While You Were Complaining…

While you were complaining about Sasha Banks losing her title so soon, Marc Hauss was standing up for the women’s wrestling revolution in the indies.

While you were complaining that your favorite guys never get pushed because “politics,” a your other favorite guys – Aron Rex/Damien Sandow, Cody Rhodes, and The Big Guy/Ryback – began their takeover of the indies.

While you were complaining about about the promotion that you routinely pay $9.99 a month to watch, CZW, High Spots, CHIKARA, Rockstar Pro, and others have tried to offer you alternatives – some for less, some for free!

While you were complaining about an ugly title belt, Matt Hardy was busy blowing up the Internet by deleting his own brother.

And lest we forget, you could have been enjoying an independent show where a ticket and a T-shirt costs less than an upper level ticket you complained about buying for the so-called “only” promotion left.

It almost makes you wonder: do the people who complain incessantly about title belts and ticket prices more in love with wrestling or whining?

If you answered wrestling, prove it. Stop complaining and take action. Put your money where your mouth is.

I’m not telling you to cancel your $9.99 subscription. As good as NXT and the CWC have been, you’d be a fool to back out now. But I am telling you to go see a local show, or subscribe to a second network, or look around Youtube and discover what’s out there to watch for free. If even a fraction of the whiners would invest just a few dollars a month in independent wrestling, we might really change the landscape of pro wrestling today.

Support what you love. Stop complaining about what you hate. Prove that you’re a fan and not just a whiner. Let’s pour some fuel on the fire if this indy revolution.

Team IOU Hates You!

Team IOU does not look like a tag team. They don’t have matching tights. They don’t wear color-coordinated outfits. They don’t wear identical face paint or strap on identical spiky shoulder pads. Nick Iggy and Kerry Awful aren’t brothers, nor were they born in the same state. Nevertheless, the odd couple from Tennessee has found a chemistry that has made them one of the most sought after and hated tag teams in the indies.

Nick Iggy was born in New Jersey but spent most of his life growing up in wrestling-crazed Middle Tennessee. “Growing up with two older brothers, I always watched wrestling, so for as long as I can remember I always wanted to become a professional wrestler. It was while watching The Hardy Boys – Leap of Faith VHS with my best friend, Cas Lush, that I stopped just ‘wanting’ to become a professional wrestler and started telling myself that ‘I’m going to be’ a professional wrestler.”

Nick’s partner Kerry Awful turned to wrestling as an escape at an early age. “I was extremely sick as a child. In and out of the hospital constantly. While most people were out and about with friends, I was at home with breathing machines and professional wrestling. My earliest memories are of old USWA shows and syndicated WWE shows. I remember hiding a towel under the crack of my door as a child so my parents wouldn’t know I stayed up late to watch the entire first episode of RAW. Wrestling’s been there for me from illness as a child, to my parents divorce, to adulthood. I cherish it so much.”

Like Iggy, Awful still remembers the moment he decided to become a wrestler. “It was the first time I saw Owen Hart and Koko B Ware on a Saturday morning show with my baby sitter. The outfits, the energy, the crowd. All of it was just like being a real life super hero. I was hooked.”

Kerry began his training with one of the men he grew up watching, Dirty Dutch Mantell. “I was blessed to learn from a legend like him, and to have grown up watching him and be taught by him was so surreal. I was mentored by Tasha Simone, former three time NWA woman’s world champ and a person who is like a mother to me. Even though we don’t talk often anymore, I would be amiss to not mention Mike Promo — who is an urban legend by this point. I would also be amiss to not mention all the help Wolfie D gave both Nick and I.”

Nick began his training with Reno Riggins and Drew Haskins at the Stadium Inn in Nashville before also falling under the tutelage of Tasha Simone and Wolfie D. “We’ve also had a lot of good people help us and teach us new things over the years.”

Neither Nick or Kerry began their careers in the tag team ranks, and both have had some memorable matches as singles. “We were actually feuding with one another at a promotion in Nashville called USWO run by the legendary Tony Falk. We were finishing up there to go to NWA SAW in Millersville, TN. Our first night there they put us together as a team. We thought it was just gonna be a one off since we considered ourselves singles wrestlers. Our first night teaming, we won the NWA Southern Tag Team Titles by defeating Tim Renesto and Jeremiah Plunkett. We had good chemestry feuding against each other, but found out we had better chemistry teaming, so we decided to start teaming everywhere.”

“There is a long drawn out story of how we became the boy and his dog and an even longer one of how we evolved into the carnies,” says Awful. “It boils down to we were two friends, who wrestled completely different styles, that were destined to adventure this world with a mission statement to be the best tag team we could be, and represent the state of Tennessee to our fullest potential.”

Team IOU has forged a name for themselves as a tag team by staying true to who they are. “We embrace who and what we are: Southern wrestlers who use a smash mouth style to get a point across. We grew up liking so much different stuff from each other that we were able to kind of mesh it into our own thing. I’m proud to say we ‘found ourselves’ and keep trying to push it in new and creative ways.”

Iggy and Awful’s unique partnership has brought them much success, earning them matches against current teams like the Hooligans and legends like the Rock N Roll Express. They’ve traveled all over the Eastern United States, working as regulars for Atlanta Wrestling Entertainment in Atlanta, GA; Pro Wrestling Freedom in Jeffersonville, IN; Saint Louis Anarchy in Alton, IL; New South in Hartselle, AL; and NWA New South Championship Wrestling in Franklin, KY. Their debut for Tier 1 Wrestling in Brooklyn, NY is scheduled for summer, and they plan to announce even more debuts soon.

Team IOU’s initial title win against Renesto and Plunkett was only the beginning of their gold rush. Says Iggy, “As a team, we’ve held the Proving Ground Pro Tag Team Championship, won the 2015 Full Impact Pro Six Man Showcase along with Jake Dirden, and are the current NWA Southern Tag Team Champions. I’ve also held the NWA Mid American Championship, USWO Music City Championship, ATL Tag Team Championship along with Mike Revick, ATL Junior Heavyweight Championship, All Star Wrestling Tag Team Championship with Damien Payne and All Star Wrestling TV Championship.”

Team IOU has a way of making fans sit up and take notice. There’s no ignoring them, in or out of the ring, and they love to push buttons. Sitting a few feet away from their gimmick table at a recent show in Jeffersonville, Indiana, I head Iggy shut down a young fan with a rapid fire put down: “You’re a kid! You don’t know anything! Your mother hates you!”

It was that moment that made me a fan, and it’s that attitude that will take Team IOU as far as they want to go. “The ultimate goal for me has always been the WWE,” says Iggy, “But I’d love to be able to work for ROH and NJPW. Honestly, if I’m able to make a living off of this, I’d be happy.”

“Nick and I have similar mind sets,” adds Awful. “I want to be involved in wrestling some way. Whether it’s in front in the ring or behind the scenes. My dream when I started was to go over seas. Will it happen? Hopefully one day. I would like to just make an impact on the sport. Change the views people have of Southern wrestling. Make more memories and continue to be happy.”

If they’re not wrestling at a promotion near you this summer, you can check out Team IOU on Smart Mark Video, the WWN Wrestling Network, and their YouTube page.

T-shirts are available on Pro Wrestling Tees.

You can follow Nick on Twitter @IggyNJ210 and follow the team @TeamIOU.

Promoters are welcome to email them at BookTeamIOU@gmail.com.

Puppet Loves Raw!

13051508_493845727473198_1038889222692637872_nIf you’re an embittered old school wrestling fan still longing for the good old days of the Attitude Era, or Memphis, or the pre-WWF takeover, you’ll find plenty of blogs and podcasts to back your feelings on Tuesday. The Internet Wrestling Community is rife with folks who can’t wait for Monday Night Raw – just so they can trash it and tell you how bad it is.

Puppet is not another Raw hater. Puppet is a puppet who simply loves wrestling. Every week, he posts a new video to Youtube, offering his thoughts on the latest edition of the WWE’s flagship show. He also does special episodes to highlight the pay-per-views.

Unlike most of his IWC colleagues, Puppet focuses on the positive. There’s plenty of good out there in wrestling, even in the now Sandow-less WWE, and Puppet isn’t afraid to share how he feels.

I contacted Puppet last week through his Facebook page, and he graciously granted me an interview. Here, in his own words, is Puppet.

How long have you been a wrestling fan? 

I have been a wrestling fan for as long as I’ve been conscious. My dad was fan because his grandmother was a fan. It is sort of a family tradition. Anyway, I started watching very young and I never stopped. Some of my best memories are of watching WWE with my dad, my brother, and my mom. Wrestling is very special to me in that way.

Who are some of your favorite wrestlers?

That’s a really hard question actually. I have a handful and I’m sure I’ll leave someone out that I really like. I really think the WWE roster right now has the best talent, top to bottom, that they’ve ever had. My number 1 guy right now is of course Cesaro. Just a guy that can have a great match with anyone he’s in the ring with. Other than that… again I am leaving people out… I love Kevin Owens, Sami, AJ, Ziggler, Dean, Seth, New Day, Enzo and Cass, Neville, Stardust, Shinsuke, Nattie, Sasha, Charlotte, and the like. I like the wrestlers that ALWAYS look crisp in the ring. Sorry! I always have trouble just picking a few favorites.

What do you think is the match of the year (so far) in 2016? 

Match of the year so far in 2016 is Shinsuke/Sami from Takeover Dallas. I know this is a pretty “safe” choice… but that match is just awesome. Set aside the fact that the action in the ring was relentless, purposeful, and told a great story… Hearing Shinsuke’s music for the first time, his perfectly produced entrance, the circumstances of it likely being Sami’s NXT farewell… it was all just amazing. I was watching with a group of friends and we were all just mesmerized by the spectacle of that match. Spectacle + technically sound wrestling? Doesn’t get any better than that.

Do you see the WWE headed in the right direction? 

Yes. I do think WWE is headed in a great direction. Again, I think top of the card to the bottom of the card they are more stacked with great wrestlers than they’ve ever been. I think more recently they have started to take advantage of that fact. Story is important… story is very, very important… but great wrestler + great wrestler = great TV. Sometimes you can push story aside for matches like that to round out your show. I think we’ve seen that happening recently. Who cares if they are both good fan favorites?! Let the great wrestlers do what they do! Have great matches with each other. The IC title scene right now is a great example of just letting great wrestlers do great work. Anyway, they’ve got great talent right now, I think they are learning this lesson of talent vs. talent trumps forced face vs. heel story any day of the week (probably in large part thanks to how successful this has been for NXT) and I really think the sky is the limit for WWE right now and in the future. I’ve never booked a wrestling show in my life, so i really have no idea what I’m talking about… But as a longtime fan, I’m excited every week for WWE.

Be sure to join the #PuppetClub on Facebook to hear his thoughts on every WWE Raw and Pay-Per-View.

Finding New Wrestling Friends with Pavlov

I work in the front office. My friend Frankie works in will call. The two of us talk wrestling almost every day. We talk about the pay-per-views, Raw, NXT (when I can get him to watch), and rumors in the Internet. I keep talking to him about indy wrestling, and one of these days, I will get him to break down and check it out. Frankie and I have talked so much wrestling the last few years that the UPS guy Nick, a former Memphis wrestling/Tojo Yamamoto fan, has started watching again.

It’s nice having co-workers who share your obsession, but when you’re new to a job, a school, or even a new church, it can be hard to figure out who’s a fan. That is, unless you know Pavlov.

Pavlov was not a wrestler. He was a Russian physiologist best known for his work in classical conditioning and a series of experiments he did with dogs. Pavlov rang a bell every time he fed the dogs. After a while, the dogs would begin to salivate at the mere sound of a bell in anticipation of their meal, much like wrestling fans when they hear certain sounds.

The WWE understands Pavlov. Think about your favorite wrestlers and their entrance themes. The drum roll off on Seth Rollins’s theme. The opening power chord from Motorhead’s rendition of “The Game.” The Rock’s “IF YOU SMELLLLLLLL…” introduction. The WWE uses stingers at the start of every major star’s theme to induce a Pavlovian response, and if you are clever, you can use the same strategy to sniff out the wrestling fans in your office, school, or place of worship.

One way to trigger this Pavlovian response is to change the text alert sound on your phone to the sound of glass breaking from the opening of Stone Cold Steve Austin’s entrance theme. No wrestler elicits a response like Austin, and no wrestling fan can help but look up when he or she heads that unmistakable crash.

Another sound guaranteed to cause a reaction is the New Age Outlaws’ theme. If you’re in a cubicle village, this may work better than the Stone Cold crash because it elicits a verbal response. When a diehard hears the opening guitar riff, “Dum-duh-dah-dum,” just listen for the call back, “Oh you didn’t know??” If there’s a fan nearby, the response will be automatic.

But what if you’re in a situation that calls for phones to be on silent? Consider dropping signature phrases into your day to day conversations, the kind your favorite superstars use to get a reaction. Let’s say you’re at church, and the subject of world hunger comes up. Perhaps you speak up and say, “As believers, we can’t sit back and do nothing. We need to do something for the millions–”
Pause. Did someone answer back: “And millions!”

It’s automatic. We’ve all been programmed, and if you’re clever enough, you can use that to your advantage.

Granted all of these examples involve Attitude Era stars and not the stars of today’s PG era, but the same principle should apply to any wrestling sound, song, or catchphrase from any era. Set your ringtone to Roman Reigns’s theme song, and when your Mom calls to tell you about Dad’s last doctor’s appointment, follow the sound of incessant booing. You’ve just found your new best friend.

Anybody but Cena? Prove it!

John Cena is out for two months. Every time he’s out, the ratings drop. This in spite of all the “Cena sucks” and “Anybody but Cena” mantras of the Internet wrestling fans.

If you’re ready to “move on” from John Cena, it’s time to prove it.

Do not miss Raw and Smackdown. Watch them again on Hulu and DVR.

Do not miss the pay-per-views that air while he is gone.

Above all, show support for your next guy. You don’t like Roman Reigns? Fine. Buy a shirt to support KO, Ambrose, Ryback, Cesaro, Rollins, Ziggler. Whomever your guy is, put your money where your mouth is. That’s really how the WWE pays attention to whom they need to push.

Reality is, Cena’s a once in a generation star. There are some very talented guys waiting in the wings to take his spot right now, but I’m not sure there’s any one guy yet ready to fill his shoes. The time is coming he won’t want to lace them up as often, but if the ratings plunge like normal, you can expect another major Cena push all the way through Wrestlemania!

A Ninja Sighting on Raw

Last night I posted a comment from IWA Mid-South Champion Shane Mercer on the blog. Eagle-eyed WWE fans spotted the man himself at ringside during Raw last night:

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The same fans who recognized Shane also spotted one of his chief rivals (and real life travel partner) inside the ring.

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The man giving medical attention in this still from Raw is Hy Zaya, aka “The Hood Ninja.” He is a former IWA Mid-South and CCW World Heavyweight Champion with over a decade of experience in the ring. He’s a Louisville native and legitimately one of the toughest men in the wrestling business. By that I do not mean he is a shooter; I mean his idea of fun is to have someone drop him off at the edge of a forest and disappear for several days with only his knife by his side. In that regard he is probably the most dangerous man who was backstage at Raw last night!

Hy Zaya is a deep thinker and a deadly serious student of the world and professional wrestling. But he also has a huge heart. Ask him about his grandma, and he melts. She is his hero.

Hy Zaya’s story is one of many told in Eat Sleep Wrestle, and he’s one of the featured stars on the cover. He shared a number of very candid tales with me, of learning respect in the locker room, wrestling his hero Sabu, and yes… how his grandma influenced him to pray before every battle.

Click the book cover to get your copy of Eat Sleep Wrestle.

esw cover

While you were watching Raw…

I saw all the video clips on Facebook last night and I’m looking forward to watching Raw. I don’t have cable, so I rely on Hulu to keep me up to date the day after, and only rarely do I regret not being able to watch live.

I wasn’t the only one who missed the show last night. I stopped by The Arena in Jeffersonville, Indiana last night and had the honor to watch Mitchell Huff running a handful of guys and one lady through their paces. The Grindhouse School, as it is now known, is in session every Monday. They don’t get together to gawk at the TV and dream. They are giving up family time and making other sacrifices so that they can help carry on a tradition more than a century old.

I can’t say this enough. If you’re one of the ones complaining that the WWE doesn’t get it; if you’re one of the ones who loves seeing those “indy” guys on WWE; if you’re one who is upset that the Diva’s Revolution is dying before it gets a chance to thrive; you are missing out if you don’t go out and see some live indy wrestling for yourself.

People will shell out $20, $30, even $50 for autographs from legends and stars who no longer wrestle. They’ll spend $30 and more on shirts and $50 on video games. But they won’t spend $5 to go watch an indy show.

Stop making excuses. Put your money where your mouth is. Go out, discover, and support indy wrestling. No, it’s not the same as what you see on TV. But no matter who is in the ring, TV can never give you the same rush as watching it live.