Art For Art's Sake - An Interview With Art Reed
by Dan Mardayl, Pro Wrestling Hits Magazine

Details
Name Art Reed
Real Name Arthur Robert Reed
Height 6'1
Weight 242lbs
Birthday 31st January 1975
Hometown Winnipeg
Trademark Moves Dread Lock, Art Attack, Hang Time Moonsault
Major Titles -
Major Promotions NOTBPW (2001), DAVE (2004-Present)

An Interview With Art Reed
Recently I had a chance to sit down with one of the brightest rising stars on the DAVE roster, "Pure Athlete" Art Reed, just two days before his thirty second birthday. While his recent run with the Tri-State promotion may have been the first time he's attracted the attention of a lot of fans, Reed was actually one of the most prolific independent wrestlers between 2002 and 2004, and boasts a very impressive background having been taught the art of wrestling (pun intended) by the Stone family in his native Canada. Over the course of our two hour conversation we covered a lot of topics, including how his reputation as one of the easiest wrestlers to work with was developed, and his thoughts on following many of his former DAVE colleagues to the Supreme Wrestling Federation.

DM: Hi Art, thanks for agreeing to be interviewed today.

AR: No problem Dan, it's an honour to be in Pro Wrestling Hits!

DM: So, let's start at the very beginning. How much of an influence did wrestling have on you as a child?

AR: Well this may be surprising as I'm from Winnipeg, which has a strong wrestling background, but I actually had virtually no exposure to wrestling whatsoever. I was always heavily into athletics, particularly on the track, and I was so focussed on that area that wrestling was just something I never got into.

DM: I understand you were actually a bit of a track star?

AR: I represented Canada as a junior athlete, both at hurdles and long jump. That was for two seasons, from around the time I was 16 up until my 18th birthday. I won several events over the years, but at the big events I was always just outside the medals.

DM: So, how did you make the switch from athletics star to wrestling rookie?

AR: Back then all the Canadian athletes from all disciplines used to share the same facilities in Alberta. One of my closest friends there was one of the top swimmers, Owen Pinsent...

DM: (interupting) Owen Pinsent would be the man wrestling fans now know as Owen Love, the NOTBPW star, correct?

AR: That's right. Owen and me used to hang out a lot, and one time we happened to see that there was a wrestling show going on nearby, and we decided to sneak in and take a look.

DM: You snuck in?

AR: Yeah, turns out it was an NOTBPW TV taping. Hell, I hope Dan [Stone] doesn't find out about this, he'll probably want me to pay him back for the price of a ticket. (laughs) Anyway, we got in without security seeing us, and we watched a few matches, nothing special. Then the main event happened, and these two guys went for a full hour, putting on a real old-school athletic wrestling match. We later found out that the two guys were Jeremy Stone and his younger brother Dan Stone Jr.

DM: This would be in 1999, when Dan was the champion. They had a series of fabulous one-hour time limit draws across the country that really helped put NOTBPW on the map.

AR: Yeah, although at the time me and Owen didn't know any of this. We just saw these two guys who were in peak physical condition going at it hard for a full hour. It really caught our attention, as this wasn't the cartoony stuff that most promotions in North America were putting on at the time, this was real full-blooded competitive wrestling, and that really appealed to us as athletes. So, we talked to a few people and got put in touch with Jeremy. At this stage, NOTBPW were in the process of starting up a training camp. They had an innovative process whereby anyone could turn up and get a free one-hour training session. Those that the Stones thought were good enough would be offered the chance to join the camp.

DM: Did many people get through?

AR: Dude...it was like boot camp or something. There were probably 75 guys at this free training session, and they were all in pretty good shape, you had football players, weight lifters, the whole range. And me and Owen, as we decided to go give it a try. After the first 20 minutes of training, you probably had 20 guys left, it was that intense. Jeremy Stone was in charge, and he was working everyone hard. And you've got to give him credit, he wasn't just barking out orders, he was doing everything that we were doing, but he was doing it without even breaking a sweat.

DM: So he was trying to weed out the guys who weren't good enough?

AR: Exactly. The Stones had the right idea - they weren't going to charge money to train people who had no chance of success, they were only looking for the cream of the crop. At the end, after the hour was up, there were 3 guys left. Out of 75, only 3 survived. Me and Owen were two, and the other was this blonde guy who was probably in better shape than any of us. His name was Rob, although nowadays he goes by the name Bobby - Bobby Thomas, who you may know as one half of The Specialists tag team.

DM: Sure, along with Nate Johnson.

AR: Right. So, Jeremy invites the three of us to join the training camp. Turns out there were twelve students overall who he was going to be training. Six of us were in one class, and we trained Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The other class would train Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays. Me and Owen were in the first, so was Bobby, and then there was Benson "Benny" Crane, Gregory Black and John Baker.

DM: We know about you, and we know that Owen and Bobby Thomas went on to big things in Canada - do you know what happened to those other three?

AR: (laughs) Actually you do too Dan. Benny Crane was this good-looking lightweight kid who could bump like you wouldn't believe. He's now better known as Elmo Benson up in SWF. Greg Black was a guy I got on with great, and he also moved on to the SWF - in fact, he's now better known as Groucho Bling, Benny's tag partner. And John Baker, who was probably the most dedicated student I've ever seen, a guy who wanted to be a wrestler more than anything else in the world, he's now a big star up in Canada. He's better known as Johnny Bloodstone.

DM: Wow, I guess that's a real seal of approval for Jeremy's teaching methods, as all six of you have gone on to success in the industry.

AR: Yeah, although I have to say that Danny [Stone Jr] also had a lot to do with this. He is only two years older than me, but he has been basically wrestling his entire life, so although we were not far apart in age, he was a true veteran by this stage. We also had a lot of other wrestlers drop by.

DM: Drop by?

AR: You have to understand that the respect for the Stone family in this business is massive. Even guys who have become major stars still drop by to ask for advice, or to get a tune up on their skills by working out with Jerry and Danny. We had guys like Black Hat Bailey, Dread, Rip Chord, Nemesis, they all showed up from time to time. And Sam Keith, who was a huge influence on all of us, he's a true professional, and a guy who has experience of working in virtually every wrestling city on the planet.

DM: I remember hearing that Sam actually taught you your finishing move, the Dread Lock?

AR: Yeah, Sam had been really impressed with the way me and John had been trading submission moves and counters, and so he took us aside and as a gift, taught us this new submission move he had been working on. You'll see Johnny break it out in his matches from time to time too. It was a real honour that a guy like Sam Keith, one of the absolute legends in this industry, took an hour to actually give us a move that he had invented. I don't think he has actually ever used it himself either, so it holds real significance for me, and every time I use it it is a little show of respect to him.

DM: Your training lasted about a year, ending in 2001...

AR: Yes, all twelve students "graduated" in the summer of 2001. Jerry was clear with us, saying that he'd try to help us get work, but there weren't enough spots on the roster for all of us, and so we should try to get work ourselves if we could.

DM: You made a handful of appearances for NOTBOPW though?

AR: Jeremy was nice enough to give me a few matches so that I could gain some exposure. And some money. (laughs) At the time, me and Bobby Thomas were teaming up regularly, and we had a few tag team bouts on NOTBPW's TV show, losing to some more experienced guys. I think we had three televised matches, then I had two singles bouts, both losses. But at that stage I was just a green rookie, I wasn't expecting to get victories, I was just loving getting some in-ring experience and learning to work the crowd.

DM: Your last match there was against Owen Love in October 2001.

AR: Well Owen was working under a mask at that point, I think he was "Canadian Cat" or something. Hell, if I looked like him I'd wear a mask too. (laughs) Just kidding! I'm going to get heat for that, huh? (laughs) But yeah, we wrestled a ten minute match to start one of the shows, and then it was time to move on. The original group split up - Johnny, Owen and Bobby all decided to stay in Canada and see what they could achieve there, while me, Benny and Greg decided to try our luck in the States. There's actually a little bit of trivia there; before I left, I used to room with Nate Johnson, who hadn't been part of the Stone's training camp but had been working the independent leagues for a while. He was a friend of Bobby's. Because I was moving out, Bobby took my room, and they ended up spending so much time together that they ended up forming a tag team together.

DM: And a very successful one, The Specialists are probably the top tag team in Canada right now.

AR: And they have me to thank for it (laughs)

DM: What happened once you hit the US?

AR: For the first year, the three of us basically stuck together. Benny was wrestling as Beautiful Benny Benson at this point and was a singles wrestler. Greg was calling himself Greg Wright, and he was teaming with me as Reed and Write.

DM: (groans)

AR: Yeah, I know, bad pun. But we were young, we didn't know any better. (laughs) We basically would wrestle anywhere we could get booked, which was mainly small companies. We did get booked on a few NYCW shows, and I think Stompy [The Stomper, NYCW owner] really liked the fact that we could all wrestle in an old-school style, but ultimately he was having some financial trouble and couldn't afford to keep us around.

DM: Shortly afterward you would have lost your travelling companions to SWF?

AR: Yeah. All three of us were invited to try out for SWF, in dark matches before their TV shows. Half the roster was away on a Japanese tour, and so I think Mr. [Richard] Eisen wanted to use the extra free time to take a look at some prospects.

DM: What happened?

AR: Well I don't know why, but they decided to switch us around, and to have Benny and Greg team up that night and for me to wrestle singles, which was unusual as it was always Benny who was working solo. They went out there and had a pretty good match against some Mexican team that was working that night, both of them were bumping like crazy, and I got put in there against Phil [Enforcer] Roberts.

DM: Enforcer Robert's has always been a favourite of mine.

AR: I think Phil's a great guy, and a fantastic wrestler. His style is really similar to mine, so we went out there and we had a really solid ten minute match. Even though I was still a rookie, I knew that we'd put on a really good contest, and Phil said so himself afterwards. He was a real pleasure to compete with.

DM: But as history has shown, you weren't offered a contract?

AR: No. To be honest, I think the bumping that Benny and Greg had been doing had given the SWF booking team the idea of using them as a pair of rag dolls for the bigger guys to throw around, you know, to make them look like real monsters. I think that's proven by the fact that they spent the first two years of their SWF careers getting tossed around and generally abused. Thankfully their talents have shone through, and with the business now appreciating high flying a bit more, they've really been able to rise up the rankings.

DM: And you?

AR: I think the fact that my match was so technical worked against me. That match would have gone down a storm in NOTBPW or Japan, but it was something SWF weren't really looking for, I think they wanted more "punchy kicky" stuff.

DM: So with your partners joining SWF to become High Concept, Groucho Bling and Elmo Benson, you were left alone.

AR: Very true. I headed back to the independent leagues. I was pretty down about it to begin with, but Sam [Keith] phoned me a few days after the try outs. He'd been in Japan on the tour, but he called to tell me to hang in there, and that working the independents would allow me to learn a lot of different styles, and that would make me a better worker in the long run. So, I spent the next two years learning as much as I could. I've wrestled luchadores in Mexico City, I've had hardcore brawls with psycopaths in Philly, I've had technical clinics with the Stones up in Canada. And Sam was right, it has made me a better worker overall.

DM: Your stay on the independent circuit was highlighted by a great series of matches against Acid.

AR: Those were matches that I was really proud of, Acid's style really suits mine. Funnily enough it turns out that Acid had also been trained by the Stones, at the same time as me. He had been in the "other" class though, so we had never crossed paths before. We'd had about twenty matches together before that came up in a conversation!

DM: It was late 2004 before you got signed by DAVE, after two years on the indy scene. How did that come about?

AR: I didn't find this out until later, but Phil Vibert had been trying to bring in The Specialists, my old buddies Bobby Thomas and Nate Johnson, to put in a series of matches against the New Wave. Bobby and Nate were unable to come down though, and apparently Bobby recommended me as someone who would be a good replacement. So originally I was brought in just for one night, and was teamed up with Acid to form a makeshift duo. We had a pretty good match, and Phil decided to bring me back the next week to fight Acid.

DM: That match wound up being televised on pay-per-view.

AR: Yes, it was the opening match of the night, it was meant to be a showcase for Acid, as at the time he was really struggling to connect with the fans. Phil already knew that we had had some great matches in the past, so he thought this would be a good way to open the show. We went out there are put in a pretty good fifteen minute match, and ever since then I've been booked on every show.

DM: The first six months of your DAVE career didn't see you win many matches.

AR: No, and that was partly my fault. Throughout my career, I'd always been brought in by promotions for a few weeks, mainly to put their regular workers over. As a result, I'd become very good at making other people look good, but not so great at showcasing my own abilities. So, by accident, I'd almost stuck myself in the role of putting everyone else over.

DM: What changed?

AR: It was Nemesis who really spotted what I was doing first, he has a great eye for the business. He sat me down and explained what I was doing wrong, and how I could modify my style to not only make my opponent look good, but to really get some kudos myself. He felt that I was probably the most naturally athletic guy on the roster, and that I should make use of that. At the time I was in a series of matches with Johnny Martin, and with Nemesis' encouragment, I started putting some spots into my matches that really showed off some of my stronger points. For example, because of my athletic background I have a really strong vertical leap. So I started adding some big leap frogs into matches, just to make it clear that I could really move, especially for a guy over 240lbs. I also added a few top rope moves, which is something I'd never really done before.

DM: Your momentum really picked up and by the second half of 2005 you were involved in two highly rated series of matches, one against Japanese legend Kunomasu, and one against your old enemy Acid.

AR: Kunomasu was a great challenge, as you're talking about a guy who was one of the founding fathers of strong style wrestling. That style really fits in with my athletic approach though, and I think we were able to put on some great matches. He was also a really great teacher, and I learnt a lot from the three months I spent fighting him regularly. Then I moved onto Acid, and that was the first time that I really started to pick up some big wins. Which was nice. (laughs)

DM: Indeed. Your wins over Acid actually pushes you into your first title matches, and you had shots at both the Unified and Brass Knuckles championships.

AR: It's always nice to get title matches, as it means you are doing something right, but really I was just happy to be putting on great matches and getting to face quality opponents.

DM: Your feud with Acid ended just before Christmas, and since then we haven't seen much direction for you. Are you worried?

AR: (laughs) No, I'm actually relieved. The reason is that I had a slight knee injury in December, and I'm just working that off. In February I should be starting working with a new opponent, although nothing has been finalised yet.

DM: One thing that every worker says when talking about you is how easy you are to work with. You must take this as a huge compliment.

AR: For sure. I was lucky enough to have two of the best in the world teach me, and that's given me the basics that allow me to always be safe in the ring. Add to that the fact that I know how to fight in many styles, and that really helps me be versatile, and I'd like to think be able to work with just about anyone. I also had safety beaten into me the hard way.

DM: How so?

AR: Back when I was first in training, I hit a "blind" dropkick. That's where you do a dropkick without looking first, and is something you shouldn't do. I mis-timed it, and ended up hitting Jeremy Stone in the face, giving him a black eye. Man, he wasn't happy, he had to do a month of shows with this shiner. (laughs) He got up, and spent the next three hours showing the rest of the class a range of submission holds...using me as the victim. It was the longest three hours of my life, it was agony. But, credit to Jerry, he taught me never to do "blind" moves again, and in my entire career I never have done. I'm always careful to treat my opponent with respect, and I think that has helped.

DM: In recent times, DAVE has lost a lot of talent to the SWF and TCW. As we've discovered, you already have connections to SWF through Sam Keith, Elmo Benson and Grouch Bling, do you see yourself going there one day?

AR: Somewhere down the line, yes, I do see myself going there. Now that I have a more versatile wrestling style, I think I'd be able to fit in well with a lot of their guys. But really, I'm very happy with DAVE at the moment, and I'm looking more towards going over to Japan for a few matches. Before he left, Kunomasu said that I would always be welcome in PGHW, and that he'd love to compete against me in front of the Japanese fans. So, maybe later this year, or in 2007, I'd like to go over and take him up on that offer.

DM: In closing, you're just about to turn 32, are rapidly rising up the rankings of DAVE, and have connections with both SWF and PGHW. In short, the future is looking bright for Art Reed. What goals do you have left in wrestling?

AR: I have a few things I'd still like to do. I'd like to win a world title, as that is something that goes down in history and can never be taken away from you. I'd love to get to wrestle Sam Keith, as we've never faced off and he has been such a big influence on my career. And before my career is over, I'd really like to head over to NOTBPW, taking Benny, Greg and Owen with me, and get together for a match against the Stones, just to take my career full circle.

DM: Good luck with that Art, and thanks for talking to us.

AR: It has been my pleasure.