DAN MCDEVITT NO LONGER has to hobble around a property when showing it to a prospective buyer.
That’s because the 36-year-old Baltimore-area real estate agent has pretty much let his body hair grow back, kept the baby oil in the closet and hung up his tights.
“I haven’t wrestled in about a year, but I did it for 11 or 12 years,” he said. “I got into it when I was 18 years old, and I was traveling around wrestling, but to be honest with you, your body heals a lot quicker when you’re 18 than when you’re 30. By the time I hit 32 or 33 is when I slowed down with it and pretty much gotten out of it.”
But as the owner of the independent promotion Maryland Championship Wrestling, McDevitt sometimes still can’t resist climbing into the squared circle for one last bump.
“The last time we had in Kevin Nash, a little over a year ago, I did a six-man tag with him — and then I couldn’t walk right for a week.”
But some pimp in his limp is far from the only pain McDevitt has received from devoting much of his life to sports entertainment — he’s even lost a marriage over it.
McDevitt began promoting shows almost as soon as he started wrestling, later forming MCW in 1998. But the company went into limbo for a while as McDevitt tried to catch his breath — not from a vertical suplex powerbomb but from the usual moves of life.
“I was running three or four shows a month, I was getting married, I was getting my real-estate career going. It’s very time consuming,” he said. “I took about two years off. We came back in February 2006; that was our big return show, which we called ‘Resurrection.’ So every February now we do our ‘Anniversary‘ show.”
This Saturday’s “Anniversary” show is headlined by former WWE star Al Snow (shown at top) taking on Tyler Hilton and a three-way bout for the MCW Championship featuring Maryland native and reigning champ Kent Brink — who was recently released from WWE’s developmental company, FCW — versus Cobian (think Batista) and Josh Daniels (think Chris Benoit … in the ring, not all that messy ‘roid rage murder stuff). (See the full card here.)
“All three of those guys are probably going to make it in the business and be stars one day. And the guy who’s wrestling Al Snow, Tyler Hilton, is another guy WWE is using all the time, too, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him end up [in WWE]. So all those guys in the top two matches are guys you’ll probably be watching on television on a regular basis.”
Hiring and cultivating talented wrestlers and not just extreme-rules brawlers is something that McDevitt thinks sets MCW apart.
“We’ve been around a long time and we have a really good reputation — fortunately, we’re one of the top indies in the country,” McDevitt said. “We’ve had a lot of guys starting with us who have ended up making it, from Matt and Jeff Hardy to Lita to Joey Mercury to Orlando Jordan. So [the audience] knows they’re getting some of the best talent out there. … They think it’s going to be bush league, and they come and it’s not very bush league, and they’re entertained and the guys in the ring are good.”
But there’s also the simple fact that MCW wrestlers can’t throw dudes through tables, smash them with barbed-wire clubs or “juice” themselves in order to add a little blood to the feud — the Maryland State Athletic Commission won’t allow it.
“The state of Maryland is very, very strict,” McDevitt said. “Maryland is very strict about blood and things like that, and using weapons and tables on a show. … A couple of months ago when Sheamus of the WWE threw [Santino] through a table [Nov. 30 at Baltimore’s First Mariner Arena during a ‘Raw‘ broadcast], people were’ like, ‘How come you guys can’t do that?’ It’s not that the Maryland State Athletic Commission favors the WWE; from my understanding, they fined the WWE. … [But when they] get fined $2,000 by the state athletic commission, they laugh it off. Whereas an independent show that’s doing an $8,000 or $9,000 gate, that’s 25 percent of the [gross].”
MCW will occasionally go extreme, just not on state property.
“Once in a while we’ll do a show on the Fort Meade Army base,” McDevitt said, “and when you run on federal property, the state athletic commission doesn’t come [there]. So, when we do the shows at Fort Meade … we do the tables and the chairs and the barbed wire and stuff like that.”
While the idea of a brutal and bloody small-time wrestling show brings to mind Randy “The Ram” Robinson, the fictional grappler in the movie “The Wrestler,” McDevitt said that sad story isn’t always the case for former big-league headliners turned indie-show journeymen.
“I loved ‘The Wrestler’; I’ve seen it 10 times. It was dead on,” he said. “But it depends on the guy. Some guys are bitter about [their fall from the spotlight]. Those are the guys who didn’t prepare — a lot of the guys who partied. Look, if you get a four or five year run in the WWE, you should probably be a millionaire — you could be if you were smart with your money and not party it away. I think a lot of the guys have gotten smarter; a lot of the guys don’t live like rock stars as much. Because if you don’t make it to the level of The Undertaker or Rock or Triple H, you’ve got about a three- or five-year career span to really make money.
“A guy like Al Snow is probably financially well off — I always heard he was a smart guy; he didn’t party, he didn’t live recklessly,” McDevitt continued. “He’s probably financially well off, but why shouldn’t he wrestle three or four times a month and make an extra 10 grand? That’s 100 grand a year working a couple times a month. In today’s economy, that’s not bad at all.”
In fact, it’s surprising to hear McDevitt say he doesn’t have to deal with too many fallen stars who have bad attitudes.
“For the most part they’re pretty good, but you get some guys you can kinda tell that they’d — obviously — much rather be wrestling at Madison Square Garden and making $10,000 rather than wrestling a bar in Dundalk, Maryland, and making $1,000.”
One legendary exception, McDevitt said, is Virgil, best known as the bodyguard for “Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase in the WWE and, later, as nWo strongman Vincent in WCW.
“It’s almost like a joke in wrestling [among] promoters,” McDevitt said about Virgil. “I don’t know if he got really desperate for money … after WCW closed up years ago. But he’s famous for just calling you and saying, ‘I’m in the area. I know I’m not booked on the show, but can I come by to sell some pictures?’ And then he’d get to the shows and either he’d say, ‘You owe me a couple hundred bucks because I came for the fans’ — or sometimes he’d just go in the back and start lacing his boots up. … He would just try to throw himself onto a show and get you to pay him $500.”
But nobody can top The Iron Sheik for bombast among the legends still haunting the indie circuit. Nearly 67 and feebly walking with a cane, the Sheik is no longer an in-ring threat. But, brother, can he cause a bloody mess, whether at a photo signing, a talk show — or a wedding.
Enter the phrases “Iron Sheik rants” or “Iron Sheik Howard Stern” in YouTube and you’ll be greeted with dozens of videos featuring the heavily accented Iranian-American screaming about his arch enemies Hulk Hugan and B. Brian Blair, as well as Jewish people, gay folks, terrorists — you name it. Sheiky Baby usually threatens to “humble” them through a specific sexual act and apply his finishing move, “The Camel Clutch,” to their sufficiently humiliated bodies.
And yet, McDevitt still invited The Iron Sheik to that most sacred of days for a couple.
“I got married in 2005 and, for whatever reason, I made the absolutely horrible mistake of inviting The Iron Sheik to my wedding. And if you’ve seen the stuff on YouTube or the stuff on Howard Stern, that’s really him — he’s a freakin’ maniac.”
From here, it’s best to let McDevitt tell the story — no run-ins, no outside interference, no referee.
“Here’s the thing: a big part of my family is Jewish. I have family members who married and converted [to Judaism]. So, my fiancee at the time wasn’t really comfortable with [Sheik coming to the wedding] because she knows how the Sheik is and she’s seen the videos of him. And I had a lot of people in wrestling [at the wedding], and I guess I was thinking more about entertaining them and having a good time than I was thinking what was a good decision.
“She said, ‘Whatever you do, don’t let him get on the microphone.’ So, I tell my best man — and he’s a huge wrestling fan growing up — ‘Joe, man, don’t do it — don’t put the Sheik on the microphone.’ So, as he’s giving his best-man speech, [wrestler] Stevie Richards — who’s one of my closest friends but a helluva instigator … I see Stevie has Sheik by the arm and he’s walking him up to my best man with the microphone, and I’m like, ‘Oh, man. What’s going on?’
“My wife’s side of the family knows nothing about wrestling, they’re not into wrestling — so they’re very much normal. And the Sheik gets up there and says I’m one of his closest friends and what a great person I am and he loves me so much — “Danny McDermitt.” So, he calls me by the wrong name — and I think, ‘Oh, this is going to be good.’
“So, he’s drunk, and he says, ‘I just want to say to everybody, I have so much respect for Danny because he didn’t kill the Jews like Hitler. And he’s not like Saddam Hussein. And he’s not a no good son-of-a-bitch like Osama bin Laden.’ And I’m sitting there thinking, ‘Man, to make me sound like a good guy, did you have to compare me to the three worst dictators in the world?’
“Meanwhile, my side of the place — the wrestling [side] — is going crazy, screaming and yelling. And my wife’s side of the family is absolutely horrified.
“Then Stevie comes running and pulls out a ‘Hulkamania‘ sign and [Sheik] goes into a tangent about — [the usual one] you’ve heard on YouTube.
“Everybody on my side of the family is in tears; my wife’s side of the family is getting up and leaving, walking out of the hall. It was kind of just downhill from there — 10 months later I was divorced.
“I honestly don’t think [the marriage] ever recovered after that. … It was a freakin’ disaster.
“He put the Camel Clutch on my marriage.”