When not writing news reports, reviews or columns about music and popular culture, on occasion I’ve been known to take part in the creation of entertaining cultural moments. No, this isn’t an article about a DJ gig-gone-wrong in my seven years as radio host and record spinner DJ Casanova, though those happened. Rather, it’s a story about one of the most ridiculous nights I had of the around 500 nights over ten years that I performed on the weekends as an independent professional wrestling manager.
An independent professional wrestling manager? Yes. In the fine line of Bobby “The Brain” Heenan, Jimmy “Mouth of the South” Hart and other talkers, (sometime) bad-guy buffoons and general crowd instigators, I patrolled ringside for somewhere north of 30 small-to-large non-World Wrestling Entertainment-affiliated promotions for the better part of a decade as Marcus “King Kong” Dowling. No, I’m not going to tell you about the night that I incited a race riot, nor will I tell you about the night that two legendary wrestlers hit me in the head with steel chairs. As well, there’s the story of needing a police escort to leave Uniontown, Pennsylvania or the time I was forced to wear both a diaper and a dress. No, not telling any of those stories either. The story I will tell though, is the story of the night one of my best friends and I drove to the Tennessee border and shaved a vertically challenged person bald.
Yeah, pictured above is John Cena (from 2009). He’s a 15-time WWE World Heavyweight Champion, has granted more Make-A-Wish wishes than any other person in the history of the Make-A-Wish organization, and literally sells tens of millions of dollars of merchandise bearing either his face, logo or “Hustle, Loyalty and Respect” catchphrase every year.
Pictured here, Mini Cena (from 2009). He’s a one-time “Midget Heavyweight Champion of the World,” and for the tens of children in attendance on this miserably cold December evening in 2009 at NWA All-Star Wrestling in far Southwestern Virginia, terrorizing me – the manager of the author’s best friend “The Mempho Mofo” Mark Bravura – was his ultimate goal.
The match presented below in its entirety involves “The Mempho Mofo” Mark Bravura and “The Black Scorpion” (accompanied by me, Marcus “King Kong” Dowling) vs. Stan “The Man” Lee and Iron Cross (accompanied by Mini Cena). Instead of a traditional story, what I’ll do is annotate the full 29-minute video.
0:02 – My terrible sportcoat is from a wrestling trip I had made that summer to Beckley, West Virginia where during a match, a wrestler called me the n-word to my face and then volunteered to cut my forehead on purpose. A side note, managers very rarely ever bleed during matches.
0:13 – The man power-walking to the strains of Living Colour’s “Cult of Personality” in the yellow and black t-shirt is indeed (above pictured), “The Mempho Mofo” Mark Bravura. He’s a 15-year in-ring veteran that has been scouted by both WWE and Impact Wrestling who’s originally from Northern Virginia and grew up (as I did) obsessively loving pro wrestling. Memphis comes into the story because he went to graduate school at the University of Memphis, which is wher, while during his graduate studies, he was trained to wrestle. Memphis is also the home of WWE Monday Night Raw announcer Jerry “The King” Lawler, and the home of what was for 50 years one of wrestling’s most colorful territories. Andy Kaufman famously wrestled there, as did a learning the ropes Hulk Hogan, too. There’s also that matter of a wrestler called Cowabunga the Ninja Turtle, but the less said about that, the better.
2:48 – The match was originally scheduled to be Mark and a wrestler named K.C. Thunder wrestling Stan “The Man” Lee and Iron Cross (pictured above with Ric Flair). Well, as happens at independent (and mainstream) wrestling shows sometimes, guys will not show up, and last-second fill-ins must occur. Our last second fill in was a wrestler neither Mark nor I had heard of until that night (and may have never been heard from again), The Black Scorpion. No, he’s not the same Black Scorpion who terrorized soon-to-be Wrestlemania headliner Sting in WCW in 1989, but it certainly would’ve made this story more amazing had it been.
9:27 – Enter Mini Cena. But, let me backtrack.
The reason why one would make a trip to an area of Virginia so remote that you could sneeze and hit Tennessee is because of Mark and the Scorpion’s opponents, Stan Lee and Iron Cross. Just like any other craft or industry, the learning process never stops, and the best people to learn from are veteran craftsmen who literally know how to do any and everything. As of 2009, Stan Lee and Iron Cross had roughly 40 years of professional wrestling experience between them. Travel anywhere in the world, and you’re not going to find two guys who are going to be available to wrestle (and teach) a few guys who are trying to reach the next level (Mark and I) who have that type (and quality – they both worked extensively with legendary manager Jim Cornette’s Smoky Mountain Wrestling territory in the early 90s) of experience. They are consummate “old school” pros who look the part, dress the part and absolutely entertain the fans.
11:33 – Mini Cena attempts to bite me. Where? Who even knows? But again, let’s backtrack.
Mark and I arrived at the show to find numerous alterations to the eight match card. Because of no-shows we were down to five matches, and e were certain that Stan and Iron Cross were going to have us working with folks not named Stan Lee and Iron Cross. But, they didn’t. However, they did mention that there was a mini wrestler with John Cena’s gimmick who was very popular that they wanted to add to our match. Of course, we agreed, because what’s the worse that could happen, right?
Mini Cena showed up late to the show, but Stan had already tipped us off to the night’s big moment. Mark and The Black Scorpion were losing to Stan and Iron Cross for the NWA All-Star Tag Team Championships, but the night was going to end with Mark and I shaving Mini Cena’s head, to set up a return match at a later date with Stan, Iron Cross and a bald Mini Cena vs. Mark, the not present K.C. Thunder, and myself. Of course, Stan mentioned to us two things. Mini Cena was sometimes a lot to handle, and in the ring, he wasn’t very good at listening. Believing these to not be problematic issues, we filed them away, stoked about the new plethora of opportunities we were now availed.
15:00 – The Mofo gets dumped in a rolling trash can by Stan Lee. I believe at this point I’m literally hiding from Mini Cena who has proceeded to earn himself the real-life disdain of myself and Mark, because he refuses to listen and keeps on getting in the way of the actual match at hand. Having on occasion myself been unfortunately more of a hindrance than a help to a match I understood why this was happening on some level (many managers are originally wrestlers who aren’t very good at wrestling). However, as one can see from the footage, he took it to another level.
23:18 – The in-ring finale of the match has occurred, and after blinding Stan Lee with powder and Iron Cross getting hit with a steel chain, we’re in the midst of preparing to shave Mini Cena bald. Note that at this point, I’m busying myself with beating up Mini Cena, and happily kicking him in a safe, yet forceful manner. At 23:27, I yell at him to “stay down” so loudly that I blow out my already tired and injured (I had laryngitis a few days before the show) vocal cords.
24:27 to 26:25 – “We’re shaving your hero’s head, and there’s nothing you can do about it”
At the 24:20 point, Mini Cena basically decided that he wasn’t cool with the idea of getting his head shaved. I mean, I get it. Pro wrestling or not, walking around unintentionally bald really isn’t very fun. So, there he is squirming, and the little guy says, “no,” to the Mofo, and something ridiculous happened. In pro wrestling, the key is oftentimes hitting ones opponent very hard in a very safe place, i.e. somewhere that won’t get broken, bruised or significantly scarred. Of course, the forehead is the hardest part of the human body. Thus, when Mark kicked Mini Cena right in the forehead, I felt terrible because I cheered on the inside. The guy who had been terrorized for 30 minutes by this portly little man about to watch him suffer an ignominious demise. I, hell, we laughed with glee, throwing his hair skyward for all to see.
I beat up a little person and helped shave him bald. It was the best (worst) gig ever.