Q&A with Tommy D.:
NEI: In a region of literally dozens of promotions, PLW is in fact one of the longest running in all of New England. How did PLW come together initially?
Tommy D: It started as a type of backyard fed before the term "backyard fed" existed. In 1989, local wrestling journalist Cody Boyns had a show on public access television, called "Talking Wrestling." It was a half-hour show. During the first 20 minutes of the show, Cody would discuss news and views, talk phone calls and interview guests. The last 10 minutes would showcase the Outdoor Wrestling Federation (OWF). It got it's name because the earliest matches were taped in Cody's backyard. In 1991, a ring was built and the matches moved indoors to the television studio. In October of 1991, the wrestlers of the OWF started a federation and television show of their own called Power League Wrestling. The founders of PLW were Bob Evans and Mark Amaral. The first two years, we would wrestle in a makeshift ring, with an "audience" of wrestlers who were not performing in the current match. We would film many matches in one night, and put them on public access television in half hour shows. While the quality of work was very "bush league" then, we still took pride in it and the show we produced. But with the help of workers like Bob Evans and Paul Lauzon we started to make contacts with wrestlers through New England. We started running charity events in 1995, and several area wrestlers started appearing on the shows.
NEI: What do you credit PLW's longevity too?
Tommy D: The willingness of wrestlers to help by performing. All of the shows are charity shows. We don't bring in money from running the events, and all the wrestlers perform on their own time. They like the fact that they helping a good cause. And if it wasn't for them, we would not be able to hold the events.
NEI: How have you personally seen the state of New England Wrestling change since you first began running?
Tommy D: In the early 1990's they were a lot less promotions in New England. I was familiar with New England Wrestling (now known as Yankee Pro Wrestling), Tony Rumble's Century Wrestling Alliance and New England Pro Wrestling run by John Callahan and Big City Mike. Today there are many promotions. In my opinion, the WWF/WWE's popularity in the late 1990's combined with the Internet is the cause for the boom in number of promotions. The Internet has help spread the concept of independent wrestling. Promotions' web sites, e-mail, and wrestling news outlets, such as the NEI, have made it easier to advertise events, and to keep fans informed. When I started following indy wrestling, I learned about the shows from Bob Evans, who was working the shows.
NEI: PLW has an interesting premise of being a nonprofit organization that runs its shows as benefits for local charities and organizations. Why such a different approach to running events and how did you first come to run this way?
NEI: How have you seen your organizations roster change over the years, good and bad?
Tommy D: For the last six years, I would say we really didn't have a roster. It's more of a list of wrestlers that regularly wrestle our events and those who would like to. There are a lot more wrestlers who are willing to perform than there are spots for matches. Usually, the week before a show, we have to tell guys "thanks, but we're fully booked." We have a regular group of wrestlers that work a majority of the shows, but we've been trying to rotate others into the shows. I've been told by some wrestlers that our events are like a reunion because they get to see guys that they haven't seen in a while.
NEI: In the history of PLW are there any matches that are particularly memorable or ones you consider true classics?
Tommy D: We have many memorable matches over the years, at least in my opinion, but I'll try to list a few. - In 2000, Shane Simons, with Spike Dudley in his corner, wrestled Little Guido at Lincoln (RI) High School, which was Spike's high school. Spike appeared on two different PLW shows in his hometown helping two charitable causes. We were glad to share our lockerroom with two future WWE superstars. - In June 1996, Derek Molhan, in his hometown of Pawtucket, RI, wrestled Alex Payne in a ladder match. The thing about that match was the intensity of the fans, since a large majority of them came to see Derek. - Last May, we held "Power-Fest 2004" to raise money for the Jarrod Drew Memorial Fund. Jarrod was killed by a drunk driver in an accident on 495. He left a young son. Jarrod was YPW's Ryan Waters' brother, and Ryan asked if we could help him with an event. In the main event, Ryan, along with Duke Maximum, won a tag team triple threat match. With the hometown fans cheering, Ryan's emotions got the better of him, and he started to think about his brother, Jarrod. The entire lockerroom emptied to greet Ryan, and to show there support. - In the early days of PLW, it wasn't the matches that were great. But people remember the commentary and comedy bits from the old public access show. We would tape many matches on location, but we'd do the voice over commentary in my basement. If you've seen the wrestling documentary "Beyond the Mat" and remember the scenes of early ECW with Joey Styles doing a promo in Paul E's basement, then just picture my mom waiving at Amazin' Jay and Macho Kid as she tip-toes quietly to do the laundry. The television show had music videos of past matches, and on-location interviews at places like TF Green Airport and St. Ann's Hospital. One show opened with "Masterpiece Theater" as Sub-Zero read his version of "Goldielocks and the Three Bears."
NEI: In all your years promoting PLW have you had any bad experiences?
Tommy D: There have been shows in which the fan turnout was low. And it's not because of the card, as most people who attend our shows do so to help the charities, but because of poor advertising. For each show, we'll promote it on the web site, e-mail news outlets, mail press releases to the newspapers and radio stations, and post flyers in stores. But it really depends on how much the charities personnel get the word out. In 2001, we held an event for a young boy with a form of Muscular Dystrophy, and since his family was very aggressive with promoting the show, we had a great turnout.
NEI: On the other side of that coin, what has been your most positive experience?
Tommy D: Hearing the positive feedback from the fans. Again, most people who come to the shows may not be fans of the current style of wrestling, so we try to entertain them with old-school style and some elements of humor. And when we hear that the girl who needed a transplant, or the boy who along with his family lost there home in a fire, or the family who lost a loved one in a tragic accident, enjoyed the show and gave them a little bit of joy during a terrible time, we know we're doing something good that goes beyond the financial gain of the charity. In May 2003, we held "Power-Fest 2003" in West Warwick, R.I., the town that had endured the Station Night Club Fire, that claimed 100 lives. We had a very successful event in West Warwick in December 2001, and were asked by several people from that town about PLW returning. And we discussed informally about returning in May 2003, until the morning after the fire. It was that day when we started planning to return to West Warwick to help those affected by the fire. We held the show with free admission, as a way to bring some fun to a town touched by tragedy even if it was for a few hours. The fans made voluntary donations at the door, and we raffled off many prizes that were donated by local merchants, Providence radio station 94HJY and World Wrestling Entertainment. But for me, the gesture that validated the idea that what we're doing is right, was an e-mail that I received from a mother who lost her son in the fire. She stated that her son loved wrestling and she knew he'd be looking down at us and smiling during the event.
NEI: After the forthcoming winter season can fans expect a full return of PLW in the Spring and Summer of 2005?
Tommy D: I hope so. For the last 5 years or so, we've seemed to take the winter off, came back in the spring and ran through to September. We have a couple of events in the works, along with annual shows such as the event for the Fairlawn Little League (last years was the 6th annual).
NEI: You have had roles with other area promotions outside of PLW, what other promotions have you been involved with and in what capacity?
Tommy D: I have performed as ring announcer for Renegade Wrestling, Ringside Wrestling (now AWA in NH), Commonwealth Championship Wrestling, International Independent Wrestling, Yankee Pro Wrestling, South Coast Championship Wrestling, Northeast Championship Wrestling, Eastern Wrestling Alliance, Premier Wrestling Federation - Northeast. I have served as "sound technician" on numerous occasions. I have also worked as a referee a very few times over the years. I have done commentary in the past, but I try to stay away from it.
NEI: What is your favorite role in Wrestling?
Tommy D: Ring Announcer. I've been a ring announcer for 12 years. Bob Evans gave me my first "gig" in 1993, and I've introduced hundreds of wrestlers for various promotions since then. I started my announcing with little league all-star games when I was 14. And I've performed as public address announcer for 5 seasons of semi-pro football since 2000.
NEI: Are you the current and sole owner (operator) at the present time?
Tommy D: It's a joint effort with Mark Amaral, Carlos Arenas and Paul Lauzon. They are in charge of working with the charities, booking talent and crew, and putting on the show. I still ring announce at the shows, and assist with sound and video, web site and media promotions.
NEI: Who else owned PLW in its history?
Tommy D: Bob Evans stared PLW with Mark Amaral. Bob would produce the television shows and book the matches with Mark. I took over for him in September 1992.
NEI: What title belts has PLW had over the years and who are the current champs?
Tommy D: Years ago there were the European championships for single and tag team wrestlers. They were discontinued circa 1994. Legend has it, the title holders were deported to the Outerbounds of Italy and the French side of Japan, taking the titles with them.
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