Q&A with Robbie Ellis
NEI: When did you get into Wrestling and what was your first opportunity?
Ellis: In 1985, I got instructions from Billy Graham. Not THAT Billy Graham. A cop from Boston, at the Boston Arena Annex, then being run by Rony Santos. I saw a sign saying "Learn to be a pro wrestler". It was like the anwer to a childhood dream. I was in college, Amherst, and was in Boston to see the woman who would later become my wife. But I went right back to Amherst to change from the preppy clothes (dates me, doesn't it?) I was wearing to something I thought looked tougher. I was very small and out of shape.
Ellis: I told Annette (my wife) that I really wanted to wrestle pro. She said, "that would be fine but not to plan on any future with her." So, I actually went to Boston in secret once a week and had my first match at Mt. Tom, that was near Amherst, against Pepe Perez. It was to be a fifteen-minute Hollywood. I was in white trunks, the babyface, but it was a 100% Puerto Rican audience. They hated me. The bell rang and I started drop-kicking like crazy. Two minutes later, I had to drag myself up by the ropes. I whispered to Pepe that he should pin me but he spoke no English. Instead, he picked me up and body slammed me, or worse, again and again. I was at a loss as to what to do. I wanted to lie down and stay down. Finally, I told the referee to tell Pepe that I couldn't go any longer and the next time I was on my back, instead of picking me up, he pinned me, what a relief! But, I only wrestled once or twice a year for a few years and then only maybe ten times more until 1985 when things really changed. I got a call to do a job at the Portland (Maine) Exposition Building. I told the guy I didn't wrestle in my home town. By then, we had a somewhat successful, local art gallery and, well, it just didn't seem like the "nice" thing for me to be doing. Annette (more about how she found out later) said, "Why not? No one will care and no one will even know." So, I did it. That was for Savoldi's ICW. The next day, there was a photo of me almost the full length of the front page in what looked liked my underwear standing over a body that looked more or less dead, my hand clenched in a fist. The headline read "Do you recognize this wrestler?" Within two weeks, it was a story with two photos in Sports Illustrated. It was a long news segment on ABC World News and a ten minute story on MacNeil Lehrer News Hours on PBS. Naturally, on account of the publicity, I was a babyface all those early years and until the late nineties. I'm heeling now and it's the greatest.
NEI: That's one heck of a roller coaster ride.
Ellis: The stories really never stopped happening. It was an Osgood File on CBS a few years later, and in 1996, it was a five minute story on The Today Show. The year I started learning to wrestle, I finally felt guilt and one night told my wife we had something important to discuss. We had been married less than a year and was so sure I was asking for a divorce that she was relieved when I told her my secret. "Oh, that! Sure, have a ball." Truth is in 1985 when this all happened, I wasn't really much of a worker. But with that kind of publicity, I was being pushed a lot. I was such a mark that I didn't know any better. I thought it was just the natural order of things. But, I now know how obnoxious it must have seemed to the other guys. There was some resentment, of course, and it took me a long time to overcome that, and a lot of hard work. Today, some of my best friends are other pro wrestlers. It's such a great place where everyone excepts everyone for what they are. I have one little pocket of trouble today and that's with some of the young guys in my home town trying to make it. They think it's time for me to retire and make room. But I'm now working for more Indie feds in New England than ever before and keep getting more calls. I'm looking forward to a show in two weeks down in Pennsylvania with Mike Quckenbush's Chikara Wrestling. Last Saturday night, I was in Highgate Center, Vermont for Slam Wrestling, a great group that also brings in great guys from a Canadian Indie group an hour away. I'm involved in arrangements to work in Montreal soon. Got a lightweight championship match for two organizations in New England coming right up and hope to walk away with both straps.
NEI: Who of the younger guys you have seen today do you see as really talented?
Ellis: Great question. A lot of guys look a like and wrestle the same. They don't stand out from the crowd at all. Those that do are special just for that. It's a tiresome word these days but "charisma" is still what it's about and if a guy has something special, he can work. The best guys I've seen around the Indies are Quackenbush and Wreckless Youth, though I guess they aren't the really young guys. Alex Arion, Fred Curry Jr., his father and I have had some great talks in recent years thanks to his son working some shows with me. I think Brian Black is better and has a better look and that may be why some of the promotions DON'T seem to push him!
NEI: Being 60 years old you still take bumps off the top rope and work pretty competitive matches. How does the body feel after in ring work? In particular the night you worked 3 matches recently in MEW?
Ellis: My Dad is 90 and he was one of Maine's greatest amateur athletes and he doesn't hurt, neither do I. Lucky to get his genes. I had a great match at the Portland Expo with KIDD USA a few weeks ago. He's terrific, a great kid, great worker, lots of great moves, and terrific charisma. He has been a great friend and doesn't let the age thing get to him either. Just the opposite.
NEI: Wrestling has always seemed to be a secondary part of your life behind family and work, do you still have aspirations in Wrestling or is it strictly a hobby?
Ellis: Good point and good question. My life other than family is art. That's what I do and that's what makes my life the most meaningful. But, pro wrestling, although a hobby, also defines who I am. It has taught me so much about so many things. I wouldn't know where to begin.
NEI: Would you call Professional wrestling an art form?
Ellis: You bet. Perhaps a form of popular art, even low popular art, but no less exciting or important for that.
NEI: There is a lot of speculation on where your press comes from, how would you respond to accusations of you setting them up?
Ellis: A lot of people think I'm rich and buy all that publicity. I do fine, but that's pure bullshit. I've been very lucky. But don't forget, my family has been a prominent Maine family for generations. My father the athlete, my sister the mayor of Portland years back, and major cultural and charity people. The story, something I never thought or realized at first, is a good one, obviously. Quackenbush and myself have become good friends. He's invited me to come to PA and do some shows for him, and I can't wait. Tells you something doesn't it?
|The Final Word|
|Robbie Ellis is one of a kind in the Wrestling
business. Most start out in the business fast and furious at an early age. At age 60,
Robbie is working more today then he ever did in his youth. It's one thing to be able to
get into the ring and compete at age 60, its another thing to do it well. Utilizing
competitive and contemporary ring work mixed with the occasional top rope maneuver, Robbie
sells a match as well as anyone. Using his age as a natural asset in the ring, his bumps
make the crowd cringe as they fear the damage he may sustain. But again and again, Robbie
gets back up to taunt the crowd by telling them just how great he is and how good looking
he is. Taking a lot of heat from other workers for his local and national publicity, the
elder Wrestler rolls with the punches and heads to the next night's show to once again
taunt the crowd. Got heat with Robbie? Lets see how well you bump at 60. Robbie Ellis is a
one of a kind in the Wrestling business and New England is fortunate to have him.
Check out Robbie Ellis at the following dates:
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