After over 20 years on the independents, Chris “Notorious T.I.D.“ Tidwell has decided to put away the steel chairs and trash cans and call it a career.
Due to a spine injury, Tidwell is choosing to end his time in the ring at the age of 53.
Tidwell grew up in Las Vegas, Nevada, and gravitated towards the AWA that ran shows out of the Showboat Hotel in Vegas throughout the 1980s. He said wrestlers like Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka, Colonel DeBeers and the Rock and Roll Express amazed him and pulled him into the sport.
A key moment that Tidwell said caught his attention was when Colonel DeBeers did a run-in on Jimmy Snuka and “pull back the pads on the outside of the ring and smash his face into the cement floor, and everybody lost their fricking minds.”
As Tidwell grew up, he did have some run-ins with the law and he came up with the idea to leave Las Vegas and go to Toronto with his mother. “It was a time in my life where I was in a better situation if I was no longer in the situation I was in,” admitted Tidwell.
He said wrestling was another outlet for him to escape his bad path. “It definitely helped me to release some of those demons.” Tidwell then began co-hosting the first ever online broadcast wrestling show with Donnie DaSilva, ironically it was initially called the SLAM Wrestling show. However, Tidwell said that name didn’t last long thanks as the Sun newspaper chain had just launched Canoe.ca and its wrestling section was called SLAM! Wrestling, a part of SLAM! Sports.
The nascent show was renamed Live Audio Wrestling and ran on a platform called Virtually Canadian initially. Tidwell was on the show from 1996 until 1998 and was then let go.
A talk show is something T.I.D. went back to in March 2020, when he started The Godfathers of Podcasting show reuniting with DaSilva, and their other co-host is Canadian hip-hop artist, Dan E O.
After Tidwell’s departure from Live Audio Wrestling, he put his focus on actually wrestling instead of talking about it. He said his training had an interesting start, “I went out there and started training and took my first bump and knocked myself out cold, but it didn’t seem to matter.”
Tidwell trained at the Hart Brothers School of Wrestling, based in Cambridge, Ontario, and worked under Waldo Von Erich and Johnny K-9.
“Waldo Von Erich, guys like Johnny K-9, guys that came before me were the guys that inspired me because once I got into it and you learn what it is that you’re being given, you’re being passed down a piece of the of the pie, so to speak,” said Tidwell.
The 6-foot-4, 270-pound Tidwell then got started on the independent scene, he towered over most of his opponents and had tattoos running down his arms and up to his neck — not as common then as it is now.
T.I.D. competed for so long, but he said, unlike most wrestlers he has no idea when he actually had his first match.
“It’s really funny because I see a lot of guys that are like today is the 20-blah blah anniversary of my very first match and it’s like, I honestly don’t know,” said Tidwell. “I don’t know if that has anything to do with the amount of chair shots and stuff like that, that I’ve taken in my life or if it’s bad memory.”
The chair shots reference comes from the fact that Tidwell was famous for being one of the best and craziest hardcore wrestlers in the indies. He said a lot of people tend to think hardcore wrestling isn’t actually wrestling, and that it is a lot more than just hitting people over the head.
“I learned how to wrestle and I knew how to wrestle before I got into the hardcore stuff. There never was a whole lot of guys that are willing to put their bodies through that kind of stuff, week after week, night after night, unfortunately, I was not the smartest tool in the shed.”
“I did get booked as the guy who would go through tables, who would get smashed with chairs, caught on fire, thumb tacks. I was doing it and quite frankly, getting over more than the guys that weren’t willing to do it.”
Jake O’Reilly compared Tidwell to one of the best hardcore wrestlers of all time. “T.I.D. is the Terry Funk of Ontario Pro Wrestling. He has evolved through every era. From mid-’90s ECW-style hardcore matches to 2022 tag team matches with multiple combinations of moves. TID has done it all,” said O’Reilly.
Despite the hardcore wrestling making his career what it was, it did take quite a toll on Tidwell’s body over the years and led to his retirement. T.I.D. said some days after competing he could barely get out of bed; he also broke his neck once and he is now dealing with a severe spine injury.
The vertebrae in his spine have grown spurs that have fused into each other and his vertebrae are basically growing into one another, that is the injury that brought him into retirement.
“The second you start smashing your skeletal system, your brains, and your flesh and your muscles, it never ever makes any of those things better, it always makes them worse,” Tidwell said.
Looking back on his career, Tidwell can only say that every single moment in the wrestling business was a special moment for him. He said making people smile after enjoying one of his matches was big for him, and being able to give them moments meant a lot to him.
He also credits the wrestling business with teaching him a lot about people and giving him a new perspective on his interactions with others.
“It gave me a different outlook on people in general, this is a business full of human trash, there is no doubt about that. You get to see a lot of them, but the other side of that is that you get to see a lot of people that have such an undying passion and love for the business of professional wrestling,” said T.I.D.
Tidwell said he had been thinking about retiring for a while and he said he should’ve done it long ago. “The problem is after you give up so many years to something like this, it’s tough to just walk away from it.”
“It is an addiction that your soul absolutely needs, so to be able to just walk away from it just like that, not going to happen. So, this has been something that I’ve been building towards for a while.”
Even though the Notorious One will no longer be competing, Tidwell became a trainer and has co-owned a wrestling school for over seven years now. Tidwell co-owns and coaches at Cross Body Studios with his business partner, Ben Ortmanns.
Their pairing began when Ortmanns was living and training in London, Ontario, at a mixed-martial arts gym and Tidwell started helping him train fighters for kickboxing fights. Tidwell and Ortmanns then hosted an MMA show for clothing line promoter Chad Elliott, and his Fear the Fighter brand. After the show, Elliott asked Ortmanns if he would be interested in opening a wrestling school.
Ortmanns said he was open to Elliott’s offer only if he could bring Tidwell with him as his partner.
“I needed someone to help me, so why not ask an absolute legend, and genius, as well as a guy who you know that, if worst comes to worst, we can throw hands at each other and figure it out,” said Ortmanns. “There is a certain trust factor you get with guys like that because when the opportunity came for me to open a gym, I needed someone I could trust not just with my vision of training, but trust with ideas, trust financially, trust as a brother. I wasn’t looking for an employee, and I wasn’t looking for a boss. I was looking for a partner.”
They then got started running the school out of an MMA gym with a borrowed ring until Tidwell built a ring himself for the school.
The school has moved locations but has now found a home in Cambridge, Ontario. Over the years Tidwell has helped train wrestlers like Crazzy Steve, Jake O’Reilly and Shawn Spears and is proud to see them competing all over the world.
O’Reilly first trained under Eric Young and then was sent to Tidwell when he was ready to start competing. “It was a master class in how to wrestle and I learned so much in the ring fighting the man,” said O’Reilly. “I learned how to fight back and earn respect from fans and fellow wrestlers. While I wasn’t ‘trained’ by TID, he taught me more on the road than any wrestling school ever could.”
Tidwell said his training lineage ties in with Eric Young, who started in the business at the same time as himself. “[Eric Young] became a trainer way back when as well and would send guys to me to kind of toughen them up once they were ready to go in the business,” said Tidwell. “I appreciated him for caring in me enough to take these kids kind of under my wing.”
The main goal for Tidwell is to get his ‘wrestling kids’ (as he calls them) as mentally and physically ready as possible for the business. He said the mental aspect of the business is harder to handle than the physical components. “Most of these shitty humans you’ll meet inside of the business are promoters because there’s no culpability for the promoters, to not be shitty people and try to start a wrestling company and you’re going to get ripped off by them, you’re going to get hornswoggled.”
Wrestlers need to be prepared to deal with bad promoters, bad people in the locker room and bad fans because wrestling is an ego-driven business, added Tidwell. “Everybody gets into it to feed their ego, so when you go out there and you have that thing smashed and you’re still a young human being in the world, in the game of life, it fucking sucks.”
“If you don’t know how to handle it and you don’t know how to be prepared for it, it’s going to eat you up and that’s why you see a lot of people fall to the wayside inside of the world of professional wrestling.”
Ortmanns recalled a moment when T.I.D. went out of his way to give him some credit and give him a boost after wrestling in northern Manitoba in remote outposts. “Once I got back from doing Tony Condello’s Hell Tour, I remember him putting me over in front of all the boys in the locker room, and I knew why he did it, and I was super appreciative. He just wanted people to show effort, and to make their own way.”
There is a belief from Tidwell that Von Erich and K-9, both gone, would appreciate that he is now a coach himself. “The inspiration came from not letting them down and always making sure that at some time I was going to be able to pass that down to somebody else because you’re only as good as what you leave behind.”
Tidwell is very satisfied with everything he was able to accomplish in his career and is very comfortable stepping away from in-ring competition. “There are a lot of very healthy, very able, and very talented people out there that I’m just taking a spot away from them in my opinion. So, I can give that to them, I can walk away, I can still pass down the knowledge that I have to the people that are willing to accept it.”
If he could do anything else in the ring, it would just be to do the things he already did on a bigger scale. Tidwell said a lot of wrestlers have goals of being on WrestleMania and working for WWE, but that was never in his mind. “I just wanted to embrace the journey and just see where it goes, and what happens.”
Ortmanns however wishes Tidwell could have gotten his chance at a big promotion. “The only thing I wish Chris would have gotten is a run in one of the bigger companies. As a talent, as a locker room leader, as a man who young men and women can discuss both personal and professional issues with, and also the large paycheck that comes with it because he deserves that.”
Tidwell finished his journey on December 10, 2022, wrestling for Barrie Wrestling, a company he helped start up. The promoter, Shawn Gibson, gave Tidwell the privilege of choosing whom he wanted to face in his final match. He asked for either Jake O’Reilly or El Tornado (Mark Bartolucci).
O’Reilly, Tidwell trained and El Tornado is a man who he has been eye to eye with throughout his career. It ended up being both.
Tidwell teamed up with Markus Ryan, and together they were known as The Dirty Vets, as a team, they won four tag titles and were three-time Crossfire Wrestling (CW) Tag Team Champions. They took on Deadly Venoms, the team of O’Reilly and Tornado, the current CW Tag Team Champions and both men Tidwell wanted to face.
O’Reilly said he was honored that Tidwell chose him and he loved that he could go to war with him one last time. “There was a point where T.I.D. tried to put his forearm through my neck. I returned an equally brutal shot to his face. After the cobwebs cleared, we both started smiling and laughing,” he said.
It couldn’t have been a better last match, said Tidwell. “Sometimes you have a certain chemistry with certain guys, and we have very good chemistry together. The match was exactly the way that it should have been, the crowd was exactly the way that it should have been, and everything went fantastic.”
Tidwell said with his retirement now he hopes to simply relax and spend more time with his wife and his wrestling kids. Even with the retirement, Tidwell is excited to not fully leave the wrestling business.
“At our Cross Body Studios in Cambridge, we are going back to running shows, I know Ben has the plan to do that. So, I will probably be doing, even more, agenting and production stuff through all of that so that’s probably going to take up a lot more of my wrestling time,” said Tidwell.
Ortmanns also had some finals words on Tidwell’s retirement, “He has earned the right to kick his feet up, have a can of PBR in one hand, and a glass of the finest tequila in the other, with a plate of BBQ in front of him, surrounded by his amazing wife and dogs, and do whatever the hell he wants. He is still going to be a part of Cross Body Studios helping me get the next generation of wrestlers prepared for their journeys.”
Tidwell, naturally, gets the last word, a caveat of sorts: “Quite frankly, there’s an old saying that nobody really retires from the world of professional wrestling.”
TOP PHOTO: T.I.D. bringing a kendo stick to the ring. Photo courtesy Sean Johnston