Recently, I started to contemplate certain dates that have etched its moments into my memories. Obviously, my birthday on 9/19. My first ever wrestling show I ever went to, which was September 25, 1993 at Madison Square Garden. Project: Diverge on 4.21.18. Hell, even October 19, 2006, when Endy Chavez made “The Catch” in Game 7 of the National League Championship Series in Shea Stadium against the left field wall. These are the dates that hold personal significance to me.
But there is one date that, professionally, changed it all for me in the pro wrestling business. July 23, 2011. The Heirloom Arts Theater in Danbury, CT. Beyond Wrestling. “About Time”.
The night I finally stepped out of my comfort zone and, for the first time, truly lived.
To get to that date, you have to start at the beginning.
I had been in the wrestling business for almost 4 years. I was lucky enough to have been at the ACE Wrestling Academy in 2007, where my friends were being trained by Jay Lethal, future Ring of Honor World Champion. Under the tutelage of Mike Morgan, I began to learn the business inside and out and worked my ass off to gain respect. I filmed shows, wrote columns and hype write-ups for the shows, did interviews, performed on commentary, and worked in the office as the team helped set up the shows creatively. Throughout four years, it was an incredible learning experience. I was able to take what I learned and went onto different independent wrestling companies in the Northeast as a commentator.
However, I wanted more. I wanted to spread my wings and expand.
I wanted to be a pro wrestling manager.
From the time when I was a kid, all I ever wanted to do was manage. I wasn’t necessarily the most athletic person in the world, so when I was introduced to guys like “the Mouth of the South” Jimmy Hart, Bobby “The Brain” Heenan, Paul Bearer, and Paul Heyman by my father, I was inspired. These guys could talk the talk and walk the walk. They could infuriate a crowd like no one else. And when it came down to it, they took the whooping they deserved. The pro wrestling manager was and is a well needed necessity in the greatest sport of them all.
By 2011, the game had evolved tremendously, especially on the independent circuit. It was less about the gimmicks and more about the in-ring work, thanks to the mid-2000s run of Ring of Honor’s “work rate” style. Managers were a lost art.
But I had an idea. I knew I could be the guy to “bring back the manager”, at least in my head. I knew I could pull it off. However, the fact that I was best known as a play-by-play man for some Northeast independent companies made it very difficult to go and try to get credibility. I just needed the place. I needed the right guy to manage. I needed the right opportunity.
I needed the figurative planets to align.
Enter Beyond Wrestling.
I had literally followed Beyond Wrestling since its inception back in 2009. Originally starting as a YouTube product, Beyond were the first company doing Studio Tapings, which were wrestling matches done in front of other pro wrestlers. Basically, the boys were performing for the boys. So many people in the scene BURIED Beyond for this concept, basically calling it glorified backyard wrestling. In fact, I recall a few of the companies I worked for LAUGHING at the concept. It’s ironic now that a lot of those same companies are now using Beyond’s original concepts for their own YouTube channels and benefit.
But at the time, people laughed at Beyond. I thought different. I thought it was brilliant. And that, in turn, led to a vision.
At the same time, my good friend Tim Hughes started doing drives out west to Elyria, OH with Corvis Fear, “Mean” Mike Montez (whatever happened to that guy) and a few others to do a set of Beyond tapings. After one particular trip in 2010, Tim and I were at the ACE Arena in Union City, NJ, just BSing about things. I asked him what he did during the weekend and he mentioned doing the Beyond weekend in Ohio. We started talking about it and I just pestered him about the experience, in which Tim proceeded to put over as “the most fun”.
Tim then pulled out his phone and showed me a video clip from his match. On the clip was a competitor named Leon del Admon sitting on the top turnbuckle with Quentin St. Peter (another case of whatever happened to that guy). In one fell swoop, del Admon flipped St. Peter over and hit his variation of the Stu Hart Special. It was the damnedest move I’ve ever seen in my life.
Instantly, on the ACE Arena bleachers, I stood up and, as many friends have seen me do when I see a dangerous wrestling move being performed and delivered, screamed a hearty and loud “F*** YOU” at the phone. I watched the clip three more times.
I had met Leon a few times before, in particular once in 2010 for Hughes’ pro wrestling debut. Once I found out he was wrestling and trying to get his name out there, I knew I had to somehow manage him. He was a good looking dude with an authentic aura about him. He, in my opinion, had the “it” factor.
Tim and I continued to converse about Beyond and what it was all about. “Man, it’s no politics and the guys just go out there and do whatever they want. It’s AWESOME,” Tim said in a run-on sentence way that only Tim could do. “You should try to come to one of the tapings, man.”
Tim was right. I knew I had to get there. I had to see Beyond up close. I had to find out. But how?
It’s time to go a little inside baseball here.
Over the years on the internet, I have had multiple pseudonyms for columns over the years for different wrestling companies. One of them was as a “fan” named Hooper (named after Hooper X from Chasing Amy, one of my all-time favorite movies). Thanks to Daniel McMillian, I was able to bring Hooper to Snapmare.com with a monthly column called “Somebody You Don’t Know But Should”, which I would base around wrestlers or promotions that were under the radar, but completely deserved to be recognized.
Seeing that I was trying different concepts with writing, I determined my best way to get in would be by crafting an article around the Beyond Wrestling experience live and in person. So, taking a chance, I decided to message Denver Colorado, the Beyond promoter, and see if it could happen. Instantly, I got an email back. He was very receptive to the idea. I was invited to come out to their next taping in Fall River, MA at the Top Rope Promotions wrestling school.
So on February 12, 2011, I got in my 2003 Chevy Cavalier, took the 4 hour drive up I-95, and made it to the venue. More so back in these days, I was incredibly nervous entering a new environment and, as usual, was very shy.
Once I walked in, I quickly eased up. There was so much talent inside that venue that I had known throughout my journeys in wrestling thus far. Darius Carter, TJ Marconi, that “Smooth Savage” Jonny Mangue, Corvis Fear, Chris Dickinson, and Danny Danger were among the crew there. All young, hungry guys looking for opportunity. Then, I met the man, not the place.
Drew Cordiero and I shook hands and seemingly hit it off. He seemed very receptive to the article idea. From the first impression I got, he was a driven guy with a unique view on the industry. There are people in wrestling that abide by the “same old, same old” philosophy when it comes to producing wrestling. Cordiero felt the complete opposite. He truly believed in letting the wrestling develop and letting the boys find their voice through their art. I don’t think there is a single person, especially during the olden days of Beyond, that would deny that process. Just by talking to him, there was a definite outside-the-box mentality that Cordiero exemplified. I felt that then, and, by seeing their success in recent years, I feel that now.
At some point during the day, the boys realized they were short a cameraman for the show. In a pinch, Drew was asking if someone wanted to do it. I, going back to my roots in ACE, stepped up to the plate and did. For the first iPPV in Beyond Wrestling history, I did camera for “Gospel of the Boards”. It also gave me a chance, up close and personal, to see Beyond Wrestling for what it was.
In a word, it was FUN.
Opening the show with Corvis facing Marconi, you instantly got to see these talents, who I’ve seen before in other promotions, try and institute a different style. It was fun seeing these guys go and “pop the boys”, who enjoyed what they were watching. Guys like Anthony Stone, Mark Angel, Josh Thor, and the legendary Pitboss, who I never met before, shined. The match of Chris Dickinson and Darius Carter took my breath away with the risk and reward showcased in between the ropes. And plus, it never hurt to see Tim Hughes main event a show and get wrecked in the process.
But in that main event, which was a six-man tag between Chase Burnett, Zack Novack, and Corvis Fear against Hughes, “Mean” Mike Montez, and Leon del Admon, I got to Leon up close and in person. Was he green? Abso-freakin-lutely. But what did he have was poise and great selling. From his facial expressions to the bumps that he took, del Admon was a guy that, again, had IT. I knew from that day, I had to manage that guy one day in the future.
After the taping, a whole mess of us went out to Providence, RI and went to an Italian restaurant for post-show grub. From there, I got to talk to Drew about wrestling and know him a little more. I was impressed by his passion. He was taking chances, being creative in the artform of wrestling, and I, especially at that time, was not. No lie, I was a little envious. However, I knew that Beyond Wrestling was a place where I wanted to ply my trade and divulge my creativity.
Driving home that night, all I thought about was wanting to do something with Beyond. The environment was loose, the atmosphere was fun, and I had to somehow get involved with it as a performer. I just didn’t know what would get me there.
Until then, at least I had the Hooper column completed. For the first time in years, I read the article in preparation for this piece. Here is a link of the column. Hooper out! https://drive.google.com/open?id=1H8ipfNJZpLJ5LJtLCBui7rgZbsCizbMZ
Dan Barry is a good dude.
On Beyond’s old website Look Man No Fans, Barry, obviously inspired by the creative freedom he was allowed to explore in the promotion, wrote a blog based around the lack of politics in the company and was having fun. It was a great piece that I thoroughly enjoyed. It also kick-started a vision that I wanted to explore in Beyond.
Reading that blog, I got completely inspired. Everything came rushing to my brain in a creative fervor. Someone needed to push the narrative of being against the concept of Beyond. Someone needed to bash Beyond for the studio tapings, and, in the mind of the old timers, call them what they are: marks. Someone needed to come at Dan Barry and Denver Colorado.
That someone was me.
Instantly, I contacted Leon, who was becoming one of my close friends. I asked him about the vision and he was all for it. Plus, he wanted to change his name, as he disliked the del Admon last name. Then, I contacted Dan. I made the pitch and he said yes. I was pumped.
There was only one final person to go to on it: Drew.
It took a little bit of time, but he was cool with the concept. However, it wasn’t going to be right away. Their first live show, About Time, was going to take place July 23, 2011 at the Heirloom Arts Theater in Danbury, CT, and there were other stories going on with the company, so the idea could start with a slow build, but, however, not to get my hopes up and not to expect to be on the show. I accepted, of course. But I instantly needed to start developing.
Thanks to having a girlfriend with a very successful family and an incredible backyard, the next step took place. During a night of partying in the hot tub and pool area (a night Tim and Leon refuse to discuss, even to this day), I grabbed my video camera, and proceeded to cut a 5 minute promo describing the vision of what Professionalism was. I bashed Barry, cut a promo on Drew, zinged Beyond, and instilled “Being a Professional is fun”, shirtless in a hot tub.
After putting it online, I was proud of myself. Looking back, it was BRUTAL. Kids, words of advice: never cut a promo drunk, unless your character is, you know, a drunk. Take a look.
Regardless, people were talking. A few of the Beyond guys got upset, legit, that I was bashing the promotion. The reaction I got from the boys actually pumped me up a little bit. The phrasing always rings true: If you can work the boys, you can work the crowd.
I was fired up.
A few days before the event, which I was going to, I decided to cut one more promo. #yih8beyond, which was better, but still cringeworthy looking back. Regardless, the point was across: Beyond was unprofessional, and I was. Cutting edge vs tradition. The concept was clear.
Two days before the show, Leon got a text from Drew. Apparently, some changes were made to the show, due to injuries and other last minute issues. Professionalism would be making its debut on the main card. I would be his manager, and he would be facing “the Juice” JT Dunn. I was shocked. So was Leon.
I just talked myself into a booking on Beyond Wrestling’s most significant show to date. Good grief.
The Heirloom Arts Theater might very well be my all-time favorite independent wrestling venue. Normally used for rock concerts, the venue was spacious, yet close-knit. You’d walk in and truly feel that punk rock vibe. I was there several times before the venue was shut down a few years back. But you always remember your first. And on July 23, 2011, that first time was a very special night.
I remember walking into the venue with Leon and Tim and just being in awe. Unlike Gospel of the Boards, this time, it was truly as a peer. I remember going into the basement of Heirloom and just looking around. Beyond was doing a double-shot with Inter Species Wrestling, and the amount of talent in that locker room was surreal. After getting settled in, I changed into my suit and then made my way upstairs. Doors were still closed, so we were getting our instructions from Drew.
I looked at the format and saw that we were up second. We were up after the match between the Super Smash Brothers and Aeroform of Flip Kendrick and Louis Lyndon. I could tell you quite simply that I was nervous as hell. We were going to follow a match that, I knew, would be dynamite. That was probably the first time, especially in a wrestling setting, where I had a thought pop into my head and it would stick for a few hours.
It’s make or break time. You need to deliver.
Thankfully, I was able to keep my poker face on, and keep my composure.
Getting things together for our segment, I felt a lot more at ease once Leon and I talked to JT Dunn. At the time, “the Juice” was starting to get a buzz in the New England area, but he wasn’t well known outside of it. JT was a trained kickboxer, and someone who could throw strikes with the best of them. He was snug, and let Leon know that. I will always remember JT saying, “Lay them into me. I will do the same to you.”
Looking back, Leon was as nervous as I was. This was his first real opportunity to make an impact as well. He had started on the road to becoming a pro wrestler. Beyond was his platform, similar to mine.
Thankfully, my role was clear and simple. After the opener, take the microphone from Denver on the top of the balcony, spit my views, and walk down to ringside to help guide Leon to success. The fact that I was given a mic on the first live show was, in many other places, unheard of. It was an opportunity to get noticed. Most of all, it was trust from Drew to pull it off. It meant a lot for my confidence.
Before I went out, I remember going over to Dan to ask him if it was cool I brought him up. He said “Of course” and gave me some positive words of encouragement. I don’t think knew how much that meant to me on that day.
The show opened up with the tag encounter. Aeroform and the Super Smash Brothers tore it up in the opener. The crowd, mixed with a few of the boys surrounding the ring, was HOT. A hot building mixed with hot wrestling and a hot crowd was a good sign. Leon was now hidden by the entranceway, preparing to make his invasion once the match ended.
Once the Super Smash Brothers prevailed, Denver started to talk on the microphone to the live crowd. As he started his spiel, I started my walk over. At that moment, it hit me. I was about to make a checkmark on the list. I was going to become a pro wrestling manager.
After a back-and-forth spiel on the mic with Drew, an impromptu match between JT and the newly rechristened LEON ST. GIOVANNI started. After 6 minutes, LSG won, and we went on our merry way to the back. In truth, I really don’t remember much from it. That day was such a blur.
For the first time in 5-6 years, I sat down to watch the match yesterday. I instantly cringed watching it. Not because of anything bad; the match was simple enough. But everything could’ve been better, mainly from my perspective. I was green as grass and could have performed a million times better with the opportunity at hand. All I know is that no matter what I felt then, now I realize that the experience was worth it. I had achieved a goal, and now it was time to move forward.
July 23, 2011 was a very important day for Beyond. So many talents, especially the Day 1 guys, made the absolute most of their opportunities. Darius and TJ looked strong against Dasher Hatfield and, one of my personal favorites, Sugar Dunkerton. Jonny Mangue had a fun match with Mat Fitchett. Even Dan Barry and the “late” Ken Scampi stole the show in a four way Tag Team Scramble. From that day, Beyond was “legit”. More importantly, Beyond started the next chapter of its journey as an independent wrestling promotion.
I lasted a little over a year in Beyond. I formed the Professional Revolution and had four incredible talents with me in LSG, JT, Mark Shurman, and Stan Stylez. The group split up in October of 2012 and I left Beyond.
As you know, LSG has become a worldwide talent, wrestling overseas and for Ring Of Honor. His success is all his own and his work ethic has inspired me to be a better man.
Dan Barry became a part of a tag team with Bill Carr as two wrestling detectives. Working with him allowed me to gain confidence in myself and seeing his success, again, makes me smile. Funny does equal money.
Beyond Wrestling has become a powerhouse in the Northeast independent wrestling scene. Their vibe has helped the company go through different paths and chapters, including doing weekly internet television with Uncharted Territory. In my opinion, they are among the top 10 promotions in the country, and are only growing stronger. And it is thanks to Drew Cordiero’s hard work, money, and passion.
I have to thank Drew Cordiero for giving me a chance at About Time. If not for that, it would not have led me to ultimately starting Hardway HQ. If not for that day, I wouldn’t have run Project: Diverge. And in truth, I probably wouldn’t have lived out a dream and managed at all. About Time was a night I will never forget, for reasons far deeper than wrestling.
There are certain dates in your life you never forget. Beyond Wrestling’s About Time on July 23, 2011 was one of them. Not just for me, but many people on that card. It changed the game forever. It changed me for the better. And I’m forever grateful it did.