JJ Maguire Shares His Story in My Life in Heaven Town

Some fans (not many, but a few) were disappointed that Dr. D David Schultz’s book spent so much time on his bounty hunting days and “not enough” on his wrestling days. Dr. D told the story he wanted to tell, and I think it’s only fair to let fans know that Hurricane JJ Maguire is doing the same.

JJ Maguire is truly the master of wrestling ring music. As Jimmy Hart’s go-to songwriting partner since their days in the Gentrys, JJ collaborated on 110 pieces of music for WWF, WCW, and WWE. His list of credits probably looks like your playlist of favorite wrestling themes, as he wrote the entrance music for Demolition, the Honky Tonk Man, Bret Hart, Ted DiBiase, Shawn Michaels, and (in WCW) Hulk Hogan. He was a member of Hulk’s Wrestling Boot Band, contributing music to the album “Hulk Rules,” and he’s currently the host and MC for Kentucky Zone Wrestling.

That said, JJ Maguire is far from just a wrestling guy, and his upcoming autobiography “My Life in Heaventown” is hardly just another wrestling story. JJ Maguire was a musical prodigy who turned heads at the piano at the tender age of five. He was a member of the legendary rock group The Gentrys and played with numerous other bands from Kentucky to California. He wrote music for Hulk’s TV show Thunder in Paradise and even won a recurring role on the show.

In a career spanning six decades, he’s rubbed shoulders with Prince, Rick Springfield, Tom Petty, Vince Neil, Gene Simmons, Kirstie Alley, Henry Winkler, Robert Conrad, Mark Mothersbaugh, Telly Savalas, Carol Alt, Patrick MacNee, and John Landis. He visited the shop of the legendary Hollywood car builder George Barris. He discussed Kentucky burgoo recipes with Bob Hope. He shot pool with Jackie Gleason inside the Great One’s basement. He even got a kiss from Farrah Fawcett.

Yes, JJ Maguire is the master of wrestling ring music. Yes, he is the face of Kentucky Zone Wrestling. And yes, he wrote or co-wrote a lot of your favorite wrestlers’ theme songs. But his book is more than just a wrestling story. It’s a story for music lovers, for TV and film lovers, and for anyone who has ever had a dream. “My Life in Heaventown” is a story about a Kentucky boy whose talent took him further than he ever dreamed possible!

New Albany, Indiana: Wrestling in My Hometown

Since my hometown is all over the dirt sheets this weekend, I thought it might be a good time to share a little of our professional wrestling history. New Albany, Indiana has had a long history with professional wrestling, due in no small part to its proximity to Louisville, Kentucky. In fact I almost dedicated an entire chapter of Bluegrass Brawlers to the city of New Albany’s unique wrestling story.

Promotions in New Albany

New Albany has played host to a number of independent promotions in the last couple of decades including (but not limited to) IWA Mid-South, Destination One Wrestling, XCW, and the name everyone now knows, Pro Wrestling Trainwreck. It’s worth noting, however, that so-called “outlaw” promotions are nothing new here. Back in 1941, while the Allen Athletic Club was still on the rise as THE promotion in Louisville, a group of sports lovers founded the Hoosier Fistic Club, a joint boxing and wrestling promotion intended to bring both sports to New Albany. It was an audacious endeavor spearheaded by president Seymour Hull and matchmaker Johnny Lovell. It was also short lived, as the club faced an uphill battle to draw fans away from Heywood Allen’s wrestlers and the many boxing promotions already active across the river.

Col. Stu Gibson

While wrestling in New Albany failed to take off, the Allen Club often featured Hoosier starts including a number of New Albany natives. Far and away the most famous of these was Stu Gibson, a New Albany High School graduate who was a stand out athlete in multiple sports. After serving his country during World War II, Gibson became a football star at the University of Louisville and was named a Kentucky Colonel after setting the school record for scoring. Gibson was a Golden Glove boxer but chose to pursue wrestling instead, becoming one of the most hated heels in Louisville and later San Antonio.

Lord Humongous

In the 1980s another New Albany native rose to frame as the masked Lord Humongous, a character based on the villain from the movie The Road Warrior. Like Stu Gibson before him, Jeff Van Camp played football at U of L and took a job as a security guard at Louisville Gardens after an injury ended his playing career. Jerry Lawler invited Van Camp to train with him in Memphis. Lord Humongous became a WWA Tag Team Champion with Dick the Bruiser. After relocating to Florida, he became the NWA Southeast Continental Heavyweight Champion and a three time NWA Alabama Heavyweight Championship.

Leviathan

Another monstrous wrestler “born” in New Albany is Leviathan. In the early 2000s, when WWE was sending its developmental prospects to Ohio Valley Wrestling for seasoning with Danny Davis and Rip Rogers, there were two infamous wrestling managers dominating the scene: Kenny “Starmaker” Bolin, and Synn. Versed in the dark arts, Synn made a trek down to the Ohio River in New Albany one evening and summoned forth the demon Leviathan to join her faction. Leviathan rose out of the waters ad became a member of the Disciples of Synn, wreaking havoc on countless foes at the Davis Arena in Jeffersonville.

Okay, okay, so Leviathan isn’t actually a demon, and he’s not actually a native of New Albany. Leviathan was the first persona adopted by Dave Bautista, a character he dropped before he ever appeared on WWE. That said, the video of Leviathan’s “creation” was filmed on the banks of the Ohio River, with Bautista gamely wading out into the less-than-crystal-clear waters to rise up from the deep. It was a humble beginning that led to great things for the man who has become a true movie star.

“Crybaby” Chris Alexander

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention my old friend Jason Lindsey, who worked as “Crybaby” Chris Alexander during the WWE developmental days at OVW and was behind the camera the night Leviathan was “born.” Jason and I were both members of the marching band during our days at New Albany High School. We were friends then, but I honestly had no idea he was a wrestling fan until the day someone told me he was training to be a wrestler. Jason shared a locker room with all the big names who came to town including John Cena, Batista, and Mark Henry, and he wrestled them all. His biggest claim to fame is one he won’t claim for himself. During a show at St. Therese’s Gym in Louisville, Jim Cornette made all the WWE signees go out and watch Alexander make his entrance to “Dude Looks Like a Lady.” Cornette loved the way Alexander took his time getting to the ring and playing to the crowd, and he held him up as an example of how it’s done to a group of future superstars.

“Iron Man” Rob Conway

Without question, the most decorated wrestler to come out of New Albany is Rob Conway. A star basketball player in a town that LOVES its high school basketball (Romeo Langford, anyone?), Conway was part of OVW’s first class of students, the men Danny Davis trained to train all the students who came after them. He is one of the few wrestlers who came into OVW as a beginning student and earned a WWE contract. Conway won multiple heavyweight championships and tag team championships at OVW before being called up to the WWE, where he won the WWE Tag Team Championship with Sylvan Grenier three times. After leaving OVW, Conway traveled the world working the independents and won even more gold, becoming a four time NWA Tag Team Champion and two time NWA World Heavyweight Champion. He is part of an elite club of wrestlers who can say they worked both Wrestlemania and New Japan’s Wrestle Kingdom show.

Time will soon tell what the fallout will be from last week’s Pro Wrestling Trainwreck show. The facts of the story are still coming out, and time will tell what repercussions, fair or unfair, this story will have on wrestling in New Albany. The bottom line is professional wrestling is in the blood of New Albany sports fans as much as it is anywhere. We are living in a boom time for professional wrestling, and the history of the sport in this town is far from over.

Nikita Breznikov Invites You to Remember “When It Was Real”

Nikita Breznikov could have filled his first book with his own life story as a wrestler and manager. He could just as easily have filled a book (or two) with stories from his mentor, the late Hall of Famer Nikolai Volkoff. If he ever writes one of these books, he will find an eager reading audience, as his first book When it Was Real is a wonderful look back at a forgotten era of pro wrestling: the WWWF of the 1970s.

Breznikov grew up in the era when Vince McMahon, Sr., ran the ship that would later evolve into the WWE, and he deftly takes his readers back in time for a year by year journey to the age of men like Bruno, Pedro, and Fuji. With the assistance of co-author and master historian Scott Teal, Breznikov has crafted a book that’s as much a memoir as it is a record of who fought where and when. Breznikov comes across not as an impartial narrator but a wistful fan who remembers his heroes with great fondness. He takes you back into the buildings where he witnessed many of these events in person, introducing you to the characters at ringside and the nosy athletic officials as well as the wrestlers, the managers, and other personalities that made his childhood so unforgettable. Readers will find themselves seated beside Breznikov in a long lost time when everyone truly believed – a time when it was real!

I truly hope someone with WWE picked up a copy of this book at the Cauliflower Alley reunion. It is a love letter to the WWWF, a time capsule that could easily serve as the blueprint for a Network special or series highlighting an era that the WWE has yet to explore. I’d love to see it happen, and I can’t think of a more qualified man to host such a show than Nikita Breznikov.

Click here to order your copy of When It Was Real direct from Crowbar Press.

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.

“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.

Monday Night with Mark in Vegas!

Hey Vegas! Mark Henry wants you to join him for the second stop on his Monday Nights with Mark tour next week. Mark will be in town to receive the Mike Mazurki award from there Cauliflower Alley Club, and he will be watching Monday Night Raw with fans at this special event.

This is your chance to eat, drink, and hear stories from the WWE Hall of Famer in a small setting, all while enjoying the live action of Monday Night Raw. Fans will receive an autographed photo and a limited edition T-shirt. The event takes place at Aces and Ales at 2801 N Tenaya Way in Las Vegas Monday, April 29 from 5 to 8 p.m. Pacific Time.

Tickets can be purchased at Eventbrite. Must be 21 or older.

When We Wanted to Be Hulkamaniacs

I’ve mentioned in interviews and possibly on this blog that my introduction to wrestling books came through a friend of mine who moved in with me during the summer and fall of 2004. His name was Randy, and he’s the guy with the frightened expression sandwiched between me and my friend Jamie. It’s largely because of him this website and all the books on the website happened.

But this is not that story.

In addition to bringing his VHS tapes and books, Randy brought wrestling music – lots and lots and lots of it.  His digital music collection included everything released from WWE, WCW, and ECW. He also had another wrestling-related album the three of us came to adore: Hulk Rules by Hulk Hogan and the Wrestling Boot Band. 

I’m not making this up. This is not some spin just because I am not working with Wrestling Boot Band maestro “Hurricane JJ” Maguire on his memoir. When the three of us were out and about and we weren’t listening to No Doubt or Green Day, we were listening to wrestling music. Hulk Rules was our favorite, with our three three tracks being “Beach Patrol,” “I Wanna Be a Hulkamaniac,” and “Hulkster in Heaven.”

One evening we were dropping Jamie off at her house. As soon as she shut the car door, we rolled down the window, cranked up the stereo, and serenaded her: “The car just lost another Hulkamaniac.” Jamie laughed so hard, her Dr. Pepper shot out of her nose all over the sidewalk. 

It completely blows my mind that I am working with the man who put all the music behind Hulk Rules together. JJ Maguire has lived an amazing life, and readers are going to love his Hollywood movie star stories, his rock n roll stories, and yes, his wrestling stories. But it really was a thrill when I found out that beyond “Sexy Boy” and “Cool Cocky Bad,” JJ was the music to Jimmy Hart’s lyrics on Hulk Rules.

Say what you want about the album, the songs are fun, and there’s a charm to them that is undeniable. I was sick to death of “American Idiot” before that summer was over, but I never got sick of hearing “Beach Patrol.”

“‘We love to party, party, party!’”

Who Wants to Watch Raw with Mark Henry?

How would you like to watch Monday Night Raw with a WWE Hall of Famer?

Mark Henry is giving fans that opportunity starting this spring as he kicks off a new tour dubbed, Monday Nights with Mark Henry. Fans get the opportunity to watch Raw alongside the World’s Strongest Man and hear stories from his amazing life and career. Attendees will also come away with a one-of-a-kind Mark Henry T-shirt and an autographed photo. You might even hear Mark tell a story or two about the Black Panther Jim Mitchell!

Four dates have already been announced: April 15 in Nashville, April 22 in Kansas City, April 29 in Las Vegas, and May 6 in New York. Tickets start at $65 and can be purchased now on Mark’s website. Must be 18 or older to attend.

Visit Mark Henry’s website for more information and tickets.

Photo credit: www.themarkhenry.com

Get to Know the World’s Strongest Man

I’m an intermittent WWE Network subscriber. I picked it up last month for the Rumble, and while it’s not set to auto-renew, I’ll pick it up again for ‘Mania. It was good timing this time around because not only did I get to enjoy a spectacular Halftime Heat during the Super Bowl, I got to see the debut of the new documentary about Mark Henry.

If you didn’t see it after the PPV last night, make time to watch it this week. It has all the great memories you want to relive (the faux retirement speech in the salmon colored jacket) as well as the ones that make you cringe (Mae Young). It also pulls back the curtain to reveal the genuine, humble person he is in real life. As strong as his body is, his heart is ten times stronger. The film details the many losses he’s suffered personally and professionally, and the hard lessons learned in and out of the ring. The film also highlights the loving father and husband who truly believes his kids are his greatest legacy.

If you’re not already a fan of Mark Henry, the World’s Strongest Man documentary will make you one. It’s a stellar reintroduction to the WWE Hall of Famer and soon to be Cauliflower Alley Club Award Winner. You can stream is now on the WWE Network.

Cauliflower Alley Club to Honor Dr. D in 2019

Some people sacrifice their bodies for professional wrestling. Some sacrifice more. In December of 1984, “Dr. D” David Schultz did what he was trained to do. He protected the business that put food on the table for his wife and daughter. He received more praise than criticism for slapping John Stossel by knocking John Stossel, but it still cost him his career.

In 2019 the Cauliflower Alley Club will honor “Dr. D” David Schultz with the Men’s Wrestling Award at their Reunion in Las Vegas. It’s an honor long overdue and much deserved, and it’s an honor that comes from his peers.

Congratulations to my friend “Dr. D” David Schultz on this honor!