“Oh I’ll probably just wind up burying myself. “ Those were the first things I said to myself when they asked me to write a column. However, I started to realize after nine freaking years in the pro wrestling business I think I had done all the burying I could possibly do (well, that’s debatable.) Burying someone in the pro wrestling business is a term for making someone look bad such as telling the boss how bad someone is for example. Sometimes guys do it to themselves, hence burying themselves. So hey what’s another pile of dirt to throw on myself. I mean this can’t be any worse for my career than drunkenly taking my shirt off in a bar yelling “I’M A PRO WRESTLER” at extremely uninterested girls can it? Can it?
The next question I had is; what the hell do I write about? The last thing I ever wanted to be is one of those bitter old Facebook Indy veterans. Oh you know who I am talking about. The guy who never left his old training school and writes Facebook posts that say, “That John Cena he can’t work! Back in Doodleville when we ran there once a month we really knew how to work, brother!” If you’re rolling your eyes at that, congratulations you have some level of sanity. Yet still, what to write about? I didn’t want to write about how to get heat or how to work, because after all, how many Timmy Danger dolls do you see in Toys R Us? Besides I’m still learning even after 9 years myself.
Then again I came to realize after nine years of this crazy lifestyle I’ve been involved in some good (well as far as I’m concerned) matches, storylines, angles, and moments. With that great moment of pride I then realized that I‘ve also been in some not so great matches, storylines, angles, and moments. Also not to mention some “Rethink My Life Choices” Road Trips too. That’s when I realized throughout this journey, there is a certain irony to pro wrestling. Don’t get me wrong I absolutely love this business more than life itself, but there is a certain level of irony to it in my opinion. You enter this business with dreams of making it big and selling out arenas and getting tons of money maybe even banging some hot chicks. Then next thing you know, you find yourself in a dusty armory in front of 6 people getting paid in a hot dog while your girlfriend angrily waits at home.
I want to write about those “This Is Spinal Tap” esque moments of Pro Wrestling. The hilarious pit stops on the road to greatness as well as the humbling speed bump moments. You know the humble moments of, “Oh my god I know you! I’ve seen you before! You work at Lowes!” As I mentioned earlier, I love this business more than life itself, but sometimes you have to stop and shake your head. Oh well hey I’m just burying myself. Then again somebody has to do it.
The Cage Match
Now The Cage Match is a staple of pro wrestling. Before they had shows where every match was in a cage, the steel cage really was something special. For my generation, who could forget the big blue bars of the WWF Cage? Even the cage going up just had a certain aurora and presence to it. You just knew shit got real. Even as a kid playing with WWF action figures I knew how important the steel cage was. I vividly remember wanting a steel cage as a kid for my 4 inch action figures. Come on now this was important! My Bret Hart figure needed to get his title back from my Ric Flair figure. I mean how else could we keep Rick Martel from interfering (come on now, I was 11 and it was the figure that best resembled Tully Blanchard). So my mom’s laundry basket was the best substitute I could find to settle the score. While I’m sure that cage match with Bret Hart and Ric Flair in the laundry basket was epic, fast forward to December 2008 and I think my mom’s laundry basket would have been a much better substitute for what we actually had.
It was December 2008 like I said, and I was helping promote and book a promotion out of Richmond, Virginia. We were gearing up for our year end show where every match had a stipulation. There was an I Quit Match, a TLC Match, a Street Fight, just to name a few. We had been running the venue monthly since June and we were doing pretty good business for what it was. Sure, it was a community center in Virginia, but damn it to us it might as well been Madison Square Garden or the Omni in Atlanta or freaking The Tokyo Dome or for you Brits, Wembley. The Main Event for this show was going to be a Steel Cage Match for the Heavyweight Title. Only problem was….we didn’t have a steel cage or really know where we could get one.
“Where does one get a steel cage”, we wondered? I mean surely there isn’t a Steel Cage Depot or a Wrestling Gimmicks R Us (for all your steel chairs, chains, and table needs). I guess you could go to Lowes Hardware Store maybe? Since this was the independent scene of wrestling we didn’t exactly have a budget to simply buy a cage. Steel Cage matches were pretty common in North Carolina, but if memory serves me correctly the one promoter we spoke to just had a cage for a 16 x 16 ring where as our ring was 18×18. Now the show was getting closer and closer and we had already been hyping up the match (flyers up on every telephone pole baby!) People had a genuine intrigued of the match as two combatants were going to be locked in a cage. These were two top guys in Virginia that were highly respected who always had good matches and people wanted to see this match. Now keep in mind this was Virginia and since Virginia’s State Athletic Department had a no blood rule, cage matches in the state were very rare. Old school purists can’t even imagine a cage match without blood, but god damn it we were going to do it!
So once again if memory serves me correctly our trusty ring announcer told me a week before the show his good friend had some fencing company that was supplying the cage 100% free. A genuine state of the art cage at no cost what so ever. Even typing that sentence feels funny. Our ring announcer always knew someone who knew someone; he was like Saul Goodman from Breaking Bad. Now we were told this thing might as well been the damn Elimination Chamber, which of course got us into thinking we could possibly have our own elimination chamber style match down the road. Hey come on now, on the once a month Indy scene that one day is all you had sometimes. The other 29 days you were dealing with reality and quite frankly who wants to deal with that? The night before the show there was a certain feeling in the air, like the night before Christmas as a kid. However as far as steel cages go, instead of the new Xbox One I think we got a broken Commodore 64 under the tree.
The day of the show we get to the arena and we were told the cage was coming. This whole time I’m picturing this great big truck to show up with an already assembled Hell in a Cell in the back. Instead of a big 18 wheeler that read “Cages R Us” on the tractor trailer, what we got was a pretty big pickup truck with this weird stack of fencing in the bed of it. It was the cage we were told. Well, at least it showed up. The cage was stacked up high on the bed of this truck piece by piece. It was a weird grayish brown color and looked like if you touched it you would need a tetanus shot…or two….possible three. The worst part was it was broken down into about zillion fencing sides that would need to be assembled around the ring.
The venue had a good vibe that night and a good amount of fans. We had maybe 300 fans or so, not sure, but at the time Virginia wasn’t exactly a hot bed of Indy pro wrestling so 300 fans was better than say 7 (that’s a story for later.) The show goes pretty well from what I remember. Finally the MAIN EVENT happens. Oh shit! Its bout to go down! Now they call for an intermission to set the cage up. While putting up a cage can be a lengthy process, this was absurd. They had to bring the cage in piece by piece off this truck and I was to say maybe 5 x 5 square pieces, maybe 4 x 4. It was also heavy, really heavy and required several guys on each square fencing. It was also a million pieces of fence to put up too. The guy who brought the fence had a tool to connect all the pieces. So it was one guy who knew what he was doing while everyone stood there holding piece by piece up. Everyone heels and baby faces had to help construct this thing and it took everyone. Literally it took everyone. We might as well have had fans help set it up. This process to put this cage up took and not exaggerating…an hour and a half. Now keep in mind the show was already 2 hours long as it was with an intermission already and the fans had already seen a street fight, I Quit Match, TLC match, etc. Well just to give you an idea of how many people left during the set up, my mom and then girlfriend peaced out half way through the process.
So finally this cage comes up, well keep in mind this cage was not meant for pro wrestling, it was meant to be oh I don’t know a regular wire fence. Maybe it could have been used to keep goats or chickens, that I can’t confirm, but definitely won’t deny. Now this cage was pretty wobbly and people thought it was going to fall over. So we had to have the locker room come out and kneel at ringside to help hold this thing up in place so it wouldn’t possibly fall on the front row. So before the combatants enter the cage our trusty ring announcer tells the ringside fans to move to the back bleachers incase anything was to happen. Hey I paid for a ring side seat damn it! Anyway the match surprisingly goes off with the cage in one piece. Due to the time spent putting up the cage; I don’t think the match was longer than 8 minutes with the hated heel The Pharaoh winning the title with a small package. Now normally a small package is anti climatic for a cage match, but I wouldn’t want anyone trying to do anything off the top of this unstable monstrosity.
Now the end comes with the fencing guy having to detach the door from the cage. Where normally a referee would just open the cage door by unlocking the door, in this situation the fencing guy had to come over and literally remove a piece of siding. It was a very awkward moment as you can imagine with the baby face having to patiently wait for the door to be detached (not opened mind you, but detached) while the heel celebrates his victory 5 feet away. Regardless they give The Pharaoh the microphone once the cage door is removed. The new Champion The Pharaoh gets on the microphone and asks me to come in the ring. He announces me as his new manager and tells me to wrap the belt around his waist. I was unaware of this at the time, but hey let’s do this. I take the title and wrap it around his waist. The heat was pretty good considering that the fans had spent 4 hours of their life inside this community center. So in that moment things cleared up for me. Sure it was a shitty cage but it WAS a cage after all and here I am putting a title belt around one of my best friend’s waist. In that moment I knew the world was going to be a good place. It was like a tranquil moment like a sun rise or starring into the eyes of a woman you love. Well it was at least until someone yelled, “The Belt is upside down you jackass!” Well, there goes that moment.
The irony of it all is the cage took about 10 minutes to take down and the match won match of the year. Go figure. I mean the cage really was free after all and hey sometimes you get what you pay for.
However, I still think my mom’s laundry basket would have been a better cage; after all it did keep Rick Martel out.