, they had a learning advantage over me in more ways that one. First they got more practice. Second, they were actually being taught stuff, while in contrast people wanted to show me how to back flip off the top rope. It was during these practices that I started to feel awkward around the other guys and my shyness lead to the apprehension of attempting certain moves. I might’ve been naive, but I was smart enough to know not to get myself or others hurt.
The smell of blood in the water circled the sharks however. The others started to use me as their tackling dummy, as I was willing to work on bumping and selling, which is about all I could do. At a certain point I started to smarten up, even when my buddy Shade decided to wrench back on a Boston Crab so hard it made every vertebrae in my back pop.
Of course, being the tackling dummy, some of the guys thought they could get away with just about anything. During one training session, I was working in the ring with Black Mike, i.e. the former con. He immediately put my head between his knees, setting me up for a piledriver. Instantly recognizing his attempt, I became dead weight. Mike was a lanky guy and couldn’t lift me. He attempted again before I laid my stomach flat on the mat.
To this day, I always had the feeling that he might’ve been in on something, where the other guys knew my background, or lack thereof. It wasn’t shortly after this that I started to get inquiries about paying money: much more than I was already paying to train there, to become an official “student” at the center.
Well that would’ve been fine and dandy, if there were any proof in the pudding that these guys were worth their salt (and by salt, I mean TONS of salt!) The building was run down, the ring wasn’t even a real ring, and the wrestlers, including the head trainer Angel, didn’t have any type of supporting resume. To me, still a young kid, I was smart enough to notice this had to be a way to con me for some money. I knew there was no way in hell that Joe, Vince, Earl, Black Mike or any of the others were paying the kind of money they had asked of me.
Being fair and smart, I leveled up and had a sit-down talk with Angel. We were pretty straight forward with one another, but the price wasn’t something that was budging, so I ended up walking, though this wouldn’t be my last encounter with any of the boys or the center itself.
The highlights of this part of my story ran from the end of Doug’s USWA through the start of Randy’s RWW and several other adventures I’ll touch upon in my next chapter.
Disclaimer: “Diary of a Present Day Pro Wrestler” is a recount of witty, funny, ugly and otherwise entertaining stories from Scott Prodigy’s pro wrestling career. While these stories are based on true events, the author makes no representation or warranties with respect to the accuracy, applicability, fitness, or completeness of the content. In some instances names, locations and/or other general information have been altered. The author shall in no event be held liable to any party for any direct, indirect, punitive, special, incidental or other consequential damages arising directly or indirectly from any use of this material, which is provided “as is”, and without warranties. The author does not warrant the performance, effectiveness or applicability of any sites listed or linked to in the content.
Copyright 2011 Scott Prodigy. All Rights Reserved.
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