Tagged in: daniel bryan

Crazy is not her only Super Power

A. J. Mendez-Brooks, formerly known as A. J. Lee, may not seem to be the most likely candidate to write a memoir. Only 29 years of age when she completed it, hardly the age one associates with such a book. She had a memorable run as WWE Diva’s Champion, and she was involved in main event storylines involving Daniel Bryan, John Cena, CM Punk, and Kane. But still… a memoir? What story could she have to tell.

It turns out A. J. has quite the story to tell, a story that not only can fill a book for demands to be told. Crazy Is My Superpower is more than just a memoir of her time in the WWE. Its the story of a remarkable life and a young woman who overcame some major challenges to achieve her dream.

A. J. Mendez-Brooks grew up in poverty, the child of “cool parents” who never truly grew up. It’s a heart breaking story of a family that was constantly on the move, always hungry, and always paying for the missteps of her parents.

It’s also a story of mental illness and bi-polar disorder, an affliction A. J. inherited   from her mother. A. J. holds nothing back as she talks about her mother’s struggle to come to grips with the disease as well as her own battles. Mental illness is an uncomfortable subject most people would rather avoid, but Mendez-Brooks strives to remove the stigma of the disease in hopes that others can discuss it more freely and, if necessary, get the help they need.

Yes, A. J. delves into her wrestling career, including a heart-warming look at the man she once called “Grandpa” and now calls her husband, CM Punk, but fans hoping for some inside dirt and stories from the road may be disappointed. Mendez-Brooks takes the high road when discussing people who stood in her way, and the focus of the story throughout remains on the impoverished young woman who rose to become a record-setting WWE champion.

That’s not to say the book is disappointing; not in the slightest. A. J. Mendez-Brooks is a wonderful writer. She will make you belly laugh one minute and tug at your heart in the next. Crazy Is My Superpower succeeds at not only being an entertaining read, but an inspirational one. It’s about girl power, it’s about pursuing your dream, it’s about breaking the stigma of mental illness, and it’s about empowering those who need help to seek it out, just as she did.

Crazy Is My Superpower is a story wrestling fans and non-fans need to read. It’s more than just the memoir of a wrestling career. It’s an incredible story of overcoming all odds to achieve a dream.

Bravo, A. J. I hope this is only the first of many books we get from this superpowered writer.

20 Years On, IWA Mid-South May Have Its Best Roster Ever

It had been a while since I paid a visit to Southern Indiana’s legendary wrestling promotion, IWA Mid-South. I’m not big on blood and hardcore and deathmatches, a hallmark of IWA-MS, and truth be told, I decided to go tonight for one reason: OI4K. I’m a big fan of Jake and Dave Crist and their frequent companion Aaron Williams. All three have been regulars at IWA-MS for some time, and when I saw Dave Crist was scheduled to face another favorite in Shane Mercer, I decided it was time to go.

It was a trip worth taking.

The boys from Ohio delivered as they always do, but this was hardly a three man show. Every match on the card tonight delivered, from the opening bout between Desmond Xavier and A.J. Gray to the main event with Larry D. and John Wayne Murdoch. Top to bottom, this was the best wrestling show I’ve ever seen from IWA-Mid-South and one of the best independent shows I’ve ever witnessed.

 

Corey Storm and Myron Reed were two of the younger stars of IWA-MS who impressed in the early matches. Reed is a Louisville veteran with a ton of talent and charisma, and he took an action-packed three way match from Teddy King and Brett Havoc. Storm is just fifteen years old, but he looked like a a seasoned veteran in the ring with Jake Crist. He’s getting the education of a lifetime, working with veterans like Crist, and it’s very clear he has a bright future ahead.

Aaron Williams had a hard-hitting bout with Japanese star Shigehiro Irie. Despite his alliance with the hated manager The Rick, Williams had a strong following in the crowd. Ian Rotten stunned Williams and the crowd after the match by announcing that Williams will face Jessica Havok next week.

Two more members of OI4K, Zachary Wentz and Trey Miguel, had a show-stopping tag match against the Player’s Club, Mance Warner and Ray Waddell. Wentz is the current heavyweight champion at Rockstar Pro Wrestling in Dayton, and he and Miguel put on a clinic with Warner and Waddell.

Dave Crist vs. Shane Mercer followed the tag match and stole the show in every way possible. Mercer and Crist are two of the best kept secrets in the Midwest. Mercer is all power; Crist is a high-flyer. The crowd was electric for the entire match, and when Crist got the win, the fans leapt to their feet with a standing ovation.

As soon as the match was over, Dave Crist grabbed a microphone and told the fans they were witness to one of the best shows he had ever been a part of. Christ praised the fans for their dedication and heaped even more praise on the young stars of IWA Mid-South. “Ian Rotten has an incredible eye for talent,” he told the fans, and he encouraged everyone to, “Tell a friend, bring a friend, and make IWA Mid-South the best promotion in the Midwest!”

It would be a bold statement to say that the current incarnation of IWA Mid-South is the best ever. This is, after all, the promotion that helped launch the careers of superstars like CM Punk, Chris Hero, Daniel Bryan, and Seth Rollins. That said, it’s clear that something special is happening in Southern Indiana.

IWA Mid-South is in their 21st year. They are packing the Arena in Jeffersonville every Thursday night and the Memphis Flea Market (where Rotten says fans can see more of the hardcore action they are used to) every Saturday. That’s no small feat, running twice a week, and with Joey Ryan, Gary Jay, and Jessica Havok on the card for next week, it’s only getting better.

If you like great wrestling, I’d encourage you to check out IWA Mid-South Thursdays at the Arena. And if you like violence for violence’s sake, you won’t want to miss their Saturday shows (including this weekend’s King of the Crimson Mask show) in Memphis, Indiana.

Congratulations to Ian and the entire crew at IWA Mid-South. Thanks for an amazing night of wrestling.

The Last Mark Standing Truly Stands Out

Trina never set out to be a podcaster. Or a ring announcer. Or any of the other things she’s become in the last year. She was a childhood fan who simply never outgrew her love for the insanity that is professional wrestling. One night, just for kicks, she began live Tweeting during Raw. Soon she had a following, and before long, she ran into Damian.

Damian is a licensed counselor, an expert on human behavior. He also had aspirations of becoming a broadcaster and had dabbled in podcasting. Like Trina, Damian has a deep love for the sport of pro wrestling, and when the two met online, something clicked.

Trina lives in the Midwest; Damian lives on the East Coast. Modern technology and social media brought them together, and a unique partnership was forged. Now the two are co-hosts for one of the best commentaries on both the WWE and independent wrestling, The Last Mark Standing Podcast.

“The Marky Smark” Trina and Damian “Sawlty G” are more than just commentators. They are self-described promoters of professional wrestling who want to reignite the flame in lapsed fans and encourage casual fans to dig deeper. They don’t just watch the Network and the weekly WWE offerings; they are in the high school gyms and warehouses and roller rinks where independent wrestling happens.

Trina and Damian have a passion for pro wrestling that is infectious. They also bring a unique perspective to the sport, commenting on everything from ring politics to sexism in and out of the ring to proper fan etiquette. They are devoted fans who owe a lot to pro wrestling, and they have dedicated themselves to giving back to the sport that means so much to them.

The best things in professional wrestling often happen organically. The rise of Stone Cold Steve Austin and the birth of Austin 3:16; the “Yes” chants that led to the rise of Daniel Bryan; and the recent emergence of James Ellsworth. The Last Mark Podcast was not in the plans of either Trina or Damian. It evolved organically, beginning with Trina’s live Tweeting, and it continues to rise today.

Visit the Last Mark Standing website to find out how you can subscribe and follow the Last Mark Standing Podcast. This one’s on my weekly must-hear list, along with Kick Out at Two and Gilbert Gottfried. It’s a great listen if you love the sport of pro wrestling.

You can also follow Trina, Damian, and the podcast on Twitter.

The Miz Is That Awesome

Last night my Facebook feed blew up with people proclaiming the Miz’s promo on Talking Smack as the promo of his life. I beg to differ. As great as last night was (and I defy to you tell me it wasnt great), the promo of his life took place a few years ago. There was no musical introduction. He didn’t come down the ramp. He walked around the side of the ramp into the arena, shooting about the road he took to get to the WWE and fulfill his dream.

I don’t recall anything specific he said that night, but I recall how it made me feel. It was the first time I truly believed in the Miz.

The Miz has worked for everything he has been given. His reality TV show fame did not translate to a free pass at OVW; Danny Davis and Rip Rogers would never allow it. He learned from old school guys how to make it in the business, and he learned his lessons well.

The Miz also seized the moment every chance he had. Roni Jonah tells a story about a time she was supposed to work a program as Seth Skyfire’s girlfriend at OVW. Paul Heyman was disappointed with the kiss Seth laid on Roni during a TV taping, and he let his feelings be known to the locker room. “You expect me to believe she’s your girlfriend with a kiss like that?”

The Miz spoke up: “She could be my girlfriend.” Within a few weeks, Roni left Seth on OVW TV for the Miz.

As opportunistic as he can be, the Miz also knows how to put people over when it’s his turn. Did you hear him on Talk is Jericho with Damien Mizdow? At first listen, it sounded like the Miz was there to put himself over Mizdow. Listen again; the Miz puts his tag partner over huge, and then quietly steps away. It was masterful.

Crazy Mary Dobson also experienced the generous side of the Miz in her first appearance on Raw. According to her, the Miz did everything he could to give her as much face time as possible, telling here where to stand so the camera would pick her up.

Crazy Mary’s story runs counter to the general perception most fans have of the Miz: he’s a big mouth hack, a talentless loser, an opportunist who is only out for himself. People who see the Miz that way are seeing exactly what the Miz wants them to see. They don’t see a guy who grew up loving wrestling playing a character on TV because they can’t distinguish the real man from his character.

In an age when kayfabe is supposedly dead and buried, the Miz has done the impossible. He has made himself a true heel in the eyes of the fans. He’s not getting booed because the fans understand that he’s playing a heel and that’s the story being told. He’s not being booed because he’s the heel people “love to hate.” He’s being booed because people truly hate the Miz.

The Miz is a rare talent that could easily has worked in a long-gone era. He’s the kind of guy who makes the fans forget they’re watching a show and boo from the bottom of their hearts. He’s a true student of the game who learned his lessons well, and he’s only getting better.

I don’t expect my thoughts to persuade many Miz haters to see him differently, and that’s okay. The Miz wouldn’t want you turning into a fan of his anyway. The more you hate the Miz, the more you’ll demand – and pay – to see him get his butt kicked

That, friends, is what makes the Miz AWESOME.

Tyson Dux Is Far From Done

If you’ve been following the Cruiserweight Classic on the WWE network, you saw the outstanding match last week between Zach Sabre, Jr., and Canada’s Tyson Dux. Dux was one of the featured wrestlers in my 2014 book, Eat Sleep Wrestle. Dux is no stranger to the WWE, and he was once hours away from signing with the WWE when an injury took his dream away.

Dux is now 38, and Mauro Ranallo and Daniel Bryan kept telling viewers that this was his “last chance” to fulfill his dream. Zach Sabre, Jr., may have picked up the win, but Dux proved he is far from done with this business.

” I’m very proud of that match,” says Dux, who is quick to dismiss any talk about last chances. “I have lots of fuel left in my tank.”

When Dux heard about the Cruiserweight Challenge, he immediately reached out to an old acquaintance, William Regal. Dux was once a regular enhancement talent for the WWE, and he was hopeful they had not forgotten him. “[Regal] got back to me saying send my stuff immediately. The rest played out the way it did.”

Dux says being back with the WWE was like coming home, and the WWE did their best to make the international roster feel welcome. “All 32 of us were treated like stars. Absolutely no complaints.”

Dux has high hopes for the future, and he’s hopeful that future includes a return to Orlando. “My goal is NXT, to be a part of the roster, and after a few years, transition into coaching. Only time will tell.”

Fans can see more of Dux on the independent scene. Dux can be found @tysondux on Instagram and Twitter, and he keeps both pages regularly updated with his schedule.

And if you haven’t seen it already, be sure to catch his bout with Zach Sabre, Jr., on the WWE Network.

The Heroic Choice of John Wayne Murdoch

The last time I saw John Wayne Murdoch, he was falling backwards through a table on the shoulders of Shane Mercer from the top turnbuckle. Murdoch is as hardcore as they get. There’s no bump, no height, no foreign object that scares him. But of all the brave things John Wayne Murdoch has done in the ring, none compare to what he did last week.

Just a few days after the great Daniel Bryan announced his retirement due to concussions, Murdoch announced his departure from the same business. It may not be retirement for Murdoch just yet, but it will at least be an extended absence. Like Bryan, Murdoch is suffering from severe post-concussion symptoms. It scared him enough to go to the doctor, and the doctor’s diagnosis convinced him he needs a break from the business he loves dearly.

John Wayne Murdoch does not have an “angel” like Bryan has in Vince McMahon. There’s no billionaire promoter paying him not to wrestle. He has made this impossible choice on his own, and he deserves all the credit in the world for doing so.

As much as we know about the human body, especially the brain, there’s no bravery in fighting through head injuries. No matter how high your tolerance for pain may be, it’s not worth it to continue destroying something that can never recover from the damage caused by concussions. There are plenty of ways to stay involved in pro wrestling that no one should continue working past such a dangerous point of no return.

If you see John Wayne Murdoch at a show or on social media, thank him for all he has given to the business, then honor him by sharing his story with someone else. No one wants to see a promising wrestling career cut short, but we need more men like Daniel Bryan and John Wayne Murdoch to show the world that there are some things more important than stepping into the ring.

A Hard “Yes!” to Hear

As sad as it is to see Daniel Bryan make his retirement official, his “Yes!” to retirement means we will get to have him around a long time. Medicine and pro wrestling have come a long way, and we should all be thankful the WWE has become so hawkish about head injuries. Thanks to the work of Chris Nowinski and others, a man like Daniel Bryan can see the real danger to his life and make the wise choice. No, we won’t see another Daniel Bryan Wrestlemania moment, but Daniel Bryan will be healthy enough to enjoy watching his kids grow up, and we will enjoy seeing his smile and hearing him share stories for many years to come.

Of course if you really, really want to see more Daniel Bryan, you can. Any of his greatest moments are enshrined on the WWE Network, and there are many more you can discover courtesy of Ring of Honor, CHIKARA Pro Wrestling, The Wrestling Road Diaries documentary, and others. Do a Youtube search for Bryan Danielson or American Dragon, and see what you missed before Daniel Bryan’s emergence on NXT.

Thank you, Daniel Bryan, for the incredible impact you had on the business. See you down the road.

The Ted Petty Invitational Returns

The rumors you’ve heard are true.

Yes, IWA Mid-South is hardcore.

Yes, the fans live for blood and gore.

Yes, they were so violent back in the 90s, they were kicked out of Kentucky.

But if you think IWA Mid-South is all blood and guts, think again.

This Friday, IWA Mid-South is resurrecting the “other” tournament it is famous for, the Ted Petty Invitational. The tournament began in 2000 as a showcase for the best technical wrestlers in the world, and in 2002, it was named in memory of Ted Petty.

If you’ve never heard of Ted Petty or the tournament that bears his name, here’s a look at the participants from the 2002 edition.

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Pictured in this photo: Christopher Daniels, Jimmy Rave, Matt Stryker, Colt Cabana, Spyder Nate Webb, “Sick” Nick Mondo, M-Dogg 20 (Matt Cross), AJ Styles, Ace Steel, Chris Hero, BJ Whitmer, Tarek the Great and CM Punk.

Not pictured: “All That” Matt Murphy, “Kamikaze” Ken Anderson & Super Dragon.

Other past participants include Nova, Mike Quackenbush, Jerry Lynn, Chris Sabin, Sonjay Dutt, Nigel McGuinness, Samoa Joe, Matt Sydal, Hallowicked, Kevin Owens, Delirious, Davey Richards, Ricochet, Low Ki, Tracy Smothers, and Sami Callihan.

Not enough name dropping for you? How about Sara Del Ray (the woman behind NXT’s Four Horsewomen), Kevin Owens, Cesaro, Seth Rollins, Sami Zayn, and Daniel Bryan?

Yes, IWA is hardcore, but it is much, much more than that.

Some of the IWA Mid-South faithful say this year may prove to be the best tournament ever. With names like Kongo Kong, Chris Hero, Reed Bentley, Hy Zaya, Shane Mercer, and Masada on the card, they may be right.

The action kicks off Friday night at the Colgate Gym in Clarksville, Indiana. Click here to go to the event page for ticket information. 

You’re welcome.

Why you should read Eat Sleep Wrestle

esw coverMany wrestling fans are enjoying the indy invasion that has quietly taken over the WWE. They reveled in the triumphs of CM Punk and Daniel Bryan. They’re loving the incredible matches put on by Kevin Owens, Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose, Cesaro, and Luke Harper, just to name a few. “Finally,” they say, “Finally, the indies are taking over the WWE.”

Let’s be honest: most of those fans, even the most ardent, were not watching the indies when CM Punk, Bryan Danielson, Kevin Steen, Tyler Black, Jon Moxley, Claudio Castagnoli, and Brodie Lee were working the warehouses, the high school gyms, and the roller rinks that have become today’s indy wrestling arenas. Most of those fans would be hard pressed to even match the WWE names with the indie names.

That’s a shame, because even with so much talent in the WWE, there’s still more where it came from in the indies. There are names people know or have heard of like Colt Cabana, Chris Hero, and Adam Cole. There are veterans like Sabu, Tracy Smothers, Apollo, LuFisto, and Mad Man Pondo. And there are plenty more they need to hear: Jamin Olivencia, Aaron Williams, Crazy Mary Dobson, the Lovely Lylah, Ron Mathis, Marc Hauss, Eric Emanon, Hy Zaya, and Tyson Dux.

Eat Sleep Wrestle is an introduction to today’s indie wrestling world. It’s a look at the lives of those who truly eat, sleep, and breathe the business. From those just starting out to those working multiple jobs to those who live from show to show, it’s the story of the men and women keeping indie wrestling alive.

I’ve just dropped the price on the book to $9.99. Kindle readers can get it for $3.99. If you’re enjoying what you see on WWE but have never bothered to check out what’s happening on the indie scene near you, this is the kick in the pants you need. Not only that, it’s the kick in the pants every dreamer needs. These stories will do more than make you a fan. They will inspire you to pursue your own dreams.

Get Eat Sleep Wrestle now on Amazon.com!