Joe: Could you share some details on how Thunder’s Arena got its start?
Mr. Mike: Well, I was a real nationally ranked (third in nation) heavyweight wrestler in college and always a closet fan of pro wrestling. I never wanted to go pro but found these underground wrestling sites, and I thought some of them were good, but still I felt there was something missing. You could tell they were using models and not real wrestlers. I talked it over with a buddy, and he felt the same way. There was a better way to film wrestling and real wrestlers and show the fun frat-house side of wrestling, without all the sexual overtones. Hot guys love to roughhouse and test their bodies against one another. I saw it all the time in my dorm and on my team. It didn't have to be sexual, but it was fun and hot to watch. I didn't think that was being presented to underground fans. Most companies jumped right into nude or sex matches, or the contests were too fake because they used models, not wrestlers.
Joe: Where did the name “Thunder’s Arena” come from?
Mr. Mike: The name came from a buddy and me brainstorming in the dorm room. We were throwing out all kinds of names. I used to be called Thunder at a summer camp I worked at, so he came up with Thunder's Arena, and our other roommate, who hated wrestling, said he'd watch something called that, so the name stuck.
Joe: What, in your opinion, is the main difference between the product at Thunder’s Arena and what your competitors are touting?
Mr. Mike: We try and show off wrestling done more like what happens in real life frat houses and dorm rooms, not sex fantasies or pro wrestling. Guys just hanging out around the house, start trash talking each other, there are challenges made and maybe some flexing, showing off, and then BAM! someone is caught in a headlock. We really do want to give that frat house feel to our stuff. So we use a lot of college wrestling moves and pro moves because that's what happens in real life. You smack-talk your buddy, he'll take you down, doing a real college wrestling move and then trying to humiliate you by making you submit in a pro wrestling move he saw on TV ... since you aren't going for points on a dorm floor.
Joe: So, Ace, when and how did you first get involved with Thunder’s Arena?
Ace Hanson: I got invited by Devin, a Thunder Arena wrestler. He said we should wrestle sometime. Next thing I know he's driving me over to this place, and I find out we are going to wrestle in front of the promoter Mr. Mike as an audition.
Joe: What is your background in wrestling?
Ace Hanson: I did high-school wrestling and did Greco-Roman wrestling for fun and exercise.
Joe: Mr. Mike, unlike some promoters who are featured prominently on the rosters and in a lot of the press for their product, you usually take a behind-the-scenes approach. First, I appreciate that you have agreed to this interview, and, second, why have you selected to stand behind the curtain? You’ve got a wrestling background; don’t you ever itch to jump on the mat and body-slam one of these guys?
Mr. Mike: I was a star and a national champion super-stud for wrestling in college. I don't need the spotlight anymore. I like giving it to new young guys who work hard in the gym to look great. That's one of the reasons I keep the show clean--there are a lot of great guys who like to show off their bodies on film but not if there is nudity or sex on the site.
Joe: Ace, you’re in Thunder Arena’s current bestselling match [Battlespace 12]. Congratulations, and how do you feel about that?
Ace Hanson: I think I deserve a fucking raise.... It is amazing, considering I haven't had a lot of matches yet.
Joe: Which one of your matches are you most proud of?
Ace Hanson: My favorite match was against Frank the Tank. It was fun letting a big dumb musclehead think he was beating me up. I was just waiting to pounce all over him, but we ran out of time.
Joe: Is there anybody who wrestles at Thunder’s Arena you haven’t wrestled yet, but you’d like to get your hands on?
Ace Hanson: I wanted to wrestle Johnny Bravo from DAY ONE, but Mr. Mike won't let it happen. I think he's afraid I'm going to make his superstar look bad.
Joe: What pro wrestlers do you most admire?
Ace Hanson: Brutus the Barber Beefcake and Honky Tonk Man.
Joe: Couple of classics. Bigger than life macho bosses like yourself, Ace. Mr. Mike, you just added five brand new names to your roster ...
Mr. Mike: What is so crazy is guys call me now wanting to be in the show. When you start out, you hope to find people. Now the best in the country are calling me. Like Conan. He is a world-class bodybuilder from Australia. He just called me up one day out of the blue, said a bunch of fans recommended to him that he work for us. He's actually going to be on the cover of Flex magazine, and we are the only company he wrestles for! That is a cool feeling!
New talent Slash and Conan at Thunder's Arena. Check them out here.
Joe: So what's next?
Mr. Mike: I see Thunder's Arena growing more as a mainstream Internet entertainment site. We do a lot of things differently than traditional pro and college wrestling, but everyone who watches us says the same thing: "If this was on TV, I'd watch it because the trash talking and comments during the match are awesome" or "... cool" or "... funny." People like to hear wrestlers tear into each other while they are wrestling.
Joe: Your promotion is based in Orlando. The guys on your roster are probably based in Florida or the states slightly to the north, right? Do you ever stage live shows at clubs in the Central Florida area? If not, is that something you’d consider doing? Your answer could determine whether I want to take my next vacation at Disney World … (Laughs.)
Mr. Mike: We have never thought of doing live shows, but the guys have wrestled fans here at the house who came to Disney World on vacation. So we are an unadvertised underground Orlando attraction. (Laughs.)
Joe: Hm. So your fighters wrestle for hire?
Ace Hanson: Anyone who is willing to put down money for a match with me, I say bring it on ... I'll take on all comers. Guys just need to contact us through the web site to set up an appointment with our wrestlers who do wrestle privately.
Joe: Cool. What, in your opinion, is the main appeal of wrestling? What draws audiences to the sport … and specifically to your site?
Mr. Mike: I think it's simple: to see which muscle guy can out-muscle the other muscle guy. What specifically draws people to our site is we use guys you can't see anywhere else, fresh faces that love to trash talk and wrestle. We show the guys having fun wrestling, those evil smirks of "I'm going to kick your ass," while still keeping it intense and real.
Joe: How would you stack the following six criteria in terms of importance—fighting heart, gear, gimmicks, technical knowledge of wrestling holds and throws, physique, and trash talk? Which is most important? Which, least?
Mr. Mike: I would say having technical knowledge is most important because, after all the flexing is done, people want to see a show of amazing skills and action, followed by trash talk and then physique, because once again it goes back to the primal question of whose muscles can beat up someone else's muscles. It's not so much a matter of having great muscles that turn people's heads ... but do you have what it takes to kick butt? ... that impresses everyone.
Joe: Why do you think a lot of people, men and women, find wrestling sexy? Do you?
Mr. Mike: Well, let's get real. Guys will not admit wrestling is sexy in this culture, but they do find it manly, a way of being the top dog, alpha male ... and that is sexy to women and makes other men wish they could be you. That is something that strikes a raw chord in everyone ... to have the confidence in your attitude and body to stand there in your underwear and proclaim to everyone you will be the champion! Takes guts, and we respect that ... especially if you can back it up.
Joe: What, for you, has been the best part of your experience with Thunder’s Arena?
Mr. Mike: Honestly, it's hearing all the positive love from the fans about how they enjoy this match or that bearhug scene or how they can't wait to see more of the action. Hearing people love what you work so hard to create is so satisfying and cool!
Joe: How about you, Ace? Any thoughts on the experience? What is on your mind when you watch yourself on video?
Ace Hanson: God, I look fat. I need to get shredded.
Joe: What’s the strangest response you ever got from a fan? How did you react?
Ace Hanson: I've had several guys come up to me in the bar I work at saying, "Oh my God I've seen you wrestling on Thunder's Arena. Do you want to try some of those holds on me?" I promptly put them into a sleeper hold ...
Joe: Um. What bar is this ... exactly? [Laughs. Nervous laughter full of longing. Crickets chirping.] What’s your take on UFC and no-holds-barred mixed martial arts? Are you a fan? Any interest in stepping into the cage?
Ace Hanson: I'm a fan of UFC but would never step into the cage because I'm scared I'd really hurt somebody, and besides my face is too pretty.
Joe: I can see that. Kinda like Wolverine's bad-ass bro. Several other sites have entered into the fantasy aspects of wrestling—with superhero competitors and sci-fi inspired scenarios, complete with super powers, masks, costumes, and the like. Any chance of Thunder’s Arena moving in that direction?
Mr. Mike: Funny you should mention that because my editors and filming staff want me to go in this direction. We have seen what is out there with other sites, and my editors are dying for me to give the OK to do something like that because they want to do some awesome special effects and prove we are better than all the other sites out there doing it. I've got editors that have worked on Larry the Cable Guy: Health Inspector and Hell's Kitchen, and they want to so show up the other sites with their professional skills at special effects. I just don't want to do it because I know they are going to charge me an arm and a leg to make it look spectacular. They don't do those cool special effects for free. I'm not sure the market is big enough to put that kind of computer time in to make it happen, pay the guys to wrestle and fight, plus the costume costs and us being able to make a profit.
Joe: Besides your own, of course, what other wrestling sites, if any, do you like to visit?
Mr. Mike: Honestly, I love checking out all the underground and several pro indy sites. I like to see who's new in the sport. How other people do their shows so I can make sure we are always different and unique.
Joe: Time for the "finisher." In your opinion, what’s the best finish for a wrestling match?
Ace Hanson: A submission, always, because it's total dominance!