|Mantell’s ‘Dirty’ act still brings many fans |
|Posted: Thursday, April 5, 2012 7:00 pm |
By MIKE HUTCHENS
Wrestling legend ‘Dirty’ Dutch Mantell visited with young fan Paisley Hillard last weekend between matches
Messenger Sports Editor
Nearly 40 years after his first match in the squared-circle, ‘Dirty’ Dutch Mantell is still giving wrestling fans what they want.
“You have to touch the fans in their heart — good or bad — and give them what they come to see,” said the veteran ring legend who was in Union City Saturday night signing autographs and as a special guest referee/enforcer in a show for an independent show under the heading of NWA Warriors of Wrestling.
“You have to let them see something they’d like to be. You have to talk different, act different, be different. When you interact with them, you can’t be just some regular guy. They can go to Walmart and see a regular guy.”
The now 62-year-old Mantell has wrestled, written storylines and booked matches in the business since debuting in 1973. He made his name in the Memphis/Mid-South circuit as a fan favorite and often grappled with and against the likes of Jerry Lawler, Bill Dundee, Austin Idol and many other household names to fans of the sports entertainment industry.
He estimated he’s wrestled in more than 30 foreign countries — winning multiple championships as both a single and tag-team performer — and was instrumental in launching the careers of such big-stage notables as ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin, The Undertaker, Kane and Sting.
An accomplished author with two books already published, Mantell primarily does special appearances and fan appreciation shows these days.
He does so for a reason.
“I miss the fans a lot more than the guys,” he responded, when asked if he longed for the camaraderie of the regular grind. “I don’t go to the legends reunions. I do fan shows. They were good guys and all, but I never really hung out with them much. It was a business to me.
“I’d rather remember them for how they were and in the good old days, rather than how they are now.”
Mantell, who has both performed and written for all the ‘big boy’ organizations (WWE, WCW and TNT) and recently just returned from India, said even though he was thrilled to walk the aisle at New York’s Madison Square Garden and be a part of the last live show at the famed Boston Garden, neither of those venues could match the electricity of the Mid-South Coliseum in Memphis.
The Monday nights there are legendary, the site of numerous cage and grudge matches that defined the sport and many of its participants — both regionally and across the United States.
“There was no place like it. It was magical,” Mantell insisted.
He claims the quality of matches depended upon his opponents. He wrestled as both a ‘heel’ and a ‘good-guy,’ but was adamant that his style never changed.
Mantell said the sports entertainment industry has always had characters and gimmicks, “but they didn’t all always used to dress and talk the same like those in the WWE do now.”
A part of Mantell’s schtick was the use of a bullwhip — ‘shoo-baby.’
“I saw a guy who had the whip and he never used it. I asked him if I could take it home and play with it, and he said ‘yes.’ That’s how it got started,” he said.
“Whatever I’ve done in the business, I’ve done it with an edge. The bullwhip is a part of that.”
Having taken “more than 100,000” shots to the head during his time in the ring — many of those via fans throwing bottles and other objects — Mantell says he has and continues to enjoy mentoring younger wrestlers at this stage of his life.
“Helping the young guys, critiquing their matches, that’s how I give back to the business,” he said. “Guys used to wrestle seven nights a week and could improve and learn in a quick amount of time. Infrequency of shows now on the independent circuit keeps that from happening.
“The time spent on the road when wrestlers traveled together was a learning time. It was how I learned the history of the business. I tell the old tried and true stories to these young guys now.”
A resident of Murfrees-boro now, Mantell had kind words for local promoter Alvin Minnick and his weekly shows at the First Street location in Union City.
“What Alvin is doing with independent shows is great. His greatest asset is his knowledge of the history of the business and his experience,” Mantell said of Minnick. “He’s bringing in and developing good talent and I truly believe that one of his up and comers will make it to the WWE one day.
“A lot of it is who you know and the timing, but working hard always figures into that. And he’s made some good contacts because of his time before in the business.”
With that, Mantell ended the interview to fulfill his aforementioned responsibilities in Saturday’s main event that determined the NWA Mid-South Heavyweight champion.
And in the deciding fall out of three, he found himself in the middle of the action and aided crowd favorite Jon Michael in winning the championship belt.
Again, just giving the fans what they wanted.
Sports editor Mike Hutchens can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Published in The Messenger 4.5.12