For the most part, Matt Garrett is trying to put wrestling in his rear-view mirror, putting his days as a promoter, wrestler, event planner, and clown behind him. Returning to school and exploring over promotional opportunities is his plan.
As he transitions, I wanted to talk to him about some of his experiences in the professional wrestling business.
I first met Matt in 2010, on a trip to Amsterdam, N.Y., to attend the annual Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame induction ceremonies. He was friendly and this afforded me the first opportunity to take his picture and chat for a few minutes.
As it turned out we both have a mutual friend in Aaron Weiss, who has long been connected to pro wrestling as a media consultant. Matt and I again crossed paths as guests at Aaron’s wedding in 2013. We next met at the annual pig roast hosted by Mark and Terry Gilmore in Schomberg, Ontario; Mark’s father is the late wrestler Duncan McTavish.
Over time, I’ve found Matt—real name Matthew Lund—to be a down to earth guy and I’m pleased to count him a good friend
Being a wrestling reporter from way back, I asked Matt if he would be interested in participating a question and answer for SLAM! Wrestling. He was all for the idea, what follows is a candid interview:
Q: At what age did you become interested in pro. wrestling?
A: I was four years old at the time, it was still Maple Leaf Wrestling back then, and still remember some of the older boxing and wrestling shows that were held at MLG at the time
Q: Who were your wrestlers when you were first attracted to wrestling?
A: I was always interested as a small kid in The Ultimate Warrior. I recently found some old photos of myself dressing as The Ultimate Warrior for Halloween. I was a huge Warrior fan just loved the energy he had and the adrenaline rush just watching him brought. Also loved watching wrestlers who had a good character, to mention a few: The Bushwackers, Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake, Jake “The Snake” Roberts. There was such an eclectic group of personalities, that I just fell in love with it all. The highlight of wrestling memories was when my dad took me to see Wrestlemania VI to see The Ultimate Warrior wrestle Hulk Hogan. I sat on my dad’s shoulders to see the entire show
Q: When did you decide that professional wrestling was now your calling and begin training?
A: My training was at Ron Hutchison’s school of wrestling, and originally it was in Richmond Hill, Ontario. About a month later we moved downtown to a Queen St. location in Toronto where the training facilities were set up. Ron was the head trainer and a number of great people followed. Beth Phoenix and Edge would come to train with us as well. After Ron closed down a few of the people that I trained with would on the weekend take a car load once a month to train at Killer Kowalski’s school of professional wrestling in Boston. So I got my base training with Ron Hutchison and [then] Kowalski’s school.
Q: Can you remember your first match, and perhaps elaborate on it?
A: My first match was a battle royal it was for Sheldon Goldberg doing One Championship Wrestling down in Boston. Killer Kowalski set it up. It was a tag team battle royal. Remember both myself and one of the other fellas I trained with got into it very quickly. My first official singles match was against a fella by the name of Bill “The Beast” Bradly in Montreal. I can’t remember much about it other than we were both at about the same level and that we both had a good time; it was a learning experience.
Q: Can you recall some of your favourite memories being on the road that you cherish as well as name some of your good wrestling friends?
A: Kerry Brown is a perfect example, the guy was a riot to be on the road with. You would be in a car with this guy for 12 hours, driving from one town to the next, and he’s cracking jokes the entire time as well as playing practical jokes on the other wrestlers. Then he’d be doing the same thing at the matches. I had such a great time with Kerry. Con Frank, a guy that was on the road with us, got to be the butt of a lot of jokes, but then when you got to go in the ring with him he would find a way to get back at you. He was a lot of fun to be on the road with.
Then there was C.K. Sexx — when he was on the road with us, he was always a lot of fun to be with. Those were the formative years. In the latter years of my career, Buck Gunderson was a great friend who I could rely on on as a sounding board for any ideas that I would have. Jason Sensation, he became one of my best friends. I just loved the guy to death. He was such an amazing character, you pin a role on him he can do Ric Flair one moment and then switch to Stone Cold Steve Austin the next and then do an impersonation of Owen Hart. Jason was just a lot of fun. These young wrestlers are some of the boys that I shared the road with and have such fond memories of.
Q: How many years did you actively wrestle, and how many matches did you appear in?
A: The first two years of my career were very sporadic. The licensing here in Ontario was was quite hefty [editor’s note: $75], and as a result I never did get licensed in Ontario. Most of my wrestling the first two years was in the New England area, as well as Quebec. I got an injury during this period and as a result was off for a year. When I was able to resume wrestling it was now full time, and I found myself wrestling between 200 and 300 matches a year. Their were lots of double headers, a lot of days during this three-year period. After that the next three years I scaled back to perhaps 30 to 50 matches a year, and the last four years worked only two or three matches a year. As time went on I would only go back in the ring for very special friends in the business, and only in very special situations. This would be the period of the last four years.
Q: During your wrestling career you got banged up and tossed and tossed around. Wrestling is a very tough business to make a living at. Can you recount some of your injuries?
A: Most of my injuries took place right at the beginning of my career. I tore my ACL as well as my MCL knee cartilage at the same time. That kept me out for about a year, that was the worst injury that I ever had. I have also broken many toes, fingers, as well as sustaining a broken collarbone, and multiple concussions, but nothing that serious enough to keep me out with the exception of my knee injury.
Q: Did you create different personae for yourself during your years as a wrestler?
A: Sort of, during the first two years of my career I was trying to find an identity, and bounced around a lot of names, such as Matt Cage, Matt Mathews, Matt Steele they were all uninspiring names. It wasn’t until I actually got hired by Ernie Todd, and working with Kryss Thorn to work on the Winter Road that I became Matt Garrett, and that name went through many different evolutions, as well as a number of different tag teams. I went from the dancing cowboy, to the six-shooter cowboy. At some point as these names played out, another promoter gave me another gimmick, and I kinda ran with that for a few years. But for the most part I have always been just myself.
Q: Can you elaborate on your persona as Doink the Clown? Apparently this ticked off some of the other wrestlers and I’d like your thoughts on that as well.
A: It was actually a promoter in southern Ontario that asked me to play the character first and when I first did, I did not understand the character at all. I was just a green kid who had an opportunity to make some better pay days and it might in fact lead to something else that would elevate my career. And lo and behold, when I started to play the character, many that saw me felt I played it very well. No one had ever said that to me before. I had pretty much been an uninspired wrestler up to this point. If this opportunity had not come along I would have been out of the business not too long afterwards because I had not been getting the traction as a wrestler as I needed to move forward. Then as soon as I started to play this character every promoter wants to book me. I was never one to go out looking for the bookings and say, ‘Look, I’m Doink the Clown.’ I never said that to anybody, I’d be Doink Junior or Son of Doink, things like that. I never really wanted to say Doink the Clown. Some promoters would promote me in that way but they did it on their own. Whenever I spoke to people it was as Doink Junior, or Son of Doink — always as a generic clown. It was a case of people looking to book me, not as myself looking for bookings. I had a lot of fun with it as I am a natural clown — that’s who I am. I have the inability to be embarrassed by anything. I can sit there and laugh at any situation. I can take and make jokes, I am just a clown. This role afforded me to be myself in a very real way and that’s why I was able to be successful as the clown. The role was a natural extension of myself. The wrestlers that got upset or jealous about it I apologize to all of them if they feel offended. I had a conversation with Matt Borne about it and as well as a conversation with Ray Apollo about it. I never did it with any malice or to take anybody’s spot.
Q: Do you have a favourite match or moment?
A: Unquestionably, the one match that always stands out the most was certainly not a technical contest, but stands out because it was so much fun to participate in. I got to wrestle for the Magen Boys. There was myself, Bushwacker Luke, and Screech, ‘Dustin Diamond’ from Saved by the Bell. It was for MTV, and Sheena was the host. That speaks out for myself in that aside from as a kid besides wrestling, that show was my favourite. Now here’s one of the show’s top stars, and here I’m in a match with, and we had The Million Dollar Man Ted Dibiase, who was our manager. It was just so much fun. We got to be filmed live for MTV and Sheena is a nation-wide celebrity here in Canada for the MTV generation, and here I’m kissing her and making out on TV. It was just so much fun. That is one of my fortunate memories that I will always take with me everywhere I go.
Also want to take a little time to thank Nick Nitro, who is a promoter in the Hamilton and Brantford, Ontario region. Nick ran some amazing shows, and when I was getting a lot of friction from a lot of people, he was the one who would always stand up for me, and open the opportunity for me to wrestle some incredible matches in front of massive crowds. They were drawing as many as 4,000-5,000 fans. Nick would send me out there with a t-shirt gun and I’d have a blast shooting t-shirts out into the crowd. I had a great time working with Nick Nitro.
So there you have two very happy and memorable experiences that I enjoyed very much.
Q: Matt, can you remember some of your toughest matches, as well as recounting injuries that you received?
A: The one match that stands out in my mind took place in a small town in Northern Quebec, near James Bay. I got injured early on in the match, it was two-out-of-three falls, no disqualification, submission match. It was way over-stipulated. We went about 35 minutes. I sustained a concussion very early on in the match. My opponent, Kryss Thorn, was one wrestler not to take lightly — he will beat on you if you are not up to par with him. I got a good beating that night, but it wound up being one of my favourite matches because not only was it an incredible learning experience, but the crowd was so into every thing we did. Kryss was the one who was the vicious bad guy destroying me, and I was the sympathetic babyface getting my behind handed to me, and every time that I got in an offensive move the crowd would go wild. We had a packed arena, 1,000 people were there; it was a small native village were we wrestled, and everyone in town turned out. I can still feel the effects of that match, even though it took place over 10 years ago. Kryss Thorn and I are still friends today. It is just the dangers of the business more than personal fault.
Q: How many promotions did you work with during your career?
A: To answer this question will require some reflection Let’s see, worked for worked with, it would have been close to a hundred different ones. I’m very well travelled, that is one of my benefits; a lot of the promotions I only worked once or twice for because of the proximity of how far that I would have to travel in order to appear in some of these promotions. I wrestled all over the U.S. and North America as well.
Q: How long have you been a booker? And how many wrestlers do you know that you can contact to appear for an upcoming promotion?
A: Actually, I keep a very large database of wrestlers, as well as fans that I can tap into as the situation warrants. My database of wrestlers is about 6,000 and that’s worldwide. I know people in Japan, Mexico, and all over the U.S. and Canada.
Q: So you would have various promoters contact you from time to time during the year, and mention their interest in running a show, and mention a wrestler whose services they would like to use?
A: That is correct. I should preface that, it was only in my first year, would I actually charge for that service. However after a few headaches and not much profit, I decided I’m going to just do it as a volunteer thing for fun. Yes, I have a lot of people contact me for information. I will be happy to help help out out. There is never a charge. It’s just something if you need a number or a contact I’d be happy to help you out. It’s for people that are friends, and that I have respect for, but it becomes less and less, as I transition out of the business.
Q: You recently worked a show in Orillia, Ontario, and you were obviously very busy doing a number of services to make things run smoothly. Can you elaborate on your duties regarding this event?
A: Insofar as the person that I worked with on that particular event, we actually went 50-50 on everything. I had no official title, he did a lot more of the promotion, and I did a lot more of the booking. That was the original plan, but at the end of the day we ended up working together on almost every thing. On a situation like that I’m a jack of all trades, from being a talent co-ordinator, talent relations, being an agent in the locker room, doing the timing of the show and everything leading into it. There is public relations, media, I write all my own press releases, as well as do a lot of social media on my own, and advertising as well, I didn’t do all of this on my own. I had a great partner to work with on the Orillia event
Q: What are you into now, and what are your current interests as well as your short and longer term goals?
A: Right now I’m trying to transition away from the actual wrestling and move to television broadcasting production. I’ve given wrestling a lot of my time in my life — more time than maybe I should have because I chose nothing else up to this aspect of my life, and so I’m moving away, trying to find other things to finalize this for the most part. However wrestling is always going to be a huge part of whatever I do, it was how I made my living for the first 15 years of my [adult] life. So I will always be some how connected to the wrestling business, however my primary goal will be television broadcasting.
Q: What are your interests regarding the Hart brothers at this time?
A: Okay, what I do first and for the most part, is any kind of social media or online commentary, blogs and articles whatever, I’m doing a lot of online presence for Smith Hart. He comes up with the ideas and I will just post it online for him, and so there is a connection there, but above that, I am working on a project with Smith Hart. It’s a television broadcasting project that we have been working on slow but steady for about two years now, and it’s starting to gain some traction. As soon as we have some good information we will be happy to confirm it.
Q: Where do you see yourself three to four years from now going forward insofar as your career and business objectives?
A: I have a four-year plan. It involves a lot of different things, including different business ideas, media ideas. There is a list of of different things that I’d like to accomplish, but for the most part I do come to live one day at a time, I live every day like’s it’s my last, I enjoy life very much and try to have as much fun as possible, my priority plan. I just want to be happy.
I don’t consider that I’m going to have a long life. To be honest, I’m here for a good time not a long time. My dad died at age 62 and his dad at 46, and all my uncles died before they were 40. I’m the least healthy of anybody in my family. I’m a big guy and I’m 33 years old. I’m not relying on long-term goals. I treat every day as if it were my last, not to be sentimental, or to be depressed or upset. I just live happy and want to have fun. I’m not interested in being with somebody for companionship or a casual experience or anything like that. If I’m going to be with someone it’s because I’m head over heels in love with them, and unless that comes along I’m not really looking. I’m not on the market so to speak, I’m not actively looking for anything. I’m happy just being me.