Cedar Rapids Gazette – December 20, 1998
By Adam Lowenstein
There are no 10-foot video screens or fancy pyrotechnics at the matches and some of the muscle-bound participants toil 40 hours a week in their “regular” jobs. But please don’t call the professional Windy City Wrestling organization minor league.
That might make league champion Ripper Manson, all 255 pounds of him, angry. And when he gets angry, his tattoo-covered arms, as thick as an ordinary man’s thigh, could do some damage.
“This is at that level,” Manson said Saturday afternoon, a few hours before his title bout with Greg “The Hammer” Valentine at Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Cedar Rapids.
By “that level,” he meant the level of better-known wrestling organizations like the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) or World Championship Wrestling, where ring action is hyped with fog, lasers and video.
“They’re bigger multimillion-dollar outfits, whereas we’re smaller, independent, based in the Midwest area. But what we’ve got to work with, what we do, is the same quality. I don’t think anyone will be disappointed coming to one of our shows,” said Manson, 30.
WINDY CITY Wrestling (WCW) is, as the name indicates, based in Chicago, where its matches often are televised.
Founded 12 years ago by former wrestler Samuel DeCero (known as Super Maxx in his fighting days), WCW boasts about 70 wrestlers. It exists in what is labeled the “independent circuit” of wrestling, meaning the wrestlers are not under exclusive contract to WCW. As independent contractors, they sign up for one or two matches at a time.
That differs from the WWF, where the biggest names sign lucrative, exclusive contracts for a year or longer.
Any day now, 32-year-old Chicago native Mike Anthony will sign with WWF, where he wrestles as Devastation Inc. with his tag-team partner, Steve Boz.
He expects to get at least $250,000 when he signs. As the Windy City heavyweight champ he collects about $500 per match.
He agrees with Manson that, for whatever reasons, Windy City Wrestling and other organizations like it are considered small-time. The biggest myth of the independent circuit, he said, “is just that we’re lower class than the higher-up guys.
“Well, this is where they all started. In fact, I’m there (with the higher-ups) now. But I still wrestle here. It’s the same (at the WWF), except we get more money.”
Well, not exactly the same.
For example, it’s unlikely that there are too many full-time electricians wrestling for Ted Turner’s World Championship Wrestling.
But that’s what Ripper Manson does 40 hours per week. On weekends he wrestles, something he’s been doing for nine years.
And rarely are prominent wrestlers from the World Wrestling Federation required to help build the ring before matches, as rookies at Windy City do. And it’s a safe bet that most World Championship Wrestling stars earn more than 40 bucks for a bout, which sometimes is the payout for Windy City guys, Manson said.
The last time Hulk Hogan and friends were in Cedar Rapids, they packed 8,000 fans into the Five Seasons Center. Promoters expected the 2,500-seat Coliseum to be a half to three-quarters full last night.
But none of that matters to the wrestlers.
When they’re in that ring, the clotheslines are as painful, the referees are as gullible, and the chairs are as hard as in any professional wrestling match in the country, whether it’s “Stone Cold” Steve Austin wrestling for the Federation or Ripper Manson wrestling for Windy City.
“It’s a rush. It’s just an adrenaline rush,” Manson said. “If you’ve even been in a situation where you are confronted with somebody, and you get that tingle that runs up the back of your neck, and you get that little numbness in your hand, I’ll tell you what, nothing beats that feeling.”