Sunday, September 21, 2014

Belts and titles don’t make Bishop ‘The Man’

It was the Year of Bishop in the Pacific Northwest. What else could you call 2012, which saw the British Columbia-native win the Pacific Cup, become NWA Canadian champion again and be named Ring Around The Northwest Wrestler of the Year?

But Bishop can be a bit dismissive of things that others might value.

“I initially had no desire to be NWA Canadian Champ again,” he told SLAM! Wrestling. “My first reign had soured me on it. I only cared about the Pacific Cup, plus I’ve never been much of a belt mark, but since I have come to the realization that the man makes the title. The title doesn’t make the Man.”

To most the idea of not wanting to be the NWA Canadian Heavyweight Champion might be startling, but once Bishop explained what had happened during his first tenure in 2007 it made a great deal of sense.

“Oh my first run as Canadian Champion was frustrating, it happened shortly after there was an ownership change at ECCW,” recalled Bishop. “I had been a heel for a few months and really getting comfortable with it and was immediately turned face when I won the belt. My reign wasn’t very memorable; I had a couple fun matches with Memphis [Raines], but no feuds anything. When I found out I was dropping the belt to Scotty [Mac] I wasn’t surprised at all. I was floundering as champ. My frustration was affecting my body and my wrestling and my outside wrestling life was in a transitional period as well. It was time for a change.”

It would not be until February 25, 2012 that the 34 year old, 6-foot-4, 260-pound Bishop would reacquire the NWA Canadian Heavyweight Championship at the 2012 ECCW Pacific Cup Tournament. The Pacific Cup tournament in 2012 was a 16-man tournament held on February 24-25th. Yet, this edition had two unique elements, it was the first time it wasn’t limited to Junior Heavyweights and that the NWA Canadian Heavyweight Championship was on the line. To win the tournament and the title, Bishop had to defeat four men over two days.

 

Bishop holds the Pacific Cup, alongside his manager The Natural.

“My first round opponent was Azeem The Dream who had recently just left the Natural Selection [faction] to try his hand at being a babyface; it was a fun little match and I won with my feet on the ropes,” said Bishop. “On night two, my second round opponent was Danny Deeds who had scored the upset win over Scotty Mac on night one. Well Scotty [Mac] attacked him before the match, which left him easy pickings for me. My third round opponent was Kenny Lush. We had a match that was a match of the year contender the year before at the 2011 Pacific Cup. This match was not as good as our first tussle, but really good all the same. This was also the match where I injured my ankle; I’m not sure when. I’ve watched the match so many times and can’t figure it out, but I felt it after I got to the back. Artemis [Spencer] noticed me limping a bit in the back and he was concerned. I told him it was fine. Once the adrenaline kicked in I didn’t notice it. It was a good match and the crowd really thought Artemis [Spencer] was gonna be the first ever two-time Pac Cup winner. My win was definitive after a Death Line, a Bishop Bomb, and a Top Rope Splash to finish it. Lush and Spencer put me over like a huge monster. It’s a moment that I will never forget!”

Someone who was around for both of Bishop’s title runs is one of ECCW’s owners Scotty Mac. When asked about Bishop’s first tenure as champion in 2007 Mac felt that it wasn’t as impressive or prestigious as Bishop’s current run as champion.

“The quality of opposition he faces regularly on shows these days outmatch the previous [tenure as champion] by a large amount,” Mac told SLAM! Wrestling. “Bishop is performing at such a higher level than before, largely due to his time at World of Hurt and time with Roddy Piper, as well as the talent he’s in the ring with on a regular basis is as good as, if not better than anyone else on the indies. His confidence is at an all-time high, and so is his cardio-vascular conditioning. Bishop is a class act outside of the ring, a hard worker, loyal to his friends, and one of my favourite wrestlers to watch.”

 

Bishop delivers a torture rack neckbreaker to Ravenous Randy onto a table full of thumbtacks while he’s stuck in a straight jacket at Halloween Hell 2012.

To get to this point has been a long journey for Bishop (Dave Courtright) despite the fact that he didn’t start his training until September 2002 due to his mother being diagnosed with cancer and his lack of knowledge about the training process.

“I was trained mostly by Vance Nevada with cameos from Michelle Starr, Chance Beckett, and Aaron Idol,” reminisced Bishop. “Over the years I have continued to train at the various schools that have been around as well as seminars.”

 

Bishop, left, as ECCW tag team champion, with partner Kurt Sterling, and Ladies Choice.

As is somewhat common sometimes for a new wrestler, Bishop was put into a tag team to help him develop.

“I have multiple tag title reigns in various promotions almost all with different partners,” recalled Bishop. “I think I was put in tag team situations case I wasn’t a strong enough character to be a singles competitor early in my career.”

While his first ECCW tag team title reign with Kurt Sterling wasn’t very memorable, his second reign with ICE as part of Pop Culture was until ICE moved to Toronto to pursue other ventures. For Bishop it was a time of uncertainty until he joined the Natural Selection faction.

“Let me stop and say I wouldn’t be where I am today without The Natural,” Bishop told SLAM! Wrestling. “He is my manager in life more so than he is in storyline. After Pop Culture died, I thought I was done; time to step aside for the young guys. I didn’t think I could hang, but The Natural gave me the confidence in myself to step up my game.”

As part of Natural Selection Bishop engaged in a very memorable feud with Sid Sylum that included Powerbombing Sylum’s sister through a table and finishing up with a Dog Collar Chain Match at the 2011 ECCW Halloween Hell show. “We beat the hell out of each other and the only thing we could think of that was a big enough finish was me coming off the top rope and nailing him in the head with the gnarliest chair shot you’ve ever seen.”

 

Since that time Bishop has worked with numerous wrestlers in single matches including a very lengthy program from November 2010 to March 2011 against former ECCW/NWA Canadian Heavyweight Champion Tony Baroni. Bishop recalled that the feud started because the ECCW title had been vacated at the time due to Sid Sylum being injured. As a result a one night tournament was held during which Baroni won the first match. However, after the completion of that match Bishop attacked Baroni’s ribs with a chair, which led into his first round match against Billy Seude that he won thus propelling him into the finals of the tournament against Baroni.

“Now I had lost a match to Baroni the month before; whether people remember it or not it was nice foreshadowing,” Bishop reminisced. “I won the tournament after a match where I worked over his [Baroni] ribs and eventually won with a top rope PowerSlam. That was December [2010]. TLC 6 happened in March [2011] so in the months between we had a couple matches where I squeaked out victories with the help of The Natural or by nefarious means. The story was that Baroni was soft; he didn’t have the killer instinct it takes to be a champion. TLC has become a yearly event and this was the perfect feud to have a TLC blow off.”

What was special about Bishop and Baroni’s match at TLC 6 was it was the first time at the yearly event where the Tables Ladders and Chairs Match was a one-on-one encounter. “I think we did a good job of telling a story as well as incorporating some holy @$?! moments one of which ended up tearing the medial head of my right bicep as I caught it on the top rope doing a coast-to-coast dropkick”, Bishop painfully recalled. “Now the RCC doesn’t have a way to hang the belt in the middle of the ring, but it does have a balcony so we hung the belt off a pole over the balcony and the closing of the match happens when I go up to the balcony to dive onto Baroni who is laid out on side-by-side tables, but when I get up there he is gone and hits me with a chair from behind which sends me over the ledge hanging from the balcony and all he has to do is reach out and grab the belt and it’s over. But he smashes my hand with a chair and I plummet down with the corner of the table breaking my fall before he reached out and grabbed the belt.”

 

Bishop dropkicks a chair into Tony Baroni at TLC 6 in March 2011. Of note, look for Bishop’s arm tangled in the ropes — he tore his bicep with that.

Tony Baroni remembers his feud with Bishop as one of his favorites from his career. “Bishop is one of my favorite dudes to work with and one of the only guys I can have a match with on the fly and it be really good,” said Baroni. “We click well in the ring. He’s one of my three favorite guys to work with. I knew me and Bishop had the magic to pull it [TLC 6] off.”

Since he began his career in March of 2003, Bishop has been willing to try various different things in order to help him learn and develop as a wrestler. One example was participating in the second season of World of Hurt, which Bishop cited as being an eye-opening experience.

“I realized from the first season [of World of Hurt] that they had their own vision of what they want and would edit accordingly,” said Bishop. “They gave me a very bland character and no time to work with and I tried to just do my thing and try to show them their ‘creative booking’ sucked. [KC] Spinelli was influential in getting my name to the producers. I can’t begin to explain how much I learned from [Roddy] Piper. His influence on me was very noticeable as soon as I had gotten back to ECCW. I got to work with [Roddy] Piper a bit in the ring, but he had a broken neck during the filming so his in-ring activity was limited.”

 

Bishop looked quite different during his first run with the NWA Canadian title in 2007.

A witness to the impact that World of Hurt (WOH) and Roddy Piper had on Bishop was ECCW Women’s Champion KC Spinelli.

“After spending a few weeks with Piper, Bishop seemed to start changing,” said Spinelli. “Really taking his size to work off of, and of course his mean eye stare. Bishop’s promos started getting more intense; you really started to feel fear when you would watch him look into the lens. I feel Bishop 2012 has been probably the best we’ve seen [from him] in a while. Bishop is really starting to be a force to be reckoned with.”

Now as a two-time NWA Canadian Heavyweight Champion, Bishop has been engaged in several feuds and storylines that have helped him to progress even further in his development.

“My first feud was a best of five with Arty [Artemis Spencer]. Unfortunately I was wrestling on a fractured ankle for the first two matches of the feud. You need to understand that Artemis Spencer is the best wrestler in the Pacific Northwest and better than most in North America … and I wanted to be able to hang with him in the ring. I wouldn’t be considered a legitimate champ if I couldn’t beat the best.”

After the completion of the feud with Artemis Spencer, Bishop moved into a feud with “Ravenous” Randy Myers, one member of the ECCW Riot faction. The feud between Bishop and Myers culminated in a Ranarchists Funhouse Chamber of Extreme Match at the October 27th Halloween Hell show in New Westminster, BC.

“Basically I got a straightjacket out of a piƱata and got it on Randy [Myers] and put him through a table of tacks. I feel I have good chemistry with both [Andy] Bird and Randy [Myers]. I’m sure we could have made the feud longer, but I think we told a good story.”

When asked by SLAM! Wrestling about his match with Bishop, Myers had a quirky response.

“Planned as I left in a straightjacket with thumbtacks in my back not as champion, but what else I left that ring with besides the bruises, bloody tights and general happiness to be pretty much alive was an understanding of why Bishop is Champion,” said Myers. “As well as the most dominating force I have ever been privileged and unfortunate to work with. He is not just the wrecking ball; he is the crane as well.”

As to the future, Bishop (a truck driver by day) lists Japan, Mexico, WWE, TNA, and ROH as all goals for him. “I’ve never been to any tryouts. I guess it’s just been bad timing or me never making a serious effort to try,” he said. “I don’t think I’ve put over how important The Natural and Piper have been in making me the wrestler I am. I definitely wouldn’t be where I am without them!”

Matthew Byer for the moment he lives and resides in Victoria, BC. However, if you know of any job opportunities please let him know at phoenixmhb@yahoo.com.

Courtesy of SLAM! Wrestling

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