Posts Tagged ‘Pro Wrestling’

This piece is adapted from a manuscript I wrote about my teaching career and travels around the world. ‘A Teacher’s Life’ is the working title (Feel free to offer title suggestions). On this blog I will add a few other excerpts about different topics. In time I hope to find an agent and get this properly published as a book. Feedback, suggestions, assistance are all welcome. Enjoy.

By some miracle I was still living in Harbin China in January of 2020. At my job, the winter holiday was coming up, but by this point in my life I’d traveled so much that I didn’t really want to go many places anymore. I considered going somewhere perhaps for just a week (Here our seasonal breaks were a whole month, which was one thing China had over working in Korea), but the day my break began a wrestling show in Bangkok Thailand was scheduled and some of MKW would be there. I got invited to go and do interviews, including one with Ho Ho Lun, who was on WWE NXT and whom I’d previously met in China. 

After bouncing around South East Asia a bit I returned to Korea again where I did interviews with Pro Wrestling Society. Naturally, I was happy to help out at a show in Korea. There I interviewed then champion Jo Kyung Ho, who does Korean commentary for special events on the WWE Network. I also interviewed future champion Bryan Leo, and Duncan Solaire, who later became Korea’s first African American and likely first LGBT champion in Korea when winning the tag team belts. 

While all this was fun, lurking in the background was the news of this new virus going around. As it got to the point where it was looking serious, I talked to my boss and to my family, and in late February I came home to the United States.

While what was happening with the virus was awful, I was grateful to have some extra time at home with my friends and family. In Pennsylvania things got shut down for a while, but I kept myself busy as I was still teaching my Chinese students online.

That summer I got word that a wrestling event was going to be held at the Mahoning Drive-In in Lehighton, PA, about an hour from my hometown. I’d emailed them explaining I did interviews for MKW in China, and sent them a YouTube clip of my work. At the last minute they asked if I could do ring announcing, as that spot just opened up. At the two day event, the Reel Rumble, I made my American debut as a professional wrestling announcer.  Reel Rumble had many big names from the indy-wrestling scene that were on All Elite Wrestling on TNT and TBS like Veda Scott, Willow Nightingale, Puff, and referee Bryce Remsburg even made an appearance. Competitive eater and pro-wrestler MegaByte Ronnie was also there. We did an angle where I acknowledged him sitting in the audience and asked him to come in the ring for an interview (He’d just competed in Nathan’s hot dog eating contest in NYC) which led to an “impromptu” match.  

The wrestling ring was set up in front of the massive drive-in screen. On both nights, after the card was over, two wrestling related films were shown. One of them was Suburban Commando, starring Hulk Hogan and Christopher Lloyd, which meant I got to stand in a wrestling ring as an announcer and say the name Hulk Hogan. It was a great show, and almost had to have been one of the first big wrestling events with an audience after the pandemic hit.

October of 2020, I managed to get back to Harbin. That Christmas I got promoted to bellman at MKW’s War on Christmas event. We had a few more events the following spring, including a tag team tournament to crown China’s first Tag Team Champions, Buffa and DC Chen, the team of C2NY. Due to a lot of factors, at the moment wrestling in China seems to be on hold. I don’t know when or if I’ll be involved with it again. Even if I would not work another show, it will always be fun to look back on this experience I had in the crazy world of professional wrestling.

Bellman for MKW’s War on Christmas
MKW Tag Team Titles

This piece is adapted from a manuscript I wrote about my teaching career and travels around the world. ‘A Teacher’s Life’ is the working title (Feel free to offer title suggestions). On this blog I will add a few other excerpts about different topics. In time I hope to find an agent and get this properly published as a book. Feedback, suggestions, assistance are all welcome. Enjoy.

My first year living in China I met Middle Kingdom Wrestling founder Adrian Gomez. After attending a few of his shows, I bugged him about letting me be a ring announcer. Before going back to America for summer break, Adrian told me he’d scheduled a wrestling event for Halloween season. For many reasons I was thinking about staying in America and not coming back to China, but Adrian informed me that if I were still around, I could announce the Halloween show.

Halloween Frenzy in October of 2018, is where I made my debut as a professional wrestling announcer. “Welcome to Middle Kingdom Wrestling!” I finally go to say in the ring. We had a fun Halloween themed show which included a costume contest. One amusing bit was the Halloween Frenzy Match, between Mexican Wrestler Jalapeno Lopez, English wrestler Voodoo, and the American heel Cam Ferguson. Cam disparaged Halloween, coming to the ring throwing empty wrappers of candy into the audience, disappointing any kids hoping to score some sweets. The Halloween Frenzy Match was mostly no holds barred, the stipulation being that any Halloween object could be used. This led to a humorous spot as Jalapeno Lopez attempted to hit one of the wrestlers with a Pinata, but the referee wouldn’t allow it. Confused as to why he was being admonished by the referee in a no holds barred match, it was explained that the Pinata is not a Halloween object!

Once the show was over, I thanked Adrian for the opportunity. While it was fun, in the moment, I perceived it as a one off. While I may have come back to China, I still wasn’t thrilled with it. I was still thinking about leaving for good after the holidays and thought someday I would look back and think “Remember being a wrestling announcer, that was fun.” Fortunately, when the school year started, I got put with the 8th grade class. I was still teaching English instead of History, which is my background, but now I was working with a group who were probably the best kids in the school. They were fun to teach and a lot of them spoke English well. By this point I also made more friends, including a group who held weekly trivia at Sky Bar, one of the main gathering spots for Harbin foreigners. Here I met people from Canada, Latin America, Kosovo, Africa, Australia, and Russia. One of my new friends was Ken, a fellow writer from Las Vegas Nevada who helped me edit this book. As I started feeling better about the overall situation, I decided to stick around.

Wrestling announcing was fun, but Adrian was focused on building the Chinese audience, and really needed a Chinese announcer. He eventually found one named Jianing who does a great job at the shows. Fortunately for me, Adrian kept me around as an interviewer, where I mainly worked with the foreign wrestlers. The champion at the time was Big Sam, a British fellow, and there were a handful of Americans and people of other nationalities that participated in the shows. I was happy to help out in other ways too like setting up the ring and later being the bellman. Interviewing was cool, and of course the heels (bad guys) would insult me, and I even took a few bumps as wrestlers like Big Sam would push me down on the mat. It was all in good kayfabe fun. 

Years prior, the WWE Network broadcast a cruiser-weight tournament featuring wrestlers from all over the world. They did short features on many of them, including Ho Ho Lun, who founded the wrestling scene in Hong Kong. In the spring of 2019 Ho Ho wrestled at an MKW event. I remembered watching him on the Network thinking it would be cool to meet him, but I never thought I actually would. 

One of the more unusual stories in Chinese Wrestling happened not in Harbin, but in the southern city of Jiangmen, in Guangdong province. There, Xiao Xin, owner of a local seafood restaurant, was a fan of a promotion called King of Pro Wrestling.  After attending several of their shows he had the idea of hosting his own wrestling event, but with a twist.

Xiao announced to his friends the wonderful news that he would be getting married to a Russian woman. The thing was everyone knew he already had a Chinese wife. Nevertheless, a crowd of people came to a special hall in Xiao’s restaurant, all dressed formally for the special occasion. Wedding photos were already taken, an MC was present, PPT’s were shown, everything appeared as if a wedding was about to commence. At one of the back tables sat Big Sam, Greg and some other foreign wrestlers who weren’t dressed formally and were presumed to be with the bridal party. Undoubtedly, the guests must have wondered why a fighting ring was set up in the middle of the room below the chandeliers. They would find out soon enough.

Xiao and his bride exchanged their “wedding vows.” inside the wrestling ring, and as Xiao spoke a certain cue, a stable of foreign wrestler’s stormed the ring. Big Sam took the mic and cut a promo in both English and Chinese as the crowd booed. “This wedding isn’t happening, not on my watch!” the foreigner taunted as Xiao was held captive in the corner while Greg planted his lips on the helpless “bride.” Fortunately, a group of Chinese wrestlers came to the rescue, and a professional wrestling show commenced.

After four preliminary matches Xiao himself teamed with tag duo the Lion Dance brothers to defend his “bride’s” honor against the three dastardly foreign wrestlers who disrupted his wedding, Greg, Big Sam, and Uncle Money. Xiao came to the ring to a Chinese song that sounded straight out of Karaoke as the crowd cheered on. Naturally Xiao, who had five minutes of wrestling training that day and never wrestled in his life, scored a pin fall victory over Greg to end one of the most unique wrestling bouts on record. 

Below is an interview with The Stable of MKW and the Japanese Illuminati.

This piece is adapted from a manuscript I wrote about my teaching career and travels around the world. ‘A Teacher’s Life’ is the working title (Feel free to offer title suggestions). On this blog I will add a few other excerpts about different topics. In time I hope to find an agent and get this properly published as a book. Feedback, suggestions, assistance are all welcome. Enjoy.

PyeongChang South Korea hosted the Winter Olympics in 2018, and was something I’d considered trying to see in the years prior. Summer of 2017 I’d left my teaching job on the Rosebud Indian Reservation and attempted to find work in Korea again. Nothing turned up for me there, so I accepted a position in Harbin, a city in northern China. Winter of 2018 I had winter holiday which allowed me to see the games. After the Olympics in late February of 2018 I was in the airport about to fly back to China, and I thought about how I had accomplished a lot of things I’d wanted to do in my life. I’d been teaching for around 15 years, did a road trip across the United States, self- published a few comic books and other literature, and had just seen the Olympics. Now that I’d done all of these things I wondered what to do with my life next; little did I know Professional Wrestling would be my next adventure.

I’m an 80’s child, and naturally was a fan of pro wrestling during the Hulkamania era. In high school I’d stopped watching it, and during the “Attitude” era of the late 90’s I confess to being a closet wrestling fan for a brief moment before becoming a full fledged fan again. Since then I’ve watched it off and on, but even during times of not watching it I appreciate it for what it is.

Tito Santana was one of my favorite wrestlers as a kid. When I first started watching wrestling, he was a tag team champion with Ric Martel in a team called Strike Force. Demolition, a heel or villainous tag team, won the belts off them. During a rematch they did an angle where Ric Martel got hit in the head with a chair, resulting in Demolition retaining the titles. Martel was then off TV for a whole year, and the wrestling announcers informed us fans that Ric had a concussion. As a young kid wrestling seemed like serious business, here was this guy fighting for his title, and he got a legitimate injury! Of course, my mom hated wrestling, “Why are you watching that crap?” she’d complain. “It’s so phony,” and so forth.

“No,” I argued back, “if wrestling wasn’t real then Ric Martel wouldn’t have a concussion and he would be on TV.” Martel’s “injury” was the silver bullet in my theory that the superstars of the WWF were in fact engaging in actual combat.

In the summer of 2017, before I went off to China in my quest to see the Olympics, I had a chance to meet Tito Santana. Reading Pennsylvania has a minor league baseball team called the Reading Fighting Phils who once a season host wrestling night. On this evening a professional wrestler appears at the game and signs autographs. My friend Ralph, who is a huge wrestling fan, told me that Tito would be at wrestling night that summer. We went to the game to meet him, and I got his autograph and my picture with him. Meeting Tito in person, I told him my childhood tale and asked if he could give me the scoop. The real truth was Ric’s wife had fallen ill and he took time off to be with her. Age old mystery solved.

A few months after this I moved to Harbin, and found out by chance that there was a independent professional wrestling promotion in China. Adrian Gomez, and American from Arizona, started Middle Kingdom Wrestling, which in fact based out of Harbin.

Spring of 2018 MKW ran a few shows in Harbin where I got to meet the wrestlers as well as Adrian. Mr. Gomez was the MC of the first show I went to. As he politely told the crowd, “Thank you for coming to the show everybody.” I reflected on how years ago when I lived in Korea people told me I had a good radio voice. Now I got the idea in my head that Adrian needed me in the ring to exuberantly proclaim “Welcome to Middle Kingdom Wrestling!” and announce his matches. As he held two more shows that spring, I kept bugging Adrian about letting me be a ring announcer. I was a stranger to him, with no experience in the professional wrestling business, hence I didn’t blame him for being skeptical.

In the meantime, my initial experience in Harbin wasn’t very positive, for reasons I won’t get into here (but will in my book). My initial contract was two years, which included a summer holiday in which I could go home. As the end of the spring semester approached, I seriously considered going home and not coming back. Thinking this, I took the time to see the sights of Harbin, such as their indoor ski resort, Siberian Tiger Park, and the Unit 731 museum about the horrific Japanese biological experiments conducted on local residents (Covered in more detail in my book). While potentially wrapping up my time in China, I told Adrian that I may not be coming back that fall. He asked me to let him know what I decided and informed me that he’d scheduled a wrestling event for Halloween season. Adrian told me that if I did come back, I could be the ring announcer for that show. That was almost the only reason I had to come back.

It wasn’t really the only reason, but it was definitely a factor. I had learned in my life that once you shut a door, it’s really hard to re-open it. Thinking my options over, I decided I would come back. That summer I went home and had a nice vacation with my family and friends. After which I flew back to Harbin, where in just a few short months I would become a professional wrestling announcer!

zombiepic

For the last 11 years the wrestler currently known as Zombie Dragon has been making his way across the independent pro wrestling circuit. Currently serving as a trainer and roster member of Middle Kingdom Wrestling out of Harbin China, Zombie Dragon took some time to discuss his unique wrestling career.

What are your earliest memories of wrestling?

My earliest memories of pro wrestling were the old WCW and WWF video games like WCW Revenge and WWF Wrestlemania 2000. I used to think as a child, that wrestling was fictional characters only in the gaming world. Until one day I decided to flip through channels and I ended up finding WCW and seeing guys like Psicosis, Raven, and a plethora of other characters that I had previously thought were unreal! From that day I was not only hooked, but decided that wrestling is what I’m going to do.

Do you remember which wrestling show this was?

It was a Monday Nitro. I didn’t recognize anyone until I saw Raven and matched his clothes with the game and I felt a sense of rush if that makes sense.

Was there anything else on the program that really stood out?

Billy Kidman took off Psicosis’ mask is what I can remember.

What made you decide to become a pro wrestler?

Seeing that wrestling can be done, and the overall art of the spectacle were the biggest deciding factors in becoming a pro wrestler. Over the years I discovered more and more wrestling, which drew me in closer and closer to my dream. 

Once you decided to be a wrestler where did you train?

I trained a few places actually. I started with the WWA4 (World Wrestling Alliance 4, out of Atlanta GA) in 2008 right after high school. Then got a few bookings here and there, where I learned on the road, before eventually enrolling in the PCW (Platinum Championship Wrestling, also in Atlanta) academy, where I really learned to hone my craft.

What gimmicks did you wrestle under before Zombie Dragon?

I had a few gimmicks, Curry Kidd being the most notable. Curry Kid was an Indian character with Curry on his head. I was also Rocky Hughes, a rip on Curtis Hughes and Rocky King. Curtis Hughes was my original trainer at WWA4. Rocky King is somewhat of a legend. He used to wrestle in the WWF a long time ago and he has a school in Atlanta. He’s another good friend of mine.

Other gimmicks include 187, who was a thuggish partner for the wrestler Murder One. There was Campus Strike Force, which was like Power Rangers but they were jobbers. I was the yellow one. TMZ, Paper, a rip on the paper rock scissors game, and a few more.

What are the origins of the Zombie Dragon character?

The origins of Zombie Dragon are somewhat remarkable. Pro South Wrestling, in Piedmont, Alabama, let me run absolute wild with this character. For around 6 months Curry Kidd was tied up to the ring post by the Left Hand Path, until they decided to sacrifice him, burn his mask, initiate a ritual, stab him and leave him for dead. This was all done in front of a live audience and was widely accepted as most people have forgotten that Curry and Zombie are the same person. A truly redefined image.

How did you end up coming to China?

Funny story, I trained Uncle Money for his first wrestling match (against my TMZ gimmick) A few months later he moved to China where he found Middle Kingdom Wrestling. After about a year MKW decided to open a training facility where they were open to hiring a trainer from the States, and Uncle Money recommended me, and the rest is history.

Has your family been supportive of your decision to wrestle?

They’ve been super supportive of this entire transition which is surprising. One time I lost my match in Korea against Adam Mayhem in PWS (Pro Wrestling Society) and my Grandma found out so when I called her she was broken down in tears like it was a Championship match! She told me her and the church goers decided to have a special prayer for me not to lose future matches and stay in good health.

Have you experienced any racial prejudice in the business?

The racial prejudice I’ve experienced has been rather odd to say the least. Often times people didn’t realize I was black because under a mask, people only see the character. The times I did deal with any prejudice antics, it usually came from people the same shade of skin as mine, which cuts even deeper.

Along that topic what’s your reaction to Kofi Kingston winning the WWE Title at Wrestlemania?

I loved every minute of it! Here’s a guy who’s been consistently putting out good work, never in trouble, and capitalized off an opportunity to shatter the glass ceiling. I’m extremely proud of him!

In closing do you have a website or anything you’d like to plug?

Sure thing! I’m on: Twitter @Th3zombiedragon

Facebook: Zombie Dragon or Alberto Del Curry

Instagram: The zombiedragon

And wechat/weibo as zombiedragon

 

It may be morbid to acknoweldge but a wrestler death is  a regular part of our news cycle now. We almost expect it. Test died earlier this year at 33, and yesterday Umaga died at 36. Details here

http://sports.yahoo.com/mma/news?slug=ys-wrestlerdeath120509&prov=yhoo&type=lgns

In the last few years a statistic floated around that 100 wrestlers died in the past decade that were under 50, and around 60-70 of them were under 40.  I’m almost 33, so Test was about my age, and Umaga was almost my age when he died.

To anyone my age reading this, this includes many wrestling stars we grew up with as a kid. Junkyard dog, Rick Rude, Big Bossman, Big John Studd, Miss Elizabeth, Earthquake, Bam Bam Bigelow, Dino Bravo, Sensational Sherri, Davey Boy Smith, Crush, Hercules, Road Warrior Hawk, Mr Perfect, Yokuzuna, Saphire, Texas Tornado, and on and on.

I couldn’t find a solid list with all the deaths AND when they happened AND how old they were, but decent one I found is here.

http://www.pwwew.net/people/dead.htm

I can’t help but wonder is it wrong to just not like wrestling anymore? That might be unfair but you don’t see as many fatalities in football, any fightning sport, or racing.

The only comparable thing the comes to mind is rock n roll deaths. Many young rock stars died from accidents, murder, and drug related deaths. That list would include Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, John Bonham, Bon Scott, John Lennon, Randy Rhoads, Cliff Burton, Eric Carr, Kurt Kobain, Michael Jakson, and many more. (If you’re curious, look here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_deaths_in_rock_and_roll)

Even still, I don’t think you have so many young rock n roll deaths in such a short period of time.

What is it about wrestling that has lost so many young active people this past 10-12 years? Drugs, steriods, the grueling touring schedule? Bret Hart said he would have liked to have been home just one Christmas for his kids. If a wrestling event ever comes near my home on Christmas day, I will not go. Sometimes I’m not sure if I’d go period.

What do you think?