Tommy Cairo is perhaps best known to wrestling fans as the man who was in the first ever Singapore cane match with Sandman as part of their popular feud in the original ECW. Today he is the co-owner (with Phil Varlese) of Force One Pro Wrestling in New Jersey. He agreed to grant PWDigestâ€™s Karen Belcher an interview.
KB: You were with Eastern Championship Wrestling before they became Extreme Championship Wrestling in 1994. What did you think of the idea to change when it first came up? What was it like being there during that time?
TC: I didn’t like the way the whole thing was handled with Dennis Coralluzzo. He didn’t do anything to hurt either Heyman or the business, and they kind of used Dennis as a scapegoat to introduce Extreme, and for Shane Douglas to vent against WCW. It was nothing short of Heyman appropriating ECW as his own. For the guys in the locker, we were all concerned about where this was all headed. Although we were successful, there was a period of uncertainty for us, and it continued when guys like me were let go.
KB: How do you feel about the way WWE is running ECW?
TC: I would like to have seen it run in smaller, intimate venues, so that this product more resembled what ECW actually was. Also, instead of infusing with WWE talent, they could have used ECW to highlight new international talent from the worldwide indy scene, similar to the way ROH and X-Division does. It would have had that older, ECW feel to it.
KB: You and Sandman had the first Singapore cane matches. Who came up with that idea? Did you have any idea at the time that you were starting something that would last so long and be used by so many other wrestlers?
TC: Following the Michael Fay incident in Singapore, Heyman addressed the locker room, asking who would be interested in doing a Singapore cane match, to mirror what had happened. It was made very clear that gigging all over would be involved. NO one stepped up at that meeting until Sandman and I collectively offered our services. My feeling was that with Heyman now in control, I was starting to get buried, and felt I needed to do anything to keep myself out there. Veterans like Ted Petty, and the Pitbulls all thought we were crazy, feeling that there would be no limits to what Heyman would ask us to do if we went along with this. At first, we didn’t think it would have much of a life, but it wasn’t long before we began to see the result of our effort. To this day, I’ve been in many lockers where a young guy with a cane comes over to me before his match to ask if it’s okay to use the gimmick, and tells us what it meant to him when he first saw it.
KB: After you left ECW, you won the vacant NWA North American Championship in a tournament in 1995. What was it like going back to the NWA after being a part of ECW when they trashed the NWA Championship? What happened to cause you to lose the title by no-showing a title defense in 1996?
TC: I was happy and excited to do that. Prior to me winning the title, I spent time in Japan working Dan Severn, and Dennis Coralluzzo put me in a series of matches with Severn, who was the champ at the time, knowing my style and Severn ‘s would mesh. I put Severn over big time. My reward for that was winning a belt that was attached to a promotion with the NWA legacy, Part of the move was a business decision by Dennis, since that belt was given to me by another promoter out of NJ, who couldn’t afford to pay me, but gave me the championship belt. It was Dennis’ way of having another champion without having to buy another belt. My wife was in the hospital, waiting to give birth to my daughter (9/25/96), and I called Dennis to advise him that I wouldn’t be available to defend the title the next night (9/26). He called me back and wanted me to make the belt available for pickup by another worker. I was on my way out the door, and couldn’t leave the belt with anyone, plus I was upset with the fact that he would strip me of the belt that I loaned to the promotion, and didn’t want to give it up so easily. Dennis labeled me not a team player, and did a tournament that night, which was won by Tommy Carter (Reckless Youth).
KB: When you ran the Outlaws of Pro Wrestling Promotion, it was in the Tropicana Casino and Hotel in Atlantic City. What was that like? Did you have to do things differently because of being in the Casino?
TC: It really wasnâ€™t all that different from any other venue, except that it was larger than most indy venues, which only seat 4-500. The ballrooms in the casino sat 1500 people, and we filled those rooms each show! The boys were treated very well at the Trop. Everyone got a room at the hotel, and meals, and were all paid extremely well. As far as show content, the Tropicana let us do anything we really wanted, as long as the casino drop that evening was good. That was their only concern. Unfortunately for us, we had a few people working with us who had agendas different than what we wanted for the Outlaws, and that resulted in our getting thrown out by the Casino. To this day, however, the guys who worked those shows for us continue to thank us, saying it was the best they were ever treated by a promotion.
KB: Now you run Force One Wrestling Promotion and School with your partner Phil Varlese. You are an outspoken advocate against drug and steroid abuse in wrestling. Please tell us about your ideals and how you put them into practice in Force One.
TC: Some might call me a hypocrite, but I disagree. I left the partying lifestyle long ago. I’ve seen the downside of drug and steroid use throughout my career. I can speak from it first hand. We are grooming our students to be strong, because in this career, at some point they’ll be presented with the types of choices, and want them to have the background to make the right choices. We want the students to come away with more than just knowing some wrestling moves.
KB: Thatâ€™s great. I wish more promoters would do it.
I’d like to do some name association to get your opinions on some people in wrestling:
TC: Sandman – Influential for his time….. outdated today. A good friend.
Paul Heyman – A shame that a non-worker has been heralded as a genius and could exert the “influence” he had with the business. He had a negative impact on many a career that should not have been (like John Kronus).
Dennis Coralluzzo – Big Heart. could be your best friend, or worst enemy. It depended on how you handled him. I appreciate that he respected my abilities. Glad that we were able to make amends before his death. Introduced me to the Haas brothers as someone who was a big influence on the business.
White Lotus – Soft spoken, a gentleman. Great friend, and a great trainer. He is a tremendous asset to Force One. Knows and understands the business. Has always been underutilized.
Tommy Force – Tremendous technical worker. again underutilized by many up until this point. Quiet as himself, but comes alive in character. Great future if others besides Force One take notice.
The Equalizer – Selfish, self serving, self centered. Next to Lou Gehrig, he is the luckiest man on the face of the earth, for abusing the chances that this business has given him, based on his abilities. Big disappointment as a friend. In spite of that, I continue to pray for him.
Diego DeMarco – Undying loyalty and dedication to Force One. Without him, Force One would not be where it is today. A great friend, loves the business, and cares for the kids he teaches. He’s a great talent with an uncanny perception of what is wanted in the business. Again, a great future in this business.
Doc Diamond – Instrumental in keeping my attention in this business in the early stages of my career. Loyal friend whose promotions have impacted many workers that are still currently working in the business. One of the few friends I’ve made from the earliest stages of my career that I’ve stayed in contact with I love him!
Frank Goodman – Always believed in me. Always compensated me above and beyond, A good friend, and asset to indy wrestling. Helped many successful careers. VERY respectful to the history of the business.
Phil Varlese – Could and would not be in the business to this extent without my great friend Phil as my right hand man. Undying loyalty to Force One. Great business acumen.
KB: What is the schedule of upcoming shows for Force One, and how can people contact you about possibly becoming students?
TC: Our next show is on Saturday, February 16th in Manahawkin , NJ at Saint Maryâ€™s Paris Hall. Itâ€™s called â€œAgainst All Oddsâ€ (we originally used the name at an Outlaws show at the Tropicana almost 8 years ago). Itâ€™s a great old venue for pro wrestling, and weâ€™re looking forward to bringing pro wrestling back to that area. Then, weâ€™re back to Egg Harbor City on March 15th at Hamilton Hall with our next event called â€œNever Surrender.â€ Weâ€™ll have a few more shows lined up before our 1 year anniversary show at Hamilton Hall (Egg Harbor City) on May 3rd.
As far as wanting to become a student, if you are interested in training to be a pro wrester, and think you have what it takes, call me on my cell phone at (732) 604-9927. Our training facility is in Egg Harbor City, NJ, and we have people traveling from all over to work there.
KB: What thoughts do you have for your fans in closing?
TC: I hope they continue to support us. We aren’t trying to reinvent the wheel. we just want to put out a product that families can bring their kids to see, and for our workers to be known more for wrestling than just entertainment.
Thanks very much, Tommy, and all the best to you in the future.
— Karen Belcher
Courtesy of ProWrestlingDigest.com