Wednesday, December 28, 2011

UCW: The Working Man's Wrestling Site (Exclusive Interview)


The first interview ever published on Ringside at Skull Island was with the man who founded Underground Championship Wrestling (UCW), who goes by the ring name BodySlam, and the company's first bona-fide star, Axel. That was in the summer of 2009, not quite a year after I started this blog. By then most of the kink wrestling sites I write about were already well established. Over the years fairly regular contact between the blog and UCW has given me the privilege to document the startup of a wrestling company from scratch and more or less track its early progress, including the breakout success of Axel, whose boyish face and lithe, athletic body can now be seen elsewhere wrestling under another name, the expansion of UCW's roster, and the company's recent move from Milwaukee to Philadelphia. UCW has carved a niche for itself on the Internet and drawn a loyal and growing fan base. That success has piqued fans' interest in the backstage workings of the company, and especially in recent months a large amount of online buzz has surrounded UCW, its stars, and its plans for the future. The first interview is still one of the most frequently visited posts on this blog. So it seemed only right to me, BodySlam, and the UCW boys, most of whom were not yet on the roster for the first interview, that we follow up that interview with a second. This week I sat down with BodySlam, Axel, Aron, and Stay*c Adams to talk about the company, post-Milwaukee. So here we go.

Joe: It's been two years and some months since our first interview, so obviously a lot has changed--new faces, new venues, a championship belt--but what, in your opinion, are some of the less obvious but important changes at UCW?

BodySlam: We have gone from being a business to being a family, and some of the members are now running some of UCW ... but I still get the blame. (Laughs.)

Axel: Yes, we fight, laugh, and care about each other and the company. And, yes, BodySlam gets the blame. (Laughs.) And Philly, not too big and not too small, just like Milwaukee, but more wrestling goes on here, so the move is good for UCW in the long run.

BodySlam: Also, we found a new web guy, Ryan, who was a big help with making the online sales more automated. That was a big little change for us. He also made little changes to the site to make things work or look better. He is now working on some slight facelifts for the site, so you will start seeing those changes over the next month.

Joe: Have there been any drawbacks to the company's whirlwind success?

BodySlam: Yeah, we have to work harder now. Oh, it's still fun, but we're always looking for new talent, and I am always trying to figure out better editing techniques and how to improve production value. But I still think we are the best deal out there, still the working man's wrestling site. Real guys, low cost! Joker, just the other day, said, "We never used to care about money or how many matches we shot, but now it's all about making money." I guess I have been getting more crazy about the money end of it.

Axel: Well, the guys have to realize it costs money, flying guys in and feeding people and running the website! We have to make money to keep doing this.

BodySlam: Yeah, what you guys eat in one weekend could feed a family of four for a month.

Axel: (Laughs) We are athletes. We burn it off as fast as we take it in.

Aron: Yeah, bro, but some of these guys eat like pigs!

Stay*c: Well, we're all not watching our girly figures like you two.

Aron: Hey, I'm a jock and have to stay in shape.

Xanjay on Stay*c 
Stay*c on Xanjay
Joe: Axel, you were the company's first big star, and now you have successfully branched out to other promotions--what now strikes you as distinctive about UCW?

Axel: UCW is unlike any other company, the look of it, the wrestling style, and I find it to be the roughest, toughest action around!

Joe: And you keep coming back for more.

Axel: UCW was my first company. They gave me a chance, and I feel indebted to them, plus they feel like family now. BodySlam cares about me and what I do in my life.

Joe: And you two [Stay*c and Aron], what drew you to UCW?

Stay*C: I saw an ad for wrestlers, so I checked out the site and thought, "I have always wanted to beat up on some hot guys!"

Aron: I saw the same ad, checked out their YouTube videos ... I love a challenge, and some of these guys looked tough and my-size guys. ... I thought it would be even competition, so I contacted BodySlam.

Joe: Were you familiar with the company?

Stay*c: I didn't know them at all.

Aron: I wasn't familiar with them, but like I said before, bro, I saw some videos on YouTube, and that was it. I had a phone conversation with BodySlam and went to meet him. He explained the history and the nature of the company. Before meeting him I thought it was a scam, but then we talked, and he started showing me some pro moves, and I was hooked big time.

Joe: What background do you have in wrestling?

Aron: Let's see ... four years high-school wrestling, and I studied some judo on and off as money would allow, and also watched a lot of YouTube videos.

Stay*c: YouTube? Really?

Aron: Dude! Don't be a hater! You can learn a lot of stuff from watching YouTube!

Stay*c: I did five years in backyard feds, then went to a wrestling school for two years, then seven years pro with six different indy feds in the Tri-State area.

Joe: What wrestling stars do you model yourself on?

Stay*c: Raven and Sabu.

Aron: Dude, I am just me.

Joe: Stay*c, as the new resident trainer, what do you consider the three most important things a UCW wrestler should know before he steps on the mats?

Stay*c: Technique. Respect. And know your own sense of style.

Joe: So what's a typical training session like?

Stay*c: I like to beat down and stretch out the new guys to get them ready for what the older, senior guys will do to them. You have to be tough to work in the UCW, and I know that better than anyone.

BodySlam: If I may, we teach everyone how to stretch out the right way to avoid injury. Then we go over moves the other wrestlers like to do so you know what might be coming. And then we teach you your own moves and holds to use. Then we exercise, sit-ups to take the punches we all like so much and pushups to deliver those punches. Then we pair up and do mini-ten-minute-matches. We stretch out again.

Stay*c: Yeah, just like I said, beat down and stretch them out!

Joe: How much of UCW action is collegiate or pro wrestling, and how much of it is other combat arts?

Stay*c: I say 75% pro and 25% MMA and submission.

BodySlam: I would say more like 55% pro, 35% collegiate, and 10% MMA.

Stay*c: Wait, that doesn't add up right.

Aron: Dude! Shut up and stick to wrestling!

BodySlam: Guys, save it for the ring!

Joe: I heard a rumor that UCW is transitioning to UFC-style mixed martial arts?

Axel: Never heard that one before. We are coming out with a submission site, with different types of rules, and we will mix up the action, but all-MMA style? Nope, not true.

Aron: But on the submission site we can do striking if both guys agree to it.

BodySlam: Guess the cat's out of the bag now. Thank you, Axel.

Axel: Sorry.

BodySlam: We are planning on adding a new branch to the UCW family tree, a submission site to fill in the gap that was formed after two other companies closed down. But it is too early to really talk about it. Still working out the funding and looking for submission wrestlers. Axel and Aron will do both sites, but we're looking for others. So any hot submission guys out there looking for some action, hit us up. It will be different from the other sites, as we are going to add a ... shall we just say, a UCW flare to the action? If it happens at all, look for news about the new site on the UCW site come February. Enough said.

Joe: Okay, so I'm more intrigued than when I asked the question. (Laughs.) Every new step with you guys seems deliberately linked to what came before it, linking back to the very first UCW video, but progressively more ... "extreme," I guess is the word I'm looking for. For instance, the new Philadelphia space looks like a revamping of the original space, blue tarps and all. But fighting in a concrete-block enclosure sounds risky. Are there any safety concerns and precautions you take?

BodySlam: James's basement [re: James the Never Give Up Kid, the current UCW champ] had its share of dangers: low ceiling with pipes and cinderblock walls, and what we liked to call the black hole. The right side of the mat had all of James's family storage junk behind the tarp. A number of times someone would get tossed that way and ... well, you never really knew what you were going to land on. We should also mention no heat, no air, and very damp. Also, I guess I can say it now, the house was over a hundred years old and haunted. Sometimes I could hear noises behind me and the camera, and there was no one there. At times it would freak us all out. Oh, and the tarps would move for no reason. That's the real reason Jay left us. He saw the tarp move and then saw a box fall over, and no one was around it.

Joe: Damn, you guys could have been the first company to do poltergeist wrestling! (Laughs.)

Axel: (Not laughing.) It could freak you out at times.

BodySlam: But back to your question, Joe, about safety. I redid the ceiling supports so no one will hit their heads. But, I should say, Joker hasn't been here yet, so we will have to wait and see. (Joe laughs.) And I was debating about pads for the wall, but the guys asked me not to use them, so I tell everyone to keep the action within the outer circle as much as possible ... but boys will be boys. At least there's no ghost now.

Stay*c on Aron
Stay*c on Aron
Joe: So, Aron, are you aware of the enthusiastic buzz on the Internet following your debut?

Aron: Sort of aware.

Joe: Eighteen years old and already a star! How does it feel to be the "new hot thing" at UCW?

Aron: It's cool. Lots of friend requests on my Facebook account [Aron Yeahboi], feels pretty good. It is cool to be noticed. I never really thought of myself as a "hot" anything. Spent a number of years as just another face in the crowd. So, yeah, boi, it is pretty sweet! Have to say, super kick ass!

Joe: One of the big surprises when I was young was that the face-in-the-crowd boys next door could be not only twice as tough as the GQ model types I knew but also three times as sexy in the heat of the clench. Some guys I knew just blossomed--amazingly!--the moment they stripped off their shirts and hunkered down to a wrestling crouch. Speaking of which, another thing that's changed at UCW is the gear. Except for James, holding out with his baggy fight shorts, you guys have skimpier and skimpier trunks!

Axel: I like to wear stuff that really shows off my body. I like the way I look and want others to notice. That's why I change it so much: I get bored and want to show off.

Aron: Hey, I got a sweeeeet body. Lots of fan mail about that, and I don't mind people seeing it.

Joe: Any bad blowback from the fans?

BodySlam: There has been some fan mail noticing the change in gear, but no complaints.

Joe: I wouldn't think so.

BodySlam: In fact, they want even less. Not going to happen. Have to have a little mystery in life. Well ... with Aron and Axel ... you can see everything except the color. No real mystery there. (Laughs.)

Aron: Sorry. Can't help the size.

Axel: Moving along, please ...

Joe: How do the other wrestlers feel about the changes ... in gear, locale, emphasis?

BodySlam: Everyone is fine. My company moved me out here to Philly, and we had no choice, so we have made the best of it.

Joe: Touchy subject here: There was some controversy recently among fans about how the talent gets paid at UCW. It's not necessary to state exact figures or name names, but would you mind clarifying what the company's system of payment is? Do you pay by the match?

BodySlam: Yes, everyone now gets paid per match.

Joe: The same pay per match?

BodySlam: No, the senior guys make a little more.

Joe: Do you pay royalties or percentages on the purchases of the matches?

BodySlam: When the fed first started ... You have to remember, I am more of a figurehead for the company ... There was a small group of us that started the fed: James, Black Dragon, Joker, Klown, and me. It started out as a mentoring group and sort of grew into the UCW, and there was no money for anything. So we came up with a plan: either a small fee for your video ... or royalties. Most of the guys took the royalties, and it has paid off for them. Some of those earlier matches have raised, to date, like almost a thousand dollars in royalties to the guys. But as of last year we have done away with that for the newer videos. It's just getting too hard to track all the paperwork. So right now everyone gets paid per video. As the profits go up, that amount goes up. Now this whole thing started as a way for my old mentoring group, young poor guys, to afford school. Grants go only so far, and I hate the guys having to take out too many loans. So I have never taken a paycheck for my work with the company. Oh, I use the profits to pay for everything to do with the UCW, but nothing for my pockets. I am proud of that fact. And, yes, it hurt when a disgruntled ex-wrestler was spreading rumors all over the Internet, claiming that I was cheating wrestlers.
[Note from Joe: Earlier this month, I conferred with said ex-wrestler via email. He contends that he did not spread the rumors, but suspects that someone he confided his "troubles" to in the past might have done so, perhaps this someone even implied that the information was from firsthand experience. The wrestler, who wishes to be anonymous, wanted me to understand that he thinks BodySlam "is a great promoter and a good trainer. I might have had some personal issues with him in the past, but that's where it needs to remain, in the past." Subsequent to the email I quote from, I removed several comments to a posting on this blog that pertained to these issues, since the purported "author" of at least one of them told me he had not written it.]
Axel: You have to look at the fact that we're not one of the big companies with a huge fan base ... or even have been around as long as some of them have. You have to have the right numbers before paying top dollar. And the newbies, you have to figure in, "Will anyone like them?" "Can they do our style of wrestling ... and up to our standards?" There are a lot of companies out there paying top dollar for hot model-type guys, but the final product isn't as good as what we do. We have lost lots of money on guys who talked a good talk but couldn't do the wrestling.

BodySlam: Yes, we have to be careful who we spend money on, flying them in and seeing if they have what it takes. One guy started the training, and when someone punched him, he hit the ground. Then he called us a bunch of names and left to wait on his plane. Money well spent. Also, like I said, it was a small group of us who started UCW, and we still have meetings to discuss things, like who to bring in and how much to pay. It's not just me. Feelings will get hurt when guys try out [and don't make it], but, overall, everyone here is happy.

Stay*c: BodySlam takes good care of me.

Aron: The only direction you can go in this company is up. They base payment on what you know, how much free training you need, and I think they are fair.

Corporal Punishment racks Stay*c
Joe: What's the most memorable thing a fan has ever written to you?

Aron: Dude, that blog you wrote about my first match was sooooo sweeeeet! It wasn't as creepy as some stuff people write, mostly guys telling me how I have a hot bod! Like, tell me something I don't know! But it's cool. I like the attention.

Axel: Okay, Aron, that takes me back to my beginnings here. One woman wrote me and asked me to wrestle her boyfriend so she could watch. And she wanted me to sleeper him out at the end. It was sort of cool to get fan mail from a woman. Oh, I know we have female fans,  but, still, one wrote me. Sweet!

Stay*c: On YouTube, one guy wrote, "Thanks for helping me break in my new flashlight." (Laughs.) What does that mean, anyway?

BodySlam: Later, Stay*c, later.

Stay*c: The best one yet was this guy wrote right after the release of Aron's and my latest video, and he said, "I am writing this with my hands still full of lube and cum." That was a pretty awesome fan mail!

Joe: What do your friends and family have to say about your wrestling videos?

Axel: I keep it low key, so friends and family don't know about it.

Stay*c: No family, and don't need no friends.

Aron: Like Axel, I keep it to myself right now, so my friends don't know, and I haven't been part of my family for a long time.

Joe: Well, guys, family is the people you call family, and given a choice of eating ham and sweet potatoes at a table surrounded by people with glowering resentments dating back decades or stripping to my undies to wrestle some merrily rowdy roughnecks on a mat, I would consider the latter my real family, the ones who matter to me.

Corporal Punishment punishes Stay*c corporally
Joe: Is wrestling something you want to be involved with over the long haul?

Axel: No aspirations to make a career out of it, but if something presented itself, I would think about it. I have an open mind about it.

Aron: I want to do UCW for as long as I can, and then take over running it, but only after I put BodySlam into the old wrestler retirement home. I am studying Brazilian jujitsu and going for it right now. I want to improve my skills.

Stay*c: Like Hulk Hogan, I want to be involved in pro wrestling in one form or another till I am dead. But without all the ex-wife drama.

Joe: You guys tend to go for the balls! So, on average, for how many days after a taping do you walk funny?

Axel: Maybe one day. I heal pretty fast.

Stay*c: After a few painkillers and a good ice pack, I am fine. I like a little damage to the balls.

Aron: About two and a half days. I can't wear my skinny jeans for about a week, but the competition and the money we get are worth it. And, hey, why do we allow that? They didn't in school, you know.

Axel: No rules, bro. [Laughs.]

Joe: Gut-punching is also a huge part of UCW's house style. Which wrestler throws the best punch? Who takes the best punch to the abs?

Stay*c: Easy. Corporal Punishment throws the hardest, but I can take it from anyone and come back just as hard!

Axel: I think that I take it best, and I give the hardest. But if we are talking about other wrestlers, then Joker hits the hardest ... or maybe it's the most hits in thirty seconds!

Aron: It is most definitely Corporal Punishment, and he is a very scary man, dude! Man, his gut hit hurts like hell! And sorry, Axel, but I take the hits the best. I am the youngest and the most athletic stud here!

Axel: What-ever.

Joe: Have any of you ever seriously hurt yourself while wrestling?

Axel: Chipped a tooth once. Damn walls.

BodySlam: Happy to report that, other than that chipped tooth, there haven't been any serious injuies. The guys really don't want to kill each other. They just want to hurt each other and get the win.

Joe: So, BodySlam, what are some things you would never ask your wrestlers to do?

BodySlam: Use weapons. Wrestle nude. Or wrestle me. Now if any of that happens, it's them deciding to do that, not me asking them to do it.

Joe: Who at UCW do you most want to wrestle--or wrestle again?

Aron: Axel. He is a pretty skilled and rounded wrestler. I think we are pretty evenly matched. Also, it would be good for both of us to be in the same video so everyone can see how much hotter I am compared to him.

BodySlam: Okay, Aron. For me, Axel, because he is tough, wiry, hard to get ahold of, and, what the hell, everyone wants to wrestle him.

Axel: I have always known that about you, BodySlam. (Laughs.) For me ... and sorry, BodySlam, but ... Aron, because after watching just one episode of Jersey Shore, I want to beat up every damn Jersey boy I come across. Also, so that the fans will know who the real stud is in the UCW.

Stay*c: I would love to wrestle James. He is also a trained pro wrestler, and it would be cool to show everyone that Midwest wrestlers suck! And rip off those damn pants, and tear them in half, once and for all!

Joe: Why do you think some of us--men, women, gay, straight, and bi--find wrestling sexy?

Axel: The nature of it, wrestling. Basically it's primal. Back in ancient times, guys did wrestling in the nude, so you couldn't use clothes as a weapon. Also, the human body was thought of as art, and art was respected. A human body fighting awakens those inner instincts within all of us, and fighting shows off the human body, which is sexy. We like sexy.

Aron: Wrestling is about dominating, and you wear minimal clothing to show off that it is all about man against man and a test of pure strength. Also you get to show off the sexy body, like mine, bro.

Joe: But how do you feel knowing that some people beat off while watching you wrestle?

Aron: It's a little bit of a hairy subject for me. I just try not to think about it. I mean, I understand why they do that, and it's cool ... as long as I am not there when they're doing it. Then it's all good to me, man.

Axel: I find it very gratifying that I am being seen as a sex symbol, and that my fighting turns people on. Again, it's primal. But a tad creepy when someone talks about it in fan mail. I am very open minded, so I do respect other people's right to do that. I do know and understand that this is all part of this type of business.

Stay*c:  My pain is their pleasure. I can live with that.


Joe: What words of advice do you have for guys interested in breaking into underground wrestling?

Stay*c: Watch a lot of wrestling and have a high tolerance for pain. Don't kid yourself. This shit hurts.

Axel: Make sure you are in decent shape, can handle some pain, and are prepared to work hard to get better. You would be surprised how many guys come in thinking wrestling will be a walk in the park, only to quit before their first day is done.

Aron: Work out as much as you can, do matches whenever you can--friends, whoever--and expose yourself to it on YouTube and wherever you can. Then email BodySlam.

BodySlam: The guys are right. This isn't easy. You don't have to be in great shape. Hell, I do it, but I am using trained muscles that other big guys don't use. So, yes, work out the right way. Learn from the right people. We have to waste so much time retraining people. Also, ask a lot of questions before signing anything. Do they offer training? Or do they just let you jump in and get hurt. I was doing pro and once saw this new guy get into the ring for $20, and these two wrestlers just worked him over for a fifteen-minute match in a ring. The fans loved it and cheered them on. When they were done, they pinned him and left him. He had to be carried out by the ref and other wrestlers, and he ended up in the hospital. He was seventeen, and the two wrestlers were later arrested and fined. But I learned right there, know what you're doing, and know the people you're working with! Here at the UCW, I make sure everyone knows what they are getting into and can handle it. And I give them the tools to protect themselves. There are videos you won't see on our site, because I had to stop the match and send guys home who weren't ready for this. So make sure you are. Then call me.

3 comments:

  1. Awesome interview! Keep up the good work!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Excellent interview

    ReplyDelete
  3. Great interview. Good insight to a new and rising star of a company. Keep up the hot work fellas.

    ReplyDelete

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