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  July 3, 2001

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Nova, Swinger, Whipwreck reflect on life on the indy circuit
By BOB KAPUR -- For SLAM! Wrestling

When Extreme Championship Wrestling went bankrupt a few months ago, the wrestlers of that company had a couple of good opportunities: either go to the WWF or to the WCW.

A few months later, however, and the industry landscape has changed -- all roads lead to Vince, if you will. As owners of both of the "Big Two", the McMahon family can pick and choose which wrestlers they want to work for either company, and which ones they don't. And while some former ECW stars have found a new home, such as Rhyno, Lance Storm, and Justin Credible, there are plenty of others who are facing a major career crossroad.

SLAM! Wrestling had the chance to talk with three former ECW stars -- Nova, Swinger, and Mikey Whipwreck -- at a recent Border City Wrestling show, to pick their brains about their futures either with or without the McMahon family.

Like most of the former ECW roster, Nova and Swinger are on the independent circuit, working shows for smaller promotions, all the while remaining hopeful that an offer will be extended someday from the WWF or WCW.

Nova is using this opportunity to travel the world, and showcase his talents on an international stage. "Over the past couple months, I've been going to places that I never got to go before. I've wrestled in England, Mexico, Japan, and up here in Canada. Plus, every month I've been going down to California."

On his many trips, he has been learning what he can from a variety of opponents, including Edge and Christian, Christopher Daniels, and other ECW stars like Rob Van Dam. "I got the greatest compliment from Rob when he said 'Wow, I never knew you were that good, that you could put on that good a show.' Doing the indies, it's a great way for people to see what I can do, make a name. Some of the best stuff I've ever done has been in the last six months."

Swinger, too, is enjoying his time back on the independent circuit. "I love the business, so I have fun whenever I do it. I could be digging ditches, you know, I still need employment, need to get paid. So when I'm making my living by wrestling, doing what I love, I'm happy."

Still, he is all too aware that, with the McMahon family virtually running the entire industry, every wrestler has one goal at hand: joining a McMahon-owned company. "I'm working out every day, wresting a couple days a week, staying in shape, for that day when I do get a call."

About his chances of actually getting that call, Swinger is hopeful. "There's a lot of room in WCW. They have maybe 40 or 50 spots open, and as far as I know, they don't have that many guys yet. Even then, a lot of the guys they have aren't necessarily the major stars of the company, so it's possible to go up and become one of their top guys, given some time. Nothing's set in stone yet."

Nova echoes these sentiments. "The opportunity is there, and I'd really like that to be the next stage of my career. Everyone there is so good, their timing's good, they can teach you so much. If you work with the best, you can become the best, and I hope that's something I can do."

Johnny Swinger in his WCW days.
On the other side of the coin is Mikey Whipwreck, who has stated his intention to hang up the boots for good. "Probably my last match before my retirement will be September 1st in Long Island, and then I go into civilian life. After that, I've got a school which does pretty good, and I've got a little company on the side that I can get by on with that and my wife's income. Other than that, we're planning a trip, and plan on having kids."

The toll his body has taken from injuries has led Whipwreck to doubt that he could work the heavy road schedule required for WWF/WCW wrestlers, prompting his retirement at such an early age.

"I was looking to join (with Vince) for a while. But then I realized that my body is really beat up -- two discs in my back are really messed up -- and I would hate for guys like Tazz and the Dudleys put in a good word for me, and then have me beat to death. I can handle two days a week -- a Raw and Smackdown! -- but you add house shows, and being on the road four days a week, and I probably couldn't handle it."

Mikey is optimistic that the WCW, under the McMahon family's ownership, will fare better than the company did in the past few years, including the time he was there back in 1999.

"It was in decline at the time, then we did one Pay-Per-View, 'Uncensored' and two or three good TV's, and then it just plummeted. In March of '99, it was pretty good, and then steadily went down, down, down. Then they brought in (former WWF writer, Vince) Russo, and then it went straight to sh*t.

"They had too many chiefs. It wasn't like the WWF where you've got Vince who has the final say. In WCW, you had Hogan call his own shots, Flair wanted to call his own shots, Savage would do what he wanted. You have them all there doing that at the same time, trying to work together, it just doesn't work. Then, the guys who are doing some good stuff, just give up."

This is much different, all three say, then their experiences in ECW. "The guys were great. I don't see a lot of them much anymore, but when we do, like at shows like this, it's like a big family reunion," said Nova.

Whipwreck compares his experience to being back in high school. "The WWF is like college, like the real world, and ECW was like high school. We just went out there and had a great time. I miss it every day, it was a lot of fun." Swinger, despite having just under a year with the company, considers his time in ECW as the highlight of his career so far. "Of the almost eight years I've been working, (being in ECW) was the absolute best time of my life as far as having fun with the business. To this day, I can't believe it's over."

More on Nova
More on Johnny Swinger
Chat transcript with Mikey Whipwreck

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