Former Spirit Squad member Mike Mondo considers himself to be a student of the game. From his humble beginnings with the New York Wrestling Connection to main eventing WWE pay-per-view with D-Generation X, one thing Mondo hasn’t stopped doing is learning.
Mondo, born Michael Brendli, found his passion for pro wrestling at age four and has held onto it since. “I always dreamed of being a professional wrestler,” said Mondo. “That dream came true when I enrolled in the Critical Mass Pro Wrestling school, now known as the New York Wrestling Connection school.”
He had a good physique, having played football in middle and high school. He began training there at age 18, while attending his freshman year of college. On the weekends, Mondo found himself traveling quite a bit, wrestling in New York and New Jersey frequently. “I didn’t know very much when I first started out. All I did know was that I wanted to work as much as possible and gain as much experience as possible.”
Mondo was presented with great opportunities along the way, working with the likes of Jay Lethal and independent stand-outs Rob Eckos and Dickie Rodz. “I’m glad to see Jay Lethal catch a break. It was a pleasure wrestling him. I also enjoyed working with Dickie Rodz and Rob Eckos. They’re both good guys whom I hope catch a break in the near future.”
Upon gaining experience and getting noticed, Mike Mondo received a developmental contract from WWE, which sent him down to Ohio Valley Wrestling (OVW). “I can’t say enough good things about OVW. I like to consider that place my home away from home,” said Mondo. It was there that Mondo received further training from Danny Davis, Rip Rogers, Dr. Tom Pritchard, Steve Keirn, Lance Storm, Al Snow, Jim Cornette and Bill Demott.
“OVW taught me so much about the wrestling business. It’s a great place to work.” While in OVW, Mondo was joined with Kenny Dykstra, Nick Nemeth, Nick Mitchell, and Johnny Jeter, forming the Spirit Squad faction that would later achieve WWE success.
“To be honest, with the Spirit Squad, I didn’t know what to expect or think, but personally I loved the gimmick,” said Mondo. “All five of us embraced it and did everything we could to make it work and I think we did a very good job,” he continued. “My time with the Spirit Squad was probably the most fun I’ve had in my career so far.”
Months after the Spirit Squad debuted on television, they were thrown into the McMahons vs. D-Generation X feud, which led to a showdown at the WWE Vengeance pay-per-view and subsequent matches thereafter. “Wrestling with Shawn Michaels and Triple H was a great experience. They both really took my game inside the ring to whole new level. They say you only get better when you get into the ring with people who are better than you, and in my opinion, they are the best in the business today.”
The Spirit Squad was also fortunate enough to hold WWE gold, winning the World Tag Team Championships the night after Wrestlemania 22. “There were so many great tag teams in the past to have held those titles and to know that you are on that list is pretty cool.” After a six-month-plus reign as champions, the Spirit Squad lost the titles to Roddy Piper and Ric Flair in a match where Mondo teamed with Kenny.
The Spirit Squad continued to feud with DX and Ric Flair until the gimmick was brought to an end. “It was sad to see it come to an end when it did. I thought there was a lot more life in the gimmick, but decisions were made and there was really nothing we could do.”
Looking back, one thing Mondo wishes he could’ve done that he didn’t get a real chance to do was interact more with the fans. “When you are on the road, there is a lot of traveling involved. I wish I could have spent more time getting to know and interacting with my fans, but when you are traveling and on the go, it’s hard to do sometimes.”
Being back on the independent scene, Mondo is enjoying seeing some familiar faces and catching up with some friends. “As for the future, my plans are to keep wrestling and stay very active. I would love to get the opportunity to wrestle over seas, see the world and learn the different styles to enhance my craft. I’ve always been interested in working in Japan and Mexico. I’m also heavily considering moving back to Louisville, Kentucky, and working for OVW again full time.
Throughout Mondo’s journey, he’s had a lot of support. “My family always let me be myself and supported me 110%.” On top of all his successes in the ring, Mondo was also produced in action figure form. “That to me is a great accomplishment and something that will be with me forever.”
For those looking for guidance on how to become a pro wrestler, Mondo has some words of advice. “Dedicate you life to wrestling. Eat, sleep and breath it. Sacrifices will need to be made, but always put in 100%.”
With new challenges on the horizon, Mondo is excited and optimistic. “I would like to thank all my fans for all you’re support. You’ve really been great to me. Right now, I’m keeping a positive attitude and looking forward to doing what I have to do in order to get where I need to be.”
This is Bryan Sokol’s first non-TV report for SLAM! Wrestling. Every great journey starts with one small step. Email him at [email protected]