Pain Torture Agony – The Story of a Legacy of Greatness

When you attend a wrestling fan convention as a vendor, it’s always a crap shoot. Sometimes you do well. Sometimes you spend more than you make. By all accounts this year’s Cauliflower Alley Club Reunion was a success for all the wrestling authors in attendance, but especially for Ron Hutchison, who released his autobiography Pain Torture Agony at the Reunion. I sold nearly 100 books in three days. Ron sold out of his 75 by lunch time on day one.

I had never met Ron and did not know his story before I attended CAC. I knew he was involved with CAC, and I had read a few emails from him regarding Dr. D’s seminar at the Reunion, but it wasn’t until I picked up a copy of the book for myself through Crowbar Press that I learned the rest of the story.

Ron Hutchison was a kid who lived his dream and became a professional wrestler. Hailing from Ontario, he trained not in the Hart dungeon but with Sweet Daddy Siki and Johnny Powers at Sully’s Gym in Toronto. Although small in stature, he earned the respect of many promoters, including Jack Tunney, and worked as an enhancement wrestlers a number of times for the WWF in the early days of the Wrestlemania era.

Hutchison’s legend really began when he stepped up and took Johnny Powers’ place as a trainer at Sully’s. Just as Stu Hart had once been the go-to trainer for Canadian dreamers, Ron became the man in the East. It started with Adam Copeland, who won free tuition to train with Ron thanks to a handwritten essay reprinted in Ron’s book. Adam’s life long friend Jay Reso followed, and when the two broke out as Edge and Christian for WWF, more students followed, including Trish Stratus, Beth Phoenix, Gail Kim, Sinn Bodhi, and Traci Brooks.

Pain Torture Agony is a wonderful account of Ron’s career in professional wrestling. It is at times painfully honest and hilariously funny as Ron opens up about everything from his falling out with Siki to his devotion to the Cauliflower Alley Club to his involvement with Carmen Electra’s Naked Women’s Wrestling League. (Yep, that was a real thing.) Ron’s love for the business and even more for his students shines through, and Ron is equally proud of those who didn’t “make it big” as he is for the Hall of Fame and CAC Award winners. There are personal testimonials sprinkled throughout the book from Edge, Christian, Trish, Gail, Beth, Sinn, and many more wrestling personalities from Ron’s past.

Throughout the book, Ron hints often at how tough and demanding he could be with his trainees, including the “Pain Torture Agony” training regimen that gives the book its name. If there’s one thing I came away wanting, it was the chance to sit down with one of Ron’s old pupils to hear more about Ron’s “dark side” as a trainer. This isn’t a criticism of the book, mind you, but a genuine curiosity to hear more. Pain Torture Agony made me a fan, and I suspect there are more great stories yet untold. Whether Ron has a second book in him, or whether his students will do the talking, I look forward to hearing more about one of the greatest trainers of his generation!

Pain Torture Agony is available from Crowbar Press. Click here to order in the US or Canada.

Wrestling 4 Life – A Mother’s Crusade to Save Sons and Daughters

I spent three days greeting fans and wrestlers in the Nostalgia Room at the Cauliflower Alley Club reunion in Vegas last week, and in those three days, I got to know Carol Castle and the crew from the Minnesota Wrestling Hall of Fame. Carol had come not only to promote the Hall, which is a wonderful thing in and of itself, but to promote a new program called Wrestling 4 Life.

Wrestling for Life is a program within the Minnesota Wrestling Hall of Fame created to bring public awareness to the double and triple suicide rates amongst our first responders and dedicated to the reduction of the suicide rates of our law enforcement officers, fire fighter, EMS and corrections officers: public servants put their lives on the line every day for us!

This mission of Wrestling 4 Life is personal for Carol Castle. Her son, Maury, committed suicide two years ago. He was a firefighter. having suffered such a terrible, personal loss, Carol wanted to do something to fight the epidemic suicide rates amongst first responders. I invited Carol to write about the program personally, and here’s what she asked me to share:

Wrestling 4 Life was an idea that took place in Minnesota yet was born in Las Vegas. On April 28th, 2019, we had a seminar at the Gold Coast Hotel and Casino. It was geared providing information to Police, Fire, EMS and Corrections. We also invited Casino Security. The keynote speaker was Randy Sutton, a Las Vegas PD Veteran and a spokesman for Blue Lives Matter. Other speakers included Joe Mauriello, a retired Cook County Sheriffs Police who talked of the 7 suicides in 6 months of officers; Brent Brooks, wrestler and MMA fighter, who spoke about the issues wrestlers and fighters have; and Chelsea Davenport, who was there to represent Safe Call Now. Chelsea stressed how they provide resources and services to the individuals, and their families across the US and Canada.

“It was in Las Vegas we rolled out the Life Coin, a heavyweight coin that is striking in its appearance with a phone number to call when help is needed. This Life Coins should be in every pocket of every police officer, fire fighter, EMS, and corrections officer as a reminder that help is always nearby.

“We told those in attendance that we planned to use wrestlers to help open up the dialog and get the message out to the public that this suicide epidemic must stop.

“The very next day was the beginning of Cauliflower Alley Club and the roll out of our wrestling life coin. We had donated one for each member of CAC. The doors opened at 10am. It was gratifying to see that within the first hour, two lives were impacted and saved using the wrestling life coin and calling Safe Call Now. This was two years after my son, the fire fighter, had taken his life.

“The first step is to get Life Coin in the pockets of those who need them! Coins can be purchased through the Minnesota Wrestling Hall of Fame website, and proceeds from the sales of the coins will be donated to the Safe Call Now organization. They are a 501c3 dedicated to prevention and crisis control for our public servants across the US and Canada.

I believe we need to get a Life Coin in every ones pocket. These are a lifeline. It is so true: We are all wrestling for life, just some more than others.”

I’m happy to say Carol found the warmest of receptions from the Cauliflower Alley Club. Everyone in attendance was given a coin and encouraged to spread the word to others. If you know someone working in Police, Fire, EMS, or Corrections, I urge you to purchase a coin for them now. Even if you don’t know someone who could use a coin please consider donating to support their cause.

Life coins are available on the Minnesota Wrestling Hall of Fame website. Orders are shipped daily. www.minnesotawrestlinghalloffame.com

CAC Is An Unforgettable Time for Wrestlers and Fans

I’ve attended some great events over the last few years. I’ve been to Wrestlemania, Axxess, Starrcast, and the Hall of Fame induction weekend in Waterloo, Iowa. Each event is unique in its own way, and if you’re a true fan, you should give every one of them a try at least once.

Cauliflower Alley Club has been on my “to do” list for a few years, and it definitely belongs in the category with the above events. Actually, it tops most of the above because not only is it an unforgettable experience, it’s for a good cause and, well, it’s in Vegas.

The 54th Annual Cauliflower Alley Club reunion took place at the Gold Coast Casino and Hotel, just a mile from the Strip. The Gold Coast is a wrestler’s hotel in the true sense of a word, a definite bargain price wise, and to be honest, the room was nice and clean if the view unspectacular. (My window opened up on a spotlight shining on a giant wall. Wow.)

But let’s face it – you’re not going to CAC to sleep. This is an event that allows you a 24/7 opportunity to rub shoulders with wrestlers, promoters, managers, valets, writers, photographers, and other fans. This is the place you come to sit down and have a drink with someone you’ve watched on television for decades. This is the place where you can meet an old timer who wrestled Lou Thesz. (Shout out to the great Reggie Parks!) This is where you get hugs from an original GLOW girl, a photo with Haku, and buy a stack of books from a host of great wrestling authors. This is where you can not only mark out over your favorite wrestlers, but see some of your favorite wrestlers mark out for their favorites, like Tyrus did when he saw Dr. D David Schultz.

Reunion week kicks off with the free independent wrestling show Sunday evening (a non-CAC event hosted by a local promotion, featuring wrestlers from around the globe). The same promotion hosts a second free show on Monday night as well. You’ll see big names like Sabu and future stars like Heather Reckless (whose name I’ve passed on to Girl Fight promoter Mad Man Pondo) and everyone in between. This year, Rock Riddle worked a match against Matt Striker, Joel Gertner read some dirty poetry, and La Rosa Negra dazzled fans with her high energy style. (I gave her info to Pondo as well.)

Monday through Wednesday, fans can mingle in the “Nostalgia Room,” where writers like me are set up with book tables alongside wrestlers like Sabu, Jerry Lawler, the GLOW girls, Haku, Barbarian, and even Dory Funk, Jr. You can shop, talk, or just sit and enjoy the atmosphere. Or if you prefer, you can hang out in the casino or the TGI Fridays bar, which was constantly full of attendees.

Tuesday evening is the Bockwinkel Blowout, a traditional “wrestler’s meal” highlighted by bologna sandwiches. No, I’m not kidding. You can have bologna on your choice of bread, or you can choose from a number of other cold cuts. The first half dozen or so awards are handed out after dinner, and then everyone moves back downstairs for drinks and stories well into the early morning hours.

The event concludes Wednesday night with the more formal banquet, where the bigger awards are handed out. It was on Wednesday that I presented Dr. D David Schultz with his Male Wrestler award. Nick Aldis presented Dory Funk, Jr., with his, and D-Lo Brown presented Mark Henry. Jim Ross played host for the evening in front a packed house, and he was delightful. Ross had no filter and no shame, repeatedly taking shots at a former employer for rewriting history in its own image while imploring attendees to spread the word about CAC and bring their friends next year.

This was my first time attending CAC, and while it was by no means a “perfect” event, it’s one I’ll never forget and one I hope to experience many more times. I met dozens of friends I had only known on Facebook prior to the event, including one of my long-time supporters and enablers, Tom Burke. I got a photo with Haku (one of my big regrets from Starrcast), and while I can’t disclose anything at the moment, I discussed two future book opportunities with wrestlers while there.

CAC was unforgettable, career-changing, and eye opening for me. I’m proud to be a member of the Club, and I look forward to working with them for many years to come. I’m also very grateful for all the friendships made and deepened last week. CAC is the most immersive experience you can have as a fan and an invaluable opportunity for anyone, regardless of age, who wants to advance in the business of professional wrestling. You can join the club now on their website to subscribe to their newsletter and become a part of the great work they are doing to help others. Once you become a member, you will certainly want to be in Vegas April of next year.

“We Are All We’ve Got” – Why CAC Matters to Fans and Wrestlers

I just made my first trip to the Cauliflower Alley Club reunion this past week. It will not be my last. I made some great connections and memories, and I will tell many of those stories on this blog.

But first thing’s first. Today is about why you – whether you are a fan, a wrestler, or another worker in the business – need to join CAC.

Cauliflower Alley is not another wrestling convention. It is not another event like Starrcast or Wrestlecade or Wrestlecon. It is a 401c non-profit charitable organization created more than 60 years ago to support aging wrestlers and other workers in the business in times of need. It is an organization created so that today’s fans and wrestlers can lend a hand to the men and women of yesteryear as a way of saying thank you.

Put another way – Cauliflower Alley provides financial assistance to people who spent their entire careers working as independent contractors. It pays the bills for those who are in debt, it pays for necessary medical care and medication, and it provides relief for those in need.

This past week I was able to see Rico Costantino speak about what CAC has done for him. Just a few years ago, Rico was facing a dire medical emergency and mounting debt. He was unable to work, and he was unable to pay for the medical care he needed. CAC came to the rescue (as did his old manager Kenny Starmaker Bolin, a lifetime member of CAC). Rico is alive and well today in part due to the assistance CAC provided him.

Rico is not the only one. He’s one of the few who has allowed CAC to use his name to promote their services out of gratitude for what they have done for him. Last year, CAC stepped in to assist Brickhouse Brown and extend his life by six months. They are currently assisting James “Kamala” Harris in his medical and financial struggles.

As John Oliver recently made clear, the biggest wrestling company in the world does not provide any sort of medical insurance or retirement planning to its independent contractors. Many wrestlers are able to transition into second careers and provide for their families, but bad things happen and many people, through no fault of their own, find themselves in serious medical or financial emergencies.

CAC is a lifeline. It was founded by wrestlers for wrestlers to support those who need it most. Joining CAC allows you, whether you are a wrestler, ref, promoter, fan, journalist, announcer, blogger, or whatever, to be a part of that relief. Joining CAC is a tangible way to say thank you to wrestlers who have fallen on hard times and help them to get back on their feet.

As the MC for the awards ceremony Wednesday night, Jim Ross continually implored those in attendance to invite others to join CAC. He urged young attendees especially to spread the word so the work of CAC does not die out with the older generation.

“Do you think the people on ESPN give a shit about wrestling like we do? Do you think your non-wrestling fans give a shit what happens to wrestlers when they retire? We are all we’ve got.”

He’s right. If you’re a fan or a worker, you know no one cares about wrestling like wrestlers and their fans. CAC membership is only $25 a year. That’s a small price to pay to get started supporting this great organization. CAC is completely non-profit, completely volunteer. From President B. Brian Blair and Vice President Scott Teal on down, no one earns a dime working for CAC. Many staff work 10-14 hours days from February and April, and they all pay for their own reunion tickets as well as transportation costs and even vendor fees.

What’s more, most of the money collected from membership dues, reunion tickets, advertising fees, and vendor fees goes to wrestlers in need. “The only expenses are what we pay the hotel space, the meals, and, and printing,” says Scott Teal. “Other than that, every single penny that we receive goes to recipients.”

If you love wrestling, you owe it not only to yourself but to your heroes to join CAC. Go to their website now www.caulifloweralleyclub.org and start your annual membership. And please give serious consideration to joining them for the 55th annual reunion next spring. It is an incredible, life-changing event that you will never forget.