Joel Gertner Talks About Breaking into Wrestling, Adopting the Neckbrace Look in ECW, and More
Posted by Jeffrey Harris on 12.22.2012
Gertner reflects on the closing of ECW...
- The Shining Wizards Podcast recently interviewed former ECW talent Joel Gernter. Here are some higlights:
On breaking into wrestling: "Game shows were my first love, going back to when I was four or five years old. Then when I was about eight or nine I found wrestling, and just heavy into it, my number one hobby. I started following it more and more every year. I was calling 976 numbers, the precursor to 1-900 numbers. I started subscribing to a couple of newsletters. Eventually, by the summer of '89 I started subscribing to The Observer. By the time I was 16, in '91, I found out about the Lower East Side Wrestling Gym at the projects on FDR Drive and East Houston. Pete McKay, who wrestled for WWWF, ran the school. Bobby Bold Eagle was a trainer, he had worked internationally as Black Tiger. That's when I started, a little over 21 years ago. I got to meet Jason Knight, who was doing enhancement stuff for WCW; Little Guido, who was working for IWCCW; Chris Kanyon, who was from Sunnyside; Devon Storm, who I think was breaking in around that time. It was a lot of fun, it was something to do during high school to see if this was something I could embark on, as a career down the line, maybe after college. I wound up getting the ECW opportunity during college, after my third year. Me and Cornell University came to the mutual decision that I had other places to be at that time. So I left school and ran off and joined the circus."
On his progression in ECW: "We did Gertner-Vision for a few weeks, for a little while I was doing Hype Central, I was trying to steal it from Lance Wright. It just kinda was always evolving and reinventing itself. I became the ring announcer. Bob Artese had taken some time off and then came back. I was doing foreign language ring announcing for the lucha guys, and from there became a heel ring announcer, and then moved around, doing personal announcing for a bunch of different guys, eventually leading to doing it for a version of the Dudleys."
On his trademark poetry: "If there was something interesting going on politically or sports or pop culture, then if that came up and happened say on a Wednesday, I would jot it down and start writing my poem in advance. There were other times where I'd either, really kind of intentionally, just flew by the seat of my pants. I liked to challenge myself. One of the Pay-Per-Views, I think it was Guilty as Charged, from Kissimmee, it included all the nonsense about Daisy Duck taking one for the team, being filled full of cream and all that, and I didn't wanna write that one in advance. I would come up with a part of it here or there. I knew we were going to be in Kissimmee so I said my crotch was the happiest place on Earth, I came up with that in advance. A lot of the times, like 45 minutes before the show I would just sit down and get some paper and a pen and just start writing... Paul gave me such a level of respect that was probably undue based on my level of experience and based on how young I was, but really, thankfully, and I was blessed that he kind of, especially after a certain time, after a while of me doing it and getting a decent response... I mean, there was no censorship, there was no limit, there was no envelope, it was extreme. So the more over the edge it was, the better. Even leading up to the JFK, Jr., promo, that ran in some markets and didn't run in others, and was beloved by some and I think we got a Jeers for it from TVguideonline.com."
On the neckbrace and his overall look: "It was something that just happened and we ran with it, made it work. I started wearing just a regular shirt, tie, suit, like a ring announcer would. And I was a heel at some point and was putting on enough weight that it would be funny. We were doing a show in Reading, PA. It was in a warehouse kind of building, like a barn, and it felt like it was 125 degrees in there. And I think that was when I started not wearing a shirt. It was hot, so why not give it a try? And then after Total Elimination (at Barely Legal) I started wearing the neckbrace. And then I would start to get different colored stockings to put around it, different patterns, and wear different colored bowties. Eventually one night I got medical clearance to stop wearing the neckbrace and that was when the Dudleys made their face turn and were getting ready to leave ECW for WWF, and on the same night I went out there without a neckbrace, I got slapped in the face and took 3-D. And at the very next show I was back on the neck brace."
On whether there was anything he was uncomfortable doing: "At the Gym, the very first time I went, I made a concerted effort to take one class as a wrestler. So I showed up in my white and black Everlast t-shirt, and my black and gray Everlast shorts. So I ran the ropes and I took a few bumps, and I realized that's not where my bread was buttered as far as what I could do to contribute to the wrestling industry. I made a pretty piss-poor wrestler, and I never really intended to be a wrestler first and foremost, but I wanted to make sure that I experienced it. So I had a limited amount of in-ring experience and training, but I knew hot to take a bump, knew how to tuck my chin, important stuff for finishes. There was a time early on where a different babyface every week would hit a different finish every week, so I was taking superbombs, Big Dick Dudley's moonsault, a number of different things. It was my job to do that, and I did. And as far as on the mic, if anything it was my job to say things that would make other people uncomfortable, and for most of the crowd that was never an issue; they were highly entertained. So no, I was just happy to be out there and provide what I could."
On spending time with the boys: "A lot of people find it interesting that one of my better friends, one of my running buddies, was New Jack. We used to hang out all the time in the towns. And he's another foodie, we used to go to the best food spots in town, and if he went to one and I wasn't with him, if he had leftovers or whatever, he'd bring some back to the locker room and be like "Joel, you gotta try this, it's unbelievable. I got it here, it's great. Next time, we'll go." So I hung out with him quite a bit. Really, everybody, I'm kind of a fun-loving, extroverted person, so I just always, you know, my mood was always great 'cause I was doing what I loved for a living, and there was no place I'd rather be, so I was your friend as long as you were my friend."
The closing of ECW: "The checks started coming less frequently. There started to seem like financial issues. And then at the last PPV, we were back to doing syndication, I was one of the announcers, so I would do production once a week, and I was watching some of the show in the truck. And Paul came up to me and had mentioned something, schedule-wise, that there would be a little down time. I guess tab "A" and slot "B" and certain things started happening. I remember at that show I was in the locker room, and I was managing Christian York and Joey Matthews. They looked at me during that show, and I was kind of off in my own thoughts. I think they noticed I looked different, like sad or whatever, and they asked me what was up. I remember I looked at them and I said "If you guys were only able to come along three years ago." So I felt bad for them, I felt bad for a lot of people, just starting out in 2000, that were ramping up and would've had great careers in ECW, and just for want of the timing aspect, you know, it was impossible."