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AN INTERVIEW WITH PELIGRO

by Evan Ginzburg

EVAN GINZBURG: Tell us about your early training and how you broke into the business.

PELIGRO: I was fifteen years of age when I discovered a local wrestling school in the Bronx. I signed up and met a few wrestlers who taught me the basic moves. From there I decided to incorporate all their teachings into one style until I met Bobby Bold Eagle.

EG: Do you have any background on Bobby? A lot of the New York and East Coast indy workers seem to have a lot of respect for him.

P: He was a Junior Heavyweight Champion who mainly worked in Japan and Mexico. His style was very different from what the American style was back in the 80s. In a way, he was a nineties wrestler working in the eighties, like the junior heavyweights wrestling today. From that day he took a liking to me, and we took it from there.

EG: Give us a little idea of what went into the training. I don't think the average reader realizes just how punishing it is and difficult to learn.

P: The thing about Bobby Bold Eagle's training is that I was actually learning Japan style--Dojo training. And if anybody knows Dojo training, then you know how punishing that is. So basically Dojo training is doing moves repeatedly from simple backdrops to suplexes to going off the top rope repeatedly for like an hour and a half non-stop until you can't get up anymore. Also hard calistenics and stretching moves like head bridges, doing squats, push-ups, and so much else. Just intensely. And it's done for about three to four hours or more until you can't get up. We got body slammed like a hundred times. Over and over again. Suplexes. Over and over again. And learning the ring. How to move around the ring. A lot of wrestlers today don't know how to move around the ring, and that's why they're always getting hurt. That's how I see it.

EG: Let's talk about that for a second. There are so many schools today. Who is to say that the wrestling students are learning correctly?

P: That's the problem that we have today. There are inexperienced people teaching people. With all due respect to every school that is out there, many are not teaching correct basic wrestling. Basics such as bumps, holds, simple executions of maneuvers. I mean we have guys falling on their tailbones, necks, breaking falls with their wrists, and falling on top of each other. When I learned wrestling, the two most important ingredients of wrestling is to protect yourself and to protect the other man. That's why we have so many injuries now. Another thing is that people take offense when you tell them that a move they are doing is wrong. Now I don't claim to be a teacher of wrestling, but when I see a student learning their falls, I tell him, "Hey, you're doing it wrong." If he wants to listen to me, fine. If he wants to keep doing it wrong, and possibly get hurt, that's up to him. I'm glad I've learned the correct way to wrestle.

EG: Since we're talking about good, solid wrestling, is it enough to be a skilled veteran to earn a living in the business?

P: It's not enough, because in this business I've learned that sometimes you have to know people even to get booked on a show. Most of the guys have second jobs because they can't make a living in independents. The independents are basically for three reasons--to gain valuable experience, to be discovered, or just as a weekend hobby.

EG: What are some of the pluses and minuses of working the indys?

P: I know these are the independents and they don't pay very well, and it's a great learning experience for inexperienced wrestlers, but it doesn't make sense to bring in a name and pay him $600-$700 and just give the mid-carders toll and gas money. The mid-carders are the guys who make the whole show. Fans come for the whole package. For example, I was working for Pennsylvania Championship Wrestling about a year and a half ago. The promoter would bring in a name and have his local guys wrestle with the big names and establish credibility within the federation. The fans enjoyed the show, and on one occasion there were no names, and that was the largest crowd he had. So you can use the names to help build the younger guys. And I must say I wrestled in a lot of independents, but that is the most organized and well-run independent promotion in the Northeast today.

EG: I remember you working a real wild match and getting hit in the face with a belt and chair. Your face was swollen during the ride home. People tend to think this business is all very glamorous. It's not so great when you're in pain and you're collecting an indy payday. . . .

P: It's not so great. I'd rather do that in the big time. All I did that day was go home and went straight to sleep. Didn't even bother checking my face. It's just part of the business. You can't get upset by every little nail that you break or every hair that splits in two. It comes with the business and people need to accept it.

EG: I've seen on many occasions the wrestlers get to a building and ask each other for Tylenol or Advil or whatever. They're still in pain from the night before. . . .

P: Just like I said, some guys don't know how to break a bump. They get hurt and then they end up on pain killers every day of the week. I'm glad I'm not one of them. I know a few guys I don't want to mention by name that are addicted to pain killers. Enough pain killers to kill them. When they start mixing pain killers and steroids and other drugs, that's when people start dropping dead. . . .

EG: So what role do you think the promoters should take in preventing this? Aren't they responsible as the big promotions keep these guys working 200-250 days a year?

P: I don't blame the promoters. I blame the fans and the wrestlers. What I mean is, wrestlers go out there and they'll bleed, use chairs, tables, death defying moves, and fans are going to be exposed to it and thrilled by it and want more. Wrestlers are willing to oblige, and before you know it, the moves are getting more dangerous. If you throw a basic, traditional match, the fans don't want that. The promoter, well, if he needs to make money, he's going to hire wrestlers that are willing to give the fans what they want.

EG: What about drug testing? Are you for or against it?

P: I guess I'm undecided. If you drug test guys, that means half the guys in the business are out of the business. And if you don't drug test, half the guys in the business are in danger of killing themselves and influencing other wrestlers to go that route. By being chemically enhanced, wrestlers don't hone their skills. They sacrifice wrestling skills just to look good.

EG: Do you think that not being 6'2" 275 has hurt your career? I know you have an excellent reputation among the indy workers and promoters, but you have yet to be picked up by the major promotions.

P: Yes, it has, because I refuse to take drugs or steroids to look more like what has become the norm in wrestling today. That's why Japan is more appealing to me. They're not concerned about size. I guess in Japan, skills are all that matters, plus a little charisma.

EG: Tell us about some of your influences in the business. I know you've been a fan for a long time.

P: Well, Harley Race was an influence to me. This guy knew what he was doing. Wasn't a high flyer, but a great technical wrestler. Most of the Japanese guys like Tiger Mask, Tatsumi Fujinami, and Antonio Inoki. Also the Dynamite Kid. Now I like Tajiri, Malenko, Hayabusa.

EG: So you watch a lot of tapes? Do you pick up any moves, or is it just for entertainment?

P: Both for entertainment and moves. I try to study the moves and the psychology of the wrestling matches and try to integrate it into my own style, and I've also originated and modified a few moves.

EG: Since you're a student of wrestling history, I know you're familiar with the Harts and Stampede. You may be joining that promotion in the very near future. You must be excited about this opportunity. . . .

P: Yes, I am. Everybody knows that the Harts and Stampede are very well respected, and for me, it's an honor. Bruce Hart took a liking to me when he was here in New York managing for Ultimate Championship Wrestling back when I was wrestling as The Pharaoh. Although it took some time for Stampede to bounce back up, it's great timing because as I was wrestling here, I was also working full-time. It's just a matter at this point of working things out with my employer and getting the time off to make a go of it up in Calgary. Basically I'm going to go there for the exposure, experience, and of course everybody's dream of getting where you want to go. Hopefully Stampede will be the place--people dream to go there, and I have this chance to make it work. Like any other promotion, it takes time to build, but I have confidence in Bruce and the Hart family that it will work.

EG: Have you watched the old Stampede tapes? Those guys were really something. . . .

P: Yes, I did. I remember when Owen started out. Dynamite Kid. Davey Boy. Brian Pillman. I'll tell you the truth, I really think they set the standard of wrestling today.

EG: It doesn't seem like they're getting much coverage in the sheets. What's your take on this?

P: I guess it's because they're just starting out. They just got a TV deal. They're all the way up in Canada. Basically, the sheet guys haven't seen the product. They do have a Web site though. WOW Magazine gave them a lot of ink.

EG: Tell us about some of the name opponents you've worked.

P: I worked with numerous guys like Tiger Khan, Paul Lauria, Tatanka, Neidhardt, and La Raza. Don Montoya was my partner--we wrestled King Kong Bundy and Boogie Woogie Brown back in PCW. That's to name a few.

EG: What are your future plans?

P: To be successful and well-respected in the wrestling business for years to come. Hopefully I can wrestle in Japan. Who knows, maybe I'll get one of those zillion dollar contracts that they're offering (laughs).

EG: Well, I certainly wish you all the best. You've been at it 16 years and have certainly paid your dues up and down the East Coast. . . .

P: Believe it or not, yes I have. But you know what they say . . . good things come to those who wait.

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