Posts Tagged ‘WCW’

Every once in awhile, I try to offer the newer guys and gals coming up in the pro wrestling industry something worthwhile, which would help them orchestrate and navigate their careers.

Myself having been in the pro wrestling trade now for a quarter century, I’ve met many successful contemporaries in my travels, who’ve carved out particular niche’s for themselves in the business.  These pros have learned to navigate in the shark-infested waters that make up professional wrestling, and they have valuable life experience, which can be readily used as learning material for the next generation.

In so saying, I offer up a unique angle for this one-on-one interview that I conducted with former WCW alumni Paul Neu, who wrestled for Ted Turner’s World Championship Wrestling in the early ’90s as PN News, and shortly thereafter migrated to Europe, where he became known as Cannonball Grizzly.

The man became one of the most successful journeyman big man wrestlers in the past three decades arguably worldwide, and he took some time out to shed some light on how you have to adapt your in-ring style as you get older and the injuries mount up, as well as advice for other big man-style wrestlers now coming up in the business and how to stay healthy to help prolong one’s career.

Listen up and take to heart what Paul has to say.

Cannonball Grizzly

Cannonball Grizzly stands 188cm and weighs 190kg

1. Thanks for taking the time out to do this one-on-one piece. I’d like to dig into the topic of how, as a veteran, and as the years pile up and the injuries accumulate, you have to adapt your in-ring style and working approach. However, first, how are you doing nowadays that you’ve moved back to your native USA after spending, what, the better part of 25 years wrestling in Europe?

Hello, Michael.  First of all, thank you for the opportunity to express myself on your platform. I’ve enjoyed entertaining fans around the world for over 31 years and its great to address not just fans, but future wrestlers as well.  

Wow, you hit me with an amazing question to start. As an athletic big man, it’s been a hard tradition over the years. I always want to produce, show people I’m athletic. I had to stop drop kicking after 25 years. I’ve done moonsaults, sentons, topes, top rope splashes, etc.  

The splash was hard on my knees so I changed to the senton as my finish. From top rope to a second rope senton when my back started hurting. Basically what you learn over time is how to work the crowd with showmanship instead of overwhelming them with the ooh and aah of brute force and majesty of big moves. I got better heat from working smart than working hard. When you do something big it should mean something.

Tradition is transition.  Moving back to the States has been good for me. I’m picking up legend conventions. I’m not really advertising myself at the moment. I’m getting to know family again and settling down. I needed a pause. My body needs healing if it’s even possible.

2. What made you choose coming to Europe back in the day, after your WCW contract ended, in lieu of going somewhere else or taking a different career path? How did the parting with WCW come about, and would you have liked to continue there?

I had a few opportunities to continue in America. Territories were dying. The WWF/WWE was actually trying to do something with me. Unfortunately, they wanted me to wait around. I couldn’t, my daughter was on the way and I need to make money so I chose to come back to Europe. I don’t regret it.  The business in Europe was pretty good at the time. My love for Austria and Germany at the time made my choice easy.

3. You found a good deal of success in Europe, but you also saw the business change drastically over the quarter-century that you spent here. I recall you once saying in a locker room in Germany back in 2013, that the job used to be 30 dates a month, now it’s 30 dates a year. Why do you believe that the business changed so drastically in Europe also, taking into account that this is not Vince’s predominant playground to begin with?

You can watch wrestling on TV everyday. The market is over-saturated and that isn’t a good thing. Wrestlers are stars but when you’re on TV every week, you’re a SUPERSTAR. It’s hard to compete with television.

4. You’ve been a super-heavyweight all of your career. What are the main things you would give as advice, coming from a big man worker, to the newer crop of big men and super-heavyweights coming up today?

There really aren’t any super-heavyweights anymore. The size of your average wrestler is getting smaller. So it’s hard for big guys now. I’d say to be a super-heavyweight today, athleticism is the key. If you’re big and you’ve never done anything athletic, only sat in front of a computer and a TV your whole life, stay on the other side of the barrier.

Cannonball Grizzly vs Alofa

Battle of the super-heavyweights: Cannonball Grizzly vs. Headshriner Alofa

5. What are the main things you would expound in terms of career longevity in pro wrestling? What are the key factors of longevity to be taken into account and practice, from your experience?

Stay in the gym, don’t do overly stupid stuff. Work smart.

6. What do you believe are the essentials to ”making it” in the pro wrestling business, to becoming a viable player, to making money and to having a decent shot at procuring the most amount of work possible?

Again the gym. Being good on the mic. You have to have a bit of an ego and still try to be humble. Take and ask for advice from guys who have been around. Show respect, and when you get your shot give everything you’ve got. Look after your gear. Don’t just put on kickpads over sneakers. Look and act like a wrestler, not a mark.

7. Everyone goes in hurt, as the saying goes in our trade. Where do you draw the line, however?

I never drew the line. I worked with a dislocated shoulder, torn hamstring, severed tendon, a lung infection and a sowing needle that broke off in my foot. There is always someone ready to take your place. Not everyone is that resilient, I know. Nowadays, I see kids not show up because the have a nosebleed. In the end, it’s your own call.

8. As we age, the body tends to stiffen and acute nervous response is compromised, since reaction time is slightly dulled with age. I have often used Keiji Muto as a good example of changing one’s stylistic approach to suit the changes that come with age, limiting the amount of action output and focusing more on body language and character presence. How did you navigate in-ring as you got older? How did you alter your style to suit your age-brought restrictions, as time went by?

That’s all part of working smart. I changed my style at least three time to adapt to my bones screaming at me. I new time was catching up when I had to stop throwing my dropkick. Before that I stopped doing my top rope splash, because I was hurting my knees. I switched to the senton and now my hip is messed up so I don’t even do that much anymore.

9. What are the approaches and ways you kept yourself physically viable and functional as the years rolled by?

The gym, stretching and ibuprofen. I wasn’t into the pain killer scene. Unfortunately time catches up with us all.

PN News

Paul Neu as PN News in WCW (1991), before Cannonball Grizzly

10. If you could turn back time and some things over again, so as to prolong your long-term health, hindsight being 20/20, what would those things be?

The nature of the beast. I would have probably done everything the same way. I’d might have cut the top rope splash out earlier or never done it.

11. What advice would you give to guys in the business today, based on your own experiences and what you’ve seen in our industry, in terms of protecting their long-term health and quality of physical life?

Don’t drink as much as I did. Listen to your bones. If you’re waking up in pain every morning you’ve waited to long.

12. What are the biggest changes you noted on a personal level, passing from your 20s to your 30s, and from your 30s to your 40s in your wrestling career?

In my early 20s, I was green. I hit my stride from about 26-44. That was my prime. In my 30s, I was physically unstoppable. By my mid-40s,  I started waking up everyday in pain.

13. Where do you stand today with the current popularized in-ring style, as promoted largely by WWE, TNA and NJPW, where the action is largely spot-oriented and arguably more indie-influenced than ever before? What do you foresee in terms of longevity for the guys utilizing and working this current, modern spotty style?

I prefer the old-school story-telling aspect of wrestling. We played off peoples’ emotion. We could suspend peoples’ disbelief.  Now, it’s all about the oohs and aahs.

14. Thanks for taking the time out to do this introspective piece.  In closing, there’s a saying in our industry, that you work a certain style to get over, and then you work a modified version of that style to stay over. This, however, didn’t seem to work too favorably for guys like Mick Foley or Daniel Bryan. Perhaps a case of too little too late? What’s your take on getting over … and then staying over?

Your body can only take so much. The best workers have around four things they have to do every time they go out there and work. If you have to abuse your body every time, you’re gonna be on borrowed time long before your time would normally be up.

 

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On October 10, my good friend Akira Nogami celebrates 30 years of active competition in the wrestling business with a special card dedicated to his imprint on our grappling industry, to be held in Tokyo at Shinjuku Face Arena.  A literal plethora of who’s who from the world of Japanese Puroresu will be on hand to honor our brother-in-arms, and I am stoked to be taking a part in this special evening of in-ring combat, by direct invitation of Akira himself.

Akira Nogami in 2010 (photo: SMASH)

Akira Nogami in 2010 (photo: SMASH)

Akira and I have a storied history together, both as adversaries and as tag team partners in our business.  If I could hand-pick my opponents, Akira would easily make the top five of that list on any given day.  He is smooth, flowing like water and moving like a panther inside of that ring.  I have often likened him to the legendary former NWA World and WWF Intercontinental champion, Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat, in terms of his fluid wrestling style.

Some of my best memories from Japan have been shared with my brother, Akira.  We have fought some amazing battles.  We melded like clockwork in a team called Synapse, alongside female standout, Syuri Kondou (a multi-time women’s wrestling and kickboxing champion).  Upon our inception in the summer of 2012, our trio was passionately compared to the classic 1996 nWo unit with Hulk Hogan, Kevin Nash and Scott Hall in the belated World Championship Wrestling (WCW) organization.  We were cool baddies.  We kicked ass and took names, downing the competition all across Japan for much of 2012-2013.  In February of this year, on the same card where I won the WNC (Wrestling New Classic) championship from “The Japanese Buzzsaw” Tajiri, we disbanded our Synapse team, all going our separate ways.

SYNAPSE 2012

Akira, StarBuck, Syuri (photo: Kazuhiko Kato)

Akira started his legendary career in New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW), famous for hosting and organizing the world-famous 1976 wrestler vs. boxer match-up between Antonio Inoki and Muhammed Ali.  Akira was part of the same class of ’84 that saw the launch of Keiji Muto (aka The Great Muta), Shinya Hashimoto, Masahiro Chono and Masakatsu Funaki.  Nowadays, Akira grapples for Keiji Muto’s Wrestle-1 office in Japan.

My first encounter against AKIRA, from SMASH.8 in September 2010 in Tokyo

My first encounter against AKIRA, from SMASH.8 in September 2010 in Tokyo (photo: SMASH)

Akira first notable title win was the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight championship, defeating Jushin Liger in August 1991.  Since then, he has been a journeyman wrestler, both in Europe, the USA and Japan.  Akira took part in the NWA world tag team tournament in 1992, held under the Bill Watts regime as the head of WCW, teaming with Hiroshi Hase in the opening round.  Akira was injured, and could not compete a month later in the second round alongside Hase, so he was replaced by Shinya Hashimoto (Hase and Hashimoto would lose to Barry Windham and Dustin Rhodes in the semi-finals of the tournament).  Akira is also a former IWGP Jr. Heavyweight tag team champion, alongside old foe Jushin Liger, and the first ever WNC champion from 2012, defeating Tajiri in the WNC title tournament finals.

I am proud to be taking part in this big card on October 10 in Tokyo to pay tribute to the career of Akira Nogami, a real friend and brother in this hard, dog-eat-dog business called professional wrestling.  He is someone who has always had my back, whether we have been against each other, or if we have teamed together.  We share a mutual respect and a bond of friendship, a warrior’s bond.  This is truly rare in any walk of life.

Akira-san, I salute you!  KAMPAI!!!

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This past weekend in Hannover, Germany, I was part of a six-man tag team match-up that served as a good warm-up for the six-man slobberknocker that will take place on April 12 in Helsinki at FCF Wrestling‘s Jatkosota 2014.

In Hannover, I teamed with Ecki Eckstein and Stampede Simon to face the trio of American bad boy Sam Elias, Val Verde and Johnny Rancid.  I was particularly impressed with Sam Elias, who reminded me more than a bit of early Steve Austin, circa. 1991-1193 in WCW.  Elias caught me out with a wicked knee to the gut, after which his team laid the heat on heavy.  I stayed alive, with the “Eye of the Tiger” blazing in my spirit, and rallied back to tag in Eckstein, who capitalized on the situation and scored the win for our team, pinning Rancid with a powerbomb.

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On April 12 in Helsinki, however, the stakes are even higher, after the upset win that Sly Sebastian scored over Finnish wrestling veteran Stark Adder at Talvistoa VIII this past March 8 in the tag team encounter between Sly and partner Kristian Kurki against Adder and Ricky Vendetta.  I forecast already in my FCF Year in Review 2013 blog, that Sly Sebastian was really starting to take off, after honing his skills patiently as a wrestler over the past three years.  Sly finally pulled off his biggest career win at Talvisota VIII, even if it was in tag team action, and now Stark Adder is raving mad about the upset.  Adder wants to trample out the flickers in Sly’s eyes before blaze gets out of control, and so Adder and Vendetta have recruited new FCF champion, “Wildman” Heimo Ukonselkä, to be their partner on April 12 and challenge Sly and Kurki to a six-man rumble.  That’s where I decided to take up the slack and offer myself as Sly’s and Kurki’s partner for FCF’s Jatkosota event.

Both Sly and Kurki helped Yours Truly this past January, when with Mikko Maestro as our fourth member, we overcame the team of Swedish snobs, Bättre Folk.  Therefore, now it’s my turn to help them, as they answered the call at my behest last time.

April 12 is bound to be one hell of a slobberknocker, so get your tickets NOW online: www.fightclubfinland.fi/kauppa.php

As an additional note: this spring season, both Ricky Vendetta and I were asked to be a part of “Duudsonit tuli taloon” (The Extreme Dudesons, Finland’s version of Jackass) TV-series, which will be airing on MTV in Finland.  Check program listings here: http://www.mtv.fi/duudsonit/

Ricky Vendetta and I will be featured on the Dudesons TV show this spring.

Ricky Vendetta and I will be featured on the Dudesons TV show this spring.

 

20-year anniversary of my wrestling debut.

Today as I opened my Facebook, I was greeted by my old pro wrestling coach Lance Storm, who reminded me that today – January 7 – marks the 20-year anniversary of my very first wrestling match, which was coincidentally against Lance himself.  The bout was held at the Victoria Park Civic Center, next to the legendary Calgary Saddledome, on the premises of which Stu Hart’s Stampede Wrestling used to run, at the old Corral.

The story behind my debut against Lance Storm is a peculiar one.  Over the course of 1993, Lance and I were training partners at The Gym in Calgary, where we would train together three times a week.  During our weightlifting sessions, Lance one day told me: “I see the passion that you have for pro wrestling.  If you want, I will train you.”

Did I take to his offer like a fish to water?  You bet I did!

Lance had a guy coming in from Australia for wrestling training, and he needed a sparring partner for the guy.  Never did Lance even once ask me to pay him a single penny for coaching me back then.  He did it out of friendship, to help out a poor 20-year-old kid, who had a big dream.  For that, I am forever grateful to him.

My first official promo pic from 1994 (photo by Sam Leppänen)

My first official promo pic from 1994 (photo by Sam Leppänen)

The promoter of Rocky Mountain Pro Wrestling, for whom I worked as a ring announcer at the time, and for whom Lance wrestled, did not like me at all.  His name was Ed Langley, and for anyone who would like to get an understanding of who is in question, I warmly recommend that you read my old buddy Chris Jericho’s stellar life story, A Lion’s Tale.  To make a long story short, Ed Langley hated my guts for whatever reason.  He tried to blackball me already back when Beef Wellington was running the show by dispelling bullshit stories that I was trash-talking the RMPW operation to Smith Hart, older brother of former WWF/WCW champion, Bret “Hitman” Hart.  Ed Langley ousted me for a few months from RMPW when he took over as promoter in 1993, but once my other old wrestling coach Karl Moffat (Jason the Terrible in Stampede Wrestling and for Carlos Colon’s WWC in Puerto Rico) took over as booker, I was brought back into the fold.

I told Lance of Ed Langley’s disdain for my person, concerned that Ed would not allow me to train at the Hart Bros. Wrestling School, which Ed more or less headed up, and for which Lance was a trainer.  Even though the Aussie guy was slated to come in, Lance told me: “If Ed doesn’t want you, then I won’t do it.”

There’s a lot of water under the bridge, but that’s something I won’t ever forget.  I remember where I came from, I recall my roots.  I’ve never gotten a big head over the success that I have enjoyed in professional wrestling, because if it wasn’t for Lance, who even vouched to be my first opponent and set me off properly onto my trek into the wrestling world, maybe I wouldn’t be part of the game today.  Lance gave me a competitive seven-minute match, letting me shine in the process, and in so doing, he was very unselfish.  I should also mention, that Chris Jericho gave me and old pair of his wrestling boots and lent me a pair of his Sudden Impact (his tag team in Canada with Lance) tights to get me started as an active grappler for that match.

Me against Lance Storm in my very first match ever (photo by Rob Haynes)

Me against Lance Storm in my very first match ever (photo by Rob Haynes)

So for the 20th anniversary of my wrestling debut, I would like to dedicate this memory to Lance Storm – a hell of guy and a great wrestling coach to boot!

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For anyone who would like to do a little follow-up reading to this blog about the early stages of my career, Slam! Wrestling’s website out of Canada has an extensive article on me, which can be accessed HERE – it’s worth the read!

This weekend in Helsinki, the biggest card in Scandinavian pro wrestling history takes place to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of pro wrestling in Finland — DOMination 8: Gods of the North.  On Friday and Saturday, March 22 & 23, wrestlers from all over Scandinavia will ascend on our nation’s capital in an attempt to claim Nordic dominance in our sport.

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GBG Wrestling out of Gothenburg, Sweden sends the charismatic Conny Mejsel and the muscular Steinbolt (GBG champion); powerful Big D and rookie high-flier Ravn represent Denmark’s DPW Wrestling; The NWF from Oslo, Norway sends the largest wrestler in Scandinavia today, former Norwegian wrestling champion Björn Sem, along with his comrades Fevik, Ruslan and Hannibal. In addition, Australia’s The 69er returns to FCF at Domination 8 and WWE talent scout and veteran of the ring wars worldwide, Robbie Brookside, will also lace up his boots at the huge event!  Here is a special look at Robbie Brookside from 15 years back, as he wrestles against Dean Malenko in the much-belated WCW:

I myself will be part of a huge 10-man elimination tag team match, Survivor Series-style, which happens tonight!  I will be captaining my team of big and burly Tuho Torvinen, gender bender Jessica Love, brash Johnny McMetal and my protegé Mikko Maestro, as we go up against the quintet of the newly reborn Stark Adder, his protegé Ricky Vendetta, Björn Sem, Big D and FCF Champion and team leader, King Kong Karhula.

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If you are in the southern area of Finland, be sure NOT TO MISS this mega-spectacle, spanning two days!  Be a part of this historical milestone and come celebrate the 10-year anniversary of Finnish pro wrestling this weekend in Helsinki!

Domination 8: Gods Of The North 

22.3. and 23.3. 19:00 (doors 18:30)
Dom Discotheque Helsinki
Fredrikinkatu 42, Helsinki, Finland 

Tickets at the door: 15 € / day

In advance: 25 € / two days 

http://www.wrestling.fi