When someone is taken too soon, why, is always the obvious question to ask. When Nick Castanhinha passed away, it was a front-and-center prime example. He was a loving husband and father. His two young sons, Jacob and Joshua, saw their dad as a superhero. Nick and his wife, Jennifer Hibbert, adored each other. They were a happy family. On February 15, 2020, Nick suddenly passed away. He was 44 years old. Family, friends and an entire community were left in shock.
In addition to being a family man, Nick was a well-known and accomplished professional wrestler. His ring name was Nick Steel. From his early teens until the day he died, Nick was an in-ring competitor and trainer. He was a mentor to countless wrestlers. He was a shining light in the lives of everyone he met. Those are pretty strong words, right?
Well, if you keep reading, you will find out exactly what I’m talking about.
It’s been three years since Nick died. Within the wrestling community, the idea of doing a tribute show in memory of Nick has been frequently discussed. Another year passed, then another. In 2023, Ted Bolduc decided to take matters into his own hands. He organized and promoted a memorial wrestling event to honor Nick. In the wrestling world, Ted is known as Teddy Goodz. Promoting a quality pro wrestling show requires hours of planning and a lot of hard work. Teddy has been wrestling since the year 2000. He has competed for many wrestling promotions including WWE and AEW. He knew if he was going to do this, he wanted it to be a night that everyone in attendance would never forget. On March 5th, 2023, Goodz, made good on his vision for a tribute to Nick. He ran the show under the banner of his new company, LIVE Pro Wrestling. The event was held at the Vault Music Hall in New Bedford, Massachusetts. A sold-out crowd packed the building. A combination of anticipation and excitement was in the air. Everyone wanted to see exactly how this new promotion would be honoring their beloved hero.
I made the drive from Rhode Island with another lifelong friend and former wrestler Clinton “Rampage” Perry to attend the show. In 1992, the two of us made this same ride together frequently to the New Bedford area. At the time, we were training to become wrestlers. Our trainers were Bob Evans, Brian Brieger and Nick Steel. The wrestling school was owned by Nick’s father, Frank. When Clint became aware of the tribute show, he was eager to attend.
The atmosphere in the building was nothing short of magical, with a loving vibe in the air. This show had a different feel to it. Inside the venue, the first thing I noticed was a large poster of Nick on display. There was music playing. The building was filling up fast, even though it was a full hour before bell time. It was at that moment I knew I wanted to write a story about what was unfolding.
Wrestlers from all the major American wrestling promotions were represented: Alisha Edwards of Impact Wrestling, Jora Johl, Channing Thomas and Ichiban from All Elite Wrestling, and Spike Dudley formerly of WWE, all wrestled that night. The card was rounded out with wrestlers including Brandon Webb, Ryan Waters, Love Doug, TJ Crawford, Scott Ashworth, Nico Silva, Aaron Rourke, Franky Vain, Craig Costa, Matt Magnum, Brad Hollister, Pat Garrett, Little Mean Kathleen, Cesar Leo, Jaylen Brandyn, BRG and Elia Markopoulos. Ring announcers were Rich Palladino and Scott Robinson. Also on hand were Eddie Edwards, Bobby Cruise, Mike Baker and Scott King. Many other local wrestlers were in attendance to honor Nick. The show was entitled, MAN OF STEEL.
I made my way into the locker room to interview as many wrestlers as I could. The first person I approached was Teddy Goodz. I asked him how this all came about. “I wanted to give Nick a proper tribute. I decided to donate all the proceeds from this show to Autism Alliance of Metro West in Nicks’s name. Now it’s happening,” he said. They had known each other for a very long time. “The first time I met Nick he was wrestling under the name Billy Warhawk. It was probably 1991 or ’92. I was 12 years old at the time. It was right around the time Nick’s father started running shows under the name Coastal Pro Wrestling. I still have the newspaper article I cut out from a show in Seekonk from back then. I didn’t really see him again until I started training to become a wrestler in the year 2000.”
Goodz knew he wasn’t alone in celebrating Steel. “I would say 95 percent of the wrestlers on this show have some personal memories as to how Nick affected their lives in a positive way.”
However, as the booker and promoter, Goodz wanted to give others a chance too. “There are two up-and-coming wrestlers on the show today who didn’t know Nick. I put them on the show because I believe they have great futures in wrestling. They are Ichiban and Aaron Rourke. I wanted them to be a part of this,” said Goodz. “I just know if Nick were here today, he would have wanted all these people on this show.”
When I asked Teddy what Nick Steel meant to him, he was overcome with emotion and asked for a moment to gather himself. The love for his friend was obvious. After a few moments, he found the right words. “I started wrestling right out of high school in 2000. I was intimidated by Nick for years. Especially wrestling him. He was always the nightmare to me. He pressed slammed me so many times I lost track. He could have easily slapped the s**t out of me. Once we became friends, I got to see the other side of him. He was a trainer and mentor to me, but he was also like an older brother. Nick helped me get jobs outside of wrestling. After he died, I had to go to the next level of wrestling to honor Nick. I knew if I could do that, then I could walk away. Now I’ve been in ROH, AEW and WWE all in one year. I feel like he is still guiding me.”
The next person to share memories about Nick Steel was Brandon Webb, and he also had a long history. “I met Nick when I was 15 years old. That’s when I started training for wrestling. He was very different from what I was expecting. He was calm. He took the time to explain everything to me step by step. He trained people to be tough. He was like my older brother. He would take the shirt off his back for you,” said Webb. “There was a time in my life when I had nowhere to go. Nick called me. I stayed with him for weeks. He was someone I could always go to in good times and bad.”
Channing Thomas is a young man making a name for himself in the wrestling world and doesn’t have the history with Steel as Webb and Goodz. “I met Nick in 2018. He was one of the trainers at The Lock-Up wrestling school. Nick was very passionate about professional wrestling and his students. A compassionate individual who welcomed all,” said Thomas. “He was a loving and open man who loved his family, loved his faith, and loved professional wrestling. He was a mentor. He was a bright spot in a business where so many can be so intimidating. Nick was intimidating, but he was very kind. I’d like to thank Nick for all he taught me. For all the fun memories. For the headbutts after shows. I really miss him.” Thomas will be competing in the long-running and prestigious Super 8 tournament later this month.
A man who had as close a relationship with Nick as anyone was his former tag team partner Franky Vain. They comprised the devastating tag team of The Whaling City Wrecking crew. They terrorized the Seacoast area for several years as a dominant force in tag team wrestling. During my interview with Vain, his eyes were full of tears as he pushed through sharing his memories of his friend and wrestling partner.
“When I first met Nick in 2008, he was someone nobody wanted to cross. If you were able to gain his respect, you were in his circle. That meant a lot to me. I learned so much from him,” Vain recalled. “We watched old-school wrestling together. He shared what he liked. He taught me how to incorporate old school into the newer style of wrestling. Overall, he liked to keep things old-school and traditional. As a person, I’m the man I am today because of Nick. I lived with him for over 10 years. He was my brother. I learned so many life lessons from him sharing his personal experiences. He directed me down the right path in life.”
At this point, Vain’s voice changed to a whisper. “If I could see him one more time I would say thank you for teaching me what a real man is. What a real father is. The importance of being a family man. He showed me how to do the right thing and still have fun. He was always happy. He would light up a room when he walked in. Everybody was always happy to see him.” The Whaling City Wrecking Crew were together for over 15 years.
Jora Johl is no stranger to wrestling fans. He humbly asked to share his memories of Nick. “I met Nick during my first year in pro wrestling. I didn’t know much about Indy wrestling because I grew up in India. I heard about Nick Steel from others like he was a legend,” said Johl. “The first time I wrestled Nick he showed up right before the match. He told me we were just going to call it in the ring. I was new and I was so nervous. I could speak English, but it was like, Oh my God. I had never done any show match on the fly. Nick made it so much easier. After that, I was never scared of calling it on the fly.”
No one could have known at the time, but Johl has the distinction of wrestling Nick in his very last match. “I got to work with him three or four times. All of our matches were called on the fly. I’m so very thankful because after all those matches I gained so much confidence in the ring and going in any locker room. He was a mentor. I learned from him what to do, but also, what not to do. He taught me about psychology and storytelling. The tiny details that really matter. I’m grateful as a kid who grew up in a small village in India, that somebody like him paid attention to me. He had a good heart. As a human being, he left so many good marks on me.”
Comments from wrestlers about Nick Steel would not be complete without hearing from Scott King, who first stepped into a wrestling ring in 1989. He reminisced about the first time he met Nick. “It was around 1991 or ’92. We were at a wrestling practice at the building on Belleville Avenue in New Bedford. This was before they moved to Coggeshall Street. He walked in one day. I was in the ring. Nick was a junior in high school. He looked like a kid. Especially in his face. He was also like a bull. He was with his father Frank. I remember Frank liked to hang around during practice. He was very protective of Nick. When Nick got in the ring that day, the first thing I noticed was how strong he was. From that day all the way through, I don’t think I ever saw Nick scared. He never seemed afraid of anything. He was not intimidated at all being in that environment with much older men. There were some big dudes back then. He was full of confidence. It didn’t take long before he started throwing people around and he loved every minute of it (laughing). I was a few years older than Nick, but he was tougher and more confident than me. When I wrestled Nick, he would chop the crap out of me, and I didn’t like it. So, when I worked with him, I felt like I had to man up. He would just manhandle people. He loved the legitimacy of wrestling. He wanted everything to look legit.”
Even as a teenager, Nick was mature. He seemed to have been born that way. “He had this inner calmness about him,” King continued. “He was always composed. He never seemed like a kid, even though he was a kid. He had this Zen about him.”
King and Steel lost touch during the late 1990s. When they reconnected years later, King noticed something: “I was away from the sport for a number of years. When I returned, I noticed that most of the young wrestlers looked up to Nick as a big brother. In some cases, he was a father figure. These kids just adored him. He had the respect of everyone.”
One of pro wrestling’s favorite couples is Eddie and Alisha Edwards. They were both at the tribute show. After her match, Alisha addressed the crowd. She offered emotional and heartfelt words of gratitude for Nick Steel. Her husband, Eddie Edwards did not wrestle on the show. He was in attendance out of respect for Nick.
It would not be possible for everyone’s comments and feelings to be in this article. Simply put, they would go on and on forever. The wrestling matches that evening were secondary to a much larger main event. This was a celebration of life. I will mention, however, the wrestling that night was excellent and hard-hitting, just the way Nick would have wanted it. Wrestling can be a “what-have-you-done-for-me-lately” environment. A wrestler can be hot one day and forgotten the next. As much as wrestlers love the business, it does not love them back. On this night, in a Music Hall in New Bedford, it was apparent that no one had forgotten Nick Steel. The energy was at the same level from the opening bell until the very end of the show.
The theme of the card was to have 12 wrestlers compete in two separate gauntlet matches to determine who would walk away with the Man of Steel cup. Goodz outlasted everyone on his way to winning the trophy. After the wild final match, the ring filled up with all the wrestlers to pay tribute to Steel. There was not a dry eye in the house. Goodz presented the beautiful trophy and a weight belt to Steel’s sons, Jacob and Joshua, in the center of the ring. At this point, one of Nick’s closest friends, Ryan Waters, addressed the crowd. “The biggest lesson I learned from Nick was to have compassion for people,” said Waters. It was an awesome moment and a fitting way to close out the show.
A few days later I called Nick’s widow, Jennifer. I wanted to give her an opportunity to share her thoughts on Nick, and the tribute show in general. She articulated her feelings with enthusiasm, pride and pure class. The tribute show meant so much to her. “It was amazing. The impact he made over the years as a mentor and teacher speaks for itself. It’s been three years since he passed,” she said. “It was nice to see all those people he influenced at the show. He was a father figure and a role model to so many. He was the glue that held the locker room together. He was the person everyone went to for feedback and advice. His input and opinion were valued by young and veteran wrestlers. He never judged anyone. As for the fans, they have always loved him. There were so many references to Nick throughout the night. I had strangers coming up to me all night thanking me. Teddy [Goodz] put so much time into this show. So much personal touch. It showed me how much Nick meant to him. Nick was a great man. A great father. A great friend.”
Both of Nick’s sons attended the show. It was the first time Jennifer brought them to a show together since their father had died. “When my youngest, Joshua, walked in the door he said, ‘That’s my daddy’ when he saw the poster of Nick. I told him this show is for your dad. Then he asked, ‘All these people?’ Once the show started and wrestlers started coming out to the ring I told the boys ‘Daddy trained all these people.’ Nick never bragged about anything. He was genuine. He was a spiritual person. He was connected to God.”
Many wrestlers made video tributes leading up to the show. I asked Jennifer if she were to make one, what would she say? “It would have nothing to do with wrestling. He loved being a father more than anything. That includes wrestling. He loved to cook for us. He was an excellent cook. He loved taking the kids outside. He loved taking them to the beach. He loved taking them to and from school. He did everything for them. Nick put his all into everything he did. He never did anything half-assed. Especially when it involved other people. He made a lot of sacrifices. He always gave to others before he thought about himself. He was honest and fair. He was a leader. I never heard him talk bad about anybody. He made people feel good about themselves.”
This article is a tribute to the life and memory of Nick Steel. On a personal note, I loved Nick like a brother. In my opinion, he could have gone to the WWE or Japan and would have become a household name. His in-ring presence and ability were off the charts. It was more the energy he gave off, that would have made the fans adore him around the world. Just like they do, to this very day, on the Seacoast of Massachusetts. He was easy to like. Once you got to know him, he was even easier to love. The reality is, Nick did not want to be on the road. He was happy helping others get to the next level. He was too much of a family man to just hit the road in search of glory. It just wasn’t his style. He will always live on in our hearts. If you enter a wrestling locker room and drop his name, a positive vibe will fill the air. If you enter a locker room for LIVE Pro Wrestling, you will see Nick, because Teddy Goodz sets up a chair with a poster of Nick on it. He places it in the same spot where Nick used to sit.
We love you brother, and we look forward to seeing you on the other side.
LIVE Pro Wrestling will be back in action this Sunday, March 19th, at the Lost Valley Pizza and Revival Brewing Company, located at 50 Simms Street, in Providence. Bell Time is 5 pm. This is an all-ages show.
TOP PHOTO: Nick Steel with the big press slam on RJ Rude. Photo by Jason Schneider