Donnie B was a former wrestling manager around the NWA promotions in New Jersey, and was a former booker and associate of Dennis Coralluzzo. Donnie also founded his own promotion - Phoenix Championship Wrestling - in the early 2000's. Donnie's brother is former ECW/WWE/OVW wrestler Mike Bucci AKA Nova/Super Nova/Simon Dean.
Episode 16 - Transcript from the Dennis of the Week (Part 1)
*Note - All questions asked are from the perspective of TGBL. Questions marked with parenthesis (____) are voiced by Bix.*
We’re back for another installment of the Dennis of the Week. This week, Bix and myself are joined by my old friend Don Bucci, but he’s be better known by fans of northeast independent wrestling as Donnie B. How you doin’ over there today?
Donnie: I’m doing good guys, thanks for having me on the show. It’s been pretty good – I’ve listened to some of your other episodes and I look forward to doing this today.
You know, there’s so many things I want to talk to you about (laughing) there’s so many things, I have a list of things right here. Why don’t we start with – how did you first meet Dennis, and how did you first start getting booked by Dennis?
Donnie: We had been working – it was I think early to mid 90’s – for Dino Sanna up in WWWA in PA – myself and Ratchet – and I think the first of our crew was, like, Ace Darling and Nova and all them and Devon (Storm). The first ones to get booked from Dennis were Devon and Maraldo – Ace Darling. There was a show coming up in South Jersey – it might have been either Devon or Ace – had told us to come down and Ratchet and I went, and Ratchet could have talked to a statue and made friends with it but talked to Dennis and within like 2 minutes, Dennis was smiling, had his arm around him, and he put us on the show. He liked our act and he told us to keep coming around, and, uh, you know at first I was a little apprehensive about Dennis because I’d heard some stories and stuff, but he literally became one of my best friends ever in my life.
Yeah, you know, I remember the first time I ever saw you guys on one of Dennis’ shows was November of ‘95, for really one of the great matches I ever saw live, believe it or not: Sabu vs. Devon Storm. There was a battle royale, and I was 15 at the time, and I didn’t really know a lot of the independent wrestlers in there, and I remember just saying to whoever I was sitting with “Who are these guys?” and a minute later, you must have heard me from across the ring. You came over and you go “Who are these guys? Every one of them will kick your ass!” and you walked away. (laughing)
Donnie: Yeah, I had a knack for that, man, just picking up on little stuff that the audience would say or do, and I’d try to make it – one of the deals I wanted to do was make it as interactive as I could without stealing heat. Like, just little things I would say and do and incorporate the towns and somebody specific in the audience; that was kind of my deal I wanted to do. A lot of the guys I kinda felt just went into the ring and acted like there was a glass box around them and just concentrated on what was in the ring, and I wanted to get out of the glass box and interact with everything I could. If there was a concession stand or something in the building that we could use, I wanted to use every facet of the canvas.
Yeah – you were very, very good at that, and I’m curious: how would you describe the Rik Ratchet / Donnie B. act?
Donnie: It was Abbott and Costello, sort of. It was Laurel and Hardy, it was that kinda deal. I was in shape at the time – not that I’m horribly out of shape now – but I was jacked, I was in shape, I was a big dude. 75% of the time, I was bigger than half the guys on the show, and here you had Ratchet who in his mind, he believed he was the second coming of Ric Flair and he acted like him, but in truth, the gold mine of his act was that he was the shits athletically, but everybody knew it except for him. That was kind of the deal, and I would be there to get him his wins, or to cheat, or to get us a victory, and act like it was all him, but he was delusional. The act sorta was that he was so delusional, he didn’t really realize it. At the same time, I was kinda like – I’ll always help him whenever I could.
I think you and I first became friendly summer of ’96 in Yardville when Dennis was regularly running shows there, and I don’t think you were booking for Dennis yet, but you did start having a role behind the scenes, is that correct?
Donnie: Yeah, I remember being a mark for you because I think Mark Coralluzzo Jr., Jr. introduced me and put you over somehow to me, and I just remember for being so young that you were kinda hip to the insider-ness of some of the shit that Dennis had on these shows. I remember saying to myself “Wow, for somebody who’s really not in the business, this dude is kinda keen as to what’s good because it’s good, or what’s good because it’s good because it’s so bad that it’s good” (laughing) But, you know, the Ralph Soto’s of the world, that kinda thing. No knock on Ralph, he was cool, but just that kinda deal. At the time, I was just kinda doing my own stuff with Ratchet and Dennis let us run with that, but then I saw the direction that some of the shows and how they were going, and I had a conversation with Dennis. That led to Yardville, where the one night he wanted to start his big idea was that he wanted to create a booking committee. How’s this for a committee – this isn’t Arn Anderson, and you know (laughing), Ole and James J Dillon: this was Tommy Fierro, Devon Storm, Tom Cusati, me, Rik Ratchet, and – I can’t remember who else – but there was somebody else. It was so – and no knock against anybody personally except Cusati, he was a clown – but it was so horribly run and disjointed and just the drizzling shits that at the end of it – at the end of the night – I remember going to Dennis and saying “Dude, I’ll still come to do your shows, but I’ll just be a talent, or I get the book with you and Marc and the three of us do the shows,” and he said “Done,” because it was such a fucking disaster, he said “Done” and he went and told the other guys and they pissed and moaned or whatever, but that’s how I took over booking for Dennis.
Yeah, things really changed, because before that in Yardville we had things like the 'Iron Sheik Macarena Contest' with Tommy Fierro-
Donnie: That was the night! That was the night of the booking committee – I swear to god, there was a piece of yellow note book paper and at the top it said “Sheik Macarena” and I’m pretty sure Fierro came up with that, and I just remember being “What the fuck?” It’s kind of funny a little bit, but oh my god, man, and I’m not blaming Tommy but some of the shit we came up with was just so bad, and the shows were just so long. Ugh. I told Dennis “we have potential here because we have reoccurring crowds and we’re in the general area of 100 mile radius any night of where we’re gonna be the next month from now, so we can get some travelling customers to go from show to show, but they’re not coming back if they see bullshit.”
Yeah, you know, one of the funniest things I remember you being involved in happened in Yardville, and before I get to that, I guess I should say, you mentioned Tom Cusati-
Donnie: I know where you’re going - go ahead. (laughing)
And what a character he was. Correct me if I’m wrong, because I didn’t get to know him because I always stayed away from him, but he was a manager named Royce Prophet – possibly the worst manager on the New Jersey independent scene, because he had a cool look for a heel, but he didn’t do anything. He would just go to the ring with someone and just lean on the apron and not move, not react to the fan, not do anything. He was huge – he looked like Paul Heyman in the early 90’s, except 5 times as large.
Donnie: He looked like Danny DeVito’s Penguin from Batman; the one with Michelle Pfeiffer, and I remember trying to tell him to do something like that and he kinda just nixed it off, but that’s what he looked like.
He had a reputation for paying workers to be around him – not just at shows, and he did do some promoting on his own, but the reputation was he’d go on vacation and pay for a bunch of wrestlers to hang out with him on vacation. He’d fly them to the Bahamas or wherever, and sometimes some wrestlers allegedly may have felt captive by Tom Cusati on some of these excursions, but the other things about him that was said – and I don’t know if it was ever disputed but I’ll throw in “allegedly” just to, you know, prevent any potential lawsuit – was that Tom’s money came from an inheritance when his mother passed away. He’d inherited all the money that he used to promote shows and fly wrestlers around on vacation with him, and to do whatever Cusati was doing; go to Vegas with wrestlers, whatever it was. We all knew this and I remember one night in Yardville and I remember being backstage when it was starting to build up and Marc hipped me to it – Marc Coralluzzo – was like “You’ve gotta see what Donnie’s gonna do, it’s gonna be amazing” and I’m gonna let you take it from there. You had a live mic backstage while Tom Cusati as Royce Prophet was at ringside.
Donnie: Well, Cusati was one of those “Only in wrestling” human beings that could only exist in the world of indy wrestling, and everything you said is correct. I don’t care what he says if he hears this – whatever – but yes, he did pay people to hang out with him outside of wrestling. He’d pay the guys to go to baseball games with him – they know who they are. He also paid for some guys to go to Vegas with him and yes, they may or may not *wink wink* have been held captive against their will. So many weird things that Cusati did; he was just weird. I always heard that the money came from his mom, too, and I was just flabbergasted that this human being could blow hundreds of whatever thousands of tens of thousands of dollars on this shit. So, his mother had passed and I remember talking to him in Yardville that night. I said “Listen,” and he was really upset about something and I said “It’s about your mom, isn’t it?” and he kinda looked at me “I don’t give a fuck - fuck mom!” – kinda heeling the fact that his mom had died, and I’m like “This guy’s insane!” You know, so he goes out to the ring and I forget who he’s managing – maybe Tom Brandi or something – so he’s at ring-side and I think I smartened up Cornette to this and I definitely smartened up Marc, so I grabbed the microphone and all of a sudden over the PA system – I don’t remember if this is what the woman sounded like or not – but my incantation or whatever, I made her into an old Gypsy, where I got on the microphone and started saying “Tommmmyyyy, this is your mommmmmyyy, this is your mommmmyyy, I’m calling you from beyond the beyooooooonnnnd” (laughing) “Stop wasting my monneeyyy on this bullllshiiiittt” Like, I started cutting a promo and the fucking audience was rolling, you know, how many were there – they were dying. Any normal man probably on the face of the earth with two hands and two feet would come in the back, look for who did that, and regulate the guy and give him his comeuppance; not Tommy. What does he do? I had no idea he was going to do this – he looks up at the sky and starts working the gimmick and starts saying “Yes mother? Is that you, mother??” and I remember putting my hand over the mic and I looked at Marc Coralluzzo and go “Is this crazy sonofabitch working a gimmick, or do you think he thinks it’s really his mom?” and Marc at this point is literally seconds away from having a heart attack from laughing. So I actually have one hand out and I’m holding him up on the wall because he’s starting to slide down the wall – the paneling, the cheap paneling of Yardville starts sliding down the wall. I’m holding him up and I keep saying “Tommyyyy, you gotta knock it offfffff, stop giving all my money awayyyyy; you’re gonna be broke, Tommmyyyy” and the act is getting worse and worse as I’m trying not to laugh. Tom is just looking up at the sky, looking all around saying “Mother! Mother! Where are you? Please, Mother!” and it went on for like 5 minutes until I kinda just ran out of shit to say as his mom, and then everybody at this point – the curtain was sold out. Everybody’s looking out the curtain, I mean, pissing themselves laughing. Tom – and now I’m waiting; the match is over, I see him coming towards the back. I have two children and I don’t like to swear on anything and I’ll swear on them for this – he comes through the back, I’m standing there waiting and I have my hand ready to knock him out if he comes too close to me and he looks at me, puts his arms out to hug me, and says “That was some great shit, brother,” and that’s all you need to know about Tom Cusati. (laughing) I can’t give any other story better than that about Cusati.
(I have a question about that whole thing, though. So – in the ring is the most quintessential NJ indy match possible: King Kong Bundy vs. Tom Brandi. Do you remember how THEY reacted, or did they completely no sell it?)
Donnie: Oh yeah, I remember Bundy – if memory serves me right – Brandi was laughing but at the same time he wasn’t saying anything because I think Tom was giving him some cash, but Bundy was looking around just laughing, and he kept saying “What the fuck is wrong with that guy out there? What the fuck is wrong with him? Is he stupid?” not knowing that we were making fun of Cusati, but Bundy just couldn’t rationalize that someone was allowing this to happen to themselves out in the ring, and Bundy just kept shaking his head laughing, and as I’m on the microphone, I’m looking at the different people walking by me; I’m trying to hide behind this little desk. Bundy was one of the ones looking at me shaking his head laughing going “Aw, Donnie!” They were – everybody was in on it, except Cusati.
I remember a few things about that, because when I found out something was gonna happen, I left backstage. I said “I’m gonna go sit out in the crowd and watch whatever it is,” and when all of a sudden, the way I remember it is: the match is happening and it’s Tom Brandi vs. Bundy, so there’s more noise coming from the ring than there is from the crowd. All of a sudden, you just hear over the PA, like you hear the PA click on (laughing) and you hear “Tommyyyy, this is your mommmyyyyy, I want my monnneeey backkkk…” There were enough – like you said - there were enough regulars there and who were kinda hip to who everyone was and they start looking at each other and laughing, but as big as that was, you popped the locker room big time. You know, you couldn’t really hear out there anyone laugh, except Dennis. You heard Dennis’ laugh coming from backstage. (laughing)
Donnie: You know, we kayfabed Dennis! We didn’t tell him; I told Marc and I think two or three others. Dennis had no idea we were gonna do it, and in total Dennis voice, Dennis comes in the back going “That’s fucking great! That’s fucking awesome! That’s beautiful!” and later on Cusati asked Dennis who did it and he goes “I don’t know.” Yardville had some good memories, man. Just the weirdest shit would happen there – when Ralph Soto. Last, were you there when Ralph Soto came out with the bag on his head, a midget? The Master Blaster gimmick? I thought you were there for that.
I’m not sure!
Donnie: That’s probably, to me, one of my top 5 things I’d ever saw on the indies, was Dennis – nobody could draw. You couldn’t – to quote Jim Cornette – “We couldn’t draw money with Ralph if he was covered in glue and we dragged him through Fort Knox”; that’s what he said about Ralph. We had this big plan where we were gonna have Ralph Soto come out with a white Elephant Man mask on – like those bags – and he was going to do a Master Blaster gimmick from Mad Max, and he was going to carry a little midget to the ring with him. The midget was going to control Ralph and this and that. Well, I watched with my own two eyes Jim Cornette give Ralph Soto a crash course in the back on how to be like a “giant monster,” like growling, and I swear to god this is a true story and Cornette will remember this – Brian Last, you bring this up to Cornette next time you talk to him and see if I’m not telling the true story. He gives Ralph this crash course “You gotta act like this, you gotta swing your arms, man! You gotta grrrrr, get in the ring! Act like a monster!” It was a good half-hour that Cornette did this, okay? So here comes – and I think it was against Billy Reil – so Ralph goes out with the midget, he’d act like a monster for a second walking down to the ring. I’m standing right next to Cornette behind the curtain and Cornette’s like “Here he goes! Here he goes; here it is!” because when he got it the ring, he’s supposed to do this big freak out with his arms and yelling and all this shit – Ralph Soto goes into the ring, turns around, looks at the crowd, and starts doing a double muscular and double bicep and starts posing like a bodybuilder with the Elephant Man bag on his head. I swear to god, Jim Cornette turns around, throws his pencil in the air and goes “God damn Donnie, you’re never going to draw a dime with this mother fucker!” (laughing) Dude, that was one of the funniest things I had ever saw in wrestling was that right there.
You brought up Billy Reil in Yardville, and that makes me wanna ask you because I wasn’t backstage the night this happened – I was hanging out with people in the main… I don’t want to say arena because it wasn’t an arena, but the main part of the building: what about the night where – I guess it would be Dennis who pulled the rib – pulled the rib that Billy Reil was going to beat Dan Severn for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship?
Donnie: Oh, that was; yeah. They ribbed everybody on that; is that what you’re talking about?
Well, wasn’t it – the way I remember Dennis telling me it and I figured you’d be back there, was they decided they were going to tell Billy Reil that he was going over Dan Severn, and then he was excited and then various people would come up to him and say “Wow, you really pissed him off” and then Dory Funk Jr. was trying to teach him how to handle himself in the ring, and Dan Severn was trying to intimidate him and was stretching in front of him and getting ready (laughing) and I’m not sure. There may have been a tumble down the stairs, or something? (laughing)
Donnie: Yeah, he fell down the stairs after that because he was scared shitless. But yeah, they were telling Billy he was going to win the belt and Dennis was telling him he got off the phone with Howard Brody and it was a done deal, and I’m pretty sure at first they told him it was going to be a shoot – that the ref was just going to count 3 and Billy was going to win and he’s telling him “Once you get the belt, run out of the ring ‘cause Dan’s going to come after you,” and he goes “When you come in the back, we’ll get you in the car and get you out of here,” and Billy’s going along with it. He’s really thinking “Oh god, I’m going to be the NWA champ” and he was so young and gullible at the time. He believed it, hook line and sinker, dude. It’s one of those “only in wrestling moments”; he thought he was going to beat Dan Severn. Dan was such a great guy; class act. He went along with it, and he was scaring the shit out of Billy, stretching and warming up and he’s looking at Billy and I’m telling him “Listen Bill, you might want to go for his knee if he attacks you” and Billy’s sitting there, like, kinda believing it like, “Yeah, I might have to do that; I may have to shoot on him” (laughing) It was insane! But, that was the magic of Dennis’ shows, man. We didn’t fill our pockets with gold, but we filled our pockets and hearts with memories and shit – I mean, I always got paid good from Dennis but the memories from the Dennis shows is what I appreciated.
(There’s something I noticed in the results of the show with the Tom Cusati’s mother thing, which I feel like I have to point out because it’s a call-back to previous episodes, and that’s that it’s one of the few shows that had an appearance by The Great Caruso-)
Yes! That happened in Yardville – the story I told on the show was mostly in Yardville with The Great Caruso.
(Now, is there anything Donnie can add as the booker on record – or were you not the booker yet for this?)
Donnie: Let me tell you something, guys: I was there for the entire Great Caruso creation and downfall, okay? I was the booker, Dennis had come to me one day and said “Listen, I like Gino Caruso a lot, but we gotta do something with him. Nobody gives a fuck about him out there,” and Gino was a cool guy; I liked Gino. I had no heat with him, but he’s a plain guy in blue trunks, we gotta think of something outlandish. And I said “Alright” Dennis goes “Why don’t we make him like a famous opera singer that can go out there and sing like ‘Danny Boy’ or these songs, and we’re gonna give him some –“ I don’t know who it was, The Great Sarenzio? Who was the guy, the famous lover or whatever that had the big nose.
It definitely wasn’t The Great Sarenzio. (laughing)
(Cyrano de Bergerac?)
Donnie: De Bergerac! That’s who it was. He says “Listen, we’re gonna have him go in there” and I think Barry Casino from Kettner’s, we were going to bring him in and he came out with him on the one show. Dennis thought of it at first and said “This is what I wanna pitch to Gino” and I remember sitting right there when Dennis pitches it to Gino – “You’re gonna come out with this long rubber nose and this white sheet and the blue hat, and you’re gonna get on and lip sync opera music” and Gino’s looking at him like (laughing) like almost the same look you’d have if you looked at somebody and they turned into a real life Werewolf right in front of you, and that’s the look Caruso had – like “Are you fucking shitting me?” Gino, to his credit, says “Alright, I’ll try it…” and I’ll be goddamned that the next show Dennis got him the rubber nose, the cape or whatever, the hat, the makeup, the music, and he had Barry Casino come out and Barry Casino came up with him and while they going to the ring, he’s lip syncing and the people are fucking dying laughing and they’re reacting: that was the key. They were finally reacting to Gino, and Casino – I just remember sitting in the back and when I saw this one part of it, I died laughing, because Casino had this little white napkin or cloth in his hand and it was drenched in water, and while Gino’s singing, he puts it up to his eyes and squeezes it to make it look like he’s crying and he’s so upset for the music, and I just thought that was spectacular (laughing) It hit a home run, man, to the point – and this is a shoot and Cornette can vouch for this too – one of the TV’s, I think it was in Philly when Dennis used to bring the guys up – Dennis 100% had a dark match tryout for the Great Caruso. 100%. Gino was in the back with him, and it was supposed to have the gimmick and the whole bit and walked up to him and said “Do you have all the shit?” and Gino said “No, I didn’t bring it” and Dennis goes “You fuckin’ kidding me? I can get you a match right now doing The Great Caruso gimmick!” and Gino was offended or didn’t want to do it maybe, or I don’t know, but he wound up not doing it.
Well, we’ve talked about it on the show before – one of my big regrets – and I remember Dennis called me one night late at night telling me all about The Great Caruso gimmick and I thought it was hysterical. I thought he was right – it was the only thing he could do to liven up Gino Caruso; nice guy, not Mr. Excitement. Dennis’ great idea which he never got to do – it’s one of those big regrets I actually got to see this – was he was going to do this thing every show in Yardville or wherever else they were running at the time – where after the match, Gino would continue beating his opponent and get on the mic and say “It’s not over until the fat lady sings” and then eventually it was going to build to him doing that saying “It’s not over until the fat lady sings” and Dennis is like “I’m gonna get a fat lady with a Viking helmet, and she’s gonna come out-“
Donnie: He wanted to have Amy-Lee! He wanted to have Amy-Lee to do it! That’s a shoot. I loved Amy – Amy-Lee was cool, man. I loved Amy-Lee a lot. She was cool with Dennis and I always thought of her as one of the guys; I wish we could have done more with her. Amy-Lee was cool in my book because she was up for anything and she was tough, and I remember Dennis saying “We’re gonna have Amy-Lee come out in this Viking helmet and she’s gonna beat the fuck out of Gino and it’s gonna be a feud between Gino and the Fat Lady; like opera singers” and I thought it was pretty cool. Here I am before making fun of the Iron Sheik Macarena gimmick and I want to have a fat lady vs. Gino, but I said, you know what, at that point, let’s try it. I can’t remember why we just never got to it – I think Gino didn’t want to do the gimmick anymore.
The way it was going to start was after weeks of saying “It’s not over until the fat lady sings,” she’d come out with the helmet on and just sing “It’s ovveerrrrrr!” (laughing) and that would lead to a confrontation.
Donnie: That was supposed to start the heat and Gino was going to be jealous, and it was something like – I think Amy was with us and she was just like, you know, have a singles match against a chick. There was no real direction, but yeah, he kinda thought of that. He said “I’m gonna pitch this to Amy to do a heel female opera singer, thing” and I thought it was cool; different.
Now, I do want to ask you about something that, like Bix said before with his thing, is a call-back to a previous episode: we had Al Berry on – Al Getz, the Duke of New York – and he told a story, it’s your turn to confirm or deny, at the Eddie Gilbert Memorial Brawl in 1998 in Philadelphia when he managed Steve Corino against Rik Ratchet – managed by you – and the loser of the match’s manager would get 5 minutes – or the winner of the matches’ manager would get 5 minutes with the loser – either way! A great stipulation, there…and the rumor he had heard was that Dave Scherer had offered you $50 to shoot on Alan Berry. Is it true?
Donnie: No. He said that to me too maybe not too long ago – I was talking to him. I don’t remember that at all, man. Dave – I can’t see; Dave would never do that. If he did, it was probably a joke like “Hey Donnie,” and maybe if he was there, he’d be waiving money towards me “Hey, I’ll give you 50 bucks to kick Alan’s ass!” but Alan Berry, he’s up there too with that short list of people who I truly enjoyed my time around him, and I just thought he was fantastic. He was an awesome slimy stereotypical lawyer, like shark, dirtbag, heel gimmick. He’s another person who you’d like to see get his ass kicked, and I loved working with Alan. I really did like him.
Another thing we talked about on the show - and I actually put the video up because I was filming it that night in…what was it – it was, the name of the town is slipping my mind – South Jersey, a real dump : The night that Lupus fell off the ladder and got hurt; Alan was managing Twiggy that night because Madonna had been suspended for cursing on the mic and breaking the mic-
Donnie: He called somebody a scumbag or something; at the Point Pleasant show we had a few weeks ago and Dapper wanted to suspend him because it was the mic got broken and he blamed him for him, which was another low-down shit tactic by a turd named Dapper, so, that’s why Madonna wasn’t there.
Vineland, New Jersey: that was it- you know, the home of Elie Zard, one of the great Dennis wrestlers of all time (laughing) and that was the night where Lupus actually got hurt – what are your memories about that night? I remember afterwards we all went to the hospital where he had been air lifted after his head injury.
Donnie: I remember every single moment. I remember every single moment of it – I remember when they put the match together, it was Kevin, Twiggy, and Kent (Lupus) in a 3-way, and they were going to have a ladder match and I was begging Lupus – because he wasn’t the most athletic either, he’s still one of my dear friends to this day and we’ve talked about it – but I remember telling him “Don’t do anything stupid, you’re not a high flyer, don’t be trying-“ I remember specifically saying “Don’t be trying to jump off the ladder onto anybody – you’re going to get killed.” Sure as shit, I remember standing in the back – wherever I was, and I remember looking out and he’s setting up the ladder and he’s about to jump off to the outside and I’m just saying “please don’t get fucking hurt,” and the next thing I know, here he goes, head first right into the ground, and they stopped the match. Kevin or Twiggy runs and grabs – I think it was Twiggy – grabs the belt and everybody’s calling the X, somebody’s really hurt. I go rolling over and I’ve been doing a lot of shit for a lot of years since wrestling with law enforcement, and I’ve seen some things, but to this day man, one of the worst things I’d seen was when I turned him over and he’s looking up at me and he’s clutching his neck with his hand and then the left-upper portion of his forehead – about the size of a deck of cards – there was just white. It looked like somebody took a piece of white construction paper or paper plate and put it on his head, and I didn’t realize at first what I was looking at was his skull. It was about the size – yeah. You could see all the way down his skull and I was just like “Holy shit.” And he’s telling me – he’s saying “I can’t move my hands and legs” but I can see that he was because he was just in shock, and I’m just trying to keep him still and keep all the people away. We kind of just put some bandages on his head, and I knew he was hurt BAD. So then we helped get him into the helicopter with the EMT’s and I spent the night with him at the hospital and yeah man, that was pretty much the end for him. He did a couple little things after that, but that was it.
Yeah. That was a crazy night – he was part of our little crew of people who’d always have fun at these shows.
Donnie: Yeah, I loved that man. He was a part of the original Brick Clique from Sharpe’s and still my friend to this day, dude.
(Well, as someone who’s still in regular contact with him, was he aware of when TNA brought in a fake Lupus a few years ago for one of their ECW reunion deals?)
Donnie: Yeah, oh yeah, that was hilarious, man! I think it was Nova or Raven, somebody told them to do that as a rib on him, and then we saw it on there that they called him Lupus and he was laughing. There’s – with Raven, and Dreamer, we all kinda had a relationship where some people would find that offensive and be offended by it, but if you kinda knew all of us and the relationships that we have, that was a form of flattery and hilariousness, and just total Scott Levy insanity that it was funny. That’s why – he wasn’t offended by that at all.
(I mention it because I think it had the by-product though of making people think that he had died or whatever rumors there were.)
Donnie: (laughing) Oh yeah, he laughed about it; it was funny, dude. I’m pretty sure Scotty called him or whatever, and he ran a show about 3 or 4 years ago and Scotty was on it – Raven was on the show – and Lupus ran the show, and Raven was on and they, you know, were hanging out because they worked for a while. I thought Lupus was great in ECW as a lackey, and it was cool, man.
I like how you call your own brother Nova, like... (laughing)
Donnie: I’ve known him so long – there’s so many “Mike’s” – even when he was Simon Dean, the people that knew he was doing Simon Dean, they still refer to him as Nova. Even in the WWF locker room some people called him Nova; depends on how they knew him. Some people called him Nova, some people called him Mike, some people called him Simon! Three different names.
Well, you know, I speak of your brother and before you mentioned Mike Sharpe – when Rik Ratchet was on the show, we talked a little bit about his experiences at Sharpe’s school and his memories of Iron Mike Sharpe who recently passed away, but tell me a little bit about what you remember about Iron Mike Sharpe, and what it was like being at that school at that time?
Donnie: It was awesome, bro. I remember walking in there in 92-91 – my brother and I, Mike, were going to OCC – Ocean County College in NJ, and friend of ours wanted to be a worker – Richie – so we heard that Sharpe was opening up a school, we go there first night it was open. First night it was open we get the tour, we’re talking to Sharpe, and we see in the ring, he already had a student, and the student was bumping around with I think Tom (inaudiable) son, JJ Flash. So JJ was in the ring bumping around with somebody and it turned out to be Devon Storm. Devon was the first ever Sharpe student. So from there, Nova joined with our friend Richie; I didn’t want to go in the ring. I told Sharpe “No no no, that’s not for me,” and subsequently Ratchet came after that, Lupus and Rocco Dorsey came a few years later, and Ace Darling was there, Mike Terrace, Jerry Tuite – the Wall, you know, everybody was there, man. It was such a simple time because the early 90’s/early to mid 90’s is when the business was the hottest because you had all the companies, you had everybody was drawing 5/6/700 people a weekend at the indies, and I don’t know; it was just – we were all younger too, man. So to us, it was nothing like – and Ratchet would have the best car out of all of us so we’d pack in the car and do the indies – but it’s where we grew up. I mean, we were 18-19-20 years old and we’d go to Sharpe’s 3 or 4 times a week and train from 5/6 to 9/10/11 and go to Denny’s or the local Diner and shoot the shit for a couple more hours, and just, I don’t know, man. You get a band together and you practice in somebodies garage and you’re a band – that’s what we were doing. This was our deal; it was awesome, man. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
What was Mike Sharpe like?
Donnie: Mike was a good old fashioned no-bullshit guy who CARED about the students. Rumsby, his partner, was a crook. I don’t mean to speak ill of the dead, but Tom was the business man/crook and Mike was the trainer and the heart of gold, and so many guys, like if they’re running into financial difficulty or didn’t have money that week or something, Mike would say “I’ll get you next time,” or he brought the guys up to do the TV squashes and the job matches when Vince would be in the area, somebody would call and say “Hey” – they called them Tomato Cans or Jobbers – and say “We need 4 or 5 guys” – you remember the old Saturday morning job matches?
Donnie: Yeah, they’d bring the guys up there; those guys would get, like, 150 or 200 bucks, so if they brought them up there for 2 days, you’re talking, like, 4 or 500 bucks. To a guy making nothing, that was a million bucks, man. If you could go on the road and even if you got your ass kicked twice for WWF at a TV tape and came home with, like, 4 or 500 bucks, you were like “holy fuck,” but that was all because of Mike Sharpe. He didn’t have to do that, he could have said “oh I don’t have anybody” and he never took a dime from anybody. He didn’t take a finders fee or nothing, and I loved Mike, man. I really did. We all loved Sharpe – he was fantastic.
Moving on with Dennis stuff, I’m curious what your memories are – and I think Dave Prazak when he was on the show recently reminded me of this: what are your memories of when Dennis and Marc had a radio show in Philadelphia?
Donnie: That was so much fun. It was in Philly – in a couple of different spots – and none of us knew shit about radio. Dennis calls me one day and goes “Hey man, hey dude, come on up – I got us on a radio show.” I think it first started in Woodbury and then Philly; two different spots. Marc was gonna be like the tech guy who knew about the old cartridges that you put in to record your shit, and it was like a one-hour show once a week. It was me, Dennis, and Marc, and we had various people on, but oh my god, man. Some of the shit we came up with – mocking Cusati and all these different people. I remember Ratchet was a target; I remember there was a Philadelphia Eagle named Mike Mamula, and I hate the Eagles – I’m not an Eagles fan – but I remember this one skit they did on the radio where somehow it ended up with Mike Mamula sexually assaulting Rik Ratchet in a bathroom or something (laughing). That’s the kinda shit that we would do on the radio shows; we’d just sit around literally a couple hours before the show or the night before. Dennis would call “I’ve got this great idea for this” and we’d do it and people would call in and the phony phone calls – oh my god. The fake Metal Maniac would call in and they called the real Metal Maniac AS the fake Maniac; just shit like that. I think we did that for about a year and that was some of the most fun I ever had with Dennis and them guys – getting together and doing crazy shit like that; me, Dennis, and Marc. Marc was – like I said – the brains behind the technical stuff that we were doing; he was the youngest. He was a kid at the time. Me and Dennis would just be out of our minds and kinda go wherever the show took us.
I gotta find out if anyone had any tapes of that – I remember one of the skits was, was it “The Rik Ratchet weight loss program”? and you had Fred the Elephant Boy doing the voice over and he goes “I did the Rik Ratchet weight loss program and I lost 60 pounds, including my left leg, my lung, my kidney…” (laughing)
Donnie: Oh god, I remember that. We had to do 50 takes or more with Fred before he got it right and Dennis kept getting more pissed each time going “Jesus Christ, Fred!” and he loved those two; Fred and his brother. That’s a funny story. One time Fred and his brother – his brother would come to the shows dressed as a cowboy, remember that? He had these plastic fake cowboy guns (laughing)
Donnie: YES! That was it. I’m pretty sure Dorsey – Rocco Dorsey – would remember this and I can’t remember who else was there, but Kid Vicious was either managed – I think he was managing against Bundy - and somehow Bundy wound up under the bottom rope with his head sticking out and I swear to god, Kid Vicious went over with the plastic cap guns and bopped Bundy right on the forehead and cut him with it (laughing) and Bundy came in the back afterwards wanting to literally KILL this mentally challenged man and we had to kinda like talk him down off the ledge; he was going to kill him. Kid Vicious is standing there like “I’m sorry!” and Bundy’s going “You hit me with the fucking guns!” and I remember just laughing too much to go over and try to break it up; it was that fucking funny, dude. I’m positive Dorsey was next to me for that – I gotta ask him.
(laughing) Well definitely let us know about that. I have a lot of fun memories of me, you, and Marc at various – the Eddie Gilbert things or the NWA 50th anniversary show just causing trouble in the hotel late at night.
Donnie: Oh yeah, the broken glass; my god.
Donnie: Oh yeah, yeah, remember that? Oh my god…
I remember – well the one, I won’t say who other than we were there and we know who did it and it wasn’t us, but someone involved with us took a shit in a pizza box, delivered it to Mike Lano’s door and called him from the front desk and said “Excuse me Dr. Lano, you have a complimentary pizza being sent up because there’s been some kind of inconvenience with your reservation, so please accept this on our behalf” and there was a pizza box full of shit, and the next year – me, you, and Marc Coralluzzo were wondering “How are we going to top what we did before?” and Rik Ratchet said he did this to someone too – and I don’t remember that; I don’t remember that, I remember us doing it too – we moved a soda machine in front of Mike Lano’s hotel room door and then we tied the electrical cord to the door opposite the hall so no one can get out of their room! (laughing)
Donnie: Oh yeah, oh my god. Yeah, Ratchet didn’t do that. I think he was, I think we told him about it or something but come on, he wasn’t moving that machine; no. I remember that. I think Lano’s okay too, I think he just got ribbed a lot, but I forgot about the Pizza box, yeah. I remember that now. Those were the fun times, man, going to the shows afterwards – a sponsor with Dennis, just hanging out; I don’t know, man. I know nothing about the indies today but I can’t imagine they’re anything like that; no way. Somebody would be suing somebody, it’s not the same scene.
Episode 17 - Transcript from the Dennis of the Week (Pt. 2)
*Note - All questions asked are from the perspective of TGBL. Questions marked with parenthesis (____) are voiced by Bix.*
You know, Donnie, Dennis never wanted to be involved in our hotel hijinx, but he always wanted to know what we were doing because he found it so funny, and I remember in Philadelphia ‘98 for the Eddie Gilbert Memorial show, for some reason, one of us had water balloons and we decided “Let’s start a water balloon war in the hotel” and it was me, you, Marc, Steve Corino; a few other people. Probably Lupus if I had to guess. A few things I remember about that – one was: there was some kind of cheerleading or gymnastics competition, so at 3 in the morning when we’re running around water ballooning, there are girls just doing flips down the hall everywhere you turn (laughing), and the other thing was, this hotel in Philly had a giant lobby; a giant atrium. Each floor of the hotel could look down on the lobby, and there was a giant grand piano down there, and someone threw a water balloon and it went over and it hit the grand piano and sitting next to the grand piano was Sid – Sycho Sid – and that was when security got hip to us doing this and they stopped us. They actually – we were in an elevator with the door closed, and all of a sudden it opened and there’s a security guard standing there and he took all our water balloons except for Corino because he hid it in his shirt, and he acted like he didn’t have one and he got away with it. There was only one water balloon left.(laughing)
Donnie: I remember that. I think it was Marc who dropped it on the piano next to Sid, and he would gladly take credit for it, but that was – like you just, said, man – how are you going to replace those memories, dude? I mean, Dennis knew – he didn’t want to know what we were doing when we did it, but he would love to hear those stories, and I think what excited Dennis the most is that although Marc was his son, Marc was also his best friend and his partner. To hear that his son and his best friend was out there with, like, one of the boys and having fun and being accepted by all of us – even though he was a kid – I think that’s what warmed Dennis all the time; he used to tell me “Hey man, thanks for looking out for Marc, thanks for including him” like all the time, dude. He fucking LOVED his son; I know all fathers do, but Dennis really, really loved Marc.
They were definitely closer than most father/son relationships. Like you said, they were best friends without question, and that brings me actually to: Dave Prazak was on the show recently – it may have been last week depending on when we edit this into the show – and he talked about the NWA New Jersey invasion led by Dennis and Marc into IWA Mid-South led by Ian Rotten. We put the video up of the first appearance of Dennis and Marc, and I know you were there for both, including the famous Lady Diana/Princess Diana story, so what are your recollections of those trips to Louisville, KY?
Donnie: They were fun, man. Like, I remember Dennis calling me and saying “Hey man, we got this thing to do with Ian, he wants to bring us in, get a little pop, and we’ll bring some of his guys up here like Bull Payne and him and Mondo and stuff – Mad Man Pondo – and we’re like “Alright, let’s give it a shot.” We all piled into a car and drove down there; drove to Ian’s. The first time I think we drove or we flew – I can’t remember which one it was – but we flew once and drove once. I just remember being in the back before we went out and the one with the cheese – when he threw all the cheese – saying the cheese was for the rats in the audience: holy shit, man. I thought he was going to get killed, but that paled in comparison to what happened when we went out with the Princess Diana gimmick. Now, you gotta understand this was right after she died, and I literally, literally – there’s gotta be a tape of this somewhere – I was less than 5 feet away from him when this happened. He had a magazine like from the Star Magazine or something; a front cover of Princess Diana. He’s holding it in his hand, and I said “What are you gonna do with that?” and he said “Aw brother, let’s bring it out, we’re gonna talk about Diana” and I’m like “Oh my god, he’s going to go out there and heel her, she just died, like what the fuck,” and I’m like “Dennis, we can’t go too nuts, you know – there are some lines we can’t cross,” and he’s like “I know brother, I know brother, It’ll be okay.” Swear to god, they start the show, they want to do a 10-bell for her, and I think on bell 7 or 8 or something, all of a sudden – and I’m standing right next to him, I had no idea he was going to do it – you hear “FUCK that bitch,” and I’m like “What the shit?!” So we walk down, we get about halfway down the aisle and he takes the picture and just rips it up and he goes “That’s right – I said it! Fuck that bitch!” and throws the picture in the air, and I was involved in some decent skirmishes over my years of people trying to get to us and get heat – that was the worst. There was literally – I’ll never forget – there was an old woman in the front row, and she had, it was like telephone cable, a telephone wire – a copper wire – that had been braided down and it had big lug bolts; like three of them. She made a homemade Cat o’ Nine Tails out of these – oh yeah! These fans had like shit in their hands! This old woman was trying to whip Dennis with it; she had to be in her 70s. I just remember thinking like “Holy shit, there’s some old woman with a homemade Cat o’ Nine Tails (laughing) trying to whip Dennis!” and I’m trying to avoid it, but at the same time I’m trying to push Dennis right into it so he would get bumped by it because I thought it was funny. But, they got so much fucking heat on us, I think we went in the ring, cut a little promo, and then the water was just getting too hot in the pot, so we kinda just skedaddled to the back and laid low.
(And your brother moved to this lovely locale.)
Donnie: Yeah, he went down there, just took it by storm, kicked ass, and went on to do the Simon Dean gimmick and all that. You know, one of the things though: the southern fans - they still believed and they enjoyed the business and they were passionate; completely different than the northeast or the west coast fans. You gotta know – when you’re in different territories in the country, you gotta know the crowd; the shit you do up here isn’t necessarily going to get over in Alabama, you know? They see two guys going in the ring for 45 minutes with scientific holds, they’re gonna shit on it. But if you turn around and say “You rednecks, shut the fuck up!” they’re going to go nuts. So, it’s just – that was one of the things – especially as a manager – I had to know what part of the country I was going to, where I was working, and what my crowd was going to be like.
You know, we’ve asked every one of our guests so far on the Dennis of the Week if they had any funny stories that Dennis did around them, or things they remember. Just outside of everything we’ve already talked about, what are some of your funny Dennis moments and Dennis memories?
Donnie: Uh, the time when (laughing) after one of the shows, he’s on the warpath because somebody – we went to one of the diners after the show and somebody ordered something but didn’t pay or didn’t leave enough money, and all of a sudden, Dennis was like legitimately madder than I’ve ever seen him, saying “I’m gonna kill this mother fucker! I’m gonna beat this guy to death! Uhhh!” I finally asked him “Who?” and he goes “Sal Petrillo Jr.” and if anyone remembers Sal Petrillo Jr., Sal Petrillo was the most non-offensive - he was a mentally challenged, helpless, mentally ill man that just came to all the shows. He was like a buddy of Ralph Soto’s or something. I just remember looking at Dennis and I had to hold him back because he legitimately wanted to go beat this man up in the parking lot, because Sal, like, didn’t leave an extra $5 or something on his dinner bill (laughing). That one sticks out to me right off the top of my head, but the thing about Dennis was every single time I talked to him, was around him, or worked with him, was funny or some kind of memory where it was never dull; that’s the thing about Dennis. All of us will say the same thing – Dennis is the only guy I ever knew that could literally hand you a stick of Dynamite that was about to explode and you’d have a smile on your face and go “This guy’s great!” even though he was about to fuck you or screw you over, you wouldn’t care. You’d be like “Man, this guy’s great.” That was the magic of Dennis.
Yeah. Absolutely. (laughing) You know, we talk about Dennis and we’ve talked about some of the characters around his show like Tom Cusati and we talked about the Billy Reil incident – who were some of the other either talent or characters you remember being around Dennis’ shows?
Donnie: So – the Billy Reil’s, the Ralph Soto’s; Boogie Woogie Brown came in one time, Kettner; everybody man. El Lizard, like you said. All those guys – Trent Acid, Johnny – everybody was a character in their own right. Everybody was like some kind of character, and you had these flavor of the month guys who’d just come in and want to sell some tickets for Dennis and I’d have to incorporate them into the show. That was a problem sometimes, too, just Dennis would literally – I’d have a whole show ready to go on a Thursday for that Saturday, and Dennis would call me at like 3 o’clock, I’d be heading to the show and “Hey man, instead of 7 matches we’ll do 9, and the tag match we wanna do we gotta put this guy in there,” and I’m like “Oh my god.” As soon as I got to the building around 2 or 3 o’clock, I’d have to go in the corner, start re-writing shit and this guy sold so many tickets or he wanted to, or he was going to get Dennis another show so he had to go over, like fuckin’, what’s that clowns name that ran CZW?
Zandig – that was where I first saw him; he was dressed like the Ultimate Warrior! Yeah!
Donnie: Yeah. I don’t know – we had beef over the years, years ago, I have no idea if he’s alive or dead; I have no idea. But, I remember he was one - he’ll lie, if he’s still alive he probably lied and said he didn’t but he’d sell a shit load of tickets. “We gotta put him over!” and I’d be like “okay,” so Zandig – Zanwarrior – would go out to the ring and hit his music and he’d sell about a hundred fucking tickets sometimes, yet when he came out, there was no fucking pop. So we’d be like “Wait a minute – who the fuck?” and then we figured it out. He was buying the tickets himself – he had to be – just so he could get on the shows! The pop didn’t equal the ticket sales, I mean, if you have an indie crowd of 500 people and you sold 50 to 75 of those tickets, when you come out, there should be a pretty good god damn pop. But, no, there would be no pop, and we’d be like “What?” and John’d go in there, blown up, and trip over his own feet, and that’d be that. I guess the CZW thing, he did that – and I have no idea if – like I said - he’s still alive or still doing that; god bless him.
(He sold CZW a while back.)
Donnie: Oh, did he? That’s right – when I did the memorial thing for Trent Acid a few years ago, I met the new kid, DJ Jekyll? What’s his name?
Donnie: I was close! Yeah, he was cool, that guy was cool. But, whatever; CZW stuff was never my cup of tea. Some of the kids from there were cool – Rick Blade was awesome, Brian Logan, the ref, was cool, of course Johnny and Trent, they were cool, but the rest of them, whatever.
Real quickly – I know after you had managed Rik Ratchet and after you’d done your babyface commissioner gimmick, you did a lot of stuff with Trent Acid and Johnny Cashmere, and what are your memories of that time and that team?
Donnie: They were phenomenal, man. I mean, the easiest way for me to say it. I’d come up for an idea and after Ratchet kinda wanted to get out of the business, I still wanted to manage and I wanted to really concentrate on creation of gimmicks and teams and stuff, and I said “You know what? The boy band thing was hot; I wanna come up with a boy band” and originally it was going to be 3 people and Billy Reil was actually going to be one of them; I was going to pitch it to him. There was another guy – his name was Wifebeater, I have no idea what his real name was.
(Wait, there were two Wifebeaters, because there was Chris Hero – oh. So it was the CZW one if he was jacked.)
Donnie: He was the CZW kid, he was big, he was good looking. I was going to have him as the muscle, Billy Reil, and I was contemplating using Trent. Trent Acid I knew forever since he was literally 12 or 13 years old and I always wanted to do something with him – he was a hell of a worker and he got some size to him and he was coming around and Dennis was using him. So I said to him “I got this idea – I’m gonna put you at the forefront as the workhorse, Billy Reil’ll be like the heat magnet and I need a 3rd guy,” and he pitched Wifebeater to me. It was in – I wanna say Paulsboro – I think one of the Paulsboro shows, Wifebeater comes up to me and it was right after a CZW show and Wifebeater’s head looked like it’d been attacked by a weed whacker and his whole face was cut up and his head was cut up, and I was like “I can’t sell this guy as a sex symbol when his face looks like it got attacked by Freddy trying to scratch an itch,” that’s what it fucking looked like; it was all cut up. I said “Aw, ok” and Johnny Cashmere just happened to be there and I’d never met Johnny and Trent introduced me to him and I said “Huh – stand next to Trent for a minute.” So I’m kinda looking at both of them and I’m like “We might have something here.” So that night I put Johnny out in the ring with Trent, and I figured, you know what – Billy at that time was kind of annoying me because he was getting all gimmicked up and stuff and just being a clown and getting into trouble, so while I was kinda interested in him, at the same time I think I was kinda looking for an excuse not to use him. I went to Dennis and said “Hey I got this idea. I want to put these two kids together as a team based on a boy band,” and Dennis was like “Yeah, cool, let’s do it!” I didn’t have the name yet – I was driving home that night and Backstreet Boys “You want it that way” was on the radio, and I remember saying to myself “Man, this fucking song is awesome – if we had a cool name,” and out of nowhere – like it was fucking from the heavens – it just hit me. I said “These guys I’m gonna call them the Backseat Boys because they like to, you know, fool around with chicks and shit in the back seat of their cars” (laughing) That’s where it came from! So I called Johnny and I told him and I said “Listen I’ve got this idea – get matching outfits, you’re gonna come out to this song and I’m gonna call you guys the Backseat Boys” and he was like “I love it,” and then I used them for a while and I didn’t put myself in the act at that point. That came later on when they wanted to start getting booked other places, and Johnny was the business end and, you know, the brains of the group – not that Trent was not smart – but Trent was the fucking worker, Johnny was kinda the business end of it, and then I was – I realize that these guys needed a bigger megaphone, a bigger mouthpiece, to really get them out there a little more, so I started pushing them wherever I could, and I said “Fuck it.” People would say “Why don’t you just come with them?” and then we just turned it into a three man act. You know, with stuff like our triple superkick, our triple powerbomb and all that shit, and it literally was probably – me and Ratchet was special in one way, but me, Johnny, and Trent: for me personally on a professional level was my most satisfying stuff, because of the fun I had with those guys. I was just – I felt like a big brother to them and I looked out for them. I just loved them – I still love Johnny to this day, I love Trent, and I’m a better person for having done that with them, without a doubt.
You know, Donnie, something we had talked about previously on this show and I released a video that I made for those shows, and it was quite popular with some people – especially people that were around our scene back then, I know David Bixenspan here really is a big fan of it: the saga of Sex Appeal Ronnie Steal. It was something that me and Marc Coralluzzo had way too much fun with (laughing) when it was actually happening, and, Bix – you wanted to ask Donnie a little about that, didn’t you?
(So, I mean, I guess, we went over the basics and the whole thing’s on YouTube, but is there – what can you add as far as your perspective of that whole thing going down, your memories in general of one Sex Appeal Ronnie Steal?)
Donnie: Let me tell you guys something right now: Sex Appeal Ronnie Steal was very important to Donnie B and PCW and I’m going to tell you a story right now. I first met him – I think it was at that Point show or there was a show we had right before that, and somehow, Dapper Johnny and Gino had found him, or he sniffed around wanting to get on the show; I don’t think he was even trained. They took him into the fold and at first I couldn’t understand why and I was like “What the fuck this? What does he have to offer?” He’s kinda like mentally ill or weird or something. I didn’t pay him any thought, and I kept seeing him come around, come around, he was at that Point show, they put him in the Battle Royale, and I knew something was up. One day after one of the shows, he’s coming out to his car, and I sorta bullshit with him; the first time I really sat and talked with him. It turns out that good old Ronnie Steal actually turned out to be a pretty bigwig in the world of Comcast Cable and television cable-
Donnie: In Ocean County and most of half the southern part of New Jersey – he was very high up there as an executive in the cable world. No bullshit. So, I said “Really!” and he said to me – because at the time, I was going to do my own show; I was asking him about getting me some commercials or getting me a good rate on commercials on Comcast for my shows that I was going to start doing – and he said “Dude, I’ll do you one better. If you can somehow produce a television show every week, I’ll get it on public access for you for free and I’ll get you the editing; whatever you need.” I go “What?!” and he goes “Yeah dude” because I took a liking to him and I was nice to him. So I said “Okay...” and I called his bluff on it. When I started doing Phoenix (PCW), I called him – I said “Listen man, is that offer still-“ Let me backtrack. When I told him all that about how I was interested, I said “Listen – this only works if you don’t fucking tell a soul that we’re gonna do this, and if anybody else wants you to do something, let me know,” and at that point I had started breaking away from Dapper and Gino, and Dennis was in on it too, and Dennis had told Ronnie Steal “Don’t help Dapper and Gino – Fuck them; just help Donnie.” So Sex Appeal Ronnie Steal called me and said “Hey, we’re good to go – we can do this show,” and at the same time, Joe Panzarino was calling this kid left and right; because he wouldn’t call him back anymore, Ronnie Steal wouldn’t call Dapper back. So Dapper was calling him leaving all these message saying “I know you’re helping Donnie, don’t help him, fuck him,” like heeling the shit out of me. Ronnie Steal would call me and play me the messages (laughing), so I started telling Ronnie Steal to come around and, you know, make him a part of Phoenix, and when we did the first couple of shows, my right hand guy – Cannon Malachio – we produced the first couple episodes, gave it to Ronnie Steal who then gave it to Comcast, and that’s how we got Firebird TV on the air for almost a year! Then I kinda didn’t have the time to keep it going, but Firebird TV and our show on Comcast in Momis and Ocean County – and I think part of Atlantic County too – was completely because of Ronnie Steal. Hundred percent.
I am stupefied. (laughing)
Donnie: He was like, dude, I remember when I went to drop off the masters for the first time for the first month of shows, I said “You know,” I can’t remember his real name but I said his real name -
Bob. His real name was Bob.
Donnie: That’s it, that’s it. And I thought for sure they were gonna like say “Get the fuck out of here” or whatever, and they’re like “Oh yeah, Bob told us you were coming,” – it was legit. He was a real bonafide executive, like he really was! So I couldn’t believe it. I gave them my tapes and then that was on – first tapes I gave them were on a Monday, that Wednesday at 8 o’clock, I went with my crew, we all went to a celebration of it to the Applebee's and the Tomsur Ocean County Mall. I walked in, I told them to turn on Channel 23, and boom. At 7:55, we turned it on, and at 8 zero zero on the clock, there was the intro to Phoenix Championship Wrestling and we watched it.
Wow – ain’t that something.
Donnie: It was fucking awesome, man. That’s up there as one of my greatest – I remember calling everybody afterwards and being like “oh my god this is incredible,” but that was awesome, dude. I called Bob too and just thanked him and we had a good relationship, dude. I had no idea what happened to him after I got out of the business, but he was cool. I had no heat with him.
Yeah – very nice guy, very nice guy.
Donnie: He was cool – he was a clown, he was a goof, you know – ha-ha, the video was funny and all that shit, but he was one of those harmless goofs. Like, he didn’t walk around saying “Donnie B and Dennis are assholes, I should get the belt,” you know. He didn’t do that shit – he showed up and whatever we could do with him, he was thankful for it. I never minded those kind of people; it’s these jerkoffs that if you didn’t book him they badmouthed you to everybody but when they saw you they shook your hand, or they’d show up when you told them not to, or they tried to get themselves booked on a show or after you booked them, they call you and say “Well I can still do your show but so and so booked me for the same night for double the money…” Like all these little tricks that they would try, dude. I just couldn’t take it anymore.
Well, moving back to Dennis before we wrap things up, are there any other funny occurrences or really good stories you can remember from your times around Dennis’ promotion?
Donnie: Uh, If I sat down and really thought about ‘em, I’m sure I could bang out a few, but just another one off the top of my head real quick. It was like, Dennis had this weird thing - especially in the last couple years that he was with us – he would just call, he had no conception of time, so he would just call at the weirdest hours of the night: 1 am, 2 am.
Yes. I remember that
Donnie: And I’d pick up be like “Hello?” like thinking – if I call you at 2 in the morning, you’d think “Oh my god, who died” or some kind of tragedy. I pick up and go “Hello?” and Dennis’d be like “Yo man, what are you doin?” and I’d be like “I’m trying to sleep bro, what’re you doing?” and he’s like “Ah, that show next month – what’dya think of doing this-“ and I’m like “I’ll call you tomorrow, dude,” like that kinda shit. But the one night, it’s gotta be 3 o’clock in the morning and my phone’s ringing and I had the old flip-phone, cell phone, piece of shit. I’m looking at it and the screen was cracked and I can’t read the number and I’m like “Who the fuck is calling me at 3 o’clock in the morning?” So I open the phone – “Hello?” “Hey dude, what are you doing?” and I’m like “What’s up, Dennis?” and a good friend of mine, his name is Chris and Chris had long hair at the time and a full black beard; the whole bit. Dennis says to me “Hey man, what’s your friend Chris up to?” and I’m like “He’s an accountant.” “Listen, you think we can get him on some shows?” and this is 3 o’clock in the morning and I said “For what? He’s not a worker.” “Well listen man, I had this great idea – he has long hair and a beard. We’ll put him out there in a white robe and he can come to the ring and we can put on the posters “Appearing tonight – J.C.”” meaning Jesus Christ. And I go “What the fuck is J.C.?” “Oh – Jesus Christ! But we won’t get any heat from the fucking Catholics, so we won’t put the name Jesus Christ on there, we’ll put his initials,” and I’m like “Wait a minute – are we saying that he’s Jesus?” He goes, “No no no – in his mind, he thinks he’s Jesus, so we’ll make a ton of money off of that,” and I said “Goodnight Dennis” and hung up on him and then we never spoke about it again. That’s what I remember of Dennis – those kinda things and just like, you know man. It’s just – there would have never been a Big 80 Donnie B - and there’s discussions for another day about how that came about - there never would have been PCW. Anybody that is promoting or had promoted for over the last 15 years in New Jersey, none of it would have happened without Dennis. No doubt.
I’ve said before my favorite late night call I got from Dennis was he had a great idea for the next show: he wanted to do a feud between – what were they, The Sons of Blitzkrieg – Crazy Ivan and someone else; the Nazi tag team. He wanted to do a feud between the Nazi’s and a Vietnamese tag team that he had to find. I said “Dennis! Who’s the babyface?!” and he’s, you know, he hadn’t gotten that far yet. Real quick before we wrap it up too, you mentioned your wrestling group – it makes me think. Dennis was, in the times we saw him as a performer in the IWA Mid-South feud, Smoky Mountain Wrestling, in the USWA in 1992, he was a pretty great heel. Did you ever think about using him as a character on your show?
Donnie: I can’t remember what SuperBowl it was – it was one of the SuperBowls. WWF was in Philadelphia, and it was during the angle with the US Title with Cornette and the NWA and all that shit, and it was an afternoon show and I was back there with Jr. and somebody else, it might have been Keener. Cornette goes out to the ring and he does the whole heel promo, brings out Howard Brody first, right? Boooooo – little bit of a pop; couple boos. No indictment on Howard, he’s cool. Next comes Victor Quiñones – no reaction. Cornette gets on there and says “Now, last but not least – NWA Board of Directors, Dennis Coralluzzo” and I swear to god, there was like fucking mid 80’s Iron Sheik heel. He came out and I just remember sitting there saying “Holy shit – this is what Dennis should be doing.” He needed some fine tuning with vernacular and public speaking, this and that; just enough to clean him up. It would be like a rough piece of wood and if you sand it a little bit, it would have been better. But if somebody could have took that, and that’s what I said to Dennis when he kinda gave me his blessing and I told him I was going to do Phoenix and the shows, he said when the smoke dies down from what happened with him and the NWA, “I’ll come around your shows” and I said “Dude, I’m gonna use you as a talent. I want you and Marc to come in – you first – get all this heat that you’re trying to buy my company, you bought the stock in it, you bought the building I was in – all that shit. We haven’t seen you in a while, this is what you were doing, then you’re gonna bring Marc in. It’ll be a father and son team – like the first ever father and son manager team at ringside.” It would have been awesome. I said “We’ll bring you guys in together, it’ll be really cool, and I’ll just use you as a talent; nothing else,” and he was all for it, he was psyched, and then he died.
Yeah. Like you had said before, he was a natural heel. He would have really- like a really good extended heel manager run, he would have been exceptional. I truly believe that.
Well, in closing as we wrap things up today, Donnie – how would you like to see Dennis remembered, and what is the lasting legacy that Dennis left on your life?
Donnie: Dennis Coralluzzo was the quintessential con-man / carny / promoter / slick talker, dime store lawyer, all that stuff. When you think of like a carny barker and a promoter, that was Dennis but in a good way. Like I said, Dennis could be screwing you in one way with a short payoff or something, but at the same time, you didn’t care because he was so charismatic and just so cool outside the ring and outside behind the scenes. He’d give his shirt off the fucking back for you, would put you up in his house, would give you money for a car payment; whatever it was, Dennis would do it. I just – for everybody that knows Dennis, there’s a lot of people who say “Oh, I’ve heard of Dennis,” hearing of Dennis and knowing Dennis are two different things, and the way you can prove that is that one of the best houses Dennis drew was his own funeral. It was literally sold out, I mean, everybody was there – even people; man. I remember walking around that funeral saying “Holy shit, I can’t believe so and so is here, I can’t believe so and so is here,” and everybody was legitimately upset, and that’s how you know – even if you had disagreements – and these are people who he had disagreements or fallouts with, they still showed up. At the end of the day, Dennis Coralluzzo was one of the most original sought after hilarious characters that professional wrestling ever created. When you make a list of characters – just these insane characters that can’t exist in any other facet of life except for professional wrestling, Dennis Coralluzzo was one of them; he’s on the list. So to me, that’s what I want Dennis remembered as, and for my life, there never would have been a Big 80’s or PCW. I don’t know what I would have done or what I could have been, but where I am right now in my life – to me, I mean, without getting too long-winded, I have an incredible life, and I owe a large portion of it to the skills and the things I learned under Dennis Coralluzzo. For me, ‘till the day they put me in the ground, I will always remember Dennis as my friend and my brother.