By Jim Phillips, Columnist
Welcome back wrestling fans, as we head out on another journey down the road. Our story comes to us this week from a distinguished third man in the ring, Doug Markham. I was able to reach out to Doug this week as he regaled me with a story of a match gone awry, and a valuable lesson learned.
It was the middle of the summer of 2017, and The Arena in Jeffersonville, Indiana, was blazing hot. The poorly ventilated building was maybe the hottest venues the veteran ref had ever worked in his career. It was 92 degrees outside and even hotter inside the tiny sweatbox of a dressing room. Whenever the boys weren’t working in the ring, everyone was standing outside to try and escape the heat. As anyone knows, these conditions can create irritability in the most even tempered of workers.
Doug was set up to ref the next match between Lee Byford and The Amazing Pookie. Lee is a really nice guy and always tries to take care of people in the ring. As far as The Amazing Pookie goes, he claimed to be trained by the duo of Danny Davis and Nick Dinsmore. No one had ever heard of him even though he had been in the business for awhile. Both of these guys have good reputations as trainers, so they thought everything would be ok. He was a scrawny kid but claimed to represent “strong style” as his preferred repertoire. Now, Byford is a really big dude, built like King Kong Bundy. He actually looked enough like him to pull off the Jr. son gimmick if he chose to. To say it was a bit of a mismatch would be an understatement.
The bell rang and it was obvious pretty that there was nothing amazing about The Amazing Pookie, not at all. He shuffled around the ring and didn’t carry himself the way a well trained worker would. A few minutes into the match Pookie landed an open hand shot across the ear of big Lee, and he grumbled something under his breath. Then, a minute or two later the kid hit him with another slap to the ear. Byford cinches him up, and tells Pookie to stop hitting him in the ear so hard. It wasn’t even a minute after his warning, that the big man took yet another hard slap to the ear. At that moment, everything changed.
Byford backed Pookie into the corner and unloaded on him with stiff shots and combinations to the body and head. Pookie tried to get away but he had no where to go. Byford took him to the mat and Markham hit a fast three count to try and diffuse the situation. It did no good as Lee no sold the finish and continued to wail away. The crowd was popping all over the place. They didn’t realize that this was a shoot and nothing was going as planned. Byford left the ring when he thought he had enough, but the damage was definitely done. Pookie was all potatoed up. He stumbled to the back and licked his wounds. He was never to be heard from in that promotion again.
Sometimes things break down and go off the book in the ring. It can stem out of some heat or dispute the two workers in the ring may have, but more often than not, it has to do with someone working too stiff and not taking care of the other man they are in the ring with. While many may say that Byford went too far in this story, there are the members of the old school way of thinking that will tell you that he did the right thing. Workers put their bodies in the hands of the men and women in the ring with them and risk serious injuries every time they step through the ropes. When the code of etiquette is breached, a receipt can almost certainly be assured. Without a doubt, the Amazing Pookie learned what it meant to work stiff that night.
While this week’s road story had a bit of a sting, it is just one more thread that makes up the fabric, that is the tapestry of life in the wrestling business. To be honest, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Until next week Bruthas and Sistas, keep those wheels turning and the freedom burning. Peace.