The man in the photo is not my father. He did train him though.
Chick Donovan has been a consistent name in the ranks of the Independent Wrestling scene in the Georgia area. He would be the guy in the photo.
He has worked for the WWE and WCW, and worked several local promotions around the Southeast.
We are from a little town called Hogansville, Ga. My Dad and I watched WCW every Saturday together. I was 4 years old around the time when my Dad decided he wanted to get involved in the business.
His first match ever was as a baby face. He came out as "Hogansville's Own" and was the opening match.
The match went about 8 minutes and ended with my dad catching "The Golden Avenger" off the top rope, attempting a flying cross body press, and he then rolled through it to get the pin.
It appeared his wrestling career would have a promising chance. Then he had his second match.
I can remember it clearly in my mind now.
Dad's entrance music began to play. Back then, he used Hank Williams Jr.'s "All My Rowdy Friends Are Coming Over Tonight".
As he went to climb through the ropes, his opponent ("The Tennessee Hangman") kicked him in the ribs and began his heel work.
The problem is, when he kicked, he broke three of my Dad's ribs.
The match went for about 12 minutes. Each kick and punch Dad took made the situation worse.
He tells me to this day that not one time was he able to get his opponents' attention to let him know what had happened, so he had to just keep the flow of the match going as best as he could.
Eventually, the heel turned to play to the crowd and when he did, Dad rolled him up in a schoolboy and jumped over the top rope and ran to the back before the referee could raise his hand. Even at 5, I knew this was bad.
The story could get worse there, but there's always humor involved in wrestling.
My Mom took Dad to the hospital and I stayed at the show with my grandparents. (They didn't want children at the hospital I guess.)
Now, in order to fully appreciate the next part, I need to explain my grandfather to you.
He is an old timer who just drinks beer and can't read or write but is good with his hands. He never really "got" that wrestling was scripted. My favorite times from childhood would be watching wrestling with him and hearing him say "LAY IT ON HIM! GET HIM! YOU CAN'T BEAT HIM UP!"
So back to the match. The man in the photo was of course in the main event. He played the baby face role in a handicap match against a tag team that each weighed 350 lbs pounds each. They had a manager who carried a briefcase.
Imagine a crippled kid sitting in his grandpa's lap in the front row. Now imagine a crippled kid having to sit in a metal chair because his grandpa had just stood up. I was playing with a rubix cube oblivious to anything that was happening.
It came to the spot of the match where the heel manager had to use his briefcase on the baby face. He never got that opportunity.
All I remember is security running by my seat and the crowd all hooping and hollering and cheering somebody old.
It was my grandfather.
When the manager drew back the briefcase for the head shot, it got snatched from him. Then my grandfather put him in a headlock and pulled him to the ground. Thankfully, the manager got up about 15 seconds later and my grandfather was escorted from the building.
Thanks to Chick, we had a local Saturday morning wrestling recap show on the local television station. There was a segment called "The Other Side" with this heel manager. He was really cool about everything and we even used what happened in the promo to promote the next event.
Needless to say, that night officially put my family in the wrestling business.
As fate would have it, my Dad developed. He did okay as a baby face, but his best work was easily as a heel. The guy who broke his ribs, ironically, turned out to be his tag team partner for at least eight years to come. John was the Tennessee Hangman and my Dad was the Texas Hangman.
I know it's said a lot that Indy wrestlers can't make the jump to the big scene unless they really want to, but I feel my Dad could've done it.
It isn't often that a tag match is the main event on a card, but that usually happened in my Dad's matches. They were the seven-time North Georgia Wrestling Association Tag Team Champions. Current WWE referee Scott Armstrong suffered many losses to him.
His partner had a speech impediment, so he never got to work the crowd or the mic. My Dad specialized at it. I can still see part of his wrestling character in the way he handles some situations now. I guess that part of you never leaves.
They wore the same outfit and had about the same build. Just thinking back to some of the tactics they used now makes me laugh.
They had this one tactic where Tennessee would get body slammed and roll outside of the ring holding his back. Dad would "huddle" with him and they would walk in a circle and Dad would grab his back and act like he was hurt and pull the "illegal swap."
It's little things like that that got a small redneck crowd going.
I have plenty more heel stories about the Texas Hangman in my arsenal, but I mainly just wanted to introduce him to the Bleacher Report world.
So, here's to you Dad, The Texas Hangman. And thanks to Chick for letting him get involved in the business.