Posted February 10th, 2016 by 1Wrestling News Team

I call myself lucky because I have been all over the world because of the passion and love that I have for our business.  I have traveled to Japan, Mexico, England, Puerto Rico, Hawaii and all over the states thru ECW in the 90’s. Out of all my travels over the past two decades I honestly feel looking back now that maybe that one trip to San Antonio TX back during mothers day weekend in 2000 could have really changed the business at least for my perception of what the business should have been and just two short year later I started my vision based on that trip with the help of Gabe Sapolsky and please DO NOT FORGET DOUG GENTRY.

The story is really quite interesting and it played out and not sure I want to just do the quick version or be a little entertaining and give you the fuller version which I think is a lot more fun.  The trip that I had planned was to go down to San Antonio TX to capture at the time what would have been the biggest shoot interview in the history of RF VIDEO.
Shawn Michaels had stepped away from the WWF to start his own wrestling company TWA.  He had a major back injury around that time and was taking time off.  He started up his own company along with Paul Diamond as his booker and Rudy Boy Gonzalez as one of his main trainers for the wrestling school.  They ran their shows all around San Antonio TX in small towns.  I really wanted to interview Shawn for years but of course never was able to because of his WWF status at the time. Now that he was no longer obligated with them or what ever special deal he had at the time, I was told to contact him for a interview.
When I reached out to Shawn I never expected for the biggest name in the industry to agree to a interview because of course the hot topic at the time would be Montreal.  We had talked over a few weeks and I knew it was a feeling out process.  He wanted to know what I was planning on doing with the interview and I think he wanted to know who I was before he just had some random guy show up in his hometown for a tell all interview.  I think for sure my ECW background made us more legitimate and Shawn finally agreed to have us fly down to San Antonio for the interview but there was a catch.  He had a major meeting with the WWE that same weekend in CT and he was not sure what day he could do the interview so he recommended that we fly down a few days early and stay the entire weekend, that way as soon as he would land we would meet up.
I remember this entire weekend like it was yesterday.  We landed on a Friday May 12th 2000. It was lunch time and the first thing we were told to do by Shawn was to check out this amazing steak house.  We had lunch and than I got the call from Shawn that he was going to be staying overnight in CT so our interview would be pushed back to late Saturday at some point in the day.  He told be that we were more than welcome to go to his companies show in Victoria TX that night since he would not be in town.  He arranged for us to meet his booker at the time Paul Diamond at a gas station and than we would follow Paul to the town. He had asked if we had our video cameras that day and I told him of course we did.  He told us that we were more than welcome to film his show so we could see his talent and get them exposure which was very nice of him. Driving thru those TX towns was like something out of a movie.  We went thru the outskirts of TX on dirt roads to this tiny building in Victoria TX.  We got there early so we went inside and watched some of the guys working out in the ring and we had no idea what we were in store for.
Now keep in mind, I am from Philadelphia.  The product that I was brought up on was hardcore wrestling.  I was apart of ECW which produced at that time a product very different from anything in the states.  It was something that I had been around since the start so I was seeing the ECW product live week in and week out not being able to go to any other indy shows.  Now when this show in TX started it was something so different from ECW.  I was seeing raw talent that were just getting their start in the business but these guys were trained and mentored by the best in the business, Shawn Michaels. I was with Doug Gentry at the time and we sat there watching the show.  Every match was great on the show and I remember seeing Spanky, Michael Shane, and of course the main event of the night was Lance Cade vs American Dragon (Bryan Danielson).  I was blown away by the raw talent that I saw that night.
I remember going back to my hotel when the show was over and I called Paul Heyman and told him that there was some talent he needed to look at.  I knew right away from watching American Dragon, Spanky, Lance Cade and Michael Shane that they were going to be players in the industry.  Spanky was this guy who reminded me a lot like Spike Dudley.  He was small at the time and was the underdog but was so over and he had so much charisma. I saw something in him that day.  Lance Cade reminded me of a young Barry Whindham.  He was big and tall and had a great look. Dragon at the time was just a great in the ring.  Paul told me that he was their best student and had a promising career and I agreed.
The next day Shawn informed us that the meetings were going to go on longer than expected in CT and that he would not be back to town until Sunday which was mothers day.  He told us about the famous Water Walk in San Antonio so we set out to check that out along with The Alamo.  We had a very fun day of site seeing and of course doing a whole lot of nothing on Saturday in the hotel room.   When Sunday rolled around Shawn had called me and informed me that this was his first mothers day with his wife and felt that he would be a major heel to come back into town and not go home.  He felt so bad but kept saying to me that he could not do this to his wife and that he was so sorry.  I thought he was ribbing us because we flew all the way to TX just for his interview.  He knew that we were down there for this project and after a few phone calls back and fourth he worked it out that as soon as he would land he would meet up with us first and than do his family dinner which meant the world to us.  I was super appreciative that he still kept his promise and of course gave us a interview at the time that really put us on the map for being the first person to ever talk about the screw job on tape with HBK.
We quickly built up a relationship and I wanted to start to sell his TV shows because they were that good.  His talent was amazing and he knew it.  I went back home and ECW had off a few times that month and 2 weeks later I called Shawn and asked him if it would be ok to fly back down to TX because I wanted to see more of his shows live.  I wanted to see American Dragon, Spanky, and Michael Shane more and more.  I flew back down to TX on May 26th to attend two more shows in San Antonio and Del Rio Tx on May 27th.  I got to see American Dragon wrestle long time WWE vet D-Lo Brown one night and the next night he teamed with Spanky to face D-Lo Brown and Papi Chulo.  By the way all three shows are on RFVIDEO.com for you to witness.  I was in awe of these talents that Shawn was training.  They were just really gifted workers at the time and I wanted to see more of them.
Because of my schedule with ECW, I was no longer able go back to TX at the time.  I kept on pitching these guys to Paul to bring them in.  I remember pitching this incredible angle in my mind to bring in Michael Shane and Teddy Hart.  Michael was the nephew of HBK and of course Teddy Hart was the nephew of Bret Hart.  I told Paul that if he brought them into ECW at the time and slowly built them up he could create the biggest new feud that would get so much mainstream attention by doing the new generation feud with Hart-Michaels thru their nephews.  For what ever reason and I think I know why now, Paul only brought in Michael Shane after I kept on pushing for him.  I am not sure why Spanky and Dragon were not on the radar at the time but I went to bat for them.  During my time in ECW I would always go to any indy show that I could go to and scout talent.  Not to toot my own horn but I had a great eye for talent.  The moment I saw Low Ki work in JAPW and in other NY indy’s he was on my radar.   I remember bringing him to a ECW in Staten Island to meet Tommy Dreamer so he could get in the ring and get looked out but politics got in the way and Low Ki never got his ECW try out that day.  Some of the guys felt threatened and blocked him.
As time went on ECW folded in January of 2001.  It was a depressing time because my company felt such a void without ECW.  We were doing shoot interviews and working with so many names in the business but we were lacking that one big thing.  A regular gig to go to and a brand that we could make serious money from. We were going to every indy show we could go to around this period of time and Doug and myself were out there every weekend doing shows no matter where they were at. We would travel to them, film them and release them on VHS.
Than one weekend in October of 2001 the APW King of the Indies show happened.  It featured some of the best talent on the indy scene
American Dragon
Samoa Joe
Low Ki
Bison Smith
Tony Jones
AJ Styles
Donovan Morgan
Doug Williams
Adam Pierce
Scoot Andrews
Frankie Kazarian
Super Dragon
Jardi Frantz
Vincenzo Massaro
Christopher Daniels
I watched the tape one weekend and I quickly told Doug Gentry that there was no reason that RFVIDEO could not run a wrestling company.  We were around ECW and learned from the best.  I remember telling Gabe that I was going to start a wrestling company.  He was so against it, telling me that he would quit because we would never be able to make money and that it would not work.  I remember fighting with Gabe on my idea because he just for some reason didn’t want me to start a wrestling company.

We quickly wrote down on a paper all of the names that were out there and who were available.  To be honest my top three names were Low Ki, Somoa Joe and American Dragon.  We planned a date, booked a venue and reached out to all the talent for that historic 2/23/02 show which of course was the very first ROH show at the Murphy Rec Center.  Bryan along with Low Ki and Christopher Daniels put us on the map, make no mistakes about it.  They all had incredible work ethic but Bryan always stood out to me.

Little did I know the title of my first show The Era of Honor begins would really symbolize that trail that American Dragon Bryan Danielson AKA Daniel Bryan would leave and embark on this industry.   Bryan was all about honor and he created a era in this business that allowed guys his size to be given a shot on a national level.  Guys like Bryan and CM Punk who came from ROH and were given the ROH canvas to paint their greatest work were now showing the powers to be that smaller guys could get over and have just as much talent as anyone else.  They broke the stereotypical mold that the man had set up.  They were the snow plow on that major highway that was clearing the road for so many more to follow.  Bryan did this because he was not your average worker.  He was special, intelligent, caring, selfless and had a passion greater than the next guy.  He was not in the business just for another pay check, he was not in the business because he wanted the fame.  He was in the business because he was the business and loved it.

I got to know Bryan very well during his early days with ROH.  I can’t even begin to tell you how humble he is and how he always maintained his no ego personality.  He was always a pleasure to work with and would always go out of his way for anyone he could.  He was honestly not meant for the business he was too nice.   He was also very normal which is a crazy attribute to have in pro wrestling.  When he got signed by the WWE I was so happy for him.  He deserved it and we all know his WWE story we watched it over the last few years.

Personally its a tragic ending to one of the greatest wrestling tales but at the same time its very astonishing that Bryan was able to retire on his own terms and realize that his health comes first before his passion.  I could not even imagine the sadness that he felt on his decision making process of stepping out of the one thing he loved most in life besides his family.  For him to finally hang up his boots had to be the hardest decision of his life but because Bryan is so insightful he saw the future.  It takes a very perceptive person to know when it’s time to fold your cards and walk away with your winnings.

Bryan has not only won titles, belts but he has won the hearts of so many wrestling fans across the world.   He not only connected with the 500 fans that were in the Murphy Rec Center that day in 2002 but he connected with millions of fans who watched him capture gold in New Orleans at Wrestlemania XXX.  I was there that night and it was more than magical.

Bryan has been able to travel all over the world but his most important journey will be back home where he now starts his new life.  One day he can show his grandchildren his matches from Japan, ROH and the WWE and be proud that he changed the business for the better.  Bryan will always be connected to the business and I hope that the WWE keeps him around as a good will ambassador or he becomes part of NXT in some fashion or has a hand in the PC down in FL.  His talents are that good and behind his trainer might be honestly the best in the business.

In closing I want to thank Bryan for all he has done for the business wether it was in ROH or WWE.  The last time I personally worked with Bryan was in 2010 after his brief release from the WWE.  Than he went back to the company and I saw him at a Wizard World in Philadelphia and boy did he look tired.  It was amazing to see him last night on TV looking well rested and as healthy looking as I saw him during that Mothers Day in May of 2000.  He made wrestling history last night on TV.  It was probably one of the best wrestling segments on TV ever.  I laughed and I cried and it became apart of me. I will never forget his retirement speech and how he went out still on top of his game.  Is Bryan a legend in our business who should never be forgotten….YES YES YES YES YES  #thankyoubryan

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