I first met Robert Trail at Tournament of Death 2012. However, I could recognize his face many years before that. Robert is a dedicated fan of deathmatch wrestling, traveling yearly to the big three tournaments: Carnage Cup, Tournament of Death and King of the Deathmatches. He also attends smaller tournaments such as EPW's Hardcore Harvest and anything else he can come across.
What inspires people to drive such lengths to witness deathmatch tournaments live? That is merely one of the things I'm trying to find out by conducting this series of interviews. Over the years, I have found that deathmatch wrestling fans come from diverse walks of life. Many, if not most of these people see each other only at wrestling shows, driving from out of state.
Robert Trail is a walking library of deathmatch wrestling knowledge. He has an excellent memory and knows details about combatants ranging from the super-popular (Drake Younger) to the relatively obscure (Mikey McFinnegan). He is also good with geography when it comes to towns that run wrestling shows.
Robert: My name's Robert Trail and I'm from Evansville, Indiana. I can be seen on just about every deathmatch tournament DVD from 2009 King of the Deathmatches up until now (I did miss a couple of them, though). I'm a musician and a music teacher. I've been playing guitar for 26 years now (Yep, I'm an old fart!) and have been teaching at a music store and part-time at a University for 19 years.
Music is my life really. I also enjoy taking long walks with my little best buddy (my dog Maxwell) and I love to travel around and seeing new places. I'm not much on watching TV, but my all-time favorite show is, by far, Mystery Science Theater 3000. I've met almost everyone from the show and even own props from the show and have my own, full-size Crow T. Robot and Tom Servo that a guy in New Jersey built for me.
I'm not really much into modern, popular movies, but I love old, goofy ones. I've never seen any of the "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies, but I've sat through "Zardoz"! I've also recently gotten into trying to watch as many true "classics" as possible, like the "Godfather" movies and all the classic Clint Eastwood Spaghetti Westerns. "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" is the best movie I've ever seen, by far! LOVE it! I've also been a long-time fan of anything related to British Comedy. How can you not love that stuff???
Particle Don: Were you a fan of regular wrestling before you got into deathmatches? If so, how, and what federations did you follow? Who are some of your favorite non-deathmatch wrestlers?
Robert: I've actually had a love-hate relationship with wrestling over the years. My first exposure was watching Memphis Wrestling because Evansville was part of the "circuit" back then. They'd run Memphis on Monday, Louisville on Tuesday and Evansville on Wednesday, so the Memphis show was shown on a local TV station. This was around about maybe 1983 or so. I also liked watching Georgia Wrestling on TBS and I also watched WWF, but honestly, it was my least favorite of the three.
I started going to Memphis shows with my grandfather about this same time too and I was hooked and he took me down there to the Coliseum every Wednesday night after that for years! I got to see all the guys (Jerry Lawler, Randy Savage, Bam Bam Bigalow, Shawn Michaels, Rick Rude, Jimmy Hart and so on) before they were in WWF. In fact, that was the only reason I ever watched WWF, was to see guys I used to see at the Coliseum. Towards the end of the 1980's, I got bored with it and got away with it, because I was getting into music and playing guitar.
But then, around about 1995, when I was in college, I found ECW one night on a TV station WAY up the dial. From that first moment, I was totally hooked! And the thing about ECW is that a lot of what they did was taken from Memphis Wrestling, Paul Heyman just added modern rock music to the mix and made the product "hipper", so to speak. But, I was just hooked on the whole violence aspect of it.
I did actually get to go to an ECW show though, in 2000 when they ran one here in Evansville. It was kinda ECW-Lite but it was still cool to see those guys. Also too, when I was young, I used to get wrestling magazines (wish I still had those!) and I remember seeing pictures of guys like Carlos Colon and Abdullah the Butcher and it scared me, but fascinated me at the same time. I honestly can't say that I had any "favorites", I just enjoyed the shows as a whole.
Particle Don: What initially got you into deathmatch wrestling? Who are some of your favorite deathmatch wrestlers, and why?
Robert: After about 2001, when ECW folded, I lost interest in wrestling again. Then, in about 2002 or 2003, I came across a little 30-minute wrestling show that was shot at the Coliseum here in Evansville by a company called CCW. That was the first time I saw guys like Necro Butcher, Mad Man Pondo and JC Bailey. Honestly, I was unimpressed and rather turned off by the whole "blood and gut" aspect of it. It just seemed like a bunch of idiots doing stupid things to themselves for no reason and I didn't like it......but.......the more I watched it, the more I was fascinated by it.
Then, I kinda saw what they were actually doing to each other and how the whole thing was more for show then guys actually trying to kill each other. So, I started looking up more information about it on the Internet. I knew about XPW, but had never seen any of their shows. Then, I found out about a company called CZW that ran shows in the old ECW Arena. I got more and more interested in CZW and guys like Zandig, Wifebeater, Lobo and Nick Gage. I especially was fascinated with "Sick" Nick Mondo because his "career" was so short, and he had done so many insane things in such a short time, that he HAD to get out of the business when he did or he would have killed himself.
One day, in about 2005, I was in a mall in Indianapolis and there was a record store that was going out of business and everything was like 75% off. I found Nick Mondo's documentary, bought it and watched it. Then, in about 2006, YouTube popped up and during that Summer, I'd spend every single day in the library at the University, watching CZW matches. I was totally hooked! All the guys I mentioned were by far my favorites.
Particle Don: What was the first deathmatch tournament you saw on film? What was the first deathmatch tournament you attended live?
Robert: I can't say what the first tournament I saw on film was, but I just remember watching the Zandig vs. Mondo match from Tournament of Death 2 and that getting me really hooked. I started buying DVDs from Smart Mark. The first one was probably Tournament of Death 1 and then, 2.
Several things happened that led to me going to my first tournament live. In 2008, I fell in love with this girl who lived in Nashville, TN at the time. I was crazy for her and would drive down there every two weeks to see her. We were never officially in a relationship though (mostly because I was scared to ask her) and by the middle of 2008, she had broken my heart by seeing this other guy who ended up threatening to kill me because I was nice to her. So, to deal with the sadness I was feeling, I decided I'd start going to wrestling shows because it was so totally different than anything else I had done. So, I went to a couple of IWA:MS shows that Summer and had a blast!
I got the idea in my head that I wanted to go to a CZW show at the ECW Arena. So, that December, I went to Cage of Death 10 (Yeah....the sucky one with the messed up "exploding cage"). The biggest thing about that was that I got to go to the ECW Arena. Yeah, the place was a dump, but there was just so much history there. I was in awe of the whole experience. So, in 2009, I made a commitment that I was going to go to all the deathmatch tournaments and the first was the 2009 King of the Deathmatch in Joliet, IL. Man, that town was SCARY!!!! But, the show was a total blast!
Particle Don: What was your favorite live deathmatch event? Why?
Robert: I'd have to say Tournament of Death 8 in 2009. That was my first Tournament of Death and man, what a tournament! That was the one with guys like Jon Moxley, Brian Damage and Thumbtack Jack and the one in which Nick Gage got cut under his arm and almost bled to death! What a crazy way to come into the whole live TOD world, huh?? It was awesome!
As for Cage of Death, COD 11 (in 2009) was my favorite too. That was the one that had the Thumbtack Jack vs. Nick Gage No-Rope Barbwire match (the best live deathmatch I've EVER seen) and the awesome COD match between Danny Havoc and Sami Callihan.
Particle Don: If possible, give us a list or semi-list of all the deathmatch shows you've been to!
Robert: Wow...here goes...I'll break this down by company:
COD (2008-2013...I missed the last one (2014) because of "personal reasons")
Best of the Best 10 (The one with the awesome Danny Havoc vs. Jun Kasai match!)
I also went to both of their Indianapolis shows and the one they did in Lafayette, Indiana and the one in Bloomington, Indiana.
King of the Deathmatch (2009, 2010, 2011, 2014)
Queen of the Deathmatch (2014)
Prince of the Deathmatch (2015)
And then a bunch of random IWA shows
Carnage Cup (2009-2015) Particle Don note: (No Cup was held in 2014)
IWA East Coast
Masters of Pain (2009)
Anniversary Show (2009)
I also went to the one show they did in March of 2010, which was Thumbtack Jack's last American match where he worked a non-deathmatch against Sami Callihan. Particle Don Note: this show was St. Patrick's Day Massacre
Both of the "Night of the Psychos" tournaments in 2013
Chaos Pro Wrestling
Seven Deadly Sins Tournament (2014)
And while they aren't "deathmatch" shows, I used to go a lot of IPW shows in Indianapolis. I've been to a few ROH shows, several Chikara shows, a lot of local shows here in Evansville (CCW, VIP, MECW....even an NFW show once....but shhhhh, don't tell anyone about that one!) and a lot of smaller shows around Indiana and Illinois. Also, I used to go to St. Louis Anarchy shows when they ran in a town called O'Fallon, Illinois. When they moved closer to St. Louis, I couldn't go anymore without taking time off from work. Also, I went to several double-header shows with CZW, like that one Jersey All-Pro Anniversary show, the "International Incident" show that had guys from BJW, DDT and K-Dojo and the wXw show they did before Best of the Best 10.
Particle Don: What would be your dream match?
Robert: Right now, Nick Gage vs. Matt Tremont! It's going to happen soon, too...and I can't WAIT!!!
Particle Don: Where did you first hear of Particle Don?
Robert: When Don and his brother came up to me at a TOD and introduced themselves to me and said they had seen me on a bunch of DVDs and gave me a copy of his CD. That was actually the first time anyone had come up to me like that and it blew my mind that someone thought of me as something special just because they had seen me on DVD at different indy wrestling shows!
Particle Don: What is your favorite Particle Don song?
Robert: The Danny Havoc theme one set to "Hungry Like the Wolf" is awesome, but I have to say that the Drake Younger theme is just so perfectly done!
Particle Don: What entrance theme would you like to hear Particle Don write words for?
Robert: Gosh....I couldn't even tell you. I don't really know a lot of the WWF (or WWE) ones because I just watch any of that stuff. Maybe some kind of a rap over "Bullet with Butterfly Wings" by Smashing Pumpkins about Mad Man Pondo or one over "Teenage Dirtbag" for "Spyder" Nate Webb, although he's pretty much out of the business now.
Particle Don: What is your favorite wrestling entrance theme of all time? Why?
Robert: Maybe it's because I'm a musician myself but honestly, I've gotten to where I can block music out of my head sometimes and I just don't pay much attention to entrance themes.
However, some of them that kinda do stick out are Necro coming out to either "Freebird" or "Helter Skelter", and Ian Rotten coming out to "The Beautiful People". Brain Damage using "Bullet with My Name on It" was always cool, and I liked that Foxy Shazam song that Jon Moxley used at TOD 8. I guess the best one though was Nate Webb using "Teenage Dirtbag" and Nick Mondo using "Last Resort", although I never liked that song....hahaha!!! Lately, I gotta say that Thunderkitty using "Rumble" is pretty cool, because I'm a HUGE Link Wray/surf guitar music fan!
Particle Don: Do you have any musical or creative endeavors you'd like to share?
Robert: I've played in several bands over the years, but haven't had a band of my own in a long time. Mostly, because I always found it so hard to get a group of people together that want to work towards a common goal. It's a tough thing to do really and in the area where I live, it's almost not even worth trying, unless you're just going to play AC/DC and Lynard Skynard covers, which I'd rather not do. My main band that I had about 10 years or so ago was called S.P.G., which stood for Special Patrol Group which was the hamster in the British comedy show "The Young Ones". My joke was that we were the only band in the world to be named after a punk rock hamster! These days, I play shows at the University where I work and as of two weeks ago, I talked to this girl who is a student there about the idea of doing some acoustic shows with me this Summer and it looks as though that's actually going to happen. I'm quite excited about it!
Particle Don: What are some of your favorite bands?
Robert: Oh gosh....where to begin????? I'll break it down into categories (these aren't exactly in any order!):
All-Time Favorite Bands:
The Stray Cats
The Rolling Stones
....the list goes on and on
Favorite Guitar Players:
Stevie Ray Vaughan
"Blind" Willie McTell
Rev. Horton Heat
Recent favorites of the last 10-15 years:
The Dresden Dolls
Rev. Payton's Big Damn Band
Antony & the Johnsons
"Rubber Soul" - The Beatles
"Dry" - PJ Harvey
"Bleach" - Nirvana
"London Calling" - The Clash
"The Bends" - Radiohead
"Revolver" - The Beatles
....and many more!
Particle Don: Any recommendations of specific wrestling shows or promotions we should check out? Where can we find it?
Robert: I recently went to a show for a company called High Risk Wrestling that runs in Belleville, IL (near St. Louis). The show was run by these two guys who I think are brothers that have been trying to get a wrestling company up and running for a while now. The show featured guys like The Colony, Jigsaw, Ricochet, Chuck Taylor, Michael Elgin, Kyle O'Reilly and Bobby Fish. It was so much fun. They ran another show last month, but I couldn't make it and the one they have planned for April I'll have to miss too, but I'd love to go to another one of those shows.
Other that that, I've just been trying to make it over to Clarksville, IN for as many IWA Mid-South shows as possible, because Ian always runs a good show and they're always fun. I can't make the Thursday night shows though, because of my job.
Particle Don: Any unique experiences or fan interactions you've had while attending a deathmatch show that you could never get at a normal wrestling show?
Robert: What happened to me at this year's Carnage Cup sure ranks high. Being the dumbass that I am, I ended up locking my keys in my car on that Sunday and of all people, Corp. Robinson, Chuey Martinez and Bryant Woods helped me! They sure didn't have to do that, but they did and I can't stress enough love to all those guys for helping me out!
Other than that, just getting recognized by wrestlers and other fans as being "Hey! You're that guy that goes to a lot of these shows!" is an awesome feeling. I don't even get that feeling from playing music shows and honestly, it's one of the biggest reasons I keep going to deathmatch shows. It's just always fun to see people you know and catch up on things. Granted, I know some people look at deathmatch wrestling as being "stupid" or whatever, and maybe in some cases, they're right, but to me personally, going to these shows is about the whole experience and it's just so much fun to hang out with so many awesome people.
Particle Don: What are you looking forward to with deathmatch wrestling in 2015? Do you plan on attending any shows?
Robert: NICK F'N GAGE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 'Nuff said! I can't wait to hopefully see him work matches against some of the newer guys like Tremont and John Wayne Murdoch!
I've already gone to Carnage Cup and Prince of the Deathmatch this year. I have my ticket for TOD and KOTDM. Also, CCW is planning on running their first deathmatch tournament in June, so I'm looking forward to that one as well. I know IWA:EC is running Masters of Pain in May, but honestly, I'm going to have to miss it because these shows are just too close together and I can't afford to make ALL of them.
Thank you for the excellent interview, Robert! We're looking forward to seeing you at all the tourneys!