Behind the Curtain. Beyond the Mat. A look at Atlantic Pro Wrestling.
Hello fellow GPer’s and True Readers! We interrupt your regular scheduled reading to bring you some out of the box entertainment!
If you like action, suspense, flashy costumes and crazy catchphrases then this might just be for you.
A short time ago on May 21st, 2016 I had the distinct pleasure of being guest at a spectacular local show put on by some very talented men and women who enjoy their craft. It just so happens that their craft of choice is Professional Wrestling.
Anyone of you reading this who may already be a fan of Pro Wrestling, well then I don’t need to tell you that it is a form of entertainment like no other. Any of you who aren’t a fan, still read on, we might just hook you yet.
So my adventure with Atlantic Pro Wrestling started at approximately 5:15 in the town of Newbury, Massachusetts outside a local firehouse. As I arrived you could feel the excitement in the air as droves of spectators were eagerly awaiting the 7pm bell time. I filed past the line and opened the doors to go inside. As I ventured on in, I saw a small group of able bodied individuals setting up the ring which would serve as the center for the evening’s showcase.
Like Barnum & Baileys under the Big Top, so much preparation goes into the evening’s festivities. It’s refreshing to see talent and crew unified as they put together their playground. It is an arduous process to make sure every detail is just right and demonstrates the passion they all share for the same thing.
Walking past the ring, I then enter the backstage area where the talent on the roster are preparing for their matches. The first people I see are the APW tag team champions: “The Selfie Made Man” Vern Vicallo & “Perfect” Dan Terry aptly forming the team of “Picture Perfect.”
Then in my best “Mean Gene” style I open with a barrage of questions to delve into what makes the Champs tick.
Graphic Policy: How long have you guys been wrestling fans?
Selfie Made Man: (proudly) The Selfie Made Man has been a wrestling fan for well over 20 years. The first time I watched it was when Hulk Hogan won the Royal Rumble in 1990 so I’m dating myself.
GP: Nothing wrong with that. Means you can’t break up with yourself right? (Laughs)
SMM: (Laughs) Oh never! What about you Dan?
Dan Terry: Me? I would say I became a fan of wrestling while watching Wrestlemania 14. I had never really watched it before and when it came to Boston, I won’t tell you what grade I was in but it was a huge deal. All the kids in my class just kept talking about it and I wanted to fit in so I had to see it. I remember the whole thing with Mike Tyson and Stone Cold Steve Austin. From that moment on, I was immediately hooked.
GP: Very cool wrestling moments for sure. So let me ask you, how did you get into Independent Wrestling, individually?
SMM: I signed up to the New England Pro Wrestling Academy which is run by Brian Fury, on May 19th 2012. So I thought to myself I’m not getting any younger so I pulled the trigger on this. I did some research and NEPWA was the best for me and I’ve been running ever since.
GP: Any shout outs?
SMM: My trainer Brian Fury and long time trainer and friend Johnny Vegas.
GP: Very nice and yourself?
Dan: I had just graduated college and was working a few jobs and it really wasn’t going anywhere. So I found the Bell Time Club (located in Wakefield, MA) which is run by Beau Douglas. He’s the guy who taught me so much. I think he’s one of the best trainers in New England.
GP: Lastly, what would you like to convey to fans or really anyone who might want to make this a possible career choice?
Dan: Well first off, there is a lot of training that goes into this as well as tremendous body upkeep. Also people have this misconception that you train a little bit and then boom, you have your first match. It’s not like that at all. Training is continuously happening. It’s multiple times a week and you don’t just go to the show and have a match. No, if bell time is 7pm you are probably there around 1pm helping set everything up and getting prepared. Likewise if the closing time is 10pm well you probably aren’t getting out of there till say 1 or 2am. It really is a lot of dedication in all forms.
GP: Well we can see that the dedication shows through and pays off. Thank you for your time. Good luck with you title match tonight guys.
Dan: Thank you.
Almost bell time and I make my last rounds before the crowd starts filing in. I spot sitting on a chair in deep thought, none other than Mr. John Cena Sr. Now for those of you who don’t know he just so happens to be direct relative of one John Cena. Maybe you’ve heard of the guy. Well tonight he’s not the man behind “The Face who runs the place” or the father of the 15 World Heavyweight Champion. No tonight, he is “Johnny Fabulous” who is always ready to jaw with the best of them, and he’s got something to say…
GP: Good to see you again sir. It’s always a pleasure.
John Cena Sr: Thank you as well.
GP: So anything new or exciting in store for us that you can share?
John: Actually yes. There is a show called “Wrestling for Warriors” on June 4th in FT Wayne, IN. We got some great stars set for there, Tomaso Champa , Mickey James, Rhyno. We just got a loaded card. It is such a fun time and all the proceeds go to young men and women fighting cancer. I want to tell you that J Fab, John Cena Sr. is going to be there and I can’t wait to see and say hi to the fans. Also with the general manager, who knows there might be an FU in the cards.
GP: That sounds very cool. Wish I could take a trip out there.
John: Well if you can’t take a trip you can always contribute to the cause online at www.wrestlingforwarriors.com
GP: You know what? Absolutely. (Contribute I did. To my readers I urge you as well, it is for a terrific cause) Before I let you go for the show, is there anything you think wrestling could do differently? Anything you think that is being done currently that is going backwards?
John: Nothing is ever backwards. I think everything is forwards. When you go forwards, you have to make story lines believable. You have to make characters gigantic, bigger than life. I think that is where they are missing the boat on some of these things. I come from back in an era with Bruno Sammartino and Gorilla Monsoon, Mr. Fuji, Chief Jay Strongbow and Walter (Killer) Kowalski. All those greats were believable. I think that’s due to a few things. One, good guys had separate rooms from bad guys and they filmed it when they came out there. It was believable, it was real. We didn’t have the Wizard of Oz where they pulled back the curtain. That’s the big thing. Making story lines more believable is the best place to start.
GP: I just think that the talent coming up is never ending. Every time you see someone reach the top, someone comes up and tops it. There really is no ceiling. That’s why I like the Indy stuff. The people you see here are the stars of tomorrow. It’s quite exciting.
John: The Indies are the future of tomorrow. People come to these shows, and some of them say “You know, I love coming to the Indy shows more than the big shows because, I am closer to the action and I can talk to the wrestlers.” It’s really a different type of experience. People in the Indy’s today are shooting for the moon. Walter Kowalkski, God rest his soul used to say “Shoot for the moon, and maybe you will grab a star on the way up.”
John: So work hard, train hard and believe in what you do and you’ll get there. Stop doing some of these crazy moves that will break your body. Sometimes less is more.
GP: I agree. Sometimes the “illusion” of the big spot is better than the big spot itself.
John: Yup. People need to take a look at Professional Wrestling. We have respect for the young men and women who put their lives on the line, and I mean this, they do. They put their lives on the line each time they are in the ring so people can go home happy. Cheer them or boo them, you’ve got to respect that.
GP: I couldn’t agree more. So anything you want to say about tonight?
John: All I can say is that there will be a lot of surprises. You are at the APW Arena. When the lights go down, the action comes up. We got some great matches and if you’re looking for action and family fun then APW is the place to be.
Shortly after, I make my way to my seat to take in the show. The house lights start to go down and the ring lights pop on. I can hear the crowd getting restless as they are feverishly awaiting the action. If you’ve never been to a Pro Wrestling show live, there is nothing like it. The atmosphere is electric and it’s where people come to let their worries wash away and just cut loose.
So as I sit, hot dog clenched one hand and a bottle of water in the other, we proceed to get started with some exciting tag team action! The first match on the card is a 4 corners match elimination match, with the team that wins becoming the number one contenders to face the APW Tag Team Champions “Picture Perfect” later in the evening. Now not being familiar with the roster, I went in dark on this and just tried to soak it all in with no bias.
The match was a great combination of traditional and entertaining “spot” wrestling. There was hardly a moment where the ropes were still due to all the bodies flying around the ring. Team by team was eliminated until there was only one team that stood tall. That team was the pair of “Gridhouse” Evan Siks & “The Prince of Pink” Brendan Michael Thomas. They were to go on to face the champs later on in the evening. We were off to a great start.
I was able to head backstage once again prior to the next match. This time to get some words with the former Women’s Champion Mistress Belmont (as of writing these she no longer has her belt due to some impromptu shenanigans that took place after the match)
GP: So for those who want to know, how long have you been wrestling?
Belmont: I have been wrestling shows for 11 years but I trained a year ahead of time so I have been doing this for about 12 years.
GP: Have you traveled all over the country, or performed in a different country?
Belmont: I have wrestled in Canada. I’ve done shows in Montreal and Vancouver once. That’s about as far out of the country I’ve gone. I pretty much keep to New England, I do go to New York, New Jersey but mostly New England.
GP: Very cool. What made you decide you wanted to be a pro wrestler?
Belmont: I always wanted to. Growing up my parents took away our television when I was very young. However when we got sent to the babysitter’s on Saturday morning when both my parents were working, we got to watch wrestling. I never saw women’s wrestling, because back then you only saw that on a special occasion like a Pay Per View. I knew that there were two women in wrestling: Sensational Sherri and Miss Elizabeth. I remember thinking as a young girl, that Miss Elizabeth was useless. Sensational Sherri wasn’t afraid to get in there and tear it up with the guys and do whatever she needed to. I knew I wanted to be like her.
GP: Touching on that, the passing of Chyna, what does that mean to you?
Belmont: The passing of Chyna, wow. Honestly when I heard it I broke down and cried. I always say, I have muscles because of Chyna. I wanted to be a real women’s wrestler like her. When she was with (at the time) Hunter Hearst Helmsely I remember saying “Oh my God, no one messes with her.” She could hold her own and I thought her body was fantastic so I wanted to strive to be like that. To this day, it’s one of the coolest moments and anyone who has been a wrestling fan can identify, about a year ago I found Chyna on Twitter and I tweeted her and said “I have muscles because of you and I love you.” So she re tweeted me and in wrestling terms I “marked out.”
GP: Oh I have no doubt. How great!
Belmont: It happens very rarely. I even took a screenshot of it. So when I found out she passed away, it was devastating. She had worked so hard and did so much for women’s wrestling. She turned it up a notch and kicked doors in.
GP: She absolutely did. No question about that. She was so different. What I appreciate more is that you use the term “wrestling” and not sports entertainment. You’re a wrestler, not a diva.
Belmont: Oh God no!
GP: Funny thing is right now the women’s wrestling is more entertaining than the men. The level of talent that is out there now is astounding, and they all want to just wrestle.
Belmont: When Chyna started wrestling, women’s wrestling went soft. We had Sable and the bar was lowered. Chyna picked that bar up and now it’s continuing. It comes with time. You don’t always come out the gate being able to perform at top level. It takes a lot of time to hone your craft.
GP: Would you mind me asking, were you trained by a woman or a man?
Belmont: Sure. I actually was trained by a man. I had another girl at the school and more often than not, we would wrestle the guys. I was always taught if you can throw the guys around then you can throw the girls around.
With that statement being said, I excused myself and let her prep herself for her impending showdown which was moments away.
Now I don’t want you to get the impression that only the guys had the duty of thrilling the crowd, oh no as APW has a Women’s Champion (Mistress Belmont) who had some business that evening. Business in the form of defending her Women’s championship against Davienne w/ Uncle Eddie. Not unlike the Tag Team match which proceeded it, this contest was action packed from the bell. The action took these two ladies all over the arena. They were throwing each other into tables and chairs in what seemed like a very personal grudge match. Once the match spilled into the ring it didn’t get any less personal, champion and challenger alike fought vigorously until only one woman stood tall. Mistress Belmont was able to vanquish her foe and in the end was able to keep the gold. For but a moment. It was an unexpected end but a cool surprise.
Lastly I had the chance to candidly speak with the holder of the APW New England Championship: “Champagne” Joe Moakley. The champ was pulling double duty this evening as he was both promoter and champion. I was lucky enough to get a few moments pick the brain of the man who made this night possibly.
GP: Tell me sir, for those of us who may not know, how did APW come about?
Joe: Well the big backstory is, myself and Big Woody used to train in Salisbury back in 1999 under Knuckles Nelson. We always envisioned us having a match with one another. Well the school closed down and we took probably about 7 or 8 years off and then eventually we ran into a friend of ours named Derek who owned the ring. So I thought why don’t we run a couple shows. It all started just so we could have that match and the fans loved it, so why not keep going?
GP: Is there anything that you personally or your company is looking to introduce to the Indy Scene?
Joe: Well not really. We have a very good mix of the old school style wrestling and of course the new drama style wrestling with story lines. That sort of movie style atmosphere. You know I have an acting background.
GP: Oh really?
Joe: Yes I actually went to acting school in the city of Boston, so I have that background.
GP: So then, this is pretty natural for you?
Joe: Oh yes being in front of a camera is very natural for me.
GP: Hence, “Champagne” Joe Moakley. I love it.
GP: When people come to an APW show. What do you want them to take home, what is the thing you want them to remember most?
Joe: I want them to have the best night of their life every time they are out here. I like the fact that we are so family friendly. You can bring your ten year old here and not have to worry about swearing and getting hit with chairs. It’s like their best tv show only in live action.
GP: Absolutely. Well I wish you a lot of luck sir. I will be around and look forward to working with you in the future. Thank you for the opportunity to do so this evening.
Joe: Thank you and any time.
The evening for me rounded out with watching the APW Tag Team Champs (my new favorites) retain their titles in an almost “Picture Perfect” defense against their newly christened number one contenders. It was fast paced, exciting and most important of all, the better men won. That’s the great thing about this form of entertainment. Everyone wants to go out and steal the show, everyone wants that big “pop” from the crowd. The thing is, to everyone in attendance, it means something a little different. Be it a “heel” or “Babyface”. Be it good guys or bad guys. In the end they all putt butts in the seats. Each one of the people on that roster give you a reason to be there. Like many other live events the crowd can influence what transpires. Fortunately on this night, the crowd in attendance knew there roles, but most certainly did not shut their mouths. Which made it all the more fun.
So for one who was not familiar with the APW arena or the roster, but knows Pro Wrestling, I found this was extremely accessible. The talent made it so easy to get sucked right into the action. That is a testament to the men and women who gathered this night. Any group of people can get together and put up a ring of plywood and elevator cables and attempt to call it a wrestling show. However only the worthy ones can make it an experience and one you want to relive over and over.
Do yourselves a favor and check out www.atlanticprowrestling.com and see for yourselves.