How To Start a New Life in Wrestling Without Really Trying
I realized this morning that it was 2 years ago this weekend that the expansion of my business from Winnipeg, which has now landed me in sunny California, was really set in motion. And as with many things in my life, pro wrestling was at the focal point of the unfolding events.
The last week of June/99 Dan Denton was joined in a visit to Winnipeg by Michelle Starr and 2 of his ECCW wrestlers. He was filming a documentary about Starr's struggles in operating an indy wrestling promotion, and footage had already been shot in Tijuana and BC.
I had last seen Starr in 1989 although we spoke on the phone about twice a year in the mid-90's. I helped out filming and hosting that weekend and the interviews were shot in my memorabilia-laden office.
Moondog Manson and Tony Kozina were like a couple of kids pouring thru my stuff about the business. But at that point I was a talk-show host and out of wrestling. It had taken me my whole life to get my dream job.
Right after that, by some strange twist of fate, my daily radio show on the CHUM affiliate was put on hiatus, and I had the summer off. I was on the beach with Stan Saxon, trying to figure out what to do next, when Dan called with a simple suggestion- come to BC to continue helping with his documentary, and we could help the development of the promotion at the same time. I had met Dave Republic, Starr's partner, when he attended a Grey Cup roast I produced honouring Angelo Mosca just 8 months previous, and he had put a bug in my ear aboput needing my help then. So, funded by my first and only stock market hit, I invested in the film and my career.
I did 2 tours with ECCW that summer, a lot of it teaching the guys, watching tapes and discussing booking concepts, while shooting the film. Lots of time was spent minding Steve Rizzono whose partying was a little much by then. In October I was coming in again loaded down with a sack of film for the lab to process, a series of media contacts to establish, and no radio show to go back to as the station had changed formats. I also had a spot working with the October ECCW tours, basically producing the cards. My life was headed for a dramatic change.
I was asked to ride with Greg Valentine as he did 4 shots. Sue (Starr's wife and the real office) didn't want Greg saddled with one of the green guys for company. I was very flattered. Greg was very surprised at my background and at my length of service in the business. He thought I was much younger. I had spent the summer hanging for the most part by the young boys in ECCW, who had become my friends. Now I was a vet traveling with a legend.
His first match was in Calgary in 1970 against Angelo Mosca, so I really wondered how it was that I had worked with both in a period of a year, out of the blue, years after I left the business. We spoke of our fathers, our divorces, our travels, and Greg really encouraged me to try something new at a stage of my life where I had some money and time.
It was important for me to get that encouragement from Greg Valentine and I will never be able to thank him enough for believing in me.
Meanwhile, having graduated to the role of Associate Producer for the film, I had to continue following up on the filming, editing and marketing of the product. It was a task easier done from Vancouver, where Dan could fly in from LA easily and vice versa. Still I had no clear plan. ECCW shows were a blast most of the time and I was looking forward to going on the road, but...
More Encouragement From New Friends
On Oct. 28 ECCW had a show at the Eagle's Hall and I was unexpectedly involved in an incident. 2 visiting characters decided to shoot on me during an interview and although I took a bump and landed OK I was very hot when I left the building. I actually quit although Starr knew it would blow over.
As I walked onto the streets of New West, Chance Beckett basically ordered me to follow him. Rather than go to Amos' place where we were staying, Beckett was actually following one of the other wrestlers and his entourage. He had the right idea. The party was on, and I was able to relax and reflect. The next day I was awoken on the couch at 3 PM in time for WCW Saturday Night (I loved that early feed, I was used to a 5 PM telecast), with a Dr. Pepper and all the comforts of home- the tape itself was in the era of strange matchmaking between lucha's, green machines, Power Plant wanna bees, Scott Hall in the doghouse and cameos by Chris Adamas, Barry Darsow, indy guys, it was a facinating mishmash and I prefered it to the main shows in a way.
After a barrel of laughs at dinner the Halloween parties started, and in particular Weed and his partner Amber not only showed me around but tried to help me budget a life in Vancouver. They saw a lot of potential for me in that market. By the end of the weekend I was convinced that I could make it work, and I had made some good and supportive friends who would help. I also found a girl that weekend who was willing to help move my office, so I was convinced to open an office in Vancouver and drop my stuff off on the way to the Sundance Film Festival. That was 2 years ago this very weekend.
First there was a week up north, defying death in the dirty yellow van, with all the ribs and hijinks an indy tour can handle. *future story* I actually stayed an extra week to do that northern hike, to see an old girlfriend in Prince George whose life I had saved in Winnipeg 5 years earlier, when I bought her a ticket home out of a dangerous environment. She was now married and had a kid and that romantic past with her- getting drunk on Christmas with her and Chi Chi Cruz- was far behind us both.
Next of course came the Quesnel riot which I am sure Manson and I will write about soon, with me right in the middle with Manson, Weed, Disco,
and the whole locker room emptied in the middle of a barbed -wire match between Murray and Starr. My last riot had involved Playboy Doug McColl tripping a midget in 1983. Chairs flew that day at my head, at least in Quesnel none were airborne. As I hauled some idiot off of Weed, who was busy choking out a perp, I thought, what am I doing here?
Fast Forward 2 Years.
I had the summer of my life, traveling around California with a beautiful smart UCLA girl who willingly proofread my columns and kept me motivated and eating right. Being in love is a wonderful thing, it's not easy to find and harder to keep but when it's there I thrive. After years of being laid up, I am finally pretty much healthy again and in great shape. Socially a whole new world opened up for me.
I spent Easter with Leeann Rimes and Andrew Keegan just before their break-up. One night Rob Schneider, clearly thinking I was someone else, introduced me to Colleen Haskell of Survivor. Martin Landau remembers me everytime we bump into each other. Lara Flynn Boyle was very nice and stunningly beautiful in person.
Meanwhile,we are finishing editing on BC Bodyslams and are going to go to Sundance for a third year (actually Dan's fourth) to promote a planned screening in LA in February. I am sure that it will lead to more films and documentaries about wrestlers. I also help Dan as Management Agent for CPW, which is a project that holds sold shows as a means of driving retail customers to outdoor venues, using talent from around SoCal. We believe that we can run every weekend next year with this format. This draws business to his Carconsumer.com page and interest in our film as well. As dotcoms fold, this one grows and grows.
I have made a ton of new friends in XPW here like New Jack, Sandman, Vic Grimes, Kronus, Ron Hed, POGO and Major Gunns, all thanks to my friendship with Rizzono. I got to see Vampiro again, and meet Bob Barnett. The Blue Meanie was one of the nicest guys to work with ever. I was stunned to see how everyone, straight people expecially , knew who Jasmin was. The Rev Pro crew led by Ron Rivera and Alexandra all work hard and call me for advice and help, just like in BC, and in Winnipeg before.
Winnipeg- Gene Swan and Bruiser Bastein and EZ Rider, Spyder, Dave Pinsky, all encouraged me to perservere against long odds and get out of there. I will never forget the look on Cruz' face when he saw our old office gutted, 1000 tapes in boxes and the walls washed.
The Future is Now
I get a lot of offers and requests to write for other sites but my loyalty is to Manson and Tidwell who have given me a platform to find an intelligent audience (all the way to New Jersey). I am way backlogged on interviews but the Dutch Savage series is in progress, Nick Bockwinkel is a call away and I am going to get to Tom Zenk and Jack Armstrong yet. More current stories are around the corner.
Manson and Tidwell are both enjoying great success, Beckett is now #1 contender in ECCW, and I hear occasionally from BlackDragon and Torch and Starr and a few of the boys from Winnipeg. I will be home, both homes, before Christmas. Some of my friends have not done so well but I hope for the best for us all. I will continue working here to deveolop contacts and opportunities for everyone.
This has hardly been an inexpensive proposition but I have gone from Winnipeg to Vancouver to LA in under 2 years and have a good job,
a lot of opportunity and the chance to develop talent in the biggest wrestling market in the world, and that is just my hobby.
The wrestling business tought me a lot of the skills I have needed to survive and thrive on the road the past 2 years. Well, by not relying on the business, I have been able to make it work for me to open doors. That is what I meant by the term "without really trying".
Obviously I have tried a lot to make it, but now doors in wrestling are flying open for me as a result of my work on the documentary and my stories on this website. And believe me, the film will be a hit.
The past 2 years came about by strange circumstance and a lot of help from my family, friends, girlfriends, Manson and of course Dirty Dan Denton. If he hadn't called me to work on the documentary, I have no idea where I would be. But the chances are it wouldn't be California.
I am writing this to say thanks to you all who have helped me , even if our friendship isn't as strong as it was. As for the people who bury me like it was a national sport, well, my success speaks for itself. As an ex once said, the best revenge is living well. See ya on Venice Beach.
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from the boys:
Ed Moretti says "Grab a hold, kid...they'll get with it in a minute".