Tuesday, June 29, 2010

SPORTS>>OLDSCHOOL WRESTLING Father, son duo make stop in Cabot

Leader sports editor

When Dick “Tugboat” Taylor talks about taking professional wrestlers to school, he means the old school.

Taylor, 64, is retired but operates Tugboat Taylor’s School of Professional Wrestling in Houston. A one-time wrestler in the famed World Wrestling Federation, among other organizations, Taylor has the credentials to teach the sport to others, but they need to come at it the right way, he said.

“Old school,” he said. “Amateur wrestling. The kids nowadays, all they want to do is fly.”

Tugboat and his wrestler son, Chaz “Mr. Right Now” Taylor, visited Cabot and North Little Rock last week on behalf of local animal shelters to promote awareness of a new, favorite cause — fighting animal abuse.

“Taylor-made,” Tugboat said.

But when he is teaching pro wrestling at his school, Tugboat said, he stresses a basic groundwork of amateur wrestling, the “real” kind, before letting anyone start leaping off the turnbuckles.

Chaz, the masked “Mr. Right Now” and Tugboat’s first graduate in 1987, carries the old-school banner like his dad. Opposing wrestlers are actually a team, Chaz said, and a basic grasp of wrestling techniques allows that team to accomplish the goal of putting on a good show.

“Making it look as real as you can without hurting each other,” Chaz said. “We’re out there as a team to get our point across.

It’s not about me looking better than you, you looking better than me. It’s about the whole picture out there.

“Some of the newbies have lost the concept of that, lost the grasp of that, where they get out there with the big head.”

Tugboat was a high schoolwrestler in Clinton, Iowa. A Viet- nam veteran, he also wrestled for the Marine Corps and was a U.S. Team alternate to the 1972 Olympics.

He turned pro in 1980 and trained under Johnny Valentine, whose son is Greg “The Hammer” Valentine.

“I could always entertain people,” Tugboat said. “I could always beat people up.”

Tugboat gained some notoriety wrestling in the WWF on and off for 6-8 years. He is CEO of Houston-based World Of
Wrestling, but no longer enters the ring himself.

“It’s tough. It wears you down,” he said. “I was lucky. I started late in my years in the business and that’s what kept me pretty for so long.”

The WWF is now known as World Wrestling Entertainment, reflecting the public’s changing perception of pro wrestling as a show first and a sport second. The WWE is owned and operated by Vince McMahon, who has had his share of legal troubles and bad publicity through the years but is acknowledged as a marketing genius.

McMahon and the WWE bought out World Championship Wrestling, consolidating Mc-Mahon’s place at the top of the wrestling pyramid, but there is plenty of room still for other organizations.

Chaz said he and his fellow WOW wrestlers have traveled the nation and visited countries like Brazil, Saudi Arabia, Japan and Belize. There is usually at least one show a week, but sometimes four, adding up to 300 days or so a year on the road.

Sometimes promoters will fly the wrestlers in and sometimes the wrestlers drive themselves. The money ranges from $3,200 a night, maybe more, to just enough to pay for gas, food and lodging.

Chaz said the wrestlers even make it a habit to pack their gear when they go on vacation. You never can tell when you might bump into a promoter, wrestle at a local gym or armory and wind up with enough cash to pay for your trip.

And while he loves what he does, Chaz said, the money is important. Wrestling without a contract means no health insurance and Chaz, in his late 30s, said he has had a torn biceps and two knee replacements.

Those kinds of things happen when a guy gets thrown from six feet onto a ring supported by angle iron and covered with 2 x 12s and an inch of foam rubber and canvas.

“There’s padding there but if you’re being thrown from six feet in the air or higher, you’re being thrown from six feet in the air or higher,” Chaz said.

Just like any other athlete in a physical sport, wrestlers wake up sore after each bout, Chaz and Tugboat said. In fact, more than one former football player, martial artist or body builder has taken a stab at Tugboat’s school and received a rude awakening.

“We let them take the bumps and hit the ropes and we never see them again,” Tugboat said.

Unlike Tugboat, Chaz’s background is more rooted in professional wrestling, though Tugboat had Chaz on the mats at the local YMCA as a 5-year-old.

The family moved to Texas, where there was no scholastic wrestling available at the time. Chaz learned the family trade and made his TV debut as a high school senior in a Global Wrestling Federation match in Dallas.

“We do it for the love,” Chaz said. “When you’re out there and all those kids and parents are cheering for you and a little kid runs up and is like, ‘Can I have your autograph sir?’ That’s just cool.”

Now that he has children of his own — a son Dean, 7, and daughter Cynthia, 5 — Chaz said it’s a thrill to see them play with their Mr. Right Now action figures and brag to other kids about what their dad does for a living.

It makes the staged bouts and the very real bumps and bruises all worthwhile, Chaz said.

“My kids are proud to tell their friends who I am,” he said. “I’m going to ride that for as long as I can.”