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What About the Refs?

Everyone knows that thousands of wrestlers are sitting in isolation while the country rides out the COVID-19 pandemic. But what about the refs? They’re sitting at home. They’re bored stiff. And yes, they’re missing their hot dogs and handshakes too.

Here’s a short film I created with Sean Patrick O’Brien, Aaron Grider, and AJ Kissinger, three of the hardest working refs in the Midwest who can’t wait to get back at it.

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Wrestle Tea with Mr. Darius Carter

Two days ago, I wrote about Wrestle Tea because I wanted people to see Sam Leterna in action. I am doing so again today because you need to see her first guest.

Mr. Darius Carter is one of the most successful, arrogant, and self-assured wrestlers in the business. His stated goal, as mentioned in this interview, is to be on TV. I have no doubt he will be there sooner rather than later. This man is a throwback in the same vein as MJF. He’s an old school heel killing it in the modern era.

And yes, he’s better than all of you, and he knows it.

Please click play below to watch this interview, and give Sam a subscribe on YouTube if you like what you see!

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Have Some Tea with Sam Leterna

I met Sam Leterna for the first time a while back on one of Mad Man Pondo’s Girl Fight shows. From the moment she walked through the curtain, you could tell there was something different, something new and yet old. Over the last month, I’ve discovered what it is that sets her apart. Sam Leterna is a lady who knows her wrestling history.

As much as some older fans and historians lament the way the business has changed, there are some wrestlers who not only study the past, but keep it alive in the way they do business. Sam was one of the first people to start sharing my social media posts about Black Panther Jim Mitchell in February, so when I had the chance to interview her, I asked what she loved about wrestling history and why she felt it was so important to study the past.

“Everything!” she exclaims. “I feel that anyone actively involved in the industry has to go back at least as far as the 70s and see how different territories operated. There was a simplicity of execution that was so effective back in those days, and I often find myself searching for that ‘lost art’ in today’s product. Too, a big part of wrestling is respect and etiquette i.e. the ever-present hand shake. If you don’t know who someone is because you started watching wrestling in 2002 and have never delved beyond the modern product you are bound to offend someone somewhere down the line. That’s something that is easily avoidable if you actually read about and watch the product from yester year.”

Sam Leterna has steeped herself in the traditions of the past, so much so that even her ring name has roots that run decades deep. “While I was in Calgary training with Lance Storm, I read “Sisterhood of the Squared Circle” back to back in search of character inspiration. At the time I was looking to change my ring name. I stumbled upon a wrestler named Clara Mortensen who called herself ‘the Eternal Woman.’ I loved the moniker so much that I dubbed myself ‘Leterna’ which translated from Spanish means ‘the eternal one.’ It is my homage to the women who made it possible for me to be a part of this business today, their legacies being eternal in my heart.”

You can see a lot of her heroes in the way she performs and the way she draws heart. “I love the Von Erichs, Freddie Blassie, Nick Bockwinkel, Gino Hernandez, Susan Sexton, and Roddy Piper. I’m a sucker for a good heel!”

Leterna first became a fan back in 2002 after stumbling upon wrestling by accident. “My first ever dose of wrestling was the King of the Ring 2002, the year Brock Lesnar was crowned king. At the time, my mom had one of the illegal splice cable boxes and it just so happened that the PPV channel was available. I accidentally tuned in and never looked back!”

At the age of 14, Leterna attended her first live show, the 2008 Royal Rumble at Madison Square Garden. It was there she realized she wanted to be a professional wrestler herself. “The energy when the show went live was emotionally overwhelming and it filled me with this sense of belonging I had never felt towards anything else.”

In 2016 Sam began training with the legendary Johnny Rodz at World of Unpredictable Wrestling in Brooklyn, New York. A year later she made the trek to Calgary, Alberta, Canada to train with Lance Storm at world renowned Storm Wrestling Academy. “It was the single best experience of my life to date. Training five days a week five hours a day really helped me up my game athletically and also have a more fundamental understanding of how to put a match together.”

Sam is a showstopper in the ring, a superb athlete and a despicable heel, but in 2020 she’s pursuing a new venture outside the ring. It’s called Wrestle Tea, and it’s Sam’s way of giving back and supporting others in the wrestling community.

Wrestle Tea is a video content channel for wrestlers by wrestlers,” she says. “I want this to be a platform for wrestlers to get out there and creatively express themselves through different segments along with interview content.”

Sam envisions Wrestle Tea as a place where emerging talent can get over with the fans. “Talent on all echelons of the wrestling totem pole are welcome as everyone has something to contribute that fans can bite their teeth into.”

Sam already has some amazing guests on film including one of my favorite heels, Mr. Darius Carter. And while everyone is welcome, Sam does have a list of dream guests. “I’d love to have Randy Orton, Jordan Devlin, Orange Cassidy, MJF, Lita, and Beth Phoenix. Also a huge fan of NXT UK wrestler Jinny’s work and would love to have her on the show. Kevin Von Erich would also be a dream interview for me as I love everything WCCW.”

One would think Sam would attract more guests with coffee than tea, but that’s just not her cup of… okay, I won’t go there. Nevertheless, Sam has her reasons for choosing tea. “Tea, has two meanings. Of course we all know what the herbal beverage tea is. However, many people use the word ‘tea’ in reference to getting a scoop or a bit of juicy gossip. Thus, Wrestle Tea!”

And just out of curiosity, how does Sam like her tea? “My go to is matcha green tea! As long as it isn’t too cold outside, I serve my Matcha over ice with a bit of coconut milk and honey. Matcha has caffeine for a good mid-day boost but doesn’t cause you to crash later on like coffee because it is rich in antioxidants.”

Sam’s got a love for the business, past and present, that is infectious, and Wrestle Tea promises to be a great opportunity for her and her guests. Wrestle Tea launches March 20th on Youtube. You can subscribe to the Wrestle Tea Youtube channel to catch the show. And be sure to follow her on Instagram and Twitter.

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Pre-order Your Copy of Tracy Smothers’ Book!

Eat Sleep Wrestle is proud to present the autobiography of the one and only, Tracy Smothers!

He’s been hired and fired from every major wrestling company. He’s wrestled all over the United States, in Mexico, and Asia. He’s held multiple tag team belts and heavyweight championships. He’s been a top guy and a jobber. He’s been a hero, a villain, and a mentor to countless young wrestlers of the last two generations. He pinned legends. He defeated cancer. And yes, he wrestled three different bears.

Few wrestlers have logged as many miles as Tracy Smothers, and even fewer have made the impact he has on today’s young stars. Now for the first time, Tracy reveals how a promising young athlete Springfield, Tennessee, who once aspired to be a high school football coach found himself at the center of a fan riot in Mexico City and a bar fight in Malaysia. He talks about the last days of the territories, the rise of the Wild Eyed Southern Boys and the Young Pistols, his star turn in Smoky Mountain, his jobbing days in WWF, life-changing concussions, the FBI in ECW, and the dance contests in the indies. You’ll hear harrowing tales about bounty hunting, delivering pizzas, and yes… going toe to toe with the legendary Ginger the Wrestling Bear.

Tracy Smothers doesn’t care if you love him. He doesn’t care if you think he sucks. He doesn’t even really care if you read his book. There’s only one thing you need to know right now. If you don’t buy this book, EVERYBODY DIES!

If you want to get a signed copy of Tracy’s book you can now pre-order one through the book shop on this our website. Books are expected in early April. That said, with the current COVID-19 situation we cannot guarantee when they will ship. Tracy and I live 2 hours apart, but we will make every effort to get together as soon as books arrive so we can ship them to everyone who pre-orders.

Click here to pre-order a signed copy.

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In This Corner: AKIRA

First off, let’s get this straight. If you spell it with lowercase letters, you’re spelling it wrong.

“It’s AKIRA not Akira,” explains AKIRA, a truly gifted young shooter who stole the show at Girl Fight’s Pick Your Poison event in Southern Indiana last November. “One looks cool, the other looks like you forgot my last name.”

Although he lives just a stone’s throw away from the Jeffersonville, Indiana Arena, many local fans have never seen AKIRA in action before Girl Fight. Yet AKIRA is a hard-working, extreme grappler who has traveled all over the US and Mexico and bears the battle scars to prove it. He’s also one of a growing number of young wrestlers who continues to study the once lost art of shoot fighting.

“I started off with Blake Reed of New Wave Pro,” he explains. “Then I went to train with Katsuyori Shibata for a week and really found a base for my style. I then followed that up by training with Jay Grooms, who was a student of the late Great Billy Robinson. So you can generally trace bits and pieces of my background to Robinson, and by a stretttchhhh Inoki and Gotch.

If the names Billy Robinson, Karl Gotch, or (heaven forbid!) Antonio Inoki are unfamiliar, you should look them up. Robinson was a legitimate shooter, one of those “dangerous” grapplers old wrestlers speak about with the same respect as Haku and Dr. D David Schultz. In other words, he’s a man you didn’t play cute with in the ring unless you really wanted to get hurt. Antonio Inoki, of course, is one of the great legends of Japan and the founder of New Japan Pro Wrestling. Karl Gotch was his mentor and Billy’s, a truly dangerous man and the one guy Muhammed Ali would not go near when he was in Japan to face Inoki.

All this to say, AKIRA knows his legacy, and his legacy is men who could hurt people.

That’s not to say AKIRA doesn’t know how to work a wrestling match. He’s trained with a number of big name and “outlaw” style grapplers too, including the Rejects. AKIRA can work with anyone, but he knows how to protect himself. In days gone by, when men like Dr. D first trained with men like Herb Welch, they were taught how to shoot so they could protect themselves in the ring. It’s a skill many wrestlers who were trained in a Performance Center never even touch, but it’s one AKIRA values highly. “You can’t trust everyone,” he adds. “I’d rather be able to have some sort of semblance of control in a fight.”

It’s easy to see AKIRA’s heroes in his wrestling style. As a kid, he idolized men like Brett Hart, RVD, Hayavusa, Tajiri, and the Rock. ”When I got back into wrestling around 18, it was Suzuki, Nakamura, Shibata, Sakuraba, Styles. I would even add Lesnar to that list. Kasai and Gage inspired me to try deathmatches.”

As a writer of wrestling history, I love guys like AKIRA, who appreciate the stories of the men and women who came before him. AKIRA sees value in learning about the past, as a fan and as a wrestler. “History teaches respect. It shows the good of wrestling and the bad of if as well. History teaches acknowledgement of those that came before you.”

He’s got an ambitious wish list of wrestlers he hopes to share the ring with one day, including Katsuyori Shibata,  DBS, Jr., Minoru Suzuki, Simon Grimm, Chris Dickinson, Josh Barnett, Tom Lawlor, Hiromu Takahashi, Nakamura, Ibushi, Takeda, Kasai, Daniel Makabe, and Tony Deppen (again).

AKIRA’s had many rivals in the ring, but if there’s one wrestler you could call his nemesis, it’s Charlie Kruel. Fans of Ms. Kruel have long enjoyed listening to AKIRA heckle the psycho killer from the back of the room during her matches, and I just had to ask AKIRA, why do you hate the girl so much.

AKIRA just hangs his head and sighs. “I live with her. Like…that’s all that needs to be said. And she doesn’t take Kota the Deathmatch Doge out.” Nuff said.

AKIRA’s love of deathmatches is well-known, and fans who visit his social media feeds will see plenty of blood and scars. That said, AKIRA, is far from being “just a bleeder.” He can work any style you throw at him and put on as entertaining a match as you’ll see on the independents. “I can legitimately wrestle, but that doesn’t mean I can’t slug it out with the best of them. I have a love for scifi anime and film, and my music tastes cover a weird spectrum.”

AKIRA’s goal is the same as many young wrestlers: “To make a living on my own terms and be looked upon in a heralded light at the end of the day for my contributions,” he says. “To be a King…you know? At the end of the day, I just want to fight for you all.”

If you want to check out AKIRA (again, all caps!) you can find him on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook @theakiraway. And be sure to visit his Teespring shop: Akira’s Corner.

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Available Now: The Italian Temper

The Italian Temper

Every city has its wrestling heroes, sung and unsung. Sometimes it’s the unsung heroes who prove to be the most interesting.

Everybody knows that Jim Cornette hail from Louisville, Kentucky, but you can’t appreciate the full story of the city without knowing about Heywood Allen, Blacksmith Pedigo, Jim Mitchell, Stu Gibson, and even Kenny Starmaker Bolin.

The big name everyone knows from Des Moines is NWA founder Pinky George. But when you dig a little deeper, you’ll discover the name Alphonse “Babe” Bisignano and a story so outrageous, it captured the mind of a pro wrestling historian who lives half the world away from Iowa.

Eat Sleep Wrestle is proud to be the publisher for the Professional Wrestling Historical Society’s own Jimmy Wheeler and his first book, The Italian Temper: The Story of How Alphonse “Babe” Bisignano Turned Out All Right.

Babe was a boxer, bootlegger, restaurateur, promoter, cook book author, entrepreneur, and of course, a professional wrestler. Alphonse “Babe” Bisignano had a tumultuous childhood which left him striving for more. This colorful story of an icon in the city of Des Moines, Iowa, takes you along his journey from shining shoes to a friend of the White House. From dodgy dealings to a pillar of the community. Babe had anecdotes for days, and you’ll understand exactly why once you’ve read the about his incredible life.

While all aspects of his life are covered, Jimmy Wheeler of the Professional Wrestling Historical Society naturally dove deep into the pro-wrestling side of Babe’s life. He had quite the connection with the business. Starting in the 1930s there are tales of hijinks on the road, behind the scenes goings on, the confrontation that ended his in-ring career, a major lawsuit, and finally how pro-wrestling came back around into his life much later on.

“Say the name, instant recognition. Instant prestige if he called you by name.” – Chuck Offenburger

The Italian Temper is now available on Amazon. 

Signed author copies will be available soon!

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Tracy Smothers to Speak at CAC

If you’re headed to the Cauliflower Alley Club Reunion in April, you’re going to want to mark this on your agenda.

Wednesday, April 29, at 1 p.m., the one and only Tracy Smothers will be sharing stories from his remarkable career. This is a man who has survived bar fights, riots in Mexico City, real life shoots on WWE pay-per-view, THREE different bears, and coming soon… Cancer.

This will be Tracy’s first ever visit to Sin City, and it’s a rare opportunity for West Coast fans to see and learn from a man who has been hired and fired from every company there is to work for (except AEW, but that’s only because they’re new).

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The Black Panther Jim Mitchell Featured in Black History Month

The Black Panther Jim MitchellIt’s Black History Month, and every day I’ve been posting photos, documents, and other memorabilia from the life of The Black Panther Jim Mitchell. If you’re not following me on social media right now, you’re missing out.

The truly amazing part about almost all of this material is that it all came from the Black Panther himself. I have over 900 scans of photos, newspaper articles, magazine articles, wrestling programs, wrestling posters, and legal documents that Jim Mitchell collected and saved. These items were found in the early 2000s when a man named Dave Marciniak bought Mitchell’s house from the bank as a flip after the death of Mitchell’s step-daughter. It’s a miracle that this stuff survived the years, and it’s incredibly fortunate Dave saw potential value in these items. Rather than throwing it all away, he salvaged what he could, thinking it might be worth something one day. After all the time I spent chasing the Black Panther’s story, it was worth more than gold to me.

I’m sharing a few items every day, so if you want to catch up and follow along, here’s where you can find me:

Instagram

Twitter

Facebook

And if you want to pick up the book, you can find it on Amazon or buy a signed copy direct from me.

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The Best Part of the XFL

XFL
A quick note, while I am procrastinating from working transcribing audio for an upcoming book project.

Here is what I love best about the XFL. Look at how many players are in uniform each game. Look at the number of coaches and staff on the sidelines and in the box. Look at all the people who have a chance to make a living doing what they love.

The last few years, I’ve been inspired watching so many independent wrestlers I admire become signed wrestlers. I’ve enjoyed seeing people like Marko Stunt, Dave Crist, Jordynne Grace, and others suddenly find themselves with wrestling as their primary gig and not just something they do on the weekends.

It’s a little ironic that the XFL has done the same for football. After all, if XFL founder Vince McMahon had his way, all the companies now employing wrestlers like Marko, Dave, and Jordynne would cease to be. Nevertheless, this is a great time for football, a great time for wrestling, and an inspirational time for dreamers.

Oh yeah, the football has been a lot of fun. Way better than 19 years ago. I hope this incarnation of the XFL sticks around for a bit.

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How Did I Get Here?

Hurricane JJ Maguire, The Boogeyman, John Cosper, Tracy Smothers

Inspired by Seth Godin and my good friend Nevan Hooker, I sat down recently and put together a complete timeline for my writing career. It’s interesting to look back, see how I got to where I am, and how much I have done.

And there’s still more to come!

1993 – I graduated high school and enrolled at Indiana University Southeast in New Albany. I also began volunteering to help the new youth pastor at church with a new youth outreach program, writing a few skits for the new drama team. A few weeks after dropping out of Acting 101 at IUS, I was put in charge of the drama team against my will.

1994 – The drama team at church took on the name Dramamaniacs. I taught a drama workshop at CIY and created a skit book for the workshop called Righteous Insanity. After the youth pastor suggested I try selling skits instead of giving them away, I created the first catalog for Righteous Insanity.

1995 – Thanks to the leader of the Christian organization on campus at IUS, I was published nationally for the first time by the National Drama Service.

1996 – I started taking bookings with actress Laura Gary as a comedy duo, Craving Chaos. We only did a few gigs.

1997 – I produced what became Righteous Insanity’s most popular play, Aliens. I also wrote two skits that would become my most popular, as well as the one the Dramamanaics voted their least favorite, ever.

1998 – I won the Christians in Theatre Arts dramatic sketch writing contest. I left the Dramamaniacs.

1999 – I wrote the play “The Waiting Room” In the wake of the Columbine tragedy. Righteous Insanity’s website went online for the first time. I published my first novel, The Shell Collector. Co-directed Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.

2000 – I co-founded the Dramatic Youth drama conference, which lasted two years. I went to work with Youth for Christ in Louisville and took “The Waiting Room” on tour around the region.

2001 – I was laid off from a full-time job for the first time. I left YFC and founded the Righteous Insanity touring company as a six person group. We struggled to keep it together through the end of the year.

2002 – A year to the day after my first lay off, I was laid off a second time. I said heck with it and decided to give Righteous Insanity a go full-time. I attended my first Youth Encounter event and taught a drama workshop. Began a three year stint as an after school drama club director at Barrett Middle School in Louisville directing A Patchwork Girl of Oz. I filmed my first short movie, Chasing Leia. The Righteous Insanity touring company re-formed in the fall as a part-time, 3-4 person group. The footage was lost, and the movie was never completed. Served one year (2002-2003) as after school theater teacher at St Rita’s Catholic School in Louisville. Co-directed Joseph for the second time in a community theater.

2003 – Directed A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Barrett. Righteous Insanity performed at a handful of Youth Encounter events. As a trio, we went on the road full-time in the fall, traveling across the Eastern US.

2004 – Righteous Insanity’s trio became a quartet for a short time. Interpersonal squabbles resulted in the group splintering, and we wound up as a duet for the next two years. I could have written a great book about how not to run a drama team. We did get to visit Canada, and we filmed 3 movies over the summer, including the first Fluffy film. Directed Romeo and Juliet at Barrett. An encounter with some like-minded writers in Corning, New York led to the creation of the Sunday School Dropouts website. My friend Randy moved in for nine months bringing his entire wrestling library with him. I read Mick Foley’s Have a Nice Day for the first time.

2005 – Fluffy was released. More short films were made. Righteous Insanity’s traveling company made a spring trek to Calgary that included a detour to see the Hart House. We called it quits after the fall. I met my wife Jessica at a Silvertide concert.

2006 – Started a parody Christian dating website, Get Yoked, featuring fake video personals. Got married in the fall.

2007 – Started working part-time at a local Christian high school directing drama. Directed Robin Hood and Harvey. Wrote for and acted in Specific Gravity Ensemble’s “Elevator Plays” production in Louisville. My daughter Lydia was born in November.

2008 – Went back to school to get my teaching degree. Produced the short films Tolerance and F2: Fluffy Strikes Back. Still directing plays at the high school, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Our Town.

2009 – Still at the high school doing theater, directing Joseph and Get Smart. My son Sam was born in March. The short film Bots was produced by comedian Marty Pollio. The Last Temptation of Fluffy, featuring Len Cella of Moron Movies, completed the Fluffy trilogy.

2010 – Released the novel Martian Queen. Directed a terrible presentation of Pygmalion and much better productions of School House Rock and Cinderella at the high school. Released the short story collection that was later revised and republished as Robot/Girlfriend. Purchased Clive the zombie puppet on ebay. Directed A Midsummer Night’s Dream in a community theater.

2011 – Attended Wrestlemania 27. Directed Annie then left the high school drama gig behind after finally accepting administration was never going to hire me on as a teacher. Started writing children’s ministry curriculum for a friend’s start-up company. Released the novel Cave World. The feature film Wingman, which I wrote, gets a brief release in film festivals.

2012 – Over lunch with my wife in November, I said I was thinking about writing a book about professional wrestling in Louisville. She said go for it. Released the novel Space Monster.

2013 – Began research on the book Bluegrass Brawlers. Released the kids short story book Tales from the Dad Side and the sequel novel Shell Games. Cindy Maples and I co-produced the short film The Telemarketer.

Bluegrass Brawlers2014 – Released Bluegrass Brawlers. Wrote and released Eat Sleep Wrestle and launched the website. Also co-wrote a book with pro wrestler Simply Badd. Released the novel Space Kat.

2015 – Released Kenny “Starmaker” Bolin’s autobiography. Released the illustrated kids book Frank Jordan: Evil Snowman.

2016 – Met Dr. D David Schultz and began work on his book. Released Lord Carlton’s biography. Cindy Maples turned a short story of mine into the terrifying short film Out of My Mind (NSFW).

2017 – Published Louisville’s Greatest Show. Met Dave Marciniak, a former house flipper in Toledo who had found and saved memorabilia from the Black Panther Jim Mitchell. Met him in the fall and began cataloging and scanning everything he had saved as well as helping him sell most of it on ebay. Released the book Season’s Beatings as a result. Released the novel Return to Cave World and the short story collection The Big Bad Goodnight. Finally has a chance to direct my play Morbidman Meets His Maker as a fundraiser for Power Ministries – something I did mostly for my kids but also so that Annie would NOT be my final play.

Memoirs of a Mad Man2018 – Published Dr. D’s autobiography and Mad Man Pondo’s autobiography. Published a kid’s story book Good Night Ninja as a rib with wrestler Hy Zaya. Did a second fundraisers for Power Ministries directing Morbidman Returns – partly for the kids, partly because the cast had so much fun the first time, we had to do round two. Closed down the Righteous Insanity website, handing over the catalog and company to a former student, Gia Harris. Made my first trip to the Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame induction weekend in Waterloo, Iowa.

2019 –Published the novel Die Alan Die. Published the Black Panther biography and Hurricane JJ Maguire’s autobiography. Also released four short fiction works with independent wrestlers and Grappling by Gaslight, a collection of short stories about wrestling in the 1880s. Attended the CAC Reunion and presented Dr. D with his award. Spoke on behalf of Stu Gibson’s family at his induction into the New Albany High School Hall of Fame.