Seth Witz, who managed under the name, Fish ‘n Chips Wilson, is a true inspiration. In this article, he shares his life-long love of professional wrestling, and how the business has shown him some love in return. He plans on attending the 2015 CAC Reunion this coming April! Photo copyright of Seth Witz.
As far as my interest in wrestling goes, it goes as far back as I can remember. I grew up in a household where images of “Smokin’” Joe Frazier, “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, Evel Knievel, and A.J Foyt were more common than the cold. One night around my 5th birthday, my folks let me stay up an hour past my bedtime. I ended up spending my valued reprieve from sleep watching Hulk Hogan pummel the piss out of The Iron Sheik for the Heavyweight Championship of the World. And that was all it took.
Growing up with a brittle bones condition called Osteogenesis Imperfecta, the world of professional wrestling completely enthralled me. It was larger than life people doing things I had never dreamed of, and yet, I related to them on the level of dealing with injury, overcoming adversity, and staying tough. Although on the surface it wouldn’t have appeared so, I thought to myself, “Hey, these are people like me!”
Around the same time, I started becoming involved with the March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation, as one of their child ambassadors, or Poster Child. My interest in professional wrestling was not lost on them.
The WWE (F at the time), was going to be in Tacoma, Washington (near my hometown of Bellevue, a suburb of Seattle), so the March of Dimes arranged a promotional meeting between myself and Hulk Hogan. It was 1987 at this point, and I was approximately 8yrs old. It was the height of Hulk-a-Mania, and suffice to say, I was beside myself with excitement! The meeting was made even more exciting as, unbeknownst to me, Hogan brought along with him none other than B. Brian Blair of The Killer Bees! One of my favorite tag teams of the time.
(A little side note here: Years later when I was managing under the name Fish ‘n Chips Wilson, I had an idea for a tag team called The Longshoremen. They would wear knit caps rolled up on their heads, but when in trouble they would pull the caps down like ski masks, enabling them to alternate without tagging [sound familiar?] It never happened though. I thought it would’ve been fun. Anyway….)
My whole family was in attendance and both Hogan and Blair were so nice and down to earth. One thing that I appreciated then and to this day, is that they didn’t interact with me and my family in full gimmick. They just talked to me. They weren’t wearing their boots and trunks and logoed t-shirts, just jeans and Harley-Davidson shirts (as I recall), and that made a huge impression on me. These were real guys. Real tough wrestlers.
I think from the very beginning, I knew that just being a fan of wrestling was not going to be enough for me. I had to be involved somehow, and that first meeting with Hogan and Blair solidified it.
Obviously, on account of my use of a wheelchair and my brittle bones, being a wrestler was out of the question. Being 3’4? wouldn’t have mattered so much, but I knew early on that the NBA was out, too. Ha! Oh well. Not that it mattered, I was a wrestling fan!
When in my teens, somewhere around my junior year of high school, I discovered that my parents had a friend who knew a man by the name of Dean Silverstone. Apparently this guy, Dean, had a record store on 45th near the University District, but he also worked for many years in professional wrestling. If I wanted to find out more about the business and what I could do, I should at least pay him a visit.
So, I made my way down to the shop to have my first meeting with Dean Silverstone. Now, Dean didn’t know me from Adam or the apple, but he was very nice, and seemed to enjoy talking to me about the business. And, as it turned out, Dean had known my great uncle, Benny Cohen. Benny had worked in professional wrestling as a second, and worked with many of the big names who made their way through the northwest, including Gorgeous George. Benny passed away before I was born, so I never met him. But, Dean, and many others, have told me he was quite a character. I was pleased to know that there was wrestling in my family. I had always heard stories, but hearing it from someone else in the business was proof positive.
After our meeting, Dean was kind enough to send me a list of contacts he felt would be beneficial in my quest of learning the ins and outs of the ring. Topping the list was a phone number from the southeastern part of the country, belonging to a woman named Lillian Ellison. Dean’s letter told me that I just might remember her as….The Fabulous Moolah!
What can I say about The Fabulous Moolah? Lillian was truly one of the kindest, sweetest people I have ever met. She always called me, “sugar,” and I wouldn’t be surprised to find others referred to in kind. I’m glad that I can say that I knew her and called her a friend. I honestly cannot recall the first conversation that I had with her, but I do know that after Dean had given me the list of contacts, I waited a little bit to call her. I don’t know if it was nerves or just that I wanted to stay local, and as a teenager South Carolina seemed so far away. But, once I called her, we became fast friends, and I quickly considered her my primary instructor in the ways of the ring. Now, I was already “smart” to the business, in my generation it was hard not to be, but she definitely smartened me up. I won’t go into detail on everything she taught me or conversation that we had, that’s worthy of several chapters in a book itself, but it should suffice to say that I could not have asked for a better mentor. It was through her that I began to go to Las Vegas for the LIWA conventions (incidentally, Las Vegas has become a bit of a home away from home for me), and it was through her that I met Sputnik Monroe…
Now, nobody ever formally introduced me to Sputnik Monroe. We just happened to be in the same place at the same time. And, it wasn’t so much of what he did for me, but rather, the simple fact of who he was. It was at one of the LIWA events in Las Vegas and I was just sitting there, taking it all in. Really out of nowhere, a large man in tinted glasses kneels in front of me and places a giant canned ham of a hand on my chair, with a large ring that (if I recall correctly) read, “PUKE.” This man looks me square in the eye and the words grumbled and rumbled out of his mouth, “The name is Roscoe Brumbaugh, but they call me Sputnik Monroe. I’m from Dodge City, but I made a good career out there in Memphis, Tennessee.” Wow! How’s that for an introduction? We kept on talking about various things: Catch wrestling, carnival wrestling, boxing, mixed matches (early mma, anyone?) and even axe handle matches! Then he looked at me again and growls low, “A lot of folks around here think they know how to fight. That they know about fighting. But they don’t know about REAL fighting. I do. And, I wanted to talk to you, because I know that you know what it means to really fight!” Honestly, I just thought he was referring to works and shoots. But as we talked, and I got to know him, I learned about his participation in civil rights. His opposition with the law (in the south in the 1960?s), and everything in between. I learned why he approached me and felt a kinship towards me to begin with. We both knew that wrestling was a bold way to level the playing field, that anyone can fight, and everyone has the right.
After college (I graduated in 2001 from the University of Washington with Distinction in Comparative Literature and Cinema Studies [I actually wrote my honors thesis on Mexican Wrestling Horror films]), I took with me everything that Moolah and Sputnik (among others) had taught, and eventually hooked up with a small professional wrestling group in Seattle. That is where Fish ‘n Chips Wilson began. Well, actually, he was born in a bar a little before that. I had been watching a documentary about mob hit men. They were explaining how soaking in vinegar gets gunpowder out from under fingernails. So my friends and I start joking about this. One would suspiciously say, “Hey man, why do you smell like vinegar?…” To which I would reply, “Oh….no reason! I just, uh, I just really like fish and chips! Ya know what they call me, Fish ‘n Chips Wilson!” So it just became this gag. But, when I started managing wrestlers, I wanted to be sure to have a gimmick that I would be comfortable with, and that was close enough to my true personality. That way if I was in a rotten mood and wasn’t feeling like “performing” all I had to do was turn up the volume, and just like that, instant heel! When the promoters asked if I already had a name, out popped Fish ‘n Chips Wilson. For those who’ve never seen me, imagine: Burgess Meredith watching a marathon of Popeye cartoons while simultaneously listening to a scratchy record of Tom Waits reciting his favorite Charles Bukowski poems. Oh yeah, while eating a plate of fish and chips and a pint of porter.
I had a lot of adventures as Fish ‘n Chips, both in and out of the ring. Far too many to go into detail here, but I am planning on being at the next CAC Reunion. 2015 will be my first, and I’m more than thrilled to see everyone there, and can’t wait to swap stories, compare notes, and generally enjoy this wonderfully crazy little thing we do called professional wrestling. Oh and, if you’re talking to me, we’re going to end up talking about my other passion, boxing.
When I was managing as Fish ‘n Chips, I realized that there were a lot of boys that would get way out of hand and not have the respect that they should have for their opponents and fans. In and around the ring, no matter your job, it is beneficial to know how to defend yourself. Well, since I was not a wrestler, I learned how to box. I could not throw a 200+ pound man, but I could sure knock ‘em out! When some of the boys started getting interested in mma and learning bjj, they started coming me to learn “some of that boxing thing.” So, I ended up coaching some of them on how to correctly use their maulies.
While it would be difficult to list my favorite boxers over the years, I would be even harder pressed to list my favorite professional wrestlers without feeling that I was leaving somebody out. But I’ll try. I’ll brake it up like this:
Pioneer: John Pesek
Legends: Fred Blassie Sputnik Monroe The Original Sheik (Ed Farhat) The Destroyer Dick The Bruiser The Crusher And what I call the holy trinity of Mexico, El Santo, Blue Demon, and Mil Mascaras.
Modern era: Roddy Piper Dynamite Kid Tiger Mask Dean Malenko Dave Finlay Steve Austin Tommy Dreamer CM Punk Rey Misterio, Jr. Sheamus And I like that whole Wyatt Family thing they’re doing now…
Tag Team: The Road Warriors
Women: The Fabulous Moolah (was there ever any question?) But, I will say that I really liked Daffney, and I think that Velvet Sky, AJ Lee, and the Bella Twins continue to impress.
Managers: Again, Fred Blassie Bobby Heenan The Grand Wizard
Broadcaster: The tandem of Bobby Heenan and Gorilla Monsoon. Hands down.
As far as what I think of the product today? Over the years there’ve been programs and angles I’ve enjoyed and some I didn’t care for. This is true of everyone I know, and it is also true that we all have conflicting and varying opinions on this matter. What is true across the board is this: whether you step into the ring, The Octagon, or a 15? high steel cage, brother (!), we’re all always putting our necks on the line. And while some folks may not understand, rest assured that yer ‘ol pal Fish ‘n Chips understands.