Retirements in professional wrestling almost never stick (no wrestler has retired more times than Terry Funk). But Michael Strider insists that his retirement is for real.
The first clue that he's serious may be the way he answers the phone: "Hi, this is Justin."
Strider's real name is Justin Appleberry. He understands how people might be skeptical that he's leaving the bloody brawls with forks and razor wire.
"The only thing that would be different for me than those guys is, they make a living at it," Strider says. "I make my living working at Ringside/Combat Sports. I don't want to get beat up any worse than I already am, so it's a good time. ... I'm getting older and getting ready to start a family and everything, and I want to be able to play catch with my kids and go to Little League and be able to move around halfway decently."
Strider has been wrestling professionally since 1997. He took a year off before his latest run with Metro Pro Wrestling, which hosts his retirement match Saturday night against former NWA World Champion Adam Pearce at the Turner Rec Center (831 South 55th Street, Kansas City, Kansas). Click here for tickets.
"I still love wrestling ... but you've got to know when your time is done," Strider says. "Terry Funk always said, if you stop taking that nervous piss before a match, then you know it's probably time to go."
Strider says, "It's been awhile" since his last nervous piss. Maybe the last was a match with Jeremy Wyatt (named by The Pitch as Kansas City's best pro wrestler). Saturday night, he'll take one more.
Metro Pro promoter Chris Gough confirms that Saturday's match is Strider's last. "I told him [Strider] yesterday, it's so funny. All of these people think it's just a phony retirement match. But he's actually not going to do it anymore."
Strider spoke with The Pitch about his career.
Strider: Just being with the boys in the locker room and the road trips and the good times you have there, laughing and fooling around and stuff and playing pranks. The best part was being in the ring performing in front of the fans. When you can get a crowd to pop right when you mean for 'em to, that thing's a crack. That's a pretty good feeling.
Who was your favorite opponent?
Jeremy Wyatt and Dingo. Every time we wrestled, we tore the house down. I've wrestled Dingo in every little flea-bit town from Chicago, Illinois, to Omaha, Nebraska, down to Kansas City and all those areas. Every time we wrestled, we just had a chemistry. Same with Jeremy.
Where does Adam Pearce fall on the list?
He's up there pretty high just because he's phenomenal. Just a hell of a talent. Just a disgrace that guy isn't working Monday nights right now.
Had you worked with him prior to this run in Metro?
No, it was the very first Metro show. We had our very first match. ... It was a really long show, and we were the last match to go on, and I'd already worked once or twice. I think he did, too. It was one of those things like, what do you want to do? I have no idea. My music was playing, and I was like, well, we've got the finish. I'll see you out there. Just meeting the guy that day and having nothing at all prepared, and to kind of click the way we did, it was just one of those great times.
What do you see in the future for Metro Pro Wrestling?
It's only positive. We've got a really nice TV spot with a channel that gives really good support. I think [Metro Pro owner] Chris [Gough] has a really solid vision of what we want to do. ... It's got the makings of turning into, like, an old-school territory.
Who stands out to you as the future stars of the company?
You've got Jeremy Wyatt, Mark Sterling, Tyler Cook. That kid ACH - I think he's just a phenomenal young talent that's going to be up and up. I don't see an end to that guy's potential.
So you're going to transition to behind the scenes?
I'm going to help the guys with promos and help with some of the booking and organization and stuff like that. One of the hardest things for guys to do is cut an informative, money promo that actually gets people interested in coming to watch you wrestle.
Do you have a favorite moment from this run with Metro Pro?
The last match with Adam. We did the "Dusty finish," and I won the title for a couple of minutes there. My dad, who grew up idolizing the NWA Title, was there, so I got to grab the belt and let him hold it for a couple of seconds. He was pretty excited. With him being there and seeing his son wrestle for the NWA Title was by far my favorite.
My dad is an old Vietnam vet who lost both of his legs in the war. So he's in a wheelchair now. He has prosthetics, but as he gets older, it's hard to walk on them. He was the gentleman - and they got pretty good footage of it on the TV show, where I run out and give him the belt and hold him up. That was pretty rewarding.
Did you have tryout matches or dark matches with the big companies?
Yeah, I had some really solid shots at WWE. I had some real solid conversations with TNA several years ago to the point that I thought that was actually signed. I told my mom and dad, yeah, looks like we're good to go. And I used to go down to Dory Funk's weeklong camps that he had, and you get looks from the scouts by, at the time, WCW and WWF and Puerto Rico and Japan.
What happened with the TNA deal?
They signed Kurt Angle. Terry Taylor was my agent over there, and they had a certain amount of money allocated to new talent. At the time, their goal was to get some homegrown talent, not just the guys from the WWE coming over. I was actually going to be one of those guys, but they signed Kurt Angle, and that ate it all up. You can't blame 'em. After that, it was a couple of months, I met my wife. So it all worked out happily.
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