By Mike Mooneyham
June 19, 2005
Vordell Walker doesn’t like bullies. And he’s nobody’s whipping boy.
Rick Steiner, one of pro wrestling’s resident bullies, found those facts out the hard way when he allegedly took liberties in the ring with the 24-year-old Walker at a recent independent show in Ocala, Fla.
The two grapplers were on different sides of a tag-team match pitting Walker and Dustin Rhodes (Runnels) against Steiner and Erick Stevens. The Southeast Championship Wrestling event, billed as “Day of the Legends” and held in conjunction with a Marshall Tucker Band concert, drew nearly 2,000 fans and featured Dusty Rhodes against Jerry Lawler in the headliner, along with a contest billed as the final bout for The Rock ‘N Roll Express.
But the match that had most fans talking after the show involved Walker, a relatively unheralded but rising star who has drawn strong reviews for his work in Ring of Honor and TNA, and surly veteran Steiner (Rob Rechsteiner), who at one time was one of WCW’s top acts with brother Scott and financially benefited from a near seven-figure contract doled out by close friend and company president Eric Bischoff.
Steiner, who has a longstanding reputation in the business of being a bully inside the ring and working overly stiff with less polished opponents, apparently didn’t know that Walker’s nickname was “The Shooter” and that the youngster was highly skilled in mixed martial arts and submission wrestling. That bit of relevant information might have been helpful had the former University of Michigan heavyweight chosen to spend a few minutes going over the match and meeting his opponent beforehand.“Dustin Rhodes was really cool about talking to me and Erick, but we had a hard time getting a hold of Steiner (before the match),” related Walker. “I introduced myself to Steiner, but after that it was really hard talking to him.”
“Several people told me he didn’t want to talk to us,” said Walker, who added that Rhodes suggested they work out their match in the ring. “That didn’t really sit well with me or Erick.”
According to numerous firsthand reports, Steiner shot on Walker during their first contact in the ring and delivered a stiff kick to his face, busting open the lip of the four-year pro. Walker, not sensing any line of communication with his opponent, retaliated with some shoot kicks of his own, a guillotine chokehold and an assortment of moves from which Steiner had trouble escaping.
“I spit up some blood and I knew this guy was trying to really fight me,” said Walker. “That’s when I charged him and backed him up against the ropes, hooked him and got him in a take-down and started wrestling him.”
Walker said he worked a series of chokes on Steiner but would always let him go.
“I wasn’t really trying to pound this guy; I was just trying to get him to chill out. I got control of him numerous times, and finally I got his back and started working the chokes in just to let him know that we could wrestle or continue to fight.”
Rhodes helped break up the first exchange by asking Walker to tag out. Walker said there was “no fighting” between Steiner and Rhodes. Later in the match, however, the 41-year-old Steiner attempted to power-bomb Walker from the ring apron through a table. Walker, fearing what Steiner might have in mind, refused to go up for the move.
“Hell no, I said that’s OK, I’m going to let you do that to someone else,” said Walker. At that point, he says, a frustrated Steiner began cursing, claiming Walker “couldn’t work,” and motioned for Walker to tag Rhodes back in.
Steiner and Rhodes battled to the back and into the concession area, leaving Walker and Stevens in the ring, clueless as to how to salvage the disjointed match.
Walker says that’s when he decided to confront Steiner and challenge him to fight “if that’s what he preferred,” with Steiner reportedly cursing and walking away from any further damage. “I took my gloves off, ran to the back through some fans and shoved Steiner off a table,” said Walker.
“Listen, if you want to finish this right now, let’s go on and fight and do it right now,” Walker said he told Steiner. “This is me and you right now.”
“He cursed back at me and called me a few names. He and Dustin eventually fought off,” said Walker.
Although Rhodes pinned Steiner after a chair shot for the finish, Steiner broke from the script and held up his opponent’s hand in the air after the match, soliciting an uneasy ovation from the crowd.
“It ruined the show for a lot of fans who knew what was going on. I tried my best to save the match when it was Erick and me in the ring, but for the most part it was ruined from the get-go, said Walker.
Even more unusual than the match, says Walker, was Steiner’s almost nonchalant attitude backstage.
“Erick packed his bags and left immediately. I went to the bathroom and tried to take care of my lip. Steiner came in there and acted little nothing ever happened. I thought to myself, ‘Is this guy for real?'”
One report claims that Steiner and Raven (Scott Levy), who shared a dressing room, attempted to get Walker back in the locker-room area to explain the miscommunication. Walker, though, says the damage already had been done.
“I didn’t want to talk to him (Steiner) at that point. That’s when he followed me into the bathroom. I was expecting things to go a little bit further, but then he started talking to me, telling me that we need to talk out there and need to work (in the ring). But he kicked me in the face out there and never thought twice about it. He saw me spitting the blood out of my mouth. He had the opportunity right there to apologize. Just from hearing about his rep and having him diss me and the other guys involved in the match got if off to a bad start. I don’t think I handled it wrong because we could have just beat the hell out of each other.”
Walker says he just wanted to contain the situation.
“I had him in any situation I wanted to have him in as far as submission or choke-wise. But I really wanted to work this match out. It never ended up like that. I had to protect myself and try to teach him a lesson at the same time. There was a lot going on through my head.”
The Savannah native has had nearly 200 matches during his short career, but none the likes of the one with Steiner.
The incident ironically has been a boost for Walker and has cemented his image as a legitimate shooter.
“I’ve never had anyone pull this with me before. I hate that it happened this way, but it’s sure gotten a lot of good press. I would have preferred not to have this happen, but I’m just glad I came out on the better end of the deal. Had Steiner got the upper hand, I’m sure he would have tried to KO me. I tried to do what was best for the match. I really don’t like to hurt people, but I also wanted to teach him a lesson, and that’s not to take every young guy lightly. I learned something from this. Hopefully everyone learned something from this.”
Walker hopes he keeps his cool if a similar situation erupts, but adds he’d do the same thing.
“We’re in a wrestling ring, and we’re there to wrestle. If a shoot breaks out, I’ll try to contain the situation with as much force as possible while trying to finish the match as smoothly as possible. We’re not there to beat each other unconscious. If you can’t win the fight, at least try to protect yourself. You’re not invincible. Somebody’s going to be better than you. The best thing you can hope for is to come out on top and prevent further injury for you and your opponent.”
Walker, who has done mixed martial arts, submission wrestling and judo tournaments, says Steiner never admitted to the promoter that he was wrong, but he did tell a fan that he had never had anyone do that to him before. “If I wrestled Steiner again, it would be a straight-up fight. I wouldn’t wrestle him after that because I can’t trust the guy.”
Walker says let that be a lesson to wrestlers who want to make examples out of aspiring young talent.
“Be cautious. You might pick on the wrong guy someday. I don’t ever want to be like that when I become a grizzled vet. I want to help improve the business, not bring it down. You can’t be the top guy forever.”
Walker says Steiner’s tactics reminded him why he took up martial arts at the age of 14.
“Nobody believes it now, but I used to get bullied, chased and picked on. By the time I graduated middle school, I decided that it wasn’t going to get better in high school. I started lifting weights, trying to get bigger and be able to defend myself. That’s when I found martial arts. All it takes is that one fight that you stand up to, and people quickly realize you’re not a pushover anymore. After that you really don’t have anything to prove. You get the self-confidence that you don’t really have to prove anything to anybody anymore. I have no problem walking away from a fight. Sometimes it’s not that easy, and this was one of those situations.”
It’s the first time, says Walker, that he’s had to deal with a bully since middle school. The first stiff kick from Steiner quickly took him back to those days.
“You think about that and it keeps you going and keeps you strong. Memories like that help you overcome the bully.”
Walker summed up the incident as a positive and valuable learning experience.
“I’m glad I was able to make something good out of a bad situation.”
– Longtime Minnesota sportscaster and pro wrestling announcer Rod Trongard passed away Thursday at the age of 72 from cancer.
Trongard announced for Verne Gagne’s AWA in the ’70s and ’80s and later worked briefly for the WWF.
Trongard retired from a 53-year career in broadcasting last month and moved to an assisted-living center after his liver cancer returned following several months in remission. He died in a Twin Cities hospice. He was inducted into the Minnesota Broadcasting Hall of Fame in October 2003.
– Miles Road Baptist Church will hold its annual Family Fun Day 4-6:30 p.m. Saturday. The event, which is free and open to the public, will include a wrestling battle royal featuring the original Masked Superstar, The Barbarian and Ricky Morton, along with a special midgets match. Bell time is 5:30 p.m. Also featured will be air castles, food courts, concerts, puppet shows and assorted exhibits. The church is located at 816 Miles Road in Summerville.