Around the mainstream wrestling circles, “Irish” Mickey Doyle probably isn’t a household name. But mention his name in the Detroit area and you’ll get the occasional “Oh yeah, I remember him.”
A Detroit native who was raised in the eastern suburb of St. Clair Shores, Doyle now resides outside of Green Bay, Wisconsin, and works the afternoon shift for the U.S. Post Office on the docks unloading trucks and driving forklifts.
But it wasn’t always like that. Doyle used to be a sound wrestler and toured small promotions alongside big names in the 1970s and 1980s.
Starting out in his wrestling endeavors more than 35 years ago and getting into the business was something he’d “wanted ever since he was a little boy watching Angelo Poffo and Buddy Rogers on TV,” Doyle said.
“Lou Klein ran a school down in Allen Park (Mich.) and I went there back in 1969,” Doyle told SLAM! Wrestling. “My first TV match was in 1970 in Walled Lake against a guy you’ve probably heard of — Freddie Blassie. Needless to say, I didn’t win. Freddie had just left L.A. and was working some of the territories and he knew The Sheik and he brought him in.”
After bouncing around the Midwest, a “punch and kick area,” according to Doyle, for a spell, he headed south to Tampa where Hiro Matsuda and Eddie Graham were the noted big shots.
“I wrestled at the Sportatorium and took advantage of the opportunity Florida presented,” said the 5-foot-11, 220-pound Doyle. “It was a good place to learn. Anyone can punch and kick, but I was doing head scissors and high-risk moves and Florida helped me utilize those more.”
At the end of 1971, Doyle was paired up with Mike Boyette as The Hippies down in Mobile, Alabama. For the next three years, Doyle and Boyette toured Los Angeles, Kansas City and Tennessee territories and also Pensacola, Florida. The duo were NWA U.S. tag champs out of the Gulf Coast territory.
“Mickey was a lot smoother in the ring than Mike, but Mike was the more vicious of the two and the fans figured Mike was capable of doing anything to win a match,” said “Cowboy” Bob Kelly, the booker in Mobile in the 1970s. “They got over real well as a team, but Mike lived his gimmick more than Mickey did, so consequently they didn’t stay together long before Mickey wanted out. Mickey was a very good boy and I hated to see him go, but under the circumstances I understood.
“The California Hippies could have made it big time in any territory as a team if they could have some how stuck it out together. I have nothing but good things to say about Mickey Doyle, in and out of the ring.”
Doyle called that time period “the best time in the business.”
“Pensacola was great,” he beamed. “For that time, I was making about $450-500 a week and for back then, that was great money. But in the south, honest to God, we were stars. People recognized us outside of the ring and it was just a great time to be involved in the business.”
The celebrity status did have its pitfalls, however.
“The wrestling business isn’t good for a marriage,” noted Doyle. “Cute girls are everywhere and they want to be seen with you and be with you. Wrestling can also be a very hard business as it puts stress on families.”
Pittsburgh was the next stop for Doyle and he had the opportunity to team up with Bruno Sammartino on a number of occasions, but “nothing noteworthy,” he said. Doyle was working for $100 an appearance and it was during that period he decided to come back to his Michigan roots and see what Motown could offer.
“I came back to Detroit and worked with Fred Curry, who was one of The Sheik’s boys,” Doyle said. “I could work babyface or heel and I was happy to be home. Eddie Farhat, Jr., was the booker and he used me great. I even went to St. Louis and worked the Kiel Center and Chase Hotel.”
If ever there was a time for Doyle to get a push, it would have been then, the early 1980s. But a snap decision by Doyle to leave Detroit ultimately, in his eyes, ruined his career.
“Greg Valentine told me there was a spot for me out in California, I’d be used face or heel, whatever I wanted, and so I went,” Doyle explained. “I stayed out there 10 years, but my second week there we lost our part-time TV deal on NBC. The company went bankrupt, but a lot of the wrestlers also stayed and worked. Guys like S.D. Jones (whom he held the tag belts with in L.A.), Les Thornton, Don Muraco, Black Gordman and Goliath and Chavo (Guerrero) Sr. were all out there.
“It didn’t really make that much of a difference where I worked because my marriage was in the shitter at that point. I had a three-year-old who was basically being raised by a single parent, my first wife, and I was on the road a lot. Being a wrestler sucks for a marriage, let me just say that.”
But being a wrestler itself hardly sucks. And Doyle earned praise for those around him.
“When I started as an announcer, he was in the South with Mike Boyette and I met him later on in the ’70s,” Terry Teagarden said of Doyle. “Mickey was always a great fella, in great shape and the audiences really liked him. He had a great action style. It surprises me in retrospect that he didn’t get a bigger push in Detroit or elsewhere.”
Not exactly a push, but a first happened out in Van Nuys, Calif., in 1982 as “they put a hood on me,” laughed Doyle.
“Ever heard of Piel Blanco?” Doyle asked. “No? Didn’t think so. Well, that was me. I also worked with Peter Maivia in Las Vegas and then in 1984 I started with Pat Patterson in the Olympic Auditorium in L.A. and boy, did we pack that place. We’d get about 8,000 for a show with standing room three-deep. It was awesome. But it was also during that time that the whole carnival with Vince (McMahon) and the (then) WWF was starting to hit its stride.”
Back in Detroit, Doyle was packaged as the fifth Kangaroo with Al Costello and they worked promotions in Michigan and southern Ontario. Doyle also formed a championship tag team with the green Al Snow as the Motor City Hitmen, and later they were known as The Sensationals. Doyle also crossed paths with a young Scott D’Amore, who had created Border City Wrestling and was looking to get his name out in the wrestling eye.
As a unit, Doyle and D’Amore created the Can-Am Wrestling School and trained students who would eventually become names such as Rhino, Chris Sabin and Petey Williams. For a time, Doyle was Border City Can-Am champion as well.
“I had trained and had my first few matches but was still as green as could be,” remembered D’Amore. “We had a ring in Windsor that myself and some of the locals worked out at. Mickey and Denny Kass started coming over and working out with us. It was a perfect deal. They got a ring to work out in and we got good experienced wrestlers to train with.”
In the ring, Doyle wrestled with and against the likes on “Punisher” Rock Stevens, “Spartan” Greg Bobchick (who subsequently ended up in prison for steroid trafficking), Jim Lancaster and “Coach” Kurt Schneider. Doyle also wrestled on a WCW show in 1989 at Cobo Arena with Rick Steiner in front of 700 or so fans, “dead” as he called it.
“In his prime, Mickey was known as a bumping heel and a great tag wrestler,” added D’Amore. “He was still both of those things and more when I met him. He was also a great leader in the ring and always willing to help out the other guys.”
Doyle also trained a young female in the late 1990s who was billed as Doyle’s “daughter,” Shauna Doyle, in the Michigan promotions.
“That gal has so much potential,” he said. “I hope she catches a break in one of the big companies.”
A mid-1990s retirement match saw Doyle beat Snow and Dr. Tom Prichard in a final hurrah, but in the world of wrestling, retirement simply means a slight sabbatical.
Nowadays, Doyle is still involved in wrestling, but mostly as a spectator. Once he and his new wife laid a foundation in Green Bay, he hooked up with NWA Wisconsin and worked the bar scene on a part-time basis. He also continues full-time at the post office.
Not quite L.A. or Detroit, but the bars gave Doyle a new look at wrestling and the business overall.
“That was, um, interesting,” chuckled Doyle. “But it was intense, too. You had the guys in the bar all liquored up and screaming at us and really getting into it. The only bad thing was the smoke, but you got used to that.”
In 2003, Doyle was invited to Oldcastle, Ontario, for BCW’s tenth anniversary show. He tagged with D’Amore and “Irish” Bobby Clancy against Cyrus, Denny Kass and Chris Pillon.
“That show was a major buzz for me,” said Doyle. “It was cool, not like the whole L.A. deal. I’m pretty banged up, but I’ll throw jabs and take a bump for anyone. I’ve had nine operations in my life, all related to wrestling, and three of those have been on my left arm. But at that show, we put on a good show, but I obviously can’t do stuff now that I did back in 1984. I just can’t; my body says no.”
A year later, Doyle was brought to Nashville for TNA’s second anniversary show.
“That was all Scott (D’Amore),” said Doyle. “He got me in. No one knows who I am any more, but that show was another buzz and a nice payoff for me. I also did a nice vignette with Sabu, so that was kind of cool.”
Doyle was at ringside with Harley Race, Larry Zbyszko, Corsica Joe and Sara Lee. During the show, Doyle met up with Sabu and talked about The Sheik. Doyle said that Raven had disrespected Sabu’s family by hanging a mannequin looking like The Sheik from the ceiling.
“We had a storyline with Sabu and Raven and needed a link to The Sheik,” D’Amore said. “People were racking their brains trying to think of a way to link the angle to Sheik and Mickey was down visiting in Nashville, so I threw it out there. After he did it, Dutch Mantell said we should keep him around and have him teach some of the guys how to cut believable promos.”
With TNA and WWE dominating the TV scene, Doyle said he doesn’t watch wrestling that much, but does tune in when he has time.
When he does, he does so reluctantly.
“It’s so stale these days,” boasted Doyle. “I mean, look, you got a guy like Shawn Michaels — a great worker, but too predictable. You know at some point in the match, he’ll hit the forearm, do his little kip-up, bodyslam, elbow off the top and then his kick. There’s no element of surprise any more. Maybe a lot of that has to do with the Internet, but I think WWE is very stale. No one really grabs you, but I do miss the height of ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin’s days when he drove the beer truck and had his feud with Vince. Those were good times for sure.
“TNA is more about wrestling, but still has storylines and gimmicks like when I wrestled like with Pepper Gomez’s cast-iron stomach and guys like Dick the Bruiser. Vince will tell you that TNA is no competition for him, but that is rapidly changing. He’ll never admit it, though.”
Another item Doyle learned from the wrestling business is the theory of “few friends, many acquaintances.” He said he can name four guys as absolute cohorts and the rest as co-workers and the like.
“Tom Prichard, Al Snow, Scott D’Amore and Ken Lucas (former wrestler from the Pensacola years) I can honestly say are true friends,” Doyle said. “And other guys I’ve met over the years I am also fond of. For instance, one time backstage at a WWF show, Michael Hayes approached me and told me he asked me for my autograph when he was a kid. That really hit home.”
Snow has been with Doyle as a colleague long before Tough Enough, the New Rockers, Shinobi and Head.
“Al’s just a terrific guy,” said Doyle. “About five years ago, he flew me on the road with him. I was backstage with him in Pittsburgh, Pensacola, the Georgia Dome and then to Birmingham (Ala.) for a Smackdown! Show. How many guys can you say would openly do that for a friend? Probably not too many.”
“Mickey is one of the nicest guys I’ve even meet, not just in the wrestling business, but anywhere,” D’Amore said. “I know Mickey and I will always be friends. We don’t just talk wrestling. We both love sports and can talk about baseball or hockey for hours. Wrestling really is a world where there aren’t many true friends, but Mickey is one for sure. He’s a caring guy that really would do anything for one of his friends or even a stranger he meets; a class act. The wrestling business and the world need more Mickey Doyles.”
Doyle, 57, is yearning for a move back home to the Detroit area with his second wife as a post office employee and hopes it happens sometime soon. He only has two or three years until retirement and wants to do something other than dock work and driving heavy machinery.
“I’m looking to get into the janitor craft,” said Doyle. “With that craft, I could still work for the post office and not lose any benefits or seniority if I transfer to Michigan. There’s actually an opportunity in Pontiac (Mich.), so I guess we’ll see what happens.
“But I’d give anything to come back home. Go Red Wings!”
— All photos courtesy of Mickey Doyle’s private collection.
Matt Mackinder, himself a Pontiac resident, says Doyle can stay with him if he moves to Michigan until he finds a place, but only if he changes dirty diapers and can bottle-feed Ethan, Matt and wife Stephanie’s eight-month-old son. Matt said he’ll also take Doyle by the Silverdome and the Pontiac branch of the post office.