Personal Crisis’s And Support Outside The Ring

When you are immersed so deeply in a world of “make believe” sometimes the lines of reality are blurred. Whether it be from true mental health issues, brain injury related issues, or substance abuse, it is sometimes hard to tell what is going on when wrestlers act out.

How many of us who fought our way through the independent scene have brain damage? We hear of high profile cases like Chris Benoit, but we rarely talk about how the same thing can affect others in the industry whether they realize it or not.

Substance abuse is another issue, as this can stem from a number of triggers whether it be to deal with pain from injury, emotional pain, or  recreational use. This can ultimately lead to unsafe situations for not only the person using, but those around them.

Mental Health issues are a normal part of society. Unfortunately we discuss it as a stigma, instead of working to find the roots of these issues, and address them, rather than demonizing those who are suffering.

If you see someone who you think needs attention there are many ways to be there for them. You can start out by listening, spending time with them, taking them out of their environment for a while, making them or taking them to dinner.

Here is a guide to Mental Health Alternatives you can embody as a community to help support each other:  http://ram-a.net/sites/default/files/FMTBM_final_wcovers.pdf

So lets stop judging peoples actions, and start being more attentive to those who need community support.

UWC Toys For Tots Show 12/10 Wrightstown, NJ

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28 Railroad St, Wrightstown, New Jersey 08562

A message from UWC Owners:

BIKES BIKES BIKES –
Come on UWC fans. WE NEED YOU!!!!

Pledge to donate a bike next Saturday December 10th and not only receive RESERVED SEATING at the show – but also a special gift from Dave and I for your donation!!!

Last year we collected 9 bikes. This year we only have 2 pledged.

Promoting any event is like a juggling act – you have to keep so many aspects going without dropping the ball on any one of them.

The matches are set and the card will be amazing. The door prizes are ready – and they are pretty amazing too!

The pledged bike donations is a big aspect of what we do. While we love all the toys and games that come in for the show – the bike is a bigger ticket item that parents struggle most to provide for those kids.

We typically ask for a new unwrapped toy valued at $10. But for the bike donation – we also give you up to 5 reserved FRONT ROW seats. And if you need a few more seats just let me know!!!

I am creating a special gift/prize that only those who donate a bike will be eligible to win.

So – WHO IS BRINGING A BIKE??? Come on – its our 20th Annual Toys for Tots show and I really really really want to exceed last year’s numbers!!!!

For more info visit: https://www.facebook.com/events/1532417880408869

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Top 5 Things In Pro Wrestling That Need To Go Away

Walk into any independent organization locker room, choose one of their wrestlers at random, and ask him the question “What is your main goal every time you step into the ring?” and I can practically GUARANTEE that you get the wrong answer.

To put on the best match possible.  WRONG ANSWER.

To ensure my safety and the safety of my opponent.  WRONG ANSWER.

To hit all our spots correctly.  WRONG ANSWER.

The main goal every time a wrestler steps in the ring is to……….now lean in closely because this is a closely guarded secret – so good that most wrestlers themselves don’t even know it – is to WIN THE FRIGGIN’ MATCH.

I realize that much of what I say in this post is going to make me sound like an old fart, but in many ways, I AM an old fart.  As I wrote in my previous column, kayfabe died way back in 1997.  The “new work” I wrote about is the beginning to, if you’ll pardon a potentially Presidential pun, making pro wrestling great again.

For many many MANY years, professional wrestling thrived on a very simple formula.  Two wrestlers have some issue between them, which is built up over several weeks or months, leading to a match between the two.  A wrestling match is nothing more than simulated combat between the two.  Two guys (and yes, it could be ladies as well, but that’s not the point of this article) playing their roles to perfection, listening to the audience and working, yes WORKING, to tell a captivating story and lead the fans on an emotional roller coaster.  When the finish goes off, the crowd responds appropriately, and they move on the next chapter of the neverending story.

Since the death of kayfabe, most of the current wrestling fanbase knows that what goes on in the ring is not a life or death struggle.  That said, they still get caught up in the emotions of what is being presented to them.  They enjoy using a suspension of disbelief, similar to the way they will when they go to a movie.  They know that Joe Pesci isn’t really getting shot, but react to the character he is portraying.  Wrestling is unique in the sense that we are the only entertainment medium that can interact with our audience, and those who do it well know when and how to interact.

Goofy spots have always found their way into the business as well.  There is nothing wrong with adding a little humor into the show.  Little people madness, or “midget matches” as they were known when the entire world wasn’t so politically correct, spring immediately to mind.  Running between the referee’s legs, biting his ass, and the chase spot were all designed to draw laughter from the audience.  A more recent example took place a few years ago at a CZW event when a masked wrestler named Ophidian “hypnotized” his opponents and the entire locker room.  The match fell apart instantly as the wrestlers, under hypnosis, broke into a huge breakdancing party.

The audience NEEDS this release from time to time.  As long as the humor is presented in a somewhat realistic way, the fans will be entertained.  The goofy stuff is fine for one portion of the show, but it should NOT be happening during actual matches.  Any spot that forces the fans to BREAK the suspension of disbelief is a spot that shouldn’t be happening.  Therefore, to educate, entertain, and inform, I have put together my own list of 5 things in pro wrestling that need to go away.

5. The Flippy Floppy Wristlock Reversal

It happens on almost every independent event.  Collar and elbow tieup into the bottom wristlock spot.  Reversal, slightly different reversal, slightly more complicated reversal, into the flippy floppy.  As the wrestler on offense in this move, why in the world wouldn’t I just let go of your damn arm?  Seriously, next time you see this ridiculous gymnastics display, concentrate on the guy holding the arm as he stares slack-jawed at his opponent rolling and flipping and expending tons of energy simply to reverse the most basic of moves.

If you go back to the olden days, you will see guys reversing and re-reversing arm locks of all kinds.  Each move is accomplished SLOWLY so it actually means something.  Less is more.  Making simple moves more complicated does not necessarily make them better.  If it were a real contest or fight, all the attacker would have to do is let go, watch you land on your head, and then finish the job.

4. Turning Your Back on Your Opponent

This one is also a beginning-of-the-match gem.  Once the standard minute of chain wrestling is over and the headlock is applied, let’s walk together back to the ropes so I can shoot you to the other side and get ready to get tackled.  As I’m down, recovering from the first back bump of the match, we’ll make eye contact.  You then turn your back to me and point at the ropes as if to say “I’m going to run over there now!”  And so you do.

Now then, if this were a real fight and you knocked me down, and then turned your back on me…..well, that would be all the opportunity I needed.  Again, remember wrestling is simulated combat.  If it wouldn’t work in a real-life situation, then you shouldn’t be trying it in the squared circle.

A similar trope occurs when wrestlers don’t defend themselves.  Vince’s biggest pet peeve (other than sneezing) is when a wrestler (sorry, sports entertainer) is being choked out in the corner of the ring and his arms are lying on the ropes, instead of where a real person’s arms would be which is trying to get his attacker’s hands off of his damn neck.

3. Any Move That Requires One Competitor To Play Dead For An Exorbitant Amount Of Time

When a referee is bumped and is “knocked out” for a minute or two, it tends to make sense.  Refs should be smaller than the wrestlers.  If a heavily muscled 240 pound man crashes into a skinny 150 pounder, it is going to be bad for the smaller guy.  There is a limit, though, to what is believable and when it is time to call the paramedics.  If a ref is knocked out for over 5 minutes, it’s time to call a coroner.

This situation is even worse when it’s one of the wrestlers that need to play dead.  Many of these spots tend to be fan favorites, but if you actually examine them, they are ridiculous.  Let’s examine Scotty 2 Hotty’s “Worm” spot.  First, he whips his opponent into a corner and they step out.  He then bulldogs him right next to the ropes, at which point he inexplicably turns immediately over onto his back.  Scotty throws out his arms to signal for the move, does a little dance, bounces around the ring 4 times so the crowd can spell W O R M, does a breakdancing move, does ANOTHER dance move so the crowd can chant WOO WOO WOO WOO, and finally gives his opponent a chop to the neck area, that at best, can be mildly annoying.

The entire process takes between 20 and 30 seconds to complete, and doesn’t even lead to a pinfall.  So whoever is working with Scotty has to play dead for that long.  If your opponent is unable to move for that long, why wouldn’t you just pin him?

Similar atrocities include the People’s Elbow, the 619, and the Five Knuckle Shuffle, though none of those spots require the time commitment that the Worm does.

2. Any Move Where it is Painfully Obvious that it Requires Your Opponent’s Full Cooperation

Most wrestling moves could be pulled off in a real fight situation.  A hip toss, for example, is a modified judo throw. A suplex, a bodyslam, and even an armdrag, can all be performed without cooperation.  It is believable, in the guise of simulated combat, for a wrestler to try to injure his opponent.  What is NOT believable, however, is any move that requires the cooperation of your opponent to such a degree that it makes even the most jaded mark say “Oh, come on…”

In an effort to get over, wrestlers have invented and modified existing moves to make them look more spectacular.  That is fine.  But, some of them so far beyond the line of common sense, that they do more harm than good.

Take the Canadian Destroyer, for example.  Made famous by Petey Williams, this move starts out as a standard piledriver.  However, Petey (and others performing this move) then basically backdrop themselves over their opponent, flipping over into a seated position, inexplicably bringing their opponent with them to end back with a piledriver.  I don’t care if you have legs with the strength of tree trunks, try this in a real fight and you just lost.

The Van Daminator is another one.  On occasion, RVD and his opponent have made this look believable, but 9 times out of 10, it’s ridiculous.  The first time it was pulled off is completely believable.  However, in the process of “scouting your opponent”, if you watch tapes and see that every time you catch a chair thrown by Rob leads to him spin kicking it into your face, why wouldn’t you just knock the chair down when it’s thrown at you?

The most ridiculous one I’ve seen, however, is John Morrison’s Backflip Rock Bottom.  It’s a backflip for the sake of a backflip.  It doesn’t make the uranage hurt any more.  But if somebody grabbed you in this position and then did a backflip, you would still be standing there.

1. The Dick/Ass Spot

Oh. My. God.

If you’ve never seen this, you owe it to yourself to search the Youtubes.  To be fair, the spot is funny.  Try to picture this.

The spot went viral after it was performed by Joey Ryan in a match against Danshoku Dino in Japan.  Dino grabbed Ryan’s crotch area in a “testicular claw” hold.  Instead of screaming in pain however, Ryan starts flexing like Hulk Hogan.  Each time he does, Dino sells.  After three flexes/sells, Ryan swings his arms and Danshoku takes a flip bump.  If that’s hard to visualize, Joey Ryan makes it look like his penis was strong enough to flip Dino over.

Shaking my damn head.

WHY THE FUCK WOULDN’T DINO LET GO??????

To crank up the stupidity level, the spot became his trademark to a degree and he was brought into PWS, a large regional indy in the Northeast that later became WrestlePro.  During a battle royal, one of their wrestlers makes the mistake of grabbing Ryan’s junk.  Then a third wrestler grabs the second one’s crotch.  Then a fourth.  Then a fifth.  When all is said and done, there are about 15 guys in the ring, all holding the dick of the guy next to them.  Once they are all holding on, Ryan starts flexing and EVERYBODY else starts selling.  So apparently his penis is so powerful that it gives strength to everybody else’s penis as well.  After the same 3 flexes and sells, he twists his arm, and EVERY SINGLE WRESTLER FLIES OVER THE TOP ROPE giving Joey Ryan the win in the battle royal.

Still have some brain cells left?  LET’S KICK IT UP A NOTCH.

Recently, at a PWG event, there was a multi-man match which included world-class wrestler Jushin “Thunder” Liger.  Two of the other guys were working and it is apparently one of their gimmicks to shove his thumb up his opponent’s ass.  Fine, I can let go of disbelief and see why that would be painful.  In order to save his partner, Liger immediately jumps in and offers his own ass.  Talk about taking one for the team.  So Anal Molester Guy goes over and does his thing to Liger.  Apparently, though, Liger’s ass muscles are even more impressive than Joey Ryan’s dick, because A.M.G. starts screaming in pain while Liger does his Kiegel exercises.  For some unexplored yet baffling reason, all of the other wrestlers decide to form a similar train that PWS did, and we end up watching as 8 guys each have their thumb up somebody else’s ass like a really graphic Gay Pride Parade.  Liger starts strutting around the ring, dragging the rest of the train behind him.  On cue, all the wrestlers besides Liger proceed to bump.

What the fucking fuck?

There are those who will defend these spots, and to those people I say everybody has an opinion, and yours is wrong.  If I want to see a comedy show, I’ll go to see a comedian.  When I go to see wrestling, I want to put myself into a state of mind where I can get into the characters and their motivations.

I do not want to be reminded that what I’m watching is fake.  I do not want to see Bruce Willis’ character get shot in a movie, then in the next scene, he pops up and tells me he is ok.  I don’t want to see Elliott Stabler get stabbed on SVU, but then see Chris Meloni in the dressing room, cleaning up the fake blood.  Stop reminding me that one of my favorite forms of entertainment is just that.

Like I said in my last post, the “new work” has an element of realism to it.  Daniel Bryan and the Miz.  Shane vs Stephanie.  Let’s work on putting that realism back into the ring as well.

I’m the Hooded Jobber, and that’s my opinion.

Test Of Strength Wrestling: “The Miracle” Mike Bennett Clinic

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Hey wrestlers, our friend Slyk Wagner Brown has been holding clinics at his wrestling school, with athletes well known in the industry who have worked for the top companies.

October 30th from 10am-1pm they will be holding a clinic with “The Miracle” Mike Bennett, former TNA star! It will be held at 121 Echo Lake Road, Watertown, CT 06795, and it only costs $20!

For more info contact Slyk at swb@yahoo.com or visit https://www.facebook.com/testofstrengthwrestling/

After The Spotlight Dim’s: Wrestlers Battle for Their Lives

When you think of pro wrestling, you think of athletes, in the prime of their lives, who entertain you with feats of strength, high flying moves, and good old fashioned grappling. However few people think about the injuries, surgery, illness, and lack of resources most wrestlers have access to.

Professional wrestling is not a high paying gig, unless you are at the top level in WWE. Many of the wrestlers you see on TV, make $100,000 or less, with almost all of the women earning far less than their male counterparts. In this article, former WWE talent, Tyler Rex talks about what WWE talent really earns when you look at their expenses.

“It [pay] was getting crappy when I left, and the guys I’ve talked to now say it’s beyond crappy,” Tuft said. “People assume you once you’re on TV you make a load of money and drive Lamborghinis and stuff, and that’s just not the case. Here’s a perfect example: I hate to spill my salary on the internet, but when I left I got a bump to $100,000 a year. But a third of it goes to road expenses. The only thing they pay for is your flight. You pay for your own hotel, and car, and food. Could you imagine trying to eat out five times a day? As a body guy, you have to maintain your physique and that means eating five times a day. Spending all your money trying to maintain that? Good luck. Then Uncle Sam takes 20%-30%. You guys do the math and see how much I walked away with, which was next to nothing. I was making more money fresh out of college as an engineer fresh out of college in an entry level position than being on TV.

 

More than 60% of many WWE stars pay is already gone before they spend a dollar. Wrestlers at this level are expected to maintain a specific look, so they spend money on gym memberships, tanning, ring gear, dietary supplements, not to mention having to pay for health insurance, and other medical related expenses. They are also not employees, they are contracted as “Independent Contractors”. This classification leaves them in a much higher tax bracket than other athletes, as they must pay into unemployment, much more than they would if they were a employee, personal insurance premiums that are extremely high, and workers comp is not available to independent contractors at all. If you are hurt on the job, you are responsible for all bills incurred.

Forbes laid it out in this article stating:

 

An employee only has to pay the employee part of FICA, Medicare, etc. An independent contractor must pay the higher self-employment tax. …

So by listing wrestlers as independent contractors, this actually allows WWE to abuse these peoples rights. The Economic Policy Institute sums it up nicely here: 

Independent Contractor misclassification undermines worker bargaining power, for both workers who are misclassified and the directly employed workers alongside whom they work. As noted, misclassified ICs are not covered by basic labor standards, particularly laws affecting work hours and compensation. It is therefore easier for employers to enforce bargains on work hours and compensation for the self-employed that not only deviate from the workers’ compensation agreement but also result in effective hourly wages below the federal or state minimum and in actual work hours that go beyond 40 in a week, which under the FLSA would require premium pay. It is also easier for employers to renege on a compensation agreement, to pay cash “under the table” (i.e., unreported on a 1099-MISC tax form), or to shortchange workers on agreed compensation. These vulnerabilities of misclassified workers—and the fact that some employers exploit them—have a ripple effect on directly employed wage workers in these workplaces, hemming in their ability to bargain for higher compensation and to resist standards violations by their employers.

And it is far worse for wrestlers who work mainly on the independent scene. These athletes don’t make 6 figures, in fact many have a hard time holding down 5 figures, and usually have other types of employment to supplement their wrestling careers, and many do not carry the proper insurance to protect themselves in case of a major injury. They simply cannot afford it based on how much they get paid to perform.

So what happens to those who have no contracts, no savings, who lack the proper insurance, when they can no longer wrestle due to injury or sickness? They rely on us. Their fellow wrestlers, their fans, their friends. Many of these folks have little to fall back on, and some honestly have worked in wrestling for so long, they have no other options, and are too sick or injured to work.  Just last month Billy Reil wrote about Sabu needing hip replacement.   Just today I found out Rico Constantino, is extremely unwell with complications from head injuries, amongst other afflictions and also has a fundraiser going.

These are just a couple of examples of those who put their bodies and lives on the line for our entertainment, and now are facing an uphill battle to pay for the expenses that stem from their injuries from working as professional wrestlers. There are many more, and sadly there are many who lost their lives to health and wellness problems that stem from putting your body through hell for others entertainment, and for the promoters wallet. We need to recognize these issues and create a greater understanding around what we can do to support these folks, while at the same time putting pressure on the bigger companies to provide healthcare, disability insurance, and pensions for their “talent”.

If you care about wrestling, and claim to “love” the sport,  then its time to show support for those who have put everything on the line to entertain you, and realize its not all glitz and glamour. Its a lot of Blood, Sweat and tears, combined with liniments, pain pills, physical therapy, and surgery.

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Julianna Verdi, Forgotten Heir

Dear South Philly, Japan,

We’ve come to the attention that a smear campaign in regards to a show dedicated to the memory of my closest friend and brother Mike Verdi has resurfaced. As you may or may not know, ,”Trent Acid” was a character created during the summer of 1995. The character was based on the true events of a week in which Mike and I spent at one Debbi Esola ‘s house. We were all finding our voice that week and those voices would last forever.

Once again I was informed that a tribute show for Mike has been marred in controversy by individuals who must have had their feelings hurt that they were not booked on the show. Keep in mind that I have never sent x-mas cards to promoters/talent Ricky Otazu, Brett Lauderdale, Johnny Kashmere, Tom ZBarr Hirschman, John Corso, etc But that doesn’t mean that I disagree with their decision to honor my friend’s contribution to this business. Alot of recent posts based on this event has bothered me to the point of no return. Bitter former wrestlers/creatures have misinformed “Roe” (Mother) and “Mare” (Aunt) in various accounts such as the finances of running a show and using ‘Trent’s likeness as a promotional vehicle. I have sat back long enough and witnessed very dark psychology of said creatures who are causing trouble and stress all over not being “Booked”. It’s amazing the lengths they will go to and try to get people outraged, until recently these creatures have gone unnoticed as they will start rumors about others who aren’t in good political favor, they used to be referred to as stooges back in my day.

However what really got me heated was when the promoters were asked if they got permission. Hold up for a second but this man was not an underaged child, He was Trent Fucking Acid, Rebel with a cause. In any other situation, I’d be up in arms about it, but this situation is really unique and folks I’m about to open pandora’s box. For too long these cretins have gone around and picked and chose what Trent they want us to remember. Here’s the deal, Trent was a heel and that is why we loved him. He was a flawed individual and that’s why we loved him. Sure he was the closest talent to actually being Shawn Michaels and he was the H.B.K. of Philadelphia, and that’s why we loved him.

TRent Acid

The same marks who are you telling you to protest this show are the same creatures that pick and choose what Trent they want you to know. I want you to know the whole Trent, but in this case I want you to know about the real Mike Verdi. I was gonna stay silent until I read about these cretins who started talking about where the money from the show should be distributed and that was the straw that broke the camels back. 10 years ago was a special day in this world, there wasn’t much fuss about it, not many marked it on there calenders’, but it was a very special occasion to a few superstars.

I agree that there should be some sort of fundraiser or a gofundme or a kickstarter or maybe the office of this company can get something going to the family of Mike Verdi. But not to the mother, not to the aunt, not to the half-brother , nor the step-father or the step-father’s pet gerbil “Trollnose”, but to the daughter. It has practically made me ill that nobody has ever asked or spoke about Mike’s only child, his daughter Julianna. The crazy part is that all of the cretins have known about Julianna’s existence and for some odd reason the aunt and the mom have never even tried to meet the grand-daughter. Perhaps Mare doesn’t like the babysmomma, but it’s kinda cold-hearted to take it out on a 10 year old child that misses her father so much…She wishes that she could remember him. She wishes that she had more than just youtube videos.

Now I haven’t asked her personally, but I wonder if she wishes that she knew her fathers close friends, I wonder if she wishes that she knew her fathers best fans. For those asking, I was given “permission” to talk about this situation by the mother of Julianna. Afterall, Debbi Esola was present when ‘Trent Acid’ was born too ! Maybe this situation which started out rather dark will become a bright point in this adorable ten year old’s life. A few years back I reached out to Big Lou Verdi via Lisa Verdi Pungitore and I informed Lou that he had another granddaughter. Lisa was super-kind as usual and made sure that all 4 of them met. From what I was told, as soon as they all made eye contact, all of them burst into tears as it takes a Verdi to know a Verdi and Julianna is certainly a Verdi. “She has the Verdi-look” said Lou.

I wish that I was there as it sounded like a very special moment, but knowing that I had a hand in having Julianna meet her aunt and grandfather really brought a smile to my face. To be fair when Mike died I did call his step-father and mothers house and told his step-dad what I had known all along , but his aunt mare did not share the same sentiments as Julianna is ten years old and has yet to meet the ‘Farina family’ I have yet to speak to the promoters of the GCW event about the boys meeting young Julianna and her mother Debbi. I can say this though…Debbi has been a single mother for a very long time and she has never asked for a dime from anybody even though she sure was entitled to. Even though there has been knowledge of Julianna’s existence, not many of “The family” has reached out to meet her in person or via face-book. So I hope you can understand why I would get so upset when I was sent face-book status talking about who should be entitled to the money or who should get permission from who. In a perfect world, there will be a benefit show to put Julianna through college, but it’s an imperfect world so the chances are 50-50. We live in a heelish, flawed world and that’s why Trent loved it. —Billy Reil

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