Tagged in: pro wrestling

I’m Learning Japanese

Back in January, I set an unusual goal for myself. I decided I want to learn Japanese.

It happened because I decided to pick up New Japan for a month just to see Wrestle Kingdom. I had trouble navigating the mixed language site, and I ended up watching the show with the Japanese commentary instead of English. I loved it, and I was intrigued. So I decided to pick up Japanese.

Just a month or two before watching Wrestle Kingdom I heard Kevin Owens tell the story of how he learned English by watching Monday Night Raw. I wondered if it was possible for an American fan to do the same watching New Japan.

Four months later, Duolingo released their Japanese language module. I’ve been working at it ever since, and in July, I re-subscribed to new Japan World. Is it working? Well, no. Not yet. I’m still very much a beginner, but I’m determined. I’m also loving New Japan way more than WWE right now. As a matter of fact I’m planning to drop the WWE Network this fall and go exclusively with New Japan.

I’ll repeat that in case you missed it. I am unplugging WWE this fall in favor of New Japan.

Fans, if you are sick of what you’re seeing on TV, there are options. Vote with your remote. Vote with your subscriber dollars. Pick up New Japan World, or CHIKARATOPIA, or CZW, or High Spots. Or drop ’em all and get the free Rasslin’ channel on Roku.

The WWE doesn’t listen to your complaints on Facebook and message boards. As long as you keep on paying your $9.99 a month, they could care less what you say on Twitter, Reddit, or any other website.

You know what they do care about? People hitting the unsubscribe button. That’s how you get their attention.

Right now, the best wrestling is not at the biggest company. I know I’m not alone in this sentiment. If you are tired of being disappointed, stop setting yourself up for disappointment. Cancel the Network. Find something new. Find something you love and support that. Stop supporting the stuff that’s letting you down.

Six Inconvenient Truths About WWE and Indy Wrestling

I don’t like to editorialize about the WWE, and I don’t like to go negative in this space. That said, after hearing the air get sucked out of the building at the end of the Money in the Bank match, it’s time we face some inconvenient truths.

Inconvenient Truth #1: The WWE doesn’t want to push your favorite indy stars. Over the last several years they WWE has snatched up a dream roster of independent wrestling stars, but it’s becoming clear none of these signees are ever going to be “the guy.” Styles, Owens, and Rollins have done well carrying the top belts for long periods of time, but when push comes to shove, the WWE will always favor their own.

Inconvenient Truth #2: The WWE wants the next top guy(s) to be their guys. Never mind that independent wrestlers bring not only an established fan base but experience and ring saavy to the table. The WWE still believes it can manufacture stars from scratch at its Performance Center and push them over the independents. Get used to seeing Sami Zayn staring up in frustration at the latest home grown wrestler on top of the Money in the Bank ladder. This is your new reality in the WWE.

So why does the WWE continue to mine the independents?

Inconvenient Truth #3: The WWE is spending money on independent wrestlers to bleed the indies dry of their top stars. It’s not about enhancing the roster. It’s about hurting the competition by taking away their marquee stars and using those highly paid signees to put over their chosen elect.

So what does all this mean?

Inconvenient Truth #4: Any independent star who has a WWE contract needs to consider more than just the money. That’s a hard, hard thing to do when you’re looking at going from $25 a night to the top of the business, but is the WWE really going to give you your dream shot? The roster is overcrowded. Guys who were on top all around the world are forced to job to pre-fabbed stars. Dalton Castle, Kenny Omega, and the Young Bucks have made the right call, staying where they are instead of taking the money for a one way ticket to obscurity. (Remember how excited we all were when Anderson and Gallows got signed?)

Of course it’s easy for the guys who are being paid well to stay put, but what about the guys struggling to make it?

Here comes the most inconvenient truth of all.

Inconvenient Truth #5: Fans who are sick of it need to seriously consider where they spend their money. If you keep paying for a product you hate and refuse to spend a dime on ROH, NJPW, High Spots, CHIKARA, CZW, or any number of alternatives. Am I suggesting you cancel your Network subscription? Not necessarily. I am saying you should stop spending all that fat cash on T-shirts and Pops and Booty-O’s Cereal and spend a little more on a wrestling product you can care about!

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: one ticket to a WWE show costs the same amount as six tickets to an independent show; or two tickets and two T-shirts; or a six month subscription to the alternative wrestling network of your choice. The money you spend there goes into the pockets of real men and women who need and appreciate it far more than a faceless corporation that long ago decided it knows better than you what you want to see.

Inconvenient Truth #6: The WWE is not about to change its ways any time soon. Indy stars will continue to take the WWE money, and Inconvenient Truths 1-3 will continue to play out.

Knowing this to be true, you have a choice. You can continue watching a product you hate and griping about it online, or you can make a choice to spend your time and hard-earned money on a wrestling show you do love.

Life’s too short to spend on these Internet rants. I’m going to find something I enjoy.

Crowbar Press: A gold mine of golden age wrestling

Just passing on a quick plug for my friends at Crowbar Press. They currently have 25 wrestling titles available with four new ones on the way. Hooker and Whatever Happened to Gorgeous George? are two of my personal favorites, books I highly recommend to any wrestling fan. Visit them at www.crowbarpress.com to see what else they have to offer.

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The Legend of Masked Superman I

hans_schnabelIn 1940 a man by the name of Masked Superman took the Allen Athletic Club in Louisville by storm. His dirty tactics and roughhousing drew the ire of the fans who hated him so much, they turned up in larger and larger numbers every week, hoping to see him unmasked.

In early 1941 Masked Superman was unmasked by Orville Brown. The man beneath the mask was Hans Schnabel, the son of German immigrants, and a native of New York state. Schnabel was no stranger to the Louisville fans. He had made numerous appearances for the Allen Athletic Club beginning back in 1935. But the run he had in 1940 and 1941 was so successful, he launched a steady parade of masked wrestlers that would continue throughout the Allen Club’s history

Schnabel was born Herbert Moeller in Rye, New York in 1908. His parents had two sons, Fritz and Otto, who were both born in Germany. Their mother died shortly after young Herbert was born, a victim of the flu epidemic that struck New York in 1910. The family moved to Connecticut not long after Herbert’s mother passed.

Herbert contracted Polio at age 8. The disease affected both his legs, but his right leg suffered the worst. It was a long recovery for the young man, and brothers Fritz and Otto would pull him around town in a wagon for the next two years. Herbert slowly learned to talk again, but he was left with a club foot. He eventually fully from the disease and his right leg returned to a normal position, but he was always self-conscious about his legs. He wore sweats throughout his career as a result.

Herbert took a job in a factory as a teenager before embarking on a new career as an auto mechanic with his brother Fritz. They opened a garage in Connecticut and were very successful, but Herbert dreamed of two things: seeing the country, and wrestling. When Fritz saw the money that was possible in pro wrestling, he too took an interest, and the brothers decided to leave the garage for what they hoped would be a more lucrative future.

When the time came to choose a ring name, Fritz and Herbert decided to honor their mother by adopting her maiden name, Schnabel. Herbert chose to work under his childhood nickname Hans, and together, the Schnabel brothers broke into the wrestling world.

During the early 1930s the Schnabels worked for promoter Jack Pfefer, wrestling mainly in New York and Ohio. In 1936, Hans was offered his first shot at the World Heavyweight Championship, but shortly before the match, Hans became so ill, he had to withdraw. Dave Levin took his place and won the Title on a disqualification.

Later that same year, Fritz and Hans left for a tour of South Africa. When they returned to the United States, they were joined on the road by brother Otto. Otto had a tag partner from Denver who wrestled under the name of George Schnabel, but was no relation.

Schnabel worked in Louisville during the late 1930s and had his highly successful run as Masked Superman during 1940 and 1941. By the late 1940s Hans and Fritz were working for promoter Fred Kohler in Chicago as well as several promoters on the West Coast.

By the early 1950s Fritz was ready to get out of the business. He was 45 years old and didn’t have the desire Hans had to continue. Fritz came to Louisville before hanging up the trunks in 1951 for a one night stand as a masked wrestler named Big Red. He appeared once more in a tag match with Bill Longson, looking for revenge against the man who unmasked him, the mysterious “Mr. X.”

With his brother gone, Hans teamed up with his long time friend Lou Newman and wrestled as the Iron Russians. He also worked with another famous mask, “The Zebra Kid” George Bollas.

In 1952 the Masked Superman story came full circle for Schnabel in an interesting way when he appeared on television with TV’s Superman, George Reeves. Schnabel appeared in the episode “No Holds Barred” playing a wrestler working for a crooked promoter. The life long heel did the job at the end of the show for the Man of Steel.

Hans Schnabel’s final match, according to his son Phil Moeller, was in May 1960. Hans Schnabel retired at the age of 52 after a career spanning 26 years. He wrestled all across the United States, Hawaii, South Africa, and Japan. The young boy who suffered a devastating bout with Polio overcome life’s hard knocks and become one of professional wrestling’s greatest heels.

Hans Schnabel passed away on July 2, 1980. He is buried in Chatsworth, California.

The Pro Wrestling Iowa Podcast

Iowa is the high school wrestling capital of the world. Travel to Iowa in the middle of winter and you’ll find arenas packed with fans watching high school grapplers compete in the world’s second oldest sport.

Iowa is home to the George Tragos/Lou Thesz Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame, and Des Moines was the home of legendary promoter Pinkie George and the birthplace of the National Wrestling Alliance. Iowa holds a central place in the history of professional wrestling, so it should come as no surprise that Iowa is home to one of the best commentary podcasts on pro wrestling.

The Pro Wrestling Iowa Podcast is a weekly program covering the national wrestling promotions as well as the local independent scene. Each week they discuss the current storylines on WWE, current events involving professional wrestlers and promotions, and independents wrestling in the Des Moines area and beyond.

This is not a rambling, ranting program made up of old timers lamenting how things used to be. This is solid, insightful discussion about what’s happening on TV and on the local scene in Des Moines from guys who know their stuff. Brad LaFratte, Dustin Smothers, and Kevin Wilder are true wrestling enthusiasts who bring a wide range of experiences and knowledge to the program as well as the Pro Wrestling Iowa website. New contributor Darnell Mitchell brings a fresh take to the program as well as a huge passion for women’s wrestling.

If you’re in or near the Des Moines area and call yourself a wrestling fan, Pro Wrestling Iowa is a must-add to your iTunes podcast subscription, but fans outside the Midwest should give it a listen as well. The Pro Wrestling Iowa team consistently gives great insight on the WWE, and independent wrestling enthusiasts will enjoy discovering what’s happening at 3X Wrestling, Impact Pro Wrestling, and others in the region.

Pro Wrestling Iowa can be heard on iTunes. You can also follow them on Twitter and read more on their website.

The Great Billy Thom

Heywood Allen ran his first show under his own banner in Swiss Park on June 4, 1935. They drew 1000 people that night, 822 of them paid, for a gate of $485. Allen was already there established face of Louisville wrestling, having been part of the city’s fight tradition for nearly 30 years, but at history first show, Allen chose a man whose pro wrestling legend has largely been overshadowed by his accomplishments in traditional wrestling.

Billy Thom was billed as the Junior Welterweight Championship that night, and he successfully defended his title against Alexander “Cyclone” Burns. Thom, who also wrestled in Indianapolis and other towns across the Midwest, was a fixture for the Allen Club from 1935 to 1940. He wrestled Louisville stalwart Blacksmith Pedigo, the groundbreaking Lord Patrick Lansdowne, and University of Kentucky legend Billy Love.

Thom’s rivalry with Love was fitting because outside the squared circle, Thom was the head wrestling coach at Indiana University. He began his coaching career at Wabash High School before moving up to IU in 1927. Thom built the IU wrestling program into a powerhouse, winning eight Big Ten titles and the 1932 NCAA championship during his tenure.

Thom’s proudest moment came in 1936, when he traveled to Berlin to coach the United States wrestling team in the Olympics. Three of Thom’s Indiana students made the squad that summer Charley McDaniel and Willard Duffy were named alternates, while Dick Voliva competed against the world’s best.

Voliva was a native of Bloomington, a two-time state champion, and a member of Thom’s 1932 national championship team. He won an NCAA title of his own in 1934, and after graduating with his bachelor’s degree, he continued to train with Thom while working on his Master’s degree.

Voliva made it all the way to the gold medal round, where he finally tasted defeat. He took home the silver, becoming the only Indiana University grad to medal in wrestling.

Thom was thrilled for his student, a young man he had watched over for nearly a decade. “A boy I had seen grow up in Bloomington, had coached to a Big Ten Championship, an NCAA championship, a National AAU championship, and then the Olympic team… if I were to pick one incident as my greatest thrill, that would be it.”

Thom’s success at the Olympics enabled him to continue recruiting the top wrestlers from across the state, including a state champion from Hammond, Indiana known best to today’s fans as Dory Funk, Sr. He left Indiana University in 1945 but returned to work for the Allen Club in both 1945 and 1946 as a wrestler. He made one final appearance for the club in 1951, when he acted as special guest referee for a match between Lou Thesz and a masked menace named Green Dragon. Ed “Strangler” Lewis was also at ringside for the event in Thesz’s corner.

Thom is a member of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame, the Indiana University Athletics Hall of Fame, and the Indiana Wrestling Hall of Fame. Voliva became an outstanding coach in his own right and joined his mentor in the IU and Indiana Hall of Fame. The Indiana Hall continues to honor Thom today, presenting the Billy Thom award annually to an individual who has made significant contributions to amateur wrestling in Indiana.

Read Billy’s story and more in the book Louisville’s Greatest Show: The Story of the Allen Athletic Club now available on Amazon.com.

Dick the Bruiser Gets His Due

“When I started wrestling, everyone like Gorgeous George had on capes [and] big robes; really gaudy and everything. Then I came along and all I had was pair of trunks and my shoes. I had no gimmick. It was the absence of gimmicks that made me different.”
— Dick the Bruiser

I first heard about this book when I was working on Bluegrass Brawlers from Chris Parsons, who used to run a fabulous website on Indianapolis wrestling called Rasslin Relics. For many people who grew up in Indianapolis, Dick the Bruiser is wrestling, moreso than the WWE will ever be. He was a no nonsense wrestler and a savvy businessman who ran Indiana for decades, helping to launch the careers of hometown boys from Bobby Heenan to David Letterman. He’s the reason promoters in Indiana enjoy more freedom than almost any other state. And now, his story has finally come to print.

Order your copy from Crowbar Press. Grab a cigar and a beer and enjoy the tale of one of wrestling’s true, original bad boys.

CHIKARA Pro is off the hook

I read a lot about CHIKARA while I was writing Eat Sleep Wrestle. I watched a number of matches from past shows online. I even interviewed their fearless leader, Mike Quackenbush. Tonight I learned that you don’t really know CHIKARA until you see them live, and when you do, you will become a true believer.

Unlike most major independent promotions, CHIKARA is not a star-driven show. Fans who are tuned in to the indie scene will recognize some names and faces, but it’s the promotion itself that is the draw. CHIKARA bills itself as the super lucha fun party, and they deliver on fun from beginning to end.

That’s not to say this is not a serious wrestling promotion. CHIKARA’s roster is filled with talented high fliers and even a few brawlers. Blaster McMassive and Kentucky proud wrestler Chuck Taylor delivered a show stealing brawl right before the main event. But that’s not the reason Chikara continues to add to its fan base in its 15th season.

CHIKARA gives you colorful characters in masks like Dasher Hatfield, Ophidian the Cobra, and the Proletariat Boar of Moldova. CHIKARA gives you heels who toss foreign objects (in this case, a cucumber) to kids in the crowd and later try to get it back from that kid so they can cheat to win. CHIKARA gives you characters like Freshly Squeezed Orange Cassidy, who laid down to take a nap during the opening bout. CHIKARA gives you a tag match, Arik Cannon and Darin Corbin vs. Lucas Calhoun and Missile Assault Man, that ends with almost five minutes of slow motion wrestling. This particular match was so much fun, the fans responded with a drawn out, slow motion “This… Is… Awesome…” chant.

CHIKARA is very fan interactive. No insult from the crowd goes unanswered by the heels. Just remember to keep it clean. CHIKARA is PG and kid friendly, and rule number one is no bad language from the wrestlers or fans.

CHIKARA does occasionally feature inter-gender wrestling, which may not sit well with some fans. That said, they currently have Heidi Lovelace on the roster. Heidi is an OVW graduate with a stellar resume who not only excels at inter-gender matches but truly seems to enjoy mixing it up with the boys.

CHIKARA doesn’t travel extensively, and if you’re lucky enough that they pay a visit, the ticket prices may seem a bit high. My ticket tonight was double what I normally pay for local shows, but it was worth it.

This was the first time CHIKARA has ever visited the Louisville area. Given the reactions from the sell out crowd, I doubt it will be their last visit. Check out their website at www.chikarapro,com to see their schedule of upcoming events and watch video online. Thanks to 2 Tuff Tony and the gang at the Arena in Jeffersonville for bringing the best in independent wrestling to town.

A new Hoosier promotion EMERGEs

11778164_545071125644092_819899590_nPromoters and wrestlers in the state of Kentucky refer to Indiana as the “wild, wild west.” You see in Kentucky, professional wrestling is heavily regulated by the state athletic commission, where in Indiana (thanks to Dick the Bruiser), pro wrestling is considered entertainment. Consequently, while you have only a handful of state-sanctioned promotions on one side of the Ohio River, you can find wrestling just about everywhere in the Hoosier state.

Columbus, Indiana is known for its world famous architecture, while nearby Seymour, Indiana is best known as the home to the world’s first train robbers, the Reno Gang. Now, Dave Dynasty is hoping to put the area on the map in the growing independent wrestling scene.

EMERGE Wrestling opened its doors on January 10, 2015 in Seymour, Indiana with EMERGE1 where a tournament was held and “The Mastodon” JD Mariani was crowned the first ever EMERGE champion. Successive shows were been held monthly in Columbus, Indiana as well as Seymour, and most of those shows have been sell-outs, averaging 350-400 fans.

“EMERGE Wrestling is unique because we strive to be fresh and cutting edge,” said promoter Dave Dynasty. “We promote a highly athletic and entertaining product with high production value and presentation. We strongly utilize social media and an online presence to promote our product and stay in constant contact with our fans.

The core roster includes the current EMERGE champion “The Main Attraction” Donny Idol, the current EMERGE Outbreak champion “Warfare” Jeremy Hadley, Ricky Ruckus, “The Mastodon” JD Mariani, Khris Kaliber, “Diamond Cut” Ace Perry, Joe Pittman, and “The Next Level of Entertainment” Owen Travers. “We also feature tag team regulars including the current EMERGE tag team champions B.A.D. and the 8bit Punks,” adds Dynasty.

EMERGE is also attracting guest performers from across the Midwest, including “Poison” Appollo Starr, “Beautiful” Bret Havoc, and the tag team Team IOU. This September they’re bringing in their biggest attraction yet when Donny Idol will defend his EMERGE championship against “The Fallen Angel” Christopher Daniels.

“Our goals for the future include containing to promote high quality events and increase our attendance,” says Dynasty. He adds that EMERGE will soon enter the DVD and video on demand market and hopes to offer iPPV’s and webshow in the future.

True to their mission, EMERGE is easy to find on the web on all social media platforms. And if you’re in Seymour/Columbus area, about half way between Indianapolis, and Louisville, Kentucky, they’d love to have you stop in for a visit.

WEBSITE: www.emergewrestling.com

FACEBOOK: /emergeprowrestling

TWITTER: @emergewrestling

INSTAGRAM: /emergeprowrestling

YOUTUBE: /emergeprowrestling