SLAM! Sports SLAM! Wrestling
   October 23, 2014



News & Rumours
Bios
Obits
Canadian Hall of Fame
WrestleMania 30
WrestleMania 30 photos
Video
Movie Database
Minority Mat Report
Columnists
Features
Results Archive
PPV Reviews
SLAM! Wrestling store
On Facebook
On Twitter
Send Feedback




Photo Galleries

SHIMMER tapings


Alexia Nicole


Ox Baker


BCW Excellence


WWE in Montreal


ROH Unauthorized


Smackdown in Philadelphia







SCOREBOARD
PHOTO GALLERY
VIDEO GALLERY
COMMENT





SLAM! Wrestling Canadian Hall of Fame: Johnny Devine
By WES WETANKO -- For SLAM! Wrestling

Johnny Devine

REAL NAME: J.P. Parsonage
BORN: April 27, 1974 in Merrit, B.C.

 Johnny Devine has been the "Hot Shot" of the independent circuit in Calgary for the past five years. Starting out with Stampede Wrestling, then moving on to WCEW he now runs his own promotion Young Lions Wrestling.

He was born in Merrit B.C., but grew up in Manitoba, living in Thompson until he was thirteen before moving to Winnipeg where he lived until he was twenty. While in Winnipeg he attended school at Garden City Collegiate and Maple's Collegiate, Garden City for it's strong academic program, and Maple's for it's football team. He played for the Maple's Marauders as well as the North Winnipeg Nomads, who were city champs at one point. His heart though, was always with wrestling having idolized the stars of the WWF, AWA, NWA, UWF and of course, Stampede Wrestling since he was four years old. His father, who at one time performed in the wild horse races at the Calgary Stampede, lived in Alberta.

"Every summer I would come and stay with him for about a month," Devine told SLAM! Wrestling. "Every Friday I would be like 'OK, can we go? Can we go? Can we go?' Gotta go to Stampede Wrestling every Friday, had to anyway at that time."

Such Stampede Wrestling stars as The Dynamite Kid, Brian Pillman, and also Owen, Bret, and Bruce Hart inspired him.

BREAKING IN

In grade eleven, Johnny and his friends organized their own wrestling show for their high school. None of them had any training prior, but they did manage to rent a wrestling ring from one of the most well know promoters in Manitoba: Tony Condello. Johnny hoped that Tony would train him, but Condello did not at first see a future star in Devine

"Tony looked at me, him being five foot four or whatever he is, he looked at me and said 'You're too small.' And basically crushed every dream I had in three words."

Upon graduation from high school, he traveled south to Minnesota where he attended college, planning to major in biology, then in zoology or marine biology. His life took another turn though when he decided to join the marines. Unable to get a green card in order to join the American army, but still undaunted he headed back home and joined the Canadian infantry. A couple years later he was stationed in Calgary and at the 1997 WWF In Your House: Canadian Stampede show he met Bruce Hart. He recalled "As soon as I found out where the Dungeon was, you couldn't keep me away from the place; you couldn't beat me off with a stick."

THE DUNGEON

Devine joined the Hart brothers training camp taught by Bruce and Ross Hart out of the infamous "Dungeon" in their father Stu's basement. The Dungeon has turned out some of the greatest talent that the wrestling industry has seen, but the punishment endured within has turned away just as many.

"It was probably the hardest thing I've ever done, and this is speaking from military experience, and being a marathon runner in the military," he said. "The whole stigma of the Dungeon being very stiff and very hard on bodies is very true. "When I first got there, there was me and four or five other guys and we beat the crap out of each other, and had the crap beat out of us. The padding of the Dungeon was very sub-par and our bodies were hurting a lot, but we loved it."

Bruce Hart did the majority of the mat training; Johnny spoke of him with a lot of respect.

"The thing about wrestling is you get out of it what you put into it. The training you get is what you put into it, so if you show up three, four days a week, train your ass off, put your time in and Bruce will put his time in with you. You get a lot out of it. I've never seen him put out a bad guy yet, well, who put his effort into it."

LEARNING THE ROPES

Devine made his in ring debut October 27th, only two months after he began training, on a Stampede Wrestling card in Cranbrook, B.C. He wrestled his long time friend whom had joined both the army and the wrestling camp with him, Vince Salemi. He debuted under the name "Hot Shot" Johnny Devine and has wrestled consistently under that name except for a short time in Can-Am Wrestling where he was begrudgingly given the name Shawn Jericho.

In April 1999, Stampede Wrestling made its official return to the public's eye, holding a near sold-out show at the Victoria Park Pavilion. Johnny Devine joined The Black Ninja and The Cuban Assassin in a six-man tag against Keith Hart, Todd Douglas, and Irish Red O'riroden in the opening match. Stampede continued on at the Pavilion and did sporadic tours with Devine wrestling the opening match on all of them. Stampede Wrestling began to run into problems though when the lack of a strong talent base was starting to be noticed by audiences, and crowd sizes began to dwindle. With only one or two veterans wrestling for the promotion, and the rest of the workers still being very new to the sport, it was hard to relive the glory days as Bruce and Ross Hart had truly intended. Stampede was forced to move to a much smaller venue, The Ogden Legion, and crowd sizes continued to fall, despite a television deal with 'A' Channel. The lack of a strong talent pool, though hurtful for the company as a whole, proved to be an opportunity for Devine. In less than a year, Devine was accelerated from the opening match to the main event, and had captured the International Tag Team Titles with partner Greg Pawluk.

In April 2000, Stampede Wrestling brought ECW legend Sabu to the territory for a short stint, and it was Devine who got the privilege of wrestling him in Calgary and on TV.

"Stampede is only going to put the guy that they feel can keep up with that kind of superstar and that can draw that kind of heat," he explained "It was an honour to wrestle him at that point."

One of the other highlights of Johnny Devine's Stampede career was winning the British Commonwealth Mid-Heavyweight Title, the only title that he ever really wanted to hold.

"Titles don't really mean that much, titles are just who's getting a push, that kind of thing, and to me that's just it, it's an extra ten pounds in your bag," he said. "The only reason I wanted that title [British Commonwealth Mid-Heavyweight] was that because to me that title is history. That title was held my every major superstar that I've ever idolized. For me to put my name beside them, saying that I've held that belt means something."

Though the Sabu-Devine match did draw a decent house on the tour, and the Stampede talent base had improved ten-fold, things were still not looking up for the promotion as a whole and they were facing serious money problems.

"Stampede's houses were really, very poor and there wasn't money to pay the guys," he said "They were covering their costs and their overhead but there just wasn't money to pay the guys. So for six months me and a lot of other guys worked for free."

For the past year and a half, he worked not only for Stampede but also for the Can-Am promotion, in addition to holding down two full-time jobs so that he could have money to travel with the two promotions. Devine recalled the time he spent with Can-Am: "I'll always enjoy my time with Can-Am because they always paid, no matter what,." he said. "They only do really guaranteed shows. They're always a lot of fun to work because you know your getting a paycheque. You have your fun on the road, you go out and have a good time, and the guys there were pretty good."

While touring with Can-Am wrestling, Johnny also got the opportunity to travel and work with former WWF star Phil Lafon.

"Phil Lafon, without a doubt is, one of the best wrestlers I've ever wrestled, he's fantastic," he recalled. "I spent two months on the road with Phil Lafon at one point, we went out to Ontario and back. He is, without a doubt, one of the most genuinely nice people you will ever meet, and he helped me so much."

Some of the other people that Johnny credit's for helping him in the beginning are Bruce and Ross Hart, Jason Anderson (Jason 'The Sledgehammer' Neidhart), Bad News Allen (Bad News Brown of WWF fame), and more recently Don Callis (Cyrus of ECW fame), Dr. Luther, and Juggernaut.

WCEW AND BEYOND

Though the money was there with Can-Am wrestling, life on the road can be tough for an independent wrestler. There are hotel rooms to be paid for and meals to be bought, and Devine found himself coming back home to Calgary time and time again, where the only promotion was Stampede and for six months they had already been working for free.

"At the end of six months we just had enough of working for free," he said. "You're putting your body on the line and everything ... after two years and at that point almost five hundred matches, my rookieness was done and I wasn't working for free anymore, I had to make a living at it because I was giving up too much time for that to make nothing."

Devine was losing weight from barely being able to afford groceries or a gym membership, so when the opportunity to work for a new promotion that guaranteed to pay its workers arose, he jumped on the opportunity. Western Canadian Extreme Wrestling was formed, with a good financial backer behind them and a lot of the workers from Stampede Wrestling now working for them. Devine along with Greg Pawluk, Dirty Dick Raines (who became Duke Durrango), Irish Red O'riroden (who became Dean Durrango), Bill Yates, Jason Anderson and a few others all jumped shipped/helped form this new promotion. "They asked the guys they wanted to ask to come work for them, or the guys who offered to come work for them said 'yeah'," he explained. "They paid us every night that we worked and that's the way that Western Canadian Extreme Wrestling was, you were guaranteed a paycheque."

Unfortunately, WCEW only lasted a year before it started facing problems as well.

"They had gone through a number of different bookers and office, because of a lot of interior office problems," he said. "In August, when Jordan Clark [Duke Durrango] quit booking for them, and that whole thing was done I offered, I had nothing better to do, I had some really good ideas and was ready to put a tour together. "We went out and we started out in Winnipeg and we had two weeks worth of shows, to work our way back. And, the second day of our tour, we started on Monday, the Tuesday of our tour was September 11th, and the New York city bombing, and that pretty much killed anything we had for that week, and the next week after that our houses were awful "The advertising was all done properly, everything had been done properly it's just the timing just couldn't have been worse. The owner of WCEW lost a lot of money on that two-week tour because our houses were so awful and basically said until we get paid shows we're not doing anything. So, I spent two months working for WCEW for free because I expected these shows to go well, and I was going to make my money from booking and promoting and doing all that kind of stuff, off these two weeks of shows. But because we lost money I ended up working those two months for free.

"I had to say that I can't work for free anymore, I have to get a day job so someone else is gonna have to run the company, and I guess nobody else has stepped up to the plate to run the company or book anymore shows. Until somebody else does that company is pretty much dead as far as I'm concerned."

WWF AND ECW

During his time wrestling on the Canadian independent circuit he has had the opportunity to wrestle tryout matches for both ECW and the WWF. His first visit to ECW was during a Can-Am tour of East Coast Canada. ECW was doing a show in Buffalo followed by a show in Canada the next night. Devine dropped off the Can-Am show a couple days early and instead did a couple ECW shows. Tiger Khan, a friend of Devine's from Stampede Wrestling, was there to introduce him to a few people.

"The first time they just wanted to have a look at me on TV," he said. "What they do is they run their workouts before the shows where they get all their trial guys to stand up around the apron and they run like a continual tag match, where you just tag in a new guy at all times. Just to watch how you work, see how you work with each different guy."

He received very positive feedback from everyone involved, including Paul Heyman and Tommy Dreamer.

"Tommy Dreamer pulled me aside, my first tryout, and as far as I saw I was the only guy he pulled aside, and he talked to me for about five minutes, asking me some stuff, it was fantastic."

He returned to ECW several months later in Richmond and did several shows with them teaming with The Musketeer against Julio Deniro and EZ Money.

The opportunity for a WWF tryout came when they returned to Alberta in May of 2001 for a Raw Is War telecast from Calgary and a Smackdown! taping in Edmonton. Greg Oliver spoke with some of the indy workers, including Devine, who participated in dark matches and matches for Jakked and Metal in an article entitled "The Alberta WWF tryout experience" which can be found in the SLAM! Wrestling archives.

In Calgary Devine wrestled Eric Freeze in a dark match that got them in a little trouble for doing too much. "The first match in Calgary I didn't get any direction on, so Eric Freeze and I went out there and had a big high-spot-fest, just to show 'em what we had, and that was a big mistake." The following night in Edmonton he was given a second chance, but only after a lot of direction from Kevin Kelly. "I was very limited, I was given a lot of direction for the second match, I wasn't aloud to do any high-spots, wasn't allowed to punch - just mat wrestle."

YOUNG LIONS AND THE FUTURE

Though the tryout he had with ECW went very well, ECW folded soon afterwards. And though the tryout with the WWF went very well, they soon merged with WCW, which Devine blames for leaving him and a lot of other workers out in the cold. "What do they need another five-foot-ten guy with blonde hair for?" He joked "They've already got five of them."

Currently Devine is out of action with some severe nerve damage in his right shoulder, making it so that he cannot fully lift that arm. Recovery time should be another three to four months.

In the mean time, following the demise of WCEW Devine has teamed with Spencer Tapley (Mark DiCarlo of Stampede Wrestling) to form the Young Lions Wrestling promotion. Young Lions features some of the guys from WCEW as well as from the Next Generation Wrestling (MatRats) promotion. For now Young Lions is running a show every Thursday night in Calgary at Pandemonium nightclub.

Until his nerve injury is resolved, it is hard to say what the future holds, other than booking and promoting Young Lions. Devine says that he will be working for Don Callis in IWA or NHB at the end of January when Callis will be doing five or six shows.

"I'll be doing those shows for sure. Arm or no arm, I'll be doing those shows, if I have to work in a sling, I'll work in a sling. I don't care. I'll go out there and kick the crap out of myself I don't mind, those shows are so much fun you can't miss them."

With the WWF having the stranglehold on the industry that it does, the moral of most independent wrestlers is pretty low right now. Hot Shot, like a lot of other workers, tries to keep his head high and stick with it, and just wait for the next opportunity.


Johnny Devine SLAM! Wrestling column


JOHNNY DEVINE STORIES
  • Jan. 24, 2006: Devine fined in attack on patron
  • Oct 21, 2003: Stu Hart: A Dungeon Perspective