Monday, June 17, 2013

My Field Trip to UCW (Day One, Friday 6-14-2013)

Friday afternoon I sat down in Bodyslam's office with Quinn Harper, 5'10", 175#,  the highly controversial new bad boy at UCW. I have had something of a love-hate relationship with this guy these past few months. His abusive language and unstinted savagery often put me off; nevertheless, I feel strongly that, as I have stated before, he is the most exciting thing to happen at UCW in a while. I love to watch this guy work an opponent. Nobody does it like he does it. With a background in high-school wrestling (seeding first, second, and third in Maryland), martial arts, and gymnastics, Quinn tears up the mats with moves, with attitude, with pure, unstoppable aggressiveness. He's also been a fixture in east coast pro wrestling for over a decade.

I asked Quinn how he got involved at UCW. Word of mouth, mostly. He heard about the company from a friend. He checked into it and saw that it produced the same kind of raw, balls-to-the-wall fight shows that he was used to from the pro ranks. Once he got there, it turned out that he liked the people--at least enough to feel it was a good fit for him. "Something else to dominate," he boasted to me, the arrogance in his facial expression unmistakable. "A new place for me to vent my frustrations and be myself. It was a chance to dominate. I could be top dog here."

So, I asked, what would UCW be like if Quinn Harper were in control? He didn't skip a beat. Clearly it's a question he had already asked himself. "Amount of vets versus newbies. I'd invite more vets. But I love giving the newbies a beating that you can't give a vet. That makes it worth my time to be here."

I mentioned Bodyslam's once calling UCW the "working man's wrestling company." "I am the walking personification of that idea," he said. "I'm a hard worker: a construction worker by day, a wrestler by night. My hands are cut up. I got 'man's hands.' That's clearly not a disadvantage to me around here."

I pointed out how radically different his style was from other UCW wrestlers, namely Axel, whose name need only be mentioned to Quinn and his pupils widen and snap into crosshairs, like Wile E. Coyote's in a Roadrunner cartoon. "The most knowledgeable guy I've fought is Axel," he conceded with atypical grace. "The company's top man. He knows the most moves, knows how to get out of the most moves. He's the biggest challenge." Who else does he like? "[Tyson] Hammer's got talent. He's got a real future in the business if he keeps at it." I asked about his most recent match against Pippin. Quinn sneered: "Pippin's decent but too much of a pretty boy to my liking. My sights are on Axel. I'm gunning for him. One hundred percent balls out let's do it!"

"He's the boss's pet," he said, still speaking of Axel. "He gets away with anything he wants. To me he's just another young punk for me to take down. Now basically I've made him my plaything. I've got in his head. Wrestling is not just about wrestling. There's a lot of mental that goes into wrestling. I have successfully got into Axel's head, under his skin. And Axel is not just one man. He represents the whole company. He's got the promoter, the fans, all in his pocket, but all it's gonna take is that one guy, with enough drive, enough determination, to topple that empire. And as the old song says, you ain't seen nothing like the Mighty Quinn!"

When he got heated, I started worrying about how long his reach was. He continued, in somewhat calmer tones, to tell me about his place at UCW as he sees it. He's not, he said, "the average pretty boy floyd of UCW. I don't have the perfect teeth. The nice complexion." He spit out the word "nice." "I'm a little bit of a roughneck. I'm a lot of a roughneck. But I bring things other people don't bring, can't bring. A lot of people don't have the stomach for what I do."

He looked me square in the eyes, when he spoke next: "I get a lot of heat because I call a guy 'a princess' and 'a pretty boy' and other derogatory names. Bodyslam tries to tell me what not to say, what not to do. But I'm not the type to coddle. I'm here to take ass ... take names ... and be a force at UCW." I didn't comment on the Freudian slip. I figured his fist was only about two feet away from my chin.

Speaking of chin, I asked him about the goatlike chin hair, which other fans have complained about. Me, I kinda like the beatnik-meets-rough-trade look. "I am who I am," Quinn responded. "I've got the moves. I work circles around these guys. These other guys have the perfect bodies, but they don't have what I have. I got the moves. I got the drive. If you don't like it, change the channel."

Then I asked about his infamous thumb move, which I have nicknamed the "anal intruder." He told me the idea sprang from advice his high-school wrestling coach gave him, calling it "the best way to keep a guy off his knees." Yeah, I said, but why do you lick it before jamming it up an opponent's ass? "Just me being a nice guy," he said, smiling broadly.

Later that evening, while pork chops were sizzling on the grill, I got some alone time with Axel, 6', 160#, specifically to ask him to respond to some of the comments Quinn had made against him. "Next to me," Axel said, "Quinn Harper is probably the best wrestler at UCW right now. He's not the friendliest wrestler, and that he made perfectly clear with the two-on-one beatdown he and Stay*C Adams did on me. As for being the 'boss's pet,' I am the other boss at UCW. So I'm nobody's pet. I have earned my place here by working hard and being a fan favorite, and that's how you survive in this business, by being a fan favorite. And him, he's only been around for a few months. I don't see him lasting too long. The last guy with that sort of gimmick was Twisted Torment, and he's no longer a part of UCW."

I asked Axel about the pressures of being co-owner (this past year) of UCW. He named some of them: "Trying to take on more work, more responsibility in the company, other than being pretty and wrestling. Now I have to help bring in new talent, answer customers' email, a lot more administrative work." He said that, right now, finding new and capable talent with a commitment to wrestling was the most difficult task.

What might be some of the other challenges he's faced this past year? He said, "It's hard work to distinguish me at UCW from the versions of me you see on other sites. Here I'm the nice guy. I'm everybody's friend. I want people to come back and work for this company. At other sites I don't care about the other wrestlers, and there I get to let my angry side come out." I asked him which was harder, being the good guy or the bad guy. "Being the good guy is always harder," he said. "A bad guy can do anything. The good guy has to follow the rules." He tried to remember something Doctor Who (he's a fan) once said: "Good men don't need rules. Today is not the day to find out why I have so many." Which I took to mean that he thinks that it's the rules that make a good wrestler "good." Being violent by nature, he needs rules to keep his "angry side" in check.

Besides Quinn Harper, who else at UCW needs to be put in his place? "Eli Black," he said, "obviously. Me and Eli have this little feud going on right now. I'm surprised we haven't had a match yet. I think Bodyslam is waiting till things between us reach a boiling point before putting us together in a match." Axel seemed to have a special animosity towards Eli, who would be arriving for scheduled matches the next day. He explained, "He likes to act like he's the greatest, but, as we all know, he lost to Joker. Of all people. And he still hasn't had the belt." Axel was the first wrestler to wear the UCW championship belt. "Other people have been in the company a lot shorter time than Eli and have accomplished a lot more. The only thing he has to show for all his hard work is a little slave. And a [homemade, cardboard and duct-tape] belt that looks like it was made by a fifth grader."

The "little slave" Axel spoke of is Private Jack Marino, who after losing to Black several months ago, was forced to serve as Eli's errand boy slash whipping boy. Black often carried Marino bound and gagged to his matches, as both a souvenir of his domination of the young soldier and a backup if Eli found himself in a tight spot in a match. "Private Jack was a huge find for us," Axel told me. "And I hate to admit it, but Eli Black deserves credit for bringing him to us. Unfortunately, he's in the military, and he's away on active duty now. We're not sure when he's coming back." He said that Jack was hoping to be deployed overseas soon. "Our main hope is that no harm comes to him, and we hope he'll be coming back to UCW. He's one hell of a fighter, and the Army is lucky to have him."

I asked Axel about UCW's future plans. He said, "I definitely would like to see us acquire a new space. The garage has been good for us, but the company needs  a change of venue to grow. We've been looking for a bigger space. There's been talk of getting a ring, but there's also  question about whether that's right for UCW. The no-ropes, bare walls, open fight space is what has made UCW unique among other web sites. By moving to a ring, we risk sacrificing our identity." In response to a question about new talent, Axel tells me that he and Bodyslam attended the Philly Pride Festival earlier this month, passing out brochures to several hot guys who looked like real prospects for the company. "We're hoping to get some of those guys to wrestle for us." Word of mouth is one way the company builds its roster, and it even offers a finder's fee to its wrestlers who recruit other wrestlers. But this approach to roster-building has not been as successful as hoped for. "It's kinda like Fight Club," Axel told me, "not a whole lot of our fighters talk to others about the fighting side of their lives."

The topic of Axel's new body came up. Even more than the photographs demonstrate, I got a sense of Axel's being heavier and harder, especially in his neck, shoulders, and upper back, than he was when I last saw him. Fans have responded to his physical changes in a "huge" way. "If you were to put a picture of me now next to me when I started at UCW, the difference would be obvious." He's trying to add lean mass slowly, not bulk up too quickly. He's lowered his intake of sugar and processed foods. He takes in 3000 calories a day, which he monitors on his smart phone. "I listen to my body pretty closely," he said. In the morning he works out with weights. In the evening he trains in jujitsu. He works out four to six days a week, sometimes twice a day. Then, of course, there's the fact that he wrestles for a living. "There's no miracle drug. It all comes down to looking at what you eat and how active you are." Right now he's going to school to become a personal trainer. He said he plans to start using the UCW video-blogs to pass on information about fitness, stretching, "even stuff you can do to improve your conditioning while watching TV."

"Because I'm in such good shape now, I get more offers to model. Plus there's a chance I might be appearing on a TV show later this summer." I begged Axel for more information about his acting prospects. But he suddenly went tightlipped on me, and, besides, the pork chops were ready to eat.

Axel and Bodyslam scour Party City for props and costumes for upcoming matches and the Fourth of July

Quinn Harper



Quinn looks like he means business during our interview in Bodyslam's office

Quinn, in a more reflective moment

The planning board for the weekend's match schedule

Quinn watches himself in a match against Ashley Decker

Nick Diesel, whom (speaking of Freudian slips) I kept calling "Dick"

Pork chops and cajun-style beans and rice

Axel chats with me about the burdens of leadership

Quinn preparing to shoot a video interview with me in the garage

Quinn and me in the garage

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