BROWN: We’re back on Going Off Script, I am Will Brown joined as always by Allen Tyson, tonight’s guest is a man who really did everything you could do in the industry. A multi-time world champion who also held just about every kind of title you could in professional wrestling, one of the most controversial, yet well-regarded talents on the circuit who retired in his prime. His name is synonymous with both NFW and WFW, and you can't talk about Ares, Shane Southern, Felix Red, Jonathan Marx, Craig Miles without mentioning Michael Monaghan, aka Michael Manson himself.
TYSON: Thank you for doing this, Mike. It’s quite rare for you to actually do an interview since you retired.
MANSON: Thanks for having me. I thought enough time had passed for me to have more of a proper perspective on my career, and sort add an exclamation point to it. Or maybe a question mark. I don’t know.
TYSON: We’re glad to have you Mike, so what got you interested in the business and how did you get started? Were you a fan when you were younger?
MANSON: Aren’t all little kids? By the time I was a teenager I’d grown out of it, and was mostly into comic books and drugs. I graduated high school early and left home, and basically drifted around. I spent a lot of time in Europe and Japan, doing special projects and course studies that I talked a few universities into accepting as college credits so I ended up with a couple of college degrees that way. I was even in stunt school for a while, toured with a circus, and got back into wrestling since I’d help put together the rings and pass fliers and that sort of thing. I was taking kenpo karate in Japan and through one of the trainers got into the Ultimo Japan training camp.
BROWN: I’ve heard that that’s absolute hell.
MANSON: You’d wake up at dawn to hike up a mountain and then climb down for training for the entire day. And then there’d be your own private workouts, any chores you were expected to do, and sparring. Things always got really physical, but I was a black belt heading into and the school I went through emphasized street fighting. It doesn’t even look like real karate, but it was tough and physical so I lasted when almost the entire rest of the class dropped out. They put a mask on me because I was a such a smart-ass, and at the time, I was reading all about satanism and witchcraft because that’s just what I happened to be reading about at the time, and they called me Mephisto. I toured in Japan, Mexico, and Europe once or twice before the American feds took notice of me.
BROWN: I know you were in a league that was thought of as being a kind of minor league place when you first started getting attention, you and Ares were the big draws there, was that the first time you had met Ares?
MANSON: I cut my teeth in a lot of the smaller American feds, and Ares was working a lot of those same places and, somehow, we ended up having this huge feud across the whole circuit. We worked so much together that we became friends. In fact, he was my best friend in the industry for years. I learned a lot from that feud and time period so a lot of promoters just wanted me to be a wild, satanic mad man and just brawl and bloody the shit out of everyone, but Ares and I would always try out different things. Eventually, I started showing I could actually wrestle, do submissions, and actually come off the top. My character became more like me, but darker, more psychotic, manipulative. Ares went in the same direction, even getting that swastika tattoo.
TYSON: I remember that. It used to get so much attention.
MANSON: I was there when he got it and I was trying to talk him out of it all up until the end. Anyone can dress up like a Nazi and get heat, and he didn’t need it. But he was insistent, despite the fact that he was Jewish, man! So we used it. We became the evil fucks who didn’t care about god or satan and did whatever the hell we wanted, not caring about good taste or morals or anything.
BROWN: The Devils Incarnate, the DI.
MANSON: I was never thrilled with the name, but teaming with Ares got us further than just feuding. We actually worked with the jWo, which back then was the biggest thing going on the circuit, and that got us into Boston Action ‘N’ Destruction, which we had just taken over by the end. We would have had to have feuded with each other because there was no one else. A few other guys passed through DI over the years, but it was really me and Ares that made it work. I was kind of sad though since I won the BAD world title, and people were looking at me as the DI leader, and Ares got kind of jealous, even though promoters out there were offering him the world. He had the look, he had size, he could talk. UWA was falling over backwards for him, and it was kind of like, we like your friend too so he can come with you.
BROWN: So suddenly you were in the big leagues. What was your time in UWA like?
MANSON: Surreal in a way. I had gotten to know Doc Silver from the jWo and he always put in a good word for me with anyone he hadn’t pissed off yet, but it was all highs and lows. It was the biggest names in the world at the time the highest level of workrate and talent, and there was this huge momentum to it at the time. Me, Ares, Alex Wylde, and PC, Problem Child were recruited all at the same time and were basically supposed to be the next wave of stars for them. We all hung out together and were basically our own group while was Canyeta, Steele, Dones, and, sometimes, Craig Miles, depending on what week it was. There was a lot of politicking and in-fighting that I’d never seen before, and tried to keep out of.
BROWN: I remember your feud with JT Tyler.
MANSON: Oh yeah, one of the things Quentin Sullivan, who was always a big supporter of me no matter where we were working, did was let me do a lot of my own storylines. Ironically, it was at first a big three-way between me, JT Tyler, and Shane Southern. That was around the time Shane got into that motorcycle crash and hurt his leg and no one thought he’d ever come back. So it was just me and JT, tormenting each other every week over the US title. We were spiking the ratings and everything. We headlined a couple of house show tours, and Carlos Canyeta, I had become friends with, really wanted to work with me at some point. But Winston Steele, whom I actually travelled with a few times, didn’t want me getting pushed so much since he wasn’t a fan of my act. It wasn’t anything personal, plus he knew he was dropping the world title to Canyeta and didn’t know what his future was like in UWA, especially with all these new guys eating up TV time.
TYSON: I remember that road trip series of promos you did with Ares for the Random Rumble, that stuff really set the internet on fire, why do you think that caught on so well?
MANSON: Because we sold it. Our characters were just exaggerated versions of ourselves. On the road, we were always on E and picking random broads, tearing up motel rooms, pretending we were satanists and making up rituals and sacrifices as we went along wot freak people out. We just put it on footage. My favorite bit was how back then King Krusher used to go on and on in promos about his brother who was a cop who died so we went to a garbage can to find him since I was claiming I shot him. It was like nothing else at the time and we weren’t just pushing the envelope we set it on fire.
It helped Ares more than anyone since to the UWA brass it made him look like the biggest star in the world. We were even talking about having me steel the world title belt -- which I thought would lead to me versus Canyeta -- but instead I’d give it to Ares. I was liking working with JT and knew my time would come so I was fine with it. Then the Random Rumble came and I assumed Ares was going to win it, though I really thought there should be a massive build to Ares versus Canyeta, but then Michael Sparks won. None of us knew at the time what the hell was going on, but I figure they realized they needed to build to Ares versus Canyeta, and didn’t want Canyeta losing the belt so quickly so they took someone who was pretty good and made him a star, even if he didn’t really deserve it. I mean, yeah, he was an al right guy, but Sparks wasn’t working half as hard as any of us at house shows and coming up with new material. We were revolutionizing the whole industry and he had some lame catch phrase about how guns don’t kill people, but Michael Sparks. I still wonder if when I was done with JT if I was supposed to work with Sparks, but the UWA folded due to numbers or whatever. Most of the roster had already been signed by IWC though so it was just like it absorbed UWA into it. Whole different vibe though.
TYSON: There was an even a IWC tribute show to the UWA.
MANSON: There was a lot of talent and staff who worked for both, and the UWA was really something in its day. The IWC was great too, but there were even more politics there than anywhere else I ever worked. Everyone was out to fuck over everyone else. I’m kind of ashamed to admit this, but I kind of fucked over Ares too since Doc took over the book and I turned on him for the big push.
BROWN: You won the IWC World Title. It was the first time a lot of people regarded you as a main eventer.
MANSON: I really clawed my way up through the ranks. I had title shots and worked with different people. I liked Wildstar a lot as a person and he was an incredible athlete, but didn’t really know how to sell or put a match together. I found later in NFW he had a greta mind for the business though and was the best wrestling analyst I ever heard. Pi could be really good, but was just a horrible little shit of a person. Still, it was the first match I ever had with Shane Southern and then one of the first time I worked with Anarky, and Javid Dones as a promoter. Also, while I always had my own fan base, I started noticing that people were into me as an act. There were times I was getting a face reaction. At the time, no one thought I could ever work as a face, but it got me thinking.
I won the world title at the end and I was really proud of it, but the IWC shut down not long after though Doc assured me it had nothing to do with me. And, really, I wasn’t even champion long enough for it to matter. I got to say the IWC was the last time I really saw Ares motivated. He could have gone so far, but I still wonder if me screwing me was what took the heart of him. He actually called me and asked me to sign with the NFW when it was starting, but he hadn’t stayed active on the circuit like I had.
TYSON: You worked for a variety of small to medium-sized promotions back then, most notably the IWF and NFWA. A lot of people like to hunt down the old footage of you competing back then.
MANSON: At the time, there was no huge fed that stood out above all the others. The NFW became that eventually though. I went to these other feds to keep active and because of my time in IWC and UWA I was seen as the biggest star there. I had the biggest contracts, I chose my own schedule, I had a lot of booking power. Hell, I’ll even say it. They’d buy escorts and sell them right up to my hotel room for me. I never had to buy any of my own E or acid. The agents just gave it to me.
But I look back and see this as the time that I really developed my character into the more machiavellian absurdist he became. I also became more of a technician wrestler and highflyer. I won’t lie though. I loved doing whatever I wanted.
In IWF, I had this Manson’s Rules gimmick where I chose the stips for every match and, sometimes, changed them in the middle. I worked with some cool guys like Nemesis and Suicide, Midiot too, Larry Tact. A lot of talent that could gotten much bigger if someone had shown them the right ropes. Maybe it should have been me. I don’t know. I was too wrapped up in my own work. I even had a storyline where I declared myself God and was throwing lightning and everything. I think that the point I realized that wrestling didn’t always need to be ultra-realistic and could be tongue-in-cheek. After that, my character in general became more like a comic book character and it opened my eyes up to what we could do with wrestling as medium which others couldn’t. Of course, even though I was drawing insane money, a few people didn’t like having me around.
BROWN: You got to be talking about Jean Rabesque.
MANSON: He’s the main one. Before him, he was the big guy in IWF, but then he and everyone jobbed out to me and I was still dominating him when were in NFWA. Every chance this guy got, he bad-mouthed me and tried to get out of even having a match with me since he knew he’d always job. This guy based his whole gimmick on having 5 star matches and being a 5 star wrestler. What a fucking idiot. You’re supposed to want to win all the matches in character. You don’t care about 5 stars or whatever else. The guy was pretty decent in the ring, but nowhere close to what he claimed. He was a horrible promo too. He even faked a leg injury to get out of a match with me in NFWA.
TYSON: I read about a backstage encounter between you guys.
MANSON: I basically threw him out of IWF. We met up in NFWA and King Krusher and Scott Malec who were running things back then wanted to take advantage of the real life heat and do the match. I was willing to so as long as I crushed the fucker since I had in every match everywhere else. Then he claims he hurt his leg, and this is where things get creepy. Even by my standards.
A few other guys used to tell me that he obsessively watched all my matches, taped them, and re-watched them again and again. They said he had this collage of pictures of me that he put up in every hotel room, and that he’d tell any girl he picked up to call him Mister Manson. I even heard he’d dress like me when he was off the road.
Then came the night that Jean Rabesque tried to kiss me. He was arguing with Malec about jobbing to me in a tag match and I rounded the corner and basically called him a bitch. We shoved each other and Malec told us to take it outside so I was waiting for him in the alley and he starts staring at me all weird and he leans like he’s going to kiss me. I couldn’t fucking believe it. I slapped him and then decked him and then stomped the piss out of him. Then he was really injured and didn’t have to work with me.
BROWN: How did you like working with Malestrom?
MANSON: Eh, decent guy, but not too bright. A terrible worker and a terrible promo. Yet, he had size and the look. Malec loved him and I was the heel world champion with a reign of terror going on. I had this program going with Golem. He was a big guy, but agile, could work. Wore green fur and had this mystical gimmick going that worked well for him. Had he really gone for it, he’d have gone far in NFW. Malec, of course, always wanted Maelstrom as his champion since he was the king of minor leagues and that’s really where Malec had his heart in as a promoter. It made since for the heel to get his comeuppance so I lost to Maelstrom and then they started building up to Anarky versus Maelstrom, but I was still the biggest draw and every show was built around me anyway.
TYSON: The NFWA folded not long afterwards though. Could it have lasted if you had stayed champion?
MANSON: I don’t know. It closed because Malec and Krusher had some personal issues to take care of, and the bigger promotions were signing up their talent. Krusher even worked a few NFW dates. But NFWA was mostly good. I got to form the Gentlemen of Destiny, or GOD with Nark and Jonathan Marx, who was the first really young wrestler who ever said he grew up idolizing me, which was weird since I wasn’t even that old. But, maybe because I felt bad because I didn’t do enough to help the younger guys in IWF, I showed him the ropes.
Interesting anecdote, few years later, Malec and Krusher wanted to try again with the AFCW and, of course were going to base it around Maelstrom, who pretty much only ever worked for Malec. They wanted to sign me, but, in going over everything with them, they wanted Marx as their top heel in a horsemen-like faction, and I didn’t want steal their thunder. Plus, I didn’t to do the same old programs over.
Instead, I devised a masked persona called Phoenix where I’d be the ultimate face. I’d even stop run-ins and shake hands and everything. The angel would have climaxed with me against Maelstrom for the title, where we fight off the inevitable heel run-ins and I break a chair under his head and do the turn and the mask comes off and the world goes berserk because it was Mike Manson all along. AFCW never got off its feet though.