Yes, You Do Want to See Madi Maxx

Every now and then you go to a show and see a new wrestler who make you sit up and take notice. That happened a month ago when I saw Madi Maxx for the first time. She came into the Jeffersonville Arena as a complete unknown to the Girl Fight crowd. Forty-five seconds after picking up a mic, every fan in the building wanted to slap the “Paris Hilton of professional wrestling” in the face.

Madi was just eight years old when she decided what she wanted to do with her life. That was when he father took her to Monday Night Raw for the first time.”I had never before seen or heard of WWE, or any wrestling for that matter. I instantly fell in love with everything about it. The emotion, the characters, the show, the energy, literally everything. I knew after that I wanted to get the same response from an audience and I started doing moves off my dressers, on to my pillows, and even my friends when they let me!

As a child of the Attitude era, Madi was drawn to some of its brightest stars, including Lita and Edge. “They were my wrestling heroes. I wanted to be just like them. They were also the ones who influenced me the most, along with The Hardys. I was drawn to them because they were all so different than anyone else on the roster. They created such a response from the crowd and filled arenas with energy! Everything they did I was infatuated by everything they did!”

Although Madi’s parents bore some of the responsibility for her infatuation with professional wrestling, they didn’t expect it to last. Madi never wavered in her dream, and when she was seventeen, she took her first steps towards pursuing that dream. “I was home during the summer, and I decided spontaneously I am going to do this NOW! I contacted a school, USIWF, and I called my mom once I got a response. Her and my dad both came with me to my first day and made sure I really wanted to do this. They have been supportive ever since, and have never once doubted me or tried to talk me out of it.”

Madi trained with Josh Gerry at USIWF for a year and a half. She then moved to Louisville, Kentucky and began training at Ohio Valley Wrestling with Matt Cappotelli and Rip Rogers. While in Louisville, she captured the OVW Women’s Championship. “It was incredible! I went to OVW with one mission, and it was to put my name on the list with all the other Women Champions, including Beth Phoenix! Holding the same title she held was something I will always remember and cherish.”

Madi’s determination to make her mark on the business led her to High Spots in Charlotte, North Carolina, where she now trains with a number of other hopefuls. She’s already faced some stiff competition in Nicole Pain and LuFisto and is scheduled to face Taeler Hendrix and Chelsea Greene in the coming months. She has her eyes set on Queens of Combat in 2018, and she hopes to make her West Coast and International debuts this year.

Madi has the skills to become a top star, both on the mic and in the ring. What’s more, she’s a true student of the game who absorbs as much as she can from everyone she meets.

“The lessons I have learned that are the most important to me are, ‘crawl, walk, run,’ which my first coach taught me. Meaning you can’t learn everything in a day, you have to stick with it and really give it your all! The second is, ‘trust no one,’ which is a really big one that I have kept in mind wherever I go.”

Madi listed LuFisto as one of her favorite opponents. You can see the two of them in action in the video below. You can also follow her on Twitter @madi_maxx, Instagram @maxxmadi, and Facebook.

Madi Maxx is a face to watch and a name to remember. I’m looking forward to seeing more of her in the coming years.
[Credit for top photo goes to photographer John McEvers.]

Can’t Spell WWE without I-N-D-Y

Dear WWE and NXT Fans:

I’d like to introduce you to a few people.

This is Aaron Williams, “The Baddest Man Alive.” Aaron had a great weekend because he just won the Pro Wrestling Blitz Heavyweight Champion.

These are my pals Eric Emanon and Thomas Brewington. They had a great weekend as well. They are now the New Phoenix Gemini Tag Team Champions.

And this is the King of Dayton and proud member of Ohio Is 4 Killers, Dave Crist. Dave had a great weekend too. He pinned John Wayne Murdoch clean to become the new IWA Mid-South Heavyweight Champion.

Why am I telling you about these gentlemen? Because I want you to know them. I want you to follow them. I want you to support them.

As a WWE fan, I know you are aware just how many independent wrestlers have become part of the world’s largest wrestling promotion. A.J. Styles, Kevin Owens, Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins, and Cesaro all had stellar careers in the indies before making it to NXT and WWE. If you’re also following NXT, then you’re already following the rise of Johnny Gargano, Tommaso Ciampa, Cassius Ohno (aka Chris Hero), Ruby Riot (aka Heidi Lovelace) and the other indy “darlings” the WWE has snatched up recently.

I want you to know that the independent wrestling promotions that Gargano, Ciampa, Hero, Lovelace, and the others left behind are not dying off like the old territories the WWF killed in the 1980s. They are thriving. They are growing not only in popularity, but in quality. I want you to know this because I want you to become a fan.

Yes, it is true, the independent scene is full of green wrestlers, spot monkeys, and guys who only care about getting their s*** in, but there are many men and women and tag teams still working the independents who could easily fill any spot on the NXT or WWE roster right now.

Independent wrestling is growing. There are more promotions in more places than there have been in a generation. Your local promotion(s) may run monthly or weekly, which means you can see live wrestling far more often than you are now with the WWE.

True, the crowds and venues are smaller in the indies, but that also means tickets are more affordable, and your access to the wrestlers is greater. You’re closer to the action and at a much better price, and the heels can actually hear you when you call them names.

And here’s the best part: you don’t have to pay an arm and a leg to meet your favorite stars. The T-shirts at the gimmick tables are half of what you’ll pay at a WWE show. Everyone is happy to shake your hand and take a selfie – except maybe Mr. Darius Carter.

I’m not telling you to give up the WWE. I enjoy the Network and NXT as much as any fan. But make no mistake: the WWE and NXT would not be what they are without the INDY scene that has come to be. I’m offering you the chance to see more live wrestling. I’m asking you to give guys like Aaron, Dave, Eric, and Thomas a chance. I want you to get out there and discover other guys like Matt Riddle, Ron Mathis, The Hitman for Hire Mr. Grim, Desmond Xavier, Zachary Wentz, Gary Jay, Chip Day, Murder One, Timmy Lou Retton, Matt Cross, Michael Elgin, Menace, Facade, Jake Crist, Sami Callahan, and Jimmy Rave. I want you to discover the other ladies who fueled the “women’s revolution,” like Kelly Klein, LuFisto, Su Yung, Samantha Heights, Leva Bates (remember Blue Pants?), Mickie Knuckles, Rachel Ellering, Taeler Hendrix, Candice LeRae, Veda Scott, Mia Yim, Allisin Kay, Jessicka Havok, and Jordynne Grace. I want you to discover the amazing tag teams packing houses across the country including the Hooligans, Viking War Party, War Machine, OI4K, and the Carnies. You can even find comedy wrestlers, guys like Colt Cabana, Space Monkey, and the notorious party animal, Joey Ryan.

There’s never been a better time to get into independent wrestling than now. Search a few of these names on YouTube. Find and follow them on Facebook or Twitter. Then find a promotion running in your area. I’m not asking you to trade one for the other. Just get out and support the superstars of tomorrow, today. They will not let you down.

Sincerely,

A converted, die-hard indy wrestling fan

Watch Now: Jordynne Grace vs. Mr. Darius Carter

What’s better than seeing two of your favorite wrestlers matched in the ring? When the promoter of said match posts it for free online!

I first saw Jordynne Grace about three years ago in a “Falls Count Anywhere in Clark County” match at IWA Mid-South. It was a brutal affair between Jordynne and Heidi Lovelace that spilled out into the parking lot (but sadly, not much further). Jordynne won thanks to an assist from the notorious Kongo Kong, but both women left no doubt as to their toughness.

Grace has grown a lot in the last three years. She’s been tagging with another favorite of mine, LuFisto, and she’s getting high profile title shots like this one at Battle Club Pro against the notorious Mr. Darius Carter. Watch the match below, and be on the lookout for both of these young stars in your area.

Your New SHINE Champion – LuFisto!

I got home from NXT in Louisville last night to see this pleasant surprise on my Facebook feed:

LuFisto has been called a lot of things in her career. When she first started training, she was told she was too small. Later, she was told she was too “big.” When she applied for the last round of WWE Tough Enough, it was implied that she was too “experienced.”

LuFisto is a warrior who has survived injuries, disappointments, and heartaches. She felt like giving up so many times, but so far, she’s refused to quit. Yesterday she traveled to Florida for a show. As she put it, she is “going back home with a heavier bag.”

LuFisto is one of the wrestlers who made me fall in love not with women’s wrestling but independent wrestling. She’s a hard-hitting showstopper, and a must-see any time she’s in town. She is gracious with fans and fellow wrestlers alike. She is a class act who was willing to give a budding wrestling writer one of his first interviews. For that, I will always be grateful and always be a fan.

Congratulations, LuFisto, you earned it!

Remember Who Started The Revolution

11882266_1060478073985571_1326424868613623308_oThe WWE deserves credit for changing how they book women’s wrestling. Instead of looking solely at women’s bodies and looks, they are now signing women who have dedicated their lives to becoming wrestlers. Kimber Lee, Heidi Lovelace, and Evie continue a trend that will, in time, produce a women’s division that rivals the men’s in terms of star power and quality matches.

That said, we must be careful not to let the WWE rewrite the narrative of this women’s revolution. As much as I know they hope to take credit for changing the face of women’s wrestling, what’s happened to the WWE is an effect of what already happened at the independent level.

The women’s wrestling revolution belongs to the fans who demanded more. It belongs to every man and woman who ever attended Shimmer, Shine, Girl Fight, WSU, or any number of women’s shows. It belongs to the people who did not go to get popcorn when the women came out at their local indie show. It belongs to the people who chanted “Let’s go Heidi!” “Kim-ber Lee!” and my personal favorite, “Mary’s gonna kill you!” (WWE fans take note – this must follow Crazy Mary Dobson to the WWE!)

The revolution also belongs to the trainers who were committed to creating wrestlers and not divas, legends like Lance Storm, DJ Hyde, Danny Davis, the Dudley Boys, and others too numerous to mention. It belongs to promoters who gave women the chance to shine not only against one another, but against men. It belongs to the men and women who put women in the main event and put their most prestigious titles – including the Grand Championship of CHIKARA – on women who had earned it.

Most of all, it belongs to the women who chose wrestling not because it was a stepping stone to acting or modeling, but because they could not see themselves doing anything else. It belongs to the rising stars of the WWE and NXT. It belongs to women like Veda Scott, LuFisto, Mickie Knuckles, Kelly Klein, Tessa Blanchard, Randi West, Su Yung, Taeler Hendrix, Britt Baker, Rachael Ellering, Amazing Maria, Leva Bates, and Samantha Heights, who are grinding it out night after night in the hopes of filling the spots that have just opened at the top of the independent ranks. It belongs to the young women now taking their first bumps in the hopes of following a trail that now stretches further than it ever has in the business of wrestling.

The WWE deserves credit, not for changing women’s wrestling, but for recognizing that it has already changed. Yes, it is a revolution, but the revolutionaries are not in an office in Stanford. They’re in the ring, every night, putting their bodies on the line for a sport they love.

https://youtu.be/UVl-nqiQTuk

A New Belt for the Ladies

A great promotion needs a champion to lead it. This Friday, Girl Fight will give this belt to the winner of their first ever championship tournament.

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Mad Man Pondo is the mad genius behind Girl Fight. For the last couple of years, he’s been bringing the best of the best together to show the world that anything boys can do, girls can do better. Santana Garrett, Leva Bates, LuFisto, Crazy Mary Dobson, Samantha Heights, Randi West, Mickie Knuckles, Cheerleader Melissa, and Tessa Blanchard are just a few of the amazing stars to appear on cards across the Midwest. Rebel, Su Yung, Khloe Belle Smothers, Slady Wilson, Amazing Maria, and more are scheduled for Friday’s big event.

Friday marks not only the crowning of a champion, but the first ever Girl Fight show in Kentucky. For more information on Friday’s show, visit the event page on Facebook.

The Legacy of Chyna

“In 1999, I was fighting guys and winning my first male championship. People laughed at me and workers beat me up because I was ‘The girl trying too hard.’ Well. There was someone like me was on TV. I had a model. A strong woman who wasn’t afraid to fight anybody. That was Chyna.” – LuFisto

“Chyna was the reason I started wrestling…. Horrible news to wake up to.” – Kimber Lee

At the height of her wrestling career, Joanie “Chyna” Laurer was hailed as the Ninth Wonder of the World. She was a Women’s World Champion in a time before “Divas.” She was a founding member of Degeneration-X. She was the first women to enter the Royal Rumble and the first woman to lay claim to the prestigious WWF Intercontinental Champion. She wasn’t the first woman to wrestle men, but her feuds with Chris Jericho, Eddie Guerrero, and others paved the way for shows like Gender Wars, the men vs. women events now being promoted by Mad Man Pondo. Chyna blazed a trail for many women who now regularly wrestle with and against men including Heidi Lovelace, Candice LeRae, LuFisto, and CHIKARA Grand Champion Kimber Lee.

Many fans today don’t know Chyna’s true legacy. Corporate politics and her own personal demons have excluded her from the WWE Hall of Fame and multiple D-X reunions. Chyna was a pioneer worthy of recognition with legends like Mildred Burke and the Fabulous Moolah.

https://youtu.be/buj8adryms4

How Did You Tell Your Parents You Want To Be a Wrestler?

esw coverHave you ever wondered how someone who wants to be a professional wrestler breaks the news to their parents? So did I. Here’s chapter one of Eat Sleep Wrestle, a book I wrote about the indy wrestling scene, a chapter that posed that very same question.

From the age of 5, Jamin Olivencia wanted to be a professional wrestler. It was at that tender young age the Buffalo, New York, native discovered wrestling on television, and from that moment on, he could not think of anything else. When he wasn’t watching wrestling on television, he was practicing moves. When he wasn’t doing either, he was daydreaming about being in the ring.

Jamin didn’t just daydream in front of the TV. He daydreamed everywhere, even at school. All those daydreams put him and his parents in an awkward situation at school one day.

“The school called my parents in,” Jamin recalls. “They told them I needed to be in special ed. They said I was unresponsive in class. They wanted to get me tested. It turned out I didn’t have any disabilities or anything. I was unresponsive because I was daydreaming about wrestling all the time!”

Every Mom and Dad has dreams for their child. Parents always hope and pray that their kids will grow up, find a good career, have a family, and do better than they did. So what’s it like to go to your Mom and Dad and inform them that you’ve chosen a life of long drives, low pay offs, and almost chronic pain?

“I don’t recall that conversation specifically,” says Mike Quackenbush, the co-founder of CHIKARA Pro Wrestling. “But I’m sure as soon as it was over, and I left the room, they turned to each other and said something to the effect of, ‘This is just a phase. He’ll grow out of it, right?’”

Mike’s parents weren’t the only ones who didn’t believe in the dream. “I remember at least one conversation with a high school guidance counselor who outright told me, ‘You can’t be that,’ in reference to being a professional wrestler. It was if that idea was the most ludicrous thing she’d heard.”

For most of the men and women profiled in this book, telling their parents wasn’t a very dramatic moment. Most of their parents were not at all surprised by their children’s choices because they saw them coming early on. As Ohio native Ron Mathis put it, “My parents said I came out of the womb watching wrestling.”

Louisville, Kentucky native Austin WGS Bradley discovered wrestling at the age of five when his grandfather let him watch Nitro. Austin saw Chris Jericho versus Eddie Guerrero that night, and he got so into it, his grandfather pulled out a video camera to film his reaction.

“When I was eight, I told my parents I was going to be a wrestler,” says Bradley. “They hoped it was a phase, but when I turned 18, they supported my decision.”

Hy Zaya, a fellow Louisville native, didn’t have to tell his parents. “I think they always knew,” he says. “My father was a wrestler. Amateur, high school. He always had guys over to watch the big pay-per-views. I think the first match I remember seeing on TV was Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant. My dad’s mom loved wrestling too. She was a huge fan of the Moondogs.”

Like many kids growing up in Louisville, Kentucky, Hy Zaya watched USWA wrestling on Wave 3. “I remember watching those guys work and hitting the mat,” he says. “I remember thinking, man, that mat sounds hard!”

Wrestler J B Thunder lived down the street from Hy Zaya and was a favorite of the boys in the neighborhood. Thunder would take kids to the matches with him on occasion, but it was a long time before he gave in to Hy Zaya’s pleas. Finally, one night, Thunder took the boy not to USWA at the Louisville Gardens, but to “The Mecca,” the old Kmart building that once housed Ian Rotten’s IWA Mid-South Wrestling, one of the most famous/infamous promotions of the last twenty years. It was Ian Rotten who first brought talented young stars like Chris Hero, Colt Cabana, and CM Punk to the public eye, but Rotten also enjoys a well-deserved reputation as the King of the Deathmatches.

“We got down there and got in line,” says Hy Zaya. “I looked around, and my first impression was, ‘Why am I standing here around all these white people with weapons?’”

Ian Rotten was also one of those kids who couldn’t get enough wrestling. “To say we were obsessed would be an understatement,” he says, referring to himself and his childhood best friend Mark Wolf. The former ECW talent and IWA Mid-South founder grew up in Baltimore, Maryland, a block up the street from his buddy Mark. “Mark’s family had one of those giant satellite dishes. I’d walk down the block to his house at 8 am Saturday morning and wouldn’t go home until 4 am, when Pacific Palisades Wrestling in Hawaii went off the air.”

On Sundays, Mark would be at Ian’s house by 9 am, playing a card and dice game they ordered out of the back of Pro Wrestling Illustrated. “We weren’t satisfied with the cards that came with the game. Our moms took the cards to work and made copies of the cards so we could make our own. An Eddie Gilbert card became Bobby Fulton, and so on.”

When their parents forced them to go outside, they played home run derby in the street. Rotten has always been an Oriole fan and a Cal Ripken, Jr., fan, but when the boys played baseball, their players were wrestlers. “Jerry Lawler was my go-to guy because he never lost.”

Marc Hauss was one of the few to actually get into wrestling before leaving high school. He started with some backyard groups at the age of fifteen. “I was not allowed to watch it because they did not want me to follow in the footsteps of any wrestler and become one. I only first started watching it when I was 12 and became hooked.”

Marc’s parents weren’t thrilled when he started training for real at the age of seventeen, but they backed off a little when he agreed to finish college, a step strongly recommended by many wrestling legends including Jim Cornette, Mick Foley, and Roddy Piper.

“Over the years they have softened on their stance and come to shows here and there,” says Hauss, “But for the most part it is not their favorite thing that I am doing right now.”

CZW alum and Ring of Honor star Adam Cole was one of those kids so obsessed with wrestling that wrestling T-shirts made up the majority of his wardrobe. He wore his favorite shirts so often, one of his classmates offered him twenty dollars if he would wear a different shirt for one day. “I took her money and used it to buy The Rock’s ‘Just Bring It’ T-shirt with the American flag on it.”

One of Cole’s best friends had the chance to date a girl he really liked, but he had to find a date for the girl’s best friend. He asked Cole to go on a double date, and Adam found himself matched with a very attractive girl. They took the girls to the mall, where Cole bought a WWE DVD, and went back to the house.

Cole put the new DVD on while his friend began making out with his girl. Cole’s date wanted some action too, and during a heated match between Randy Orton and Rey Mysterio, she began kissing his neck to get his attention. Cole ignored her at first but finally turned and told her, “Listen, you’re gonna have to stop until this match is over.”

Cole missed out on the girl, but not his calling. When he was still in high school, he caught up with CZW owner DJ Hyde after a show and told him he planned to train when he turned eighteen.

“Why not now?” Hyde asked him. To Cole’s surprise, Hyde arranged for him to begin training on a limited basis while he was still in high school.

Hyde began watching at the age of five but got into the wrestling business later than most. He was a college graduate earning six figures at a nice bank job, when wrestling reached out to him. Hyde had been following several wrestling promotions up and down the east coast. He was known to a number of wrestlers, who began teaching him how to take bumps. Next thing he knew, he was in the ring filling in for a no-show.

“When I told my parents I was going to be a wrestler, they were like, ‘All right, cool.’ It was when I told them I was leaving the bank to go full-time they said, ‘That’s on you.’”

Montreal native LuFisto decided to give wrestling a try when a new school opened up in town. “I was told by a few that I was too fat, too small and that wrestling was not for girls, especially by my step-father and guys in the class.

“The reputation of wrestlers wasn’t too good, especially for women, as many thought that women wrestling were mainly strippers fighting in bars. My mom was against it. She tried to convince me to give up, but when she saw I wouldn’t, she actually helped me by paying for my classes. She’s been telling me to quit ever since. Must be because she is a nurse!”

Cincinnati native Aaron Williams saw professional wrestling as a chance to combine two of his passions, wrestling and martial arts. When he told his father he was going to be a wrestler, his dad laughed. When his dad saw Aaron was serious, he encouraged his son, saying, “If you’re going to do it, do it big, and do it the best you can.”

“I had a cherry red Mustang convertible back then,” says Williams. “I wasn’t sure how I was going to pay for classes, but just as I was getting ready to sign up, I totaled the car. I collected the insurance money and used it to pay for training. It was a blessing in disguise.”

Toronto native Cherry Bomb proudly credits her father as being her inspiration for becoming a wrestler. Cherry’s parents divorced when she was young, and she lived with her mother, aunt, and cousins in her grandmother’s house. She visited her father on weekends, and that’s where her passion for wrestling began.

“Dad would turn on wrestling and say, ‘This is Hulk Hogan. Watch him,’” she remembers. Her cousins never took to the sport like she did, but Cherry’s father watched wrestling with her and took her to her first live matches. “When Shawn Michaels won the title at WrestleMania XII, I ran to the phone and called my Dad. I was at a friend’s house, and he was watching with his buddies. We were both so excited, and we said we had to watch it again together.”

After Cherry lost her father at the age of twelve, wrestling lost its appeal. She got into music and played in several bands, but it wasn’t until late in her high school career that she began watching wrestling again.

That was when she discovered Trish Stratus. The women Cherry remembered from her childhood were managers like Sherri Martel and Sunny. Trish opened her mind to the possibility that women could wrestle. On career day in Grade 12 at her all girls Catholic high school, Cherry made a bulletin board covered in WWE Divas and told her classmates that they would all see her one day on the WWE.

Cherry wasn’t the only wrestler to announce her intentions at career day. “The Blackanese Assassin” Menace did the same. “I listed two things that I wanted to do. Wrestling was number one on that list along with being a Kindergarten teacher. I remember the look on a lot of people’s faces when I said a pro wrestler.”

Menace began watching at a young age and grew up on Mid-Atlantic, Georgia Championship Wrestling, the WWF, and the NWA. “I always wanted to be a wrestler when I grew up. I don’t think anybody in the family thought about it seriously, but it was always in my mind that, yes, I want to wrestle.”

Fans may be surprised to know that deathmatch legend Mad Man Pondo grew up in a mostly quiet family. Pondo’s grandparents were laid back, religious people, but when pro wrestling came on TV, something came over his grandmother, who would yell and scream and even cuss at the TV.

A man in Pondo’s neighborhood named Roy West, Jr., took an active interest in Pondo and the other nearby kids. West told the kids if they kept their grades up, he would take them to wrestling. “All of a sudden, I became a straight A student,” brags Pondo.

It’s hard to imagine a guy like Mad Man Pondo before wrestling, telling his family that he was going to become a wrestler, but just about everyone went through it. Even Zodiak, another masked deathmatch specialist from Kentucky, had to run his decision by Mom.

“My mom actually took it rather well,” he says. “She hasn’t come to many events, but she has been supportive, yet protective, in that mom way. I had picked up some info about training from a booth at the Flea Market in Richwood, KY. They guy there gave me a number and when I told mom about it she just said, “Well, call them and see what it’s about, but don’t kill yourself.”

Lylah Lodge never planned to become a wrestler. It was her brother and his friends who created a backyard wrestling group and dreamed of going pro. When her brother and his friends decided to sign up for professional training, Delilah tailed along.

“I was very heavy-set,” says Lylah, “Much, much more than I am now. I didn’t look like an athlete, and I certainly didn’t feel athletic. But when we walked into the training school, the owner saw me and immediately wanted to know if I was there to train.”

The owner was wrestling legend “Playboy” Buddy Rose, who didn’t see a “fat chick” but a young woman with real potential. At Buddy’s insistence Lylah began to train with her brothers. She soon found she was more athletic than she realized, and the bumping that comes in professional wrestling came naturally to her. She continued her training with everyone who would teach her, including Davey Richards and Dave Hollenbeck, trying to pick up new things and master the art of ring psychology.

The only wrestler I spoke with whose mother flat out objected to his career choice was Apollo “Showtime” Garvin. Garvin knew darn well his mom would not approve of him entering the squared circle, so when it came time to make his move, he simply didn’t tell her. “When she found out, she just shook her head. She’s still not a fan of what I do, even after twenty years. But honestly, she was more upset about my first tattoo and my brief career as a male stripper than she ever was about wrestling.”

One of the most inspiring stories is that of Michael Hayes. Hayes, who is not to be mistaken for Michael P.S. Hayes of the Freebirds, joined the Army right out of high school. On a tour of duty in Iraq, Hayes was severely wounded when the Humvee he was riding hit an IED. Hayes suffered severe burns over large portions of his body and lost his left leg.

After eighteen months of rehab at Brooke Army Medical Center, Hayes returned to his home town of Louisville, Kentucky. He enrolled in college and got a job, but he also began drinking heavily. He was well on his way to becoming another statistic, another wounded vet who could never put his life together.

That changed one day when Hayes met some students from nearby Ohio Valley Wrestling. The former WWE developmental territory was affiliated with TNA Wrestling at the time. More importantly, the teachers at OVW were not afraid to take on a challenge themselves in helping Michael learn to wrestle.

For many of the wrestlers profiled in these pages, becoming a wrestler was the fulfillment of a dream. For Hayes, it was a second chance, a chance to make something good out of something tragic. He went from wounded vet to becoming one of the top stars in the OVW territory.

But I’m getting ahead of myself, aren’t I? Telling your family you’re going to be a wrestler is just the first step on the road to glory. Many young men and women break the news to their parents every year. Only a small percentage of those parents actually have to go through the trauma of watching their baby wrestle over the long haul. That’s not because places to train are hard to find. There are more options than ever today, and they’re all glad to take your money. It’s staying the course and sticking it out that separates the fans from the future stars.

Eat Sleep Wrestle is available for Kindle and in paperback from Amazon.com.

Ladies Night at Resistance Pro

12507167_10207078832203236_1977150445901805571_nChicago – There’s a title match headed your way  March 5 that is a must-see.

Resistance Pro Women’s Champion Crazy Mary Dobson is defending her title against LuFisto. Crazy Mary is one of the hottest rising stars in women’s wrestling. She has two appearances on NXT (so far) as Sarah Dobson, and she’s a seasoned world traveler at the young age of 22.

LuFisto’s been wrestling for most of Mary’s 22 years, traveling the world and competing with both men and women. The 18 year veteran used to tag with NXT’s Asuka, and if like what you’ve seen in Asuka, you’re going to love LuFisto.

I’ve seen these two go head to head twice, and they absolutely bring out the best in one another. After their first meeting ever, LuFisto praised Mary for the way she “loves to be dropped on her head as much as I do.” Both women love to dish out pain, and they can both take a beating.

This match will be a high energy, violent affair, and neither woman will give quarter to the other. It will be one of your favorite matches of 2016.

Click the poster above or click here to go to Resistance Pro’s website.

The Return of Sami Callihan

Let’s get one thing straight, WWE marks: Solomon Crowe did not leave NXT. Sami Callihan went home.

I don’t know Sami personally, nor do I know the details of his leaving NXT. I can however assure you that NXT’s loss is the independent scene’s gain.

Sami brings name value to the indy shows he will wrestle in the near future thanks to his recent run with NXT, and that’s great. But for every guy like Sami who gets a shot at the WWE Performance Center, there are dozens putting their bodies on the line in warehouses and gymnasiums and arenas who keep being overlooked.

I don’t say that to demean Sami or anything he has accomplished. That’s a testament to the strength of the current indy wrestling scene.

Not every promotion is equal, but there are more than enough good promotions and good wrestlers out there that you can find one near you that will give you far more bang for your buck than a WWE live event.

If you enjoyed Sami in NXT, go support him when he comes to your town. Be on the look out for other hard working guys like Tim Donst (who beat cancer this year) and Chris Hero (who wrestled over 3 house straight for charity). Check out the Indy Card Mafia, Aaron Williams, Tyson Dux, Mitchell Huff, Marc Hauss, Dash Sullivan, and Daniel Eads.

If you’re a fan of the NXT ladies, annoyed that Sasha Banks has hardly set foot in a ring since her call up, you’re really in luck. The indy women’s scene is booming. Leva Bates, aka Blue Pants, is out there, but she’s only the tip of the iceberg. Mary Elizabeth Monroe, Tessa Blanchard, Havok, LuFisto, Crazy Mary Dobson, and Heidi Lovelace are just a handful of the women who are a threat to steal the show any time they are booked.

It’s almost December. It’s dark outside before 6 pm, and it’s too cold to be outside. This is a great month to go out and see some live wrestling. Support the indy stars by buying a ticket. Get a DVD or a T-shirt for someone on you Christmas list, and buy direct from one of the wrestlers. That way you’re putting some Christmas money in their pocket as well.

Sami Callihan’s best days are not behind him. The indy scene is the future, and the men and women of the indies need our support.