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Girl Fight Headed to Heroes and Legends

I was already excited to do my first wrestling convention this April. I’ll have a book table in the vendor’s hall with copies of Bluegrass Brawlers, Eat Sleep Wrestle, Lord Carlton, and the forthcoming Louisville’s Greatest Show on hand. But then my friend Mad Man Pondo unleashed this announcement today:

Per Jayson Maples of Heroes and Legends, “The fans asked for more ladies.” Good for the fans, and good for Heroes and Legends booking what will be a stellar card of entertainment. Mickie Knuckles is already an independent legend. Su Yung is one of the most talented performers today. And I can’t say how thrilled I am to see Samantha Heights on top of the card. She’s worked her butt off the last few years, and I’m happy to see her time to shine has come.

Heroes and Legends will take place April 9. Ric Flair, Ricky Steamboat, and Jerry “The King” Lawler are just a few of the legends scheduled to be in attendance. Visit their website for more information.

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Mad Man Pondo: Author?

The cat is out of the bag. Mad Man Pondo is writing a book.

After years of being badgered by friends and fans alike, Pondo has agreed to put his incredible story into writing. It will be my honor to help him do just that.

This won’t be an ordinary autobiography, however. First of all, it’s Mad Man Pondo’s autobiography. It’s going to be filled with blood, violence, and some of the wildest tales ever spun by any professional wrestler.

Second, Pondo won’t be the only one telling the story. This story will also be told by the people who know and love the Mad Man.

Pondo is inviting all wrestlers, referees, promoters, fans, and friends who have a story to share to contribute them to this book. If you have a tale to share, please connect with my via email or on Facebook, and let me know your Pondo memories.

If you just can’t wait for the book, you can pick up a copy of Eat Sleep Wrestle while you wait. The book covers more than a dozen independent wrestlers, old and young, and a number of Mad Man Pondo stories. It’s worth the cover price just to read Austin Bradley’s epic tale, “One Night In Tennessee With Mad Man Pondo.”

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The “Strange” Tale of New Origins Wrestling

John Strange didn’t choose wrestling. Wrestling chose him. At age 15 he found himself at an independent wrestling show that looked nothing like the wrestling he knew from TV. It was bad. Really bad. It was so bad, he turned to the person next to him and said, “I could do better than that.” A gentleman seated behind him leaned forward and said, “Prove it.”

John’s challenger turned out to be a wrestling promoter who had his own training school. So at age 15, John Strange began his journey into the world of professional wrestling.

One of the promoters John worked for in the early days was a Earl Kelly, who started running shows in Kentucky during the late 90s. Strange met Earl’s daughter Alicia, and the two got married.

Kelly packed up and left Kentucky in the early 2000s for Florida. He returned a few years later and tried to pick things back up where he left off, but things didn’t go as well as he’d hoped. Kelly closed shop, and when he did, the Stranges bought his ring.

“We just thought it would be fun to have a ring in the backyard,” John Strange recalls. “But then fans started showing up at our door. They begged us to run shows. They wanted us to start a promotion. One fan even tried to hand us $1000 cash to go toward applying for a license.”

Once again, wrestling was calling. John and Alicia decided that they would give it a go, and New Origins Wrestling was born.

John and Alicia opened the promotion in Alicia’s name, and the second generation promoter proved to be a natural for the business side of wrestling. “She does all the promoting and handles all the business side. She learned well from her father.”

New Origins prides itself on being one of the most fan-friendly promotions running today. “When you see us on television, you’ll notice we don’t play to the camera. Our focus is always on the fans. We want to give them the best show possible because they’re the ones paying money to see us.”

New Origins is also very in tune with what the fans are saying, and Alicia Strange is always ready to listen. “I think being a female promoter is an advantage for her,” says John. “Fans aren’t as intimidated by her as they might be a male promoter. They have no trouble going up to her, saying hello, or making suggestions.”

New Origins also prides itself on giving back to the community, using their shows as fundraisers for Toys 4 Tots, local fire departments, and other worthy causes.

New Origins has a regular cast of local stars on its roster, including the Soviet Stud, Stevie P, Chris Noble, and the 4 Real Rejects Izzy 4 Real and Devon Blake, but they love to feature the best talent possible, not only in the region but the nation. John Morrison, Davey Richards, and Mad Man Pondo are just a few names who have made their way to NOW to be part of the action.

New Origins runs monthly shows in Irvine, Kentucky and is currently taping new episodes for broadcast on the TEN Network for Roku. You can also follow them on their Facebook page.

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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.

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New Stores on Pro Wrestling Tees!

Piggybacking on yesterday’s blog about supporting indy wrestling, here are some NEW pages on Pro Wrestling Tees from wrestlers profiled right here:

“The Real Elite Athlete” Mike Orlando

Eric Emanon/ Indy Card Mafia

“The Project” Thomas Brewington (also ICM)

“The Baddest Man Alive” Aaron Williams

And one more for good measure:

Mad Man Pondo

Please support these guys by buying their merch AND going to their shows. If they’re not working anywhere near you, you can find Aaron Williams on Rockstar Pro Network and the other guys on High Spots.

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The Louisville Slugger Heads Home… For Now

13118990_10205325277125716_7262700987332590819_nAustin Bradley’s sojourn into Japan has come to an early end, but from the sound of things, this is not “The End.” Austin will be back. He will be stronger than ever. He will be back in front of his hometown friends soon, and he will return to his brothers in Japan.

Here’s the news in his own words.

“Well guys unfortunately I have some bad news. During training yesterday my shoulder was dislocated. I went to the doctor following the training session and had some test and scans and today the results came in. My rotator cuff is torn and is gonna put me out of action for at least 2 months. So the Zero 1 office has decided it best for me to go home and recover and come back once I heal.

“This will not be the end of Austin Bradley as a member of the Zero 1 team. The month I have been here has been amazing. I’ve had some great matches, and I am so glad to be a member of this dojo. Thank you to Zero 1 as a whole for giving me this opportunity. It’s time to recover and come back stronger than ever.

“Coming home early isn’t easy for me, but no one needs to feel sorry or apologize. I got to do things and have experiences that most in this business never will. It’s not goodbye forever. It’s see ya later. I will come back to Japan and finish my mission, but now it’s time to focus on recovery. I want to thank all the people who have stayed by my side. Thank you to all of you for your love and support.

“One final thing to share about Japan: among the wrestlers, when you pose for a photo with the middle finger in the air, that’s called Pondo-style. The more you know.”

Thanks to everyone who has followed Austin’s story here as well. Austin has already overcome many challenges in his life, some of which I chronicled in Eat Sleep Wrestle. There will be more tales to tell, and I plan to carry them for him on future returns.

Please give Austin a follow on Facebook.

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A Louisville Slugger in Japan – Day 7

Austin Bradley’s journey in Japan continues…

12924477_10205210722821930_8429474734619608635_n“I went to my first Zero 1 show. The style of wrestling here is so different, but so much better. Fans still believe cause the strong style leaves no room for disbelief.

“Sei Ozawa, a T-shirt maker Mad Man Pondo introduced me to, took me out to Mr. Danger’s Steakhouse. By far the best steak I have ever had. (Note to all Americans. Thank god for spoons! You don’t know how lucky you are until you try to eat corn with chopsticks.)

“It has been a great experience so far. I am learning a whole new psychology in the ring that I plan on utilizing back in the States, and I think fans there will be very happy with it. I thank everyone for the love and support I have had while here and want you all to know that when I come back, it will be a whole new Louisville Slugger.”

Follow Austin on Facebook, or read more about him and today’s young indy stars in Eat Sleep Wrestle.

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Pondo for President?

My local wrestling community is a house divided.

Some are fans of Kentuckiana Diehard Wrestling. They have had their issues lately, namely losing their booker and some of the veteran talent, but their fans remain fiercely loyal.

Some are fans of Underground Wrestling Alliance. They’ve had some issues as well, including a big blow up with their TV producer, but their talent and their fans remain steadfastly loyal.

There’s also the Furious Wrestling Society. They haven’t had any issues that I know of, but like the others, they have a galvanized fan base that loves what they do.

And then there’s IWA Mid-South. Ian Rotten just lost his building – again – because someone tried to shut him down – again. Folks, you’re never going to shut Ian down. He’s too stubborn, and he loves the business too much. He’s been kicked out of more buildings than the people trying to shut him down have worked. He will rise again, and his Kool-Aid drinking followers will be there.

Almost none of the above mentioned folks get along, especially in the consequence free realm of cyberspace. And yet for one night, members of all four promotions and their fans came together under one roof to see Girl Fight. They came. They supported the ladies. They coexisted, and no one got into a fight.

Mad Man Pondo is the man behind Girl Fight and the unlikely broker of one night of peace in Southern Indiana wrestling. If Pondo can bring peace to warring factions on a small scale, perhaps he could do the same for our country. Hillary, Donald, Bernie, Ted… no matter who your candidate is, they are only going to divide us further.

We need change.

We need unity.

Pondo for President, anyone?

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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.

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Mad Man Pondo goes to the library?

My friends at the Daviess County Library in Owensboro, Kentucky have been looking for a professional wrestler to come in and talk about what it’s like to work in the business. They have not one, but two guests coming on December 7, and they couldn’t have found a better choice.

Mad Man Pondo has been wrestling all over the world for two decades. He’s been cut, broken, split open, and electrocuted all in the name of entertaining the fans. He hosted his own controversial public access talk show and used to work for the king of controversial talk shows, Jerry Springer. He’s been a guide and mentor to many of the young stars now working the indies, though he’s too humble to admit it. He’s also the last guy you want in the car on a road trip, according to those same young men who have ridden with him over the last few years.

1797971_699268903502709_2186941647616043393_nPondo will be sharing his stories along side Crazy Mary Dobson. Dobson has only been in the business for four years but is well on her way to becoming a top star. She too is a world traveler, and in the last year, she’s wrestled for Shimmer, Ring of Honor, and NXT and was a main event attraction for Resistance Pro Wrestling in Chicago. She is currently a Tag Team Champion for Juggalo Championship Wrestling alongside Mad Man Pondo.

Both Pondo and Mary were featured in my independent wrestling book, Eat Sleep Wrestle. You can get the book from Amazon in paperback or on Kindle, but just like wrestling, nothing compares to hearing the stories from the people who lived them.

If you’re in the Owensboro or Evansville area, do not miss Mad Man Pondo and Crazy Mary Dobson at the Daviess County Library, December 7 at 6 pm.