ALL IN Was Everything the Fans and Wrestlers Wanted

I’m not going to do a review of ALL IN. There’s not much I can add to the narratives already on the Internet, and at this point, it would be hard to express in a new and different way how ground-breaking, history-making, and above all FUN the show was. What I will tell you about is a moment that took place early in the evening before the main show began – a moment that had very little to do with wrestling and everything to do with how Saturday night changed wrestling.

My old friend Randy Pease – aka the man who lived with me for 9 months many years ago, allowing me full access to his wrestling book library and thus igniting my passion for the genre – bought tickets for the two of us directly across from the entrance stage at the Sears Center. We were thus directly in the path of a bank of spotlights that were inexplicably aimed directly into the faces of thousands of fans, obscuring our vision of the SCU vs. Briscoes match that kicked of the pre-show, Zero Hour. Midway through the match, the spotlights moved, angling upwards and out of our faces. The entire arena cheered, and Randy leaned in toward me to say, “They just did more listening to the fans than WWE has done in twenty years.”

I think Randy spoke for more than just the fans. Wrestlers have longed for an alternative to the machine that renames them, dresses them in yellow polka dots, and forces scripts into their hands. The Young Bucks and Cody have opened a new door. They forged a path for wrestlers to once again develop their own personas and most importantly have control over their own destiny. In doing so they’ve given the fans something they’ve been wanting for years: an alternative to the stale, cookie cutter entertainment that has dominated what was once a very diverse and truly unique form of sport.

Cody and the Bucks were listening to their hearts, to their colleagues, and to the fans. They responded, and the fans have responded in kind. Wrestling does not belong to one company. It never did. Here’s hoping this truly is the start of a new day – and not just another high spot on the Elite’s road to Wrestlemania.

What Was the Best Thing about Starrcast?

What were the best things about Starrcast 2018? Everyone has their own list, but here’s mine in no particular order (save the last one).

Hanging out with Randy Pease – an old friend who is the reason I started writing about wrestling in the first place.

Watching Macauley Culkin thumb wrestle Scott Steiner.

Meeting Dr. D’s fans.

Meeting Mark James.

The Katie Vick photo op at the Wrestlecrap booth.

Hanging out with the Wrestlecrap crew.

Meeting Bill Apter.

Watching Road Warrior Animal push Lex Lugar around in his wheelchair.

Seeing Erik Hodson’s amazing wrestling art work everywhere.

Meeting Jerry Lynn.

Seeing my friend and fellow author Brennon Martin again.

Visiting with some amazing podcasters, both those broadcasting and those just attending.

Joey Ryan shaking Dr. D’s hand.

Meeting Haku.

Shooting a video with Hurricane Helms.

And the absolute #1 best part of all – the amazing staff of volunteers who made the event possible. I’ve been to many comic cons and fan fests the last 10 years, and by far, Starrcast had the hardest working, most helpful, most responsive volunteer crew I’ve ever seen. Yes, there was congestion and chaos, but these amazing workers kept the gears moving, and everyone had a good time. They are the #1 reason I would recommend this event to any fan or vendor or wrestler considering where to invest their time and money in 2019.

Because you know, where there’s an ALL IN 2, there will be a Starrcast 2!

The Past Matters to Starrcast Fans

When Cody Rhodes received the ten pounds of gold, the belt his father Dust once held, it was Earl Hebner who handed it to him.

When Tessa Blanchard took the ring Saturday for the women’s match, Tully Blanchard and Magnum TA were waiting to wish her well at ring side.

Hangman Page and Joey Janela wrestled under the watchful eye of ECW legend Jerry Lynn. Tiger Hattori called the match for Marty Scurll and Kazuchika Okada. And it was the Macho Man’s own brother Lanny Poffo, Frisbees in hand, who unleashed “Black Machismo” Jay Lethal upon the Sears Centre Saturday night.

It was no surprise to me that the past mattered to the ALL IN crew. Cody is well known reverence for his father and days before wrestling was all about the WWE. What impressed me most this past weekend in Chicago was how many fans hold the past with the same regard.

Going into the weekend, I was very excited to meet Bill Apter and see not only the men and women who made wrestling great but the reporters and writers who have covered it for so long. It was no shock when my mouth dropped open as an elderly photographer introduced himself to Doctor D as George Napolitano. I love these people. That’s why I do what I do. But I know not every wrestling crowd is as enamored with the sport’s history as I am.

I honestly wasn’t sure how the Starrcast crowd would receive guys from wrestling past. I was very pleasantly surprised.

I saw it in all the fans who stopped by to say hello to Doctor D. Podcasters like the hosts of the Lapsed Fan Podcast and Internet wrestling reporters like “Docta D” from D.C. stopped by to show their appreciation and of course, buy “the best book ever written about rasslin’.” There were fans who traveled from all over the country and even as far as Amsterdam to come and say hello to the Doctor. We sold out every unsigned copy of the book we brought with us and were selling pre-signed books right up until the Doctor packed for home.

Fans who insisted in buying books included the aforementioned Jerry Lynn and Hurricane Helms. Shannon Moore, who we met three weeks earlier in Huntsville, Alabama, stopped by to say hello, and say what you will about Joey Ryan, but he went out of his way to shake Doctor D’s hand and say what a big fan he was.

I saw respect for the past in the line that quickly formed and helped Bill Apter sell out of the 20 copies of his book he brought with him. “My wife said I should bring more,” he said mid-way through the sales blitz. “I guess she was right!” I hear the other writers at the show did a brisk business as well, including the guys in the basement vendor hall. RD Reynolds at Wrestlecrap sold out of his inventory completely.

It was hard to miss the respect heaped upon the legends lined up at Starrcast. From Sgt. Slaughter to Ron Simmons, everyone had a line of fans waiting to say hello and take a photo. Haku was mobbed when he sat down to sign with his two sons on Saturday morning. Haku was also one of the most lovable, likable people I’ve ever met in this business – which somehow makes the legends of his toughness all the more terrifying!

Perhaps the best sign of respect was the T-shirt writer Brennon Martin spotted on a fan. Brennon, who authored a book about his grandmother Christine “Teeny” Jarrett, found a young woman with a homemade “Teeny” T-shirt in the vendor hall. Teeny was never a TV personality. She is known only to those who care enough to learn about the past beyond what one can glean from the WWE Network.

I was wrong about the Starrcast crowd, and I am glad I was! As Cody said Saturday night, wrestling does not belong to one company. It belongs to everyone who works in the ring and every fan at ringside. It’s exciting to see that the future of the business belongs to people who care about the past – especially the things that happened before the monopoly. It’s my honor to be one of those keeping those stories alive, and it’s a pleasure to be witness to the revolution of the 21st century.

Why You Need to Visit the Hall of Fame in Waterloo

Wrestling fans have many choices as to where they spend their money each year. There’s Wrestlemania weekend, along with Axxess and WrestleCon. There’s Cauliflower Alley, WrestleCade in November, and countless fan shows, reunions, and conventions across the country.

And then there’s the George Tragos & Lou Thesz Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame at the Dan Gable Museum in Waterloo, Iowa.

The museum’s name is a mouthful, and Waterloo, Iowa is a far cry from the big cities that land Wrestlemania. You may well ask yourself why you should spend your hard earned dollars on a trip to the Hall of Fame weekend Waterloo as opposed to one of the premier conventions.

Here are four good reasons that make Waterloo a must-do trip for any die hard fan.

Meet the stars in an informal setting. Hall of Fame weekend includes an open to the public signing period at the museum. An admission ticket to the museum Saturday (which is very cheap) to get access to the meet and greet, but if you get the VIP weekend pass (which is also very reasonable!), you will be hanging out with legends and current stars from Thursday night to Saturday in one informal setting after another. The VIP pass allows you to share drinks, hear stories, and take photos with legendary stars all weekend long, and the vast majority of “name” stars who attend the weekend are very friendly and eager to chat with anyone.

Learn the history of the sport. Did you know that Waterloo, Iowa was the birthplace of the modern NWA? Iowa is also a hot bed for collegiate wrestling, with Northern Iowa, Iowa, and Iowa State all within a few minutes or hours drive. The Dan Gable Museum (named for the legendary Iowa State grad turned Iowa Hawkeye coach) pays tribute to college and Olympic wrestling as well as professional wrestling. They have a remarkable collection of pro wrestling memorabilia including photos, boots, robes, title belts, and one of a kind artifacts, and during Hall of Fame weekend, they go all out on the pro wrestling displays. You will learn a great deal, and you won’t be able to stop taking photos.

Watch some great independent wrestling. What’s a wrestling convention without a little wrestling? Local promotion Impact Pro Wrestling (not to be confused with national promotion IMPACT Wrestling) hosts a show on Friday evening featuring local stars and national names. Colt Cabana, Bob Holly, and Austin Aries were guests this year, and many of the legends present Friday night got in on the action as well. B. Brian Blair came out the winner of the Lou Thesz Memorial Battle Royal. A terrific show in a great venue with a crowd that truly loves the sport of pro wrestling.

Support a great museum. The Dan Gable Museum is not only committed to preserving the past but growing the sport of wrestling in the future. Much of the emphasis on the future centers on the actual sport of wrestling, but the staff at the museum in no way relegates professional wrestling to second class status. There’s an undeniable link between the legitimate wrestling sports and pro wrestling. They are inseparable, and the Dan Gable Museum balances both exceedingly well. It’s not the biggest sports Hall of Fame, but it is arguably the friendliest. The every-changing exhibits and upcoming enhancements will ensure there’s something new to see and learn with every visit.

George Tragos & Lou Thesz Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame at the Dan Gable Museum in Waterloo, Iowa hosts their Hall of Fame induction in late July. Mark your calendar now, and do not miss this opportunity.

Always, Always Shake Hands

Lesson learned from my past two road trips:

Meet everyone.

Always shake hands.

Don’t assume anyone is going to blow you off or not want to talk. If they do, big deal. If they do not, you may be in for some great conversation.

Simply put, I wish I had shaken more hands and met more folks at the Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame induction weekend. I had a great time hanging out with my fellow writers and some good conversations with a handful of legends, but there are others I had the chance to meet and just didn’t have the guts to go up and shake hands. Shame on me.

On the plus side, I am very grateful for the conversations I had with Bruce Hart and Rock Riddle in particular. Bruce is a great story teller, and he shared a few hair-raising tales his father had passed down to him about the OLD, old days.

Rock Riddle is a perfect example of why you always shake hands and say hello. He was eager to talk, and boy did he talk. I started by asking him about his experiences on the Gong Show, and I got 10 minutes of stories about the legendary Chuck Barris, plus another 15 about his own life and career.

Happy to say I learned my lesson well from that week and took the time to say hello to a few more people at Rocket City WrestlingCon. Jimmy Hart was every bit as nice as you have heard he is. He put over Dr. D and Doc’s book several times, and he was very grateful when I gave him a copy of Bluegrass Brawlers. Brutal Bob and I had some nice conversations as well, and there’s a chance we may collaborate on a project or two. And what can you say about Tracy Smothers? The man is a legend, and a great storyteller. He also cares deeply about the business and the young guys and ladies in the business.

The rule in the locker room is that you always shake hands with everyone. Fans, don’t be afraid to do the same. Say hello. Say thanks for coming. Ask a question or two. Don’t be bashful. Most people are thrilled to talk to you, and you will make some great memories.

Finally, an Update!

It’s been awhile since I updated this blog. Has anyone even noticed? (Anyone? Anyone?)

I’ve been buried in newspapers the last several weeks, working hard on the first draft of the Black Panther Jim Mitchell’s biography. I am so excited this book is finally going to see the light of day. Shooting for an early 2019 release.

Prior to that, I will be releasing a new fiction book and another short wrestling project in September. More on that later.

I also have two more autobiographies lined up for 2019. More on those in the very near future as well.

I have some great stories to share soon about wrestling past and my recent trip to the Hall of Fame in Waterloo, Iowa. But today is all about shameless plugs.

Saturday is a big day. Mad Man Pondo will be making his return to ASW in West Virginia for promoter Gary Damron, and he will be selling and signing copies of his book Memoirs of a Mad Man. The book is getting raves from fans and readers and already has two 5-star reviews on Amazon. You can also hear Pondo on his latest podcast appearance with the Wrestle Talk Podcast if you click here.

I won’t be in West Virginia because I will be in Huntsville, Alabama with Dr. D David Schultz, promoting his top selling autobiography Don’t Call Me Fake. We will be at the Rocket City WrestlingCon Saturday, where the doors open at 3 PM. Other guests on the Rocket City include Tracy Smothers, Road Warrior Animal, Jimmy Hart, and Sabu. There’s a stellar wrestling card that evening as well. I can’t guarantee Dr. D is going to stick around for the wrestling show, so if you want to meet Doctor D, get there EARLY!

Much more excitement to come, but I’ll end the fun here for now. It’s been a great year so far, and I am looking forward to this weekend, and Starrcast at the end of the month.

Memoirs of a Mad Man – Available This Weekend

The wait is almost over, Pondo fans.

Printed copies of Memoirs of a Mad Man are due to arrive this week, and Mad Man Pondo has decided to celebrate by releasing the book Friday night at the Midnight Girl Fight show at the ArenA in Jeffersonville, Indiana.

Signed books will be available for $30. I will have my other books available as well for $10 and Dr. D’s book (signed) for $20.

Please, please, please bring some additional cash to spend money at the ladies’ merch tables.

The book will drop on Amazon after the Friday night show, and pre-ordered copies will be mailed the first of next week.

The Black Panther Auctions: What’s Left?

I’ve had a few messages since the latest edition of The Jim Cornette Experience was released asking what Black Panther memorabilia still remains to be sold. There’s not much left. Actually, there’s a LOT left, but not that many lots to sell and not much that’s wrestling related.

Here’s a run down of what’s on eBay – and the one big lot that isn’t.

A copy of H.L. Mencken’s “A Book of Burlesques”

A program from a Lou Costello Foundation boxing show

A calendar by  artist Earl MacPherson

Three pieces of monogrammed luggage: small, medium, and large

An art poster depicting the fight between Mitchell’s friend Joe Louis and Max Baer

A pair of autographed photos by African American musicians

One lot of possessions remains other than these, intact, in Toledo, Ohio: Mitchell’s pipe collection. Mitchell was an avid pipe smoker and collected pipes from around the world. Some he bought. Some were fights from friends or fans. He had hundreds, maybe thousands of them.

There are three large wooden display boards holding a number of these pipes, and three large rubbermaid tubs containing hundreds more. Photos are below.

We do not have a set asking price on this lot, but we hope we can keep it all together, the way Mitchell kept it. Looking for the right buyer, a wrestling fan/ pipe lover who wants to help preserve an amazing part of this man’s history.

Email me at for information on any of these items.

NXT: The Best of Both Worlds

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything here. I’ve been on vacation, and I’ve been working hard to get Mad Man Pondo’s book ready for release. (We’re almost there, I promise.) Out of the blue yesterday, I found myself at NXT in Louisville, Kentucky. Long story short: I remembered why I fell in love with NXT originally, and I found an even deeper appreciation for the “other, other” WWE brand.

I won’t review the show, but here are some thoughts on an unexpected trip to NXT.

The War Raiders look like a tag team from a bygone era, both their look and the way they hit. I miss them in New Japan, but it looks to me like they’re doing just fine.

EC3 walks and talks like a face that could run the place. Only a matter of time before he’s one of the guys on the signage over the toy shelves.

Fabian Aichner has real potential as a heel. Great match against EC3.

Aliyah is a heat magnet she knows how to enrage a crowd, and she revels in it. I loved watching her introduce herself, only to get “Who are you?” chants in return.

Kairy Sane has to be seen live to be fully appreciated. She is electric. Even when she was at ringside watching her tag team partner Candice LeRae, she was always on. She also gave the crowd a laugh when she joined in on the “Who are you?” bit with Aliyah.

My happily married buddy Kevin Cordell says Adam Cole is his “boyfriend,” and having seen him live, I can see why he’s so infatuated. Adam Cole may be the most entertaining wrestler I’ve ever seen live. His psychology with the crowd, his charisma, and his sense of humor make for a killer combination. He played with the crowd the entire match, and they played back. He’s supposed to be the bad guy, but how do you hate a man who is that good?

Speaking of good, Raul Mendoza is a show stopper. I’m pretty sure most of the fans had no clue who he was when he made his entrance, but they won’t forget him. Props to Cole for making him shine.

The NXT tag division is outstanding, and so much better than the Red and Blue brands. After the opener between War Raiders and TM61, we were treated to O’Reilly and Strong vs. Lorcan and Burch. Both matches were terrific.

Kassius Ohno is still in my mind the most under appreciated man in wrestling. He does not have bad matches. And the Louisville crowd was solidly behind the man they will forever know as Chris Hero. Terrific match with Velveteen Dream.

It was a bit disappointing not to see Ricochet in action, but the Kentucky native received a very warm welcome when he made an appearance to hype his confrontation with Dream at Saturday’s Takeover show.

Nikki Cross is nuts, and her fans wouldn’t want her any other way. While sitting in a corner, she heard a fan shout, “Hey Nikki!” Nikki turned and gave the crowd her crazy eyed grin. “Kick her butt!” said the fan. Nikki nodded in wild-eyed agreement. No words needed to be said. She’s a non stop whirlwind of insanity, and I love it.

Shayna Baszler had more heel heat than anyone else on the show. All night long, the fans split on the other heels, especially Adam Cole and Velveteen Dream. There was no split with Baszler. She has pure heel heat. She’s going to do well in WWE.

Lars Sullivan is a classic monster in the French Angel mold. He’s also a terrific athlete. He had a war with Aleister Black in the main event that ended in a DQ win for Black, setting up their Takeover main event Saturday.

Major props to all the stars who signed the poster for the guy celebrating one year cancer free. After the first match, it looked like word had spread backstage, and everyone made a point to sign the poster.

Huge props as well to Aleister Black for his post match interaction with the fans. This was my first time seeing Black in person, and after collecting his title belt, he rolled out of the ring and started making his way around ringside.  He went around twice, posing for selfies with every single fan who wanted one. A true class act.

The NXT show took place at Broadbent Arena, a smaller venue than the YUM! Center Smackdown took over two months ago. The crowd was much smaller for NXT, but that actually made for a better show. The wrestlers engaged the fans more, and the fans were much more into the action here than at Smackdown. I didn’t hear a dozen disinterested conversations around me because the NXT crowd came to see wrestling. They are the Network subscribers, but they’re also the die hards who know guys like Adam Cole and Chris Hero and Candice LeRae from the independent scene. It’s a shame the crowds aren’t bigger for NXT, but then again, it would be a shame to ruin the wonderful thing NXT has going.

NXT has the top level talent and production of the WWE paired with the heart and spirit of the indies. It is the best of both worlds. 

A very big thank you to Kassius Ohno for inviting me to the show last minute. He was one of our very first interviews for Mad Man Pondo’s book before his return to NXT. After all these years of near misses, it was great to finally sit down and talk with him. Thank you again for your hospitality. See you down the road!