Tuesday, June 29, 2010

SPORTS>>Blood, sweat, tears are real, in ring and out

Leader sports editor

Yeah, it’s staged.

Only the sweat, blood and pain are real.

And the tears, especially the tears.

Professional wrestlers Dick “Tugboat” Taylor and Chaz “Mr. Right Now” Taylor paid a visit to central Arkansas on Friday and, without prompting, the father-son duo answered the big question — yes, the matches are staged.

However a lot of real effort goes into the stagecraft — which Tugboat teaches to youngwrestlers at his Houston-based school — and the proof is in the scars.

“I tore my bicep, I’ve had both knees replaced,” Chaz Taylor said, flexing his right arm to show the evidence of one of his surgeries. “I’ve had a tumor taken out of my head.”

However there is one scar, shared by both men, that remains hidden. It can’t even be seen when Mr. Right Now removes his leather mask.

But it’s there, and it’s the reason the duo came to Arkansas in the first place.

More than 10 years ago the Taylors lost a beloved family member, Chaz’s sister and Dick’s daughter Kelli, a nurse who was murdered in a case of domestic violence by her husband in Florida.

“So that drives us. It hit home,” Chaz Taylor said. “We saw what it did to us and her son and everybody that just loved her. She was one of the greatest women. She went out of her way to make people happy.”

Kelli, who died at 28, worked with kidney dialysis and AIDS patients, helping people too weak to help themselves. But when Kelli was in need no one was there to defend her, something that has haunted her surviving family members.

For years, Chaz said, he has wanted to do some sort of work on behalf of the weak and abused but didn’t know how to get involved.

While wrestling at a fund raiser for Flippin High School in April, Chaz and Tugboat met public relations director Melissa

Woodruff, a former employee of the White Co. Sheriff’s Department, who now works on behalf of animal rescue causes.

Woodruff, once a victim of domestic violence herself, pointed out three of five people known to have abused animals eventually commit violence against humans, and that includes notorious serial killers Jeffrey Dahmer and Ted Bundy.

“If we can stop the cycle of animal abuse then maybe we don’t lose people,” said Woodruff, who explained that to the Taylors when they met.

The wrestlers bought into the cause.

They weren’t in Cabot on Friday to wrestle, they were on hand at a local event to help promote animal rescue shelters like BoxAR Rescue, Misfit Mountain Rescue and the Jacksonville Animal Shelter.

“Walk before you run but we have some great friends, family and connections to help everybody,” Chaz Taylor said.

Chaz started small. He said one of the first things he did after meeting Woodruff was help out building a horse fence at Noah’s Ark Animal Sanctuary in Houston.

But soon he was helping people, trying to break the cycle.

“We met a lady out there that is a victim of domestic violence and I contacted her with my friend, so they’re getting her help,” Chaz said. “We’re a tool to help people and we have that avenue and connections. What if it’s your mom, your girlfriend, your wife, somebody, your best friend? I want to do what I can to help them.”

Chaz said he draws inspiration for his masked character, Mr. Right Now, from the idea of protecting the defenseless.

“Defender of the voiceless and beautiful women everywhere,” he said and joked about that last part. “You have to tack that on right?”

But Taylor draws even more inspiration from his children, his son Dean, 7, and daughter Cynthia, 5.

“What if they were in a situation where I may not be around?” He said. “I would want somebody to step up and help them.”