I came across some sad news last week. Al Pabon, Minnesota wrestling personality and former producer of “Slick” Mick’s Bodyslam Review and other pro wrestling video productions, has passed away at the age of 46.
I saw the following on ProWrestling.net:
Twin Cities pro wrestling personality Al Pabon died in his sleep on Friday at age 46. Pabon did production work for “The Bodyslam Revue,” “Pro Wrestling Today,” and the Steel Domain Wrestling television show, among others. He was working for the Civil Air Patrol in Lexington, Ky. at the time of his death.
Pabon’s longtime friend Mick Karch wrote the following regarding Pabon on his Facebook page.
“Al was so vital to local, independent wrestling. He founded ‘Tac2‘ video productions and became very good friends with hundreds of the local wrestlers, fans and promoters.
“His extensive volume of work–those thousands upon thousands of hours of video tape–will last forever. His production capabilities aside, Al was a fantastic human being. He was brilliant, driven and committed to his work with the Civil Air Patrol. He was intense, opinionated, and spirited.”
The article also said “…you can read the full post at Mick Karch’s Facebook page.”, but I was unable to find it [let me know if you have better luck. I’m not on Facebook, so that could have something to do with it].
You can read more about Al from his colleagues in the Civil Air Patrol and other organizations at the links below, but I’d like to close with some of my thoughts.
I knew of Al before I broke into the business. Although I didn’t know how involved he was in the production at the time, he could be seen working the handheld camera at various independent wrestling shows when I was still just a fan.
Shortly after starting training camp, and before I had my first match Terry Fox took a bunch of us to the Northwest Community Television (NWCT) studios in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota to cut a practice promo. Al was there and I believe Mick Karch was there also. After Al gave us a tour of the studio, we all got in a line and each person was supposed to stand on their mark, look directly into the camera, and put yourself over for 30 seconds.
My first interview was, well…, not good. Probably terrible. Until you are standing in the studio and staring into a camera lens you don’t realize how hard it is. I also didn’t have much to say at this point… no upcoming match scheduled, no wrestling opponent to bad-mouth, and just 30 seconds ago I picked the ring name of Darin Davis. Al was an extremely nice guy, but what I really appreciated was that he didn’t pretend like it was good. He said something like, “Ok. Let’s try it again. This time try to be a little less…” “Monotone?“, I asked. “Yes“, he said. “You sound like you’re reading something you’ve memorized. You need to sound like you would if you were talking to me, but looking in the camera“, he said. I did it again like I was talking to Al, but looking in the camera. “Much better“, he said.
It was much better. In fact, it was a lot better. It sounds simple enough, but how many times would I have had to fail before figuring that out on my own?
Since that day he had continued to give good critiques of many of my matches, and to help with future promos in the studio or at the events. Even after we were both out of the business we would run into each other occasionally and he would go out of his way to say hello and shake my hand. He was a talented producer and an all around great guy. He will be missed.
More about Al Pabon:
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.
On to the interview…
July 22, 2000
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
The Minot show referenced in question #6
Landing on my nuts on a top rope legdrop was quite unpleasant.
Locally, I’d like singles bouts with Shifty, the Doctor, and Rob Thunder. Nationally, I would really enjoy working an ironman match with Lita.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
If you were expecting to see a YouTube video of my actual birth, you won’t find it here. It was so long ago it would have had to have been on film (pre- VCR), and I don’t think my mom would have appreciated being broadcast on the internet with feet in the stirrups.
Angus said he’d like to book me, but that everyone else on his show had some kind of a “gimmick” and I didn’t. There was Farmer Mike, Playboy Pete Huge, Big Daddy Hoofer, The Masked Jungle Fighter, The High Rollers, Haystacks Ross, and others (at least I think these guys were at the Spooner show I’m thinking of and not a different show there, so let’s pretend they were). Then there was just plain old Darin Davis, with his black tank top and black tights.
Angus suggested that I pick something like a doctor. Maybe I could come out in a white lab coat or something. I figured why not, it’s only for one show anyway.
Luckily Opera Man, another guy from Ed Sharkey‘s camp, worked at the laundry in a hospital. They probably threw their scrubs out after a few washes, so they wouldn’t notice if a few were missing, would they…?
So I had the scrubs and I had the name (Dr. Darin Davis). Am I missing anything? A couple of days before the show, I was driving by Axeman Surplus on Minnetonka Blvd in St. Louis Park, MN on the way to wrestling camp. I had the idea that maybe I should see if they had any surgical gloves. Why not, it’s only for one show anyway.
They had a few that I picked up, and another one that I’ll tell you about at a different time. I was now officially a world-class surgeon. From Minneapolis. No, wait,… from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester. Yeah.
I rode to the show with Opera Man, who had sort of “retired” from wrestling after just a few matches and started working as referee Bob Boyer. Sharkey gave him the name. It was probably the name of some old-timey wrestler that Eddie worked with. It sounded better than most of Sharkey’s name suggestions. Usually he would say “Sammy Foreskin” when someone asked him for one. He was the one that told SPCW/SDW promoter Ed Hellier‘s son that he should go by the name “Frank Stool” when he started refereeing matches. And he used it. All Eddie’s suggestions were a “rib”, and he probably got a big kick out of it when they stuck. I don’t think anyone went with “Sammy” though.
We got to the show (I think it was the Spooner Ice Arena or Civic Center) and when they started lining up the matches, commentator and legendary wrestling personality “Slick” Mick Karch asked me, “What kind of a doctor are you?“. I was going to tell him I was a surgeon, but for some reason I responded with, “I’m a proctologist“. Why not, it’s just for one show. I’ve already got the glove.
Back in the locker room, I met my opponent, Mikey Medallion, for the first time. Mikey was going to be the “face” (the “good guy”) and I was the “heel”. I hadn’t seen him wrestle before, and he hadn’t seen me. It’s always tough the first time to figure out what kind of wrestling style a person has if you haven’t seen them wrestle. The style they say they have (cruiserweight, brawler, power, technical, etc.) might not be the same as what you think they meant. The only thing you can do is make a guess based on their size. I guessed more of a cruiserweight style, which turned out to be right.
Now comes the “fun” part. I’ve already set myself up as a proctologist, so now I have to break it to this guy that at some point that I need to figure out how to set him up for some kind of “exam”.
“Your going to do what, now?“, he said.
“I want to make it look like I’m going to examine you. You know, your… uh… prostate”, I said.
“Yeah. Like in a doctor’s office.”
“I know what your talking about. But how is that going to work?”
“I don’t know yet. How do they actually do it?”
“I don’t know man. I’m too young to know that!”
“Well, if you were bent over somehow.”
“Like after a boot to the gut or something?”
“Ok. Wait..wait. But then what happens?!?”
“Then I go in for the exam”
“Ok, but you said you look like your going to give me an exam. What stops you from actually giving me an exam?”
“Uh… I’ll have the ref stop it”
“Ok, but get him over here now. I want to make sure he knows he needs to stop it!”
I don’t think Mikey was too relaxed before the match. I could imagine him thinking that he’d talk to some wrestler a week later and they’d say, “He didn’t give you that B.S. that the ref was going to stop hit, did he? He always says that!”
The match went on pretty much without a hitch. Any men in the audience over the age of 50 started to squirm when the glove came out. Mick Karch did an excellent job as usual on commentary, building up to the unveiling of the glove by continually saying, “He didn’t say what kind of a doctor he was…” and then “Oh my God, he’s a proctologist!”
One of the equipment setups that was special for this show was that they had monitors in the locker room so the boys could see the matches. When I got back there, everyone was rolling on the floor laughing. Several people told me that I needed to use that gimmick permanently.
A great post match interview with Mick pretty much sealed the deal. The gimmick seemed to fit. I looked a lot more like a doctor than a bodybuilder or a bouncer, or a biker. It was more believable. And it worked as a heel.
I had a show a week or two later where I had to be the face. I used the same gimmick but I didn’t use the glove. “It wouldn’t work“, I said. “You can’t be a crowd favorite and do that.” I could have just tried it for one match, but I was already thinking longer term and that I was going to be doing this gimmick for a while, so I didn’t want to change anything “permanently”.
After the match, a couple people came up to me with disappointed look on their faces. “We saw you a couple of weeks ago in Spooner. Why didn’t you use the glove on that jerk? We really wanted to see him get the glove.”
Over the next couple of shows, it became clear that I had it wrong. How could you not be the “face” with a move like that. People wanted to see a heel get subjected to it more than they would a face.
For the next three years (up until I stopped actively wrestling) I used the gimmick as a face with only a couple of exceptions. The interesting thing about all of this is I would have never even tried the gimmick if I wasn’t convinced at the start that I would never do it again. I wouldn’t have gotten the bookings that I know I got because of the gimmick. I wouldn’t have people that let me know that they still have a glove I signed framed on their wall.
There’s a lesson here that that I won’t dig into too deeply since it’s not that type of a site. If you’ve ever heard of things like “30-day trials“, where you can convince yourself to try something because your only going to do it for 30 days, then you know what I’m talking about. If you don’t think about it as something permanent, you’re more willing to try it.
Anyway, hope you enjoyed the story.
[Unfortunately, I don’t have a copy of this match or the interview. If anyone knows someone that has a (probably horribly degraded) tape of the Spooner show from 12/12/98, let me know.]
Tuesday December 9th is the much-anticipated DVD release of the second installment of the revitalized Batman movie series. While millions are getting ready to watch The Dark Night, I thought It would be a good time to remind people that Christian Bale wasn’t the first one to battle the Joker. No, I’m not talking about Michael Keaton or Adam West either. I’m talking about Minnesota’s own Hellraiser Gutz, who is known in the WWE as Bam Neely.
Back around the spring of 1998 (I think), Gutz fought Marty “The Joker” Hamilton at Club Cancun in St. Paul, MN. After working the Joker gimmick for awhile, Marty ended up changing it to “The Jokester“, and then to “The Practical Joker“. I had heard the reason was pressure from DC Comics, that owns the trademark to the name, but I have a hard time believing Marty had enough fame to call the attention of their team of lawyers. Then again you never know.
It’s not the best of Gutz’s matches, but I thought the timing was appropriate. You also get to hear a little bit of his tag partner, Hellraiser Blood, complain about a lack of competition. Sounded like it was originally going to be a tag match, but whoever Marty’s partner was didn’t show up. The Penguin must have been knocking off a bank or something.
Part of why I like watching it is that having wrestled Marty myself, I know how hard it is to “sell” the silly string during a match. Couldn’t have done it better.
This video originally aired on WTW‘s wrestling show. Commentary by John Lloyd and “Slick” Mick Karch. The referee is Eddie Sharkey
The good news: we got to see Lenny Lane on ECW this week.
The bad news: it was a squash match
Rather than let the memory of Lenny in a squash linger, or to let the words of color commentator Matt Striker, saying Lane was “…trying to make a name for himself here in ECW…” , be the most recent ones people remember, I dug out a video from more than 10 years ago to share with everyone. I guess Striker “forgot” that Lane had competed in ECW in the past, or that he had been a champion in WCW beating the likes of Rey Mysterio (jr.) and Ultimo Dragon.
This is a match between “Luscious” Lenny Lane (with manager Mortimer Plumbtree) and the Kamikazee Kid. These two had a great feud back in the Northern Premier Wresting (NPW) promotion.
The match takes place in Austin, MN, which is the hometown of Kamikazee and it originally aired on “Slick” Mick’s Bodyslam Review. The match was already joined in progress, so rather than editing it further to try to get it under the YouTube 10 min limit I broke it into two parts.
A note for the squeamish– “There Will be Blood”.
Commentary: “Slick” Mick Karch & Tom “The Bear” (and J.B. Trask)
Referee: Mike Diamond
Producer/Camera: Al Pabon