Most of the time when wrestling fans talk about “underrated wrestlers,” they’re talking about guys who maybe didn’t get much exposure on TV or, if they did, guys who never won WWE or WCW World Heavyweight Championships. Guys like Carlito Caribbean Cool and John Morrison are frequently tagged as underrated because the man upstairs didn’t hand them the ball, preferring the tried and true over something new, but the fact of the matter is that those guys aren’t underrated, not really. It’s tough to be underrated when you’re on TV every week, when you have a company’s second most prestigious title, when you’re doing flashy, show-stealing moves on pay per views and at WrestleMania, and it’s hard to say that somebody hasn’t been given the ball when they’re enjoying the relative fame and fortune that comes along with all that.
To me, the word “underrated” doesn’t apply to anybody unless you’re talking about somebody working the bingo hall circuit, somebody sweating and bleeding and putting their body on the line before a packed house of 150 people paying $20 for ringside seats. You can look up and down the rosters of CHIKARA and Ring of Honor and debate who among them is most deserving of the crown, but, for my money, Rickey Shane Page may be the most underrated wrestler in America. If you’ve heard of Page, if you’ve seen him wrestle, you know what he brings to the table. Until June of last year, I didn’t. My introduction to Page took place at AIW’s Girls Night Out 4, where he took on his idol Mad Man Pondo in a no-disqualification match that, among other things, saw Pondo stick florescent light-tubes into Page’s mouth before ramming the poor bastard into the ringpost. As an independent wrestling neophyte, it was without question the most gruesome thing I’d ever seen.
I had Page pegged as a “deathmatch wrestler,” a style of wrestling that I’m honestly still trying to wrap my head around, but at every AIW event I’ve attended since then, Page has shown a different side of himself. Against former Ring of Honor regular B.J. Whitmer, he went hold for hold. When faced with the smaller, quicker Eric Ryan, Page took to the air. As a fat kid, I grew up a fan of big wrestlers like Vader, Bam Bam Bigelow, and the Big Bossman, wrestlers who were tougher than hell and quicker than they looked, some of them being capable of devastating aerial attacks and good technical wrestling to go along with their bruising style of match, but few men Page’s size are able to effectively mix and match technique as he does.
Fear of a Ghost Planet: Rickey, thanks for agreeing to this interview so close to the tournament. Is it fair to say that this could be one of the most important weekends in your career?
Rickey Shane Page: It is very fair to say that. This tournament means A LOT to me. J.T. was/is a huge influence on me and I need to get back on track in AIW. The wrestling worlds eyes are on AIW right now.
Fear of a Ghost Planet: It’s interesting that you say you need to get back on track, as you’ve been on a losing streak of late. Not only that, but if my memory serves correctly, all of those losses have come by submission. Does that add any pressure going into the tournament?
Rickey Shane Page: Actually my last two were by pinfall, which I’m proud of cause it’s those little steps forward that keep me positive. I didn’t tap out when I had barbwire wrapped around my face against Drake [Younger, the “Psycho Shooter”]; it took John Thorne’s interference to beat me. I just straight up lost to Uhaa [Nation, who is built like a bodybuilder but moves like an acrobat], but seriously, look at the guy: he’s a monster. This whole weekend has pressure no matter what is going on with me. Even if I had a huge winning streak going there would be pressure. When you’re dealing with this level of talent and competition there’s always going to be pressure.
Fear of a Ghost Planet: In your first round match, you’re facing against Flip Kendrick, one half of Aeroform. I understand you have some history with him?
Rickey Shane Page: Yes, I do. I trained Flip. I helped him get his start in wrestling and in AIW. I don’t really agree with his recent choices, especially his joining Flexor Industries. His whole attitude has changed. I know him very well, and this wont be easy for him. He needs a little reminder of who I am and who he was.
Fear of a Ghost Planet: Are you at all worried about Flexor Industries getting involved in this match? If you look past their recent shortcomings at Girls Night Out 6, Chest and his gang have been very successful recently.
Rickey Shane Page: I am worried. Flexor is a huge goof, but he’s surrounded himself with talent and they aren’t stupid. Numbers will always play a factor. But I’ve never backed down from a fight or numbers. I’ll just have to be smarter.
Fear of a Ghost Planet: I know that you can’t afford to look past your match against Flip, but looking at the brackets, you could be in for an interesting few matches on Night Two. Beyond the finals, what guy are you maybe most looking forward to facing?
Rickey Shane Page: I would love to get back in the ring with Whitmer again. Willie Mack has been a favorite of mine since I first watched him in PWG awhile back. [Josh] Prohibition or M-Dogg [WWE Tough Enough star and Cleveland-area favorite Matt Cross] would be nice. Eric Ryan again, or Spanky. There are so many talented guys in this tournament its hard to pick just a few.
Fear of a Ghost Planet: You got to face B.J. Whitmer at Nightmare Before X-Mas last year. Do you think that match got its proper due?
Rickey Shane Page: No I don’t, actually. People are used to a certain style and myself and B.J. gave them something else. I’m not ACH, and B.J. isn’t AR Fox. It was a WRESTLING match. Not to say I don’t love that style; ACH and AR Fox are two of the most talented guys I’ve ever seen. But I liken myself as a hybrid wrestler. I like to do all styles and I change it up with whoever I’m in the ring with. B.J. is a ground and pound submission wrestler. I had to adapt. If that match happened in ROH in 2004 we wouldn’t be talking about it this way, haha. It just apples to oranges, I guess.
Fear of a Ghost Planet: I was in the crowd that night and was amazed that you guys didn’t get a bigger response from the audience. That being said, it probably doesn’t matter as much when a guy as respected as B.J. Whitmer gets on the microphone to call you one of the best big men he’s faced. What did that kind of praise mean to you?
Rickey Shane Page: It means the world to me. I’ve always enjoyed B.J.’s work. I remember seeing him wrestle Homicide on a VHS tape of IWA Mid-South King of the Death Match 2003. Such a great match. I used to drive down to Dayton to catch ROH shows in 04-05, and his matches with the Prophecy were always awesome. So to have his respect and his praise means so much. I’ve learned a lot from him and I’m glad to call him a friend. He’s done it all so it gives me motivation to keep climbing and clawing my way to the top.
Fear of a Ghost Planet: Do you have any hesitations about facing your friends in this tournament?
Rickey Shane Page: None whatsoever. They know what’s at stake. As fun as it is to wrestle someone you hate, it’s probably more fun to wrestle your friends.
Fear of a Ghost Planet: But not too fun, right? Especially if you’re looking over your shoulder for John Thorne this weekend?
Rickey Shane Page: Even though John Thorne thinks we’re friends, we’re not! I still haven’t gotten a straight answer from him on what his problem is. I will find out, one way or another.
Fear of a Ghost Planet: Can you explain that situation for people who haven’t seen the last few AIW DVDs? Thorne’s retired, but at Gauntlet For the Gold he eliminates you from the field. You get involved in a pair of brutal “Pick Your Poison” matches. Thorne hasn’t given you a straight answer, but you have to have your suspicions. Why do you think he’s attacking you? Why now?
Rickey Shane Page: Its no secret Thorne is part of the “Office” of AIW. He and I were tag partners/champions years ago. Maybe he can’t stand being out of the spotlight? Maybe because he and Chandler sold their shares in the company he feels his position in the there is threatened. Jealousy? I really have no idea. Something has to happen soon. Wadsworth needs to get control of Thorne or just let us settle it in the ring.
Fear of a Ghost Planet: Thorne is going to be wrestling death match legend Mad Man Pondo in a no holds barred match on Night Two. Would you be disappointed if Pondo took him out for good?
Rickey Shane Page: For good? Yes. I need answers from him. I know Pondo is capable of doing it, but I hope Thorne is as tough as he thinks he is. Podno isn’t a girl, so Thorne won’t be able to bully him around.
Fear of a Ghost Planet: Not to change subjects on you, but since we’re talking a little about Pondo, I’d like to ask you a bit about your influences. You’re a big man, but, as you said, you can mix it up with the technical guys, the high flyers, and aren’t afraid to eat a light-tube. You had to be studying some pretty fascinating tape while you were in training. What wrestlers influenced you the most, getting into the business? Who do you look up to now?
Rickey Shane Page: Foley, Raven, Dreamer, and I loved the WCW cruiserweights as a teenager. ECW was HUGE influence on me. I love Masato Tanaka. He is the reason I do the roaring elbow, and his matches with Mike Awesome are amazing. Probably my number one guy was Stevie Richards. I know it’s a odd one, but no one was better. He was hilarious and could go. He never got a true shot because of his injury. Pretty close race between him and Tanaka though. I really loved early CZW and the early 2000’s indie guys like [Amazing] Red, SAT’s [Joel and Jose Maximo], Brian XL. Ric Blade, Trent Acid, Lobo, and Nick Gage. Nowadays I’m really into Eddie Kingston, Mike Qauckenbush, and Hallowicked. Eddie Kingston is a dream match of mine though for sure. Oh, and Pillman! I love Pillman!
Fear of a Ghost Planet: Particularly in your recent match against Eric Ryan, I saw a little bit of CHIKARA-styled lucha from you. Is that a place you’d eventually like to work? Outside of AIW, what are your goals?
Rickey Shane Page: I have worked for CHIKARA, back at Young Lions Cup 5. I would LOVE to go back there. CHIKARA is one of the top companies in the world. I love what they’re doing and would love to be apart of it. My goals outside of AIW are to go to Japan, which is a dream of mine. I would like to wrestle in England and Germany as well. I want people to remember my name.
Fear of a Ghost Planet: And within AIW?
Rickey Shane Page: To be Absolute Champion. I’ve never been “The Man” in any company. It’s time.
Fear of a Ghost Planet: Obviously winning the #JLIT would be a huge step in the right direction, then. What’ve you been doing to get ready for the tournament?
Rickey Shane Page: I wish I could tell you that I’ve been in the gym and working out like crazy, but I can’t. I hurt my knee at another show a few weeks back and I’ve been resting it trying to get ready for #JLIT. I’ve had a lot of bad luck this past year with injury but I’m really trying to stay positive and keeping my head up. It’s hard being a pro wrestler.
Fear of a Ghost Planet: Without question. Though, as a fan who’s been watching you evolve and progress over the past year, I have noticed that you’ve gotten into great shape, which is incredible considering the injuries and your life outside the ring. I just have one question left for you, man: At this point, what would you do for a Klondike Bar?
Rickey Shane Page: Thank you I’ve been working hard hmmmm let me think…..Im not a big Klondike Bar guy, Can I get a Snickers Ice Cream Bar instead?
Fear of a Ghost Planet: If you make it to the finals on a bad wheel, I’d say you deserve an entire box.
Fear of a Ghost Planet: If this weekend is the first time a fan sees you wrestle, what can they expect?
Rickey Shane Page: That I give it my all every time I’m out there. I never half-ass it and never will. If I ever do, it’ll be time for me to stop wrestling. You will see things you never thought you’d see a 6′ 4″ 290-pound man do. And I do it all with this big babyface of mine. I won’t hide it anymore, and I’ll make people fear and respect it.
Fear of a Ghost Planet: Thanks, Rickey. Anything else you’d like to add? Any last words?
Rickey Shane Page: Thanks to all the fans for their support. Keep supporting indie wrestling. There are so many guys out there who deserve to be seen, and a ton who don’t! So choose wisely and be smart. Also, follow me on Twitter @RickeyShanePage.
Rickey Shane Page is just one of twenty-four men scheduled to compete in Absolute Intense Wrestling’s massive J.T. Lightning Invitational Tournament, which happens this Friday and Saturday at Turners Hall in Cleveland, Ohio. Tickets are $20 for each night and can be purchased at shop.aiwrestling.com or at the door on the day of the event. There’s also a special AIW Fanfest scheduled for 4 p.m. on Day Two of the tournament, featuring a Dance Contest hosted by ACH and a live Q&A session with the always controversial Brian “Spanky” Kendrick. Don’t miss out.