This week, an incident that took place on an independent wrestling event in Iowa has caused a debate. As seen in this video (link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JPMp86PRrzU), Tony Kozina, whom I have known for probably ten years, “wrestles” Ryan Kidd, whom I’ve also known for a couple of years.
As the story goes, and I wasn’t there to see or bear witness to anything either way (and don’t truly care), Kidd supposedly disrespected Tony to the point where Tony felt the need to “teach Kidd a lesson”. As evidenced by the video, that lesson ends with Tony choking Kidd out and leaving the ring.
Now here’s where the debate comes in. Some people have been outraged by Tony’s actions and others have come to Tony’s defense, saying that he was simply policing and protecting the “business”.
I have friends and people I’ve known and respected for years on both sides of this debate, and I went on record and called what Tony did reprehensible and classless. I stand by that 100%.
Some of those people in support of what happened have contacted me (some privately, some publicly) and even a couple of these people have seen fit to insult me for my thoughts on it.
For those who can’t understand my stance on it (because I’m supposed to be “old school”), let me illustrate it with a story. This is a story I share EVERY time I lead a seminar or training class and one that I am thankful for EVERY day I compete in pro wrestling.
My fourth match in the wrestling business was in Milwaukee for Carmine DeSpirito’s Mid American Wrestling, and was against a man named Bull Pain.
I was an up-and-comer in the Midwest and creating a nice little buzz for myself, and if I’m being honest, I was getting a big head – much too big for the little success I had attained to that point. Bull, on the other hand, was a veteran of many years, respected where ever he performed, and was renowned as a 100% legitimate bad ass. I, like many, was terrified of Bull. As I went up to him early on in the night to introduce myself (we’d never met), he gave me a methodical once-over and calmly said “See ya in the ring, kid.”
Now I was really scared. Not only had I never met the man, but he just brushed me off to my face, and left me to think about my life until it was time for us to go out and perform.
The match? Well, it consisted of Bull beating the ever-loving shit out of me for 20 minutes before putting me over clean in the middle of the ring. He pounded me, he stretched me, he “put it in” on me, etc. The bottom line is that he was in complete control of that match, put a beating on me, and could have ended me at any point he wanted to. He was physically teaching me a lesson.
The REAL LEARNING came afterward, when Bull sat me down for a good half hour and explained everything that happened, and more importantly why. The real lessons he TAUGHT me in that time I have taken with me for more than 16 years now and have called upon countless times. Back then, like in this Iowa instance, some people thought he was too hard on me, and I certainly remember others thinking the opposite – that I’d gotten what I deserved, but more importantly, what I needed.
There are tangible differences in the two stories, however. The first is that while Bull could have taken every liberty and put me in legitimate “harm’s way” he didn’t. He never dropped me intentionally on top of my head, and certainly never choked me to unconsciousness. Trust me when I say he could have done any and all of that if he wanted to. Instead, he CHOSE to give me a physical lesson in a way that let me know I was in there, that he was in charge, but also didn’t leave me scarred, and he afterward he CHOSE to explain himself and in the process become a leader and mentor to me when I didn’t really deserve it.
The other big difference is that I was 18 years old.
I can’t debate whether Ryan Kidd deserved the “lesson” Tony Kozina gave him as I wasn’t there, and to me, it isn’t the issue and doesn’t even matter. Whether Ryan Kidd belongs in the ring with Kozina or anyone else isn’t the issue and doesn’t matter.
What I was referring to when I called Tony’s actions reprehensible and classless is the fact that Ryan Kidd is ONLY 16 YEARS OLD. Nothing more; nothing less.
I personally think 16 years old is TOO YOUNG for anyone to be travelling across the country and performing as a pro wrestler. That’s MY OPINION and one I’ve shared with people around Ryan Kidd and with him directly. The way the Iowa incident unfolded only cements that opinion more.
Whether you or I or anyone else thinks physical “lessons” in wrestling are barbaric or masochistic or outdated is immaterial. They happen. I’ve been a part of both ends of it. I’d like to think that I am an example of GOOD coming from it.
I don’t see any good in what happened in Iowa. I am of the belief that there is a litany of ways to teach someone something, and after watching that video I still can’t tell you what was taught.
I can guess that what Ryan Kidd ultimately learned is that “Tony Kozina is a bully that picks on kids near 30 years younger than him because he can”. As I said, I’ve known Tony and I don’t really think that is the case, and I certainly don’t think that is the “lesson” he was attempting to impart. What I do think is that a real chance to mentor and teach was thoughtlessly cast aside in favor of what ended up happening, and I do think (based on what I SAW) that Tony acted with complete disregard for the safety of Ryan Kidd and without a clear understanding of the responsibility he ultimately holds for doing what he chose to do to a minor.
Ian Rotten called me “soft” on Twitter for taking the stance I did. If by “soft” he meant that at 34 years old I’m “responsible” and “understand that there is a proper time and place for everything” and that “discipline is different for adults than it is for minors AND SHOULD BE”, then color me a softy. The unwritten rules of pro wrestling do not apply when dealing with what amounts to a child, and veterans have a clear responsibility to TEACH the greenhorns in order to nurture the future of our industry.
What I saw in that video is really tantamount to nothing more than a public assault on a minor who willingly gave his body to another person and had no idea that the other person had no intention of performing along with him. I see no defense for that, and feel 100% that there’s no place for it in my wrestling world. I have no problem saying that out loud. My track record speaks for itself.
There, I hope everyone can understand where I’m coming from.
Oh, and THANK YOU again to Bull Pain. Hope I see you soon, my friend.