Posted on

Add ‘Rasslin to your Roku Channels Now!

A month or so back, I was surfing the Channel Store on Roku and came across a new wrestling channel simply called ‘Rasslin. Featuring a Rob Van Dam caricature on its channel graphic, ‘Rasslin promised to be a free channel boasting lots of old school wrestling. I decided to give it a try.

Simply put: ‘Rasslin is a free Roku channel with content you would gladly pay for.

The first video I watched on ‘Rasslin was an episode of WCCW from the old Sportatorium featuring the Von Erichs and the Freebirds in the main event. As if that wasn’t enough to keep me watching, the episode itself had a recently filmed introduction hosted by Kevin Von Erich and Michael Hayes. I was immediately taken back to my middle school days, when I used to watch WCCW on ESPN every afternoon after school on my Mom and Dad’s bedroom TV.

I let ‘Rasslin run for a few hours and I was treated to surprise after surprise. I saw Dick the Bruiser, Mean Gene Okerland, Dusty Rhodes, Gorgeous Jimmy Garvin, Jim Cornette and the Midnight Express, the Fabulous Kangaroos, Jerry Lawler, Bill Dundee, Andre the Giant, Roddy Piper, Dr. D David Schultz, Sgt. Slaughter. I saw matches and even full TV episodes from the AWA, Memphis Wrestling, Crockett Promotions, and more. Almost every new video brought a new surprise.

‘Rasslin has a seemingly endless supply of wrestling content, but unlike most Roku channels, they do not have a searchable menu. When you open ‘Rasslin, a live stream begins, feeding you one video after another, interrupted by the occasional commercial.

There are some more recent independent wrestling videos on ‘Rasslin, as well as some hotel room women’s wrestling and other strange matches, but ‘Rasslin does allow you to skip any video by hitting the fast forward button on your remote.

‘Rasslin is a must-have for fans of old school wrestling. It’s the perfect compliment to paid wrestling channels, full if binge worthy matches, promos, and memories. It’s a channel you can put on and leave on that feeds surprise after surprise with every new video.

Posted on

Fight, Cody, Fight!

I had the pleasure of seeing Cody Runnels in his earliest days at OVW. I probably saw him more than any other WWE prospect during the last years of developmental. The young, aspiring wrestler I saw back then was a far cry from the leave-it-all-in-the-ring performer he has become.

I also saw Cody wrestle Rey Mysterio in person at Wrestlemania XXVII. It was one of the best matches of the night, and Cody brought the fans to their feet with a rare power display, holding Rey overhead in the corner.

I am happy to see Cody striking out on his own. The indy wrestling world is not what it was in his father’s hey day, but more and more of the top stars are making a better living on the indies than some of the mid- to lower card guys in WWE.

I think we can all agree that August 19 is going to be a very exciting day, when the son of the son of a plumber is finally able to start checking names off his list. Go get ’em, Cody!

13319782_10153481324666933_1506116477704128493_n

 

Posted on

Real Men Wear Pink

13006650_807557169378860_2128214235681966400_nMark Vital isn’t the first man to wear hot pink to the ring, but he wears it exceptionally well. The East Coast wrestling star with feather boas and flamboyant style is already a decorated champion and he’s just getting started.

Like most wrestlers, Vital grew up a fan. He played with the WWF Wrestling Buddies (including Hulk Hogan), and he was drawn to the more colorful superstars of the era including Shawn Michaels, Ravishing Rick Rude, Macho Man Randy Savage, The Rock, Stone Cold Steve Austin, and Dusty Rhodes.

Vital trained with “Showtime” Shane Black, who was in turn trained by the Wild Samoans. He’s already had one of his dream matches, having faced one of his current heroes AJ Styles, but he has his sights set on the son of one of his all time favorites. “My current dream match, would have to be against Stardust, I think honestly with our two gimmicks would put on a great show!”

Vital has amassed a number of titles including the GSW Adrenaline Championship (3 times), the PCWA Tag Titles, the GSW Tag Titles, the PPW Television Championship, the NEWF Young Guns Championship, the PPW Tag Championship, and The ICWF Northeast Championship. He travels any place he can get booked but has a regular circuit throughout New York and Pennsylvania including Pennsylvania Premier Wrestling (Hazleton, PA), True Wrestling (Berwick), Phoenix Pro Wrestling (Altoona), WXWC4 (Allentown) Grand slam Wrestling (Moosic), Dynasty Pro Wrestling (Albany, New York), Fundraiser Pro Wrestling (Lodi, NJ), and PCWA (Shamokin, PA).

Vital would love to get a shot at NXT and the WWE, but he’s hardly a WWE or bust guy. If Impact, Lucha Underground, Ring of Honor, or Global Force came calling, Vital would be there, feather boas and pink tights in hand.

To follow or book Mark Vital, follow him on Facebook.

Posted on

Some Traditions Are Better Left Behind

There are many reasons to lament the changes that have happened in the wrestling business in the past few decades, but there are some things we should all be glad to see let go. In the wake of Axl Rotten’s death, former ECW star Nova went on Facebook to praise the current generation of wrestlers for letting the eschewing the old ways of the wrestling business in favor of video games and other, much safer vices. The movement from bar fights to Mario Cart has as much to do with the change in our journalistic culture as anything. TMZ is always lurking, especially if you’re a WWE star. But the truth is the video game tournaments hosted by Xavier Woods and the like are keeping wrestlers out of trouble and away from the dangers that continue to take a toll on the heroes of the past.

I enjoy the wild stories of Johnny Valentine, Dusty Rhodes, Roddy Piper, and the Freebirds as much as anyone. But I am glad that so many of today’s stars have chosen to be a little wiser with their leisure and travel time. Hopefully the coming decades will give us more old wrestlers telling stories and fewer “gone too soon” headlines.

Posted on

In Memory of Rowdy Roddy Piper

Kayfabenews.com said it best tonight: the greatest pay-per-view in the history of Heaven is happening tonight.

Just a few weeks after we lost Dusty Rhodes, Rowdy Roddy Piper is gone. My Facebook page is flooded with posts from wrestling fans, horror movie fans, and people who are neither remembering a true original. No one was a quick as Roddy on the mic. No one was better at playing the heel and getting heat. And by every account I’ve ever heard, he was the nicest and classiest guy in the locker room with the boys (and ladies) and out in public with the fans.

My first thought for this post was to share one video: the Piper’s Pit interview with the legendary (only because Piper made him a legend) Frank Williams. But you can’t narrow Roddy down to just one clip. Here’s a bunch of Roddy pulled from my Facebook wall.

Before the weekend’s over, I’ll be watching They Live, Welcome to Frogtown, and a whole lot of Piper’s Pit. RIP, Hot Rod. Thoughts and prayers to his family and friends left behind.

Posted on

Everybody loves Blue Pants!

The best things in professional wrestling are often the things that happen organically. They are not the result of a promoter’s careful planning and execution, but the sum of a dozen or more happy accidents that all fall together. Such is the story of Blue Pants, a woman brought in as enhancement talent at the last minute, who suddenly became a bona fide NXT Superstar.

Like many pro wrestlers, Leva Bates grew up watching wrestling. The daughter of a single mom, she spent a lot of time with the neighbor next door, whose son was a wrestling fan. “We watched it on TV all the time, and we’d occasionally go out to see the matches.” Bates doesn’t recall anyone specific (though her sisters quick to point out one of the highlights was seeing Bill Dundee vs. Jerry Lawler), but she credits those early years will giving her a passion for the sport.

After graduating college with a degree in radio/tv as well as acting, she enrolled at FXC in Florida, where she trained with D-Von Dudley, A.J. Gallant, and Matt Bentley. When D-Von left to start the Team 3D Academy with his tag partner Bubba Ray, Leva followed him. “They both were very hands on and taught everything, but D-Von did a lot of the mat training while Bubba Ray specialized more in match psychology, characters, and mic work.” Bates is a 3-D graduate but still returns to work on things with a personal trainer Dan Carr, who once worked with the American Gladiators.

After leaving school and beginning her wrestling career, Bates did what many wrestlers do: she filled out the application on the WWE’s recruitment page. She got the chance to work a few Raw and Smackdown shows as an extra. Then one day, she got the call that she was going to be on NXT. “It was the day of the show,” she remembers.

Leva showed up in a McChris T-shirt and a pair of blue pants. Prior to the TV taping, they were working out the flow of the show. Enzo and Cass were to come to the ring with Carmella, one of the newest NXT Divas, and when a match with Enzo’s rival Sylvester Lefort didn’t pan out, Enzo would turn to Carmella and ask her if she wanted to wrestle.

“Most of the time, the enhancement workers don’t get an entrance or even their name called. They just appear in the ring after a commercial break, but because of the way this story line was playing out, they had to have a way to bring me out. Triple H was at ringside working with Enzo and Cass. I was backstage with Sara Amato (former indy star Sara Del Ray). Enzo and Cass kept ad libbing different ways of introducing me. I heard Cass say, ‘Hey, you back there with the blue pants! Blue pants, come on down!’ I looked at Sara, and we both laughed. We knew that was it.”

What they did not know was how the fans would respond. “The fans started chanting my name. They started singing the ‘Price is Right’ theme for me. I went along with it and played it up. I was like, ‘Yeah! I wear blue pants! I love my blue pants!’ The fans ate it up, and that was how it took off.”

Blue Pants has become a beloved regular at NXT, facing off with Sasha Banks, Emma, and Dana Brooke. She even got her own theme music – the “Price is Right” theme sung a cappella by Big Cass – and her own Titantron video.

“I was amazed how involved Triple H was, even with that. He was working with the video guy to get just the right image. ‘No, make the pants bigger. No, a little smaller.’ He’s very hands on about everything.”

Being backstage at NXT has been a huge learning and growth experience for Bates. “It’s a completely different level. As a radio/TV grad, it’s really cool seeing the directors and agents and crew who make the show work backstage.”

Bates found the staff at NXT to be especially helpful. She took advantage of every visit to learn from Sara Amato, Albert, Triple H, Michael Hayes, Robby Brookside, and the late Dusty Rhodes.

“The third of fourth time I was there, I was peppering Dusty with questions. I was going on and on, and all of a sudden, Dusty turns and yells, “Shut up, Blue Pants!’ I was like, ‘Dusty??’ He put his arm around me and he said, ‘It’s alright, Blue Pants. It’ll be alright.’”

Bates found a lot in common with Rhodes. “He got yellow polka dots over. I got over with Blue Pants. I don’t know if he ever made the connection, but I did. It was really special.”

Bates is more than just enhancement talent. On the independent scene she is a seasoned veteran and an accomplished main event talent. When I asked her what matches fans should look up to see who Leva Bates is, she pointed to her recent appearance at Resistance Pro Wrestling. “I was against Crazy Mary Dobson, and we were the main event. It was a really great match.”

Bates also talked about her match against Mia Yim during the Shine Women’s Championship. “That was her best,” says her very proud mother.

Bates loves to have fun and has a great sense of humor. That love of fun was especially evident in a match for Shimmer when she faced Marty Bell. Bates is known for cosplay, dressing up as characters from comic books and movies, and on this occasion, she dressed as Pee Wee Herman.

“Before the match, I told the crowd the secret words was Three. Every time the ref would start counting, ‘One, two, three,’ the fans would scream. Marty would twist my arm, the ref would count, and on three, the fans would scream. The coolest thing was the secret word lasted the rest of the night. Any time a ref counted three, the fans screamed!”

Outside the ring, Bates is just as fun-loving and approachable as her in-ring character suggests. After the Girl Fight show in Jeffersonville, Indiana, she was the last of the wrestlers to be at the gimmick tables – no longer selling, but just talking to fans. She only packed up after promoter Madman Pondo fussed at her – three times – to wrap things up. Even then, she delayed Pondo from getting to his post show dinner as she paused to talk and take pictures with fans on her way to the locker room.

As we finished our interview, which took place at a downtown pizza place in Louisville after a show, Crazy Mary Dobson brought a young man over to the table where I was sitting with Bates, her mom, her sister, and nieces. He was an NXT fan, and when he learned who was sitting at the table, he began shouting to the whole restaurant. “It’s Blue Pants! Blue Pants is here! Blue Pants!”

The cheers of Blue Pants led to an “NXT!” chant. Leva blushed at first but began pumping her arms in the air, enjoying the moment just like her alter ego. Yes, she’s an unlikely superstar, but that’s what makes her so darn likable. She’s quirky, she’s fun, and when she hits the ring at NXT, Shimmer, or anywhere else, you’re going to have a good time.

Posted on

RIP American Dream

There’s a story in Eat Sleep Wrestle about Dusty Rhodes from Ian Rotten. Ian was in his early twenties when he booked one of his great heroes for IWA Mid-South, Dusty Rhodes. Rhodes proved to be a gracious guest, who called Ian a week later to thank him for the booking and the beer in his hotel fridge. But it was when they were planning their tag match that Rhodes made the deepest impression on the young promoter. “He said, ‘How about when it’s time for the finish, I throw you the elbow pad, and you do the Atomic Elbow?’ When he said that, it was like I could hear angels singing from Heaven!”

Dusty was always doing things to encourage the future stars in the business. Kenny Bolin share with me how open and accessible Dusty was for the students at OVW. “The sad thing was, these kids had all access to Dusty any time they wanted him, and none of them knew who he was.”

Dusty left a huge mark on the WWE stars of today. Very few of the new stars coming out of the Performance Center have not been touched or coached by the American Dream. His spirit, his passion, and his wisdom will be sorely missed.

There was no one like Dusty Rhodes before him, and there never will be again. He is irreplaceable. He will never be forgotten.

My thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends and all who are grieving today.