CM Venom Interview
CM Venom, the first champion in Lunatic Wrestling Federation history, left the promotion over the summer, and faded away, which was his wish. Venom didn't talk about why he left, leaving others to speculate about "burnout" or loss of interest. Venom says that is part of it, but goes into detail about the mistrust he feels for some of his former friends, most natably Billy Whack. Venom says he and Whack haven't spoken for months. He says since his name again has come up, he decided to tell his side of the story.
Venom talks about why he left, as well as what it was like being the first-ever LWF champion, and how he came to be a founding member of the LWF:
AL: You've been gone for how long now?
VENOM: I believe it's been since June 15th. It's been a good number of months.
AL: I've heard everything from "He was just burned out" to "He didn't like how things were going."
VENOM: That's mostly all true, but there are other reasons.
AL: Was there an incident?
VENOM: I'll basically tell you what happened. I read the Billy Whack interview and I understand why he'd bring up Brawn the Lumberjack on certain things. I had made it explicitly clear to (Whack) through intermediaries that I didn't want to be talked about. I didn't want to be spoken of. I didn't want to be thought of. I wanted to be a ghost, gone. I didn't really feel he had any reason to bring me up, and that's why I'm here in the first place. The catalyst at that point, for me leaving, I didn't feel comfortable, financially or business-wise, with the company at that point. I had basically lost any faith in (Billy Whack) to be able to run this company financially to the point where we weren't going to run it completely into the ground and ruin everybody's future. If you ask him, he'll freely admit that things were really, really tight at that point and there were a lot of problems with bills and debt and so on and so forth. At one point, we had come up short for a show, and we needed a relatively large influx of money. Most of us had no idea of where to look at that point. He had gone to another founding member of the federation who, out of respect, I'll decline to name, for a loan, which that person did. Obviously, he had enough of the money at that point. I was a bit hesitant before that, knowing the track record of the company lately and (Whack) in particular hadn't been all that good. I had wanted an assurance that the money was going to be paid back in a very timely fashion, directly out of the till, as fast as humanly possible. I'm a realist, I understand that amount of money couldn't be thrown back immediately. But I was looking for some assurance that this individual wouldn't get screwed over on the money, as others had been screwed over in the past. No names... but everybody pretty much knows who the LWF owes money to. (Whack) had said everything would be fine. He gave his explicit promise that the money would be paid back in a very timely fashion. And afterward we found out this person he was going to borrow it from had planned to use it for his rent money. But instead, he decided to give it to the LWF out of the goodness of his heart. It was a very charitable act. Time came and went, of course. That person saw absolutely none of the money after the show. I began looking at (Whack) in a different fashion at that point. If he can do it to him, he could very easily do it to me. When a ship is sinking, I don't want to hang on the mast until it comes completely down and try to ride the wreckage. At certain points in your life, something tells you to look for a life boat. I found my own life boat. I got out.
AL: Things did seem to be sinking at that point.
AL: Things did seem to be sinking at that point. VENOM: That seemed to be something else he said in his interview, that we jumped off when business is bad, and now things are good again. Congratulations to him. I'm happy as a pig in sh*t that they're doing fine. Whatever means they've used, whoever they've brought in, whatever financial changes they've made. Good for them. I don't decry (Billy Whack) for any decisions he's made on the business since I've left whatsoever. The high-fiving thing had been made a very large deal of, which I still find kind of perplexing (Whack mentioned Brawn and Venom were high-fiving each other at their last LWF show.) Did I do it? Yes, very happily. I was very happy at that point that I was actually going to be able to live a normal life, and not have to worry, day-in and day-out. I was a founding member of this thing. The only person who probably saw more than me was (Whack) himself. How much of it was because he handled more of it... how much because things were kept from us, I'll leave up to individuals... I'd wanted out, because I didn't feel comfortable anymore, and I didn't feel I could trust my friend and business partner. And when I lost that trust, there was no reason for me to stay. Brawn had felt the same way. He had also left, but for those answers, you'll have to talk to him.
AL: I did the interview with (Acid) obviously, and it sort of struck me as he described those kinds of business practices as commonplace. I don't know if he was more bitter because he had more money into it and at that point thought maybe he'd never see it. Was it a commonplace thing?
VENOM: I think he was more bitter about the way (Whack) had been treating him in a business sense. We had a big hullabaloo back in March, where he felt he had not been used properly, his interest in going to MCW was met by most of us - me included - with general disfavor. At that point, it seemed that Zenner was trying to steal our talent away. You've got LWF guys vs. LWF guys on an MCW show. That looked wrong. The guys at that point I think should have been working for us. I'm not about telling people they can't go other places. We toyed with an idea of banning anyone from going to MCW, PCW or any other fed within a 65-mile radius. You want to work Oshkosh, that's not a problem. We'll call Jimmy Blaze ourselves. We all enjoyed doing that. We had talked about that idea, (Acid) didn't think too well of it and that was kind of the beginning of the end for him. And I think a lot of the bitterness stems from that. (Acid) put a lot of money in. (Acid) did a lot of work. He kept us afloat at certain points and I'm very gracious to him for what he's done. I think everybody who wrestled in the organization after that should thank him for being selfless and putting the company ahead of his own financial well being, or emotional stability.
AL: These aren't rich people, either.
VENOM: No, none of us are. None of us are swimming in money. There are certain people, but that's usually because of embezzlement, and we'll get to that later. I think (Acid) had a legitimate beef on certain things, too. Commonplace? I don't know if I'd call it commonplace, like it was happening every week, but it happened more than a business that should be run sound, should happen. We should be generating our own income from within and use that to support ourselves, not trying to constantly look for a bailout because mistakes were made. You can't continually run in the red like that and expect to be miraculously pulled out of it someday.
AL: I don't know what the costs are. I know you weren't charging for training, but also weren't paying the workers.
VENOM: Right, that is one of the major things people had decried us for. Well, they don't pay. But to tell you the truth, most people who are getting into professional wrestling aren't doing it to make a career out of it. They want to go in for a year, 3 years, be able to say hey, I did somewhat make it as a professional wrestler. We never founded the LWF in a business sense. We never sat down and said this is a great way to make money. If that's what we did, we're very poor at it. We started it off, as youngsters, as friends. We just wanted to do something amazing. We actually, I'm sure (Whack) has probably mentioned this - the story has been out there for years - but it was after a Wrestlemania, Wrestlemania IX, we were so disgusted about seeing the return of Hogan and another quick title reign out of nowhere and we figured we could do this better. We wanted to do it better, and that's all it really was. Business came out of it out of necessity. We needed to be able to run it like a business in certain respects and one of those points was, no, we could give you the opportunity to wrestle, but we really honestly couldn't pay people. It was a simple thing, it was well known, it wasn't like a secret that we held off until you were in our clutches and signed our devil's contract. "Now we're not going to pay you, ha ha." No. It never came to that. Everybody who stepped into that ring knew they probably weren't going to get any kind of remuneration for their activities. Most people honestly didn't care. They just wanted to do it.
AL: A lot of them who I talked to about it - never with their name on the record of course - said you had to be making money. You were drawing 900 people in Lemont, they wondered where that money was going. Then something happened that answered a lot of people's questions.
VENOM: We laugh and say the LWF has pulled itself out of financial zero. ... We did it twice. I wasn't too confident about our ability to do it a third time. The first time was Mike Broox embezzling money from the company, without our knowledge. .... I wanted to throw something in here. At the CM Punk interview, he made an inference that $7,000 or $8,000 can be split a lot of ways. I personally took very serious offense to that. I was pissed off as much as anybody when I found out about it. Action at that point was taken that was appropriate, and that was to banish Mike Broox from the federation.
AL: He didn't give any details and I wonder if he regretted he said that. But he did say it, and it's got to be in his mind.
VENOM: I am on no good terms with (CM Punk) whatsoever. Everybody knows that. We haven't talked for 2 years, maybe more. I think he hopefully understands that this money wasn't split anywhere else. This was his brother's doing. I didn't see dime one. I've kept the only dollar I ever made in the LWF. A fan threw a Susan B. Anthony dollar at me at Tinley Park. It hit me, and I kept it. I still have it on the mantle. If that's what (Punk) was worried about? Is that what he was inferring. No. That's a ludicrous statement.
AL: You first started out, not even thinking you were going to get rich off of this, or even you were going to get licensed. Your success was probably the beginning of your undoing.
VENOM: We honestly never thought it was going to go anywhere. We thought we were going to jerk around in the backyard for a year, maybe two. It was a nice summer thing to do, very fun. We made a lot of good friends. A lot of people got together, and by the time things had exploded... '93 was our jerking around in the backyard season. In '94, we decided to actually build a ring, which of course is referred to as the monstrosity of wood and nails. We used that for three years, and in the summer of '96, we really popped out. People started coming out and we started actively promoting it. We decided you know what, we can do this about as well as anybody on the independent scene. There were no books. There were no courses. We didn't have any kind of a mentor guiding us, showing us what to do. In the same respect, how we learned how to wrestle is how we learned how to run the LWF: If it hurts in the morning, don't do it again.
AL: It worked great drawing crowds wise, but as far as making money...
VENOM: I'm not going to lie and say any of us is a really great businessman. I'm one of the first ones to admit my failings. I can't do it very well. That's why I never wanted to get my hands on the business portion of it. I knew damn well I had a hard time dealing with that kind of stuff. It's best to leave it with somebody else who has more confidence on that. At one point, that confidence was in Mike Broox. We built up after that, then the split happened. Then another Brooks took our money, this time it was (Punk). That was the serious problem of the split. It wasn't so much that we lost people, but we had once again lost all of our money, and at one point half of our ring, which was amazing. Over the months after Mike left, (Punk) had tried to transform the federation from the silly, wacky, goofy people drawing in crowds to something more serious, more respectable. He'd had a taste of Dominion's and had got himself sort of trained and he saw a new way of doing things. Unfortunately, that new way of doing things clashed with the old way of doing things and problems just multiplied from there. I heard a rumor that (Punk) wanted to do a show where nobody had entrance music. There were no vignettes, no interviews, just wrestler A vs. wrestler B. How accurate that is, I don't know. This is just a rumor I heard, but I could see it, how he was going.
AL: He was really rebelling.
VENOM: His major gripe was you guys didn't do anything. Know what? He was absolutely right. We didn't do anything. I think it was the sheer fact that we had to watch somebody we had been friends with since he was 14 years old. He had grown within our social circle, doing the same thing that we had. Seeing a person change like that, coming on the heels of what had just happened with his brother, I don't think we were doing anything, because we were more or less in shock. We couldn't believe this person was turning into somebody else, that was so against how we had done things. We were stunned. I admit it, I didn't even want a part of it at that point. Eventually, we just said this is one guy, and this is not the way we're going to do it. (CM Punk) does not run the LWF. There are a core of people who run the LWF. The clash went back and forth. We went to legally get (Punk) off the corporation. I went personally to his home to serve him with the papers. Of course, he didn't believe they were real, he thought we were just jerking him around. After that night, when he got in contact with his lawyer, or maybe our lawyers and thought the threat was real or necessary, he broke into the bump factory and stole half of our ring. If anybody wants, there is still a record of it at the Will County police. We filed a report.
AL: You were losing your trust. That's why you left?
VENOM: For me, it was very hard for someone I had been friends with for so long I realized I couldn't trust. At that point, I left. Until mid-August, I was still talking with (Whack). I'd go over to his house. We were still friends. We had gone out places. Everything was relatively fine. I do have personal issues with him, aside of the business that is the reason I don't talk to him today. I don't feel it's appropriate to get into. He knows. I know. And that's pretty much the direct quote that I want.
AL: It's a personal thing, right?
VENOM: We know. If you want to boil it down to two words, that's what I'd want in there. We know. I don't feel it's appropriate to get into on this.
AL: As far as the financial stuff. The impression I get from people is it isn't malicious. It isn't as if he goes out trying to take people's money. It's just that he doesn't have any idea what to do with it.
VENOM: No, he's definitely an inept business man, and I don't think that I'm saying it in a malicious way. He's freely admitted it to me and anyone else who'll listen, that he doesn't know how to manage money. I would accept this if so many opportunities weren't given to him to hand over the books to somebody more competent. There were numerous times Supreme had asked for the books. Never got 'em. Brawn asked for them. Never got 'em. I asked for them. Never got 'em. Jonathan Langer had asked for them during the first investment attempt. Never got 'em. Word on the street is that's why the first investment attempt failed, that the books were not produced in a timely manner. We had talked numerous times about hiring an outside financial planner, an accountant, to be able to do this. You get people in, you make more than you spend, you should have more than enough to run the company. We weren't seeing that. I won't presume to say anything funny happened to the money. I think honestly it was just mismanaged, mismanaged horribly. Everyone's going to think when I mention money, I'm accusing (Whack) of embezzling. Not even close. I know that's not something he would likely do. But I could say the same thing about Mike Broox and (CM Punk) and look what happened there. I think mismanagement, pure and simple, was the root of the problem. Whatever may have shown up, it's my personal opinion that he didn't want anyone to know how he had failed. And thus he's refused to give up the books to anyone.
AL: But there are books, right?
VENOM: There are books. I've done personal checking on my own - now that I'm out of the federation - wondering where all that money went. How could we possibly have lost that much. I had access to the attendance figures from Day 1. There were shows there I hardly even remember. But I've got numbers for them. I copied them all down, and I don't understand it. I really don't. That's no way to run a business. I can't be comfortable. If something happens, let's say somebody gets struck by something, and here comes the lawsuit and it takes us all down. My future is in jeopardy. My non wrestling future, my real life, is in jeopardy. That's not something I really felt comfortable at this point dealing with. At one point I was more than happy to stake basically everything I had in the LWF, and I did. There are a lot of people in there - most of them founders - who gave up every semblance of a normal life, just to see it succeed. As much as I don't care for (Billy Whack), I do freely admit that he worked as hard as anybody else in the world - more than anybody else - to make this thing a success. (Billy Whack) is a creative genius. I can't discredit the guy on that whatsoever, despite my personal feelings about him.
AL: Those feelings, they're based solely on problems with the LWF?
VENOM: Certain things came to light after I left that made me not talk to him anymore. The night that I quit, I had at least a 30-minute conversation with him at Chicago Ridge. We were the last two to leave the parking lot. And I basically asked him, no matter what happens, I don't want to lose a friendship. And I didn't. I clicked with him on levels of creativity and just hanging out and being friends that it was very hard to find somebody else that I worked that well with, meshed that well with. People didn't like when the two of us got together, something very scary was going to happen. You get us in a room together with a video camera, you've got instant entertainment. We would always do something creative, something that worked well and entertained.
AL: Was he mean spirited toward you?
VENOM: No. There was a shift in attitude toward me when I quit, which I understood. No matter what the conversation would begin with, it would involve the LWF, and suddenly, we didn't have that. Our conversations became shorter. We didn't have that much to talk about. There's Star Wars, always Star Wars. But we didn't have the major thing we had coexisted on, so the relationship was somewhat strained. I was OK with the way it was, but I understood. He had a business to run and I had a life to lead. I bore no ill will toward him whatsoever. I knew it was going to come. When I found out what I found out in August, I told everyone to let him know, basically, to leave me alone. Don't contact me.
AL: It's a personal thing?
VENOM: It's a personal thing that has to do with past business of the LWF. ... It is business related, but it has nothing to do with me leaving. It's something completely separate, but LWF related. He knows what it is.
AL: At one point, you were drawing a lot of people. You hear 900, and I don't know if you ever say the word thousand.
VENOM: If it didn't, it was damn close. It was extremely close.
AL: At that point, it could have been the catalyst for the ECW-type phenomenon that everybody is looking for.
VENOM: We very easily could have ruled Chicago and not even thought twice about it if everything was taken care of the way it should have been. But when you have to deal with two separate embezzlements - I challenge you to find any business that's gone below zero and had assets stolen and manage to crawl their way back up the hole. The fact LWF continues to draw amazes me. I look around and say good lord, we started this with four sticks and some rope. It's kind of amazing to look at sometimes.
AL: You're away from it now, I'm sure you're still interested in what they do.
VENOM: Not overly, actually. The only thing I heard about LWF stuff is talking to people in the social circle. I still speak with Supreme. He understands my feelings. Most of my conversations don't revolve around the LWF or wrestling in general. I've managed to forge a friendship with him that's not based on that. We're both happy with it. There are other people I get information from, but it's not like I'm checking results the night of shows on the web, or calling a hotline. I decided to go to Bloodbath, because I thought it was pretty weird to be sitting at home on a Saturday night when there was a Bloodbath going on. I wanted to see it.
AL: Did you like it?
VENOM: I'd be lying if I didn't say I somewhat enjoyed it. I thought the wrestling was very good. Anything I would really say would be nitpicking on finishes, and I don't want to make it seem like I'm going to come out and critique the entire show. I was entertained. Did I get my $10 worth? I saw the Double M, of course I got my $10 worth.
AL: So it's not just that you got tired of it. That's not the entire story of why you left. But it's pretty clear you were weary of the business end of things.
VENOM: Right, and I didn't make a big deal out of it. I didn't go to a message board on your site or the LWF site proclaiming why I left and making a big hullabaloo out of it because I didn't think there was any reason for it. I don't like the people who make noise after they go. If you want to leave, be adult about it, be gracious about it. I picked up my sticks, and I moved on. And I was perfectly happy, but my name continues to be dragged into it.
AL: Well, you are a founding member of the LWF. At some point, your mark was left and there was a legacy created. When you walk away, it's not really proper without saying this is what I did and I'm very proud of it.
VENOM: I am very proud of what I did. Nothing could compare to waking up on a Sunday morning in August and opening up the Chicago Tribune to see a full-color article. And that was still just amazing to me, that actually happened. I had people calling me out of the blue. I told them I've been saying it for 6 years. We're for real. There it is, now you can believe me. I'm very proud of what I've done. Most people in their normal, everyday life don't sign autographs for kids. I don't understand how somebody would not get a charge out of that. I loved it. Who am I to sign autographs? I'm just a guy who put some sticks in the ground with a bunch of people. We built it from there, but hey, no problem.
AL: Nothing means anything unless people buy into it. The Rock is just a guy running around a ring just like everybody else.
VENOM: Exactly. And it still amazes me how some people are so rabid over the things we do. Our second show, I was LWF world champion - the first, thank you very much - against Supreme, who was going to be in a program against CM Punk. We had Lemont police come out and arrest Supreme. When they put the cups on him, the retractable batons came out and people were yelling at me, yelling at (Punk). ... I don't like having things thrown at me, but in that context. If it's working? Yeah. I think those people will be back for the next show. That was the second show we ever did indoors, and I think we must have been doing something right at that point.
AL: How in the world... I mean Brian Zenner is bringing in the best wrestlers in the United States and can't draw like you.
VENOM: I'm sure if he were doing it at the point we were doing it, he might have had better success with it. It just seemed I was amazed at how boring wrestling was. This was before the Vince McMahon attitude, and people wanted something different. We wanted to put a storyline out there and get people excited about these characters for who they were and what they did. The fact they were wrestlers was almost secondary. We thought of it as a physical action play. We had Trigger. There were characters that were just out there. We'd never put a guy out there in basic trunks and basic boots and expect you to care about this guy. If I want to see that, I'll play No Mercy and select default wrestler. We never wanted to give that to people. We wanted them to go away thinking, Wow, I saw the coolest thing in the world last night, to quote somebody who said that earlier. I think it's the coolest thing in the world that people would actually pay to see what we were doing. To this day, it still amazes me. I love the business itself, it does manage to entertain people consistently for as many years as it has. It was a way to get ideas out there and a way to have fun, first and foremost. It could have been a way to make money.
AL: If you had a business manager...
VENOM: Who knows, maybe he would have stole from us, like everybody else did.
AL: But maybe you'd still be friends. You put a lot of time and effort into something and you bring in the money...
VENOM: Sure, there are going to be changes. Of course, you have to get more serious and fun sometimes has to take a backseat. We understood that and it'd be all well and good if we didn't have to worry about the business end of it and would have somebody competent taking care of it. That was a goal. It was a goal of mine and the goal was not realize. I wanted to be able to just create. Create a show, entertain people and bring them back, keep them talking and keep the buzz going, that's all I really wanted. And it got too complicated. I joked in the past, I'd say, hey, maybe I should have embezzled before I left, you know.
AL: What kept you in. You're sharing a locker room with the guy.
VENOM: You're referring directly to Mike Broox.
AL: Well, not only that, but also with Whack, if you're always having these problems.
VENOM: With (Whack) we could always get along, no matter what kind of tension we had going on. It was only after I left that it started with him. When Broox returned, there was a lot of soul searching to do to allow him back in. He paid back a good chunk of the money and it was only after that we entertained the idea of him coming back. But once again, you look at the circumstances. People lauded us like crazy. That storyline about Broox and throwing the chair and stealing the money, that was great. "How did you guys think of that?" All right, taking personal tragedies and turning them into storylines is the hallmark of the LWF. I'd always said if I were to die in that ring or the commentators' table, that I would expect the LWF to exploit that to its fullest. Make more money off it, it never really mattered, so long as we could entertain people.
AL: Did you think you could make a living off it?
VENOM: We could have, we really could have, a relatively comfortable living, too. I look back at it, and it's more tragic than anything else that we didn't make it to the heights that we should have been at or should be at now. There's a lot of potential under wraps that's just never been quite allowed to get out. Maybe that's the destiny of the LWF. Maybe the federation is just designed to stay at that level and never truly break through. There were several times I thought it was going to happen and it didn't, but we never let that stop us.
AL: You could say why would people stop coming? It wouldn't matter to them, but then you it's a matter of how much you can afford to promote ... and you lose a venue like Lemont.
VENOM: I still truly don't know exactly what happened with Lemont. We were welcome there one minute, then... we just suddenly weren't anymore. That was a blow, but again, we took the best of the worst situation and we ran mostly in 2000 at Bourbon Street, Chicago Ridge, which the first couple of times was a complete nightmare. If you get nobody in that building, it looks bad. Really, really bad.
AL: You might get as many as 2,000 people in there.
VENOM: You could probably fit more.
AL: And if you've got about 200.
VENOM: It doesn't look good. No matter how many barriers you throw down from the ceiling, it's still going to look pretty sparse. That's why I'm glad when we were running venues of that size, we eventually were able to use the lighting grid. It helps focus the attention on the wrestling in the center, and not the fact that there are empty seats all around, and huge, expansive bleachers with nobody in them. We took that, and we had the Bourbon Street shows and - depending on what football game we were up against - drawing 100 or 200 people. I still think we were doing some of our best work at that point. Some of the most fun I had was at the Bourbon Street shows. It was compact, it was tight. It was the LWF. It had a raucous feel to it. There were certain points, I was doing the emceeing for most of the Bourbon Street shows near the end of 2000, that I was enjoying the show. I was like that's right, I have to do commentary. I was having such a good time watching it, it was hard to remember I had a job to do. That 8-man tag, with ECW style entrances, that was fun. Fantastic stuff. Granted, only 100-200 people are seeing each show, but everybody at least knows that it's out there. You've got to keep your name out and that helps build up to running at Midlothian. And doing a show at Elmhurst and spreading yourself out and eventually to the greener pastures the LWF is seeing now. Like I said, I went to Bloodbath and it was pretty much a capacity audience, and I was happy for the guys. I saw a bunch of people I hadn't seen since I quit. I was very proud. I saw Iron for the first time, I was proud of him and so happy. I saw Mini Jones, and he works as hard as anyone. ... They had a successful show. I'm happy the LWF has succeeded with that, and I'm happy I was able to see it.
AL: Right before you left - or anyway, right around the time you left - as bad as things had been for the LWF, it may have been in danger. The word was 50 people at a show in Highland, Ind. Of course, they call it an act of God, right?
VENOM: Take that as you will. Act of God? It was very rainy. Whether or not there was a power outage, whether or not there were 50 people.
AL: But there was no buzz.
VENOM: None whatsoever. ... It was a bad time. Whatever they want to call it is what they're going to call it. You'll never get the truth out of (Billy Whack) on that one. ... And that's not the only thing you won't get the truth out of him on.
AL: He won't deny it. He just will misdirect the question.
VENOM: He feels better that way, if he doesn't have to say it.
AL: I think everyone was sensing something very bad was happening and if I'm following the timeline right, that's just about the timeline right, that's when you're on the way out.
VENOM: I was actually out already. I had gotten a phone call afterward saying the show was canceled, we're just hanging out, come on over. I said, what happened? Power outage. "Guys drew like sh*t, huh?" Well, no there was ... "I'll see you in about an hour." Whatever. We didn't do too well in Highland when I was actually there. It was an autopilot show more than anything else. I'm not going to say why business was going down. It was on the way down and I wasn't surprised it was on the way down, because it didn't seem that anybody was doing anything to reverse that trend at all. It seemed like, ok we're going to keep scraping day to day and maintain status quo. That's not going to get you anywhere. Much credit to whoever engineered the reversal of fortune of the LWF. I honestly didn't think we were going to see Bloodbath 2001. And it happened, and they drew very well. More power to them.
AL: I guess it's just a matter of what happened this time and how they'll get through it. There's always drama.
VENOM: Exactly. True, of course the drama everybody wants to turn it into is the return of the prodigal son, CM Punk. ... Everybody is going to see it and expect me to slam on (Punk) but I'm not going to do that. I'm going to say he's probably the smartest man in the LWF right now. Not only did he get away with stealing half our ring and almost shutting us down like he wanted to do, but he's back, and they're paying him. He got away scot free. He worked the federation, and I'm not going to decry the guy for that, because he's an indy wrestler. And he's a damn good one. I'll never, ever complain about (CM Punk's) work in the ring. I tagged with him in the backyard days and worked him once in a legitimate show and I'll say it, he carried me. It was an all right match, I was happy with it. I trusted him enough at that point, and that was right near the end. The two factions were really at each other's throats, and I trusted (Punk) enough to go in there and work with. I wouldn't do that if I didn't fully trust him. It was OK, and you'll never hear me complain about (CM Punk's) ring work. It's his moral character I have a serious problem with.
AL: He'll defend what he did by saying if he has his way, that would have been the LWF. Maybe he felt he was Moses at that point.
VENOM: True, and whatever ideas he got in his head at Dominion's that's what shaped him into what he is today. I wasn't going to sit around and watch it. He made the reference that he was only good friends with (Whack) but it wasn't like we were hanging out. I seem to remember taking vacations with (Punk), we would get together for Thanksgiving night and Christmas night movies. I'd been over to his house more times than I could count. To say that I was pretty good friends with him, yeah, that would be an accurate statement.
AL: I would imagine it's his way of escapism.
VENOM: Sure. If that's what he needs to do, that's fine. It's no problem.
AL: As angry as you are with (Whack) right now, you're not going to deny that you and him were close.
VENOM: Not at all. We were great friends. There comes a point in time where you say, "How many more friends am I willing to lose over this business?" I'm not willing to lose anymore. I'm happy that I'm out. I'm very happy. It got to the point that I didn't want to deal with the heartache of watching someone turn into someone else, or embezzle some more, or radically shift their way of thinking how the business should go. I didn't want to deal with it anymore. You've only got so many friends and you lose a big chunk of them over something like a business. What is wrestling anyway? It's entertainment. It's not worth losing friends over. I didn't want to lose any more friends and I thought I was in danger of that, because I didn't trust him anymore. I wanted to end it as quickly as possible. Being out of the business doesn't sting nearly as much as knowing that I've lost friends. And for no real reason. But, so be it. I'm not going to cry over it anymore. What's done is done, and I've moved on.
AL: It's obvious you lost friends over the business. Is it irreversible. Can you and (Whack) be friends again?
VENOM: If he wants to talk to me, tell him to talk to Supreme first. I don't want to go into detail about what it's going to take to repair a friendship with somebody. Is it irreversible? Of course not. Nothing is truly irreversible. That's sort of a ludicrous statement to make. Do I think it will ever be the same again? No, I don't. But I can't say it with any kind of certainty, because I don't know. You can't make that kind of statement and stand behind it, you don't know what tomorrow is going to bring. Right now, I would tend very heavily to no.
AL: Obviously, very weird, weird things tend to happen.
VENOM: Yeah, they do. And I'm not going to say never, but it's pretty close. Damn close.
AL: You and Brawn left at about the same time, is that a decision you two came to?
VENOM: I don't pretend to speak for Brawn in any respect. To get the true story, you would have to talk to him. He basically felt the same way I did.
AL: Did you two influence each other?
VENOM: I don't believe so. When we found out about what happened, we both thought the same thing at the same time. We can't take any more of this. ... the failure to pay back the loan to the other member. We figured it probably would be a lot easier if we both left at the same time, for safety's sake. As opposed to him staying on for an extra month or two, or vice-versa. It was the right time for both of us. We both decided to go. It wasn't a plot, it wasn't anything we were hatching. I knew the morning of that show that this was my last one. If you watched the tape, I don't think I did anything outward.
AL: Which show was it?
VENOM: I don't remember the exact name. It was at Chicago Ridge. I commentated. I did my job, and then I left. Simple as that. I didn't want to make a big deal out of it. I didn't really feel it was worth making a big deal out of. I didn't want to go out in the wrestling community and tell them why I'm leaving. People can disappear if they want to. I have every right. Brawn made the decision to continue on in wrestling at an Indiana fed. I trailed along with him at one of those to watch my friend work. I would support him all the way.
AL: As far as getting in the ring yourself...
VENOM: That you're probably never going to see again. About two months after I quit, I became more popular than I ever was in the LWF. I've turned down so many commentating jobs. MiGo, every time I see him, every single time, "We've got a spot for you." Shut up, Mike. Leave me alone. I threw him a dummy figure once of $600, $200 an hour for three hours of commentary. That's all I would do. I would not wrestle, I would not bump, I would talk, and that was it. He accepted. I could not believe it. .
AL: He actually gave you $600?
VENOM: No, I would not take $600 from Mikey MiGo just to talk. If I wanted to do it that bad, I'd do it for free. I don't want to be involved in it anymore. I didn't want to work anywhere but the LWF. Maybe my mind will change sometime in the future, but I highly doubt it. I certainly know I don't want to get in the ring anymore.
AL: When was your last actual match.
VENOM: I fought Shibuya in May 2000 at Bourbon Street. It was the first Bourbon Street show we did. We were running an angle where I attacked him for no reason, because I felt like doing it, and I was evil, and of course, it was a bar show, so I was "drunk," quote, unquote. I just didn't like him, so I attacked him. I beat him in a match, he attempted suicide... I stopped him, even though I spoke no Japanese and he spoke no English. And then I saw dollar signs. I can manage this guy. And we began running an angle where I was bilking him out of a large amount of money - and not behind the scenes, actually right to his face in front of an audience. I'm ripping you off, and he would nod and smile. All I had to do was bow and smile and my body language would convince him that I'm a good guy. I'm screwing you. I gave prepared statements for (Whack) to read. It would crack him up. I'd never tell him what I was going to write. I would always write some horrible thing to Shibuya and say here, give this to Billy Whack. It was fun. The last time I wrestled was against Shibuya. And that was it. I hadn't really wrestled a whole lot. I doubt that I would even call myself a professional wrestler.
AL: But you were their first champion.
VENOM: True. I was. But it didn't take long for me to evolve into something else. I became more of a wrestling personality. More of an involved person rather than an actual professional wrestler. And that suited me just fine.
AL: A lot of the founders became that. Even Supreme doesn't wrestle as much as he used to.
VENOM: When he does, he's good. Very good.
AL: And on the mic, especially so.
VENOM: His microphone skills are pretty amazing.
AL: Your whole group, as a general rule, your strength was the stuff that wasn't necessarily in the ring.
VENOM: The one thing I wish is we could actually hear unedited, unadulterated Supreme. That is really something. People got a taste of that originally, when he did the very controversial Supreme Arayan character at the very beginning of the LWF. It lasted one match. He got a lot in him he can't do, because it's a family show. He's got some really good stuff. Uncensored Supreme is a thing of beauty. It's something that's entertained us over the years, just outside of wrestling, listening to Supreme ramble about certain things. High comedy that never fails to entertain me. I wish it could be something like that.
AL: You couldn't even try it at the bar shows?
VENOM: There's a long list of LWF ideas that couldn't be used, just because they were inappropriate, for public display. There's a certain type of sickness in our group where we could take that stuff, but there's no way in hell we could put it out in public. Even the Dr. Gimmick that people saw was toned down. Ask anybody who saw the backyard shows. That was a pretty scary character.
AL: You've gone from the wrestler to the manager, to the announcer. You've seen a lot of changes. You saw the most recent show. I asked (Whack) this and I'll ask you - has LWF lost some of its character?
VENOM: I don't think it's lost, I think it's changed. The LWF you saw in 1998 is not the same LWF you saw in 99, or 2000, or 2001. In order to keep everything fresh, the general feel has to change. I can't say that it was bad, I can't say that it was good. I'll have no commentary on the quality of the show, which I actually thought was pretty good. It was different to me. I wasn't used to seeing it, so it's hard for me to comment on it.
AL: When you were the champion, though, the emphasis wasn't on hey, I just saw that move in Japan.
VENOM: I did what I needed to do to get by. I had three matches involving championships. The first one I drove the Mercenary out of wrestling, which is something I'm very proud of. The only real quality match I had was with Supreme. It's an untrained guy who doesn't know what he's doing against another untrained guy who doesn't know what he's doing. Wow. We did a pretty good job. My trifecta of death match against Mike Broox? Don't eat 3 hours before that one. That'll make you sick. Up to a year ago, neither Broox nor I could make it through the whole thing. "Please, shut this off."
AL: Did it just go on too long?
VENOM: A lot long. It made perfect sense when we were doing it in the beginning, but between the creation of the idea and the execution of the idea... something got derailed. We had just followed the first Shopping Cart match and it's something we talked about during the match, "I am not following one of those things again." People are just staring at us like, get on with it already. It wasn't a very pleasant situation to be in. We didn't exactly do anything to elevate things either. It wasn't a very good match. There are a few moments I enjoyed, but for the most part, it looked exactly like what it was - two untrained guys jumping around.
AL: The CM in CM Venom stands for Chick Magnet, right?
VENOM: Yeah, at first it was just Venom. And when Punk and I formed our alliance back in the old days, we dubbed ourselves Chick Magnets. And for some reason it just sounds much cooler with the CM in front of the names. CM Punk, CM Venom, it has a nice ring to it. It's not just Punk or Venom, it's a little bit different. Some people didn't care what it meant, some people knew what it meant. It was something to differentiate from everything else. People are like, you're still CM Venom? I said, yeah, it's still CM Punk, too. I liked the way it sounds and I'm sure (Punk) did, too. Let him keep his, I'll keep mine.
AL: And that was your character for the first licensed show?
VENOM: Yes. That was the main character. Supreme was the same character, Punk was the same character. I can't say the same for Mike Broox. It seemed that he went through a different character every week. Slamming on Broox tends to bring up the Flawless Man, All-American Kid all the different personas he had. I can't blame him for it, he was trying to find something that fit. From what I saw, he fits pretty nicely into his current incarnation. I hope he's happy with it. He knew I was at Bloodbath and didn't say a word to me. Broox hasn't returned my phone calls since the middle of August, ever since I was on the outs with (Whack) I was mystically on the outs with Broox.
AL: Sort of guilt by association?
VENOM: I guess so. I would call it more character assassination. After I had left, it seemed like my name was being dragged through the mud, as if I were in some enemy camp that somehow popped up to destroy the LWF. To tell you the truth, I couldn't have cared less. I wasn't involved in the business end and I'm not involved in the business end. I heard that from more than a few people (at Bloodbath), well, I would have talked to you but I thought you involved in Superfed. From what I heard... I know where you heard it, don't bother telling me. Some people got past it, and some people obviously had not.
AL: Did they get that because you happened to be at that bar that night with Jonathan Langer?
VENOM: I got the riot act from Supreme... what are you doing at that. Langer came to the PCW show at Highwood. You remember that, because you were sitting over there as well. He had Grudge with him and there's me and Brawn in the crowd. I'm sure it appeared that way to a lot of people. I went because Brawn asked me to go to a show. I hadn't been to PCW in a while. I was curious to see how the Latinos were doing. I miss the Latinos. I liked Los Peligrosas Latinos with Mr. Puerta, I thought they were a fun outfit. They're a great tag team and I hadn't seen them in months. I wanted to go to an indy show, so I went to an indy show. I had no ties. I wasn't trying to marshall any forces against the LWF. But because I went to this indy show, I was suddenly the enemy and I was going to bring down what I helped create. I couldn't care less.
AL: A lot of people were there. Jensen was there. (Acid) was there.
VENOM: There was one point I looked over and it was like an LWF reunion. There was Jensen, Maverick, Acid, they were all in the back row. Different girlfriends and people going back and forth. Nobody questioned anything about them. But suddenly because I hadn't been doing anything, then I popped up, so he's an enemy.
AL: Then there is the connection between Brawn and Jonathan Langer.
VENOM: Exactly. They were friends before any of this Superfed stuff happened.
AL: Are they still friends. Because something weird went on with that Superfed.
AL: Are they still friends. Because something weird went on with that Superfed.
VENOM: Talk to Brawn.
AL: You've got the conspiracy theories.
VENOM: Sometimes the truth will surprise you though, and it's a lot stranger than fiction.
AL: And the truth in this case is?
VENOM: From what I can see, the Superfed is dead. Everybody who staked their future and all their dreams and hopes in it is pretty much twisting in the wind. I feel bad for some people who got caught up in it. I had that conversation with Acid. I said I felt bad he was out of a good opportunity. I feel the same for Grudge and the same for Jensen. Some people I don't feel bad for, because they knew what they were getting into. It's like somebody said, the devil has screwed me twice. I take exception to that. Whatever happened with Jonathan Langer is just what happened and I'm glad I didn't put my name on any contract.
AL: Did he approach you? Being a friend of Brawn, you would assume he was going to take care of his friend.
VENOM: You would normally think that, wouldn't you... Less and less have I talked about wrestling with (Brawn the Lumberjack). It's easier to stay away from that subject. Sometimes I don't really want to hear it.
AL: There's the theory that if you had financial backing when you had all those great ideas going through, there is no idea of what you could have done.
VENOM: Nothing on earth could have stopped us. When we were firing on all cylinders, there wasn't a force that could stand in our way. We would steamroll over anything. To have solid financial backing would have been something that could have propelled us so far over what it is today. Maybe living up to the potential we always thought it had, to become a major organization, to become a serious dominant force, not just in Chicago, but the entire Midwest. And if you want to have pipe dreams, who knows how far it could have gone.
AL: A lot of the problems you had were financial because you were fighting over what you had, and you just didn't have very much.
VENOM: Right, and I'm not 100% sure of what happened with the entire investment earlier this year, January-February. I have a pretty good idea. It fell apart more on negligence on (Whack's) unwillingness to open financial records to Jonathan that sunk the whole deal.
AL: Watching how it came down at the end, was Jonathan serious?
VENOM: It certainly seemed like it. (Whack) made a reference, by the way, that I quit three times. I recall twice. If he wants to say 2, that's fine, the second time was in June, when I actually did quit, and the first time was when he asked me, to streamline the corporation. This was in the beginning of January. Did I quit? Yeah, I did so because he asked me to. It supposedly was one of the conditions Jonathan had asked for. He wanted to streamline it and have not so many owners. I didn't care. It didn't matter to me, as long as the company had funding and we could actually do what we wanted to do, with backing. So did I quit twice? I sure did. When the entire Jonathan thing went down, I simply jumped back into the fold. Obviously, it's not to say that I'm needed, but the reason for quitting no longer was there. I didn't have any serious problem with it.
AL: To go back to the beginning. You were the first champion. How did that come about?
VENOM: It certainly wasn't because of my superior wrestling. If you look back, there is a consistent storyline that was running back from 1993 until today. There were no major breaks in continuity, any kind of major breaks were explained - the split, or a summer of inactivity at certain points. I happened to be the guy holding the championship belt when the backyard days ended and the legitimate days began. I pretty much became champion, by default. It became pretty obvious after the first few shows that I wasn't the person to hold that and represent the company. Giving it up to Broox was fine with me.
AL: When did you switch to the present belts that are used now?
VENOM: There are still tag team and Intercontinental belts at J-Mar that we paid for 4 or 5 years ago and still haven't seen. You have to talk to the guys who currently are in LWF about that. We got our world championship belt from Ed Chuman, a design on the classic WWF world title, which was the consensus of being our favorite title belt of all time. That and the old WWF Intercontinental belt are the sweetest belts ever made. That came into play at the beginning of 1998. Before that, we used a tin foil and cardboard monstrosity that looked really good from a distance, but you wouldn't want to examine it up close. That's what I got to haul to the ring.
AL: Who made it?
VENOM: I think I did, if I'm not mistaken. We used cardboard belts all the time in the backyard days. Most of them were really bad, but this one I was actually somewhat proud of. It felt apart, and I don't know where it's at right now.
AL: You kept it with you?
VENOM: Yeah, I carried it around. Why not? It's a belt. As long as I wave it up really quick, nobody knows the difference. Act like it's heavy.
AL: It wasn't?
VENOM: Not even. I think this plate here weighs more than that title belt.
AL: I guess it was more of what it represented.
VENOM: It was the LWF world championship. I was proud to carry it around and nobody could take it away from me at all. Everybody came after me, but I was the first. I'm happy about that. I'm very proud.
AL: Yeah, in history, it starts with your name.
VENOM: And even on the title history on the web page, I was crowned as the first champion.
AL: How did you win it in the first place?
VENOM: This one, I think, it was Punk was the Intercontinental champion and Broox was the world champion and we had a tag match, me and Punk against Broox and the Mercenary and all the belts were on the line, depending on who got pinned. Outside interference, I pinned Broox. Championship is mine. I carried it into legitimacy.
AL:Where were the matches before.
VENOM: The first series we had in (Whack's) backyard in Mokena. In the 1994 year we did it at a friend's house and in 1995-96 we did it in relatively featureless Elwood, Illinois.
AL: You mentioned Mikey MiGo. He was an LWF fan, and he romanticized what you did. And he's in Indiana and doesn't have to worry about the same things...
VENOM: Lawless Indiana is the phrase.
AL: I threw it out there, and it is lawless.
VENOM: It is truly lawless. We had actually decided we would go set in the field, because we could. No state board, no regulations. ... I like MiGo's product. I think he really needs to streamline. I thought one of the best things (Whack) said in his interview is (MiGo) really needs to know when to say no. The last show I was at was 4 hours, and it did go extremely well. There were some parts that didn't run cohesively, and that's going to happen. MiGo's new. Everybody who is in there is new. The kid's learning the same way we did. The kid's learning by doing. Sometimes, it's a very painful process. If he perserveres, he has a chance to at least survive pretty nicely in lawless Indiana.
AL: Maybe he's the crazy kid, but you guys were 8 crazy kids and I guess his advantage is he doesn't have to bounce his ideas off anyone.
VENOM: Which can be a dangerous thing. There are certain points you need someone to tell you, this is really a bad idea. You don't want to do that. He doesn't have that, he can let himself run wild. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it does not. I think the kid's learning. At least he's doing something. He's not sitting in crowd, critiquing. He's not anonymously posting on a message board, slamming people. He doesn't like what he sees, and he's trying to change it. I may not agree with everything he does, but I give the kid credi t. Most people talk. He does. More power to him. He's a nice kid and I hope he doesn't end up getting corrupted.
AL: That's what you were talking about before. When you say the truth is always stranger than fiction, you're talking about money.
VENOM: They say it's the root of all evil, maybe it is. Maybe it's not. It certainly does change things, sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worst. In my experience, it's been for the worst. It's something I just don't feel like doing, and it's time to go.
AL: So will the LWF always be, so long as Billy Whack - the character - wants it to be?
VENOM: Sure. I'm sure. I was joking with somebody about it, that if you would have told me in April the main event for Bloodbath 2001 was going to be CM Punk vs. Vic Capri, I'd have laughed you out of the building. Vic Capri? Maybe I could see that. CM Punk? Not a chance in hell. Well, shut my mouth.
AL: For Vic Capri, LWF wasn't always exactly the kind of thing he was doing?
VENOM: That wasn't his style, and I think the federation has changed. He's got Airborne. He's got Bishop. I saw Colt Cabana for the first time. It was impressive. He's a good worker. Punk and Capri put on a very good match. I'd never seen Capri before. It was the first time I'd seen him live and moving around. It's very good. I'm glad they are surviving. I wouldn't have done it that way, but what I would have done doesn't amount to a hill of beans. He felt that was necessary, and that's fine. As much as bringing back CM Punk offended me personally - I was on the front line for a lot of the dirt work to get rid of him. I'm the one who talked some sense in him after he stole half the ring. After two hours on the phone trying to get him to understand he couldn't just take it, that he could go to jail. ... He asked what he could do to make it right, I said just drop it off and go away. So he dropped it off, and he went away. And that was fine. To me, that's where it probably should have ended. I find it preposterous that (Whack) says I'm made they bro ught Punk back, as if that's the only thing. Not even close, champ. I respect the fact it was a business decision and he felt it was necessary to drum up business and get attention, that's great. I wouldn't have done it. I think it's preposterous to bring somebody in who tried his best to destroy everything you all had worked together to create. Call it petty if you will... I don't like being stabbed in the back.
AL: It's really odd for something like that to happen twice.
VENOM: I think it's pretty odd that you talk about CM Punk returning almost immediately after I walk out. It makes you wonder how long that had been in the works. It happened extremely quick. People were talking about the return of CM Punk 2 weeks after I left. Two weeks. What does that say? I don't know. Was it in the works? Maybe it was, maybe it wasn't.
AL: I'm sure business wasn't good at all.
VENOM: Supreme's an owner too. You could call him up right now and ask how much our yearly insurance is and he won't have a clue. There is one person who knows that and one person who keeps that information together and that's (Billy Whack).
AL: Was it always that way?
VENOM: No, it sort of slid into that. The mantle of ownership isn't always what it would seem to be. There are certain things you're left out of the loop on. I happen to know a lot more because I was involved in the operations. Monday we had training camp with trainees. Tuesday was training night. Wednesday we had camp, and later on we had Thursday camps and Friday we'd get together to talk about the LWF. Saturdays if there weren't a show, I'd be out with Mini Jones and the trainees plastering the area with fliers, which I thought kind of strange considering the promotion should have been done by somebody else. I don't think I should have been out on the street for shows that weren't promoted properly. Of course I did it. I didn't want to get up on Saturday morning to do that kind of thing, but I never complained about it. It was necessary. We talked for months about having a street team that was going to send guys to different areas. We had 3-4 people and it was like pulling teeth. Everybody wanted to be on the show, but not a lot of people wanted to do the legwork so people could see that show. There were a lot of things an owner shouldn't be doing that I was doing. I did what I could to make the LWF a success. I gave up any semblance of a normal life... There were people who wanted to succeed.
AL: Was there a street team of any kind?
VENOM: the only street team was maybe the 3-4 people who showed up on Saturdays, and we turned those into little parties. We had a good time. Mini Jones and I would send the newest guy to a unisex barbershop. Here you go... go in there. You have to promote. I can't give Mini Jones enough praise. When I asked somebody to show up early or stay late for takedown, pass out fliers, I didn't even have to ask. His heart was in it. When I'd see other people duck it, it speaks volume about certain people's characters.
AL: So with 7 or 8 people who claim ownership, you're saying not everyone...
VENOM: It's not even a direct slam. I understand there are certain reasons some couldn't be there. It wasn't as if we were making money. We all had other jobs. I worked a full-time job and had another full-time job in the LWF.
AL: It became your life?
VENOM: I didn't have a problem with it. I slept, showered, breathed LWF. I believe (Whack) said he spent every car wash, every wedding, funeral and space shuttle launch obsessing over the LWF. And it's pretty much true. He did, I did. That was our baby, and we wanted to do whatever was necessary to make it.
AL: Are you fine with the way things are now?
VENOM: I was fine the day after. I'd forgotten. I'd done this in one way, shape or form for 8 years. To have that suddenly gone and have a normal life with a normal job and a normal schedule? I don't think I've ever been this happy.
AL: So that's why nothing they do today matters to you.
VENOM: Not a bit can affect me. And that's why I feel confident doing this. This kind of talk can't jeopardize my position in the business, because I have no position in the business. I'm sure one of the things I'll hear... He's not the business, so why is he smarting off at Chicagowrestling.com? Well, my leaving was misrepresented. I felt a need to clear the air, and clear my name. ... And I want to address something else. There have been posts where people have wrongly attributed to me posting anonymously. Anyone who knows me knows that if I have something to say, I'm going to slap my name on it. I have no fear of doing that whatsoever. I don't post anything that is snide and I don't promote myself. If I have something to say, you'll know it's me. I don't have any position to lose. If I'm provoked, like I feel I somewhat was on the Billy Whack interview, I am going to shoot back. Whether he wants to take it and leave it or make it a contest, that's up to him. He fires, I fire. That makes the score 1-1 in my estimation. He wants to take another shot at me, by all means, I'd be happy to reciprocate in kind.