Jake Crist hammers Relentless Ron Mathis at RockStar Pro Arena Wednesday night (Charles Caperton photo)
As I was talking to wrestler Jake Crist for my story on him - and his wife Nevaeh and brother Dave - for Sunday’s paper, we got on the subject of heels and baby faces.
Pro wrestling always comes with a story line. A punch-in-the gut soap opera, it usually revolves around good guys and bad, or, in ring parlance, baby faces and heels.
In more than a decade as a wrestlers - competing among others for UCW, Buckeye Pro Wrestling, Heartland Wrestling, Ring Of Honor, Combat Zone Wrestling and Juggalo Championship Wrestling - Jake Jake and Dave (and for nine years Neveah, too) have competed all over the US. The brothers have also competed in Europe and Canada and Jake is headed to Japan for a 10-day your starting Tuesday.
During his career, Jake said he has performed both as a face and a heel.
“It’s easier being a heel,” he said. “It’s easier to get people to hate you. When I’m a heel, I just run my mouth more. You can just go out, look at the crowd and say ‘Screw You “ and it’s instant.
“It’s really hard to be a good baby face. You have to connect with the fans. That takes time to develop. People don’t start right off saying. ‘Oh I like that guy.’ You’ve got to give them as reason to cheer for you and say ‘Hey, I do like that guy.’ A lot of times you can do it by the way you wrestle - the way you work in the ring, the skill you show, the charisma, the traits
people see that they like.”
Back in the 1970s and 1980s - when I was a sports writer in Miami, Florida - I often covered the semi-weekly pro wrestling shows at the Miami Beach Convention Center and at other venues around town.
Of all of the heels I saw in action - most of whom I interviewed - here are my Top 10 all-time favorites:
Superstar Billy Graham
10 - SUPERSTAR BILLY GRAHAM Although he would stay on script the whole way, I liked interviewing him. He called everybody “Brother” and could be as wild verbally as he was visually. In the ring - once he shed his psychedelic coat, razor blade earrings and beads, he wore tie-dyed tights and had the physique of a body builder, which he was. Arnold Schwarzenegger, in fact, is the godfather of his daughter In later years he’s lectured kids on the damage steroids can cause.
9 - TED DiBIASE The Million Dollar Man .I remember him pulling that black glove - supposedly loaded with some kind of concrete-like substance - from his tights and knocking out opponents, all in front of an unawares ref .Today, among other things, he’s a preacher.
8 - FABULOUS MOOLAH - She came from a farm in Tookiedoo, S.C. and held the women’s wrestling title for over three decades. She got into the WWE ring when she was 80. In Miami once I remember taking my small town Midwestern folks - who had no idea what they were getting into - and plopped them in the front row at a match. That’s where Moolah spotted my dad and teed off on him with a stream of profanity that even made an Irishman like him blush. I have a photo of that moment on my desk at work.
7 - HARLEY RACE - The King I remember his feuds with Dusty Rhodes (who was my favorite wrestler back then.) But the thing I remember most about Race is an interview I had with him when he told me how he broke into the game.
His first job was acting as chauffeur to Happy Humphrey, the massive 800-pound wrestler who was known as The Squasher Race told me he got $5 a day to drive Happy around and $25 when he got him in the ring with him and got “squashed.”
He also served as a valet of sorts .Happy was so huge he couldn’t fit into a normal shower, so Race said the big man would strip naked and lie down and then Harley had to scrub him with a brush and rinse him with a garden hose, same as you might do with an elephant.
6 - RAVISHING RICK RUDE billed himself as the Sexiest Man Alive . I remember him in Florida where he was managed by Percy Pringle Sadly, like way too many wrestlers, Rude died young He was just 40.
Macho Man Randy Savage
5 - MACHO MAN RANDY SAVAGE - He came from a great wrestling family. Born Randy Mario Poffo, his dad Angelo and brother Lanny were great wrestlers in their own right. Although he was billed as coming from Downer’s Grove, Illinois, he had Ohio ties. He was born in Columbus, went to middle school in Zanesville and later was an outfielder in the Cincinnati Reds organization….In the ring he was best known for that deep, raspy voice and his catch-all phrase, “Oooh Yeah!!!”
Abdullah the Butcher
4 - ABDULLAH the BUTCHER ..The Madman of the Sudan .He’s in his 70s now, but still wrestles on occasions Jake Crist told me. .He was one of the original hardcore wrestlers .What I remember most was his deeply scarred forehead He used to cut it with a concealed razor blade during matches to make himself bleed I once saw him grab the script ring announcer Gordon Solie was holding, jam it into his mouth, chew it up and swallow it all. ..His menu has improved. Today he owns a restaurant in Atlanta called Abdullah the Butcher’s House of Ribs and Chinese Food.
3 — ROWDY RODDY PIPER .Entering the ring with kilt, bagpipes, and arrogant swagger, he played the heel role to the hilt. In my book, he was the best talker in the game.
My No. 1 Heel — Ric Flair
2 - KEVIN SULLIVAN The Taskmaster .He showed up in Florida with a devil-worshipping gimmick that turned the crowd against him immediately and he worked that angle to perfection I appreciated him because he was the first pro wrestler who ever took me back into the dressing room .an otherwise off limits area for any sportswriter, not only because that’s here the show was scripted, but also because afterwards you could see just how much some of these guys were hurting from their batterings in the ring.
1 - RIC FLAIR The Nature Boy Entering the ring with a fur-lined, sequined robe, strutting cockily and letting loose with his trademark “Wooooo!” he worked the crowd better than any wrestler I have ever known. No one - and I mean no one - could tell a story better in the ring.
Everybody involved in Jim Brown’s unexpected ouster as the basketball coach at Northmont High has a little different interpretation of the events that took place.
One thing I think all of them can agree on though: The coaching change could have been handled far better than this.
At best it was a simple bungled affair. At worst it was an orchestrated matter that a lawyer may end up addressing.
Either way, I think Jim Brown - or any person in any job that gives that much time, brings that much success and is exemplary in so many other ways - deserves better at the end of his career.
I wrote about the matter in far more detail in today’s Dayton Daily News and that same column is posted here on this web page.
The gist of it goes like this:
For 16 seasons Brown was a stellar representative of Northmont High. He turned a struggling program into one of the three best Division I programs in the Miami Valley. And yet after his 14th straight winning season - this last one a 17-8 campaign that ended with a loss in the finals of the sectional tournament - he will not have his contact renewed by the school.
Brown said he was told he was being let go simply to allow his young assistant, Collin Abels, to take over the job. He said certain school officials thought Abels would leave Northmont for another job if he didn’t get elevated.
The 68-year-old Brown had hoped o coach two or three more years at the most. Instead his job unceremoniously ends when his contract runs out June 30th .
The three administrators I spoke to Wednesday each said he did nothing wrong .
“No, no, no, there was absolutely no incident, no single issue at all,” said principal George Caras.
Really, the most serious wrong doing I heard about in this matter was the bogus resignation letter that athletics director Robin Spiller - supposedly at the prompting of Caras - had penned with Brown’s name typed at the bottom of it as if he wrote it. She sent it to the Northmont human resources department, where it then was put on the agenda of the next school board meeting.
Brown said he didn’t write the letter, OK it, sign it or even know it had been sent.
Caras admitted the letter was a “mistake at the building level.” He said, “We followed the same process we do with all extra-curricular contracts. They are all one year contracts and when they expire they can be renewed or not. But the letter was a mistake on our part - me and Robin - but there was no malicious intent. Nobody was trying to pull the wool over Jim’s eyes.”
Northmont superintendent Sarah Zatik admitted she knew nothing of the move to oust Brown or the origin of the so-called resignation letter until a school board member called her and informed her Brown’s departure was to be acted on at the upcoming board meeting.
Zatik - who described Brown “as a great guy,” one she “really respects,” — refused to accept the letter, and then had the resignation discussion pulled from the board agenda. She immediately met with all parties involved and she said what she found out — and what she has seen transpire since—has left her “very saddened,” she said.
Brown too is saddened, and angered and a bit shell shocked by what has transpired.
“Never in my wildest dreams did I think my career at Northmont would end this way,” he said. “Every time I think about what’s been done here, it’s like a bad dream.”
That’s the other thing everybody involved can agree on.
In 1958 we sent Elvis Presley to Friedberg, Germany.
Now 55 years later, Friedberg has sent Donald Lutz to the Cincinnati Reds.
One guy has Heartbreak Hotel, Jail House Rock, Burning Love and Don’t Be Cruel and the other has some pretty big hits himself.
Some six months after Presley joined the military service in 1958, he was stationed at the US Army Ray Barracks in Friedberg. Today, the King of Rock ‘N Roll is commemorated all over that city, including at a shopping center called the Elvis Presley Platz.
Lutz, meanwhile, is gaining fame in Cincinnati these days. The young slugger became the first Germa- raised player ever to make the Major Leagues when he was called up from Class AA ball recently. He’s played in nine games, has had six hits in 19 at bats and has a .316 batting average.
His biggest hit came Sunday - Mother’sDay at Great American Ball Park - when he blasted his first-ever big league home run, a second-inning, three-run shot against Milwaukee that lifted the Reds to the 5-1 victory.
After the game Lutz told how he wanted to make Mother’s Day special for his mom back in Germany
Two years ago - when Lutz played for the Dayton Dragons - he talked to me at length about his mother and then I spoke to her by phone for a good while from Germany. I also spoke to his dad in Virginia.
It made for an interesting story and now, with everyone fascinated by the 235-pound slugger, I thought it would be good to share the Donald Lutz story again.
Here’s my column from 2011 on him.
SLUGGER LUTZ DIALING LONG DISTANCE
When it comes to distance, nothing, it seems, is too far away for Donald Lutz.
— The Dayton Dragons 6-foot-4, 230-pound slugger has swatted a ball onto the roof of Mendelson’s across from Fifth Third Field. He’s deposited two home run balls into the intersection of Sears and First streets beyond the ballpark. In fact, he’s cleared the home run fences a team-leading 16 times this season.
— When it comes to his mom (her name is Marlen), his grandmother, even his 95-year-old great grandmother, all of them back home in Friedberg, Germany, his exploits here in Dayton had them hopping and squealing like giddy schoolgirls the other day as they watched an Internet feed.
— As for his dad, an Army vet living in Virginia whom he never really knew the first 20 of his 22 years, he has bridged that gap, too. In fact, when the two first got together in 2009, they did everything from salt-water fishing to take in a George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic concert that had Dad singing along on “Atomic Dog” and “Give Up the Funk” as son watched with wide-eyed amusement.
Seven years ago, Pete Kiefer, now Lutz’s Connecticut-based agent, had begun helping out with the German national baseball team. One of the players he met was Sascha Lutz, who was five years older than Donald.
“Everybody kept saying, ‘Wait until you see what’s comin’ down the pike,’ ” Kiefer said. “They said. ‘Sascha’s little brother — Big Donald — is really something special.’ ” Homesick mom
Friedberg, an old town of some 28,000, is 20 minutes north of Frankfurt. For many years it was home to the U.S. Army’s Ray Barracks. It was the duty station of Elvis Presley during his military stint in Europe and today the King of Rock ‘N’ Roll is commemorated all over town, including with the Elvis Presley Platz shopping center.
Donald Lutz (Sr.), an American serviceman, also was stationed in Friedberg. He met Marlen there, they married, and after Sascha was born, they moved to the U.S.
Daughter Vicki was born at Fort Collins, Colo., and young Donald — “He was a huge 10-pound baby,” Marlen laughed — was born in Watertown, N.Y., when his dad was at Fort Drum.
Bouncing from Army post to Army post for seven years wasn’t easy for Marlen. “To tell the truth I was always homesick,” she said by phone from Friedberg. “There were some other problems, too, and we divorced and the children and I moved back to Germany when Donald was eight months old.”
With the help of her mother, she mostly raised her family on her own, though many years later she remarried and now has a young son, Chondi.
“It was a struggle sometimes, but Mom worked a job, took care of us and really taught us how to get through life,” Donald said.
“When I was growing up, we had some photos of my dad, but I didn’t hear a lot of stories about him and there wasn’t a lot of contact and I didn’t think a lot about it. My big brother kind of took care of me if I did something stupid.”
Donald said Sascha eventually led him to baseball: “Early on we lived in a little apartment and I could see the baseball field from my window. Sometimes they had the circus there and in the winter — because the field was made below ground level — they’d flood it so it would freeze over and everyone could skate.”
A hockey player, Donald was coaxed to try baseball at age 15. The first time he came to the plate in a game, he hit a home run.
“I didn’t know much about baseball,” he said. “I remember my brother had a little poster from the era of Sammy Sosa, Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire, but other than that I didn’t know any players.
“That’s why I feel embarrassed sometimes here when they ask me about this person and that and what they did. I don’t know them, so I’m always online trying to catch up with the history of baseball.”
By age 16, though, he was doing well enough on the field that he had joined the national team. “You start getting more and more involved,” he said, “and next thing you know there’s an American knocking on your door with an offer.”
Finally Meets Dad
After signing with the Cincinnati Reds in 2007 as an international free agent, he played two years in the Gulf Coast League and last season was with Billings in the rookie Pioneer League.
Two years ago he finally flew to Virginia to meet his dad. “A lot of people have asked me, ‘Wasn’t it really awkward?’ ” he said.“Sure I had a lot of feelings going through my body, but when I first saw him, he gave me a big hug and pretty soon it was like hanging out with a really good friend.”
Donald (Sr.) said it’s “wonderful” to have his son back in his life: “He’s really a great kid. Wherever he goes he’s able to fit right in. And I’ve got to say it’s because of his mother. She gets 98 percent of the credit. She did an excellent job raising him and his brother and sister. She made her children first in every aspect of her life and it shows.”
These days father and son stay in regular contact. “When he was in a little slump a while back I suggested he talk to his own pitchers and see how they’d pitch him,” Donald (Sr.) said.
Whatever happened, his son went on a 16-game hitting streak that just ended this past week. He’s hitting .273 for the season, but in the last 10 games he’s at .467.
Ten days ago against Peoria at Fifth Third Field, he became the first Dragon to hit for the cycle. His mom — who contacts him almost daily and coaxes him to do everything from eat his fruit and vegetables to mind his manners — told his grandmother about it and soon they were watching the game highlights on the computer.
“My mother was going ‘aaah … aaah aaah,’ ” Marlen laughed. “We stood there and hollered and jumped and acted like little children. We were going, ‘Look at our Donald!’ ”
Because of his open personality and his longball tendencies, her son — who lives with a host family outside Eaton — is a crowd favorite here in Dayton, as well.
“Before games we sign autographs and it seems like every day someone comes up to talk about Germany,” he said. “The other day a guy in the stands gets up and yells ‘Lutz!’ Then he showed me his arm. He had a big German symbol tattooed on it.”
And that leads to one other distant goal.
He wants to be the first German to play in a major-league game. At present there are just a handful of Germans in minor league baseball and just Kai Gronauer, a 24-year-old catcher with the New York Mets’ Double-A team in Binghamton, N.Y. — is ahead of him.
“I know him, we played together on the national team,” Lutz said. “It’s friendly competition, but, yeah, it’s a little race and, yeah, I think I can do it.”
And why not?
As he’s shown before, no distance is too far.
Before we go, here’s also a little bit of Elvis just before he joined the Army.
Matt Kavanaugh is getting what the late Roger Brown never did at the University of Dayton:
A second chance.
The difference in the treatment of the two Flyers basketball players, though decades apart, is startling.
Kavanaugh - who police said was a suspect in a sexual assault investigation involving a 17-year-old freshman student last August, but was never charged by the Montgomery County prosecutor - was suspended by UD for a year for violating school conduct.
Wednesday, it was announced the 6-foot-10 senior - who had been a co-captain of the team before his ouster — has been reinstated to the school. Kavanaugh will begin summer classes on Monday and play for the Flyers, a team in need of an inside presence, next season.
That decision, saluted by many UD fans, is not supported by the family of the girl, who finished the school year, but may not return next fall. The girl’s father said the move “borders on recklessness.”
As for Brown, who many say is the greatest basketball talent ever to wear a University of Dayton uniform , he was banned - railroaded, some believe — from UD after his freshman season.
When he was a Brooklyn school kid, he and teenage pal Connie Hawkins were said to have received about $200 from gambler Jack Molinas - UD great Monk Meineke’s old roommate when they played pro ball together - who hung around New York City playgrounds and wanted introductions to other high school players.
Molinas and a partner later were charged with fixing several college basketball games.
Brown and Hawkins never were charged with anything.
There was no proof Brown ever fixed games when he starred on the powerful UD freshman team back in the 1960-61 season. The same goes for Hawkins at Iowa, the school that later bounced him, as well. Nor was it said that anyone they introduced to Molinas ever fixed games.
Even though Brown had no legal representation when he later was kept in a New York hotel room for several days by NCAA investigators, authorities admitted they could find no proof that the Flyers star even had contact with Molinas and his partner once he got to UD.
But a teenage indiscretion - before he ever set foot on the campus - got Brown forever exiled from the school and because of that, in part, from the NBA for several years.
Certainly the times are different. The administrations are different now, too, and so is the public embrace of the two players.
Kavanaugh is from Centerville, played for the Flyers for three seasons and his family is long tied to the university and its athletic teams.
Brown was an inner city kid from Brooklyn who didn’t have any connections here when he first arrived. As the first black player of real note, some of his biggest supporters ended up being in West Dayton.
Even so, after his banishment, Brown stayed in Dayton for six years playing AAU and industrial league basketball, working at Inland and living for a while with Azariah and Arlena Smith on Shoop Ave.
Thanks to the intervention of the great Oscar Robertson, Brown eventually became the first draft pick of the Indiana Pacers in the ABA, led them to three American Basketball Association titles, was a league All Star four times and the MVP of the 1970 Playoffs.
Brown - who died of liver cancer in 1997 - was elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts in February. He will be inducted in September.
A lot of folks - from several of his old UD teammates to his freshman coach, the late Herbie Dintaman - thought Brown got poor treatment here.
“He was a good man who got a bad deal,” Dintaman once told me.
Brown had no infractions at school. Never had legal representation . And it seems he had no champions with real juice - or courage - in the administration.
That’s not the case with Kavanaugh.
Late last season both Coach Archie Miller and athletics director Tim Wabler told me they were in favor of Kavanaugh’s return. Miller kept a scholarship open all year.
I don’t know what happened between Kavanaugh and the girl. He won’t discuss the incident, but he does admit “mistakes were made.” He said he has changed - that he has come to a better realization what is expected of him and how he should act - and Miller said he sees some of that transformation in the big man, as well.
Wednesday, both Kavanaugh and his coach talked about looking ahead.
The father of the girl can’t help but look back a little, too. And you would too were it your 17-year-old daughter who had just arrived on the UD campus when the alleged pair of incidents happened.
“We think the University of Dayton is a fine institution,” the father told our newspaper by email. “At the same time we feel the university’s decision to readmit Kavanaugh is less than prudent and borders on recklessness.”
This is a divisive issue with plenty of folks - including Flyers fans - and you can only hope that Kavanaugh can match what Brown did after UD cast him adrift
I’m not talking about on the basketball court, but away from the game.
Brown became a Republican city councilman in Indianapolis, did extensive charity work and became an icon in the city.
After his ouster from UD - even years later when he was a star with the Pacers - he still came back here to visit. Right before he died I talked to him and he again professed his love for UD.
He would have been a great ambassador of the school had the times, the administration or the public embrace been different back in his Flyers’ days.
He didn’t get a second chance at UD.
Matt Kavanaugh has.
Let’s hope folks will look back on him one day and say: “He was a good man.”
Quinn Pitcock - one of our area’s best football players - spoke candidly on national TV Wednesday afternoon to Katie Couric about the addiction that derailed his NFL career.
Pitcock and Katie Couric
An All-State defensive tackle at Piqua High, consensus first team All-American at Ohio State and a once-promising, 328-pound lineman for the Indianapolis Colts, Pitcock gave up the game he had long loved for another game - one to which he was fully addicted.
The 29-year-old Pitcock was - and still is - a video game addict who ended up losing friends, his livelihood and most of all his perspective and sense of self as he sank deeper and deeper into the world of virtual reality..
“I was living the dream. I was coming off my senior year for the Buckeyes being drafted in the third round by the Indianapolis Colts. So I was on the right path for greatness and then things turned for the worst,” he told Couric on her show “Katie.”
One of our area’s greatest football players
Pitcock - as those of us who have known him here a long time can well attest - told Couric: “I’m an introvert. I do better by myself. I’m happier that way.”
Video games became an easy escape for him and he said the gaming culture is prevalent in the NFL:
“We have off season workouts and some of us do charities during the day and the rest of the day is off to play (video) football games, Halo (and) Call Of Duty like myself. In the locker room we had a video game system and we played them there. That’s how my video gaming started. I end up buying a game station for home. Then the online players are what got me because no matter what time of day there is still someone playing.”
He said he became one of the top ranked players in the world in three different games: “Top three rakings in millions and millions of people, so in my mind I was doing well. So why not keep on playing?”
With a pause, he quietly added: “And if I really put myself to it, I could have been No. 1, but I didn’t want that.
“(But) all of a sudden, I was away from everybody. I became secluded from friends, family. I stopped going to my workouts, stopped doing what I needed to do for my professional career. I called my agent and said, ‘Look, I’m done with football. I can’t do it right now. It’s not for me anymore.’”
Pitcock (97) as a Colt
After just one season Pitcock left the Colts. He claimed depression, which - though he was secretive about it at first - was being fueled by his growing gaming addiction.
“I have such respect for game and I wasn’t fully 100 percent committed so I felt they were better off with me,” he told Couric.
Pitcock said the Colts offered to help him, but initially he slipped deeper into his addiction:
“I was spiraling down where video games were taking over my life. Once I did quit the NFL my addiction got even worse. That’s when I really got into the 18-plus hours a day. Eating one meal a day. Secluded from everybody - my friends, family, everybody. I realized then it was a physical need. It was no longer just a mental, ‘Oh, I want to play.’ It was, ‘I don’t want to play anymore,’ but physically, I had to play. I could not stop.”
It took Pitcock a while to accept the Colts’ offer, but when he did it helped him save his life.
“They (the Colts) didn’t shun me out at all, they were there to help me,” he said. “But it’s like any addict - you can’t get recovery until you’re ready to accept you’re an addict and that you want recovery. And that was the part I wasn’t ready for. It took me at least six months to a year until I started going to the psychologist/psychiatrist provided by the Colts.”
Played a year with the Colts
After a couple of years, Pitcock tried to return to the NFL - first with Seattle in 2010 and then Detroit in 2011. He got as far as the final cut of preseason camp or the practice squad, but didn’t play in another regular season NFL game. Now he is playing Arena League Football for the Orlando Predators and he still hopes he can work his way back to the NFL.
“I’m always going to be a recovering game addict,” he said. “I started off going from one addiction to another - like on-line poker and then on-line auctions At first I was just replacing addictions and to this day I still have troubles with just some small game applications. If I get myself in a room with too much time I could catch myself into a game for hours without knowing.”
He said talking to someone about his addictions helped him deal with them and he suggests other people who find their lives spiraling downward into a gamer’s world of virtual reality should find someone to open up to, as well:
“Talk to a third party and just speak your mind. For me, I realized once I got things off my chest, it was a lot easier to get away from the games, because the games are a way to separate yourself from reality (and go into) virtual reality you can control. Once you face the truth of reality, I think you can move forward.”