After all the barbed wire bats, bloody bouts and hardcore mayhem, it is a broken foot that may do in Moondog Manson. A mainstay of the Pacific Northwest for 15 years, the wrestler recently announced his retirement. Probably.
Manson posted on his Facebook page two announcements alluding to his unofficial retirement in part due to complications related to wrestling on a broken foot for almost three years. Manson explained that he originally broke the foot outside the ring while running and that he broke his fifth metatarsal.
“Problem is I must be accustomed to walking it off, and that’s what I did … walked off a broken foot so it never healed,” Manson told SLAM! Wrestling. “Now I am having problems.”
Over those three years, Manson’s foot suffered nerve damage, the consequence of which makes him a poor candidate for the surgery needed on the foot. Every three months, Manson had been going for X-rays, but recently his surgeon expressed concern for the deformities occurring on the foot. With his surgeon trying to get a foot specialist for Manson and the uncertainty about his viability for surgery, Manson has had to consider taking extra steps to protect his foot.
That included retirement.
“If I’m told I can have the surgery I will be out of action once I have the surgery for a minimum of a year; if surgery goes bad or infection sets in I could become more disabled or even lose the foot,” said Manson. “I haven’t been told by any doctors I need to call it quits. I have been working shows at half speed since 2004 when my legs initially became disabled. I have a lot of problems in everyday life compensating, but one thing I have excelled at is training with heavyweights in the gym and wrestling. I move at half the speed and I am not as agile as I once was, but I’m driven by the need to prove to myself being disabled isn’t holding me back. I know full well I can continue to wrestle, I just also know there is a high chance if I keep going at the pace I am I might have severe complications not too far down the road.”
However just as Manson is dealing with this very serious issue he is finding his career is picking up again. In mid-November, Manson fought Gangrel and took on Bushwacker Luke Williams on the weekend.
“My match with Gangrel left the fans and promoter extremely happy; I know even at my half speed I can still work matches and give the fans what they want,” expressed Manson. “What made my decision to possibly retire extremely hard are the words I had with Gangrel. He told me that he doesn’t think I should retire, if I am forced to do the surgery all I should do is take some time off and he knows I will be back. He also told me even with the way my legs are that I make what I do work and that I am nowhere near done with wrestling.”
Manson described the match against Gangrel as being hard-hitting and an all over the building bloodbath. “Definitely the complete opposite of what the fans see on TV now,” Manson told SLAM! Wrestling. “The only way to see this kind of action is at a non-televised Indy show. I felt so good after the match I just know what Gangrel said was true. I’m just hoping now at this point the surgeons can give me some sort of answer that will allow for me to wrestle. I think my chances are good at wrestling two years down the road, but I don’t think my chances of avoiding time off are very high. So as long as I am either told wrestling isn’t going to impact my foot much or they give me the green light for surgery and I heal well, everything should work out for me in the end. It’s the complication of being told I can’t do surgery and having wrestling cause me more issues that will sadly bring my career to an end.”
The 36-year-old Manson (Murray Cairns), with his Mohawk haircut on his bulky 5-foot-10, 358-pound frame, is pretty proud of his hardcore history.
“How many people can say they’ve had The Honky Tonk Man hit them with a barbed wire bat?” he laughed.
The Greatest Intercontinental Champion of All-Time was on a three-day tour of British Columbia, and was scheduled to work with Manson on the third show. They did a radio show together to promo the second show, and Manson vowed to wrap a chain around his opponent and try to choke him to death. That night, he did just that against Ladies Choice and was disqualified.
After the match Honky Tonk Man told Manson he thought the fact that he had given away the finish on to the match on the radio was genius. From that point on Honky Tonk Man insisted that their match be changed to a Hardcore Chain Match.
“Something lit a fire under Honky,” relayed Manson. “You need to remember at this point he usually only does five minute matches with the majority of his appearances being his entrance and a song. We didn’t wrestle for five minutes we went for at least 20. He was so excited that at one point he tossed me into the corner and when I moved I turned around, he had flipped himself upside down in the corner. He later admitted to me that he hadn’t done that in about 10 years.”
Looking back over his long career, Manson, who is a code programmer and website designer by day, is still surprised how difficult it was to get trained as a professional wrestler. The first break didn’t come until Manson was 21 years old when he walked into his local video store and the guy behind the counter gave him a wrestling poster for an upcoming Elite Canadian Championship Wrestling (ECCW) show in New Westminster, BC. It would be the first time Manson saw live wrestling. While he was at the show he bought a program that had information about getting trained as a professional wrestler.
“Trying to get trained was fairly hard due to a bunch of bad luck with communicating with ECCW,” expressed Manson. There was the post office box that got closed down, and a lost number.”I was ready to do this and honestly had no backup way of getting into the business,” Manson recalled. “I still remember walking to the doors to leave and saying to the promoter, ‘So are you going to train me or what?’ He apologized for not calling me back and told me to come with him; he made me wait to speak to the trainer of the school.”
The trainer who came out to see Manson that day was Michelle Starr. From there Starr along with his assistant, the late Adam Firestorm, put Manson through his paces in a backyard ring in Surrey, BC, during the warmer months. It is Starr that Manson credits with his achieving his dream of becoming a professional wrestler.
“Without Michelle Starr, wrestling me on the road, forcing me to do matches 30 minutes and beyond, and kicking the crap out of me when I screwed up, I would never have made it,” he confessed. “When I started wrestling I was trained to chain wrestle and do all those fancy moves, at this point I’m pretty sure I have forgotten 97% of my training. I was pushed into hardcore by ECCW and it seemed to stick and I excelled at it, and I have zero regrets about it.”
Starr has seen Manson grow. “He went from a quiet kid to one of the biggest ribbers on the road,” Starr said. “I love travelling with him and enjoy what he does in the ring. Not the best technical wrestler, but one hell of a hardcore wrestler.”
In the late 1990s, Manson did a lot of singles matches, but also some tag team wrestling. Manson’s first tag team partner was Moondog Chopps who retired early on, but his second was the Prophet, Dylan Powers. “We were doing hardcore stuff as a tag team. ECCW as a whole was pretty extreme back then. Everything was hard hitting. I think the best way to describe it was when the Bushwhackers were brought in; they just knew when they step out into that ring that they were the Sheepherders for one more night.”
In November 1999 the NWA/ECCW Hardcore Title was introduced, as ECCW had been re-branded “Extreme Canadian.” At the time Manson was drawing so many fans in for his main event matches that occasionally fans were turned away because there wasn’t even standing room only available. To crown the NWA/ECCW Hardcore Champion two tournaments were held with the winners from each tournament facing off in a big supershow in New Westminster.
However, despite winning the title at the end, the match that stuck out in Manson’s mind was his third hardcore match of the night of the tournament, where he faced Juggernaut at a high school gym.
“This match was completely insane and lasted just slightly longer than 45 minutes,” reminisced Manson. “Both of us were total bloody messes. It was just amazing how behind us the crowd was. The part that touched me the most was later that night in the bar I remember limping in and sitting down in a dark corner, some gentleman walks up to me and starts speaking to me. He hadn’t come to the show, but had heard about it from people who had. He said they had told him I was like Mick Foley and then proceeded to give me a brand new zippo lighter as a gift. With all of that said I have always wanted to have one match against Mick Foley.”
After winning the NWA/ECCW Hardcore Title, Manson was extremely busy in 2000, when he even had 18 bookings in one month and had to turn down another 20. Unfortunately for Manson, he ran into border problems and couldn’t take numerous bookings in Washington and Oregon.
“I lost momentum and basically forced myself to be a regional star,” remembered Manson. “I almost worked Mexico once, but the promoter in San Jose took too long to pay us and by the time I got across into Mexico the show had started. I had a few tours booked to Korea, but the first one was cancelled due to poor weather, and the other due to the person who was originally booked wanted their spot back. In 2001, it was just becoming too much of a drain on me being on the road and losing money. I guess I lost my smile. It took me a number of years to get my smile back.”
Despite this setback Manson continued to make an impact with the fans and working with such talent as Matt Borne, Leatherface (Rick Patterson), Jason the Terrible (Rafael Rodriguez Jr.), Billy Two Eagles/Relampago Leon, Black Dragon, and Ed “Moondog” Moretti.
“I remember working shows down in Oregon, when Mike Miller got the idea when trying to reorganize a card of having a Moondog vs. Moondog match. The look on Mike’s face was amazing when he was telling us, ‘First you come out, then you come out to the same music. Then Ed you say, “I’m the real Moondog, arr arr arr,” then Manson you say, “No I’m the real Moondog arr arr arr.”‘ Working Moretti was amazing, by the fourth night we were doing 45 minute matches.”
Wrestling such a hardcore style can lead to some very serious injuries and Manson experienced quite a few over his career.
“Once during a match I was on my stomach and a guy did a leg drop off the top and I didn’t know; I had actually told the guy not to do it backstage,” said Manson. “I still remember my tag team partner screaming my real name across the ring and telling me not to get up. The kid land @$! first on the back of my head. Jim Neidhart was at the show and was at the time a talent scout for the WWE. He saw me the next day and wouldn’t let me get into the ring. He knew I was all messed up still. Another time I got power bombed on my head and had slurred speech for a week and suffered symptoms of post-concussion syndrome after that. There was even one time I had a chair broken over my face and needed stitches on the bridge of my nose. They had to force me to go to the hospital, I wanted to go to the bar instead.”
Still for Marty Goldstein, the Winnipeg TV political commentator and former wrestling broadcaster, one thing people may not know about Manson is his dedication to his family and friends.
“I had been largely out of the business for a few years when I was asked to work on a documentary that featured him,” said Goldstein. “He became the little brother I never had and took me into his home. When I moved out there after filming he was integral to my learning to ropes of the BC scene. He was a real throwback to the old school mentality in terms of the lifestyle, his role in the locker room and believability in front of the people, he believed in the traditions of kayfabe. I had the chance to book the ECCW shows and no one delivered like he did, whether it was mid-card or main event, hardcore or comedy. He and Scotty Mac had a match in Capri Hall where the ring broke beforehand, they went out and worked around it — and they were kids at the time — and brawled all over the building, but ended up in a 1-2-3 finish in the middle of the mat. Brilliant. And his role in the One Ring Circus book launch event where he played his pissed-off role at photographer Brian Howell not putting him on the cover and then pulverized him with a chairshot, I have never heard a shrieking reaction like that from a crowd. Utter horror. It played on Book TV and I still hear from people about it, and the crumpled chair hangs on Brian’s wall.”
One thing that has concerned Manson is the feeling that wrestling will continue to slide in popularity. “It’s unfortunate that as the older generations retire less of the magic is being passed down. There are lots of good wrestlers out there which are ideal for the WWE, it’s just they don’t have what it takes to be in the wrestling business I trained to get into. When you hear guys with 25-30 years under their belts using statements such as, ‘We are the last of a dying breed’ it pretty much sums everything up. Too much is being watered down and recycled. As long as North American wrestlers focus on how the WWE is doing it the business will continue to slide. We don’t need so much as a return to hardcore wrestling, we just need a return to stories in the ring and feeding the fans full of magic they can believe.”
As for Manson, he has tried to influence as many wrestlers over the years to help them get better. “I’m extremely honest and blunt, as well as if I know you can do something I won’t let you quit. I’ve managed to teach one guy how to fall in 10 minutes after months of failing with other trainers. I try my best to pass on all that was passed on to me. Lots of our art is vanishing, and unfortunately as we get newer crops of guys less is being passed on.”
Cremator Von Slasher is one such wrestler who Manson has influenced very heavily. Slasher credits Manson with completing his training as a professional wrestler.
“A lot of guys in the area at the time weren’t the most helpful people to be around; a lot of them would tell you that your match was terrible, but they never told you why it was terrible,” Slasher said. “Manson was like the only one who told me what I was doing right or wrong. Not that he was the nicest about it. I was often met with, ‘Hey kid, your match was the $%[email protected]! tonight’, but Manson would follow it up with, ‘Why did you do this, this and this? It made no sense, do this next time.’ Manson got me into learning the psychology of wrestling and to try and make sense of everything you do. He also taught me the importance of connecting with the crowd; ‘They gotta love you or wanna see you get your head stomped in,’ Manson would say.”
In the final stages of his wrestling career (probably), Manson is a introspective.
“I’ve been super tough and fought through a lot, even working shows with a broken foot. I’m semi at a crossroad right now so I will have to see how things play out,” he admitted. “I’m mostly proud of the fans. I’ve given them a reason to believe still.”