The Champ

Never ceases to amaze me how Cena rolls with the hate.

I was one of those singing “John Cena sucks” at Mania a few years ago, before it truly took off with the crowds. And yeah, I was a mocker of the “five moves of death” and a bit sick of the Super Cena persona.

But let’s be honest. No one works harder to entertain the fans than John Cena. He works every TV and every house show, and he gives his best at both.

And no one sells tickets like Cena. Whether you’re buying a ticket to cheer him or boo him, you’re buying a ticket because of him.

Very few men can match Cena in the strength department. Cena’s a monster in the gym, and people tend to over look just how powerful he is. Look closely the next time he’s in the ring with another big man. Cena’s a very, very strong guy.

And if we’re really being honest, Cena is more than five moves. Go look on YouTube at some of his matches from OVW. Cena can do a lot more that he does in a typical Cena match. Cena’s a student of OVW’s Rip Rogers, and Rip has always taught his students that less is more. Why go off the top rope if you don’t have to? Why go off the top of the cage if it’s not going to sell a few more tickets? Why do a Shooting Star Press every night when doing it once will make you immortal?

(Okay, yeah, didn’t work out for Brock, but see Snuka and the leap off the cage for an instance where one big bump DID work.)

Do your job, take care of your body, don’t do more than you need to in order to get over and sell tickets. That’s what Cena was taught. That’s why Cena’s endured physically.

Could he use a character change? Sure, everyone needs to evolve. Should he do a heel turn? Maybe, maybe not. It would not be a hard thing for him to pull off. Again, go to YouTube and look at his OVW work. He was the most hated man in Louisville when he was the Prototype. I’d love to see that side of Cena one more time before he retires.

Cena’s one of the very best, not just of his generation but all time. I believe that time will be kind to him and so will the fans.

That said, I don’t know that “Cena sucks” will ever go away. I don’t think it has to go away, and I don’t know if Cena wants it to go away. The more people chant, the more he perseveres. The more he perseveres, the more “Cena sucks” becomes a term of endearment.

 

See Them Before They Go

cropped-esw-cover.jpgTwo 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.

Suplex City

If you missed it last night, Brock Lesnar coined the next “Austin 3:16” level catchphrase.

I know someone who has been to Suplex City. We’ve been friends over twenty years, and about fifteen years ago he was wrestling as Chris Alexander at OVW. He wrestled many of the guys on last night’s show including John Cena, Damien Sandow, Randy Orton, and Brock Lesnar.

About six suplexes into the main event, he made the comment that Brock doesn’t do suplexes. He pretty much just throws you.

“Did you ever take one from Brock?” I asked.

He nodded.

“What’s it like?”

He shook his head. “Doesn’t feel good.”

As much as no one wanted to see that main event, it delivered. Brock decimated Roman Reigns to the delight of the crowd and proved that he is worth that contract he just signed. Then out of no where, Seth Rollins ascended to the top in a dramatic Wrestlemania moment. Great finish to a surprisingly good show.

One night in UWF with Mad Man Pondo

10987394_961163913916988_2647946944708521391_nAin’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!

Thank you, Wrestling Observer

BluegrassBrawlers-coverI got a message from a friend of mine on Facebook today. It seems that Bluegrass Brawlers came in third in the voting for 2014’s top pro wrestling book at the Wrestling Observer. The top three books, based strictly on first place votes, were:

1. Death of WCW by Bryan Alvarez and R.D. Reynolds (257 votes)

2. The Best in the World At What I Have No Idea by Chris Jericho (135 votes)

3. Bluegrass Brawlers by John Cosper (18 votes)

When you look at the votes, Bluegrass Brawlers was a distant third, but to get to that distant third spot, eighteen people had to vote for my book over Chris Jericho and Bryan Alvarez. I’ll take that third place any day!

Every dream, every journey, begins with a few small steps. I am very humbled and thankful to those who voted for Bluegrass Brawlers, taking me a few steps along this road. Thank you.

Rebuild the Hauss!

This is hands down the coolest wrestling shirt I have ever seen. I bought one back in December and had it mailed to my wife so she could wrap it up for my birthday.

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!

Prayers for the Luchadores

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.

Happy birthday, Starmaker Bolin

bolin1Kenny “Starmaker” Bolin had hoped to have his autobiography ready to release today, his birthday. It’s still in the works, and no, it’s not because he’s struggled to find people to say nice things about him. Here’s a sampling of what some folks have said about the Starmaker

“Although I had more of a national presence, Kenny got to work consistently more than I ever did, managed far better talent than I ever did, and was allowed to be the lovable con artist he is without any obvious outside ‘producing’ and ‘writing’ to spoil his unique personality. To steal a phrase from Hunter S. Thompson, he is ‘one of God’s own prototypes.'” – The Sinister Minister, James Mitchell

“I got an email inviting me to call in and participate in a Roast of Kenny Bolin on Blogtalkradio. I know people wanted to hear me roast Kenny for all the things he did to me back in OVW, but I couldn’t do it. My years at OVW were golden, and King B was the biggest part of that, figuratively and literally. Kenny made me a star, and he made me the biggest heel at OVW. I owe everything I achieved at OVW and later the WWE to Kenny Bolin. I was very blessed to do the things I did, and I am thankful to say that Kenny Bolin is still my friend.” – Rico Costantino

“Kenny is truly a star maker. If only he would burn the videos he has of me and Cena way, way back when we were both in the rise. But then if it weren’t for Kenny, no one would care about those videos. Congrats, Kenny.” – Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks

One evening, I received a voice mail from Kenny. He had dialed my number by mistake, and he thought he was leaving a message for one of his many Beets by Bolin customers. The voice mail gave me a rare insight into the real Kenny Bolin as he spoke about a young fan, a girl with autism, who would be his dinner guest along with his family. He was treating all four of them to dinner and hooking the young lady up with a pair of Beets, and autographed photo, and a copy of a John Cena video. It’s entirely possible that once this young girl got to the restaurant, Kenny charged her for her stuff just the same as he did his own daughter-in-law the night he met her, but I prefer to think that there actually is a heart underneath all that bravado. As Jim Cornette likes to say, you just have to dig through too many layers to get to it.

Happy birthday, Kenny Bolin. I’m happy to call you a friend.

Wrestling with Cancer

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.