June 2, 2005
Nana an honorable Prince
By JASON CLEVETT -- SLAM! Wrestling
While some consider the male manager a thing of the past, on the independent circuit there are many who are working hard to bring the art back to prominence. One such man is Ghana, West Africa's Prince Nana, who is one of the most reviled men in Ring of Honor.
"I was always a fan of Bobby "The Brain" Heenan and thought Slick was hilarious. My managerial skills come from my work as a wrestler. Going into the ring and getting the microphone is something I love to do, making those people feel where I am coming from and getting my point across," Nana told SLAM! Wrestling. "A lot of that stems from Ric Flair, who was a big influence. I used to mimic his promos in the mirror. When I got my chance to get on the mic in companies like ECWA in Delaware, I was able to showcase that talent. Being the character that I am I was able to offer not only wrestling skills but the verbal skills to get me over. As a manager I am able to do the same thing, which is a blessing."
While Nana is comfortable in the role, he initially broke in as a wrestler. While he grew up as a fan of wrestling, it was the classic feud between Randy "Macho Man" Savage and Flair that culminated at Wrestlemania 8 that changed his life.
"I begged my Mom at the age of 15 to get into pro wrestling, the reason I got into the business is Wrestlemania 8. That show was what changed my life because of the Ric Flair vs. Randy Savage feud. There was something about that feud that really made me want to be involved. A year later I was looking into schools and I wrote to the WWE, who told me to go to Larry Sharpe's school. It was too far way because I was living in New York City as an exchange student from Ghana. After a few months I found Gleason's gym on Front Street. I started as a photographer for Johnny Rodz because I was 15 at the time and he was only training people over 18. I photographed guys like D-Von Dudley, Big Vito, Bill DeMott, Tommy Dreamer and Tazz. Finally Johnny gave me a chance because I had a good head on my shoulders. I haven't stopped since."
Nana is an accomplished wrestler and has worked for Ring of Honor (ROH) since it began. However his career soon took another direction. While Nana loves being a manager, there is no comparison between that job and being a competitor.
"It is two completely different jobs with the same goal of entertaining the crowd. Everyone is part of the event from the timekeeper to the managers to the valets. Being in ROH, I was having a hard time staying up in the ranks as a wrestler. I was overweight but hard hitting and was a convincing opponent for a lot of people. After a couple of months of being away because there wasn't a spot for me, I got a call from (ROH booker) Gabe Sapolsky. He said it was time to bring me back in a different role as a 'consultant.' I think he didn't want to call me a 'manager' because he was afraid I was going to get pissed off. I had no problem with it so that was the birth of Prince Nana the manager."
In the tradition of heel managers of the past, Nana started assembling a stable. "The Embassy" is one of three dominant heel stables in the company, the others being The Rottweilers and Generation Next, and Nana spoke proudly of each of his acquirements.
"Everyone is going to get their shot, and The Embassy is getting bigger. We have the Crown Jewel, Jimmy Rave, we have the Outkast Killas, Fast Eddie, Mike Kruel and Jade the footstool," he raved, before discussing each member.
"First to join were Diablo Santiago and Oman Tortuga. I acquired them and took them off ring crew. I saw something in their eyes, they have the eye of the tiger. They are serious about their craft, respect everyone in the locker room and are willing to learn and take it to the next level. Fast Eddie is the newest edition and an up and coming Junior heavyweight wrestler. The thing I like most about him is that he is legally blind, and for a guy that walks into walls to do the stuff he does in the ring is amazing. It would have been stupid not to sign him to the Embassy because he is money and going to be a big star. 'Killer' Mike Kruel is another guy that when he gets his push is going to make people go 'wow.' As soon as we find something for him you will hear more about him. Jade Chung is the footstool and knows her role (Chung is from Guelph, Ontario, and replaced Angel Williams, a fellow Canadian girl, a few months ago as footstool)."
Then there is the "Crown Jewel" Jimmy Rave. Rave was at a crossroads with Ring of Honor and its fans, and seemed reborn when he joined the Embassy, becoming a main event player in a matter of months.
"I really didn't know Jimmy Rave before he came into ROH. When I acquired him into the Embassy I had no idea who he was. I spoke to him a couple of times and met with him before the show. I wasn't sure if there was going to be a conflict because I didn't know if he knew who I was. I'm a nobody but I was with ROH from day one and in the World Title tournament before Low Ki knocked me out. I've been to Zero One and done work with WWE. I was worried there might be an ego problem but as I got to work with him I realized Jimmy Rave is a young promising student of the game who was willing to learn. Rave listens to ideas, I listen to his, and we have become close friends. Mark my words, Jimmy Rave will not only be the next ROH World Champ, but he will have a major contract someday."
"The last time I had the kind of reaction we had with Punk and AJ was the feuds with Xavier in Elks Lodge in Queens and my feud with Cheetah Master in ECWA. Me and Cheetah Master went at it for years and we had the greatest feud in ECWA history with bloody matches and people hated me over there. What made me happy again in managing was when we did the match with AJ in (Dayton) Ohio and the Steel Cage match with Punk in Chicago, the crowd reaction was deafening. Jimmy Rave went from having an okay match with Dixie when I unveiled him to having main event matches that everyone went home happy with. It was a great feeling to see the crowd up and into every aspect of what is going in the match, not just with Punk and Rave but what is going on outside. It started with Punk disrespecting me."
The Embassy has had a few people come and go as well. While former ROH Champ Xavier and former Pure Champion John Walters are presently not with the company or the Embassy, Nana would welcome both back.
"John Walters I have known for a long time, he is an awesome talent. If I were the head of Talent Relations for WWE I would sign John Walters. He can do any style and gimmick, as is evident from his outfit when he joined the Embassy. To the fans it was shocking but to us it was real. I hope John comes back and signs with the Embassy, but we will see him again someday. The only thing John Walters was missing was the character, and when he finally got it the fans fell in love with it but he took a break."
Nana and Xavier have a great deal of history, predating Ring of Honor.
"Xavier's departure from the Embassy was because he wanted to leave. There was a bit of an ego situation with Xavier and I. Our record goes back way before ROH and the Embassy. In UCW, which later became ICW, he had classic ladder matches with Low Ki. After that feud Xavier and I feuded for a year. He wanted the Embassy to go in a different direction, he wasn't comfortable with me being in the picture. When he left the Embassy I had a spot open up and Jimmy Rave got in. If Xavier wanted to come back to the Embassy and regain the ROH title, we have a deal. Until then it is all about the rest of the Embassy."
Nana has also had several "Weapons of Mask Destruction" attempt to take out Jay Lethal. The Prince refused to discuss them due to their failure and short tenure. The Embassy also included Ricky Morton of the Rock N Roll Express for one night in October when ROH welcomed The Midnight Express to Philadelphia.
"I respect Jim Cornette and Bobby Heenan; both were very nice when they were on the shows. One thing that I am definitely going to stand by is the fact that we are a new generation of professional wrestlers. Their time has come and gone, I understand everyone is trying to get paid but the way the business has evolved, there is no time to dwell on the past. I loved the fact that we had Cornette and the Midnight Express came out. The stuff I did with them was unbelievable. Now it is not about Jim Cornette or Bobby Heenan, it is about ROH, our guys, Prince Nana and (Rottweilers manager) Julius Smokes. Whoever wants to compete with us and try and take our spot I dare you to do so because I am not going anywhere unless I get signed."
While some think that Nana, with his outrageous garb and thick African accent is simply a gimmick Nana is in fact legit African royalty.
"I was born in the U.S., but when I turned three we went back to Ghana for five years. I came back to go to school. My Father is part of the Ashanti tribe in Ghana, West Africa with Royal Heritage. I am part of that because of my relation to the existing chiefs of the Ashanti tribe. If my uncle is to pass away, because he is the chief uncle, legally I will be the next King. If you see me one day on the street and someone is cutting a goat's head off on my foot, you will know that I am becoming king. Tradition has changed a lot in Ghana so it isn't as cut as dry as I have explained it. There is a lot of tradition there. Ghana is a beautiful place and everyone should go there a couple of times a year."
While Nana is very proud of his homeland, he presently makes New York City his home.
"The USA is the land of the free and the home of the brave. My brother is in Iraq right now and he loves the United States. He was born in Ghana but has been serving the U.S. for the last ten years. As an independent wrestler who has control over his storylines, I would not go out and berate the U.S. and its fans because I love this country. I can't imagine living anywhere else, but Ghana is beautiful also. Sooner or later I will have a house in both countries so I can move my Mother back there."
Being part of Ring of Honor, Nana is excited to see the company continuing to grow and expand. They recently debuted in Manhattan, and this Saturday will be on the border in Buffalo, New York, allowing Eastern Canadian fans to finally see what the buzz is about.
"It means an awful lot. It is important to get into these big markets like New York City, Buffalo and Chicago because there is a lot of publicity there. Going into these cities and having 1,000 people is unbelievable. We know we have a huge following; it is time to expand and go into these other markets and see what other opportunities there are and venture into new things. If we stay at the level of an independent we will always be one. Since we have broken into these big markets and have other big markets to come. It is going to turn the progress of the company. I have a couple of surprises in store for Buffalo and big plans for my Embassy. Whenever the Embassy is in town something big is happening, so be in Buffalo and be prepared for something special."
As arguably the biggest independent company in the USA, those that work for Ring of Honor have a great deal of pride in what they have accomplished in its three-year history. Nana is one of those who has been through its ups and downs and concluded by expressing exactly what ROH means to him.
"ROH is about respect, loyalty, and wisdom. I have been with this company for three years. The thing I tell independent workers is to be faithful to the promotions you believe in the most. Ring of Honor has never screwed me out of money, been rude or disrespectful. They have been open to everything I have brought to the table and had to share. It is a good company to be at, I can't get sentimental about it but the guys in the locker room really bust their asses to make a quality show that everyone will enjoy. I have all of my ROH DVDs. I enjoy watching them and everyone I show the product too they see the excitement that is in the air, the production and that everyone is putting 110% into making the show work out. Every independent star wants to get into one of three companies -- first is the WWE, if anyone tells you they don't want to go to WWE it is a lie. TNA is option two, and the third company because it is hot, a great platform to promote yourself, learn and perform and ROH isn't going anywhere. Even if at some point I leave the company I will still support Ring of Honor."
Jason Clevett is from Calgary, Alberta, Canada. He's really, really hoping Calgary is one of the "other big markets" that Nana referred too, but is not holding his breath. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.