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JAKA - 2017: The Year of the Jaguar

PHOTO CREDIT: Jaka's Facebook

Jaka is one of the good guys in independent wrestling. I’ve known this guy since he broke into the independent circuit. Cutting his teeth in the tri-state area and being one of the men to kick-start Beyond Wrestling on the ground floor, the artist formerly known as Jonny Mangue has been a locker room favorite for years. Seeing him sign to Evolve Wrestling at the end of 2016 made me smile. This guy EARNED IT.

I remember watching matches with Jaka in the bowels of Tamaqua, PA, teaming up with Sean Maluta and Darius Carter, working his tail off for opportunities. I called a tag team match in the Liberty Wrestling Organization with him and TJ Marconi against Thunderfoot and one of the students from Ring of Honor. (By the way, Marconi was called MONGO, a name he will never let down EVER.) Hell, I remember seeing him at an impromptu Chris Hero seminar at the ACE Arena in Union City, NJ in 2007. Jaka, who had his long hair at the time, was alongside his best friend Chris Dickinson, learning the ropes and picking the brain of one of the greatest independent wrestlers of all time.

Moments like these make me realize how much Jaka has earned this opportunity. Him and “the Dirty Daddy” have been joined at the hip seemingly forever, growing up together in Staten Island, NY, working together to become pro wrestlers. And as much of a true student Dickinson is of the game, I always felt Jaka was on that same level. Both men are masters of their craft on the indie scene.

Dickinson and Jaka are the perfect yin/yang combination: “the Dirty Daddy” is a loud, brash, intense athlete, while Jaka has that more reserved, silent yet violent in-ring style. Thanks to their ways of displaying their unique passions, both men have become top notch talents in pro wrestling.

Chris and myself were always cool with one another, but I most definitely had a stronger bond with Jaka. I credit the road trips to Beyond Wrestling in 2012 as one of my more cherished memories during that time period. Talking pro wrestling in a car with Tim Hughes, Darius Carter, and Jaka was incredible. Jaka always had a very interesting way of how to dissect the industry of wrestling. On one particular trip in the summer of 2012, a talk with him changed my perspective on how to come across stronger as a manager.

During this time period, I was managing the Professional Revolution in Beyond, with Leon St. Giovanni, JT Dunn, Mark Shurman, and Stan Stylez. Slowly but surely, my frustrations in trying to create ideas to further grow the group were coming through tenfold and I had no idea how to take that next level as a manager. Granted, I had the gift of gab, but I wanted credibility as one of the guys. I really was struggling with it, but Jaka’s words really helped me.

In an iHop in the outskirts of Rhode Island, Jaka told me I had to take chances. I had to go all out and use my body to its limits. If I ever wanted to be taken seriously with the wrestlers and the fans, I would really need to take some in order to be given respect. The way Jaka said it, inspiration started to really seep into my brain on doing so.

The next day at a studio taping in the New England Pro Wrestling Academy, Sugar Dunkerton dodged a Mark Shurman avalanche while I was on the ring apron, allowing me to take the shot and fly me into the wall of the building. I heard a loud reaction, and Jaka was right. It was the best advice I was ever given. I really haven’t done much managing since then, but he was right on.

Jaka is an invaluable part of the indie scene, consistently putting on great performances, whether a part of CHIKARA Pro, Beyond, ISW, Game Changer Wrestling, or anywhere else he’s plied his trade in. Seeing him sign that EVOLVE contract made me smile, as this man was going to get his shot at greatness. I genuinely believe that this is going to be the Year of the Jaguar for Jaka in 2017.

But how am I so sure this is the case? What makes me believe this is the real deal? Well, in the Professional 3, I, naturally, have three ways on this being the case. Without further hesitation…

BEING THE ARN ANDERSON OF CATCH POINT: Going back to the days when Jaka transformed from “the Smooth Savage” Jonny Mangue into the man we see today, I always saw him as a performer who would always go out from bell-to-bell and throw down. He wasn’t the flashiest, but he was the meat-and-potatoes of every match he was thrown into. Whether in the Doom Patrol or Team Pazuzu, the man was the muscle within the group. If you needed something done, Jaka would be the man to handle it. I always compared Jaka to being similar to Arn Anderson. While “the Dirty Daddy” was like Ric Flair with the charisma, Jaka backed him up just like “Double A”.

To really thrive in 2017 as a part of EVOLVE, Jaka has to be the “Enforcer” of his new affiliation, Catch Point. With loaded talent already in the group such as Matthew Riddle, Fred Yehi, new leader Tracy Williams, and Dickinson, Jaka will have to stand out by handling all the dirty work. Getting down and gritty is nothing new for the Savage, coming out of the bowels of Staten Island. Jaka will have to dig down and find his inner “Double A” and really succeed as the muscle. If there is anyone that can do this, it is Jaka.

EMPHASIZING HIS STRIKES: In a world where a lot of eyes are watching the grappling and high flying in EVOLVE, Jaka has to stand out and go to what he knows. Coming from a martial arts background, in particular TaeKwonDo, Jaka has to go and use his feet. Although agile, he delivers those feet to the body with intensity and power. Combine the fact that he can now pick the brain of the MMA based Riddle, who has been trained in striking, Jaka has every opportunity to showcase his lethal limbs and use knowledge given to him by the “BRO” himself. Strikes are key to Jaka’s success.

THE YEOW!: As long as I known Jaka, he has always had the “YEOW!” primal scream in his life. Deep from his bowels, it is either said in celebration or used in a way to dig down deep for a second or third wind. Plus, the “YEOW!” is marketable as hell. Maybe I’ve always seen that as an incredible trait to a normally relaxed individual, but it really adds another layer to Jaka. 2017 should be loaded with them and, hopefully, we all get to hear it as more successes are added to his career.

As I’ve said earlier, there is no one more deserving of this opportunity in EVOLVE than Jaka. He has scratched, clawed, and worked his ass off to make opportunities for himself. I’m banking on him to absolutely steal 2017 and make this a banner year. Congrats Jaka, you’ve earned it.

2017: The Year of the Jaguar. YEOW! Kind of catchy, don’t you think?

Jon Harder

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