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Dr. Darin Davis

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

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Tag: MIW

I attended the Minnesota Independent Wrestling (MIW) show at the Chanhassen American Legion last Saturday Oct 17th. Recorded video of the MIW no DQ tag match while it was in progress. Pretty brutal and a great end to the feud between these two tag teams.

Excuse the purple hue- my phone does that in lower light conditions.

From reading previous posts you can figure out that I haven’t wrestled for well over a decade and have been involved only as referee for the past 6 years or so. Without spoiling anything, there are “rumors” that some event will get me back in the wrestling ring at the next MIW show at the Chanhassen American Legion on Saturday December 6th (at 8pm). Before you decide that these rumors can’t be true because I “retired”, you need to know something about my state of mind when I walked away from wrestling at the end of 2001 and why it was not necessarily the last time I would ever step in the ring.

Below is a repost from my former (ancient) wrestling site dated Jan 6th, 2002. It’s entitled “Never Use the ‘R’ Word“.

As far as this Saturday- you’ll have to stop out and see if the scrubs (and the glove) have come out of storage.

[FYI, the old site in all its web 0.5 glory can be found here.]


Jan 6th, 2002

Never use the ‘R’ word. It has no meaning in the wrestling business. It gets used so often in storylines that nobody in or out of the business reacts to it anymore. Wrestlers use it, only to reappear a few months later as if nothing happened. Some wrestlers have used it several times in their careers. It has no significance except as yet another gimmick to sell tickets.

Why am I bringing this up? I’m bringing it up because I have decided to take a break from the wrestling business for an “undetermined period of time”. That’s the best way I can think of describing it. What does this mean? It means that I will not have an active role in professional wrestling from this point forward, at the same time leaving open the possibility of coming back.

Now that I’ve made that sufficiently vague, the next question is why? There are a few reasons, a couple of which I’ll write about here.

I’m sure everybody has interests they’d like to pursue. Some you may talk about constantly, and some that you never mention because they’re on a dream list that seems too impossible to even happen. If you stop reading this for a minute and think about it, I bet you could come up with a list 3 or 4 things that you’d like to get involved with. Some of those things might take a lifetime to get good at and require the majority of your free time. For me, wrestling was one of those interests. Not just going to shows, but actually wrestling. It wasn’t in the category of things that I openly talked about, it was in the category of interests or goals that I kept to myself. Who was I kidding, right? A 130 pound high school kid who wanted to try professional wrestling at a time when size and strength were requirements. When you had to have credentials as a professional athlete, or a certified badass. I carried that with me through high school, through college, and through several years of working at my “real” job. I also carried along some other interests that I wanted to try. As the business started to change to accept smaller workers, and I worked on gaining weight and adding some size, we seemed to meet in the middle. I had the chance to start training to be a professional wrestler. I’ll skip some of the details of training with Terry Fox and Ed Sharkey, as they are documented in other interviews on other web sites (and in my UMWN interview on this site) [2014: And also on this site, like in Wrestling Training]. When I started, several people told me that the business was cyclical (which I already knew) and that in 2-3 years, the popularity would once again fade, the national TV audience would fall, and the local scene would go back to a state where there would be maybe one or two shows a year. With that in mind, I tried to get as much as I could out of it in those years, knowing that once it was through I would have time to do other things.

Fast forward 5 years… While the national TV ratings are down from what they were a year or two ago, the local indy promotions stayed strong. I’ve tried over the last year to take less bookings and spend less time at training camp to have more “free” time, but that didn’t seem to have as much of an effect as I thought it would. If this was the only reason, I wouldn’t be writing this now.

The main reason for this decision is, quite simply, that I’ve burned myself out. I don’t have the drive and desire I once had to spend the time on it that I should. I’ve gone from watching televised wrestling and wrestling videos to only watching “Tough Enough” and one PPV in the last 10 months. From working out in wrestling camp 2-3 days a week, to going to camp maybe one day a month. From thinking about an upcoming match for days or weeks, going through the potential moves, counter-moves, teases, and false finishes in my head, to thinking about it while I’m lacing up my boots. Don’t get me wrong, once I stepped through the ropes I always gave 100% (I’d even consider the last match I had one of the best I’ve had this year). I think you owe that to the fans that paid their money, the worker(s) across the ring from me, the promoter, and all the workers that didn’t get on the show because there wasn’t a spot for them. But when do you decide that it might be time to exit? If the business continues to be strong, and you are healthy enough to do it, how do you know when you might be done? I’ve heard people say in the past that they’ll keep doing it “…until it’s no longer fun.” That isn’t really an answer, because there are always parts of it that are fun. When you’re around such great people, some of it will always be fun. And there will always be parts of it that aren’t fun. For me, I said to myself that if I ever got to the point where the only effort I put into it was from the time my entrance music starts playing until the time I head back from the ring, then maybe I need to reevaluate what I’m doing. Maybe I need to separate myself from it awhile to see if the desire will come back. Maybe I need to separate myself to make the desire come back. Maybe I need to pursue other things and see what happens. And that’s what I’m going to do.

I don’t want it to sound like I think wrestling is at a low point, because this does not in any way reflect on the current state of the local wrestling scene. In fact, this is one of the best times to be involved in the indy wrestling business and to be a local wrestling fan. Rookie and newer wrestlers like Austin Aries, Justin Lee, Travis Sharpe, Lacey, Autumn Hayze, Rain, Shawn Daivari, Black Stallion, Rikki Noga, CM Punk, and Colt Cabana will keep us entertained for years (yes I know about the current SDW conflicts). Workers like Mitch Paradise, Adrian Lynch, Chi-Town Thug, K-Train, Kamikaze, Playboy Pete Huge, Big Daddy Hoofer, Magnus Maximus, Primetime, Daryck St. Holmes, Shifty, Ian & Ashey Xavier, Robby Thunder, Storm Wolf, and others continue to improve and are still giving us their all. Managers like Mortimer Plumtree, the High Rollers, and McCoy Counterfeit are still providing interesting interviews and giving the fans some bonus entertainment. “Veterans” like Scotty Zappa, Lenny Lane, Horace the Psychopath, and Ace Steel are still going strong. Promotions like MIW and the FLWA are working to provide more continuity in their storylines. MPW is promoting again. The Minnesota Wrestling Superstars television show is still going on several cable access stations around the area and in other parts of the state. SDW is on broadcast television. Commentators like Mick Karch, Kyle Wolf, Christian Dady and Dale Spear are putting in a lot of effort to make the televised and live products better. Tim Larson’s Upper Midwest Wrestling Newsletter is approaching its 250th issue. Wrestler websites are being relaunched and new sites are popping up all the time. Fans like Otto, Glenn, Jack, Doc D-X, ZsaZsa and Mark keep supporting the local promotions.

This may or may not be the closing of a chapter of my life, but even if it is, I’ll never forget the workers, the fans, and the people behind the scenes that worked their asses off to try to make every show go as smoothly as possible.

Save me a spot in the cheap seats…

I’ve written previously about the importance of having a good referee in a match (I’m with the Show). They can make or break it for the wrestlers and the fans.

For the last three or four years, I have been working as referee for Minnesota Independent Wrestling (MIW) when they run shows at the American Legion in Chanhassen, MN. MIW is the promotion of one of my wrestling trainers, Terry Fox, and a long time wrestling friend and fan-turned-promoter Tim Larson. Followers of the local wrestling scene in the late ’90s will recognize Tim as the author of the Upper Midwest Wrestling Newsletter. He created 236 issues ending in April of 2002. I have the full archive on my site at this link: UMWN Archive.

I recently ran across an article by referee Jason Iannone that went a little more “behind the curtain” than I was willing to go in some of my previous postings. But, as I wrote in another posting called My Wrestling NDA, I’m more likely to talk about it if someone else reveals it first.

Take a few minutes to read his article and then I have a few follow-up comments on: Things Your Local Pro Wrestling Referee Wants You To Know

I pulled out a few quotes below and added my take.

But we’re pretty much the glue that holds the matches together.  Having a referee there to oversee the action makes it look like a legitimate contest.

Yep. I’ve wrestled hundreds of matches in training camp, some without a referee or with an untrained referee. It just doesn’t work. It’s like watching a movie with the sound turned off. You can kind of follow what’s happening but part of the story is missing.

At our best, we act like the action is real, and officiate accordingly. Yes, we know who’s winning. And yes, we know about certain things planned beforehand […]. But, for the most part, we just call what we see, and treat it as realistically as possible, in the hopes that the audience feels the same way.

It only works well if you treat it as a serious contest, where the winner will either get more money as a result, or move up the ladder to get a shot at a title at some future date (our version of the playoffs). You need to treat it like making a wrong call or not enforcing the rules on both contestants equally could cost someone a shot at success. “Call what you see” also implies that you “don’t call what you don’t see” so that you don’t violate the rule above. In other words, if the heel hits the babyface with his nightstick, but we don’t want a disqualification, then I can’t see it. If  I don’t see it, I don’t have the issue of not calling it like a serious contest.

However, there are situation where things don’t go as smoothly, as Jason mentions…

[I]f we have to disqualify somebody who was scheduled to win, because they wouldn’t stop choking their opponent, then so be it.

You want to have the match end as expected to make the promoter happy. At least a few of the wrestling promotions in the area have “seasons” where they run at a regular venue from September to May (or there abouts) and take the summers off. They usually plan out storylines to build up until the end of the season and then give some reason why people should come back again in the fall. Screwing that up for them is a bad idea.

However, this is only trumped by the rule that the referee needs to officiate like it is a serious legitimate contest. Nothing would look worse than a referee stopping at a two count if the wrestler being pinned did not kick out. Or getting to a five count on some rule violation and not disqualifying the violator. If a wrestler doesn’t lift their shoulder by the count of three, you still need to count three and end the match. If they don’t stop choking by a five count, you need to disqualify them and end the match. In these cases, the heat will be on them and not the referee (from the promoter’s perspective at least). You didn’t give me a choice. But as a ref, you’d better be damn sure it’s not your fault before you make the call. If he didn’t lift his shoulder on time, you’d better be sure he didn’t put his foot on the rope instead. Making contact with the ropes breaks the pin attempt, but many referees don’t think to check that.

This made me think back to a match between Dean Malenko and David Sammartino that aired on a live national WCW broadcast. I did a search and found a video. It was for the WCW Cruiserweight title (Malenko was the champ). Notice that the clip is only five minutes long. Considering it took them a minute and a half to get in the ring, and thirty seconds to walk back after the match, that means there was only three minutes of wrestling. For a nationally televised title match. The referee was one of the best referees of all time, the late great Mark Curtis. At the 4:30 mark, Sammartino didn’t get his shoulders up and Curtis had to count to three. No other choice. I’m sure they were planning to put in at least 10 mins, but that didn’t matter.


Dean Malenko vs David Sammartino-WCW… by TSteck160

The one area I’ll bend a little bit on this is with a ten count violation. If both wrestlers are outside the ring and I get to nine, I’ll go outside and tell them to get back in. I don’t see both of them being out of the ring longer as a violation that would legitimately change the outcome of the match (in the way allowing one wrestler to continue to choke the other one might be). However, if one of them gets back in and the other doesn’t make the 10 count, it’s over.

The best refs, besides being properly stupid and half-blind, are experts at not getting involved, and letting the crowd concentrate on the wrestlers. As I heard so often when training, “the best referees are the ones you never notice.”

This was brought home in a conversation I had a year or two ago with ring veteran Horace The Psychopath. He said, “Did you referee my match at the last show?” I said I did. He said, “That tells me you must have done a good job, because I don’t remember. You got out of the way when you were supposed to. You got involved when you were supposed to… I only remember the ones who screwed up.”

I remember that he also wanted me to “point out the pretty girls” to him during the match (discretely of course), but I don’t think I did that. He must have forgotten that part. I still have to concentrate enough on what I’m doing that I can only take in “distractions” before or after the match.

When I wrestled, I expected people to boo me when I came out as a heel. I was hiding behind my wrestling persona and my goal was to get them to boo. When I was working as a “good guy” and people booed instead of cheered, it bothered me because I felt I wasn’t doing my job, not because I felt anything personal. But when I started working as a referee for MIW (using my real name) and they booed, it was a little hard to get used to. It felt like they were booing me personally, rather than my character, because I don’t know if I really have a character when I’m working as a referee. I feel like I’m being myself. The thing to remember is they aren’t being themselves. They’re doing it because that’s part of their enjoyment, not because they have anything against you personally. Some of them still come up to you and talk, or buy you a drink, after the matches.

So the next time you’re out at a pro wrestling show, take a few minutes to watch the ref and see how he (or she) alternates between the invisible man and the voice of authority.

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.

Just a quick note that I will be heading on down to the MIW show at the American Legion in Chanhassen, MN this Saturday 12/5.

Apparently there is a referee shortage this weekend, so I agreed to fill in and ref a few matches.

Sounds like a job for Marty McGwire.

Bell time is 8pm

— [Update: 12/06/09] —

I refereed three matches last night, including the main event that had a ref bump in it (got caught in a Nate Bash splash in the corner). About half the crowd definitely did not like me, but that’s the price of being a ref I guess 🙂

Saw quite a few guys that I haven’t seen for a long time. Overall a fun night.

Chilly in HellAn alternate title for this one could be “Hell Gets a Cold Front From the North”. Not exactly frozen over, but a little nippy.

I decided to check out the MIW show in Mounds View, MN on Friday night. Mostly to see K-Train return to action, but the other big reason was the poster looked like something I would have seen ten years ago. A lot of the guys I either worked with, or I went through wrestling camp with were on the card, including Daryl Hall, “Playboy” Pete HUGE, Mitch Paradise, Hoofer, Storm Wolf, and co-promoters Tim Larson and Terry Fox. There were also a couple of fans I recognized from the old days, and I finally met photographer Wayne McCarty in person after sharing links for the past year or so.

You probably recognize Terry Fox’s name from previous stories as one of my wrestling trainers. One thing a good wrestling trainer will drill into your head is “always bring your gear“. In the same way that I can’t cross the street without looking both ways, and can’t drive a car without putting on my seatbelt, it would be extremely hard for me to go to an indy show without my gear. Luckily I was able to locate most of it between the garage, a box under the bed, and a box in another bedroom.

So knowing that fact, what happened next should have been something I would have seen coming.

K-Train: “Hey Terry. You know Darin must have brought his gear, right?”

Terry Fox: “Hey Doc, do you have your gear with you?”

Me: “Uhh…. I uh… yeah.”

Terry: “Good. You’re in the Robert’s Rumble”

Me: “…..”

The “Robert’s Rumble” (we were at Robert’s Sports Bar after all) is a battle royal with WWE Royal Rumble style rules. Start out with one wrestler, add another wrestler every 30 seconds, add heat and stir. Like any other battle royal you get eliminated by getting tossed out over the top rope.

It was the main event and the last of nine (!) matches on the card, which on this particular night meant it the wasn’t starting until nearly midnight. I came out about in the middle of the pack. After a couple of eliminations we were down to K-Train, Daryl Hall, Hoofer, Pete HUGE, Mitch Paradise, one or two newer guys, and me. Seemed like old times. The final three were me, Pete, and K-Train. Pete tossed me out, and then K-Train tossed him out to win the rumble.

Overall an interesting and unexpected night. The last time I had put on the gear was December of 2001 at the Main Event in Fridley, MN, where K-Train defeated me for the MIW TV Title.

While I wouldn’t call this the start of a comeback (there are a lot of things that would have to fall in place for that to happen), it just goes to show you that anything can and will happen in the wrestling biz.

[Update 3/17/09]

Wayne posted some pictures from the show on his blog. You can see them here.

Train

One of the guys I went through wrestling camp with back in the ’90s is making his re-debut this Friday March 13th.

After a several year hiatus, K-Train will be wrestling at the MIW show at Robert’s Sports Bar in Moundsview, MN.

[Had it incorrectly as Mound, MN previously]

Bell time is 8:30. Not sure who he is wrestling, but the MIW website has a few more details about the card.

I can hear Crazy Train playing right now… good luck, man!