UnsungPhilly.com posted this video with indy wrestler Tim Donst today. Donst was recently diagnosed with cancer. It’s put at least a temporary halt to his wrestling dreams, but Donst (real name Mike Hopes) is doing a lot to use his situation to encourage others fighting cancer, especially kids. Watch the video, then go to donst.com to learn more about him.
Two very talented, very dynamic indy wrestlers may be nearing the end of their careers soon. If you get a chance, you need to see them. Hy Zaya (second from the left on the book cover) has two matches this week. Thursday night he competes for IWA Mid-South in New Albany, Indiana, and Saturday he’s in a title vs. career match in Evansville for CCW. I haven’t talked to Hy Zaya in a while, and I don’t know how much of this is story vs. reality. Even if I did, where would the fun be if I spoiled it, right?
Hy Zaya is a charismatic and dynamic performer who has held his own against indy greats like Shane Mercer and legends like Sabu. If you’re in either area, don’t miss your chance to see him. It might be your last.
I also read that Jake Crist of OI4K (that’s Ohio Is for Killers) may be close to hanging it up. In Jake’s case it’s injuries that seem to be the threat rather than match stipulations. Jake has several dates on his schedule, including some for his hometown promotion Rockstar Pro in Dayton. Whether he’s flying solo or tagging with his brother Dave, his matches are show stealers, and if it’s really the end for Jake, it’s a sad day for indy wrestling.
Click the links above to check out Jake and Hy Zaya’s upcoming events.
And if you’re curious to know more about Rockstar Pro, click this link to read a nice little article about the Dayton promotion.
Just had to share the photo that Ian Rotten posted online of indy wrestler Ace Perry and his prom date Amanda. If you missed the original story, click here to read how Ace asked his number one fan to prom.
Ain’t no wrestling story like a Mad Man Pondo story. Here’s one Pondo shared with me after posting this photo online, a memento of his one night with UWF in Florida.
Die hard Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat fans may remember that for a brief time, Steamboat had a masked ninja manager. The gimmick only lasted a short time, and when the manager was unmasked, he was revealed to be Paul Heyman. But Heyman didn’t originate the role. The original man was Howard Brackney, who lived near young Pondo in Illinois.
Brackney was booked on a few shows for UWF down in Florida, but he had no way to get to Florida. Pondo had a nice car, courtesy of his parents, so Howard asked Pondo to drive him south. Pondo agreed on one condition: he wanted to be booked with UWF. Brackney made a call Herb Abrams at UWF and then called Pondo to let him know he had the job.
When the two arrived in Florida, Pondo received a warm welcome from Herb Abrams and WWF legends Bruno Sammartino and Captain Lou Albano. The boys were treated to dinner and then went to the arena. “The under card guys had a separate locker room from the big guys,” says Pondo. “I remember Luna Vachon was in the undercard room. They had everyone’s name written on a piece of paper on the wall, listing who they were facing that night. I looked up and down and my name wasn’t on the list.”
Pondo went to Sammartino and Albano, asking why he had been left off the list. That’s when they directed him to the other locker room. “These were the big names. Paul Orndorff. Dr. Death Steve Williams, Bam Bam Bigelow, B. Brian Blair. And there, at the bottom of the list, was me.”
Pondo had no clue why he was on the top stars list. Pondo was only in the business for two years, and he was a long way from becoming a hardcore legend. He was, by his own admission, pretty green and pretty terrible. His lack of talent shone brightly in the ring. “Bruno and Captain Lou just killed me on the commentary too,” he says.
After the match, Sammartino and Albano pulled him aside. “Where were the moonsaults?” they asked. “Where were all the flips out of the ring? All the high flying stuff?”
Pondo was confused. “I don’t know. I’ve never tried them. But if you want me to try, I’ll be happy to give it a shot.”
Albano and Sammartino were stunned. “We were told you were a high flier.”
And that’s when it clicked. In order to get to Florida, Brackney needed a ride. In order to get the ride, he had to get Pondo booked. In order to get Pondo booked, he made up a ridiculous story about Mad Man Pondo being a high flying aerial daredevil.
“I was booked in Miami and Tampa after that first show,” says Pondo. “They paid me for Ft. Lauderdale, but they canceled me in the other two places. But I got a photo with Orndorff out of the deal.
Pondo’s gone on to bigger and better things since that awful night in Southern Florida. Still, he laments that his friend didn’t at least clue him in. “He could have told me what he told them,” says Pondo. “Then I could have gone in the ring and faked an ankle injury to get out of it!”
If you want more Pondo stories, I strongly recumbent checking out his episode of the Art of Wrestling Podcast with Colt Cabana. You will also find a number of wild Pondo stories in my book, Eat Sleep Wrestle. The book was originally intended to shine a spotlight on the younger generation of indy wrestlers working today, but it quickly became apparent you can’t tell the story of modern indy wrestling without Mad Man Pondo!
If you want one, you can get one through my buddy Marc Hauss. Marc is an independent wrestler who is currently out of action due to a recent knee surgery. He’s already on the mend, working hard to come back stronger than ever. In the mean time, he’s having to rely sources of income other than wrestling to hold him over.
Marc just built a new website and released several new shirts, all designed by his sponsor American Villain Apparel. If you’re a fan of Marc, or of indy wrestling, or really cool wrestling shirts, click here to pay Marc’s website a visit and do a little shopping.
Here’s the latest design, created to commemorate his current “rebuilding” phase:
And yes, if you have to have it, the wrestling villains shirt is still available!
One of the wrestlers I interviewed for Eat Sleep Wrestle is a Southern Indiana native who works under the name Hy Zaya. Hy was still feeling the effects of injuries sustained in a recent match when we met up at Texas Roadhouse. We talked a lot about injuries, about prayer, and how every night, he and his opponents go out with one goal in mind: to return to the back as injury free as they went out.
Every wrestler knows and understands that there’s risk involved every time they step in the ring. The history of pro wrestling is filled with career ending injuries and tragic deaths. As much as these men and women try to protect one another, no one is perfect. When something goes wrong everyone, from the superstars at the top to the road warriors working roller rinks and warehouses feels the pain of those who suffer.
My heart goes out to the family and friends of Hijo del Perro Aguayo as well as Rey Mysterio, Jr. I can’t imagine what any of them are going through at this time, but my prayers are with them.
Be safe out there, ladies and gents. And fans, please heed the words you hear at the beginning of each WWE show. Leave the wrestling to the professionals.
Cancer sucks. While there are many wrestling fans (myself included) who can appreciate and cheer for a great heel, Cancer is one heel that will never, ever get cheers. Ever.
Tim Donst is a great guy and a heck of a wrestler. My heart goes out to him and the struggle he faces ahead. Tim is strong, and I know the whole indy wrestling community, fans and workers, are behind him. Click here for an article about Tim on poconorecord.com to bring you up to speed on his story. Huge props to him for making the best of the situation and doing what he can to brighten the lives of younger cancer patients.
Here’s hoping Tim’s story has a positive outcome like that of another indy wrestler, Matt Cappotelli. Cappotelli was days away from a WWE shot when he got his diagnosis. The Southeast Outlook has a story on him this week. Click here to read about Matt.
All the best to Tim Donst for a speedy treatment and recovery. Would love to see both of these men get back in the ring one day.
When I was writing Eat Sleep Wrestle, I knew I was creating a time capsule. What’s written in the pages of that book is a moment of time, now past, depicting the lives of a number of modern day independent wrestlers. No sooner was the book released, the lives and careers of the men and women profiled inside began to change. Since Eat Sleep Wrestle was printed:
Evolution Pro Wrestling closed its doors.
Destination One Wrestling changed its name to Premiere Destination Wrestling.
Jamin Olivencia left OVW.
Michael Hayes left OVW and seems to have retired.
Marc Hauss was laid up after surgery. (Get well, sir!)
Colt Cabana blew up the internet and got sued along with his pal CM Punk.
LuFisto’s Yoda-like wisdom on hardcore wrestling went viral.
Madman Pondo and Crazy Mary Dobson became the Juggalo Championship Wrestling tag team champions, the first intergender champions in the promotion’s history.
Ron Mathis managed to accumulate four title belts at once.
Mitchell Huff became Cage Mitchell.
Crazy Mary Dobson got a speaking role on Raw. “You are chips!”
Mad Man Pondo finally appeared on Raw as a Rosebud. Arriba!
Crazy Mary, Lylah Lodge, and Cage Mitchell also appeared as Rosebuds. Crazy Mary’s become a regular, in fact.
At least four wrestlers – Crazy Mary, Lylah, Aaron Williams, and LuFisto – applied for the next season of WWE’s Tough Enough.
The Crist brothers co-headlined CZW’s anniversary show with the Young Bucks.
CHIKARA crowned Heidi Lovelace winner of the Young Lions Cup, the first woman to achieve that honor.
If you’re scratching your head wondering who these people are, grab a copy of Eat Sleep Wrestle to get up to speed. Then get out to an independent wrestling show to see what you’re missing.
A few days ago a video went viral showing wrestler Chris Dickinson tossing female wrestler Kimber Lee around the ring like a rag doll. I’m not going to post it here; you can Google it if you haven’t seen it. While a close look at the video shows you that the moves were delivered in a safe manner to protect Lee, it is a brutal and violent video.
I was very happy to see LuFisto’s response to this video go viral as well. LuFisto didn’t judge, but as a long time veteran who has taken her share of violent, inter-gender bumps, she asks some very important questions that all indy wrestlers – male and female – need to ask themselves.
You can read LuFisto’s comments here, and if you are an aspiring wrestler, I strongly suggest you not only read them, but really think about what she has to say.
While I’m at it, let me add to the chorus of those responding to LuFisto’s lament about never making it to the WWE. LuFisto is everything that is right about today’s indy wrestling. She is a class act who loves her fans and never disappoints in the ring. She makes those she works with better, and no matter who’s on the card above or below her, she is always one of the most memorable matches of the night.
I’ve seen LuFisto live twice in the last year. She tore the house down against Crazy Mary Dobson and Lylah Lodge. There were at least five or six other matches on the cards both nights, but I’d be doing well to tell you who was in more than one or two of those other matches.
Success can be defined in many ways. Making it to the WWE is one definition, but can you really call it success when you go from stealing the show in the indies to being in an eight-diva tag match that lasts three minutes? The brawls LuFisto, Crazy Mary, and Lylah put on here in Southern Indiana over the last year were far better than any televised “Diva” match in the last five. (NXT excluded.)
When LuFisto hangs her boots up for the last time, no one who truly love pro wrestling will look at her career as a failure. I’ve enjoyed getting to know her in the ring and out, and it was my honor to feature her in Eat Sleep Wrestle. She’s created an incredible legacy for herself and despite all her self-doubts, pains, and frustrations, she’s showing no sign of giving up just yet. That’s a win for her and for everyone who enjoys real wrestling.
Shane Helms put it best when he responded to her earlier this week. “Someone find LuFisto and tell her that’s she’s absolutely wrong about one thing. She’s not a failure. She’s a f’n badass!” High praise, and well deserved.
The first time I saw Ryan Howe was the night after Wrestlemania XXVII. He was the first of the new round of Tough Enough contestants to introduce himself to a Raw crowd that chanted for Stone Cold Steve Austin to “Stun them all!”
I saw him again almost two years later at OVW, the night I started work on Bluegrass Brawlers. He didn’t wrestle that night, but I saw him a few times over the next couple of years. He had a great look, and he showed potential, but he was always in the mid-card, working underneath guys like Rob Terry and Jamin Olivencia. He was better each time I saw him, but he was always outshined by the main event players.
Wednesday night, I saw him again. He worked the main event against OVW champion Mohamed Ali Vaez. This was a completely different Ryan Howe than I had ever seen before. Same look, same gimmick, but there was a confidence and a swagger about him I hadn’t seen before. Howe looked like he belonged in that main event. He looked ready for the next step. If history is any indication at OVW, he’ll probably get it sooner rather than later.
That’s the legacy of OVW. OVW has set the standard for wrestling schools for nearly 20 years. Cena, Orton, Lesnar, Batista, Punk, Ziggler, Cody Rhodes, Miz, Mizdow, Henry, Big Show, Beth Phoenix, Mickie James, Dinsmore, Conway, Shelton Benjamin, John Morrison, Lisa Marie Varon, Jamin Olivencia, Rockstar Spud. Over 100 students have gone on from OVW to work for WWE or TNA.
OVW just launched an Indiegogo campaign to upgrade their television equipment. OVW is the longest running wrestling television program in America outside of WWE (over 800 episodes!), and they’re ready to step it up and go HD. This campaign will allow them to upgrade their studio, their cameras, and their editing equipment so they can continue to produce a top quality program while providing the best training for the business, from inside the ring to the editing room.
OVW television airs locally in Louisville, but it’s also available to view online. OVW alums have shared with me how fans have come up to them in airports and venues around the country, fans who know them only from watching online. Most recently, OVW announcer Dean Hill told me he was approached by a fan in Seattle, Washington who watched OVW on TV!
Independent wrestling is growing in popularity once more, and OVW is positioning itself to take advantage of the changing tides. Check out the campaign on Indiegogo and the perks that are available – including and opportunity to train at the school. And by all means go to www.ovwrestling.com to check out their show for yourself!