By Brian Kelley
One fan said it best in Chicago on a card filled with some of the best in the game including MsChif, Tiger Mask, Low Ki, Jay Lethal and Bryan Danielson (WWE’S Daniel Bryan) “Strider you’re the best wrestler no one ever heard of.”
No statement has more truth in it than that one. Strider a local star in the Midwest has thrilled fans in match after match for years while never gaining the true recognition that he deserved outside of his area.
I had the pleasure to speak to Strider as he prepares to meet a foe that he is very familiar with. The former 4-time NWA World Champion Adam Pearce in Striders last match at the Turner Rec Center on June 2nd, 2012.
Strider’s relationships with his fans are rare as the chants of Strider Nation are testimony to his popularity while his matches have left the fans wanting more.
During the interview the former NWA Central States Champion, I could tell that he still had the love for the sport of pro wrestling but felt that his days contributing in the ring were done. He stated that he didn’t see the retirement as a bad thing but more of a celebration of his career and he hopes that many of the old fans that used to come see him as well as the new fans and those that stuck around for years will all be there that night.
He wants to see his former opponents and teammates in the seats as he locks up with Pearce in a night of action that he believes will show the fans that have lost their love for the way the WWE has been providing sports entertainment has a place for the way wrestling was meant to be at Metro Pro Wrestling.
Strider grew up in Lebanon, Missouri with his three brothers and three sisters while watching his wrestling with his dad. While his father’s favorite was “Handsome” Harley Race, Striders inspirations to be a pro wrestler came from the likes of Ric Flair, Terry Funk, and Bruiser Brody.
His beginnings were humble as he looked to become a wrestler in the wrestle boom of the 90’s as he attended a promotion called Midland Empire Wrestling which was run by Steve Estes. During the conversations with Estes, Strider was invited to the “trainer center” that Estes ran in St. Joe at a rundown dingy snake shop. In the back was a ring that was shoddy that looked like a kid had made it.
After only a month of training (a time frame Strider admits was to short) he had his first match against “Bloodlust” Brian Estes on November 17th 1997 in Troy Kansas. While the training from Estes was not up to the proper standards, two men would come to help out, Orin Jones and Brimstone each took some time to show a young Strider how to take proper bumps, running the ropes and they did not make it easy on him as they made it a point “ to beat the crap out of me” just enough to let him know that the sport was to be respected.
He could not believe it that on his second match he was in the main event. The joy would be replaced with pain during the match he would suffer a torn ACL. While out of action and in pain, Strider had thoughts of is wrestling for him? Even today that same injury bothers him from time to time.
After recovering from his injury he left the Estes group and in a pivotal moment in 1998 he would meet Steve Ward a man who ran Dog Pound Production and CSW. Mr Ward played a huge role in Striders early development and his promotion was a whole different world from Estes ran low rent show. Wards promotion was run with pyro and looked professional. It also featured well trained athletes with the talents of Butch Reed, Orin Jones, Sonny Myers, Lord Little Brook providing a lot of the training. while bringing in stars such as Greg Valentine, Road Warrior Hawk, Kamala, and Hacksaw Jim Duggan, even Mick Foley and Billy Gunn. They would run shows at the St. Joe Civic arena, often times in front of crowds that numbered in the thousands.
His main opponents, Big Daddy Fullz and Psychotic Sandman, were big men that could work and looked great. Fullz was so talented he even had looks from the WWE.
In 1999 Strider would capture his first title from Fullz and the two took the feud around the Midwest including Chillicothe and Maryville Missouri. Good times for a man who was just realizing his dream of being a wrestler was coming true.
Yet the story of Michael Strider was just beginning.
Wrestling was booming and the road was busy on one road trip Strider and company were in Omaha, Nebraska, Thursday night, Kearney, Nebraska on Friday, Scotts Bluff Nebraska Saturday and then rushed to Guyman Oklahoma for a Sunday matinee. All this before heading back to work on Monday morning at his real job tired and beaten.
Always willing to learn Strider took the opportunity to train at Dory Funk JR week long camps on a few different occasions. Dory Funk Jr’s camps were instrumental in teaching psychology, ring generalship and professionalism. A memorable lesson was taught to a young Strider at one of the camps when, then WCW’S Johnny Ace (now known as John Laurinaitis) was representing the company and dropped in to scout out the students of Funk JR. At the time Strider was using a cool finisher that wasn’t common place at the time and prior to Strider’s exhibition match in front of Johnny Ace, Funk JR. pulled him aside to let him know that at the end of the match that he should not hit his finisher or else Ace will take it to WCW and have one of their guys use it.
Though Strider had listened and respected the advice of Funk JR., the excitement of showcasing his skills in front of a WCW scout got the best of him, as the final moments of the match came to a close; Strider lifted his opponent up for his finisher and hit it perfect.
It would not be long before Strider was watching WCW and lo and behold there was a WCW star using his finisher to win a match. Moral of the story “That’s what you get when you don’t listen to Dory Funk JR”
During the same time, Strider was thrilled to be a part of Gateway Championship Wrestling. GCW had TV on public access and ran by promoter Big Bad Ben. Strider stated that Ben was one of his favorite promoters he found Ben to be fair and honest. “I know a lot of people say bad things about Ben but I loved working for him. He treated me very well and taught me a ton!” As a wrestler Strider and Ben had some fun matches. Strider went on to say that the talent of GCW was amazing as Dingo, MsChif, Daizee Haze, Delirious, and Matt ( Evan Bourne) Sydal were all there , while Strider himself enjoyed memorable matches with” The Human Wrecking ball” Pete Madden.
He fondly remembers the St Louis as great to work and considers those crowds some of his favorite to wrestle in front of.
When asked what is the best advice to a young wrestler Strider says the secret is when they start out get out there and work as much as possible. Try to work with as many vets as you can. Be respectful and just keep quiet and listen to what they say.
Strider had always been a student of the game, when the opportunity presented itself to work on the booking team for CSW he was thrilled to make the most of the opportunity. Strider told stories about sitting in Old Chicago’s bar and grill and working with the booking team that included Derek Stone and, then CSW owner, Joe McDonald.
As a booker and wrestler at CSW Strider was fortunate to have some of the top young talents in the Midwest to provide the fans with quality matches. A young Mark Sterling, #1 Brett Young, Iceman , Darrien Sanders, Tyler Cook , Domino Rivera were all men that Strider took pride in molding their ring skills as well as their characters. One of today’s best Jeremy Wyatt had been wrestling for some time, yet he felt as if the CSW family was able to assist him into getting to the next level and provided him a proper stage in which to showcase his talents.
When asked who his best friends in the business were, Strider spent about 10 minutes naming wrestlers and promoters both past and present. In the end he didn’t want to leave anyone out so he simply stated “All the people that mean something to me don’t need me to mention their names. They already know who they are.”
However, He did jokingly mentioned that the reason his back was so bad was because he had to carry Mason Hunter through all those matches around the Midwest.
When asked what matches he was most happy with at CSW, he mentioned the feud with Payday Patterson that would be called the Pain Game. A best of seven match series that was very hard hitting but rewarding due to the fans reaction . In the first match was the regular one on one, then a submission match, a Russian Chain Match , a pick your partner match, then on one night the fans were treated to the final 3 matches throughout the show. The first match started off with a one fall to a finish match, a bunkhouse match and with each man tied at 3-3, the finale was a Stairway to hell barbwire on a ladder match that Strider was able to win and with the stipulation in place that the loser would have to retire. Payday Patterson was finished but not before being a part of local legend. The Pain Game series is still talked about to this day by those fans lucky enough to have watched it.
Strider’s trademark bleach blond hair would come from the advice of ECW Original Raven who told him he need something to stand out from the pack and that the short brown hair was not working for him. Even though their relationship was shaky at best. Strider respected Raven and is very thankful to get such good advice from a true professional.
A huge match between TNA/ROH Superstar Samoa Joe during the CSW Joe’s going to kill you and working with Abyss would earn Strider some respect from the two as he felt they went to bat for him at both TNA and ROH. Though it never would come to pass, Strider explained that he knew it was easier to win the lottery that becomes a member on the top promotions roster.
As the door at CSW shut down expectantly another one open with the chance to work with Harley Race’s World League Wrestling. Strider had worked with some of Harley’s top talents at CSW including Steve Fender and Wade Chism. During his time with Harley and his wife BJ, Strider stated that the “chance to work with Harley’s WLW was everything and more than he expected. I can’t say enough about how well Harley and BJ treated me and what an honor it was to work for him.” During his time he got pushed really well and got to work with guys like E-Gene ( Nick Dinsmore), wrestle in front of Bret Hart and Rodey Piper. Harley was even able to get him some looks from the WWE.
As life often does, you find yourself at crossroads. Strider’s personal life was improving so much that wrestling was no longer the number one on the must do list. With wrestling on the back burner and no promotion running in his hometown of Kansas City, he would lose the NWA Central States title to Mark Sterling in House Springs, Missouri at LWA.
Time would pass for Strider before one day he e-mailed an upstart promoter Chris Gough who had then just recently did a documentary on Wrestling in Kansas City with much fan fare. Gough a man who worked for Metro Sports relayed that he would like to start running in Kansas City, and to Strider’s surprise Gough was aware of just who he was. With the excitement of Gough’s words of the new promotion and his history of working with WWE, Strider felt the time was right for a return to try to bring back wrestling to Kansas City.
Chris Gough wisely had three men to lead the company from the start, the former WWE Superstar Trevor Murdock, the local legend Michael Strider and a former Harley Race teacher Derek Stone. The three would be the center piece as Metro Pro Wrestling went to action On Metro Sports TV with many of the top young stars around the Midwest including Jeremy Wyatt, Tyler Cook, Brett Young, Bull Schmitt, Heroes for Hire and the top women in the Midwest.
Slowly but surely wrestling was back as Strider was thrilled to be on the cover of the KC Star, he was ask to do press for a PBS feature, and many other news markets. He stated that his time wrestling in Metro Pro has been some of the most rewarding in his career. “Chris Gough is nothing but class.” Strider stated. “I owe him a ton and really wish I could have been in my prime when he started this promotion.”
Strider a man known for his chops and hard hitting action stated that yes he had done hardcore but only when it made sense to do it. His match with Jeremy Wyatt at CSW in a no-ropes barbwire match would win him the first ever match of the year from Missouri Wrestling Revival. His feud with Dingo would cumulate in a bloody dog collar match.
Strider stated that to be successful you HAVE to invoke emotion from the fans. “Pro wrestling is about a lot of things. But getting the fans to be emotionally invested in you is the most important thing.” He advised young wrestlers to not get in a big hurry in their matches and don’t ever work for free. During his career his two favorite opponents were Jeremy Wyatt and Dingo. Strider went on to say that he and Dingo have never been in a match where they didn’t tear down the house. To this date, he is surprised that both Dingo and Wyatt have not been able to break into the national scene. “Those guys are pure talent. Them, along with Mark Sterling deserve more national notice than they get.”
In less than a month on June 2nd, Strider will meet Adam Pearce for his final match. Many felt that Strider had defeated Pearce to become the NWA World Champion last fall before Matt Murphy taunted Strider to restart the match due to Pearce having his “feet on the ropes”. When the match started over Pearce would steal a victory, thus cheating Strider out of the NWA World Title. That match proved to be one of the most emotional and entertaining matches in Metro Pro’s history.
Since then Pearce has lost the NWA World title to Colt “Boom Boom” Cabana yet Strider is training for the match of his life.
Though there is no World title at stake, this final match with Adam Pearce is for the fans that have chanted Strider Nation, for his family that has supported him and for the friends who have stood by and supported him through bad and good.
He hopes to see all of the fans from years past from St. Louis to Omaha to St. Joe all the way to Lawrence Kansas to come to Metro Pro Wrestling on June 2nd to celebrate the career of Michael Strider as he gives back to you with a phenomenal match against the four time NWA Worlds Champion Adam Pearce.
“I always felt like my career was about more than just me. It’s about the joy and love of Pro Wrestling. People always ask me how I can be so believable in the ring. I tell them it’s because I believe it myself. I grew up wrestling with my brothers in our backyard, pretending we were big stars. In a lot of ways, I’m still that kid. In a lot of way I’m just like that fan sitting in the front row of shows. We’re all there because we love Pro Wrestling”
Come see Strider and Pearce but leave knowing that wrestling is alive and well as the whole roster of Metro Pro Wrestling will deliver a night of action comparable to any promotion in the world today