|Atomic Rhino Remembers...
Indigo:We were first put in touch with The Atomic Rhino through information sent to us by Dale Pierce, "The Time Traveler'. The Atomic Rhino wrestles currently with Violent Championship Wrestling outside of Dayton, Ohio, but is presently on the Injured List. I'll be honest, at first, I was really intimidated, but soon found him to be a true gentleman.
Indigo: Hey, first of all, thanks for taking the time to talk to me. You've been in the business for sixteen years now, and have known Al Snow for most of that time. I guess a good way to begin is at the beginning, how did you meet Al and where? Can you tell us about that?
Atomic Rhino: I first met Al on an independant Pro-Wrestling Show held at the Burkhart Community Center in Dayton, Ohio. It was early 1989, and that night he had a match with Mountain Man Ike Adams (a Jim Lancaster gimmick). I was then known as Major Havoc, and had a mid-card match that evening also. In the dressing room, we exchanged phone numbers and talked about the biz for a while.
I kept Al's phone number in my suitcase for several months, not giving it any more thought. Several months later, a friend of mine wanted to promote a 'Tuff Man' show in a local bar, and asked if I could get a ring. So I called the lady wrestler who owned the ring we had used for previous wrestling shows. She then informed me that she had sold the ring to Al Snow. I said thanks and hung up, remembering that I had Al's number somewhere in my wrestling gear. I soon found the number and gave Al a call. He remembered me from our previous meeting, we talked a while and then I asked if he could bring the ring to Dayton.
He said he could, and I told him to get his ring rental fee first before he set the ring up. The concept of these bar 'Tuff Man' shows was to entice bar patrons into the ring to fight each other for all the other bar patrons' entertainment. The night of the 'Tuff Man' show a couple weeks later, I took off work that evening (I was a bouncer at another bar), and went to the 'run-down' bar it was held at. I got there, and some drunks were beating each other up when I walked in the door.
The promoter spotted me and asked me to follow him to the dressing room. Once inside, he called Al over and asked us if we could put on a Pro-Wrestling 'Holds Exhibition' for the audience. I had my gear in my car, and Al was in sweats and tennis shoes, so we agreed. Once in the ring, we demonstrated some basic holds for a while--and then it quickly degenerated into a free-for-all brawl throughout the ring, then into the bar, and finally into the dressing room, where we had to be separated.
We continued by lunging and hollering across the room at each other. Finally, we both calmed down, and the dressing room cleared, each of us packing to leave. That's when Al looked over and told me that he was opening a wrestling gym in Lima, and if I needed a place to 'work out', he wanted me to come to his gym. This was when he first opened the gym, and he had not yet even named it.
So this led me to go to his gym every Saturday and Monday for about three years to continue my wrestling learning--even though my original training was a couple years earlier by Professor Boris Malenko in Tampa, Florida. Al and I, in the three years, 1990-1993, became great friends, and we exchanged many creative ideas and had many great times. I don't see Al near as much these days, as he is a busy WWF Superstar, but I wish him continued success, as no one deserves it more than he does.
We had a match again on July 3, 1999 at Middletown High School.
Indigo: Before we get to that match in 1999, what was it like training in Al's gym, was this the first (I think) storefront gym? How was it set up? What equipment did he have there?
Atomic Rhino: Al's gym started off in a store in downtown Lima. He was in with a boxing promoter who had his ring set up in the front, Al's ring was in the back. The two soon had a falling out and Al moved next door and had an oriental massage parlour and the police station as neighbors. The front had a big glass storefront window.
He had some wrestling pictures (including some of me) in it. About halfway in the middle of the room was the ring. Al's office was in a rear room with a sliding glass window looking out on the ring. Back up in the front of the building was a bathroom with a shower stall that Al had rigged up, and the sink spigot could be plugged with a finger, making a water fountain through a small hole at the top.
Close to that was the entrance to the cavernous basement, which had many rooms with cots for students who needed to room there. On a regular basis I would drive ninety miles to work out with the likes of Denny Kass, Mike Kelly, Scott Somers, Dave St. Onge, Steve Nixon. Pee Wee Moore, Dan Severn, Woody Lee, many others and Al.
PWI did a biographical special edition on Al , which not only contains photos of him growing up and his family, but also a photo of some of us in the original gym with the ring behind us. If you see this photo, I am the one in the caption referred to as Jack Reno, a name I used in the WWF as a jobber the same time Al was Steve Moore. We were doing shows at the Lima Civic Center, the Troy Hobart Arena, the Belfontaine Armory and various other places.
I always did as Al asked on the shows and usually worked mid-card as Major Havoc. Along about this time, I got Al some more bookings for his ring at 'Tuff Man' shows at a bar in Daytin called the Kamikaze Beach Club. After the ring was set up, we would usually play pool, or go down tothe movie theatre close by and take in a cheap movie. one time we even went to his mom Vada's house and I met her and his brother Conley who was still in High School.
Conley showed me some artwork he had done depicting a wrestling gimmick he wanted to do as soon as he got out of High School, and Vada seemed concerned that we were hanging out in bars while these 'Tuff Man' contests were taking place.
Atomic Rhino: On one occasion, Al asked me if I knew of any surplus stores in Dayton where he could find Australian hats and Boomerangs, so we went and found some for a gimmick he and Denny were going to try.
Along about this time, one evening we were watching a movie, and about halfway through this usher walks down through the seats asking for Al Snow. Al goes out and gets on a payphone and I followed, worrying that it was some family emergency. Well, it turns out that it's Dan Severn, calling to find out if Al can come up with some big guys to go portray football players in a movie filming in South Bend, Indiana. Al asked if Dan and I could come and eventually several of the other wrestlers went, too.
We spent the next several months filming 'Rudy' at Notre Dame and making great money. Al can be seen in that movie several times, but the most famous one is in the locker room with a towel over his shoulder. I like to refer to that story as, ' From the movie theatre into the movies'. Around the end of the filming of, "Rudy', Al decided to move the now Bodyslammers Gym once again.This time to a former Masonic Temple atop the seventh floor of a huge downtown Lima building.
Indigo: You are in the movie, too? When and where? I gotta look for you now!
Atomic Rhino:About halfway through 'Rudy' you will see me standing directly to the left of Sean Astin as a coach is lecturing us about making the team. I am in various other scenes, including one where Al, Dan Severn and I do agility drills during a practice.
Indigo: Who were some of the other wrestlers involved in the 'Rudy' movie with you and Al?
Atomic Rhino: Some of the others were Denny Cass, Judge Dread (a Sabu partner back then), Dave St. Onge (one of The Nightmares), and one of Dan Severn's brothers. The others escape my mind.
Indigo: You got the name,' The Atomic Rhino' around that time, too--How did that come about?
Atomic Rhino: About 'The Atomic Rhino'--WWF/ECW similarities, I think my version started as Al took the Reno in my name, Jack Reno/Major Reno Havoc, and converted it into Rhino. Then one day on the 'Rudy' set, he said I was depressing him over a piece of cheesecake (a long story I hope to relate later on) so since I was depressing that day, he said I was 'The Blue Rhino'! Being entrenched in old school thought, I said No, I needed something more exciting. I liked the Rhino part and came up with the Atomic part myself, although I did not use the gimmick right away. I guess I could expand the gimmick, and call myself, 'The Mean Blue Rhino' (not likely--Lol!) and p*ss of a couple great wrestlers, but I think I will phase out the Atomic Rhino (although all the local wrestlers say they will always refer to me as Rhino, no matter what I do!) soon.
Atomic: I saw your Al Snow artwork on the site...which brings me to my next story.
When Al had his first gym, he would have this man who lived on the street sweep it out. For this, he gave the man a couple bucks. This would have been great, except this man was always hounding Al to let him draw pictures of the wrestlers--and then he wanted Al to buy them for a dollar each! Finally, Al started buying these drawings, and after the guy had done a few and left, I saw the look of humor on his face as he compared the pics to each wrestler.
When I finally got to see them, I could tell why Al found them so funny. Each stick figure looked like the next, except for captions indentifying whose likeness it was. Thus, Mike Kelly's picture might look like Steve Nixon's, mine resembled Pee Wee Moore's--everyone's stick-figure drawings were alike! Al taped these up on the gym walls, and I think they were a source of great amusement for him.
We always had great times in those days, and we learned a lot from Al. Things like, when you do a Pro-Wrestling match, it is more important to entertain the fans than yourself..To be able to tell a story with your match that is understandable to the fans and one that they will remember because they were entertained. He also taught that you should try not to burn bridges with anyone else that you know in the Pro-wrestling biz, because you never know who may eventually be able to help you get work.
He could also teach you the physical part of Pro-Wrestling, utilizing many visualizations and drills to get trainees to do the proper movements. Al Snow was, and is, a great Pro-Wrestling trainer.