In August of 2002, I saw an advertisement on WrestlingObserver.com saying that “The webmaster for one of the original pro wrestling websites online is looking for new columnists. Email Martin at ************ if interested.” The post had also noted that the webmaster didn’t want to use the space as advertisement, so he purposely didn’t name the site he worked for. I immediately dropped what I was doing that afternoon and started typing away. I was nervous. Anxious. I was typing too fast, making lots of typos, and having to re-type whole paragraphs. My sentences made no sense. I edited and revised a million times. Eventually, the first edition of what became known as The Prime Cut was published on TheBalrogsLair.com. It was titled “RVD: The Chris Jericho of Yester-year” (Who would have thought this column holds up today, twelve years later…)
I had been running a fan site about WWF news and my take on all things wrestling through Yahoo’s GeoCities personal site space (Wow, am I dating myself?!) – dare I say, the site was becoming popular after a lot of hard work. But with thousands of websites on the Internet about pro wrestling, I really wanted to expand my brand and take on a columnist position with an “established” site. I remember dreaming of working for RajahWWF.com one day and I actually thought this columnist job might get me there. (It did. I ended up posting news on RajahWWF.com for a very brief period of time.) Little did I know that I would end up writing for and eventually running TheBalrogsLair.com, which later became TBLWrestling.com. It was probably the most exciting hobby I had during those years. I updated the site daily, created graphics, learned HTML coding, wrote columns, discussed pro wrestling on our board, wrote a newsletter, created an audio/video show, which later became an audio program with featured interviews. I really truly can say I’ve done it all at TBL, all thanks to my partnership with its owner, Joe.
I became close with Joe in the process of running the site. We were online buddies. He was on the east coast in NJ while I was out west in LA. (Our paths did cross once when we went out for a beer in Long Beach, CA. The next round is on me.). Joe has always been fun to talk with. I always thought of him as an older brother who had his own spin on things, and whose words of wisdom were always worth listening to. You see, Joe is the type of guy that likes to say what he thinks. (He’s from Jersey, guys!) I always liked that about him. He never lied to me, always told me things straight, and never shied away from letting me know how he feels, whether it was about our site, pro wrestling, girlfriends, life, or that student loan of his. (I didn’t tell you this, but he might have new loans coming up in the future!) What I never realized in our 12 years of friendship is how personable Joe is. He is the type of guy who does everything in life for a reason, his online work included. And it shows. From the little things, like the design of the page you’re currently looking at (and I mean every little detail of that page – the color, the font, the graphics, the spacing, etc.), all the way to the big-picture stuff – “What is our purpose as a web site? Are we reporting news, writing columns, or both? What are our sources? Are we just going to quote what the big guys are reporting, or go directly to the source, even if the source is interested in independent promotions? Can we do interviews? How about profiles of some of these guys. Their stories are fascinating. How about doing previews of books written on the personas in wrestling? Or those smaller promotions – what are those guys about?” I found out Joe’s view of pro wrestling when recording our audio show – TBL Soundoff. I had bugged Joe about being a guest for so long. He never wanted to go on and talk about the latest episode of RAW, or review the latest PPV. But he said he’d love to get engaged in some conversation on history, and other wrestling topics. I never understood why back then, but I’m fully aware why today.
Joe’s site has always been about being different. His view of professional wrestling is very different from your average fan’s. As we grew up, his appreciation for it as an art-form, as entertainment, and as a way of life for the people within it allowed him to change his shape and form in the virtual world. You’ve perhaps been with this site through TheBalrogsLair.com, TBLWrestling.com, WOWRevolution.com, TNAStars.com, IWHeadlines.com and there’s always those JerseySmarts.com… What’s next?
Twelve years ago, I was sitting in a room typing a column, applying to be a columnist on a site, whose future, name, identity, and history, I knew nothing about. Today, I’m sitting in a room typing a column about a site whose future I know nothing about, but whose name, identity, and history, I can tell you plenty about. Perhaps Joe has finally figured out the latest reincarnation of his work. Or maybe he’s still finalizing it. For all I know, he will start posting pictures from indy shows in New Jersey, mixed with reviews of wrestling biography books, and fire-side chats with wrestlers whom you know and some who you don’t. He’ll sprinkle in some commentary on the current big boys in wrestling – WWE and TNA – and maybe look back at history to reflect on. (I can’t wait for his review of Tugboat & Hulk Hogan vs. Earthquake & Dino Bravo from the December, 1990 MSG show.)
Whatever it is that he chooses to do in 2014, it will be different. And good. I can’t wait to read along.