From Eddie Cross’ personal journal
August 16, 2023
I’ve heard it said that style makes the fight. The reality is that in today’s world of wrestling, fighting is more prevalent than it has ever been. The venn diagram crossover of mixed martial arts and professional wrestling fans is well known to be significant.
Gibson didn’t really have to deal with this reality as MMA was considered to be cockfighting, a waste of money, brutality, and in some states it was even illegal. In fact, New York became the last state to legalize mixed martial arts in 2016. Imagine a world wide phenomenon that has only been legal in all 50 states for less than a decade.
I’ve also heard what we do to be considered entertainment. There’s always that guy at the bar that says we’re not legitimate tough guys and they find out the hard way that a person used to taking bumps and chair shots on the regular is going to flinch off a pool cue like it’s nothing.
Gibson told me once that he was riding with Afwa Kilmanjaro, and Six Finger Cisco to a show in Alabama and they stopped to get a bite to eat. A local stopped Afwa on his way to the bathroom and told him that he wasn’t welcome.
Afwa Kilmanjaro is a stage name. His real name, if I remember, was Tavita Toa (the surname is warrior, if that tells you anything.) If you ever met him, you’d know he is gentle, loving, and his deep laugh fills a room. But he is also a nearly seven foot tall Samoan with no regard for his own safety.
The man was warned once. Then Afwa fishhooked his eye and threw him on a pool table so hard he cracked the slate. This is all second hand, of course, but Gibson swears he saw it happen.
This is not uncommon. The old days on the road, partying with the boys, shutting down bars. It was a different era for wrestlers then. They didn’t have to deal with strict contracts, internet based merch sales, social media, scandals, cancel culture, etc. That bred some fucked up interactions, for sure.
I know people see me and think that I am some stupid kid like Joe Fontaine and expect me to talk like I picked up a case of diarrhea of the mouth. But I didn’t have the luxury of following the money or training since the time I could walk from a famous father, grandfather, aunt, or other silver spooned second generation benefit. I didn’t have a Gates academy, Grays, a combat system, a family lineage that churns out champion level talent like Notre Dame churns out Hall of Fame NFL players.
I had a worried mother trying to keep me out of trouble. Trying to keep me away from this madness because she saw what it did to everyone in my father’s life. She almost succeeded.
My brother and I turned 18 and like the call of the wild, it was time to go be our own men. That, of course, meant searching for who we were supposed to be. I think that a lot of young men want to know who their father is at this time in their life. Sure, many don’t live with the situation I do, but they never really know their parents because they do a pretty good job of shielding us from their troubles.
I admit I wanted to know more about him. What did he go through? Why did he choose what he chose? What made this life so appealing that he would walk away from Junior and I?
I was wondering if he knew something I don’t.
I wish he would tell me what the fuck it is.
I thought maybe he would come around more if I got into the business. Maybe he would even take time out of his busy life to train me himself. Maybe… no there was no maybe. There was a phone call between him and my mom and before I knew it, I was standing in a dimly lit gym that looked like it had vagrant cats living in it listening to an old man tell me I wasn’t shit and beating the fuck out of me for two years straight.
“You gotta pay your dues” may as well have been the top of the ten commandments in Dave’s gym.
Sometimes I think that Dave is so stuck in his ways that he thinks since he paid dues and got fucked over that everyone else needs to be ground up and spit out by the business like he was. I admit I kinda feel bad for the guy because he worked his whole life and never truly got the respect he deserved.
Then you have a guy like my dad. Former champion, poster boy for four different feds, wildly successful. Yeah, he worked his whole life to get there, but he didnt take short cuts, he wasn’t foolish with his money.
But he didn’t pay his dues.
Not in Gibson’s eyes anyhow.
These two couldn’t be further apart and yet they are the same in spirit, somehow.
Style makes the fight.
I ache in the morning when I wake up. I’m twenty one and I’ve seen more blood and stitches than most men will their whole life. Does that make me more or less than them? Have I paid my dues yet? Do I just keep paying them until I am old and broken-down, resentful, and lonely like Dave?
I think that’s what I am trying to figure out, ultimately.
We’re entertainers, sure. But we’re also fighting every time we get in the ring, and the game is always evolving. The average wrestler now has at least some level of martial arts training. Some of them are downright legitimate, like FLAMBERGE.
Gibson will never be able to understand the differences of today’s world in wrestling when compared to his own. He is so set in his ways that he will never understand how to evolve and adapt. For him, tradition is king. I know there is something to that notion, but the fact is people have his tape. They know what he is going to do and how to beat his moves.
The simple fact is Dave is playing nineties era basketball in the modern score first league and it doesn’t matter if there were fouls and more physical play then. Then isn’t now and what worked then doesn’t work the same anymore.
Bruce Lee said to “be like water”. He also developed a way to take parts of the teaching from several martial arts and mold them into one form called “The way of whatever works”. Modern fighters see him as the progenitor of mixed martial arts.
Maybe I can do something similar and travel the world to see new places, experience new styles for myself, and develop a way that blends everything I have learned.
Maybe I can be like water.
To become more than we are. To grow as people. To grow the sport.
This is why we fight.