Heroes in the Business

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.