Agent says clients bodyslammed on payment for W.Va. shows
Big-name wrestling agent says state promoters owe money
by Jake Stump
Daily Mail Capitol Reporter
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- For independent professional wrestlers, working in West Virginia could be as damaging as a steel chair to the cranium, according to a longtime industry agent.
Wrestling blogs and Web sites have lit up recently over a series of stories and commentaries from Bill Behrens, president of Atlanta-based Show Business Inc., singling out West Virginia wrestling promoters for owing money to performers.
Behrens manages bookings for several former household names in the melodramatic world of Spandex-clad titans.
Earlier this month, he reported on www.wrestlezone.com that former world champion Kevin Nash was being falsely promoted for an independent show put together by Xtreme Wrestling Entertainment in Kingwood, Preston County. The show ended up being postponed.
Independent wrestling events are usually held in small towns and not affiliated with top-tier companies such as World Wrestling Entertainment and Total Nonstop Action. Performers tend to work those shows based upon verbal agreements and receive split payments, creating a liability for both the athletes and the promoters.
Nash was originally featured on a poster for the Kingwood show, which was scheduled for Thursday at the Craig Civic Center. The 7-foot-tall superstar was later removed from the poster.
Nash, known as "Big Sexy" during his glory days with World Championship Wrestling in the late 1990s, said on his Web site that his Kingwood appearance was canceled due to lack of payment.
Behrens, who handles Nash's bookings, proceeded to write reports of several wrestlers who've been burned by wrestling promoters in the Mountain State.
"A diversity of these promoters seem centralized in a small part of West Virginia," Behrens said. "I don't know what's causing that."
The promoter of the Kingwood show, Damien Lee, has a different take on the Nash situation. Lee said he mailed Nash his money, but he did not receive it. He said he then offered to wire money directly to him, but the wrestler refused to accept it and later decided to drop out of the event.
"I did everything a promoter was supposed to do," said Lee, owner of Damien Lee Productions, of Morgantown. "I sent him money through regular mail and he said, 'What kind of promoter does that?' "
Lee said he offered Nash an extra $1,000 to not bail out on the show, but the wrestler didn't budge on that proposal.
Lee said he never falsely advertised Nash because the wrestler himself was promoting his appearance on radio shows and the Internet.
Behrens and other independent wrestlers have also called out West Virginia promoter Dennis "Shady" Richardson for owing talent money.
Richardson promoted a show in Bluefield two weeks ago that advertised former WWE stars Chris Masters and the Sandman.
Masters says he is owed $750 and the costs of a flight, while the Sandman never appeared at the event. Two women wrestlers, Angelina Love and ODB, who also work for TNA, are owed $200 and $1,000, respectively, according to Behrens, who manages bookings for the two.
"There are promoters that make promises and fail to deliver, and they keep on promoting," said Behrens, who's worked behind-the-scenes with WWE and TNA. "That's a pet peeve. I can't understand how someone goes through life like that."
Richardson did not respond to e-mails from the Daily Mail. On his MySpace page, Richardson posted a blog saying he was retiring from wrestling. He also admitted to owing some wrestlers money and fans for tickets purchased to future events.
Another West Virginia promoter under scrutiny is Gary Damron, who runs All-Star Wrestling in the Logan area. Damron also could not be reached for comment.
Behrens claims Damron owes TNA wrestler Kip James $650 for an October 2007 show.
Not all West Virginia promoters have dishonest reputations.
Madman Pondo of Charleston runs IWA East Coast shows regularly in the Kanawha Valley.
Pondo, a wrestler himself, known as a hardcore-style legend in the industry, said he treats performers much like how he'd want to be treated.
"We don't owe anybody any money," Pondo said. "The dressing rooms are air-conditioned and we feed our stars pizza and have drinks in the back. I always treat them like I wanted to be treated back in the day."
Behrens said there are just as many honorable promoters out there, though the deceitful ones give the entire scene a black eye.
"It's a common problem," Behrens said about promoters not paying athletes. "Most promoters will not screw up in front of the wrestler. It takes a fairly gusty guy not to pay up. Sometimes, you'll get a nice wrestler like Chris Masters, though he's as big as a building, he won't lose his temper and punch you in the face."