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Paul Diamond returns to his roots

By DOUG LUNNEY -- Winnipeg Sun

 When a Wrestling Superstars magazine panelist named Paul Diamond a rising star to watch in the '90s, no one could have guessed he'd be performing at the humble Chalmers Community Centre by 2001.

 "Tonight there'll be 50 or 75 fans there," Diamond said Wednesday, hours before a Canadian Wrestling Federation card at the Elmwood club.

 One might expect him to be bitter about his rise and fall from a profession that turned its back on him after several injuries.

 Not so long ago, Diamond and his wife, Lisa, had a lovely home in Florida, complete with a screened pool and an underground sprinkler system.

 Heck, they bought a brand new car with cash.

 "It's obviously a whole lot different lifestyle now," he said.

 Different, indeed.

 Diamond, whose real name is Tom Boric, has returned to Winnipeg with his wife and two children to live in a modest Maples duplex owned by his father.

 But you don't hear sour grapes. Only after talking at length of his career does the former World Wrestling Federation grappler mention his only regret.

 "We were probably not the smartest (with our money)," conceded Boric, 39. "We bought stuff, enjoyed ourselves and thought it was going to last forever.

 "It was fun while it lasted. It (pay) wasn't like the guys are making now, but it was low six figures for three years."

 Born in Croatia in 1961, Boric grew up wanting to be a soccer player like his father. His family moved to Winnipeg in 1974 and he graduated from Garden City Collegiate with a soccer scholarship at Old Dominion University in Virginia.

 The goalkeeper left university after three semesters in 1980 when he was drafted sixth overall by the Calgary Boomers of the North American Soccer League. He played for Calgary and the Tampa Bay Rowdies until the league folded in '84.

 Not ready "for a real job yet," Boric went to a Tampa wrestling school run by Boris Malenko, father of WWF light heavyweight champ Dean Malenko. He soon joined the Atlanta-based National Wrestling Alliance.

 Then Boric moved to an outfit in San Antonio, Tex., where, under the name Paul Diamond, he tagged up with a 19-year-old future superstar named Shawn Michaels. The duo was brilliant in the ring, but didn't exactly captivate an audience behind a microphone.


 Boric found a new partner in Pat Tanaka and they had great success as Badd Company, soon moving to the Minneapolis-based American Wrestling Alliance. Minneapolis is also where he met and married Lisa.

 Boric's career took a major positive turn as he jumped the sinking AWA in 1990 to join the WWF. He and Lisa moved to Florida, where Boric still rented a home from his soccer days.

 Boric's break came when he rejoined Tanaka in a tag-team called The Orient Express. This time he played the role of Kato, a masked Japanese wrestler.

 "Put a mask on and don't say anything," Boric recalled his orders with a chuckle. "The first interview I spoke and they said 'No, no, no! Kato doesn't speak.'"

 That run lasted a couple of years, which Boric considers the peak of his career. The nasty Orient Express battled on pay-per-views with the Legion of Doom, Bushwackers and The Rockers team of Marty Jannetty and Michaels.

 Eventually, Tanaka was released, but Boric stayed on. He was asked to grow his hair out and join Jannetty as the New Rockers, since Michaels was going solo as the Heart Break Kid.

 Boric got another grappling life as the masked Max Moon, but the character only lasted a year, until his contract expired in 1993.

 "I really don't know why but they just decided not to renew it."

 Boric does know why he never got the main-event push

 "I had the in-ring ability, but I lacked the personality and mike skills to be a top star in this business," he said. "(But) I never really had a character that I loved doing.

 Cut adrift by the WWF, Boric worked with a couple of smaller promoters, until the money improved when he went on several month-long tours of Japan. Unfortunately, he was hindered by a broken foot and a torn groin, which ended his dealings with New Japan Wrestling.

 Through it all, wife Lisa made the odd trip, but mostly stayed home in Tampa.

 "We calculated that for the three years I worked for (the WWF), we were probably together less than one year," he said. "I was on the road 20 days of every month."

 At 33, Boric operated a sales business in Tampa, but by '97 the ring had beckoned again and he joined a Nashville independent company run by Jerry Lawler. He worked there for two years, until a torn triceps muscle put him out for six months in '98.

 A staph infection followed, forcing another surgery and painful recovery. Boric went back to work but never got another shot at the WWF.

 "They've got a thousand guys on developmental contracts ... young guys waiting in the wings, not guys who are just about 40," he said.

 In July '99, Boric went to San Antonio to be the head instructor for Michaels wrestling academy, but it ran into financial troubles.

 With his father in poor health, Boric and his family moved to Winnipeg in July. In September he opened the Paul Diamond Wrestling Academy on Jarvis Avenue with promoter Ernie Todd.

 For $2,500, Boric will show students the ropes.

 "I've maintained my contacts," said Boric, who also works as a shipper at magazine distributor News West. "I may not have as much pull as he (Michaels), but if I feel someone is ready, I can make a call and at least get a tryout."

 Boric's charges get experience performing in front of small audiences at local and rural cards. The school is a good solution for a guy who just isn't ready to walk away from the ring.

 "Once wrestling gets in your blood, forget it, you're never going to get it out," Boric said. "Now my wife is getting involved, being my valet, and she enjoys it. It's still fun."

 And if only 50 people show up to watch him -- big deal.

 "Hey, it's not like I've never done that," he said. "In my early days, sometimes I drove 250 or 300 miles one way to be in front of 50. At least today I drive 15 minutes across the Redwood Bridge."

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