Professional Wrestling

Former pro wrestler and promoter has plenty of ringside stories

2013-04-01T22:00:00Z 2013-04-01T23:06:49Z Former pro wrestler and promoter has plenty of ringside storiesJohn Burbridge john.burbridge@nwi.com, (219) 933-3371 nwitimes.com

THORNTON | One day the circus came to town and pitched its tent inside the home of Mike and Mary Herrick.

"Oh god, that was crazy," Mary said of the adventurous weekend when her husband invited over some friends from work. "They were up all night. I couldn't sleep at all."

The visitors included King Kong Bundy, arguably the most intimidating professional wrestler of all time.

"One of the nicest guys in the world," Mike Herrick said of the 450-pound bald behemoth, who squared off against Hulk Hogan and the Undertaker in Wrestlemania main events, "but he can turn on a flip of a switch."

The other visitors were a pair of midget wrestlers, who often battled each other as "Mini-Taker" and "Mini-Stone Cold." According to Herrick and his wife, they accounted for most of the mayhem.

"Imagine two little kids who have eaten nothing but sugar all day," Herrick said.

Bundy and the midgets needed lodging while in town for a local card Herrick was helping put together.

"It's a tough business to make a living on, especially if you don't do it right or trust the wrong people," said Herrick, who formerly owned the Ringside Wrestling Alliance, Midwest Championship Wrestling and the Independent Wrestling Foundation. "For me, wrestling bought us this house."

As a wrestler, referee, promoter and owner — sometimes all at the same event — the 43-year-old Thornton man estimates that he performed in front of a paying audience around 1,500 times. Some crowds you could count on both hands.

"When someone yells out 'You suck!' during shows like that, you take it more personally," Herrick said.

Yet Herrick also performed in front of packed arenas while called on to do shows with World Championship Wrestling.

"I had a couple of tryouts with the WWE," Herrick said of internationally renowned organization famously — and infamously — owned by Vince McMahon.

"But they want bulk," said Herrick, who was a lower-weight state runner-up for Thornton High School his sophomore year. "Take (former WWE heavyweight champion) John Cena. Have you've ever seen the size of that guy's hands? He's literally a bodybuilder."

While wrestling as "Dirty White Boy," Herrick — like many wrestlers who don't have the girth of Cena or Bundy — took to the air while unleashing much of his offense. His finishing move, "The Trash Compactor," was a leg-drop from the top rope.

Herrick, whose wife briefly served as his mischievous valet, is a second-generation wrestler. His father was a "jobber" in the 1980s and 1990s before becoming a promoter.

When Herrick was just a teenager, he followed his father into the business. At an even more impressionable age, he was exposed to the bizarre and sometimes lurid nature of pro wrestling while traveling with his father and his colleagues.

Detail from the stories Herrick related may not be suitable for family-read publications, but just imagine negotiating a DEA checkpoint with "Fabulous Freebird" Michael Hayes and the Iron Sheik in your car, or being holed up in a brothel during a tropical storm with Dusty Rhodes and an inebriated Andre the Giant.

Herrick and his wife, who have three children, have since retired from pro wrestling, though Herrick does assist local wrestlers and promoters.

"It's hard to get out of it," said Herrick, who has sustained numerous concussions and other injuries, and admits to have relied on self-medication to get through shows and the wee-mornings after. "Once you hear the cheers or even the boos, it's tough to walk away. It's addicting."

And deadly. Herrick has personally known wrestlers who have succumbed to the constant bumps and hazards.

"I was talking to Eddie Guerrero two weeks before he died," Herrick said of the WWE latino superstar, who died of Atherosclerotic Cardiovascular disease at 38 years old. "When I found out what happened, I just shut down."

Herrick is due to be inducted in the Mid-South Championship Wrestling Hall of Fame on April 27.

"I was able to meet a lot of interesting people," said Herrick, whose RWA once included Dirty Dutch Mantell on its cards — Dirty Dutch is now in the WWE as Zeb Colter, the xenophobic manager of Jack Swagger.

Colter and Swagger are embroiled in a feud with right-wing talk show host Glenn Beck, who claims their over-the-top act is insulting toward conservatives.

But is the acrimony real?

"Put it this way," Herrick says with a wink, "Glenn Beck and Vince McMahon are good friends."

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