20 Years of Wrestling and Friendship
April 20, 2011
I wrote the following for my “Storm Front” article for “Fighting Spirit” Magazine, back in October, and it is being reproduced with permission from Uncooked Media Ltd.
As I sit here typing this article it is Saturday October 2nd 2010, the 20th anniversary of my very first pro-wrestling match. That in itself is likely not cause for celebration but this weekend on the whole has turned into an amazing culmination of events that I think worthy of some discussion. On that fateful night 20 years ago I wrestled my good friend Chris Jericho on a very lack luster card presented by the Canadian Wrestling Connection in Ponoka Alberta. Ponoka is a small Alberta town about two hours north of Calgary and is likely best known for being the home of a mental health facility. I have little doubt many residence of this facility were in attendance that night, and to be perfectly honest I would not be surprised if one or two of them were even on the card. The card that night was nothing special, but does now hold a small place in wrestling history as the start of both mine and Chris Jericho’s career.
This is where the events of this weekend start to come together. On Friday I went out and bought a copy of the New Chris Jericho DVD “Breaking the Code”. This three disc set (available in stores everywhere and no doubt at www.WWEshop.com ) chronicles Jericho’s 20 year career and does includes that historic match from Ponoka, Alberta. I haven’t had the opportunity to watch the DVD yet but I know the match is included because I was the one that sent them the copy so it could be included. I’m hoping they managed to re-master it somehow because the copy I sent them was a third generation VHS copy that I had to convert to DVD myself.
If that wasn’t coincidence enough, guess who was in town this weekend? Yup, my good buddy Chris Jericho. Chris was in town for a wedding and we got together with our families for breakfast this morning. It wasn’t originally planned as an anniversary breakfast but that’s what it ended up being. It was so great to see Chris again and talk about all the great times we’ve had together over the last 20 years. In one last strange coincidence the hotel Chris and his family are staying in was the hotel that 20 years ago featured a bar called Malarkey’s where Chris and I used to bounce and my wife used to bartend.
This timely reunion got me thinking about a fairly common saying in this business, that you have a lot of acquaintances but very few friends. While that may be true to an extent the friends you do make become very near and dear to you, and none more so to me than Chris Jericho, because we’ve been such a big part of each other’s lives for more than 20 years.
This morning at breakfast we both agreed that if not for each other neither one of us would have made it in pro-wrestling. We pushed each other to succeed during training and as is evident by our 1990 class photo there was no one else in that class that could have. We worked with each other almost exclusively through out camp and traveled together to almost every Indy booking we had our first 2 years.
We made our first International trip together, as the tag team “Sudden Impact”, when we traveled to Japan for a three week tour with FMW in October of 1991.
In 1992 we split up as a team and went down our own career paths only to reunite, this time as the “Thrill Seekers”, for a short run in Jim Cornette’s Smokey Mountain Wrestling territory in 1994. Right before relocating to Knoxville, TN for SMW, I got married and Chris Jericho was in my wedding party. We had a lot of fun in SMW not the least of which involved shooting a bunch of extremely cheesy music videos that Cornette thought would get us over with the local Southern wrestling fans. These videos are comically bad and are also featured on the Chris Jericho DVD set.
After SMW, Jericho and I again parted ways but stayed in touch and were working together again by late 1995 when Chris helped get me booked back in Japan this time for WAR. We worked in Japan together for almost a year this time as rivals rather than partners, which I think both of us preferred. We were both part of a great 8 Man Tag Team match in Tokyo his last night with the company before he departed to join WCW. It was the company’s anniversary show and after the event there was a huge party where we all got drunk and sang karaoke. It was only the second time in my life that I had gotten drunk and the first time Jericho had ever seen me drink. I remember him being more excited about finally seeing me drunk than he was about going to WCW. Unfortunately Rey Mysterio has the only pictures I know of from that night and I’ve never managed to get copies from him. I do however have a great shot of Rey, Jericho and I from the 8 Man Tag Match.
Our careers would not cross paths again until WWE purchased WCW in 2001 but we remained friends and I attending his wedding in 2000. I had just started with WCW at the time and I was afraid to ask for time off to attend his wedding so Jericho (who was in WWE at the time) called a friend he still had in the WCW office and booked me the weekend off so I could attend his wedding.
So after 11 years of real life friendship, we both ended up in WWE, where we again had an on again off again career relationship. We were both friends and enemies during our time in WWE and oddly enough, matches with Chris Jericho bookended my WWE TV career. My first official WWE match was a tag team match where Mike Awesome and I faces Chris Jericho and Kane, and my final match with the company was ECW’s ONS in 2005 where I faced Chris Jericho in a singles match to open the show.
In another strange coincidence, we both left WWE later that same year and without talking to each other we both gave our notice the same week. In 2007 when Jericho was getting ready to make his WWE return he came to Calgary to visit me at Storm Wrestling Academy to get back in ring shape.
After a great 3 year run it looks like Chris is again taking some time off from WWE and it was great to sit down with my good friend and reflect on the great careers and lives we’ve both had.
Not every story in wrestling is a tragic one. 20 years ago we were just two knuckle head kids with a dream, and today we sat down with our wives and our kids to a great breakfast as old friends; both healthy, happy, and financially secure. Life is what you make of it; make the right choices and pick the right friends, and life can be pretty damn great.
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