By DARREN YOURK – For SlamWrestling.net
Notorious T.I.D. is perched on a balcony 15 feet above a screaming crowd with his arms stretched out and a sick smile on his bloodied face. On the ground below, “Bloody” Bill Skullion lays draped over a table, beaten senseless. The two friends have spent the last 25 minutes hitting each other with road signs, steel chairs, trashcans and anything else they managed to get their hands on. T.I.D. surveys the crowd and slowly nods his head as the cheers grow louder. Suddenly he’s airborne and lands a split second later with such violent force that the table splinters in half and he bounces up off of Skullion’s body as the crowd roars. This is what a guy with a 9 to 5 office job does for fun on weekends.
Chris Tidwell may be the only professional wrestler who is telling the truth when he says he hails from Las Vegas, Nevada. Hearing the story of his life thus far makes it hard to believe that he is only 30 years old. He is one of those rare people who has had the opportunity to go everywhere and try just about everything, but he feels his biggest accomplishments are still ahead of him in the world of pro wrestling.
Monday to Friday Tidwell works the phones putting deals together for AvailableMedia.com, a Toronto company that sells national advertising for everything from movie theaters to bars and television networks. On a couple of weekends a month he becomes Notorious T.I.D. (‘Til I Die), a top star for the Hardcore Wrestling Federation, an independently owned and run wrestling promotion that holds their shows in small venues throughout southern Ontario.
“In a way my job is kind of related to the world of wrestling,” Tidwell said. “The most important thing in the wrestling business is knowing how to promote yourself as a product and I’m on the line every day working on ideas and possible promotions with some pretty big companies. There is a definite creative element in both things and I think I’m learning a lot that ends up helping my wrestling.”
The man who would grow up to pierce his eyebrow, cover his arms in tattoos and give profanity-laced tirades to draw the ire of rowdy wrestling fans, was born into an American traveling ministry that spent time moving all over the west coast and Midwest states. Although the majority of his childhood years were spent in Salem and Spokane, Tidwell says he will always call Vegas home.
“That’s where most of my family still lives and I have so many good memories because there was always something cool going on,” he said. “I’m really busy with work and wrestling, but I still make a point of getting back there whenever I can.”
A drummer since the age of 10, Tidwell finished high school and was offered a full music scholarship to play percussion at the University of Southern California. At the same time he was playing in the punk band AA who got offered a record deal on a small label.
“I thought about going to school for a bit, but I really wanted to tour and take a shot at being a rock star,” he said. “It came down to four years of reading textbooks or playing music for a living. The band jumped in a van and spent six and a half months on the road playing before it all fell apart. It ends up that we had too much attitude and not near enough adjustment.”
When he wasn’t making music Tidwell was watching wrestlers like The Road Warriors, Magnum TA and Nikita Koloff in the American Wrestling Alliance. “I grew up watching the AWA shows that came out of the Vegas area,” Tidwell said. “I remember having great seats to a show one night and right in front of me Jimmy Snuka takes this massive DDT from Colonel DeBeers on the concrete and the place just went nuts. That’s when I knew I wanted to wrestle for a living.”
Tidwell makes no excuses for his years between the band broke up and his subsequent move to Toronto. After a number of run-ins with the law, he knew he had to make a change in his life. In 1988 he packed his bags and headed north.
“My mom had remarried after my dad died and moved up here,” he said. “She loved it here and always wanted me to come up. It got to the point where I decided the best way to stay out of trouble was to leave the situation all together. I guess sometimes in life you have to make an adult decision. Man I hate that.”
Upon his arrival in Toronto the 6’4″, 270-pound Tidwell found work as a nightclub bouncer and personal security for former CTV talk show host Camilla Scott. He was also taking extensive training in a number of different styles of martial arts and co-hosting the first ever online broadcast wrestling show.
“We started doing the SLAM wrestling show on the Internet at a station called Virtually Canadian,” Tidwell said. “In the beginning my partner Donnie Abreu talked wrestling and I did a lot of stuff on ultimate fighting. We pulled in great ratings and it eventually grew into Live Audio Wrestling, which is on Saturday night’s on the FAN590 now. I eventually got let go from the show, which ended up being okay because it gave me time to work on my wrestling dream. I’m still proud of starting that show up.”
Tidwell began his wrestling training in Burlington in the RWA promotion. His first match ever was a battle royal in front of a small crowd in Burlington. “I remember climbing through the ropes and being so happy that I finally was exactly where I wanted to be.” he said. “Then I got nervous thinking about how much this was going to hurt. I took my first cane shot that night.”
After leaving RWA due to the lack of effort the promoter was putting in to getting the promotion and its wrestlers noticed, he moved on to train under Waldo Von Erich in the ICW promotion out of Cambridge. He was fired from the company for being too much of a ’90s wrestler instead of a ’70s ring technician. He would later meet HWF owner and promoter Mark Anderson and eventually landed a spot on the HWF roster.
The mention of weapons in a wrestling match brings a smile to Tidwell’s face. In his brief career he has worked hard to master the dangerous art of the no holds barred hardcore match. It gets so brutal that his mom refuses to watch him wrestle anymore. The rules are simple: There are no rules. You can pin your opponent anywhere in the building and use any weapon you like to beat on your opponent. The Notorious T.I.D. is known for his barbwire plunger shots.
“Well I’ve always felt there isn’t near enough good comedy in wrestling,” Tidwell said. “Nobody wants to see two sweaty men roll around in their underwear. I’ve used everything from an oar to a Nintendo in my matches and the people love it. One night I happened to get my hands on a toilet plunger and decided to use it. I knocked my opponent down then put the suction cup end over his face and started plunging and the crowd went crazy. It was one of those rare moments of brilliance where a gimmick is born.”
Jeff Marek, an executive producer during the early days of the SLAM wrestling show and current co-host of The LAW, says Tidwell is delivering the kind of performance that is necessary to make a name for yourself on the independent scene and maybe catch the eye of the big wrestling companies. “Obviously this isn’t the World Wrestling Federation where you have hours of TV exposure every week to develop characters and storylines,” he said. “Good comedy and hardcore wrestling is where it’s at on the indy scene because it is that quick fix that gets the crowd going. I’ve seen T.I.D. wrestle at least 12 times and he’s absolutely fearless out there. He works really hard and is dedicated to putting on a show. That’s what people who go to the shows love about him.”
The HWF superstars come from all walks of life with one common bond: Wrestling is in their blood. For between $50 and $100 a night, guys that have families and steady day jobs put their bodies on the line in bars and small clubs. While the WWF and WCW wrestling programs usually start with the talent showing up to huge arenas in stretch limos, most of the guys got to a recent HWF card at the Palace bar in Guelph via carpool. The basement floor of the bar acts as the backstage area where the boys catch up on old times and plan for tonight’s matches.
“Obviously none of us are in this for the money,” said Germain Wilson, a freelance camera operator who wrestles under the moniker J.Q. Publik. “I guess there is a certain level of masochism involved because you hurt for days after a match. We put our health and day job on the line because love being in front of crowds and performing. I can’t get wrestling out of my blood.”
While Wilson considers himself more of a fan favourite and technical wrestler, he sees why the crowds love Tidwell’s matches.
“He hits people with stuff and the crowd loves it,” he said. “As long as hardcore wrestling is cool T.I.D. will be too.”
About 400 fans have packed the Palace to watch the action. From the opening bell the crowd is into the action, often raising their plastic beer cups towards the ceiling and chanting “We want blood, we want blood!”
Men who during the week are nurses, jail guards and personal trainers, walk to the ring under names like Magnus, Tommy Twilight and Custom Made Man. At the intermission it is announced that tonight’s main event will be a hardcore death match between Bloody Bill Skullion and Notorious T.I.D.
The two combatants sit backstage by a pool table talking about doing a big spot to end their match and getting taped up. Tidwell’s spiked hair and goatee have been dyed bright orange and Skullion is busy digging through a garbage bag with what appears to be the handle of a baseball bat sticking out of it.
“I’m always nervous before I go out there,” Tidwell admits just before show time. “But the best wrestlers are the guys who are in the zone as soon as they step in the ring. It is a completely different world out there and you have to be alert and ready to go right away.”
As promised Tidwell and Skullion deliver the biggest moment of the night with the balcony jump. Skullion remains motionless on top of a pile of kindling while T.I.D. stumbles back towards the ring to raise his arms in victory and sneer at an appreciative crowd. He has supplied the violence they were waiting for and they can now go home happy.
Back in the dressing room Skullion and Tidwell are both fine and promise to go for a beer before Wednesday night when they’ll be working the door together at a downtown Toronto bar. Wrestling is an art form, and even in a hardcore match the most important thing is taking care of your opponent’s body so you can both walk out of the building under your own power at the end of the night. After cleaning most of the blood off his forehead, Tidwell looks over and matter-of-factly asks, “So whatcha think?”
If making it big in the business was based solely on hard work and love of the sport, Tidwell would be wrestling on TV every Monday night. For the time being he will continue to chase his dream by being a media salesman by day, and on a couple of nights a month, the baddest man in the HWF.
“You just have to believe in yourself and keep sending tapes of your stuff to the bigger companies with the hope that they will notice you,” he said. “I’d wrestle anywhere, anytime because I love it that much. You have to stay out there and work your ass off for years if you’re going to make it. I’m willing to do it because I want success that bad.”