Category Archives: Pro Wrestling

Happy Birthday Sweet ‘N Sour

Alex Whybrow would have been 33 today. Wrestling fans knew him as Larry Sweeney – he once told Colt Cabana he chose the last name Sweeney because it rhymed with wienie, and he wanted to give the fans a potential chant.  Funny how things work out; most fans loved Larry, even when he was a heel.

Sadly, I didn’t know Larry existed until after he took his own life. One day on Twitter last year, I saw a bunch of folks Tweeting the hashtag #12LargeBrother. I did a Google search and discovered this remarkable guy who, as it turned out, had some demons that he couldn’t conquer.

I have to believe that, with so many Ring of Honor and independent talents working in the WWE and TNA now, if Larry had been able to hang on just a little longer, someone would have found a role for him.  Sure, he might have been smaller than many wrestlers, but he would have made a wonderful WWE manager.  He had a gift, and I so wish we were watching that gift develop on live TV every week rather than remembering what was via YouTube.

Happy Birthday, Larry.  In that better place where you now reside, I hope you see how much you and your work were appreciated and loved.


From the Archives: Ryback, back in Indy with the WWE tonight!

LISTEN: Ray Steele with the Big Guy, Ryback, from March 11, 2013:

Looky what I found in the archive!  My short but kick booty visit from The Big Guy, Ryback, who is back in town tonight for the WWE live event at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indy.  He was a good Big Guy back then; he’s not as nice on screen now.  But he was super to talk to the morning of March 11, 2013, when I was filling in as host of Indy’s Morning News on WIBC, and he was getting ready for Raw that evening.

It’s great to have Ryback back in town.  I’m really pulling for this guy to have a great career.

Who Should Win the Slammys? First, the version

No goofy intro necessary.  Let’s go to the award categories and, in one sentence, my pick to win and who I believe will win. (not enough brevity amongst some in the IWC.  Love y’all, but just sayin’):

Breakout Star Of The Year:
My Pick:
The Shield. No offense to the other excellent nominees, but these guys have been bad booty daddy every single time they have been in the ring on TV, zero exceptions.

Who will probably win: The Wyatt Family.  Hard to argue against them, as they are more fun than a ham on sale for Hanukkah.

This is Awesome Moment Of The Year:
My Pick: Dolph Ziggler cashing in Money In The Bank.  Raucous crowd cheers when they are supposed to boo, and creative hasn’t figured out what to do with Dolph since.

Who will probably win: Kofi Kingston’s chair hop at Royal Rumble.  For my money, not as exciting as his hand walk last year, not that I could do anything that Kofi can do.

Trending Now; Hashtag Of The Year:My Pick: #FollowTheBuzzards. Don’t know where it came from, but it doesn’t matter, and you can’t get creepy Bray Wyatt out of your mind after he says it.

Who will probably win: I’ll go out on a limb and stick with the Wyatts, though it was a toss-up for me between it and #WeThePeople.

Couple Of The Year:
My Pick: Don’t care, but since I have to pick, I will go with Daniel Bryan/Brie Bella.

Who will probably win: Natalya/Tyson Kidd, in a gimmicked vote to help Total Divas (I’m kidding! Nothing against them, but I don’t need it plungered into my brain every 5 minutes.)

Favorite Web Show:
My Pick:
The Art of Wrestling, with professional wrestler Colt Cabana.  No, that isn’t what WWE is talking about, but virtually everything else started with either Colt’s podcast or, if you want to go way back, Byte This.

Who will win: JBL & Cole ShowAlthough for the mistake Cole made in discussing Chris Jericho’s Undisputed World Championship on Smackdown, they should be disqualified (I like Cole, unlike much of the IWC, but that was a dropped ball).

Feat of Strength Of The Year:
My Pick: Mark Henry pulls two tractor-trailers with his bare hands.
 How in the blue heck can you pick anything else? Seriously.

Who will win: C’mon, why are there even any other nominees, WWE?

Catchphrase Of The Year:
My Pick: We The People. Another one the fans are supposed to boo, but don’t, because The Real Americans are that good at what they do.

Who will win: Yes, yes, yes.  And I have no problem with Daniel Bryan winning, as it would be well deserved.

Say What? Quote Of The Year:
My Pick: Paul Heyman Volcano Tirade.  Which one? Who cares, as all of Paul’s moments on the mic are a promo class for everyone else in pro wrestling.

Who Will Win: I think Paul will win this one, though I should have said that the Kosher Butcher was my pick.

Best Dance Moves:
My Pick: Fandango.
  The former Johnny Curtis is so (bleeping) bad, it’s so (bleeping) good (bleep) – dirty words on the reggggggggggg.

Who Will Win: The Funkadactyls, in another Total Divas gimmicked v….I’m sorry, I shouldn’t harp on that.  Moving on.

Tag Team Of The Year:
My Pick: The Shield (Rollins and Reigns).
They haven’t had a bad match in one year; how do you vote against that?

Who will win: Cody Rhodes & Goldust:  Not a bad pick, but not as many good matches under their belts as a team this year as Shield.

You Still Got It (Superstar return):
My Pick: Goldust.  Any question that he looks better now than he ever did in his previous 20+ years in the business?

Who will win: Goldust.

Faction Of The Year:
My Pick: The Shield, for reasons already explained.

Who Will Win: The Shield, then 3MB will get peeved, do something stupid, and get their spangled pants beat off them.

What a Maneuver! Award:My Pick: Cesaro Swing. AJ’s Black Widow is impressive, but the oldest of the old school moves has helped us forget that just a few months ago, they were making the enormously talented Mr. Castagnoli yodel.

Shortly, my picks for the Slammys to be given during Raw tonight, via the Dubya-Dubya-eeapp vote.

Colt Cabana; Thankssss. Hope I didn’t spoil your groceries

My conversation with professional wrestler Colt Cabana:

When he called, Colt told me he was getting some grocery shopping done. After I yapped my head off like a fan boy, he said something about putting his groceries away. I have this vision of melting ice cream bars. Sorry about that, Colt.

I didn’t know who Colt Cabana was until the week of June 2011. That’s when he played a role in my return to loving pro wrestling the way I loved it as a kid. And an adolescent. And as a college student using my Mom’s money to buy pay-per-views. And as a young adult who worked for a radio group in Huntsville, Alabama that also owned a low-power TV station which ran ECW on Saturday nights.

Long story short, CM Punk did this…

Credit to a guy who gets a lot of undeserved internet crap: John Cena executed perhaps the longest sell of a spear through a table in WWE history.

I had never seen Punk wrestle before then. The most I had seen of Punk was his guest shot on Ghost Hunters. Since then, I have not missed any WWE programming on TV. But I also wanted to learn everything I could about CM Punk, because he was so dad gum fun to watch. What I discovered was this wonderful world that I had missed out on for the previous decade – the independent wrestling shows and promotions like Ring Of Honor where gentlemen like Punk, Bryan Danielson, Tyler Black and Claudio Castagnoli proved that they deserved a shot at the big time world of the WWE. So did a guy named Colt Cabana.

Some of those wrestlers got their shot. Punk and Bryan (now Daniel Bryan) are two of the biggest stars in the company. Seth Rollins – the former T. Black – just completed his first year in WWE as part of The Shield, the wonderful team that started the revival of tag team wrestling in the company. Claudio, as Antonio Cesaro, has some of the best looking moves in pro wrestling, and WWE fans have started to dig his version of one of the oldest of old-school moves – the giant swing.

And Colt Cabana, in his words, had “a thimble-full of coffee with WWE.” Which is bullcrap, but the times may be a changin’ on that front – please listen to the podcast for an explanation.

Colt is an inspiration to anyone, in any business field, who may have lost their “dream job.” It surely hasn’t been easy, but Colt not only learned his trade – pro wrestling, he learned how to communicate with his fans. Colt learned how to podcast, from recording to producing, mixing and publishing. The Art of Wrestling became my education into this beautiful pro wrestling underbelly (not to mention insight into some of my old favorites like William Regal, George South and Tommy Dreamer – wait, Tommy’s not old. Crap. Thank you sir, may I have another?)

Colt also built a business based on what he knows best – himself. He learned how to market that business, and he has gotten to see the world and make a lot of people happy despite not being with “the revolutionary force in sports entertainment.” Colt Cabana, who admits to never reading, is a best-selling self-help book waiting to happen. And Matt Classic could whip Tony Robbins’ butt.

Colt is also a dang good wrestler and is funny.

Colt and his partner in the video, comedian Marty DeRosa, will join Colt’s good friend (and one of his best wrestling rivals) Kevin Steen at the The Heorot in Muncie on Sunday night, December 29. It’s a comedy show – the three basically make fun of old wrestling matches, and (say it like Mean Gene) did you know, Colt has done this show around the world?

I will see him in Muncie, and I hope you will, too.

Big E Langston – Massive Intercontinental Champion, Teddy Bear Hugger

LISTEN: Ray talks to WWE Intercontinental Champion Big E Langston:

Teddy bear hugger?  Yep.

Start watching at the 5:34 mark.

Big E Langston is no stranger to Big Ten country.  When he was an Iowa Hawkeye, he was Ettore Ewen.  But you may not have seen him on the defensive line very much, as he battled injuries as much or more than offensive tackles during his college career.  He is more noticeable today , and not just because he is 285 or so pounds of muscle.  Big E is a rising WWE superstar, the current Intercontinental Champion, and he is scheduled to be among those competing in the squared circle when WWE returns to Bankers Life Fieldhouse on December 27.

Big E has been Big E since he was a little E.  “It’s something as far back as middle school and high school where people were calling me Big E.  My first name is kind of hard to pronounce, so people just always called me Big E.”  For the record, his given name is pronounced eh-TOR-ee,  And if it isn’t, I will speak to you from a jar at the Indiana University medical lab on December 28 after Big E gets through with me.

I often wonder how often guys the size of Big E get asked “Hey, do you lift weights?” For Langston, the answer yes, and for a long time.  “I started lifting with a serious program when I was 12 years old.  I saw results within three weeks of starting weight training, and I was hooked.  Just having the ability to control your body and the regimen it takes, it was something I was in to.”

He got more serious about his lifting after his football days ended, and after pro wrestling began.  “I didn’t start my power lifting career until I was signed by WWE, and I was in development in Tampa,” Langston said.  “I had a lot of fun, and was able in 2011 to win the USAPL National Championships as a super-heavyweight.”

He has trimmed down a smidge since his competitive lifting days – if you consider dropping to 285 trimming down.  But Big E can still lift a little bit of weight.   “I can still squat over 700 pounds.  I’m a little off (my personal best), but not by much.”  What the slight weight loss did was give Langston an extra burst of speed coming off the ropes that most other big men in wrestling don’t have.  “For me, that’s my way of separating myself from some of the other big guys here, to be explosive, to be agile.”

Don’t let the size fool you.  Like many other WWE superstars (Jack Swagger and Dolph Ziggler to name a couple), Big E has legitimate grappling skills – he was a Florida state wrestling champion in high school.  “My dad is Jamaican and became a huge wrestling fan when he moved to the states, and he passed that on to me as well.”  A career as a wrestler didn’t occur to Langston until much later on.  “I was very fortunate; a guy I played football with at Iowa knew a booster who had a connection with Jim Ross,” the WWE Hall of Fame broadcaster and former head of talent relations for the company.  “They suggested my name, sent some pics to WWE, and I got sent me down to (WWE Developmental) in Tampa for a week for a tryout.”

You know a Big E Langston match is ending when Langston lowers the straps on his singlet and delivers the ending – as in the Big Ending, his finishing move.  It’s where Big E hoists his opponent onto his right shoulder and crashes violently to the mat, opponent face-first.  “I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to use as a finisher when I first signed, but honestly I have to give credit to (fellow WWE wrestler) Curt Hawkins.  He showed it to me and gave it to me four years ago, and it’s the only finisher I have ever used.”

Next for Big E? Be a top guy in the company.  “I think we all strive to be at the top in this business.  Every time I step through the curtain, I try to be better than I was the night before.  It’s been a great start, but it’s just a start.”

Mick Foley – Wrestling, Writing, and Stand-Up (Need my aliteration refresher)

Mick Foley talks about pro wrestling, Santa Claus, and his one-man show:

(BTW, the song at the beginning of the podcast, after the “Back Home Again In Indiana” theme, was the song played for Mankind after he won a match in his early WWF years. It may be the most brilliant piece of matchmaking between song and wrestler in the history of the company.)

The picture is from one of the greatest moments in the history of WWE television.  The (and Ric Flair, I love you, but I must write the following) undisputed king of wrestling promos delivered one of the dozens…….AND DOZENS of masterpieces in an interview segment with Jim Ross.  But my absolute favorite Mick Foley wrestling moment, and that’s not easy to choose, was this one.  Genius.

“I think I am thinking what you think I think you’re thinking.” Good lord, that was funny.

Triple H sold it masterfully, and the Garden erupted as perhaps it never had before, and most certainly hasn’t since.

I also miss the heel Jerry Lawler.  “Quit brow beatin’ us with useless information, and go check on Chyna.”

Mick Foley, as the title of his second book says, is good, and the real world is faker than wrestling.  His one-man show is this Sunday in Muncie and the following Sunday in Bloomington, with a stop to snack on some fruit cake in Santa Claus in between.

I won’t write a mushy essay about how much man love I have for the man.  Suffice it to say, I was a slobbering fan boy when I got to meet him the day after Survivor Series in Indy last year.   I will withhold the mushy details.

Today’s Pro Wrestling Coffee Break: Castagnoli/Hero vs. Cabana/Generico

AKA: Two guys who are in WWE and two guys who should/will eventually be there. Includes one guy who was named dropped in four different ways by CM Punk on Raw last night.