When WWE cut Val Venis loose, he ventured into other pro wrestling worlds, proving he still had miles left in him.
He circled back to his own beginnings, working in Japan and lodges, but now picking up gigs with the power of his WWE resume. While the sun is clearly setting on his career, he has yet to let night come.
The Attitude Era's steaminess didn't stop with the women. Venis portrayed a porn star who could also handle himself in the ring. A towel draped around him, gyrating as he rubbed himself, he would call out, "Hello ladies" in a deep voice.
With what sounded like a gimmick with a minimal shelf-life, Venis managed to stretch out his run with the company for over a decade.
After reigns with the tag titles and the European and Intercontinental Championships, he eventually sank down the card. It's generally a bad sign when the company asks you to feud with comedy acts like Eugene and Santino Marella.
WWE released Venis on Jan. 9, 2009. He was 38 at the time and younger stars were charging up the ladder.
Vince McMahon and company may have been done with him, but Venis had ring time left. He sought work abroad, mirroring his pre-WWE days when he wrestled in Mexico and Japan.
He was in the Land of the Rising Sun once more just two months after WWE let him go.
Venis worked for New Japan Pro Wrestling for much of the year, battling Hiroshi Tanahashi in both singles and tag team action. The Canadian soon joined forces with Togi Makabe who headed a stable called Great Bash Heel. Membership included names like Giant Bernard (Tensai), Low Ki (Kaval) and Black Tiger.
On March 15, at Korakeun Hall in Tokyo, Venis and Makabe teamed with Karl Anderson against Tanahashi, Manabu Nakanishi and Wataru Inoue.
Pointing at the crowd, telling fans to shut up, Venis fully embraced the heel role. When Makabe found himself in trouble, Venis encouragingly wrapped his hands around his neck.
Mid-match, Nakanishi and Venis engaged in a staredown. The gaijin bent his neck to look down on his foe. Unlike with WWE, he was a big man here.
At this stage in his career, Venis was much slower than he was in his prime. His athleticism dulled, he relied more on storytelling.
He spent much of the match theatrically selling for his foes, especially Nakanishi. The Japanese bruiser rammed into him with his shoulder, and Venis begged him off, scooting into the corner in fear.
The match, which descended into a six-man brawl at one point, ended with Tanahashi's team winning.
Victory came almost as often as defeat for Venis in Japan. He lost to Tanahashi at New Japan Cup: Soul of the Ring, but defeated Kazuchika Okada, who later become NJPW's top champion, at New Japan Soul in Miyako, Iwate, Japan.
His alliances with Great Bash Heel and later CHAOS had him battling in tag team matches for much of the summer.
The year also saw him embark on the Hulkamania Let the Battle Begin Tour in Australia. Familiar faces from WWE, Eugene (Nick Dinsmore) and Mr. Anderson, met him there. Like most of his stops outside of NJPW, his time in Australia was short-lived, only lasting a few matches.
He made appearances for Big Time Wrestling and Jersey All Pro Wrestling before debuting for TNA.
It turned out to be a fleeting experience as well. Wrestling under his real name, Sean Morley, he competed at TNA Genesis 2010, defeating Daniels with the Money Shot and faced Jeff Jarrett in a Falls Count Anywhere match on an episode of Impact.
On Jan. 19, 2010, TNA placed him in a qualifying match for its 8 Card Stud Tournament against Desmond Wolfe. Venis spent much of the bout favoring his left arm before Wolfe caught him on the top rope, ending the match with a Tower of London.
It was a busy year for him, taking bookings in Mexico, California and Ontario, Canada. The Val Venis brand still had appeal, even as he aged, even as he was further removed from his best years.
He was wrestling in a T-shirt by the time Impact Championship Wrestling called.
At ICW's Proving Ground in Queens, New York, on June 12, 2010, fans responded to Venis' old shtick, but he wasn't the featured performer, instead appearing second against Maximus Sex Power for the vacant Hip Swivel Towel Championship.
Before Homicide, Sabu, Christopher Daniels and Amazing Red performed, Venis called his opponent out for his tight, white trunks and claimed that his sexy gimmick wasn't working. As fans saw so often in the late '90s, Venis swiveled his hips in the ring.
All the gyrating inspired The Iron Sheik to come out and demand that Maximus and Venis actually start fighting.
The match offered few memorable moments. Maximus showed his limitations, not selling enough and delivering lukewarm strikes. A low blow and a schoolboy pin put Venis away, but the former WWE star laid out his foe and took home his manager Lizzy Valentine.
Venis' schedule has lessened since.
His bookings are minimal, but he's still hitting neckbreakers and landing on his opponents from the top rope. At 43 years old now, his middle is softer and his explosiveness has dissipated some.
Still, that energy and charisma that made him a success in WWE carries him on the independent circuit. That was evident when he was one of the featured performers at an Elite Canadian Championship Wrestling event in Surrey, British Columbia, on May 3, 2014.
He teamed up with Tony Baroni against Nelson Creed and Jamie Diaz that night.
With the fans at the Cloverdale Fairgrounds watching on, Baroni did much of the early work. Venis waited on the apron, hand outstretched, begging his partner to let him in.
Venis soon came barreling in, laying out both Creed and Diaz with suplexes. A prone opponent and a leap from the top rope led to Venis and Baroni celebrating a win. He addressed the crowd afterward, and Venis pulling out his "Hello ladies" catchphrase garnered a bigger reaction than anything that happened in the ring.
That's both a sign of the staying power of Venis' gimmick and the lasting nature of nostalgia.
Before Creed started to berate the crowd and Diamond Dallas Page made a surprise appearance, Venis had some wise words to share. He said, "If you don't have a passion for what you do in life, you die."
The passion he has for entertaining fans in the ring has apparently not gone away. Even as the venues get smaller and as the mileage on his body grows, he keeps stepping between the ropes, ready to shake his hips and entertain.
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