A Castle of Hugs
Ohio Based Wrestler Climbs Wrestling’s Ladder
By Stephen Cravak
Three hundred and thirty pounds of furry flesh stalks its prey. Men gaze while little children scream at the emerging behemoth. The beast lifts up its colossal arm and bellows… “Hi!”
The crowd is stunned. “What the?”
It’s just your friendly neighborhood goofball, Bryan Castle, better known as “The World’s Most Huggable Wrestler.” Smiling, he enters the ring wrapped in black and red spandex armor topped off with a sprawling beard, bandana, and gelled faux hawk.
What makes a mammoth man adopt such a jovial demeanor? “For four years, I got nowhere as a serious wrestler,” says Castle who felt the wrestling universe needed more characters. He decided to give it a massive teddy bear. The original idea began as a Chris Farley type gimmick, as suggested by fellow wrestler Benjamin Boone at a Pro Wrestling Ohio show in Cleveland.
In 1991, Castle was in attendance at an untelevised WWE event at the Sports Arena in Toledo, Ohio, . All it took was Ted Dibiase and the Ultimate Warrior in the main event for him to realize that one day he too would enter the squared circle. “I knew right then and there that’s what I wanted to do.” Growing up, Castle idolized the “big guy characters” from Bam Bam Bigelow to Dr. Death Steve Williams and Vader, who were not only huge but also light-footed. Recent inspiration comes from former ECW, WWE, and TNA superstar Rhyno. Castle feels it’s a travesty how Rhyno doesn’t currently have a position with one of the top federations.
Financially speaking, Castle can’t call wrestling a career, though he clearly understands the wrestling business. “My name is Bryan Castle because it looks better on a T-shirt than my real name.” It’s funny to think how the name originated just four minutes before his debut match against Dick Nasty, and six years later it still serves him well. “It’s a rough business, and if you’re not ready for it, it’ll tear you up. It’s all about whoring yourself out,” says Castle who admittingly if called up by the WWE would be willing to do anything or become any character. However, if he had veto power would not be in favor of following in the masked Ding Dongs’ footsteps.
If Castle could give advice to anyone just before their debut match it’s to “relax, the main thing is that you’re having fun. If you’re not, it shows.” Though, fun for Castle comes at a price. Over the years he’s had to pass up better paying jobs and has seen relationships deteriorate due to his commitment to sports entertainment. While he desires to build it into a career, he’s happy playing the part of a on-the-road warrior. Castle knows his job, despite winning or losing, is to entertain the crowd. “I always fear the fans are not enjoying it.” Not only do audiences enjoy his wrestling prowess and silly hijinks, but also the organizations he works for.
On Saturday, April 7th at his debut for Buffalo Championship Wrestling in western New York, Castle dazzled the crowd with his goofball antics in a three-way dance against Jeremiah Bradley and Evan McCloud. Castle playfully hi-fived not only his opponents, but also the referee and the fans into an uproarious state of laughter. Based on the overwhelmingly positive response, BCW officials decided to bring him back just one month later. “Bryan has the total package; a great and agile wrestler for his size plus his personality and character is unique and speaks to the fans,” says BCW Announcer Chris Gullo.
Castle has also worked hard to impress his fellow wrestlers and coaches. “The wrestling school I met him at there were probably 9 or 10 guys there and he was the only one who seemed like he wanted it,” says trainer “The Homeless Avenger” Dick Nasty, who has wrestled Castle an estimated 100 times and regards him as one of his favorite opponents. “As long as he sticks with it and keeps working hard there will be no limit to what he does and where he goes.”
While Monday through Friday, Castle finds himself in the back of a restaurant cooking for others, on the weekends he serves up a delightful dish of sports entertainment. If he happens to be in your neck of the woods, be sure to check him out in action, and while you’re there give him a hug.
Name: “The World’s Most Huggable Wrestler” Bryan Castle
WEIGHT: 330 pounds
EXPERIENCE: 6 years
LOCATION: Toledo, Ohio
FAVORITE MOVES: his versions of the Vader Bomb and the Perfect-Plex
FINISHER: a running crossbody
COMPARISON: Bam Bam Bigelow meets Colt Cabana
WRESTLED FOR: PWO in Cleveland; CIW in Adrian, Michigan; XICW; Big Time Wrestling; Metro Pro Wrestling in Detroit; Buffalo Championship Wrestling; and others
TRAINING/TRAINERS: In Toledo by ”The Homeless Avenger” Dick Nasty. Additional training by Mr. Main Event, CK3, “Amazing” N8 Mattson, and Rhyno.
Special thanks to Ivy Imagery, Dick Nasty (@DickNasty2000), Chris Gullo (@ChrisGullo), and especially Bryan Castle (@Bryan_Castle) for committing his time for an extensive interview session.
“Easter spells out beauty, the rare beauty of new life.” - S.D. Gordon
For devout Christians, Easter is all about resurrection, and for children it’s about finding a basket full of goodies. On Saturday, April 7th BCW’s Easter Weekend Extravaganza was not only a resurrection with in ring performances by living legends Tommy Dreamer and “The Franchise” Shane Douglas, but the event also made it easy for children, ages 5 to 99, to find a squared circle full of goodies. Buffalo Championship Wrestling made sure to put its mark on quality sports entertainment with a well balanced card full of surprises. Click here to watch the action packed show finish. With Empire State Wrestling’s loaded BrawlFest held less than a week later, there’s no doubt that Western New York wrestling fans are benefiting from the two feds apparent “Monday Night War”-esque competition. According to BCW officials, the 3 hour show boasted over 200 fans in attendance. Its success has prompted BCW to promise a future appearance by ECW alumni Johnny Swinger and also wasted no time in announcing the next event for Saturday, May 26th at the Lake Erie Italian Club in Lackawanna.
***Heels (bad guys) are listed first, followed by faces (good guys)
Match #1: Bobby Stone VS Rip Impact
Looking like a miniature Big Show, Stone was quickly gained heat from the crowd. While a face, Impact relies on his arsenal of moves to get the crowd into the match. By far one of the best worked matches of the night and a well-chosen opener for the card.
Winner: Rip Impact via pinfall.
Match #2: Jeremiah Bradley VS Evan McCloud VS “The World’s Most Huggable Wrestler” Bryan Castle
By far, the best ring psychology of the night. These three wrestlers were able to effectively play off each other while consistently eliciting cheers and jeers from the crowd. Bryan Castle is like Bam Bam Bigelow meets Colt Cabana, and is certainly one to watch. Bradley boasts Mark Henry sized stature and McCloud is a cross between Fit Finley and Hornswoggle.
Winner: Jeremiah Bradley via pinfall.
BCW Heavyweight Champion “Big League” John McChesney w/ Caesar & Waylon Reavis (lead singer of metal band Mushroomhead) incited Tommy Dreamer to setup the night’s non-title, hardcore rules main event.
Match #3: The Yankee Outlaws (Nick Paradise & H.C. Loc) VS Iron Clad (Frank the Tank & Ron Falco)
Lots of personality in this match. With his experience in ECW and Ring of Honor, HC Loc knew how to work to the crowd. Frank the Tank moved the crowd with his ariel antics, and Ron Falco was arguably the best fit of the roster.
Winner: The Yankee Outlaws via pinfall.
30 Minute Intermission
Match #4: T-Rex Express (Troy Buchannan & “Retro” Rex Atkins) VS “Sik” Rik Matrix in a handicap match
A slow paced match. Matrix has been feuding with T-Rex Express for months, and following the close of the match he stated it’s just beginning. Atkins and Buchannan exemplify tag team chemistry and work well together as heels. Overall, the match was one of the longest of the night and had a classic ’80s feel to it.
Winner: ”Sik” Rik Matrix via pinfall.
Match #5: Krimson VS Mean Marcos
A considerable mismatch in size, but Marcos was able to flawlessly showoff his elaborate technical and high-flying repertoire. A 10 year plus veteran on the circuit, Krimson’s “dark” gimmick gave the crowd something to taunt. Chants of “Vampiro,” “Sting,” and “Papa Shango,” rang throughout the match as a commentary on his facepaint. Some of the most exciting moves of the night were committed in this match.
Winner: Mean Marcos via pinfall.
Match #6: “The Franchise” Shane Douglas VS “Buffalo Bad Boy” Brian Jennings
Chants of “You still got it” rang from the start. Certainly Douglas is a master of the mic. He went from crowd favorite to despised heel in less than 60 seconds. This was a well booked match. Jennings, the hometown hero matched up well in size and experience against the seasoned veteran.
Winner: Brian Jennings via pinfall.
Match #7: “Big League” John McChesney VS “The Innovator of Violence” Tommy Dreamer
As soon as this non-title match added the “extreme rules” stipulation, the fans expected weapons, outside the ring action, and interference from McChesney’s entourage. They weren’t disappointed. Dreamer geniusly took advantage of his surroundings to deliver a truly hardcore yet comical match. Highlights included him shoving McChesney into a hockey net while proceeding to celebrate the goal. The true victim of this match were the refreshments. Countless assortments of soft drinks and snacks were snatched from the audience and used as weapons and at one point Dreamer drowned himself under a box of popcorn for a mid-match energy boost. Filled with plenty of spots, and chemistry, this match was worthy of main event status. Following the match Dreamer celebrated with interuptions from the locker room. Click here to watch the show’s finale.
Winner: Tommy Dreamer via pinfall.
Be sure to check out BCW, announcer/comedian Chris Gullo, and of course Tommy Dreamer, and Shane Douglas.
Follow Crave on twitter @cravevsworld
*** All images and video used with permission from Buffalo Championship Wrestling. Unauthorized use of media is not permitted. ***
“The Innovator of Violence” Tommy Dreamer celebrates his victory over “Big League” Brian McChesney in a hardcore rules, non-title match from Buffalo Championship Wrestler’s 1st Annual Easter Weekend Extravaganza on Saturday, April 7th in Orchard Park, NY.
I haven’t paid attention to WWE for a long time. The last time I really followed the company was over ten years ago around 2000/2001. I feel much more drawn to TNA these days — WWE’s roster and storylines seem quite generic and dull in comparison. But recently, my friend, who’s a big WWE fan, recommended I tune in once and see if I get hooked. And as the old saying goes, “Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it”, so I’m gonna sit through the latest WWE broadcast and blog my thoughts as I’m watching.
Bear in mind I know little about WWE’s current wrestlers or storylines so I’ll be coming at this from a completely fresh perspective. Let’s see if SmackDown from Friday night (April 6th 2012) can persuade a lapsed WWE fan to tune in more often…
DAVID OTUNGA INTRODUCES JOHN LAURINAITIS: It’s apparently “the most important day in SmackDown history” as Otunga introduces Laurinaitis, the new SmackDown GM. But the crowd don’t seem happy. You can tell Laurinaitis was an ex-wrestler with a promo voice like that. The crowd aren’t listening. He’s waffling. Teddy Long is called to the ring. The crowd seem to like him. Teddy interrupts Laurinaitis but he lets Teddy talk. I think it’s funny how wrestlers are civil when they’re holding a microphone. Sometimes I want them to just kick off. Laurinaitis offers Teddy a job on SmackDown but Teddy refuses it to a big pop. But Laurinaitis refers to the fact that the contract for Long’s grandchildren’s education fund is controlled by the SmackDown GM. Laurinaitis is gonna force Teddy to embarass himself if he wants to put his grandchildren through college. Long takes the job.
Interesting opening. I liked it. It started off boring but ended well. The crowd still hate Laurinaitis.
R-TRUTH VS. MARK HENRY AND DAVID OTUNGA: So Laurinitis has called out this first match. Mark Henry looks different to the last time I saw him. This seems like a very unfair match-up… OK, I liked R-Truth’s high impact style, but the squash ending was predictable.
RANDY ORTON VS. KANE: Kane’s really stepped up the evil vibe since I last saw him. Randy Orton’s trying to out-stare Kane. Orton is the kind of generic wrestler I imagine the WWE being full of. Let’s see if he can wrestle well tonight. This is a WrestleMania rematch.
Kane goes flying over the announcers’ table. Nice. Lots of action outside the ring. Some nice loud punches being thrown but also some obviously fake ones. They’re back in the ring now. Kane exposing the steel on the turnbuckle but doesn’t get to use it. Kane’s in control. The big guy was climbing the turnbuckle but Orton stopped him. They’re back outside the ring.
I like Booker T’s commentary. He’s much more colourful than the other guys. Kane brings a chair into play. Now three more chairs. And another. Everyone loves a chair. Orton grabs a chair. ”Could be backfire city.” Haha. Orton drops Kane on a chair but Kane kicks out. Kane now has a chair. I can see him winning now. But Orton uses the exposed turnbuckle and finishes Kane for the pin. Nice.
Good match. Got even better when the chairs came in.
RYBACK VS. BARRY STEVENS: Haha Barry Stevens looks goofy and I enjoyed him calling the crowd “rude”.
Ryback. Apparently it’s his debut. His name sounds like a Pokemon. The commentators are talking him up. I’d put my money on him. On anyone against Stevens actually. He looks weak.
As expected, quick victory for Ryback. “Utter annihilation.”
WRESTLEMANIA RECAP: There’ve been recaps of WrestleMania throughout the show using photo montages. The music choice (Flo Rida) is interesting. I guess it might be because tonight’s SmackDown comes from Florida, but WWE never used to play such contemporary, non-rock music. It makes the show seem slick and modern though.
DANIEL BRYAN PROMO: He looks annoyed. Sounds like he lost at WrestleMania in 18 seconds.
Poor guy, his girlfriend is having to encourage him to speak. Couldn’t she have said all this before they came out? The crowd are chanting Bryan’s name. Looks like this guy needs some counseling. He’s talking again. I feel a heel turn coming on. Maybe he was a heel before this. I don’t know haha. He thinks the crowd are mocking him. He calls them “sheep”. Now he’s blaming his loss on his girl. This guy really doesn’t help himself. The crowd are chanting “18 seconds” haha. Bryan and AJ are having an in-ring domestic. AJ’s about to cry. He broke up with her mid-promo. “Go cry over your disgusting cheesburgers that you love so much.” Haha. She doesn’t look like the cheesburger-eating type. This guy’s funny. She wants him back. He’s shouting at her. Great promo, but I wonder what kind of example he’s setting younger, impressionable fans when it comes to dealing with women.
ANOTHER WRESTLEMANIA RECAP: This one soundtracked by Metallica. Makes up for the Flo Rida earlier.
BIG SHOW VS. HEATH SLATER: With guest commentary by Cody Rhodes. The other commentators are making fun of him for losing to Big Show at Wrestlemania. The humour on this show has been great so far.
Great clothes line from the Big Show. He threw Slater to one side of the ring, bounced off another side himself and performed the move. Never seen that before. Easy victory for Big Show. His theme music hasn’t changed in ten years. Cody Rhodes looks like he wants to get in the ring. Booker T’s advising against it. Rhodes looks scared. Obviously no match for the Big Show. Big Show takes some time to talk to the fans as he leaves. That’s good to see.
RAW RECAP: Chris Jericho is making CM Punk drink whisky. Is CM Punk straight edge? He must be, he had Xs on his hands. Not anymore. Some of that whisky must have gone in. Jericho smashes the bottle over Punk’s head. Interesting angle.
LAURINAITIS/SHEAMUS PROMO: Refreshing to hear something other than an American accent, but Sheamus’s reference to the local mill is perhaps a bit too stereotypical. Made me laugh for the wrong reason there.
NIKKI BELLA VS. BETH PHOENIX: It’s a Divas match. OK, another extremely short match. Also an interruption by Kelly Kelly. Now that’s just lazy naming. Shame it was so short. The standard of wrestling there didn’t look too bad.
CHIEF JAY STRONGBOW TRIBUTE: R.I.P.
DAMIEN SANDOW PROMO: Calling out the people of America for their trashy lifestyle. Reminds me of the promos Bret Hart used to do in the mid-90s, hating on America.
JOHN CENA RECAP: Turns into a re-introduction for Brock Lesnar. That guy looks cool.
SHEAMUS VS. ALBERTO DEL RIO: Del Rio enters in a car. I like his entrance music. His first appearance in six months apparently. There seems to be a lot of debuts/returns lately.
Is Sheamus the whitest wrestler of all time? Mexico vs. Ireland here.
Nice back and forth. They’re outside the ring now. Del Rio is starting to take control. But as the commentators keep saying, “Sheamus will take a beating to give one.” Booker T is saying Del Rio is wrestling well but has a bit of ring rust. Sheamus fighting back now. Sheamus grabs a chair, and gets DQed. That’s a shame. Everyone loves a chair. Sheamus takes the referee out. He needs to control his temper.
CONCLUSION: All in all, I enjoyed that. There were a lot of references to WrestleMania, obviously, but all of the storylines segued away from WrestleMania really well. I’d watch again. The standard of wrestling was high, and it’s all more slick and on a larger scale than TNA. I might tune in to Raw to see what Brock Lesnar does as well. WWE might just win me back yet.
For fans of RingWriters in the Western New York, stop looking for your Easter basket and come find extreme legends Tommy Dreamer and Shane Douglas kicking arse the old fashioned way at Buffalo Championship Wrestling’s first annual Easter Weekend Extravaganza on Saturday, April 7th in Orchard Park, NY. RingWriter’s own Crave Cravak will be there abstractly and in person covering this epic event.
“HOLLA TO THE WORLD” IS NOW AVAILABLE ON iTUNES!
MVP is one of the most accomplished megastars in the industry today, and continues to impress despite having recently parted ways with WWE. He’s already been an Intercontinental Champion with New Japan Pro Wrestling and was monumental in making their 2011 stateside tour a success. This consummate professional also refuses to lay idle when he’s in-between tours.
Move over Lex Luger, Holla the the World featuring Dwane Sweazie, the modern day mac’s latest music endeavor is the true “total package.” If not for the eye candy, and wrestling personality cameos, MVP delivers catchy respectful lyrics that even Mom and Pop approve. The video itself has everything you expect from the rap genre with its expensive cars and slammin’ feminine assets, while executed tastefully. Let’s hope WWE is taking notes the next time they let Jon Cena or R Truth cut a video.
Like others before him, from Junkyard Dog grabbing cakes, to Ernest Miller pleaing for someone to call his Mamma, this “rapping wrestler” is no joke. We here at RingWriters feel it’s only a matter of time before he takes his skills and appeal to Hollywood.
Be sure to visit mvp305.com and follow MVP on twitter @The305MVP
“I don’t think that McMahon thinks very much about the fact that J.R and I have been successful. I don’t think that McMahon thinks the wrestling announcers really have that much to contribute the show.” – Jerry Lawler
Professional wrestling may present a “fantasy world of combatants,” but a major part of its success is how the industry personalizes its shows and creates a product that the public can relate to. There exists an “anything can happen” mentality but that usually only occurs during a match. In order to improve the entertainment value of any promotion, attention must be made to every detail, from the entrance ramp, to railings, and especially to announcing.
If each match is announced by the same person, a sense of routine monotony takes over. On Monday Nitro, WCW employed Michael Buffer and his trademarked “Let’s get ready to rumble” phrase to usher in the main events. Occasionally, WWE will invite a celebrity or wrestler as the special guest ring announcer. Mr. Kennedy announced himself and Alberto Del Rio’s gimmick was vastly enhanced by his own spanish ring announcer.
In order to take advantage of the the seldom tweaked aspect of ring announcing, we journey back to 1996 to the Rosie O’Donnel Show. What was innovative and catchy about this show was how it opened with a member of the audience introducing Rosie. While their mic skills weren’t as impressive as a professional, they added a humble personal touch to the show. It’s time to embrace this same strategy in the world of professional wrestling, especially during TV tapings. Before the wrestling action begins, involve the audience by asking for participants to audition for the role of announcer. Invite a mix crowd, from energetic youth, to sassy ladies, to quirky grandparents. Let the audience select one of them, and then for one of the matches, allow this “fan favorite fan” to take over the ring announcing. It’s probably best to use their services for the opening match to help set a friendly and crowd interactive tone for the rest of the show. Make sure that only your professional announcers handle title matches and main events, this is because you want those to have a professional and heightened mood much like when Michael Buffer announced the main events of Nitro.
Sure this has been before, and in some cases on a regular basis, but it definitely needs to be brought back and executed consistently. While only one person enjoys the spotlight while announcing, it empowers all the fans at home, that they too have the chance to be involved. Whenever there is an opportunity, professional wrestling needs to personalize the experience and involve its greatest asset: the fans.
“Damn referees, I’ll miss them less than anybody.” – Abe Lemons
“A women’s greatest asset is her beauty.” – Alex Comfort
Despite it’s PG rating, WWE relies heavily on eye candy to draw in the 18-49 male demographic. Consequently, they’ve put their T&A specialists wherever there was a spot as: managers, valets, “girlfriends,” interviewers, ring announcers, wrestlers, and even in WCW as dancing cheerleaders. How come those girls haven’t adorned the zebra stripes more often? Aksana, who is clearly years away from becoming ring ready should permanently officiate. She’s done it before and she should do it again. Suddenly a tag match between “whoever” versus “I don’t care” has my attention, especially when she has to get down on the mat for the count.
Is it sexist to feature female referees? Not at all. If anything, it’s forward feminism. The role has been dominated by males, and this way women get to be involved. I’m not saying they should wear long slacks and a polo, but I’m also not abdicating they strip down to a thong either. No matter how you strip it, eye candy equals money. Let the true women wrestlers duke it out in the ring, but there’s no reason to make the hot ones leave. Just delegate them to officiating and everyone wins. In addition, if these pretty ladies want to train to become wrestlers their experience in the ring as officials will only help them.
The bottom line is if I was in charge of any promotion, large or small, I would immediately axe all male referees and install adorable ones in their stead. While some are critical of bringing back a Nitro Girls type dance team, or the sign holders from the early days of Monday Night Raw, adding female referees is cost effective because you don’t have to hire additional workers, since the position has to be filled. Plus, if you’ve got some wrestlers insistent on traveling with their wives or girlfriends, why not plug them in as referees. There’s no need for vocal talent, you just need to move around, avoid contact, smooth communication and dictate orders. It’s not a job you can master overnight, but it’s certainly easier then becoming a wrestler and will 100% guaranteed entertain that all too horny demographic.
Ladies, it’s time we see you in stripes on a full-time basis.
“You gotta have a gimmick.” – Ethel Merman
Picture two hooded figures stalking the ring under the guise of bed sheets. This is not the deep south, we’re not in an attic, and it’s not Halloween. But it sure makes for comedic entertainment. Say “Boo” to DEJA BOO, the newest idea in the Gimmick Garage.
TYPE: Tag Team / Heel or Face
LEVEL: Lowercard, timeline could be a one-time shot or up to a year
COMPATIBILITY: If they’re to be heels, a manager is a necessity. If faces, they will have to be strictly comical and rely on their moaning boos for interviews.
Theme: Halloween / Ghosts
BODY TYPE: any size works, it depends on the effect you have in mind
RING STYLE: Twin magic, much like the Bella Twins
LOOKS LIKE: Two people in lame ghost outfits.
ENTRANCE: Lame halloween party background sound effect music.
FINALE: Possible: Following a victory they use their sheets to engulf their opponents, then after the lights are turned off, all four wrestlers vanish.
ENTRANCE ATTIRE: White bed sheets with black eyes, custom fitted to allow mobility.
IN-RING ATTIRE: Same as entrance.
Move/Finisher Names: Boo Who, Trick or Treat, Boodyslam, Deja Booplex
GIST: While many of my gimmicks are comical, I must defend how wrestling needs to re-emphaize the “entertainment” aspect. Not all wrestlers need a gimmick, and therefore those individuals can function as the “serious” competitors. At first glance Doink the Clown could have been written off as a joke, but as the character progressed, he became a sinister plot-driven heel. While Deja Boo can’t exactly play off their vocal skills or facial expressions, the anonymity of their identity can certainly drive the team into various directions. In addition, one amazing aspect of this gimmick is that it can executed in any wrestling federation big or small. For young guns, custom fitted bed sheets may prove more cost effective then traditional ring gear. In the end though, I will never forget the Zombie from ECW and while I’m not sure if WWE bothered to copyright it, Deja Boo is the next best thing. The gimmick was strong enough to resurrect on the indy circuit at a Pro Wrestling Syndicate show.
Mick Foley is one of the greatest wrestlers of all time. His wrestling personas are extremely creative, his hardcore style raised the bar in terms of what was expected of wrestlers in the 90s and his Hell in a Cell match against The Undertaker in 1998 was one of the all-time great bouts for its extremity and shock value.
I’ve read Have a Nice Day: A Tale of Blood and Sweatsocks and Foley Is Good: And the Real World Is Faker than Wrestling, both essential reading for wrestling fans. In fact, it was Have A Nice Day in 1999 that kickstarted the trend of wrestlers releasing autobiographies, even though most would be ghostwritten, unlike Have A Nice Day. Foley has always been involved in various projects outside the ring, and his latest enterprise is stand-up comedy. If you’ve read Foley’s books you’ll know he’s an exceptional storyteller, so I was looking forward to seeing him live.
The evening at Sheffield City Hall began with a ‘meet and greet’ and Mick took time to pose with every fan who wanted their photo taken with him. There wasn’t much time to talk but my friend chatted to Mick for a short while about The Rock and John Cena and their ongoing feud (Mick verified that it is pretty likely the two do hate each other in real life). Mick also had a very noticeable limp, so you can be assured he isn’t putting that on when he’s walking down to the ring in WWE.
Mick’s whole UK tour has been compèred by comedian and wrestling fan, Chris Brooker, and the first support act was wrestler-turned-comedian Steffen Peddie. Both Brooker and Peddie included a lot of wrestling-related stories and gags, and the crowd, who were mostly males in their mid-20s, lapped it up. The second support act was Martin Mor and he had the crowd in hysterics. He was a very tough act for Foley to follow so after Mor had performed it was a good time to take a short break.
Following the intermission Foley was introduced by Brooker to deafening applause and chants. He came on to his WWE entrance theme and his first joke was to pretend to be upset with the entrance music. He exited and re-entered, this time dressed as Funkasaurus and to Funkasaurus’ entrance music. This was a joke that about half of the audience got, but it’s typical Mick, as during his career he’s made plenty of jokes in promos knowing that only some of the audience will get them.
Before getting into his material Mick requested that the audience refrain from chanting anything during his set. This was probably a wise move as it meant the set was all about him and not some wise guy in the second row.
‘The Hardcore Legend’ started off with some traditional gags then moved onto longer, wrestling-based monologues. Mick is a naturally interesting guy, and I felt he was most engaging when he wasn’t trying to be funny. He told stories about meeting Tiger Woods, sharing a hotel room with Jake “The Snake” Roberts and the time Al Snow revealed everything to a crowd in Canada; I’d read some of these stories before in Mick’s books, but it was still enjoyable to hear him tell them.
There were times when his stories and jokes were hard to follow though. It’s obvious he hasn’t been doing stand-up for that long, as his comedic timing and personality aren’t quite at the level of other professional comedians, and some of his jokes are perhaps overthought.
So the crowd weren’t laughing as hard as they had at Martin Mor’s set, but the combination of wrestling insight and humour went down well. Saying that, I’m not sure how much non-wrestling fans would have got out of the evening. Mick did say at the start of the show that he wanted to make sure those who didn’t know anything about wrestling still felt involved, but some of his humour does hinge on knowing who certain wrestling characters are. Mick ended with a joke completely unrelated to wrestling — a gag about Barry Manilow’s “Mandy” — and then there was a Q and A session that lasted about five minutes.
Mick seemed to really be enjoying himself touring the UK and he even tried to inject some British vocabulary into his set. It’s a testament to his popularity over here that he sold out many of the dates on this tour, even though his last UK tour was only three months ago.
All in all, I feel stand-up comedy is perhaps the wrong label for Mick’s show. It’s obvious Mick has tried hard to write a funny set, but the most enjoyable aspect of his show were the wrestling stories with a simple punchline at the end. It was interesting to bump into a couple of people I knew at the show, and it highlighted to me just how many people know who Mick Foley/Mankind is, and I feel most people went to simply see one of their wrestling heroes talk. Next time perhaps he doesn’t need to try so hard.
For more info visit www.mickfoleystandup.co.uk.