Ted Petty and Johnny Grunge

Ted Petty and Johnny Grunge

By Mike Mooneyham

Sept. 20, 2002

“Let’s make this a fun match. Wrestling hasn’t been much fun lately.”

With those words to opponent “Crowbar” Devon Storm (Chris Ford), Ted Petty worked his last wrestling match on Sept. 21 in Jersey City, N.J.

Theodore James Petty, an accomplished technical wrestler who ironically made his fortune getting hit with chairs, going through tables and cutting his head on barbed wire, died later that evening of a massive heart attack at the age of 49.

Petty, who had completed the first match of a Saturday double shot when he was stricken, had been scheduled to work with “Pitbull” Gary Wolfe later that night in Philadelphia. He was en route to his old haunt, the former ECW Arena (now Viking Hall), when he complained of breathing problems to his fiancee, wrestler Little Jeanne (Jeanne Durso), and another friend. Emergency medical technicians met the car at the next exit on the New Jersey Turnpike, but Petty was pronounced dead at the scene.

[ad#MikeMooneyham-336×280]Known as a selfless performer, Teddy Petty was one of the more respected and well-liked members of the wrestling fraternity, always willing to help and guide younger talent. A high flyer early in his career, Petty worked the small Northeastern independent circuits as the hooded Cheetah Kid during the ‘80s and earned acclaim for his solid ring work. But it wasn’t until he was in his forties that the Woodbridge, N.J., native attained commercial success in a business he had toiled in for more than 15 years, adopting a hard-core, brawling style with partner Mike Durham, an overweight, transplanted Cajun with whom Petty had first worked in a dark match at the initial Monday Night Raw taping in January 1993.

As the character “Flyboy” Rocco Rock and part of the groundbreaking team of Public Enemy along with Johnny Grunge (Durham), Petty was an integral part of the revolutionary Extreme Championship Wrestling promotion where he and Durham helped transform a south Philly bingo hall into one of wrestling’s most famous venues. Known as the “Macdaddies of Violence” and originators of hard-core tag-team wrestling, Public Enemy represented the early face of ECW during a period when the Paul Heyman-led company provided an alternative to the tamer and more politically charged WCW and WWF. Bloodbaths were the order of the day during Public Enemy’s ECW reign, with the pair helping put ECW Arena on the map as a result of their wild brawls with the likes of The Eliminators, The Bruise Brothers, The Funks, The Gangstas, Sabu and Taz, Chris Benoit and Dean Malenko, Ian and Axl Rotten, Raven and Stevie Richards, and Cactus Jack and Mikey Whipwreck.

Public Enemy’s “house party,” where the two would invite the crowd into the ring to dance and celebrate after a match, became an ECW staple. Petty and Durham also popularized table matches in ECW, laying the foundation for future teams such as The Dudleys.

The two, however, were never able to fully showcase their talents in WCW or the WWF, although they did have a brief run as WCW tag-team champions in 1996 after defeating Harlem Heat (Booker T and Stevie Ray).

Petty, who was trained by Afa The Wild Samoan (Afa Anoai) and at one time was a partner in The Monster Factory, wrestled collegiately at Rutgers University and was an accomplished boxer.

Funeral services were held for Petty on Wednesday in Middlesex, N.J. Among the wrestling personalities who attended were Johnny Grunge, Devon Storm, Gary Wolfe, Sandman, Hugh Morrus, Afa Anoai, Malice, Simon Diamond, Blue Meanie, Jasmine St. Clair, Danny Doring, Ray Apollo, Johnny Rodz, Dom DeNucci, Gary Cappetta, Dave Penzer and Tod Gordon.

The 3PW promotion will hold a tribute show for Petty on Oct. 19 at Viking Hall in Philadelphia. Main event will be Jerry Lawler vs. Curt Hennig.

- A Scorecard item in the Sept. 30 issue of Sports Illustrated detailed the recent decline of the WWE. The article noted the drop in ratings for Raw and Smackdown, as well as an 11 percent decline in pay-per-view buys in the past year. The piece also cited a WWE report in June that annual revenue was down $31 million, to $425 million, and that first-quarter profits were off 79 percent. WWE stock had dropped from $24.12 in October 1999 to $8.81 as of last week.

The article more astutely observed that – not unlike the problem that has dogged baseball, the NFL and the NBA – professional wrestling need heroes. Instead, the WWE has delivered stale characters and risqué acts. In that same article I suggested a not-so-novel, time-tested approach – good storylines and characters – as a step in the right direction.

In that vein, the WWE last week posted a curious job listing on HotJobs.com seeking a “TV Storyline Continuity/Researcher.” The good news is that the company realizes the need for some logical, cohesive, compelling storylines. The flip side is that the job requires “2+ years of professional episodic/soap opera writing experience,” and the candidate must possess a BA/BS in film, TV, drama, media studies, communications or equivalent, which probably disqualifies potential candidates who might be thoroughly grounded in the more pertinent discipline of pro wrestling.

- The XFL may have been a mere blip on television’s radar screen, barely making it through one season, but a new book, “Long Bomb: How the XFL Became TV’s Biggest Fiasco,” gives a rollicking account of how this ill-conceived sports marketing venture crashed and burned. Author Brett Forrest deftly describes Vince McMahon’s failed foray into professional football, spicing the pages with a colorful cast of characters that includes Jesse Ventura, Dick Butkus and XFL poster boy Rod “He Hate Me” Smart. It is wrestling guru McMahon, however, who takes the rare sack in this football folly, proving that everything he touches doesn’t turn to gold.

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Las Vegas, a glittering city full of promises, provides an appropriate backdrop for this intriguing tale of greed and arrogance, a setting that indicates not only the tenor of the renegade league, but its very chances. Like the city, the league is one of empty promises – a game of chance, not only for the players, but the higher-ups like McMahon and NBC Sports chairman Dick Ebersol, who gambled to change the direction of the sports television business. What resulted was television’s biggest bomb.

The book, published by Crown, is scheduled for release this week and lists for $24.95.

- “Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase will be appearing at Bonneau Pentecostal Holiness Church, 116 Black Oak Road, at 7:15 p.m. Oct. 12. Tickets are $12, which includes a meal and entertainment (meal times are 5, 5:30, 6 and 6:30). For more information or to purchase tickets, contact the church at (843) 825-3687.

- Monday Night Raw hits the North Charleston Coliseum on Nov. 25. No date has been announced for ticket sales.

- The WWE is releasing Mike Awesome, Shawn Stasiak and Horace Hogan. Other releases are said to be imminent.

- Last week’s Smackdown, which featured a match of the year candidate in Edge vs. Eddie Guerrero, recorded an impressive 3.6 rating going against heavy network competition. The show also included a strong three-way main event with Kurt Angle, Chris Benoit and Rey Misterio.

- It was officially announced last Tuesday that Seattle’s Safeco Field will be the site of next year’s Wrestlemania. The Seattle Times found humor in the choice: “The same ballpark that once banned ‘Yankees suck’ T-shirts and was criticized by one fan for not being allowed to be obnoxious in his pricey seats is holding wrestling’s most famed event.”

“It’s about damn time. It’s just long overdue. They have a terrific facility and rabid, fantastic fans. It’s going to be exciting,” said Vince McMahon, who called Seattle a pro wrestling hotbed. Two of the WWE’s last events in the city sold out, making Safeco Field an ideal place to hold Wrestlemania XIX, he said.

- The Raw crew will work in India from Nov. 21-23 and will go to Korea and Tokyo in January. The Smackdown crew will be in Helsinki, Finland, on Oct. 24th. The Rebellion PPV will be held in Manchester, England, on Oct. 26.

- Bubba Ray Dudley has been cleared to return to the ring after having an MRI on his neck on Wednesday.

- Shawn Michaels recently said that he most likely has just one more match in him left. That bout will probably be at next year’s Wrestlemania.

- Ultimo Dragon met with WWE officials last week and could be working for the company by next year.

- Chris Nowinski underwent jaw surgery and is expected to miss four to six weeks of action.

- A benefit show will be held for the ailing Superstar Billy Graham on Oct. 5 in Wakefield, Mass. Among those scheduled to make appearances are Road Dogg, Kid Cash, Ox Baker and Michael Cappetta.

Graham remains in desperate need of a liver transplant, and his health insurance doesn’t cover many of the medications he needs to stay healthy while waiting for a donor.

- A Texas judge has scheduled an Oct. 9 trial for Steve Williams (“Stone Cold” Steve Austin) on misdemeanor charges of assault causing bodily injury, which carries a maximum penalty of a year in prison. Williams is accused of beating wife Debra. Williams had filed for a divorce from Debra a few weeks back, but the two are attempting to reconcile.

Austin’s lawyer said he felt confident that the case could be settled before going in front of a jury.

- Heartland Wrestling Association has postponed its training camp due to restructuring. The camp originally was scheduled for five days beginning Nov. 11. The camp, featuring Ricky Steamboat, Sensational Sherri Martel and HWA head trainer Les Thatcher, will be rescheduled for early 2003.

For more information on the training camp, call the HWA office at (513) 771-1650 or visit HWAonline.com.

Mike Mooneyham can be reached by phone at (843) 937-5517 or by e-mail at [email protected] He is the co-author of “Sex, Lies and Headlocks: The Real Story of Vince McMahon and the World Wrestling Federation,” published by Crown.