It’s got to be said, so let me be the one who says it—-MISTAKE EY FOR NO ONE.
If you know my history, you know that I broke into the wrestling business right around Thanksgiving of 1991. At the time, I was partnering with a fellow by the name of John Arezzi, who hosted a radio show on Long Island, NY, called, “The Wrestling Spotlight”. If you do the math on your fingers–-like I just did–that will be 23 years come November. Looking back, yeah, it’s been tough on me at times—-real tough–-being dragged into a court of law over a fictitious wrestling promo wasn’t fun–-regardless of how silly it sounds. But with lows–-come highs. I had the opportunity to meet, and work with some wrestling greats. Some who even were responsible for drawing me to the circus when I was a youngster. The “Big Cat” Ernie Ladd, Captain Lou Albano, Chief Jay Strongbow, “Classy” Freddie Blassie, the Valiant Brothers, Gorilla Monsoon–-yeah, I was in the presence of some of the greats! Add to that the list of legends that are no longer with us--Randy “Macho Man” Savage, Curt Hennig, Bam Bam Bigelow, Owen Hart, Warrior, Brian Pillman, JYD, Rick Rude, Yoko, Boss Man, Ms. Elizabeth, Davey Boy, Hawk, Eddie, Dr, Death, the list just seems to go on from there. But, thankfully, off course I had the pleasure of working with many of those who are still here–-The Rock, HBK, Bret, Steve Austin, Mick Foley, Hulkster, Kurt Angle, Booker T., Piper, Sting, Nature Boy, way, way too many others to mention.
Now, trust me, I didn’t just list that name of wrestling superstars to put myself over–-I did it to make a point. Over the past 23 years, I have worked with just about every personality you could imagine. Some were great, some not so much, but, each in their own right were stars–-shining stars.
When I first met Eric Young about 12 years ago, to me, he was just another wrestler on the card. The great Dutch Mantel would refer to wrestlers like EY as “good little hands”. They were good workers, dependable, would give you everything they had in the ring, and when you were stuck creatively and had to fill a spot—-you could put their name in it, knowing they would get the job done. But, truthfully, on the surface EY was just “ordinary”. In those early years–-he just wanted to work. No matter what spot you could squeeze him into–-he just wanted to “wrestle”. And, I mean truly wrestle. Actually being on TV was not his priority–-he just wanted to do what he loved to do. And, his love for the craft was REAL. I can remember having a conversation with Scott DeMore in the early days of TNA. It was through Scott that I found out that he actually discovered EY backyard wrestling somewhere in Canada when EY was about 13, 14 years old. Even then EY knew what it was he was supposed to do with his life. And, when he cuts those promos today saying how every one said that he “couldn’t”–-he’s not lying. The cold, hard truth is that I was probably one of those guys. Look, I had been around stars–-MEGA STARS, and when somebody is a star you know it immediately, and when they are “just” a “good little hand”, you know that too.
Looking back now, it just seemed that back in those early days EY was just “there”. I mean, every time you turned around he was literally THERE–-just trying to find any way to be on the show. And, quite frankly, it was that persistence that got him on the show week in–-week out. Then, when he got his chance to step between the ropes–-he gave you EVERYTHING–-I MEAN, EVERYTHING. He left nothing out there, whether it was an opening match . . . well . . . he was lucky to get the opening match back them. From there, due to his work ethic and love for what he was doing, EY became the guy that as a writer–-you wanted to find him a spot on the show. He never complained, never threw a bitch–-he was just happy to be there and be a part of the “team”.
Putting business aside for a second, the more I was around EY, the more I truly loved him. He was just a “good guy”, you know–-one of those guys that if you can’t get along with–-you’d better give yourself a good look in the mirror. Everybody in the locker room loved EY–-everyone. Even though he may have not “looked” like a star with a frame of 6’5“, 300 pounds–-his heart was much greater in stature than that. He had the reputation of being the locker room clown–-the guy that made you smile no matter how bad a TV day would be. With EY growing on me more, and more every day, I began working closer and closer with him because I WANTED to see him succeed. I wanted to see him attain every dream he ever had when he was bumping around in a makeshift ring in his own backyard. And, the more I worked with him–-the more I saw his talent. Honestly–-it BLINDED me at times. Whatever you needed in any situation–-EY could give it to you–-from serious heel killer, to loveable “Super Eric”, there were no limits to him as a performer.
I can remember a time, at least 5,6 years back now, where one of the “veteran” wrestlers began telling EY that he had to put the comedy aside and be more of a “serious” wrestler, because he IN FACT could wrestle. After listening to this individual, EY finally came to me and stated the case that he had become convinced of–-he wanted to be taken seriously as a wrestler. I remember everything about that conversation, Eric was nervous in speaking to me, but at the time he was convinced in what he wanted. I remember looking EY in the eye and saying, “Eric–-there is no doubt that you are a GREAT wrestler–-NO DOUBT–-but, we have a lot of GREAT WRESTLERS in our locker room. But, what you have is something that few others have–-you have the gift to be able to ENTERTAIN. Not many of those “great” wrestlers have that ability.” Even with those words of wisdom–-EY still wanted to be a “wrestler”. So, since I admired and respect him as much as I did–-I let him go out and do that–however–-with EY being as intelligent as he is–-I think he began to see what I was trying to tell him.
Over the years there were many other conversations with EY backstage at Universal Studios, during times when he may have been getting down on his position in the company, again, I would look him in the eye and say, “Eric–this is the WRESTLING BUSINESS, you have very little control over anything. All you can do is go out there and be the best you can be, but remember–-the cream ALWAYS rises to the top–-you can’t stop talent”. I told EY those words, because from my heart–-I meant them. Over the years EY had become one of the most talented personalities I had ever worked with. I knew that EY was great inside, and out, and he didn’t need his spot on the roster to affirm that. But, I also knew that some day, some way, some how . . . . .
I was watching from home the night EY won the TNA World Title in Orlando. I’m not ashamed at all to say that I cried. I cried because no matter how “predetermined” wrestling is–-this moment in time was not fake to EY. This was that one moment that he had dreamed about his entire life–-and it was here! I would have done anything to be there with him that night–-ANYTHING.
I love Eric Young, and if you personally knew him–-you’d love him too. As somebody who was there for the entire ride, I just want to tell you from the bottom of my heart–-don’t you dare take anything away from the current TNA World Champion. Everything he has at this moment in time of his life–-HE HAS EARNED. And, he has earned it not through politicking, not through power plays, not through stepping over others, and not by putting himself first–traits that have come with many of the “Champions” I have worked with over the years. NO–-EY did it the right way. He did it by believing in himself and never giving up on his dream. He did it through hard work, through dedication, through every bead of sweat that fell from his body, to every kid in the crowd whose face he’s ever put a smile on.
To take nothing away from anybody else, there is no one like EY–-no one. Men like him were the sole reason that I survived in a business for 23 years, when on more occasions than one I wanted to take my ball home and punt it over the freakin‘ fence. Guys like EY gave my job meaning, and made me realize that “it wasn’t so bad”.
EY, I thank you, I love, and I respect you more than you will ever know.