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Exclusive interview with Roland Alexander (english)
CAGEMATCH: You started All Pro Wrestling with the Boot Camp in 1991. In 1995 you've had the first show. What was the reason for you to make a show in front of an audience? And why didn't you do shows from the beginning?
Roland Alexander: For the most part, we began doing live events to give our graduates and students a vehicle to get some experience and exposure. We know not all of our graduates will be able to earn a livigng from pro wrestling but, we hope there are many that can. Even though we are a training camp foremost and hold no obligation to give our students to gain them experience and exposure, we fell that with our newly created management division, it is in our best interest to hold as many events as possible whether they be at fairs, fundraisers or in our dojo as "Gym Wars". I feel that the events they do are an important part of the students training and any dojo that can not do these shows is doing their students an injustice.
If you have to describe both, the Boot Camp and All Pro Wrestling with a few words, how would you do it?
APW Boot Camp = Pro wrestling training personified
ALL Pro Wrestling = Top indy organization in the US with graduates in all major promotions including ECW, WCW, WWF, WWE, Pro Wrestling NOAH, ARSION and New Japan.
When you first heard about Ron Howard's "Beyond the mat" and that he wants to have you featured on that documentary, what have been thinking and did you agree instantly?
It was an honor to be a part of "Beyond the Mat". It brought us alot of exposure to us and increased our training school business tremendously but we didn't do it without reservation. The director of the documentary, was looking to benefit himself more than anything and exploited many while doing so. We didn't agree completely with everything he was trying to do. At one time, he wanted to do several things that I did not agree to do. My mother was dying in a rest home and had just had her leg amputated and he wanted to take the cameras into the rest home and capture the interaction I would have with her. He only cared about his film and had no feelings for many of us and/or our families. He also wanted to show the "the behind the scenes" inner workings of pro wrestling but we would not allow him to capture certain things on film. The director told us there would be no money because this film would only go to Pulbic Broadcasting systems and never make the theatre or cable television or video. He then turned the piece from being a documentary on pro wrestling and what individuals need to go through to become pro wrestlers into something completely different while trying to ride the success of the WWF. Therefore, we only ended up having ten minutes in the piece and fans did not walk away with as great a respect as they could have walked away with. This is probably one of the reasons Vince McMahon put a stop to the film being advertised on his wrestling programs. It is my opinion, some of us were misled by Mr. Barry Blaustein and unfortunately, we had no control in the editing suite.
What do you think about the documentary itself? Do you think it helps to understand wrestling or does it take a one-sided view on wrestling?
It was a one-sided view on pro wrestling, it was the directors view.
Are you proud of the accomplishments your students (Michael Modest, Erin O'Grady, Matt Hyson, Vic Grimes, Donovan Morgan and Tony Jones) made in wrestling?
Somewhat. Somehow, someway, pro wrestlers have a way of forgetting their roots once they get to the major leagues of pro wrestling. Take for instance, Erin O'Grady (aka Crash Holly). He was poorly trained and couldn't get anywhere wrestling for the indies he was wrestling for. He came to APW, we re-trained him and for a very small fee because he had already paid a fee to someone else. Let's just say he was at the right place at the right time when he was discovered by the WWF and yet, he has been disrespectful towards our company since he left. The only time he returned was to make money on polaroids at a show in San Leandro and he didn't even wrestle. Last I heard, he hasn't even had contact with his trainer, Michael Modest.
Michael Modest and Donovan Morgan have gone on to earn a decent living but I was not comfortable in the method they parted ways with APW. I feel they were very disrespectful and unprofessional. The contacts of All Pro Wrestling is what got Modest into WCW. APW hosted the Pro Wrestling NOAH visit to our dojo to scout our graduates. Donovan Morgan was doing marketing for us as well as training and one of his projects was to arrange the NOAH visit but yet, now that they left, they try to take all the credit. Am I proud of their accomplishments? Let's just say I am proud of their abilities in the ring but I don't think too highly of them as people.
If you're following APW's history, there is one guy that you will always find. His name is Robert Thompson! What do you think of him as a person and as a wrestler?
I value Robert Thompson much more as a person than as wrestler or trainer and yet he is a damn good wrestler and trainer so that should tell you a little something about Robert Thompson as a person. He was the first student to sign up for our training school back in 1991. He was also the first graduate and was in my first main event on our first live show. He has stuck with us through thick and thin. When Modest and Donovan decided to leave our company last year, Robert Thompson was right there. Robert has always been just as good a wrestler as Modest and on two separate ocassions, turned down offers from ECW. We chose to market Modest over Robert because of his dedication to earn a living with pro wrestling whereas Thompson chose to raise his daughter and concentrate on that and who can blame him. Robert may very well be our best complete package to graduate from our camp. He is a good wrestler, trainer and person. I think it is sad he never made it to the major leagues but at the same time, I am proud of him as a father and family man. His loyalty to APW is unmatched in his eleven years with APW. He is our current co-Head Trainer at the APW Boot Camp and is doing a very good job. The difference between Robert and any other trainer we have had in our eleven years is his feelings for the student. He truly cares about the student and this isn't just a job for him and it isn't about money. He is compensated very well but he would probably do it for free. He really has a passion for people and young guys trying to break into the wrestling business.
When you had the idea of doing a tournament with the biggest stars in US Indy-wrestling. Did you ever expect the success this "King of Indies" tournament had? Andf which King of Indies-Tournament was your personal favourite?
When doing "King of Indies" in the year 2000, my goal was to have it be so successful it would be on the level of a "Super 8 tournament" done by Jim Kettner on the east coast. Of course, that is difficult because Jim has been doing a great job with Super 8 for so long. I felt I responsible for the failure of our first tournament in 2000. That failure served as a challenge to make "King of Indies" 2001 more successful. We decided to make an event out of "King of Indies" . We decided on 16 wrestlers instead of eight. We decided on a two day tournament instead of doing it in one night. We added a third day to the event for the fans and that was great. Most of the tournament wrestlers showed up a day early and worked out with each other and passed on knowledge to each other and many of the wrestlers walked away that weekend learning something from their fellow wrestlers. The fans got to see them get in the ring and workout. We then had our production team, led by Jason Deadrich who is in charge of our operations including our website and production, tape the wrestlers doing promos. This was very entertaining for the fans, wrestlers and all in attendance and gave us great footage to air on the big screen for the ring entrances during the tournament. Lastly, we invited some of the wrestling legends from Cauliflower Alley Club (www.caulifloweralleyclub.org) to attend "King of Indies" weekend. We invited their president, Red Bastein and their Vice President, Nick Bockwinkel (former AWA Champion) and Dick Beyer (aka The Destroyer) along with California legends, Pepper Gomez and Kenji Shibuya. We thought that "King of Indies" would attract attention and we attempted to encourage fans and wrestlers alike to sign up for Cauliflower Alley which is a great non-profit organization that does great things for former wrestlers. I encourage everyone to become a member and attend their annual banquet in Las Vegas. You won't regret it.
What transpired from 10/25 through 10/28 was unbelievable. The legends were impressed with the tournament and all the festivities surrounding the tournament. In my opinion, it was the greatest two day tournament you'll ever see in the US I don't know if we'll ever be able to outdo ourself. From the practice session, to the tournament, to the afterparty, to the job our production crew did, to our ring announcer, to the wrestlers busting their tails to the Legends Bar-B-Q on Sunday, everything was a huge success. Just because it wasn't a financial success does not mean it was not a success. "King of Indies" WAS a success!!! You had to be there to understand and appreciate what "King of Indies" is all about.
Michael Modest was one of your best graduates and a head trainer for a long time. In 2001 he went to Japan to tour with NOAH and he now has his own wrestling school with another top Boot Camp graduate, Donovan Morgan. Their school is located in California, too. Do you see them as business competition or do you think it's great to have another very good wrestling school?
I wish I could say they are not competition but they are. I taught both of them quite a bit besides pro wrestling. I'd like to think I taught them alot about business. Sometimes though, competition is healthy as long as it is good honest competition. It keeps you on your toes. There is no question their wrestling training will be top-notch. Will it be the best? I don't think so. There is much more to pro wrestling training than just training individuals on the in-ring stuff. I believe the APW Boot Camp has the best wrestler in indy wrestling today, American Dragon, as our co-Head Instructor. He now understands the APW system of training and has incorporated his own stuff based on the knowledge he has received from his trainers, Shawn Michaels, Steven Regal, Tracy Smothers and Bobby Eaton and he is only 21 years old. He has made a name for himself in the US quicker than guys like Michael Modest and Christopher Daniels. The guy can flat-out wrestle and has a very good understanding of wrestling. That combined with co-Head trainer Robert Thompson, who knows the APW system and is a people's person, will continue to make us the leader in talent development. The APW Boor Camp is going through a new chapter and that is not something we have not done before. Funny thing, every time we go through a new chapter, we become even better than before. I am not just saying this out of anger, them leaving APW was the best thing that could happen to APW and has given us all a shot in the arm.
After the "King of Indies" 2001 APW had no shows and there were many rumors concerning APW and even you. Can you give us a comment on the current situation of All Pro Wrestling and the ownership of APW.
Rumors are hard to control. Of course, everyone had us dying. It is no different than an NBA team like the Los Angeles Lakers. They have always been a great team. The moment they went through some rough times, everyone said they were dead. Heck, they weren't dead, they were just rebuilding. They went from the Magic Johnson era which was pretty darn good to the Kobe Bryant, Shaq era which could be better than ever but they had to go through some tough times in the rebuilding process. We have done the same. I wasn't going to allow one wrestler who was discontent because he was not the best wrestler in the tournament to change the way our company is run. I feel that the change was the best thing that could happen to APW. We are back to averaging five student sign ups every month with Robert Thompson handling our Boot Camp marketing. The other day, I took in a Boot Camp session being run by American Dragon, Robert Thompson and assistant instructor, Jardi Frantz the other night and it was tremendous. There were many people throwing up and paying their dues at the start of this new camp but I saw something I had never seen. I saw passion. I saw trainers really caring. I didn't see people doing a job just for the money. I didn't see trainers hoping that the students would just drop out. I saw our trainers encouraging the students. For the last two years, our camp began to have lots of negativity and it was not healthy. Heck, we only produced Myaki Frantz and Dalip Singh over the last couple of years. That was just not tolerable with the reputation we had gained as the leader in talent development. There is no question our training was suffering and began to suffer even more the moment Donovan Morgan began touring Japan regularly. We had already discussed with Donovan bringing in a new Head Trainer and having him oversee this trainer so he knew we were searching for a replacement. The interview process was simple. With King of Indies in town, I had 15 other wrestlers to choose from to interview for the position.
Our company is growing, we now have a career management division. We began training females as well at the end of last year. We have already had sucess with that and sent Cheerleader Melissa to Japan to tour and train with Arsion. We have developing a strong relationship with Arsion in Japan. The results of this has us training more females than ever before. We are currently training four females and 38 males. We intended on going through a major ownership change at the beginning of the year but it has taken longer than we originally planned. I am hoping by the beginning of the year, APW will have its biggest opportunity to grow.
What might be the reason of the success APW and the Boot Camp have in the western USA?
One word. PASSION. From the owner down to the instructors in this company, everyone has passion and pride and our system calls for passing that along to the students. Of course, it doesn't hurt to have great internet marketing and and great volunteers helping out and we have both.
At the end of the year 2001 American Dragon became one of the head trainers of the APW Boot Camp. What were the reasons for you to choose him?
I was so impressed with American Dragon during "King of Indies". His wrestling was the best but it was more than his wrestling that led to me interviewing him during "King of Indies" weekend. He worked hard during the Boot Camp summit where most of the wrestlers got in the ring and wrestled with each other and tried to learn from each other. He showed PASSION. He is a person with great moral values and was only 21 with a world of knowledge and in my opinion, the #1 independent wrestler in the country already. I think you are going to see many more graduates than we have produced in the past make it over the next several years because of American Dragon. He has been everything I thought he would be. This guy stays three hours after class and comes in before class and works with the students. He is a student of the game and has a passion for wrestling. Although small, he has a great look and physique. He trains hard and is natural. He does not condone steroid use. This guy is not lazy, he trains hard and expects his students to train hard. He is a good person and a fabulous wrestler.
What do you think about losing Michael Modest, Tony Jones and Donovan Morgan in just a few months? Did you use this sacrifice as a change in APW and bring some new faces to the APW crowd or is it a fact you're very sorry about?
Sorry? NEVER! I'd do it again a million times over. It hasn't been easy. We lost students. Students defected to Pro Wrestling IRON. Students who owed money to APW. Students under contract where the contract stipulated they could not wrestle or participate with any other wrestling organization until their fees were paid in full. There was an attempt to take some of the great management APW had. We are currently researching the legalities of what went down.
I am very disappointed in the methods used. When you look back, it seems silly. This all went down because an APW wrestler did not win "King of Indies". Very unprofessional! I wanted to get wrestlers that did not graduate from our camp to Pro Wrestling NOAH, yet some of the guys had a fear for their job security and did not want to do anything for anyone that was not a graduate from the APW Boot Camp. They were setting examples that we did not want our students to learn. We are very old-school.
Prior to all of this going down during "King of Indies", APW was becoming stale. The training was not good. Just like a baseball team losing games and needing to change their managers, we were needing a change. Out of loyalty, I never made the change. I didn't have it in me to make the change. Modest and Donovan were like children to me. "King of Indies", was like receiving a gift of God. I had already been giving change lots of thought. I knew it would be difficult. I knew it would be stressful and unhealthy. I knew times would be tough for a while. Now that I look back on it, it was like being a General Manager of a ballclub. Your club has gone stale. Your training has gone stale. The fans love guys like Modest, Morgan, Smith, Massarro, Jones, Comini, and a few rookies that were, well, not that good. We needed to make a trade that would make things very rough for a while but in the long, run, APW would be better off. Sounds like alot to give up but would you do it for the #1 wrestler in indy wrestling you had seen in eleven years, that was not only a great wrestler, with a great look that was not on steroids, but a great human being? I think most General Managers would be too scared to pull the trigger. I pulled the trigger. We gave up alot and went through a very tough rebuilding period but we now have the best possible training with both Robert Thompson and American Dragon and Jardi Frantz as instructors. We'd like to believe the #1 independent wrestler in the United States is now a huge part of All Pro Wrestling. I think you'll see in the future how the trade paid off. Actually, it is already paying off. Not quite yet with our shows as we are still flying in many top indy talent until our rookies get some experience but the live shows are still very entertaining and I can't wait to see what some of the little Dragons look like a couple years from now. I'd say with the Boot Camp, the trade ha already paid dividends and in a year or two, the live APW events will have its payoff.
You provide complete APW Matches to download. Many fans love these matches. What were the reasons for you to create an Internet Title and provide these matches to download?
Exposure. Our Internet and Jason Deadrich is one of the main reasons APW became a success. Jason came up with the idea of the Internet title and Jason was the one who overhauled our website and you have to admit, it is one of the best out there. We kind of dropped the ball with the internet belt at first, but we seem to have a good handle on it now. We've had some great wrestlers holding that belt.
Mr. Deadrich is now putting up those title defenses on the internet and the internet world including fans in Germany have seen some great matches. Hopefully, those matches will give these young indy wrestlers some exposure. We don't have television and we happen to be in a tough television market but with the internet, it gives us a chance for everyone worldwide to see our wrestlers, our matches and how our students develop.
Cheerleader Melissa was your first female Boot Camp member to gain a contract with a promotion from Japan. Do you think there are more females (for example Nikki) in the near future to make this step?
Yes, we have four more females training in our July camp plus, I feel Nikki will be in Japan before too long, probably the beginning of the year. Nikki, has become American Dragon's personal project along with our latest student who relocated from Japan, Makoto. Nikki is tough and hungry to learn. She is an excellent student of the game. She is also one tough girl. She has overcome many injuries and one of her weaknesses is to not let anyone know when she is injured. I believe her and Melissa will go down as two of the better females trained in the U.S. and they will both have much success in Japan and maybe even in the states someday. They are in good hands with Bionic J. J is also one tough girl who has lots of talent and she is taking Melissa under her wing. People always said to me, "You do such a great job with training the guys, why haven't you ever trained females?" It takes females to want to train. In the past, not many females have joined our camp. This year alone, we have already had four female students join our school. I feel that the Arsion connection will eventually do for our female training divisision the same thing "Beyond the Mat" did for our male division.
Is there anything you want to say to APW's german fans and/or wrestling fans in general?
I truly wish we could bring APW at its best to Germany for a tour in the future. Who knows, maybe someone would sponsor a "King of Indies" in Germany (smiles) some day. Until that time, I implore each and every serious pro wrestling fan to folllow our matches on the internet at www.allprowrestling.com. Support Indy Wrestling!
Thanks a lot for answering our questions. We wish you and All Pro Wrestling the very best for the future!
Your welcome... It was my pleasure... Anytime we can do this again, just give me a hollar.
Christopher Daniels: Class, funny, great athlete, should have gotten a break by now. He is so gifted with speaking skills and WWE completely overlooks it.
Sports Entertainment: Vince McMahon.
Backyard "Wrestling": They need to join a training school. We did backyard wrestling but only because only two schools existed in the 70's, Verne Gagne and the Stu Hart Dungeon.
Vince McMahon: Marketing genius. Understands how to market and run a company. Even with all the publicity he gets, he is underrated. Don't underestimate his pro wrestling knowledge, he has it, he only much rather compete with Hollywood.
"Wrestling is fake!": Makes me angry as much as it does wrestlers. Wrestling IS NOT fake! Everything you see in the ring is real? The wrestlers bodies take lots of abuse.
Japan: Certainly a country that treats their wrestling with respect. They treat pro wrestling history with respect.
US Independent Wrestling: Tough to make a living as a wrestler or promoter but today, they are necessary along with good training schools because I don't see the major promotions having great talent development systems.
Gym Wars: The start of something that spread in US Indy wrestling. Many training schools now do these as part of the training program. I feel APW was the innovator of this and we had some great shows but and continue to have Gym Wars but it will never be the same as it was in 1996, 1997 and 1998. They will always remain an important part of our training program. It is where a student gets to get his feet wet in a smaller setting.
Vic Grimes: I wish he had as much brains as he does guts but I wish him the best never the less.
World Wrestling Entertainment: Huge, huge and huge, the very best in sports entertainment.
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