I’ve spent the bulk of my life in Northern Alabama, for better or worse. Alabama is not necessarily known for being at the top of the game on education, health, forward thinking, or much more than college football, which I don’t have much of an affinity for1 .
I never quite felt like I fit in here. Growing up I was a weirdo art kid/ punker/ theater misfit/ etc. dropped in the middle of a random county surrounded by farmland, new suburbs, trailer parks, and a great BBQ stand still tucked off the side of a backroad down the way from where my folks live.
I appreciate it all a lot more now, but as a kid I just wanted out. I would grow to have a close-knit group of friends, all sort of outsiders in our own ways. Some were able to make do with our surroundings better than others.
I found myself across the country in Washington state for a handful of years – and it wasn’t really until then that I sort of found some pride in being from the South. People would see my driver’s license or hear me mention where I was from and say, “Ayul-uh-bayum-uh?!” with a fake Southern twang as I stared back – no selling, waiting to pay for my Trader Joe’s chocolate covered peanut butter pretzels and box of wine.
Upon finding out that I was from the South, strangers would often note that I don’t have an accent or seem like I’m from Alabama – which, while living in the South, I kind of took as a compliment. After all, I had actively worked on losing my accent because I knew that the twang came with connotations2 of being stupid or even uncool3 and I wanted to be taken seriously. Then the strangers would take liberties and maybe bad mouth and talk in generalizations about how bad the South is and how glad I must be that I escaped. Most of these bastards had never been there.
Eventually I started to call folks out and watch them try to back pedal as I let my accent slip and inform them that not everyone from the South is what makes it to mainstream eyes. The people elected to office don’t represent everyone that lives (t)here and, maybe get off of your high horse when there’s the same kind of terrible shit going on in this very city. Somebody tell me why there are assholes in pickup trucks driving around with giant rebel flags waving anywhere, let alone in the capitol city of one of the “most progressive” states in the country? “Heritage not hate”, my ass. You’re a racist piece of trash and deserve to get your fucking head kicked in American Dragon style..
.. but where was I?
1 I do live in Huntsville, which is home to NASA and also to some of the worst drivers in the country – but more importantly it was home to “Beautiful” Bobby Eaton
2 false mind you
3 as stupid as that itself sounds to me now as I read it, but it’s the truth and played into me trying to shake it. I worked to drop y’all out of my vocabulary because I got made fun of for it when I was young and moved outside of the South with my family. Years later I had to actively work it back in.
The South is most definitely flawed – but also has gifted us with Otis Redding, anesthesia, Dolly Parton, movies with sound, Aretha Franklin, Harper Lee, sweet tea, “Beautiful” Bobby Eaton…
“The Southern Psycho” Mance Warner..
Good ‘Ol Mancer came walking into my timeline about a minute 16 into “Simple Man” wearing blue jeans, work boots, a satin jacket4, and an American flag bandana around his neck. The crowd singing along to every word of the first buck of the song before “the King of Big Dog Style” makes his way out to the ring. Mance will usually have a big ole grin and wild eyes as he walks the aisle with casual determination but you can always see the fire building, ready to push the limits of what the body can endure and dish out.
No matter what, you know that he’s looking to go in – give ‘em a lariat – hit the pay window – have a good time.
Mance is a man of the people from Bucksnort, Tennessee that you can find wrestling all over the Indies – perhaps most commonly in Game Changer Wrestling, where he has had a number of knock down drag outs with a wide range of talent that makes their way in and out of that company. He held the GCW tag titles with his partner in S.G.C.5, “the Human Embodiment of Thrash Metal” Matthew Justice, and they went on a destructively smashing tag title tear through the division before reaching its end in a beautifully chaotic match with the Briscoes at GCW War Ready in October of 20216.
That certainly wasn’t Mance’s first taste of being a champion. He’s held gold in a number of other companies like MLW, IWA, AAW, CZW, and AIW – and has dipped his toe in a smattering of other promotions along the way. He’s got a punch card drenched in blood from all of the death matches that he’s fought in7 and a bar tab he’s likely avoiding from all of the brawls, bouts, and rounds he’s pickin’ up and puttin’ down.
4 David Lo Pan custom
5 the “Second Gear Crew” – storied to have been named by Eddie Kingston after he heard about a match where Mancer beat the hell out of a guy to the point where the fellow thought Mance was mad at him, until the guy went up to him after the match and Mance had to let the guy know, “Hell no, man! We were just going to second gear!”
6 Seek that out
7 Mance won the Nick Gage Invitational in July of 2020.
I’ve seen Mance take about every bump you can think of – table, door, chair – get his tongue stapled to a door and set on fire – get his tongue stapled to another tongue before he and Effy were ripped from one another.
In ring, Mance is capable of telling just about any kind of story that you want him to tell – and playing whatever part you need him to play. You need him to be the guy that’s carrying your company? You need him to make sure that whoever he’s facing looks strong as all hell? Mance has got you covered.
Mance has got a lot of Dusty Rhodes and Terry Funk in him – in ring and on the mic. He cuts promos with a passion that lets you know that this is all real to him. Mance has definitely sold shows to me based purely on the story laid out in his own words.
There was a great run in AAW, a promotion based in Illinois, where Mance was holding the Heavyweight title while while his S.G.C. partners, Matt Justice and “The Cornbelt Cowboy” Steve Manders were the AAW tag champions. It felt like old school territory type of stuff.
Mance cut this promo before what would be his final AAW Heavyweight title defense against Fred Yehi. Mancer sounds like one of my friends or neighbors, unashamed of his Southern accent or where he’s from. Why should he be? He got dropped where he got dropped the same way we all did. Nobody asked him beforehand.
“Freddy! at one point you and me came into AAW. We came into this company. My company. SGC’s company. Our home. I came in there and at one point you beat me. I can’t get over that, man. I keep thinking about that too. Do I respect ya? Back then I respected ya. Now – I wouldn’t break no bread with ya. I wouldn’t go to the bar with ya. I ain’t got shit for you! I ain’t got no time.. unless we’re in there fighting. Then I got time. All the time in the world, baby.”
Just a champion standing in front of an empty barroom mirror. Holding his title.
“I’m the Southern Psycho for a reason. I get paid to show up and beat the fuck out of people and that’s what I’m gonna do. So Freddy, you can take my blood and make the most beautiful goddamned portrait in the whole world and that don’t mean shit.”
Matter of fact. Standing his ground. Ready for a fight.
“Professional wrestling ain’t bullshit to me! I ain’t out there trying to dive. I ain’t out there kissing ass to get a spot. Every company I’ve been in I was never the man. I was never the guy. I was just the guy that was there. But every single company I go to they know at some point, my people in that crowd they determine that. No booker determines shit! No talent ahead of me determines nothing! I bleed, I sweat, I get my ass kicked and I get up and I go to the pay-window and I climb that ladder!”
I hadn’t seen their original encounters – but I knew I needed to see this one
“You and me Freddy. I’ve earned my keep and this is my home and you ain’t taking nothing.. NOTHING from me! ever, man! I remember laying down watching you treating me like I was a piece of shit. Like I was a dog bleeding out on the side of the road. This time – this title – my gold – our gold – I ain’t leaving shit but your ass in the middle of that ring gasping for air, baby, cause I’m gonna beat the goddamned life out of you.”
This is my kind of shit. I love the blurred lines and the people that make me believe this is real. That’s part of the art and being able to talk people into a building and pay it off when they show up is something not everybody has – but ‘Ol Mancer does, baby.
Mance is a brawler and you’re not typically going to see him doing moonsaults and flips. Which has a way of making me believe him all the more. I love an eclectic wrestling card and have a place in my heart for the lucha and technical styles and folks and matches that have those elements and others – but sometimes there is something that can take me out of it a little. I think that’s why a lot of my favorite wrestlers lean toward being the brawlers and folks that fight in the ring the way they would if they got in a real fight8 to a certain degree.
The fighters that make you feel like “I dunno – some of the other stuff may have been worked, but that.. that was real.”
It’s diverse cards with all sorts of matches, even some that aren’t for me9, that make folks like Mance, who can draw me in and make me feel something through the stories they’re telling in their matches, stand out.
That’s when wrestling is at it’s best for me, y’all. When it makes me feel something.
Yeah, you’re being manipulated but that’s part of the fun10. I want to be fooled. You have to allow yourself to be a little vulnerable to get the most out of your professional wrestling. You have to let your guard down and understand that you’re going to be worked but also forget all of that at the same time.
I think maybe that can bring about feelings of embarrassment in some folks. Maybe a time they got fooled in their own lives and demanded, “Never again!” And I guess I can get that – but you can’t live your life being afraid of feeling something11 or letting other people feel something. Even if it’s just about professional wrestling.
Let yourself get worked. Just don’t work yourself into a shoot12 and all that jazz13.
8 I would absolutely pop seeing a moonsault off of a table onto someone at Waffle House if/when a fight breaks out at 2AM shift change when the bars empty and the server has had enough of the teenagers indiscreetly sipping their bag o’ whiskey in the corner booth.
9 because not everything has to be for me – or you
10 makes note to bring up with a professional..
11 makes note to bring up with self.
12 , Brother
13 I don’t know what I’m talking about.
I come from a music background and have always loved going to see my favorite bands and artists live. There’s just nothing like getting to sing your favorite song with the person who wrote it – or maybe just performed it in some cases. It’s about that familiarity and the relationship you have with that piece of art and the artist. There’s something special about getting to connect with the performer and being surrounded by other people that maybe feel something similar but have their own batch of memories and relationships tied to it all.
I’ve got a similar love for getting to see my favorite wrestlers fight in person. Sort of like when your favorite band puts out a new album and you fall in love with it – so you travel to the closest city Fucked Up is coming to see them play “Dose Your Dreams” live on that tour cycle..
.. When Jon Moxley is holding the AEW World Championship in the middle of a pandemic, and AEW says they’re allowing some fans to come in and safely watch him defend it against, human filth, MJF14.. you hop in the van with your best friend and drive the 8 hours to watch Mox do it15.
Despite having made said drive, I was still a little iffy of going to smaller indie shows, not being sure how safe things would be given the state of the world and making sure I didn’t pass anything along to my family. Once the vaccines started rolling out, I was a little more open to the idea.
When low and behold – a show was announced in Knoxville, Tennessee for Halloween 2021 and ‘Ol Mancer would be wrestling16.
The Knoxville drive is 3 hours and some change, so my friend and I decided that we’d make a trip out of it since we hadn’t really been anywhere or done anything in nearly a year. We’d keep our distance from others, mask up, and go cheer for our boy Mance.
14 who ‘Ol Mancer has his own history with
15 but that’s a story for another essay
16 there were other wrestlers that I was definitely happy to see but Mance and the need to get the hell out of town for a night were the key selling points
We made our way into downtown Knoxville, and began our search for this spot that was to be hosting the show. Our Uber dropped us off down the street but we were unsure of where exactly the Jackson Terminal was, so we walked until we smelled weed and passed a wrestler that we recognized17.
My friend turned to me, “Was that.. ?”
“Yep.” I cut him off.
“Yep,” I cut him off again, “.. so we know we’re close.”
We casually turned around and found the entrance to the Terminal.
Being Halloween, there were several costumes and folks looking to have a good time. Danhausen was also on the card, so there were several people painted up and dressed as himhausen. We found some seats and got set to enjoy the night.
There were some good matches from wrestlers I was familiar with and other folks that I was being introduced to. We cheered and booed and did our part throughout the night, but ultimately we were there to see Mance fight Dirty Dango18 and finally the time had come19.
Dango made his way out first, limping. He got a mic and talked about how he had been injured the week before so he wouldn’t be able to fight, but he wanted to fly in and apologize to everyone in person.
About that time “Simple Man” kicks on over the PA and, right on time, about a buck 16 into it, with the crowd singing along, Mancer makes his way out the ring.
He tells Dango how he understands – it doesn’t matter anyway – they already got paid. “We’ll just go back through the curtain, drink a whole bunch of light beers, and we’ll get it again down the road when you ain’t hurt.”
Dango agreed that was a good plan but as Mance turned his back, Dirty Dango gave him a swift kick to the balls and proceeded to beat Mance down while berating him and the audience for being a bunch of hicks. This, of course, heated up the crowd. We were ready to see him get his ass handed to him.
17 I’m not saying that’s always the way to find your way to a wrestling show – but in this case it was.
18 formerly Fandango during his time in WWE.
19 this wasn’t the main event or for any title or anything. This was just going to be two grown men fighting it out to see who was better at it.
Dango throws Mance out of the ropes to the outside and continues antagonizing the crowd. Soaking in the boos.
“Kick his ass, Mancer!” We scream, perhaps scaring the elderly couple sitting next to us. I’m not sure what they were expecting. Apparently not this, based on the side eyes they definitely shot to myself and some of the other folks. I just laugh and continue yelling from behind my mask.
Then the atmosphere changes a bit as we see that Mance still hasn’t gotten up and now staff and other wrestlers are coming out to help him up. Starts to feel like maybe this isn’t part of it.
“I dunno – some of the other stuff may have been worked, but this.. this was real.”
Unfortunately, it seemed like Mance had actually gotten injured. We’d find out later in the evening that he’d landed wrong when he got thrown out of the ring – something that these folks do over and over again, but just one wrong turn and they can get seriously injured20 – and he broke his leg in two places21.
This was going to mean a fair amount of recovery time and there was no telling when Mance would be able to get back in the ring. This was also the same week that MLW granted Mance his contract release after he had, reportedly, been asking for it for around a year.
I hated this for Mance as this was seemingly about to be the start of a new chapter that he was going to be writing in blood and light beer. It would just have to wait a little while.
A dramatic pause.
20 not usually anyone’s fault, it’s just one of the risks that these folks take and often don’t get the credit they deserve for what they put their bodies through.
21 This was the same night that Danhausen broke his leg – in the match that followed this one actually.
Thankfully it wasn’t long until Mance made his way back into action – kicking ass, passing out eye pokes, and hitting the pay window. I finally got to see him wrestle in the flesh, blood, and broken glass at The People Vs GCW in Nashville, TN on July 29, 2022. Mance and Justice were taking another swing at the GCW tag titles in a great 3-way dance against Los Mazisos and the defending champions, Bussy. They put up one hell of a fight but after Mance got put through two tables stacked on top of one another, topped with a couple of handfuls of light tubes as the cherry on top – we didn’t see Mance for the rest of the evening.
I was a little worried until Ol Mancer turned up with a bunch of folks from the GCW locker room to disrupt the Bunkhouse Battle Royal during the pre-show for the “Ric Flair’s Last Match” event. Mance ended up winning the match by eliminating Bully Ray to be the last man remaining, and then proceeded to celebrate with his pals before walking up the aisle to cut a promo to Tony Schiavone on the old Crockett set like it’s 1986, drinking beer out of the bronzed cowboy boot that he’d just won.
It’s a pretty perfect way for the “Southern Psycho” to make a first impression to the unknowing – kicking down the door. Passing out eye pokes, lariats, and light beers. Hitting the pay window.