Pro Wrestling Freedom fans (and readers of Eat Sleep Wrestle) are well acquainted with the high flying masked wrestler Menace. The Tennessee star has made an impact at PWF shows over the last year, and he’s a favorite wherever he goes. I’ve known Menace online for a few years now, and I myself am looking forward to finally seeing him in person Friday night.
That said, I’m concerned I may not get the chance. Menace is up against one of the top rising stars in the business, The Hitman for Hire Mr. Grim. Mr. Grim is a rare talent who combines a power game with high flying. Very few of his opponents leave the ring on their own power. Most disappear to the back in a body bag.
I asked Menace if he was ready for this week’s challenge, and he certainly sounds confident.
“This is a first time meeting between the two of us. I’ve studied video of Mr. Grim, and I think we were matched well for this fight. How hungry is he?? Menace is always hungry when stepping into a ring. Some may even say starving. Menace wrestles with a purpose. Mr. Grim and PWF will see come Friday night.”
Louisville area fans can get their first look at Mr. Grim when he faces Menace Friday night at the ArenA in Jeffersonville. This is a show not to be missed.
The Hitman for Hire Mr. Grim has been making an impact everywhere he goes. Once the Northeast’s best kept secret, Mr. Grim has been making his way deeper into the US and Canada in the first four months of 2017. On Friday, June 9, Mr. Grim will make his first appearance ever in Indiana and his debut for Pro Wrestling Freedom in Jeffersonville!
Mr. Grim is the man who caught the eye of the Kick Out at Two gang during their first trip to New York. There were much bigger, more established names on the card the night they met Mr. Grim, but the young grappler made such an impact, Righteous Jesse and the gang shocked the promoter when they told him, “We want Grim!”
Mr. Grim is a dual threat: a big, strong style brawler who can also fly. He carries a briefcase to the ring that contains something ominous for his opponent. When the bell sounds and his opponent lies prone on the mat, Mr. Grim opens the case and pulls out a body bag. The victim gets zipped in the bag and carried out by the Hitman for Hire.
Mr. Grim is a consummate student of the game, always watching other wrestlers and learning from everyone he meets. “I spent eleven days in Canada with Chase Owens, ACH, the Beer City Brawler, and Tony Kozina,” he told me in a recent phone interview. “Those guys taught me a lot about ring psychology, selling, self-promotion.”
Mr. Grim has had some high profile battles recently with Lucha Underground star A.R. Fox and Joey Janela. “It was a clash in styles, working with Janela, but it really worked out great. He and A.R Fox are my two favorite matches to date.”
Mr. Grim has two title belts in his possession. He won the Nova Promotions Apex Championship in November and the GXW TV Championship in December. The rising star has already seen his June 9 opponent in person, but this will be a first time ever encounter when Mr. Grim faces off with PWF veteran Menace.
“We were in a battle royal once. I saw some of his stuff. I’ve seen a lot more since, watching film on the Internet. I’ll be more than ready for him.”
Mr. Grim is all over the Internet and social media, a fact that saved him some trouble during a recent police stop. As told on the Kick Out at Two Podcast, Grim was pulled over on suspicion of aiding and abetting a crime he had nothing to do with. The police stop might have ended after they checked his ID and registration, but the police asked him to open the trunk, where they discovered the briefcase and body bag.
“The police had their hands on their guns, asking me what this was all about. ‘Do you have a phone?’ I said. ‘Go to Google, type in Hitman for Hire Mr. Grim.'”
It was a tense few minutes, watching the cops looking at the smart phone, but Mr. Grim was finally able to relax when he heard one cop exclaim, “Holy s— he just put that guy in a body bag!”
Grim added two more fans to his Facebook page that day, and he invites you to join them. The best place to find him is on Facebook, but he is also on Twitter and Pro Wrestling Tees. Or just go to Google and type in The Hitman for Hire Mr. Grim.
Mark you calendar for June 9. Mr. Grim is coming to PWF.
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.
One of the stars coming to Jeffersonville for PWF on Friday night is the masked man called Menace. It was my privilege to interview Menace a while back for the book Eat Sleep Wrestle, and fans who come out to the Arena Saturday are in for a real treat.
Menace grew up watching Mid-Atlantic, NWA, WWF, and Georgia Championship Wrestling. From an early age he dreamed of becoming a wrestler himself, and during career day in high school, he listed his top two choices as “wrestler” and “Kindergarten teacher.” One could argue the skill set for either of those careers are somewhat interchangeable, but no one really took him seriously about the wrestling career.
Menace proved everyone wrong. he began training with Rick Connors in Knoxville, Tennessee after a friend of his girlfriend connected him. Connors didn’t have a ring, so Menace got his early education on the lawn in Connors’s backyard.
Menace has come a long way since those early days working for CZW, HWA, NWA Wildside, NWA Smoky Mountain, NWA Rocky Top, Ego Pro Wrestling, Coliseum Championship Wrestling, and more. He’s been in the ring with Jimmy Valiant, Dr. Tom Pritchard, Tracy Smothers, Vick the Bruiser, Jimmy Golden, Kid Cash, Jerry Lynn, Christopher Daniels, Rob Conway, “The Franchise” Shane Douglas, and Ricky Morton.
Menace is a high flier. He has a background in Kempo Ju-Jitsu and a great love for Japanese wrestling. Fans who have never seen him are in for a real treat.
The Arena has been a hit since the day 2 Tuff Tony opened the doors on the Jeffersonville wrestling venue. Friday night, a pair of seasoned promoters bring their act to town as Pro Wrestling Freedom presents a stellar card of indy wrestling action.
Founded in 2012 in Corbin, Kentucky, PWF has made its name by booking the best young talent possible. “In the beginning, we brought in a few names at first such as Vader and Dutch Mantell,” says co-promoter Jimmy Feltcher. “However what we discovered along the way is the fans were paying to see the Independent talent, not being entertained by the past.
The Kentucky version of PWF folded in 2013, but Feltcher and his partner John Norris (Father Fear) decided to bring it back in early 2016. True to their roots, PWF is bringing in a loaded card featuring Hy Zaya, Shane Mercer, Roscoe Eat Lisa, Menace, Gary Jay, Cash Flo, and Team IOU.
“There will be something for everyone,” promises Feltcher. “Hard hitting violence, high flying, and everything in between. When you come to a PWF show, Our goal is take you from your reality and into ours.”
Children are welcome, and PWF strives to create a family-friendly atmosphere, but Feltcher cautions fans to use their discretion. “Remember, these are grown men, who are beating the hell out of each. Tempers flare, and sometimes the vocabulary can be less than desirable.”
General admission seats are $10. First row is already sold out. Doors open at 7 PM Friday, and bell time is at 8 PM. For more information, visit the event website on Facebook.
Hy Zaya and Menace are all featured in the book Eat Sleep Wrestle by John Cosper, available on Kindle and in paperback from Amazon.
Have 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.