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Dr. Darin Davis

Minnesota independent pro wrestler discusses past experiences and the current state of pro wrestling

“Rock and Roll” Buck Zumhofe has been in some of the local wrestling news lately. It made me think about one of the first times I met him after I was actually in the business.

We used to do shows at a place called The Wave in Waverly, MN in the late 1990’s. It was a small bar in a small town, but they always had a decent crowd. A lot of locals and quite a few that came in from the Minneapolis suburbs.

At that time Buck was providing the ring and also wrestling on the card.  The ring had to be set up outside because it was too tall to fit in the bar (the owners would later raise the ceiling). It was placed at one end of a rectangular, fenced-off patio area. There were chairs set up starting about six feet from the ring and extending down the length of the patio, which was basically the entire length of the bar.

Back in the “locker room” before the show started, Buck gave out some seasoned advice. I wish I could remember it word-for-word because it was a beautiful speech– the kind of speech that would be worthy of a big-budget Hollywood sports movie. I can only loosely paraphrase, but I think it went something like this:

Wrestling is about telling a story with your match, not about throwing together a bunch of flashy moves in random order. It’s not about doing a bunch of crazy crap off the top rope. Keep it simple, and have a beginning, a middle, and an end. And by all means, the most important thing is to keep it it the ring. I don’t want to see any of you guys going outside the ring. I’m talkin’ to the older guys too, not just the young guys. I don’t want to see anyone brawling into the crowd or going near the fans. I do not want to see anyone grab a chair or anything else. Just keep it in the ring, concentrate on your mat work, and give the people a good show.

For all the matches on the undercard, everyone kept it in the ring. The rookies and the more experienced wrestlers alike. Nobody went outside the ropes. Nobody went into the crowd. Nobody grabbed any objects. Nobody did any high-risk moves. They stayed in the ring.

Until the main event, that is.

The main event was Buck vs. The Hater. In this match, they were barely even in the ring. After the opening bell (or maybe even before), they were outside the ring. They were brawling in the crowd. There were chairs used. There was beer thrown. And the crowd went crazy with excitement.

I remember looking out of the doorway of the bar into the patio area during the match and seeing them brawling outside the ring. I’m sure I had a confused look on my face. Then it hit me- we’d been “worked”.

What the hell? He had everyone on the undercard tone down their match so that the main event would shine. Welcome to pro wrestling, kid!

At the time I felt kind of betrayed, but I also felt a little bit of admiration. That was a really ballsy move. I wish I could pull something like that off. Like seeing a magician make a woman disappear in front of your eyes, you wonder how good they had to be to do it when your guard was already up.

As I’m writing this now, I kind of see things from a different perspective. Did he give us that advice so that he could save something for the main event? Sure. Was it the right thing to do in that situation? Maybe it was.

Was everything he said true? Yes. You don’t need to have 30 high-spots in a match to get the crowd excited. You do need to tell a story.

Did a lot of the guys on the card get more experienced at ring psychology? Yes.

Did the crowd have a good time? Yes. Did they think the main event was the best match, ending the night on a high note? Yes.

Did they think they got their money’s worth? Yes. Did they come back for the next show? Yes.

While I don’t agree with holding the guys in the undercard down, you can’t argue with years of success. According to Buck, he started wrestling in 1976, and he’s still wrestling nearly every weekend in 2011. To stay in it that long, the guy must be doing something right.

We all know that non-wrestling media (blogs or “mainstream”) typically get anything related to wrestling wrong. So it should be no surprise that when a kid in Australia was suspended for putting some kind of move on a bully, they got it wrong again. One site referred to the move as a “body slam” (which it wasn’t), and another referred to as a “jackknife powerbomb” (which it wasn’t either, although this was closer). See the video here.

Am I asking too much? Probably, although someone who actually knows that there is such a thing as a jackknife powerbomb should know what it looks like.

So here’s our chance to set the record straight. Since the maneuver seemed kind of random (like what a 3 year old would do with a cat), it might be hard to match this up with an actual pro wrestling move. Still, it seems like I’ve seen something similar before.

Got any ideas? You might want to consult Wikipedia, or The Big, Big, Book of Wrestling Moves, or this other site. If you come up with anything, leave it in the comments.

And remember kids, don’t try this kind of stuff at home… or at school. Leave it to the professionals like Casey.

Photo: JT Draws

Last month, Brody Hoofer had what is believed to be his final professional wrestling match (I always need to qualify these things when it comes to pro-wrestling). I thought it would be interesting to take a look back at an interview he did back in  July of 2000 (about 18 months into his 12 year career).

The following interview was conducted by Tim Larson, who used to publish the Upper Midwest Wrestling Newsletter. Other issues of the newsletter can be found at the UMWN Archives page.

You can also find various interviews and pictures of Hoofer at Wayne McCarty‘s site:

On to the interview…

Big Daddy Hoofer

20 Questions
July 22, 2000

1. How and when did you get in the wrestling business?

Towards the end of summer in ’98, I was working at my job and noticed a customer wearing an obscure ECW shirt.  Being an established ECW mark, I commented on it and sparked a conversation.  The customer was Marv Rubin and he was on his way to coffee with Eddie Sharkey down the street.  Marv asked if I ever wanted to be a part of the business.  I did, so I went for it.

2. Describe Big Daddy Hoofer, the wrestler, to us.

BDH is a loving man – well, he loves himself.  He has great disdain for nearly everybody else.  BDH is an attacking wrestler who will take three stiff bumps to get one in.  The high-flying is working it’s way into his repertoire.

3. What are your strengths in the wrestling business?

I really work to involve the crowd in the match.  I was trained to have good pacing, which as I mature in the ring has been crucial in having solid matches. I am always eager to learn and never ignore feedback.  Also, you won’t catch me whining about someone working stiff.

4. What have been your top athletic accomplishments other than professional wrestling?

I used to play a lot of volleyball, getting involved in and having some success in 2-on-2 beach tourneys.  I also placed second in the 1992 4th of July three point shoot-out at NERCC.

5. Who is your favorite all-time wrestler?

I loved Ric Flair‘s character, and marvel at Eddie Guerrero‘s ringwork, but if I was pressed to name one (with no fear of being cliche), it would be Mick Foley. I noticed Cactus Jack during his first WCW run and he just stood out
to me. I actually met him after SuperBrawl 2 in Milwaukee, so that added to my attachment to him.  His wild bumps, his fantastic promos, and his long climb to success are all things I admire.

6. What is the best match you’ve ever had?

Last summer’s North Dakota State Fair in Minot, Playboy Pete Huge and I opened the show in front of a huge crowd and tore it up for 19:58 in the 100-degree sun.  The crowd was really into us and was completely pissed when I went over.  All the boys were very complimentary and Pete and I were proud.

7. What is the first card you ever saw live?

An AWA show at the Duluth Arena in like 1983.  The main was to be Road Warriors-Hennigs, but the LOD no-showed and a near-riot ensued.  I even wrote a letter to the promoter to express my disappointment.  I did get Buck Zumhofe‘s autograph though!

8. What is the best wrestling match you saw live?

Probably Pillman-Liger at Superbrawl 2.  Right before I met Cactus after the show, I met Gordon Solie and Lance Russell.  Gordon and I spoke about that match, and I remember him commenting that the referee in that match never had to scold the participants for rule-breaking.  I thought it was cool that somebody who had been inside the business that long would look at a match that way.

9.  Quick comments…

a) Playboy Pete Huge … Pete and I cut our teeth together in the business. We helped each other learn and logged a lot of road time together.  Good guy, good worker, and I look forward to stomping his ass again sometime soon.

b) Ed Sharkey … Ed rules.  Just a tremendous asset to the Minnesota scene. A million stories, a million holds, and a fun guy to be around. I am very lucky to be under his tutelage.

c) Terry Fox … The guy can wear every hat imaginable in this business: ref, ring-man, worker, commissioner, promoter.  He loves the show and I look at him as the grease in engine, keeping it running smooth.

d) Sheriff Johnny Emerald … As many of my legendary one-liners have targeted the Sheriff,  I have a lot of respect for the old guy.  His work has improved tenfold in the last year, and is a very fair man on the promoting end.  I was proud to put him over for the WA2K cruiserweight title recently – we had a hot match.

e) Shifty … I don’t know Shifty well, but I sure like to watch him work. Great moves and charisma.  We hooked up a bit in a tag match, and I would like to see more of him inside the ring.

f) Dr. Darin Davis … A very good worker with a hot gimmick.  He helped me a lot in my early days of camp.  I like the Doc a lot, and am inspired by his gutsy comeback.

g) Helmut von Strauss … Helmut is just breaking in, but his matches have had the look of a more veteran grappler.  I’d like to mix it up with him, particularly because I think it’d be fun to stiff a Utah Jazz fan.

h) Scott Free … Scott is another who tutored me quite a bit in camp. Has a good head for the game, has a sweet arsenal of moves, and can go hardcore.  I appreciate his help.

i) K-Train … Kraig is kool!  He’s real solid in the ring, and I’d like to see him on more shows.  Key cog for the Main Event shows.

j) Ian Xavier … My partner in crime and a damn good one at that.  His 30-minute Broadway with Mitch Paradise blew me away.  Got a lot of skills in the ring and a knack for the business.  He’s the driving force behind Cruel & Unusual and I’m fortunate to have him as my ally.

k) Cynnamon … A real sweetie who loves the business.  I’ve enjoyed having her by my side and she’s got real potential.  Hope we’re back together soon!

l) Hellraiser Gutts [a.k.a. Bam Neely]… The best around here right now, and surely on his way to bigger and better things.  Has got it all and I hope he takes it far.

m) Hellraiser Blood … Blood knows his craft inside and out. I’ve always enjoyed watching him draw heat from the crowd.  The guy can tell a great story and crack me up too.

n) Primetime … I was always impressed with his spots, but I remember one time when Blood stated that no one had better psychology in his matches than Primetime.  I paid better attention next time, and I found him to be correct. That’s why his matches are so memorable.

o) Mitch Paradise … Mitch and I started with Eddie about the same time, and I’ve seen his skills skyrocket firsthand.  Probably the nicest guy in the locker room too.  Should be on his way to stardom.

p) Steve Stardom … A newcomer to the local scene with plenty of skills. A hard worker who scares some, but not me!

q) Kenny Jay … Helluva friendly guy, and I’m not afraid to mark a little about meeting guys who I’ve seen on TV for years.

r) Buck Zumhofe … Pretty cool to go through getting his autograph in ’83 to doing an angle with him in ’99.  Always entertaing to be around and can fire up the crowds still.

s) High Rollers … Great, fun guys.  They’ve always treated me well and I dig working with them.  Among the tops at working the crowd.

t) Lenny Lane … Great talent and always been very cool to me.  It means a lot to the younger workers when a guy in his position comes back to lend advice.  I hope he ends up somewhere good.

u) Scotty Zappa … This guy gets plenty of props, but I would still say he’s underrated.  All the tools you could ask for.  One of my best learning experiences early in my career was reffing a match between him and Lenny.

v) Chi-Town Thug … Talented, well-rounded worker.  I’ve seen him wrestle numerous types of workers and adapting to them all well.  I like his manager too!

w) Robbie Thunder … This guy has loads of skill.  I’ve been lobbying to get booked versus this guy – I think we’d be great together.  GET SOME GEAR!

x) Mick Karch … The key guy in getting the boys over.  I’m kind of baffled as to why he’s not featured in the big three but amglad to have him here. Loves what he does and is a wealth of knowledge.

y) Jerry Lynn … One of my favorite wrestlers to watch period.  I’d met him just as an ECW mark, and when he was hurt, he’d be popping up at the local shows.  Cool guy with good taste in music and a deserving star.

z) Stormwolf … Stormwolf can really go and we’ve had some good battles. Has been too busy for camp lately, but when he’s in there, he’s put together a good array.  Major league dropkick.

10. What has been the highlight of your wrestling career so far?

The Minot show referenced in question #6

11. What has been the lowpoint of your career?

Landing on my nuts on a top rope legdrop was quite unpleasant.

12.  Who would you really like to work with locally and nationally that you haven’t?

Locally, I’d like singles bouts with Shifty, the Doctor, and Rob Thunder. Nationally, I would really enjoy working an ironman match with Lita.

13. Who has been the biggest influence on you in the business?

Ed Sharkey and Terry Fox have shown the way, and seeing the way the Chicago guys (Pearce, Dominion, Steel, etc.) handle themselves has influenced me as well.

14.  Compare/contrast yourself as a singles and tag team wrestler.

It is easier to focus on a singles match just because the are fewer people involved.  I was hesitant to be in a tag team just because I’m a spotlight hog. In a tag battle, with rest time on the apron, I have time to work the
crowd a little more and that also gives me a bit more time to think of what I want to do next.

15. How much time do you spend on wrestling each week?

I would say about twenty to twenty-five hours.  I wish I was getting paid well to do this so I could lose the day job and focus even more on my craft.

16. What is the one thing that surprised you most about the wrestling business?

Probably the brotherhood that is ‘the boys.’  Even though large egos are involved, most everyone is in this to make their co-workers look good.

17.  Give us a brief summary of your career.

Debuted 2/99 in Spooner, feuded with Pete Huge for that summer. Formed Cruel & Unusual in the fall of ’99 and became MIW I-C tag champs.  Won the WA2K cruiserweight title from Sheriff Emer-old, held it for a couple months, dropped it back to him.  Undefeated in cage matches to boot.

18. What is the one thing you would most like to improve on?

My body. I just need to find the time to dedicate myself to the weights. If I get some muscles, I think I bring a pretty stellar package to the table.

19. If you could book one match, what would it be?

Nationally, I would like to see a six-man elimination tag match pitting Dean Malenko, Chris Jericho, and Lance Storm vs. Eddie Guerrero, Chris Benoit, and Jerry Lynn. Locally, I would pit Mitch Paradise against Johnny Emer-old in a shootfight.

20. What are your goals for 2000?

Besides adding bulk to myself, I’d like to see C & U hit the road and become known over a more vast area. Also, I’d love to go work for Michinoku Pro or something like that.

On Saturday Jan 8th 2011, I helped out as a referee at the MIW show in Chanhassen, MN. Luckily, I got to work the main event of the night (actually, it was a request, not luck, but I felt privileged that they wanted me for their match).

The main event that night was Brody Hoofer vs. “Playboy” Pete Huge, with the stipulation that the loser had to leave MIW (and presumably wrestling).The event ended up selling out at the American Legion, with more than a dozen fans being turned away due to the inability to squeeze anyone else into the room (a.k.a. fire code).

Back in 1998, when I was still in the Eddie Sharkey/Terry Fox wrestling training camp near Minneapolis, MN (see Part 1, Part2, and Part 3), two of our new trainees were Pete and Hoofer (I think Pete started first, but I don’t know what the gap was between them). They ended up being ready for a card in the bright lights, small city of Spooner, WI around the same time, so they had their first match against each other there in Feb 1999. At the time, I think Pete was going by the ring name Damien Navarro, and Hoofer was Big Daddy Hoofer. I was on the card also, probably against the Mighty Angus, and I’m almost certain I witnessed their first match. After a twelve year feud, I may have also seen their last match.

At the end of a great contest that included some of the moves and counter-moves used in their very first match, with the crowd exhausted and getting more than their money’s worth, with a long string of false finishes behind them, Pete was victorious and Hoofer was forced to leave the world of professional wrestling.

Although he didn’t get the win, he got the girl (Pete’s valet Allison Wonderland), and he got even more respect than he already had. Besides the great reputation he has built over the years with his fellow trainees and his many opponents, tag team partners, and friends, and he has also earned the respect of many of this industry’s greatest veterans like Honky Tonk Man, “Wild” Bill Irwin, and Road Warrior Animal, just to name a few.

It’s the end of one road, and the start of another. Good luck to Hoofer in whatever dangerous hobby he decides to pursue next. I’m just happy I got to participate in both the beginning, and in the end, of Hoofer’s career in professional wrestling.

At the start of each year, I put together a post of what I felt my best articles were for the previous year. The year 2009 was a pretty good, with quite a few items to select from for the “best of the year” list. The year 2010? Not so much.

Between work and other things (mostly work), I haven’t done a lot of writing on here, and what I have done was not exactly the type I set out to do. Yes, this is a wrestling site and I wrote about wrestling, but the best thing I could do is share personal stories about my time as a pro wrestler that you won’t hear from any of the traditional wrestling sources.

I will try to do a better job sharing more of these stories in the coming year.


Below are the my best articles for the year 2010, listed in chronological order. If you didn’t get a chance to see them when they were first posted, you may want to check these out.

Previous articles are always available through the Archives box on the right, the Category selection, or the Search box.

  • WWE: Don’t Call Us Wrestling (Jan): The WWE has spent at least the last several years, maybe the last decade, telling anyone who would listen that they are an entertainment company and not a wrasslin‘ company. Wrestling is apparently a dirty word.
  • TNA Monday Night War (Jan): TNA Wrestling had a live 3 hour broadcast on Monday Jan 4th, in direct competition with the WWE‘s live Monday Night Raw program. I describe the Good, the Bad, and a few that are On the Fence.
  • Invisible Wrestler (Feb): I usually don’t go for the stuff that requires a huge “suspension of disbelief“, but once in a while something comes along that I just have to share.
  • TNA Towel: 2, Believability: 0 (Apr): On a Monday night on TNA Impact, we got to see the TNA BloodyTowel ™ used again on a broadcast. Now I have to add another clause to the footnote of my answer of one of the most often asked question by casual or non-wrestling fans: Is the blood real?
  • TNA Waves the White Flag (May): After a few months of trying to compete head-to-head with Monday Night Raw, TNA retreats back to Thursdays.
  • TNA Should Add Bloody Towel to Roster (Jun): Since the towel has now gotten more air time than TNA president Dixie Carter, I figure TNA should just add the thing to their official roster.
  • The Highs and Lows of Monday Night Raw (Jun): The birth of NXT (high) and one of the most embarrassingly awful series of skits  with the actors from the new A-Team movie (low) all in the same episode of Raw.
  • Bigger Stronger Faster* (Jul): I rarely review movies here, but this was an exceptional documentary about the use, abuse, and propaganda of steroids. You may remember the filmmaker’s brother, Mike Bell, as an occasional jobber for the WWE, and for his death a few years after this documentary was filmed.
  • Final Match Rating Results (Jul): In July of 2009, I started collecting some data about the wrestling programming I was watching. What I was measuring this time was the number of matches per hour, and the quality of those matches as judged by a simple rating system. These are the final results after one year.
  • Final Wrestler Stats (Aug): I also have some Final Wrestler Stats. I used the same data to see who my top wrestlers were based on a simple match rating system.
  • Wait ‘Til Jumbo Gets Here (Sep): Quite often something seemingly unrelated triggers a memory that I decide to share on this site. Here’s a story from about 15 years ago…
  • My Wrestler Rankings vs. PWI 500 (Oct): I compared the list of wrestler rankings based on my data (see August above) to the PWI 500 for the year ending June 2010 to see if there was any correlation.
  • Line, Please (Nov): Comments on the Piper’s Pit segment and a supposedly leaked script from Monday Night Raw a year before, which implied that all of the wrestler promos were scripted by the “creative” dept.

WrestleZone is crediting PWInsider with reporting that the WWE Monday Night Raw guest host concept may be finished after about a year and a half of pulling in celebrities to boost exposure to the programming. I couldn’t find the original story, but I found a similar one on the Bleacher Report.

I don’t know if either story is based on some “insider” comments, or just their observation that the guest host section has been pulled from the WWE web site.

When Raw first started using this format, I wasn’t sure what to make of it (Raw Guest Hosts Not About Ratings?). After a little more investigation, it seemed like an ingenious idea (WWE + Talk Show = Raw), but not without its flaws. A shorter-term strategy that didn’t have a clear longer-term payoff as far as an increase in ratings.

Since then I have been more critical (Monday Night Boos, The Highs and Lows of Monday Night Raw, WWE: Don’t Call Us Wrestling).

I guess this has run its course, which seems like a good thing. Although I don’t see the product improving anytime soon as a result of this, and I’m a little nervous about what “great” idea they’ll come up with next.

I don’t spend too much time reading the wrestling sheets or sites. Partly because I actually want to be surprised when something happens on-air, and partly because there is just so much activity out there between “news” sites and blogs that it’s hard to separate the signal from the noise.

So it’s probably mostly luck that I stumbled across an opinion piece by Mark Madden on the WrestleZone site that touched on something I had meant to ask a year ago.

Mark says this,

Everyone is RAVING about the Piper’s Pit segment on Raw, citing [it] as evidence that old-school characters like Roddy Piper have it all over today’s crap performers.

That’s incorrect.

Oh, Piper was BRILLIANT. He added more value to the WWE title by talking about it than any champion of the past 10 years has done by wearing it. He led John Cena and Wade Barrett around like dogs on leashes, and to great effect.

and this,

But the reason that segment sparkled was because Roddy’s lines weren’t scripted. He [knew] what to advance, and he advanced it within the context of the Roddy Piper character, which he knows much better than anybody else who could ever write words for that character.

I beat this drum A LOT, but it’s a drum that needs beaten. WWE (and TNA) do things that are NOT a matter of opinion, NOT thinking outside the box, NOT a reasonable alternative. They’re just WRONG.

Scripting promos word-for-word is WRONG. It sounds like everyone’s speaking in the same voice.

I haven’t read any detailed reports about the level that the interviews and segments are scripted in WWE. I remember reading what was supposedly a “leaked” Monday Night Raw script, but I wasn’t convinced it was actually real. It looked realistic format-wise, but I have a hard time believing that anybody would be able to memorize a 10 minute promo the day of the event and not screw it up.

I am also guilty of fast-forwarding through just about all the interviews on every wrestling program, so I would only be giving an opinion on the small number that I have heard (Piper’s segment was one of them). But for the sake of discussion, lets assume that the “creative” team actually writes out the dialog for every interview.

Why would they do this? I can see where they have some bullet points or guidance to provide because they have the angles and feuds mapped out probably 6 to 9 months in advance. They know when all the Pay-Per-Views are scheduled and they are trying to set the road map for the company. But why would they actually write out the complete dialog for someone to memorize word-for-word?

If you’ve ever read anything about the Larry David show “Curb Your Enthusiasm” or any similar improv-style program, you know that they just have an outline and a general direction and the rest is improvised. That sounds like the perfect model for wrestling. It works as long as you’ve got guys that can talk, and wrestling has that.

The workers are going to have better ideas about the words they should choose and the personality of their character than some ex-sitcom hacks that the WWE hired. Maybe “creative” should worry less about the intricate details of the promos, and spend more time preventing  stupid decisions like making Vladymir Kozlov and Ezekiel Jackson babyfaces, keeping Kane employed, and having Microsoft Outlook be the WWE general manager.

Back in the beginning of August, I posted rankings of the top 15 wrestlers in the WWE and in TNA based on my own data on the quality of the matches over a one year period (Final Wrestler Stats)

Around the same time, Pro Wrestling Illustrated released their yearly PWI Top 500 wrestlers list. Regardless of what you think of their ranking system (I don’t remember how much effect reader ballots have on the rankings vs. PWI staff voting), I thought it would be interesting to match up my list with theirs to see how they compared.

Below are the same rankings I originally published, with the addition of the PWI top 500 ranking. Coincidently, the PWI rankings span the same months as my data collection (July through June).

WWE Top 15

Here are the Top 15 wrestlers under the WWE brands and their PWI 500 rankings for July 2009 through June 2010:

Name PWI 500 Ranking
1. John Morrison 27
2. Evan Bourne 63
2. Chris Jericho 21
2. Jack Swagger 5
5. Rey Mysterio 13
5. Christian 22
7. Dolph Ziggler 50
8. Kofi Kingston 26
8. Zack Ryder 117
10. CM Punk 3
11. Miz 12
12. Shelton Benjamin 76
12. John Cena 2
12. Jeff Hardy 20
12. Yoshi Tatsu 78

TNA Top 15

For TNA, there is only one program available that I was tracking (TNA Impact).

Here are the Top 15 wrestlers under the TNA brand and their PWI 500 rankings for July 2009 through June 2010:

Name PWI 500 Ranking
1. AJ Styles 1
2. Samoa Joe 31
3. Kurt Angle 9
4. Christopher Daniels 47
5. Chris Sabin 95
6. D’Angelo Dinero 87
6. Amazing Red 36
6. Doug Williams 45
6. Desmond Wolfe 28
10. Suicide/Kaz 92
10. Alex Shelley 88
10. Hamada not ranked
13. Matt Morgan 38
13. Hernandez 71
15. Sarita not ranked


Just what I expected… absolutely no correlation between my rankings and the PWI 500 (except for A.J. Styles in TNA).

You can see all the details about the rankings on the Wrestler Match Ratings page.

You can also look at the spreadsheet here– Google Docs: Wrestler Match Ratings Spreadsheet

Quite often something seemingly unrelated triggers a memory that I decide to share on this site. Here’s a story from about 15 years ago…

Back in 1995, before I started in professional wrestling, I was just a fan going to some of the local shows (big surprise). The independent scene had recently been heating up after several years of absolutely nothing, so I had been attending shows more frequently.

On one particular weekend, I went to three different shows in three days (Fri, Sat, Sun). I remember that it was also the first time I met Dale Spear, who attended many of the matches and later did color commentary, alongside play-by-play man  “Slick” Mick Karch, for St. Paul Championship Wrestling (SPCW) and Steel Domain Wrestling (SDW). Dale came up to me during the second show of the weekend and asked me if I was Pro Wrestling Illustrated writer Steve Anderson. He didn’t know why anybody besides him and a guy that worked as a wrestling journalist would be at multiple shows in the same weekend. I told him I wasn’t Steve, and I didn’t know why someone would do it either.

I don’t remember the name of the tiny bar in Minneapolis we were at, but I remember some of the locals weren’t exactly at the forefront of society. In fact, I would have thought I was down south if it weren’t for the noticeable Minnesota accents.

The promotion had the shorter ring set up (the mat was about two feet off the ground instead of about four), which was good because above the ring were a couple of ceiling fans. All of them still spinning. I remember thinking: I guess I’m not going to see anyone go off the top rope tonight.

The crowd was unusually vocal. Every time a wrestler walked to the ring, one of the regulars would say something like, “Wait ‘til Jumbo gets here. You won’t be such a big shot then!”. I kept looking around to see where this “Jumbo” guy was. Nobody in sight fit the bill.

There were about five matches on the card, so around ten to twelve wrestlers walking to the ring (12 if there was a tag match). Each time a new guy came out someone would say, “Wait ‘til Jumbo gets here…something, mumble, something…”. I felt like I was in some kind of David Lynch movie. Or maybe the Coen brothers.

Near the end of the night, in what was probably the main event, out walks a guy that had to be close to seven feet tall. Probably around 450 or 500 pounds. Of solid fat. As he climbed up on the ring apron, his head was just a few feet below the ceiling fan.

This must be Jumbo. Ok, I can see why everyone would be worked up about him. I’m guessing not a great wrestler, no five-star matches, but at least an oddity that the locals could get behind. At least they had their hero for the night.

The ring announcer introduced him as Sampson. A few seconds later, one of the locals said, “Yeah, you just wait til Jumbo gets here. Then you’ll be sorry!

Oh…crap. He’s not Jumbo. Then who is Jumbo? I’m not sure I want to be present when Jumbo actually gets here. I don’t think he’s with the show. Maybe he’s a bouncer that works here, or some guy that wants to prove how tough he is (several years later, at the one show in Waverly that I missed, there was a big brawl between a few bar patrons and the wrestlers).

Against my better judgment I stayed for the whole show. But Jumbo never did get there. Whether he was a real person or not, I’m not sure. To me he was kind of like the boogieman. Or Freddy Kruger. Something you could threaten your kids with when you want them to behave.

What if somewhere there’s a tribe of people whose whole culture and religion revolves around waiting for “Jumbo” to return. Maybe, just maybe, over several thousands of years they walked across a land bridge to North America, and their descendents settled in Minneapolis.

Yeah, seems a little far-fetched to me too.

Probably just an overweight bouncer with an attitude.

From July 2009 through June of 2010, I collected some stats on the WWE Monday Night Raw, WWE Smackdown, and TNA wrestling products (and ECW until their shutdown on 2/19/2010). I was measuring the quality of the matches on each program by giving each one a “Thumb” rating. A great match gets one Thumb Up, an outstanding “match-of-the-year” candidate gets two Thumbs Up, and everything else gets zero (I was also giving Thumbs Down– more on that later).

When I recorded the Thumb Rating, I also happened to write down the names of the wrestlers that were involved in the matches. Since I had the data, I decided to total these up for each wrestler involved. All participants in the match got the same number of points.

You can read all the details and a bit of analysis on the Wrestler Match Ratings page, including a link to the spreadsheet so you can see the numbers for yourself.

I’m providing a quick summary below.

Top 15 in WWE and TNA

For the WWE, I used the combined data from the Raw, Smackdown, and ECW programming to calculate the rankings. I assigned one point per Thumb, so the scoring should be obvious.

WWE Top 15

Here are the Top 15 wrestlers under the WWE brands:

Name Total 1 Thumb Up 2 Thumbs Up
1. John Morrison 24 20 2
2. Evan Bourne 18 18 0
2. Chris Jericho 18 16 1
2. Jack Swagger 18 18 0
5. Rey Mysterio 17 13 2
5. Christian 17 15 1
7. Dolph Ziggler 15 15 0
8. Kofi Kingston 14 12 1
8. Zack Ryder 14 14 0
10. CM Punk 13 11 1
11. Miz 8 8 0
12. Shelton Benjamin 7 7 0
12. John Cena 7 7 0
12. Jeff Hardy 7 3 2
12. Yoshi Tatsu 7 7 0

TNA Top 15

For TNA, there is only one program available that I was tracking (TNA Impact).

Here are the Top 15 wrestlers under the TNA brand:

Name Total 1 Thumb Up 2 Thumbs Up
1. AJ Styles 22 12 5
2. Samoa Joe 13 11 1
3. Kurt Angle 12 6 3
4. Christopher Daniels 11 7 2
5. Chris Sabin 10 8 1
6. D’Angelo Dinero 9 9
6. Amazing Red 9 9
6. Doug Williams 9 9
6. Desmond Wolfe 9 5 2
10. Suicide/Kaz 8 8
10. Alex Shelley 8 8
10. Hamada 8 8
13. Matt Morgan 7 7
13. Hernandez 7 7
15. Sarita 6 6

Take a look at all the details on the Wrestler Match Ratings page.

You can also look at the spreadsheet here: Google Docs: Wrestler Match Ratings Spreadsheet