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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: training

Twenty years ago today, I walked into a place called the Peacemaker Center in Northeast Minneapolis, MN for my first day of pro wrestling training camp with the “Trainer of Champions” Eddie Sharkey. The building was used to teach some Native American studies, but it also doubled as a youth center. The wrestling ring was set up in a corner of a large, open room that also housed a boxing ring, heavy bags, and other workout equipment. Several teenagers and young adults were there learning to box. While we were at this location, I was the only trainee. Billy Blaze and Marty Hamilton (a.k.a. The Joker/Jokester) were helping Eddie out with the training. I also had a boxing trainer that went by the name of General Chang as my (inexperienced) wrestling partner. Occasionally we were getting a couple of guys from the northern part of the state, but they had a three hour round trip so eventually they stopped showing up.

Within a couple of months the place closed- I don’t remember the details of why. Eddie then teamed up with wrestler Terry Fox to restart the camp in Coon Rapids, MN. With Sharkey, Fox, additional trainers “Thunderblood” Charlie Norris and Sam Houston, and a bunch of new talented recruits, it turned out to be a very good summer.

In the late fall, we moved the ring to St. Louis Park, MN so that we could be inside Terry’s garage. And that’s where the camp remained the rest of the time I was there. In the winter the ring was in the garage, and spring through fall it was outside.

In the years that I was there, the trainees that I can recall were Robbie and Mike Thunder, Hellraiser Gutz (a.k.a. ECW’s Bam Neely), PrimeTime, “Opera Man”, the Mighty Angus, referee “Diamond” Joe, Hellraiser Blood, Thor Tyler, “Playboy” Pete Huge, Big Daddy Hoofer (Brody 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 Stallion, Drej, Travis Sharpe, Storm Wolf, “Stone Cold” Doug Johnson, Troy “Don’t Call Me Goldberg” Steel, Chuck Diesel, “Superstar” Steve Stardom, some kid from China (?), and the High Rollers.

At one point I remember counting 17 people training all on the same day. Crazy. 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, 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.

I wrestled for five years, working for MIW, PWA, FLWA, SPCW/SDW, WrestleAmerica 2000, WTW, NWF, IWA (Canada), and several others I forgot. Then I broke away from the business for six or seven years (longer story). I ended up getting pulled back in at the beginning of 2009 when K-Train was making a return to the ring. He asked me to come out to the show at Roberts Sports Bar, and I showed up… with my gear in the trunk (just like Terry taught me). I got put into the “Roberts Rumble”, similar to the Royal Rumble where combatants enter the ring at fixed time periods, and at one point the last few guys left in the ring were me, Robbie Thunder, Pete Huge, Mitch Paradise, and I think Hoofer. It really brought back a lot of memories of those days in the backyard at Terry’s.

After that, I started refereeing again and have reffed for MIW, SDW, PTW, and Battleground. At the end of 2014, I got back in the ring as a wrestler and wrestled Pete Huge, Rob Justice, Chris Jordan, James Dawson, Scott Story, PJ Thorn, and Mitch Paradise over the course of a year.

I don’t know exactly how I expected my wrestling career to go, and my expectations have certainly changed over the years. I know I thought I would wrestle for a much longer period of time. I thought when I took a break in early 2002 it would be for six months to a year, not for thirteen years (til the match in Dec of 2014- I’m not counting wrestling in the Roberts Rumble in 2009). Some of that I had control over and some I didn’t. I know that I’d like to wrestle a few more times before hanging it up for good (if there is such a thing as “for good”). But it’s a race against Father Time and it can be at odds with some of my other interests and priorities. And, to be honest, there are a lot of younger, hungry, talented guys (and gals) out there that deserve one of the limited spots on a show more than I do.

I’m really glad to see that the local independents are still going strong today. And that I had the privilege of working out at Terry Fox’s MIW training camp (up in the orginal Coon Rapids location) during the summer of 2015 and getting some ring time with trainees Scott Story, JD Bandit, Aiden Wake, “Stonehenge” Joseph Wayne, referee/manager Tom T. Butterman, and occasionally “Rock Solid” Ross. It makes me feel good about the future to know these guys are going to be carrying the torch.

Overall I can look back and really appreciate the time I had as part of the business and working alongside of, or across the ring from, some really great people (and a few assholes). Thanks to all my fellow wrestlers, referees, promoters, and fans that made all the years worthwhile.

Darin

FYI, I posted a more in-depth account back in 2008 about on my wrestling training experience. If you’re curious to find out more, start with the first part called Wrestling Training and it should also take you to Part 2 and Part 3.

Eddie Sharkey Lifetime AchievementI’ve had several previous posts (start with Wrestling Training Part 1) about going through training camp run by Eddie Sharkey and Terry Fox.

On July 19th, local wrestling promotion Steel Domain Wrestling (SDW) presented Eddie with a long-overdue Lifetime Achievement award during their annual show at the Raspberry Festival in Hopkins, MN. The following week, I attended a dinner held at Poor Richard’s Commonhouse in Bloomington, MN to honor Eddie’s accomplishments and share stories about his long career in wrestling.

Eddie started wrestling back in the 1950’s on the carnival circuit. He was trained by Boris Malenko, Bob Geigel, and Joe Scarpello. He made his wrestling debut in the AWA in 1961. Eddie wrestled Harley Race and had memorable feuds with Danny Hodge, Bob Boyer, and Jack Donovan.sharkey14

After ending his relationship with the AWA due to a “disagreement” (a more interesting version can be found here), Sharkey got out of the wrestling business to spend more time with his wife and kids.

In 1982, two young bouncers approached him at the bar he tended in Minneapolis and asked if he would train them to be professional wrestlers. Sharkey agreed, and they would become the hottest tag team of the 80’s – The Road Warriors.

He continued to train wrestlers and run wrestling cards on a regular basis with his Pro Wrestling America (PWA) promotion. Wrestling historians and fans alike would say he was responsible for the 80’s boom of professional wrestling. The talent he trained is a who’s who of the big names of the time. Besides the Road Warriors, there was Jesse Ventura, Bob Backlund, “Ravishing” Rick Rude, Barry Darsow (one half of the tag team Demolition), the Destruction Crew (Wayne Bloom and Mike Enos), Nord the Barbarian, and Nikita Koloff. Later years would produce Rick and Scott Steiner, Sean Waltman, Jerry Lynn, Charlie Norris, Lenny Lane, Ricky Rice, Derrick Dukes, The Warlord, Tom Zenk, J.W. Storm, Madusa Miceli, Josie, ODB, Austin Aries, Shawn Daivari, and Bam Neely.

On the local scene we can also thank him (and Terry Fox) for such independent wrestlers as Horace the Psychopath, Mitch Paradise, the High Rollers, “Playboy” Pete Huge, “Big Daddy” (Brody) Hoofer, Black Stallion, Lacey, Rain, Robbie and Mike Thunder, Ian Xavier, the Mighty Angus, K-Train, Scott Free, Helmut Von Strauss/Justin Lee, Travis Sharpe, and Storm Wolf among others. Oh, yeah… and Darin Davis.

Eddie is still involved with Prime Time Wrestling (PTW) and running occasional shows under the Pro Wrestling America name.

 

Sharkey Appreciation Group Photo B/WAt the dinner, hearing Eddie and his longtime friends tell stories was very entertaining (some of the stories are referred to in a City Pages article from the early 2000’s that I’ll post about separately). It was clear that the older days in wrestling were a more dangerous time for the talent (i.e. less security in arenas), but they also managed to have a lot of fun. And it was great to see a lot of the boys I used to work with show up for this event, some of which are pictured in the group photo above.

To Eddie, I’d like to say thank you for all your wisdom and encouragement while I was going through training camp with you and Terry, and while I was working for your promotions. It probably was the best experience of my life.

darin_davis_eddie_sharkey

As I am still somewhat involved on the local scene, hopefully there are still more of these moments to come.

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.

 

Girly ScreamI was doing some trivial thing a couple of days ago (I think it involved taking out the garbage or putting something into the garbage can) when all of a sudden I let out a loud scream as I accidentally dropped what I was carrying. You would have thought I’d been shot. Right after the shock of hearing myself wore off, I started laughing and thought about something that happened back in the Sharkey/Fox wrestling camp several years ago.

I don’t remember what year it was (2000?), but we were in the St. Louis Park, MN location. It was summer so the ring was outside. When it’s outside you take advantage of the extra room above and around the ring to practice and do some drills that you wouldn’t be able to do when the ring is in the garage. One of the drills we would go through is getting thrown through, and over, the ropes.

Getting thrown through the ropes happens almost every match to at least one of the wrestlers. When someone is tossing you out, you need to be able to grab the middle rope with one hand, plant the other hand down on the apron, and make sure your legs (and especially your feet) don’t get tangled up in the ropes on the way out. Getting into the ring through the ropes also needs practice, but it’s a little less critical because the heel is always going to nail you as you’re getting back in anyway 😉

The drill for this was to have one person in the ring and all of the other trainees standing outside. One by one each person would climb into the ring and then the person in the ring would grab you and throw you out through the other side. Then you’d go to the end of the line and do it again. After the person in the ring through everyone out once, the next person would take over as the thrower. This continued until everyone had a turn at tossing guys out.

A similar drill was going over the top rope. One person in the ring, everyone else comes in one at a time and then gets thrown over the top rope on the opposite side. There was more chance for injury because the top rope is at least 7 feet above the floor- more for the taller rings which I think were 42 inches from the floor to the top of the mat.

In a lot of cases, guys would wrestle their first time in a battle royal. Unless they were winning (unlikely), they were going over the top rope.

As long as we were outside, we might as well work on one other over-the-top-rope move that occurs less often (not every match) but is also good to know. That move is going over the top rope backwards. This would happen if someone gave you a clothesline over the top rope (e.g. every match I had against Mitch Paradise), or a cross body, or something similar. This one isn’t extremely difficult, but there is a mental hurdle to overcome to be able to do it. To help with this, you start out with one or more spotters to guide you over.

We had a guy in the camp that was very nervous about going over the top rope backwards. For the sake of the story let’s call this guy “Ray“. Ray was a very muscular guy. Ray was in his 40’s when he started in wrestling. Ray had competed in several Mr. Minnesota bodybuilding competitions. And it turned out Ray could scream like an 8-year-old girl.

It took quite a while to convince Ray to try this move. With a couple of spotters in place, Ray backed up against the ropes. One of the guys in the ring was ready go give him a clothesline over when Ray said he was ready.

“You ready Ray?”

“I’m ready”

Clothesline- starts going over the top…

“Aaaaaaaaaaaaagh!” (high pitched horror movie scream)

“Ray, are you okay?! What happened!?”

“I don’t know, I thought I was going to land on my head! The scream just came out of nowhere.”

“Ok, let’s try it again”

He gets back into ring and in position against ropes.

“Ready Ray?”

“I’m ready”

Clothesline- starts going over the top again…

“Aaaaaaaaaaaaagh!” (same high pitched scream)

“Ray, I thought you were ready!”

“I keep thinking I’m going to land on my head”

“Ok, let’s try it again”

Gets back into ring…

Repeat that whole sequence another 5 times or so and you get the idea. At that point we had to stop because everyone was exhausted. Ray was tired from screaming. Everyone else was tired from laughing.

I don’t think he ever made it over the top rope that summer, or ever for that matter, without screaming hysterically (he had some injuries that ended his career before his first match- none of them involved the top rope).

If it makes him feel any better, I have no idea where my blood-curdling scream came from either.

[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. 😉

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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.

[Updated 10/25/08: Fixed broken link at bottom]

This is a continuation of a previous story of my experience in wrestling training camp.

In June of 1997, a couple of months after the Peacemaker Center closed down, Eddie Sharkey teamed with wrestler Terry Fox to restart the training camp. They set up shop in Coon Rapids, MN.

Even though I had done some training already, they thought it would be better if I just started over so I’d be in sync with everyone else. The new recruits were myself, Robbie and Mike Thunder, Hellraiser Gutz (a.k.a. ECW’s Bam Neely), PrimeTime, “Opera Man” (theres another story there), the Mighty Angus, and referee “Diamond” Joe. Gutz’s tag partner and real-life uncle Blood was also there, partly to get back into the game, and partly to give the new guys some pointers.

Besides Sharkey and Fox, we had two other wrestlers involved in training us. Charlie “Thunderblood” Norris, a Minnesota native (literally a “native“) had been working down in Texas as part of a tag team with Sam Houston. Charlie came back home to this area and brought Sam with him. They worked some shows around the area for the better part of a year before Sam went back. While they were here they got involved in the camp.

Other than Eddie, working with Sam (and Charlie) was my first “brush with fame”. I remember watching Sam wrestle for the WWF in the mid ’80s. He had a feud with referee-turned-wrestler “Dangerous” Danny Davis (hey, that’s a good wrestling name). And now I was in the ring with him.

When I lived up in northern Wisconsin, I remember coming down to Mission Creek in Hinkley, MN with my dad for a wrestling card on Father’s Day weekend. The promotion called itself the NWA (not the National Wrestling Alliance), but booked on the card were some AWA wrestlers such as Larry Zbyszko and Johnny Stewart. Also on the card were a few wrestlers that would go on to the national scene at various levels. They were “The Lightning KidSean Waltman (WWF, WCW), Ricky Rice (AWA), Derrick Dukes (AWA), J.W. Storm (WCW), and Charlie Norris (WCW, AWF). And now I was in the ring with Charlie.

The ring was outside, so every day at the start of camp we would have to reassemble it. And every day at the end of camp, we would have to disassemble the ring down to the metal. The ropes, canvas, and plywood would rot if we left it out in a rainstorm. Everything was stored each night in a shed that was completely dark inside and not quite tall enough to stand up in (unless you were Little Kato). That meant that at least once a week you would bang your head on a rafter.

If there was a show that weekend, then Friday night we would take the entire ring apart and load it on the trailer. At the show, we would take the ring off the trailer and put it together, then disassemble and reload after the show. On Monday, we would put the ring back together.

At the camp we also had a few sections of amateur wrestling mat that was placed on the ground outside of the ring. We could have pairs of wrestlers working on mat moves and various things while others were inside the ring, and then have people rotate in and out.

If you want to play basketball, you have to learn how to dribble, pass, and shoot. If you want to play hockey, you need to learn how to skate, pass, and shoot. If you want to be a professional wrestler, you need to learn to run the ropes, learn to take a bump, and as William Regal once said in an interview, you need to learn how to “hit people very hard in safe places.

A typical training day would start out with everyone running the ropes and taking bumps (everyone’s favorite). Then we would form a line and go through several drills to learn basic moves. One person gives the move to everyone in the line, then they go to the end of the line and take the move from everyone else.

The basic moves that we would do drills on were: body slam, armdrag, hiptoss, biel throw, fireman’s carry, shoulder tackle, clotheslines, drop down, drop kick, side headlock takeover, front face takeover, small package, roll-up, clothesline, lateral press.

I remember Robbie got a “stinger” on either his first day or first week of camp after taking a front face takeover and getting his head planted into the mat. His arm when numb for awhile. Fun!

Other days would be more specialized drills, like being thrown through the ropes, or over the top rope, backdrops, suplexes, punches, kicks, chops, and forearm strikes.

Terry would get in the ring and work with the trainees, while Eddie would usually instruct from the outside.

I remember getting really sunburned one weekend tubing down the Apple River in Wisconsin, and then coming to camp on Monday finding out that we would spend the day working on chops. Yay! Since that day I will put on sunscreen even if I’m just taking out the garbage.

For the chopping drill we would stand in a circle and everyone would take turns giving a chop to the person on their right. After a few times around, we would change direction and give it to the person on your left (payback!). Same type of thing for punches, kicks, forearms across the back, european uppercuts, etc..

After the drills were done, we would usually pair up and work through matches. While one pair was using the ring, the other people would work on the mats outside.

A few times during the summer we would have some “celebrity” guests. Ken Patera stopped a couple of times (after a 12-pack I think). “The Judge” Randy Gusto (“owee, owee, owee”) stopped by after the Old Country Buffet and actually got in the ring despite “having a big dessert” (I’m not making this up). There were a few more that I can no longer remember.

In the fall, as the weather started getting colder, we had to find a place where we could work indoors. We would end up moving to a garage in St. Louis Park, MN. Besides the wrestlers mentioned above, the new location would be the training grounds for many that would become big names in the regional and national scene.

But I’ll leave that for Part 3

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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.

In a previous post, I mentioned how I had gotten the contact information for wrestling camp . Below is a different version of that ad.

I started training with Eddie Sharkey in March of 1997 at a place called the Peacemaker Center in northeast Minneapolis, MN. This was a building used to teach some Native American studies I believe, but it also doubled as a youth center. It had a boxing gym in it, and way over in the corner near the floor drain was Eddie’s semi-functioning wrestling ring.

In that first month, I was the only new student. In fact I was the only student. There was some guy from Wisconsin that was supposed to show up, but never did. There were also a couple of guys from northern Minnesota that came in 3 or 4 times, but with a 3 hr round trip each day, I knew I wasn’t going to see much from them. Some days I would spend 30-45 minutes just taking bumps. I remember the underside of my forearms turning a dark purple from hitting the mat.

Besides Eddie and occasionally Ray Whebbe, wrestlers Billy Blaze, Willy “The Splash”, and Marty Hamilton (a.k.a. The Joker) were on hand. Apart from Marty, these two guys were “old school”. I still remember sometime during the first week where Billy was stretching me on the mat. He had me in an armbar and said that he would break my arm if I ever told anybody about how the wrestling business worked. The thing is, myself and a few friends already knew a lot about the business from reading the “sheets” (back when they were printed on paper) like the Pro Wrestling Torch and from reading the usenet group rec.sports.pro-wrestling. I thought it was best that I didn’t bring it up at that point. 😉 I’m not sure that he would have really broken it, but I didn’t want to find out. He was just trying to protect the business.

I can completely understand where he was coming from. Sometimes we’re so open about the business, even at the WWE level, that we can kind of take the fun out of it. What if you went to see a magician and he came out and showed you how to saw a woman in half, then did the trick? Sometimes it’s better to keep them guessing.

Because it was a boxing gym, there was also a boxing ring there, and a boxing trainer, and a bunch of “underpriviledged youth” learning how to box. If you’ve ever seen HBO‘s series “The Wire”, it was kind of like the gym that Cutty set up for the same purpose.

The trainer had an assistant, who they referred to as General Chang. He had fought in the Vietnam war and had a bullet hole to prove it. I always wondered how a non-U.S. citizen had qualified for military service. The problem with my thinking was that I was assuming he fought on “our” side.

Over the next couple of months, the General would be my (inexperienced) training partner. You always hear about the major injuries that wrestlers get – torn ACLs, compressed vertebrae, torn pecs, quadraceps, and biceps. But what you don’t hear about are the nagging day-to-day minor injuries that they live with for the rest of their lives. My story isn’t typical, since I have relatively few. Some of them happened from working with Chang, and the rest of the early ones were caused by my own inexperience and the bone-jarring wrestling ring we were using.

The ring was notorious for being stiff. There is supposed to be a little movement in the center, but this one was seized up. We might as well have been just taking bumps on the concrete. It was almost a relief using the boxing ring except that you could feel the individual boards as you landed.

Around June of that year I got a phone call that the Peacemaker Center closed for some unknown reason. A few weeks later, Eddie teamed up with wrestler Terry Fox to restart the camp up in Coon Rapids, MN. With Sharkey, Fox, additional trainers “Thunderblood” Charlie Norris and Sam Houston, and a bunch of new talented recruits on board, it was shaping up to be a good summer.

But I’ll leave that for a future post… (read Part 2)