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!