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Dr. Darin Davis

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


Tag: Austin Aries

Congratulations to Austin Aries for becoming the TNA Heavyweight Champion after defeating Bobby Roode at the TNA Destination X pay-per-view on July 8th, 2012. Aries chose to end his 298 day reign as TNA X-Division Champion to get a shot at the World title, and it paid off.

Of course, you’ve probably known this for quite awhile before reading it here, so I’ll get to something you may not have known. Aries trained with Eddie Sharkey and Terry Fox (and later with a different wrestling camp) when he made his debut in the Minneapolis,Minnesota area. This was the same camp I was a part of (which I have described in a few previous posts, starting with Wrestling Training).

It was at the same time that Sheik Abdul Bashir (Shawn Daivari) and Bam Neely (Hellraiser Gutz) were being trained. Daivari would later go on to work for the WWE, TNA, and ROH. Neely would work in ECW and the WWE.

I still remember a conversation that occurred when Aries first got into the business. I was talking with some visitor to our wrestling camp – I don’t remember if it was an out-of-town wrestler or a promoter, but it doesn’t matter. It started with a single question.

This guy is really good. How long has he been training?“, the visitor asked.

I pretended to look at a wristwatch I didn’t have and said, “About 45 minutes.

He kind of chuckled and responded with, “No. I don’t mean low long today. I mean how long, in total, has he been in wrestling training.

I looked at him with a straight face and said, “About 45 minutes.

We just looked at each other for a few seconds as if we both knew we were witnessing something special. That this guy, barring injury, would go on to become something great. That he had shown enough talent in less than an hour to convince any promoter that his 5’9″ frame didn’t matter.

Aries has a current tag line of “Austin Aries- The Greatest Man Who Ever Lived“. In the context of professional wrestling, that may turn out to be completely true.


TruTV, the network that has fully embraced “white trash” reality programs, has a TV series called “All Worked Up” that follows repo men, tow truck drivers, bail bondsmen, and other folks that get yelled at and spit at on a daily basis. I happened to catch part of this show for the first time a  couple of weekends ago and I’m finally getting around to mentioning it. It just happened to be episode 104 that included a segment on a security guard (Zach Yeager) for Ring Of Honor (ROH) wrestling.

A couple of loudmouth fans were a little upset at a guy by the name of Austin Aries (heard of him?). They waited around for him outside of the building, and at the risk of giving away the “punch” line, one of them gets tagged hard enough to hit the pavement. And they’re Canadian, for all you Canada haters out there.

The full episode is currently available at the TruTV website, or you can take a look at the YouTube clip of the Aries segment below.

I kind of hate to link to the YouTube clip because it looks like it was posted by one of the clueless jabronies that was involved in the whole scuffle, but it’s easier than shuttling through the full episode. Plus you can leave some nasty comments for them there if you like.

For all you “Where’s Waldo” fans, see if you can spot Colt Cabana.

Last week on TNA Wrestling, Mick Foley fought a “match” against a cardboard cutout of Rocky Balboa.

That reminded me of the Sharkey/Fox wrestling camp back in the late 1990’s when someone introduced “The Dummy” to the roster of wrestling trainees.

“The Dummy” was sort of like a mannequin, except that it wasn’t the hard plastic kind you would normally see in an unnatural pose in a store window. This one had some kind of a wire-frame skeleton that was covered in padding and wrapped in a skin of fabric. Not quite burlap, but something close. I’m not sure what the official name of this contraption would be, but it looked like it was something that fabric could be pinned to. An oversize pincushion in human form. It had a torso, a head, and some skinny arms and legs that were sort of posable.

The Dummy was ranked just below “the rookie” on the seniority scale of the trainees. If someone was working on perfecting a new move, they might work it into match with one of the “veterans”. If it was the first time trying the move out, the veteran could tell them NO (possibly running the risk of being called a pussy). If that happened, then the move would instead be tried on a rookie. The rookie already got to do fun things like setting up the ring before the shows and tearing it down after (and of course doing the same at the wrestling camp if the camp ring was being used at the show). Why not inflict more punishment to make them “pay their dues” for the privilege of someday also being able to say NO (and also possibly being called a pussy).

However, there was some fine print and a hidden clause in the unwritten rules of the wrestling camp. If the move was potentially too dangerous even for the lowly rookie, the move would be attempted instead on The Dummy.

When wrestling The Dummy, the only person at risk for getting injured was yourself, which was acceptable since you were the one trying to do this crazy thing in the first place. The Dummy could take a punch, although he wasn’t the best at selling.  He never refused a beating, probably because he didn’t have a mouth or the ability to do hand gestures.

Some of the better guys, like Austin Aries, could have a pretty entertaining match with The Dummy. It always reminded me of a quote that people had said about Ric Flair 15 or 20 years ago: “Ric Flair could have a great match with a chair.

The Dummy couldn’t refuse, but that also meant that he couldn’t tell you how much it hurt. That part seemed to be the job of Terry Fox. If you tried a move with The Dummy and it looked like it was really stiff, Terry would shout out, “You kiiiiilled him!“.

Nobody wanted the reputation of working stiff. You wanted to work “snug”. There is a big difference. If you ended up “kiiilling” him, good luck finding someone to take that move in a match. Now would be a good time to look around and see who didn’t show up to camp that day. Maybe they would be willing if you told them, “I worked on it in camp- the guy didn’t complain“.

[Updated 10/20/08: Put in a couple more wrestling trainees I forgot to include when I originally published this]

[Updated again 10/21/08: a few more names I forgot to include]

In Part 1, I talked about how I started wrestling training back in 1997 with Eddie Sharkey. In Part 2, I covered the move to a location in Coon Rapids, MN after the closing of the Peacemaker Center, and the addition of trainer Terry Fox, along with Charlie “Thunderblood” Norris and Sam Houston.

Part 3 was intended to cover “the rest”, but I’ve been struggling with how to do this for a couple of months. “The rest” is too big for one post or for several posts and I tend to remember things out of sequence. I think it’s time to drop the numbers. I’ll cover the rest of the overview with this one and then anything else will be sort of random from sometime between the start of Part 1 and the end of Part 3.

Continuing from Part 2…

At the end of the summer of 1997, with the weather growing colder, it was time to find a place inside.

We ended up setting up shop in a garage in St. Louis Park, MN. It was actually in back of Terry Fox’s house that his mom was living in (Terry was living somewhere else). Sometimes she would have us do a few chores like carrying a roll of carpet up from the basement, or other things that she couldn’t do on her own. As long as she had some “big, strong boys” there, might as well put us to work.

In the summer, we could have the ring outside, but in the winter it had to be moved to the garage. At first, there wasn’t much headroom. Even though we were in a shorter ring (the ring posts were sawed off so that it could be used in the low ceilings of a typical bar), if you went vertical more than a couple of feet you would be banging your head. I remember a few people (including me) getting their heads driven into the rafters taking a reverse atomic drop. A few months later Terry would cut away most of the rafters to give us a lot more room. I didn’t really look too closely at what was holding the roof up (didn’t want to know), but it looked like he did a pretty good job of putting in other reinforcements.

The trainees from our previous location stayed in the camp (Robbie and Mike Thunder, Hellraiser Gutz (a.k.a. ECW’s Bam Neely), PrimeTime, “Opera Man”, the Mighty Angus, referee “Diamond” Joe, Hellraiser Blood, and fairly quickly we started getting new recruits.

In the years that I was there, the trainees that I can recall were Thor Tyler, “Playboy” Pete Huge, Big Daddy Hoofer, Ultimate Fighter Brad Kohler, “Andy” (forgot his ring name), Mitch Paradise, Shawn Daivari (a.k.a. Sheik Adnan Bashir in TNA), “City Slicker” Jake Ricker, Ian & Ashley Xavier, K-Train, Scott Free, The Sheriff, Shifty, Lacey, Crystal, Ladyhawk, Cynnamon, Sandy from FL, Morgan P.R., “Ray” (don’t remember his ring name), Austin Aries, Helmut Von Strauss/Justin Lee, Smilin’ Jack Daniels/Devin Nash, Black Stalliion, Drej, Travis Sharpe, Storm Wolf, “Stone Cold” Doug Johnson, Troy “Don’t Call Me Goldberg” Steel, Chuck Diesel, some kid from China (?), and the High Rollers.

At one point I remember counting 17 people training all on the same day. Crazy. Way too many to do anything effectively. Some doing in-ring drills, some on mats outside the ring, some working on punches and other holds. Then “musical chairs” and everyone rotates.

Besides the camp regulars, on Fridays we sometimes had wrestlers from out of town including neighboring states (mostly Wisconsin and Iowa) work out at the camp. They usually were coming in to work a Saturday show and got in a day early to get a little extra ring time. Guys like Travis Lee, Red Lightning, “Superstar” Steve Stardom, Jay Hanna/Mr. Destiny, T.S. Aggressor, Kamikazee Kid, Rain/Payton Banks. Some former Sharkey trainees like Red Tyler and Lenny Lane would also stop by occasionally, along with local wrestling “celebrities” Tim Larson and “Capital City” Kyle.

Other times we had “friendly” promoters like “The Iron Duke” Jim Mitchel, Big Al, and the High Rollers come in to do some talent scouting.

The Split

I’m a little fuzzy on the timeline of what happened next (sometime in 2000?), but there was a growing unrest among some members of the camp. I think part of it had to do with the fact that you couldn’t use the top rope for 8 or 9 months out of the year when the ring was inside. Others may have had some disagreements about paying for heat (which I didn’t mind). Still others thought that we should be learning more advanced moves than some of the basics (armdrags, bodyslams, etc.).

Whatever the various reasons, collectively they were enough to split the camp. The Sheriff and Shifty would go off to form their own training camp under their Midwest Pro Wrestling banner, renting a building in an industrial park area. They started out in St. Louis Park and then moved to Maple Grove. Some people stayed with Terry, some went to MPW, and a few of us participated in both camps (including Sharkey).

Except for the occasional collection of money to pay for propane in the winter, Terry’s camp had the policy that if you were trained there (and you paid your original training fee), you could work out in the camp as long as it was running. The MPW camp had the benefit of high ceilings so top rope moves could be perfected, but with that came a building that needed the rent paid and other expenses. For existing wrestlers that had already been through training, they set up a fee structure much like a health club. For a small monthly fee (I think it was something like $15 a month), you could use the facilities. They also had free weights and some other perks that I never really got to take advantage of. The MPW camp also churned out quite a few wrestlers, including O.D.B.

The Future

March 5th of this year marked the 11th anniversary of my first day of training with Sharkey. December of this year will be 7 years since my last match. Still hard to believe it’s been that long on both counts. A lot has changed since then, both on the local and national scene. Promotions have come and gone, and then come back. TV viewership swings with the mainstream popularity, which then trickles down to the locals. I had started in the business just as the general population was being re-introduced to the WWF/WWE because of a guy named “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. In the same month I started camp, his classic match against Bret Hart at WrestleMania 13 took place. This was the match where Austin bled like a “stuck pig” and would end up passing out rather than quitting when placed in Hart’s Sharpshooter finishing move. After that match, Austin became the next superstar and the wrestling business really took off– even more than it did in the Hulk Hogan era. The local scene usually lags by about 6 months or so, and by the time I was ready to start working matches the shows were being booked at a regular pace.

Around the time I left, the business was starting to slow down again. Guys like Austin and “The Rock” were moving away from wrestling to other parts of the entertainment business and there wasn’t really anyone of that magnitude to fill their shoes. Things eventually slowed down around this area as well.

In the last year or so the local scene seems to have picked up. There seem to be more local shows running and more venues that are promoting wrestling on a regular schedule. I’m not one to predict the future, and I haven’t really researched too far into the past, but I’m guessing that this will always be the normal curve for pro wrestling. The pendulum swings one way and then the other. I don’t think there’s any danger in pro wrestling ever going away at the local or national levels, and at the same time I would be surprised if it ever became more popular than it was in the late 1990s. Luckily for me, I just happened to time it right and get in at the bottom of that upswing.

Now if I could just figure out how to do that for the stock market I’d be set. 😉


Terry Fox continues to run his promotion [MIW]. Wayne McCarty has some pictures of Terry’s latest training camp w/ Austin Aries on his blog.

Sheik Abdul Bashir (a.k.a. Shawn Daivari)

Sheik Abdul Bashir (a.k.a. Shawn Daivari)

Congratulations to Sheik Abdul Bashir (a.k.a. Daivari) for winning the X-Division title at the TNA Pay-Per-View last weekend.

Of the wrestlers to train with Sharkey while I was there, he’s the second one win gold in a major promotion. The first was Austin Aries (as Austin Starr) in TNA.

The TNA web site has more details.

I missed last week’s (4/15) ECW broadcast. At least I don’t remember it. I might have fast forwarded through most of it. I started watching this week’s show and at some point they were showing a recap of some contract signing between Kane and Chavo Guerrero where Kane was attacked by Chavo’s new bodyguard. It was a black and white montage so the bodyguard was only shown for a few frames, but I somehow sensed that I knew him.

Wait! Back it up a second. Let’s see that again (I think I mentioned before I have a TiVo). Crap, that was too fast. Okay, slow motion…Stop!

Hey… if it wasn’t for the shaved head and the beard, I’d say he’s a dead ringer for another wrestler that went through Sharkey‘s camp while I was there. Considering that would have been at least 6 years ago, I think that would give someone enough time to grow a beard. Definitely enough time to shave your head.

I checked around a few sites on the net and found out that my suspicions were right. The bodyguard, who will be called Bam Neely apparently, wrestled in the Minneapolis area as Hellraiser Gutts.

And as Hellfire.

And as Hellfire Gutts.

And as Magnus Maximus.

And maybe a few others that I forgot.

You could use an old line like, “this guy changes gimmicks like I change socks”, but he wasn’t really changing his gimmick, only his name. Basically the same character, same intensity.

Didn’t have any good pictures of his face, but I included a couple of vidcaps of a match I had with him at the Main Event sports bar in Fridley, MN. The second picture is of him giving me a Razor’s Edge (a.k.a. Crucifix Powerbomb). Wayne McCarty has a much better picture of him as Magnus Maximus at his photo site.

Hellfire GuttsIt’s getting to seem like there are a disproportionate number of wrestlers from Sharkey’s camp that are showing up on TV. Daivari, Austin Aries/Starr, Hellraiser Gutts, Payton Banks (though technically she didn’t start training w/ Sharkey). If you throw in guys that came a couple of years before me you can include Lenny Lane. Of course if you go back even farther you get into the Road Warriors and all the guys he was famous for training.

Hellfire gives Dr. Darin Davis a \If you include those that went to The Sheriff‘s Midwest Pro Wrestling training camp that split off from Sharkey’s you can include O.D.B. in the mix.

Maybe it’s just like when you buy a new car, and then notice that every 5th car on the road seems to be the same model as yours. You never noticed it before until you were looking for it. Maybe there are clusters of wrestlers out there from other parts of the country that I don’t notice, but it sure seems like there are a lot of folks from around here.