Indie Hall of Fame Report: Daniels, Jacobs, Modest, London, Excalibur, Cheerleader Melissa

Photo Courtesy: GCW, Orange Crush

Indie Wrestling Hall of Fame 2023

Jimmy Jacobs, inducted by Alex Shelley 

Jimmy Jacobs: 

“I fucking love this because I love indie wrestling. When Brett asked me to be in the Hall of Fame, I thought it was so cool. But then I thought, ‘Hall of Fame? That’s for people who are washed up!’ I know most of the stuff I’ve done has been in the past, but I know I can still go. You saw me at Emo Fight. I’m still as good as I ever was, which is still like, okay, like he’s fine. Then I thought, ‘Indie Wrestling Hall of Fame?’ Out of all those guys who weren’t that successful, I’m at the top of that list. Then I realized that’s not even true. There are like 100 people I’d put in before me, like Reckless Youth, Mike Quakenbush, The SATs, and Amazing Red. And I started to think, ‘I’m not worthy of this. I don’t belong here.’ It’s tough, right?

As a professional wrestler, you basically base your worth off of what the audience thinks of you. If they cheer you or boo you, you’re good. But if they don’t and it doesn’t go how you wanted it to, then you’re not worthy. You spend your entire life seeking the validation of strangers. But as I’ve gone on, I’ve realized that the validation we are really looking for comes from within ourselves. But it’s a complicated thing.

My career is a complicated thing. I watched two of my best friends main event WrestleMania last night, and it was so beautiful. It made me think about all the times I’ve had, all the great times I’ve had throughout my career. From being 16 or 17 years old, in high school, going around on a pogo stick as Jimmy Jacobs, girls flashing me their tits – this is great. I go around at 18 or 19 years old, hopping in a car with this man (Alex Shelley). He wanted it like I wanted it, anytime, anyplace, anywhere. We modeled off of what Colt Cabana and CM Punk did before us, going down to Ian Rotten – one of the first promoters to see something in us, and I love that. I love you, man. That took us to Ring of Honor. I loved those days – Gabe Sapolsky collaborating together creatively, Cary Silken keeping that company afloat.”

Doing crazy stuff with BJ Whitmer, writing the ballad of Lacey with my buddies Vince and Mike Z, and hanging with The Briscoes. Man, Jay Briscoe knew how to get color – we dragged him into the ring and a puddle formed underneath him. I was like, “This is going to be sick!” and I showered in his blood. That night, Jay Briscoe made me. The Briscoes are legends and so selfless – they would do anything for you.

Those were great times – cramming into hotel rooms with the Young Bucks, Generico, Tyler, and anyone else. We’d stay up all night talking about how one day, the wrestling business was going to be ours, and we were going to change it. We were right – that’s the crazy thing. It wasn’t just in Ring of Honor – I loved the whole thing. I loved jumping in a car, staying at crappy hotels, jamming people into a van, performing at crappy venues with some crappy wrestlers. None of it was glamorous, but I loved it.

One of my favorite stories and feuds was at the Hot Fox Bar in Warren, Michigan with me and the DBA every week for a year. It’s probably not even on tape, but the only people who have ever seen it were in the audience. That’s what I love about indie wrestling – there’s nothing, no politics. People can say there are politics, but I was undersized, undertrained, under-talented, and underage, and I still got booked. That’s what indie wrestling is – the Wild West, just you and the audience.

Every time you walk through that curtain, all your troubles and problems just fade away, and your senses heighten and dull at the same time. You’re in that ring, in a symbiotic relationship with the audience and your opponent. You know what you’re doing, but you don’t know what’s going to happen. You’re balancing between chaos and order, and your body lets you know that you’re in the right place – you’re in the now moment. You’re doing the dance with the cosmos, and it’s the most beautiful thing.

There are a whole lot of people I want to thank, including the guys I started with in Michigan: Zack Gowen, Brian Gorie, Chris Sabin, and every promoter that ever booked me. I also want to thank the greatest promoter of all time, Vince McMahon, for hiring me and even for firing me. I want to give a special shoutout to the WWE writers, who are the unsung heroes of that place and will never get the credit they deserve. Only me and a couple of other people know that.

I also want to thank every wrestler I have performed with and come in contact with, every fan I’ve ever performed in front of, whether you loved me or hated me. Trust me, I love you. I just want to clear one thing up before I go: the internet is full of nasty rumors, and every once in a while, I hear someone say, “Jimmy Jacobs is retired,” or “Jimmy Jacobs is retired; he sucked.” I just want to clear this up: I will never fucking retire. I’m the only guy carnie enough to have a merch table back there. I will do this until I’m 75 years old and can barely walk. As long as someone comes and invites me to play, I will put on tights and I will play. Even if I stop getting invited, I’ll still show up. I’ll be that old guy backstage in the locker room, watching the young guys’ matches and giving them unsolicited advice. I’ll say, “Back when I wrestled Eddie Guerrero on Smackdown, we told a story. You know, when me and Seth Rollins were a team, we knew that less is more. When Chris Jericho and I came up with the List of Jericho, we knew how to connect with the audience.” And the young kids will be like, “Fuck you, old man! Who the fuck are you?” And I’ll say, “I’m Jimmy Jacobs, Indie Wrestling Hall of Famer, bitch.”

Cheerleader Melissa, inducted by Dave Prazak

Cheerleader Melissa: 

Dave Prazak, thank you so much for that amazing introduction. You remember more stuff than I do. I just want to take a moment to thank GCW for putting on such spectacular events. I’ve started watching them because I’ve taken on a training role, and it’s really exciting to see talent that I’ve helped appear on their shows. So, thank you GCW for tonight’s event and all the events you put on.

I also have to thank my dad and Doug Anderson. I think about Doug every day. He passed away in July 2021, and if it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t be in the business. My dad was a wrestler, along with his brother Billy Anderson. They wrestled up and down the independent scene in the 80s, working for Carl Lauer. If my dad were here today, I’m sure he would be telling his favorite story. He used to go to the ring and walk into the arena with me in one arm and his gimmick bag in the other. I really miss those days and I miss him.

One thing that was really fun growing up in the business was when WWF came to the LA Sports Arena. Uncle Billy Anderson was usually the ring announcer, so those were the times I got to go backstage and meet all the wrestlers. I probably have an autograph from Shawn Michaels that is 25 years old somewhere in my drawer, but one of these days I’m going to get a picture with Shawn and that really old autograph. It was just great times and a real big influence. As I got older, I always knew I wanted to get into wrestling, so I thought what better way than to join the high school amateur wrestling team. So, I want to thank Palmdale High School for allowing females to be a part of that. I actually tried to join the football team, but they said no. However, for some reason, wrestling was okay, so I was like sure.

I gained so many skills from being part of the high school wrestling team that helped me in my matches, so I am forever grateful for that. My dad used to drive me every Saturday to San Bernardino to the people who ran a wrestling school, and that’s where it pretty much all started. That’s where I met a very young Christopher Daniels. I think it’s so cool that there are a couple of trainers that I’m being inducted with tonight. Chris, I credit you for taking on your method of bumping properly and running the ropes. I feel like we run the ropes very identically. I don’t think you know how much I respected you and how much of an influence you had on me. I always held onto every word that you said. When I say every word, I mean it. (holds up a piece of paper) This email that I printed out 24 years ago that you sent me because I asked you for advice has always remained in my gimmick bag, and I’ve always referenced it. I was asking him about the structure of a match, and he sent me this email:

“Dear Melissa, this is the way I was taught to structure a match,” and he goes through all the steps. Then he ends it with, “That’s it for now. When I see you next, I’ll give you a tape of my early matches, and we will go step by step, and then I will show you one of my more recent matches where I add onto the basic structure. Be sure to print me directions to the school. Bye for now.”

Shit, I don’t think I ever got you those directions. Oh, wait, there it is. (She does a sight gag of blowing dust off a piece of paper and gives the directions to Christopher Daniels) Very important. You’re going to need those.

While traveling, I would do whatever I could to get training. I hated cheerleaders and those bitches in high school. I can’t believe I did whatever I could to get training, and I thank Chris Daniels. There was a time when people wouldn’t trade with me because I was female, and it really sucked. I also want to give a shoutout to UPW’s Tom Howard, who believed in me. I’m really grateful for Chris Daniels and Tom Howard. They are two people who took the time to help me out. Michael Modest was my next trainer, and looking back at all the wrestling, what a wonderful time to be training. The training was really strong there, and I’m really grateful for that experience. Not too long after that was when I got my first contract in Japan, and I really appreciate Rossi Ogawa. He was the first promoter to book me in Japan. Shimmer, thank you Dave. Your speech was really eye-opening. I didn’t realize how much faith you really had in me. Shimmer was so amazing, and I really appreciate Dave for putting women’s wrestling on the map, helping people like me, Sara, and the other girls show that we had something unique to bring to the table. We were a group of girls who wanted to change the industry, who wanted to change the world, and I hope that people feel like we contributed as much as we could. Danger, all the matches with Mischif that you could say went viral for the time. The incident you talked about with LuFisto was the same weekend as the 2013 PWI where I was number one. It was Dan Murphy who presented me with that award, and he’s also the one who rushed me to the hospital and got me back to Shimmer later that day to wrestle.

I definitely loved being in TNA Impact. It was so exciting, and I have to thank Dutch Mantel for really believing in the female division. At the time, Dutch Mantel was the spine and backbone for the female division and the X-Division. I will never forget the day when Awesome Kong called me, and Mantel wanted a manager. Fun fact: I actually tried out for WWE as the exact same character, but it was something that never went through. Nevertheless, I still had everything they were looking for. Thank you, Awesome Kong. She’s my ride or die, and I’m hers. We have the worst travel stories, and she has the worst travel luck. It was great to work with Gail and some of the agents like Scott Demore and D-Low. It was a really special time in a really special place.

In Lucha Underground, I got to be Mariposa. I really appreciate Lucha Underground because there were no gender roles. Men and women were treated as equals, and we got to wrestle each other. It was a very unique and special experience. Paul London was my agent.

But these days, I’m living in Las Vegas and doing some training. You might know some of my recent students, like Jai Vidal who just got signed to IMPACT, and of course, Zoe Stark who is now in NXT. I’m just really thankful. Hall of Fame, baby.

Excalibur was inducted by Orange Cassidy 

This is a hugely unexpected honor, and to echo Jimmy’s sentiment, I feel like I did not deserve it. There are so many people who have done so much more in independent wrestling than myself, and I just felt like it wasn’t right. It took my beautiful and patient wife to slap me up said the head and make me realize that I had actually done a lot, and I deserved it, so just shut up and take it. Thank you for that.

Back when I was growing up in Michigan, I was an avid tape trader. I was on recsport pro wrestling, finding strangers on the internet before finding strangers on the internet was a thing. I was writing checks out of my dad’s checkbook to get the latest tapes from Japan, Mexico, or Europe. When I was doing that, I came across one of the very early Rey Mysterio Jr. and Psicosis matches. They went on to have an incredible in-ring relationship, but there was something about one of those guys that really struck a chord with me because he was the spectacular guy. As a tall, lanky, uncoordinated guy, Psicosis was my guy. It was not only because he was tall, but it was because he made Rey look like a million bucks every time they stepped in the ring. Something spoke to me about that, that it’s not just about the star; it takes two to dance, and you need a dance partner that is going to work with you and accentuate all of your positives while you accentuate all of theirs. That was something that had not really occurred to me before I saw those matches.

Fast forward a couple of years later, like most great things, my wrestling career started in a hot, sweaty suburban Anaheim, California building. That’s where I learned the foundation of professional wrestling. It’s also where I met people with whom I made lifelong relationships, and we all shared one bond – our love for professional wrestling and how much we were willing to sacrifice to give to professional wrestling.

The independent scene here in Southern California was an interesting situation because it’s kind of on an island of its own. We are five hours to San Francisco, five hours to Vegas, and five hours to Phoenix, but each of those scenes was very small. It wasn’t like the Northeast where 90 minutes away there is this huge pool of wrestling and wrestlers, so it was very isolated. Even in the late 90s, early 2000s, we were still in Los Angeles, and there were people who would turn their nose at us, and that just boggled my mind. This was the thing that we loved, and there was no distance too great for me to cover to do this thing that I was so passionate about and loved so much.

It was through the original Revolution Pro in Anaheim that I made these relationships, and that’s where I learned and strengthened my love for pro wrestling. After RPW closed, a lot of those guys were left wondering. Scorpio Sky was one of those guys who were just kind of at the mercy of the independent scene, and there were some good experiences, some bad experiences, and some worse experiences. Those worse experiences, 20 years ago, were the germ of the idea of Pro Wrestling Guerrilla.

There was a promoter in New Hall, California who ran a benefit show. At intermission, everybody realized the promoter had left the venue with all the money for the charity and disappeared. Adam Pearce said that people had paid for a show, and they were going to give them a show. The main event was me and Super Dragon vs. The X Foundation, where I gave myself a career-shortening concussion. It wasn’t anybody’s fault; we had to give them a show. They didn’t know the promoter had run off with the money, and they didn’t know that nobody was getting paid, and the charity was getting nothing. All they knew was that they put their money down and were expecting 2 or 3 hours of entertainment, and that’s what we gave them. That experience started a conversation among friends about why we should fracture our skulls for ourselves instead of for someone who will walk out with it. That was the foundation of PWG. We put on events and matches that we wanted to see because we are still fans, even though we are wrestlers. That’s the ethos, the groundwork that PWG was built on.

Receiving this award is not just about my contributions to commentary and raising interest in independent wrestling. It’s also about my contributions to PWG and what PWG means to professional wrestling, not just today but for decades to come. We started from humble beginnings, losing money every time we went out there, but we saw the potential. As word spread, people wanted to come work for us. We had difficult conversations about not being able to afford them, but they still came, and without them, PWG would not be around almost 20 years later. There are many people in this room today who made sacrifices to get PWG off the ground, whether they realized it or not. We moved to the Legion Hall in Reseda, California, a location synonymous with the best in professional wrestling. I think that building had a higher concentration of great wrestling matches than any other building in the United States. That’s because of the people who stepped through the ropes, who were willing to bust their ass and sacrifice for me to have the opportunity personally to talk about their matches. This was something early in my commentary career that I didn’t even know I was going to have and took incredibly for granted. I was there to call the matches, crack jokes, and keep things light, that PWG vibe.

If you’ve noticed, after four or five years of PWG, I started to refer to everything as “straight.” That was because I realized how special what was happening in the ring was and how much of an opportunity I had to talk about these great matches, these great wrestlers, and to be the soundtrack for what they were doing in the ring. It wasn’t immediately apparent to me, but when it clicked, it made me remember guys like Psicosis and Rey Mysterio Jr. There are guys who are going to be the world champion, there are guys who are going to be the stars, but then there are guys who are the base for them, responsible in some certain way, one match at a time, for their success in that given moment, and I realized that was me.

My in-ring career was over, mercifully, but I still had something to contribute, and I was able to contribute through my words, through the picture I was able to paint about professional wrestling, which to this day I still love. I am incredibly blessed to get paid to do this, but it’s something I would do for free, on road trips, on late nights, on DVDs. The fact that I get to do it professionally is a gift.

I did wrestle. I got beat up a lot. I took my role as a base very seriously and have the knee surgeries to prove it. But one of the most special moments in my in-ring career was in 2005, in Detroit, MI, and this was the only time my dad got to see me wrestle live in person. It was me vs. The American Dragon Bryan Danielson, and he beat the shit out of me. It was 20 minutes of him just whooping my ass all over the Ukrainian Hall in Detroit, MI. Afterwards, I went up to my dad and said, “Dad, first time you ever got to see me wrestle in person, what did you think?” He took a beat and said, “The guy you wrestled was pretty good.” Now, I can take this one of two ways: one, I was wrestling Bryan Danielson, two, I wanted to be the best goddamn base, and for that night, I succeeded.

The legacy of what we built with PWG will last for decades beyond whenever PWG comes screeching to a halt. In 2015, a young, very talented wrestler named Will Ospreay said, “Hey man, I love PWG. I love your commentary. I’ve watched every single DVD of yours when I was growing up.” That made me feel older than dirt, but it also underscored the reach, not just of PWG but of independent professional wrestling. This transcended that little room in Reseda, California. This transcended the United States Postal Service shipping things. This had DVDs that had to go on a month-long journey to reach Essex, England, on a region-free DVD player, for this young kid who used his hard-earned money to watch that. And that meant a lot to me, and it continues to mean a lot to me.

Without PWG, without the independent pro wrestling scene, what we saw last night at Wrestlemania would have been a very, very different show. Without indie wrestling, AEW wouldn’t exist. Myself, Orange Cassidy, and many of us in the room are very lucky to have jobs in wrestling. It is so important that we continue to support indie wrestling at the grassroots level, or else there is no pro wrestling tomorrow.

Thank you for this honor. Thank you to everyone who ever bought a ticket, stepped through the ropes, bought a DVD, whoever spared a thought about what they saw at Wrestlemania: where did those guys come from whats that guerilla on their trunks mean? Thank you. Please love and support Professional Wrestling as I do and this business will be in good hands for centuries to come. 

Michael Modest was inducted by Barry Blaustein 

Michael Modest: 

When Brett called me to tell me about this, I was humbled. The name Michael Modest wasn’t a name I chose for myself; it was given to me by people I trained with at the time. My instructor, Rick Thompson, would always say, “Yeah, yeah, do it like Mike did. Do it like Mike did. That’s the way you gotta do it.” People used to get on me for being Rick’s favorite, and every time Rick did that, it made me uncomfortable. I don’t like praise, I don’t like being put on a pedestal. I usually get really embarrassed. So the boys all started calling me “Modest,” just a nickname that started and morphed into who I became as a pro wrestler.

I’m really glad I didn’t have to follow Chris Daniels tonight. I had to follow him on many cards, and if you ever had to follow Chris Daniels, you know that’s a tough task. I want to thank my mom and dad. My dad passed away a couple of years ago, and no one was more supportive of my career than my father. My dad was a jockey, so he understood the traveling lifestyle, he understood the lure of it, and all the negatives that go along with it as well. I’d like to thank Rick Thomson, the one who trained me, Roland Alexander, Jerry Monte, who was my first trainer and first promoter, Alexis Smirnoff, and Misawa. I was a fan of his for many years, and then he came to APW, saw me wrestle, and said I was good enough to be in the ring with him. I want to thank GCW for this awesome opportunity, Nagata, who also came with Misawa, and he was one of the important figures in NOAH at the time. I would like to thank Terry Taylor for always believing in me, Kevin Sullivan for giving me my first run in WCW, Mike Graham, and Arn Anderson.

First, I want to talk about my first pro match. I was so excited; I was wrestling someone named the Samoan Bulldog from Hawaii. I was 180lbs and looked like a teenager out of high school, and the Samoan Bulldog had two mohawks, and he was 280lbs. I wasn’t able to watch any video on him; we didn’t have a computer, but I did have an 8×10, and he looked insane. I was afraid to wrestle him in a way, but I also marked out because he really looked like a pro wrestler, and I knew at the time I didn’t.

So the night before, I stayed up all night thinking of all the moves that I could do and all the things I could do. I hardly slept a wink. The next day, I got to the arena, and I couldn’t wait for him to get there. He showed up, and I ran right up to him and asked if he wanted to talk about our match, and he just gave me this look. So a couple of minutes later, he said, “Come on over,” and he said, “So, you got some ideas, bruddah?” I said, “Oh yeah, I got a ton of ideas,” so he said, “Let’s hear them,” and I talked his ear off. It was kind of like a Chris Daniels match, a lot of high spots.

After I finished speaking, he replied with a simple “Okay,” and I asked him what he meant. He replied with, “To all of it, boss.” That was when I should have realized that something special was going to happen that night. We entered the ring, ready to start the match, and he punched me square in the nose. Blood started to pour out, and I was barely conscious. I rolled to the apron, and my first thought was why did I ask for that? Did I tell him to punch me in the nose? Why would I say that? He looked at me and said, “I’m going to fucking kill you, bruddah.” I started running, and the fans started booing me. Even though I was playing the bad guy, I was genuinely scared and running for my life. I slid back into the ring and gave him an easy kick to let him know I understood the business, but he punched me in the face a second time, and I was knocked out.

I recall being thrown to the mat a few times before waking up in the locker room. My first thought was to leave before that guy came after me again. I wasn’t even sure what I had done wrong. I took a week off from class, and when I saw Jerry Monte again, I asked him what had happened. He told me that the next time a veteran asked me if I had any ideas, and it was my first match, I should say no.

Buddy Rose was my second or third match, and it was a completely different experience. He spoke a lot like Louie Anderson, and he was a big star in my eyes. I didn’t want to make the same mistake again and let him beat me up, so I deferred to him. He asked me if I brought the gimmick, and I said no, not knowing what he meant. He told me that Jerry was supposed to tell me to hit him with a gimmick. How could I hit him with one if I didn’t bring it? I started searching around the locker room and gym for anything that could be a gimmick. I found a big bolt and a little bit of chain, but Buddy rejected them. After searching and trying, I couldn’t find anything. Buddy then asked me if I had a piece of paper, and I rolled it up and used it as a gimmick. The fans bought it, and that’s when I knew I wanted to be part of this business forever.

I will never forget my first day of wrestling practice. When I left my house, my family asked me if I was considering wrestling for a living. I replied that I was just going to have fun. Now, 37 years later, I’m still here.

Paul London inducted by Rick Bassman 

“This will look great over my toilet. I’m kidding, you spelled my name wrong. There aren’t any names on here. Very cool, thank you! Wow, fancy! I don’t know what I’m going to say. I just knew there were people I wanted to thank. Thank you, Rick, for doing the honors. As Rick mentioned, when I went out to UPW in 2001, I was just a nobody from Texas. Some people would still say that, and really, it was just that I was fueled by so much doubt growing up in Texas. You’re kind of an oddball if you don’t play football. I still couldn’t tell you the rules for football or how it’s played, so I’m the worst Texan around. I was fueled by doubt. So many people looked at me and said, ‘Well, you know you’re 5’10 and 100 pounds. It’s kind of like Rudy, are you serious? You want to do this.’ My father is an attorney, and my mother is an artist, and they split when I was eight, so I was kind of bouncing between the two opinions, I should say. Whereas my mom really fueled my creativity, my dad was always there as the voice of reason, saying, ‘You know you’re going to get hurt, you’re going to get paralyzed. That’s for white trash. It’s hillbilly shit.’ I heard everything, and it wasn’t just from my family. They voiced concern more than anything, and there were the people around me. They would question your sexuality. Anybody who has been doubted, who has faced every name that you can imagine being called, any challenge, any doubt, and that, to me, is the spirit of an independent professional wrestler. It’s because the cards are completely stacked against you. Whether it’s not having training or not having enough money to go to training ashocool, we hear them all the time, but what’s it to you? What’s it worth to you to sleep in your car, possibly walking out on a tab that you cannot afford? It’s indie stuff, you know, and we are all pretty carnie in many ways. As Rick mentioned, marching to the beat of whatever drum, but what’s it to you?

So, I drove out to California in 2001 because I saw, I think it was A&E, did a special on his whole school and promotion, and I thought that’s what I had to do to be seen. Texas was in a dry spell. I think it was Excalibur who talked about making the five-hour drives to NorCal. I remember we would drive from Dallas to Austin, then ten hours down to the valley, and then over to Houston. So, I drove out to California with just me and one other guy, Hardcore Kid. I just wanted to get started as fast as possible. That’s where I met Chris Daniels, who I considered a trainer. I don’t know if he knows that, but judging by his face right now, he didn’t. I’ve never been a big hulking guy. I never took a steroid in my life, just what I get from GNC and supplement stores. I hate working out, obviously.

I didn’t fit the mold of UPW. I wasn’t a behemoth, and when I asked Rick to induct me, I could sense his surprise. I had a who’s who of trainers. We all go through stuff; we might lose somebody or something horrific that you can’t plan for because you just don’t know. But it was that drive that carried me through. I ended up in California because that’s where stars are made, and that’s where I met Rick. I don’t blame him; why wouldn’t he be impressed? I was living in a closet that had a closet. It wasn’t until I had a practice match against Mark Smelly Bell, who changed the game in the weightlifting business, that Rick saw that I could take an ass-beating and sell it. The goal was to get on the Galaxy shows, and I did. I put over our dear friend Ryan Sakota, rest in peace. I ended up wrestling and cutting my teeth from everything Chris had taught me, Tom Howard as well. You work as much as you can for as long as you can until you reach where you want to be. I wrestled in this Anaheim marketplace, and I eventually hurt my neck on a springboard shooting star. I lost all feeling from my waist down, and it was scary. Being an indie wrestler, I didn’t have any health insurance, so I went to the chiropractor at the flea market. He had me lay on this table face up, which should’ve been a red flag. He kind of messed me up even more. I ended up wearing a neck brace for three months, and that’s why I left UPW because I was out of money. I drove back to Texas but stopped in Vegas to go bungee jumping. I’d like to thank my trainers. My first actual trainer was the Polish Power Ivan Putski. He is a beautiful man. When I was looking for wrestling schools, my family was adamant that I had to go to college; that’s what you did. Every college that I picked, I made sure that there was a wrestling school nearby. Outlaw Don Bass offered to train me in a trailer park in West Memphis. I left that school and went back to Texas and saw that Putski had started a wrestling school in North Austin. That’s where I started training with Ivan Putski. I hurt my ankle in my first match and had to lie to my family. I went through the Texas independents. The first time I ever had a match was with Chris Daniels. I love taking the blue thunder; it’s so fun. I had Rey’s last match before he went to WWE in a dog track in front of maybe 25 people. I was the first victim of the 619. Dusty Wolfe is another one of those guys who really helped me out. So many wonderful people helped me train. Dory Funk Jr. was invaluable. He helped me so much, how to really make something look credible. Through Dory, I was given looks at WWF house shows, and that’s what really got me on their radar. I also met Terry Funk, and Terry is the one who got me into Ring of Honor. I’ve been so grateful for the trainers that I’ve had. I just kept on it. I’d like to thank Kevin Kelly as well. He told me to get a tan and look like a star. I was very fortunate to work for WWE, and that’s where I met Jimmy Jacobs. He had some crazy drive ahead of him, and I said, ‘No, you’re staying with me. It doesn’t matter; you all have the same dire, you all have the same infection, and you do things that I never imagined I would do.’

Steve Cornio helped me get into Japan. I am so humble and grateful to be here with you all. And before I get the go-home light, I know I’m not as active as I used to be. Tough, sorry. I just want to do other things. People think I’m too opinionated, and that’s just because I love pro wrestling. My thoughts are with Dante Martin. That’s something that never should’ve happened. I love wrestling, I love independent wrestling. There is nothing else like it. You are the only ones in charge, you are what you make of it. So to be awarded and get something like this with some silly gimmick to be myself is a great honor. Thank you.

Christopher Daniels was inducted by Frankie Kazarian 

First of all, I would like to thank GCW for this accolade and for even having the Independent Wrestling Hall of Fame. I would also like to thank my wife Lisa and my two children. They ensured that we didn’t hear Frankie’s first draft of his speech, which was a scathing burial of me. That speech will happen at the hotel bar in a little while. I would also like to wish Dante Martin, one of our compatriots, well. It’s awful when injuries happen, and I want to echo the same sentiments. Dante, please get better soon. I will miss you. You have a great future ahead of you.

This is what Independent wrestling did for me. I started training in 1993 for Windy City Pro Wrestling. For those three years, that was the only place that I really wrestled, except for six weeks in Puerto Rico for Carlos Colon. It was like a habitat at that point in time in the early ’90s. I think there was this mentality at some schools of “hey, we trained you, so don’t go wrestle for this other company. You wrestle for us because we are building you up.” At the time, I didn’t know any better, and that made sense. So, I didn’t wrestle anywhere else. Then, in the late spring/early summer, my wife decided she wanted to go all-in on an acting career, and so we moved to California. For a while, I thought, “is this fair?” Because she let me pursue my wrestling dream, which I didn’t even know was my dream until I got into it, it’s only fair that I let her follow her dream. So, at that point, pre-internet, I took some time away from pro wrestling because I had no idea that there was any wrestling in California at all. I didn’t know any indie wrestling until I got into indie wrestling. I had never heard of anything on the West Coast. So, we came out to Cali and thought, “well, let’s see how long it takes for her to be a big star.” Then, when that happens, I’ll start wrestling somewhere else. My wife said, “we are not going to give up on your dream either,” and we found Bill Anderson and Jesse Hernandez and the School of Hard Knocks. They opened their doors for me and gave me the opportunity to go train. So, that was my first place I got to wrestle in California. I met Super Boy, who introduced me to Los Angeles Lucha Libre. He brought me to All Nations. I was wrestling every week, and I was out of my comfort zone. I wasn’t wrestling the same guys I trained with. I was wrestling new guys. It forced me to up my game, to adapt to the person I’m sharing the ring with. That’s what I say to any aspiring wrestler: work with as many different people as you can, for as many different promoters as you can, in as many places as you can because if you can do that, once you become comfortable with yourself, when you can meet someone at noon, then get into the ring with them at 5 p.m. and have a great match, that’s when you become a commodity to a promoter, and that’s literally been day one advice I give people.

Around 1998, I had a series of events that changed my life and the amount of time I spent wrestling. When I first moved out here, I had a full-time job and was wrestling on the weekends. Then three people specifically changed my life forever. The first one is named Victor Quiñones, who was a promoter in Puerto Rico and knew me through my partner Kevin Quinn. He was the liaison for the WWF lightheavyweight division, and he suggested I wrestle Taka Michinoku in 1998. Taka was so generous in that match that it got on television and brought me a lot of attention in pro wrestling, not just in the US. It was my first TV match ever, and I’m proud of it to this day. This match got on the radar of Jim Cornette, who brought me into the WWF Dojo at Titian Towers, where Dory Funk was the head trainer. I went there for a week, and the format was that you’d train for five days and then do indies on the weekends. The third man I’m going to mention is Jim Ketner, whose name should be known by every wrestling fan. He ran ECWA and created the Super 8 tournament. After he saw me wrestle on a show through the dojo, he invited me to be on the tournament as the first guy not from the East Coast. This opened the eyes of a lot of promoters on the East Coast, and that tournament directly impacted Roland Alexander, who saw it and said, “I want to do something like that.” He started the King of the Indies Tournament, the first one of which was in 2000, which I happened to win. The second one, won by Bryan Danielson, is directly credited for the creation of Ring of Honor. Gabe and RF said, “We can create a promotion out of that.” Jim Ketner changed the professional wrestling landscape. Because of those three people in 1999, I quit the last full-time job I ever had. From 1999 until 2002, I lived off of independent wrestling, and I bought my first house. After ECW and WCW closed, indie wrestling changed from the stepping stone to the destination, and that’s why two companies became a reality: TNA and Ring of Honor. I had the great opportunity of being on the ground floor of both of those companies, and I feel to this day that they provided so much to professional wrestling as a whole. I’m very fortunate that I got the opportunity to be there from the start.

AJ and Joe have been the opponents I’ve been so closely related to. In fact, my new thing is that if you come up to me and say something about the matches with Joe and AJ, you will owe me one dollar. That will be my retirement fund. AJ and Joe, I am so proud of the work that I did not with one of you, but both of you. I’m so proud of those matches and proud of everything we did together. Matt and Nick Jackson, it was such a fun thing to be an antagonist against the global phenomenon of what the Young Bucks have become. Your dedication and hard work leading to the creation of All Elite Wrestling, your trust and confidence in me, and providing me a responsible position within this company have given me a path for when I leave pro wrestling, and for that, I am so grateful. Scorpio Sky, our chapter together is shorter than others, but still so significant. SCU, although short-lived, you brought such joy and such fun to the lives of two grizzled, grumpy professional wrestlers. On your birthday, in the best town I’ve ever been in, I am so proud to tell you how much you mean to me and my career. 

Now you (Kaz) Partner, Partner, friend, brother — these words do not do our relationship justice. It’s not hyperbole at all to say that you and I have traveled the world together and shared the road, and you’ve been my road wife for sure. I can’t think of a better man to share my career with, to share my life with than you. You’re not just the consummate professional wrestler; you are the consummate father, husband, and gentleman. On my best day, I hope to be a tenth of the man that you are, and I thank you for being my friend this entire time. I love you, I love you. Bad Influence, the Addiction, SCU for Life — I mean that from the bottom of my heart.

To my wife and kids, these past 30 years don’t happen without your support, without your blessing, and I know that. You have been the best spouse I could ever ask for, and you guys are a better family than I deserve. All of this was for you, but you gave me the opportunity to have my cake and eat it too, and I’m so happy that I got to live my dream and that it’s supported us to where we are now. I couldn’t have done it without your support, forever. I love you, and thank you so much.

About Jon Pine 168 Articles
Living in Providence, Rhode Island; when Jon isn’t watching AEW or GCW with his dogs Dakota and Aurora, he’s probably watching the CSPAN feed of the Senate floor or listening to Bennington on SiriusXM.