March 19, 2007
Trump card wins Ace Steel WWE dealChicagoan looks forward to showing versatility
By RICHARD KAMCHEN - SLAM! Wrestling
"You're ... HIRED!"
Ten days after portraying Donald Trump in the "The Donald vs. Rosie" match on the January 8 edition of WWE Raw, that's essentially what Chris Guy (a.k.a. Ace Steel) was told when WWE signed him to a development contract.
"I was booked for an extra spot once again and they needed someone to pull it off and I was volunteered if I wanted the gig," Chicago-born Steel told SLAM! Wrestling. "I thought it was great and of course the crowd was going to hate it but some things are done for a purpose, and that certainly had a purpose -- media exposure and now the real Donald will be appearing soon, I guess. I loved it."
(Trump made on appearance on Raw February 12, challenging WWE Chairman Vince McMahon to a hair-versus-hair match at WrestleMania 23.)
The 34-year-old, five-foot-nine, 211-pound Steel has had previous WWE matches, with his first coming four years ago when he wrestled under his real name against Matt Hardy.
"Matt Hardy was really a pro in that match, and when you're an extra there it means you could end up with very little in a match, but he made it a match and gave me plenty," Steel said.
"The haircut deal was funny 'cause I have a fun rapport with (William) Regal and it's always fun to do odd stuff like that," Steel said. "Using Cabana's real name was just off the cuff and he was in Europe at the time, so when it got back to him we had a good laugh."
(Cabana eventually returned the favour, getting squashed nearly two years later on Raw by Umaga under the name Chris Guy.)
"I was a late addition as an extra and was put in the match with Lance and it went very well. Ted DiBiase was very complementary to me afterwards and it led to me working Orlando the next night. I thought both were good matches. Lance is a big ol' boy that doesn't hit soft -- Ha! -- but I'm used to stiff working so it was great, I thought."
A day after working as The Donald, Steel had a dark match, tagging with Funaki against The Gymini. On January 18, he signed the WWE deal and is heading to WWE developmental territory Deep South Wrestling.
"I believe showing my versatility did help further my career with WWE, and I'm excited to begin my journey with them," Steel said. "I have no idea what the future holds, but I'm hoping my versatility will shine through to bring me to new heights."
"I like to think of Ace's story as a feel good story," said Cabana. "In a time in pro wrestling where WWE has made it pretty apparent that they don't want to sign anyone with wrestling experience, Ace Steel has finally got the due that he so deserves ... I wish Ace the best of luck on a great and hopefully successful 15-year run with the WWE."
Although Cabana said Steel has always had the love for wrestling and was a natural in the ring, he could not help himself from ribbing Steel, questioning his overall athletic gracefulness.
"I think there are people who are born to be wrestlers. There are some people who are just good at it because they're natural athletes. The thing is, Ace is far from a natural athlete," Cabana said. "He looks awkward to me in most of the times we've ever played sports together. But when you get him in the ring, he's so crisp and smooth in his movements you'd never know he throws a baseball like a girl."
"(I'm) glad to see someone who has worked hard through the years, and 'paid dues' to finally make it to the big time," he wrote on his web site.
Debuting in October 1991, Steel has trained wrestlers like CM Punk and Cabana with Danny Dominion at the Steel Domain wrestling school, and his wrestling career highlights include stints in IWA Mid-South, Japan's Pro Wrestling NOAH, and ROH.
Cabana said Steel helped teach him the fundamentals and took the time to give him any other advice he sought out.
"I could sit here and say that Ace is a father figure to me, but he's such a hilarious and slappy happy guy that I think it would make more sense to say he's like a great older brother," Cabana said. "Ace is definitely a huge influence on my wrestling career. He was an influence on my wrestling style and my ability to go out and have fun in the ring."
"Myself and my former partner took forever to get around the biz before opening the Steel Domain and train guys and make connections," Steel said. "It's rough out there but you have to be willing to lose money and go anywhere. Which brings us to IWA Mid-South. Lose money you will, but myself, Cabana, Punk, (Chris) Hero, etc., at the time helped to bring wrestling to what was mainly a hardcore promotion. I would like to think we helped change things in IWA, and others like Austin Aries, Ken Kennedy, Alex Shelley, and Jimmy Jacobs were able to come down and expand on what we started."
In late 2003, Steel debuted in Japan on a tour for NOAH. That was a significant achievement, he said, especially given wrestlers he looked up to like Chris Benoit, Eddie Guerrero, and Dean Malenko previously worked there.
"I couldn't wait to be in a place where at times wrestling, the pure mat wrestling techniques and training, were common and the norm," Steel said. "The Japanese have such a level of dedication and to workout and train everyday, and get on a bus to the next town was the best. I've been in the ring many times with (Mitsuharu) Misawa, (Yoshinari) Ogawa, (Akira) Taue, KENTA (Kenta Kobayashi), (Naomichi) Marafuji, (Yoshinobu) Kanemaru -- you name it. And each time learning so much and to gain their respect is awesome. NOAH is the top Japanese company."
"Ace Steel is the kind of guy you want in your locker room," said ROH booker Gabe Sapolsky. "Everyone he brought up in the business like CM Punk and Colt Cabana has a high respect for him. Ace is a team player and will do whatever it takes to get an angle or match over."
In ROH, Steel teamed with former students Punk and Cabana to form the Second City Saints.
"It was really an awesome thing to travel up and down the road working with two of the prized students and friends. We had some of the best of times," Steel said.
Cabana for one remembers some of those road trips fondly.
"I think Ace's claim to fame for a lot of us on road trips is when Ace would get out of the car during stop lights and start pounding on other people's cars while playing different 'characters'," said Cabana. "He would have us all in tears. Ace is a natural entertainer."
The Second City Saints had a major feud with The Prophecy -- Christopher Daniels, B.J. Whitmer, and Dan Maff -- culminating in the violent and bloody July 2004 "Chicago Street Fight" in Steel's hometown.
"It was a special night. Ricky Steamboat was there and showed us his appreciation for our passion after the match was over. It was a great way to end the feud, a feud that saw us turn many buildings upside down and take some serious punishment," Steel said. "It also helped ROH stand on its own as Daniels and many of the TNA guys were pulled out of ROH at that time, so having The Prophecy stand on its own was a turning point. It was so damn special that I moved away from Chicago the next day! That's a shoot!"
Another bloody rivalry was with Collyer, which led to a First Blood match in March 2006 that was perhaps better remembered for a promo Steel made in which he branded himself the "Crazed Little Troll."
"Somewhere along the way I realized my crazy eyes and the gimmick worked for me. I like to get a little nuts sometimes."
The ROH vs. Combat Zone Wrestling feud a month later was one more major career highlight for Steel.
"I couldn't believe I had to work Nate Webb again! Geez, and I love Necro (Butcher) but he is a real live Flintstone -- look at them feet! That was a great feud and the Cage of Death had just a phenomenal atmosphere to it. It was insane and to have JJ Dillon and (Jim) Cornette involved is why guys like me get into this business - to listen and learn from their experiences. I'm thankful to Gabe for getting me in that. I love to brawl!"
Winnipeg correspondent Richard Kamchen can be e-mailed at email@example.com.