My career in the wrestling industry began in December, 1998, when I was signed on as contributing editor of World Of Wrestling Magazine.
I'd spent the previous two years contributing to various radio shows and newsletters, the most notable of which was "The Bagpipe report," which would develop a massive following within the wrestling industry. TBR, a freelance e-mail newsletter established by Charles MacLaurin in 1996, epitomised the online revolution of the late 90s, and represented the thoughts and opinions of many of the most dedicated fans in wrestling throughout the world. I took over the reigns when Charles retired in 1998, and by mid-summer newsletter we had amassed 40,000 subscribers, making it the most read newsletter in the industry.
During my time writing TBR, I'd also contributed to radio shows Die-Hard With Derek Gordon on the Pseudo network and my own weekly audio show, "Norton's Notes R.A." for Wrestling-Online.com. Shortly after joining WOW, I was brought in to "Penner & Noble's Power Hour" on Radio WFNZ in Charlotte, North Carolina, becoming the resident wrestling analyst.
A couple of issues into publishing WOW, ECW teamed up with H&S Media - WOW's parent company - to produce the official ECW Magazine, for which I became senior writer. Two of the more memorable stories were a cover-story interview with Rob Van Dam for issue #2 (the uncensored version would later be posted on his official website) and an amusing news story I worked on with then-ECW Champion Tazz, who offered an open challenge to Steve Austin and The Rock.
At around the same time, WOW became involved with CBS Sportsline. The result was Wrestleline.com, a part of the CBS network, for which I wrote a daily news column. Several established online writers who were well known at the time were brought in to provide content, such as Scott Keith and Rick Scaia. It quickly became one of the leading networks in the business.
That summer, I began dating the woman who would become my wife, "Miss Galatea," a writer who I met while working for WOW. I'd actually hired her when WOW started in January, based on the strength of her work and an endorsement from Figure Four Weekly's Brian Alvarez, but wouldn't meet her until six months later.
In September 1999, Natina and I moved to Calgary, Alberta Canada, to write a major multi-issue feature for WOW about training to become a pro wrestler at the world-famous Hart Dungeon. The premise was that neither of us had been in the ring before, but we'd both always wanted to become wrestlers, and we'd keep journals of our experiences.
The first night in Calgary, Natina and I spent the night in the company of the late, great Stu and Helen Hart, at their mansion overlooking the city. From the moment our eyes met, it seemed as if we'd known each other all out lives. Helen insisted that we stay in their home, in a room that Chris Benoit had apparently occupied years earlier, and the next morning I took my first bumps - when Jim "The Anvil" Neidhart initiated me into the business in bruising fashion. That weekend, our formal training began, under the watchful eyes of Stu's sons Bruce and Ross.
WOW underwent a change in management around this time, and we were among several writers let go a couple of weeks into the creation of the story. With the support of Bruce and his family, we remained in Calgary. I went on to train in The Dungeon for three months before moving on down to California in January, 2000, to accept a job offer from Snowball.com Inc. I didn't want to go, but it was a great opportunity that my friend Michael Tavares had gotten me, and we needed to get back to work.
Snowball was looking for a person to spearhead a new wrestling network from their entertainment division, "IGN," which already had channels dedicated to all things social and fun, from movies to games, cars to relationships. My journalistic childhood idol Julian Rignall, who was an editor for the top video games magazines in Europe when I was growing up in Ireland, hired me as Editor-In-Chief of IGN Wrestling. Snowball was a fantastic environment, with both Simon Whitcomb and Jason Michaels being terrific Network heads to work for. It was one of my happiest periods in the business.
Shortly after joining IGN, I was asked to come aboard Hardcore with Sandy Penner on Sports Animal Radio, 620 WDAE in Florida. I appeared on the show every week for four and a half years until he left the station to take a job offer elsewhere in the summer of 2004. Sandy was a real blast to work for, and I miss talking to him.
During my year working for Snowball, I had the opportunity to work with several terrific talents for the first time, mainly Kurt Angle, Randy Savage, and Chris Daniels. I also worked with All Pro Wrestling on several projects; I provided color commentary for their TV Tapings in the fall of 2000, and co-hosted APW TV with Robert Berry.
In March 2001, I left IGN and returned to Calgary to focus in-ring career. It may have been my most memorable period in the business, as Bruce & Ellie Hart invited Natina and I to work in the Stampede front office. I became the Stampede Wrestling's Press Agent & Publicist and Head Of online Operations, which is basically just a broad reflection of my daily responsibilities, as we worked on every aspect of the company. With the help of many talented contributors including Wrestling-Online.com's Colin Vassallo, I relaunched Stampede's Online operations and opened a new online store for their merchandise. Stu and his family gave me the opportunity to do everything from book tours to scout talent, and Bruce brought me in to assist on booking. In June, I brought in Lance Storm and Christopher Daniels to work a tour for us, and in July, I myself made my wrestling debut.
When I returned home to Ireland, I hooked up with the NWA training facility in Ballencollig, Co. Cork. In 2002, Stu helped me design a wrestling stage in the back yard of my mother's new home in the country, There was a severe shortage of materials available to us in the area, but we made do with what was available, and came up with what essentially amounts to an outdoor version of his famous Dungeon. Thankfully, friends of mine who were better craftsmen than I all helped out, and the result was tremendous.
In the 2003, I was hired by Irish Whip Wrestling to be the head trainer at their new wrestling school in Dublin. The first class graduated on July 9th, 2004, making their debuts at an IWW show in Mount Temple, Dublin. That show was memorable not only for the accomplishment of seeing my students have their first matches, but it was also the first time I had the opportunity to work with Doug Williams, who is one of the best in the world.
That same week, I signed on with The Wrestling Channel to develop and host the world's first television wrestling news magazine. Broadcast to 24 countries in central Europe and worldwide on the web, "The Bagpipe Report TV" became TWC's primetime show, airing every week in the lead-in slot before WWE's Monday Night Raw with two repeats every weekend. Some of the terrific and controversial guests we had included Vince Russo, Harley Race, Burchill, D-Lo Brown, A.J. Styles Paul and Jim Cornette.
The first season of The Bagpipe Report wrapped up at the start of December, 2004. While I'd been planning to step back to look at my options at doing more in the ring, the decision was made for me when budget cutbacks prevented the production of any more episodes of the show. Between the shooting, cameras, editing, set and floor space, the show was very expensive to run on a station that is based on stock footage from the U.S. People still talk about the show, and it was a career highlight that I'll always value.
In January, 2005, I returned to Washington with my new wife Natina, and began working on the documentary I shot in Calgary in 2000. I am one of the last graduates of the legendary Dungeon from the Stu Hart era, and it means a great deal to me to have been one of his and his family's trusted friends. He was such a wonderful man, and his wife Helen was like a second mother to me. I have a page on the site about the film.
In the summer of 2005, I returned to Europe. I began wrestling for 3-Count Pro Wrestling, which is a promotion based in the North-East of England. I had a great run there, highlighted by winning the 2006 30-man Free For All match, which is basically England's version of the Royal Rumble, featuring wrestlers from every major promotion in England, Scotland and Wales. In April I enjoyed another career highlight when I worked with Morishima, Yone, Doug Williams, Stevie Lynn and Dragon Aisu in an international six-way heavyweight title match for the main event of the "NOAH Remorse" show in Billingham.
Around the same time that I began working regularly for 3CW in England, I opened my own promotion in Ireland. Celtic Pro Wrestling debuted its first class of graduates at Celtic Pro 1 in September 2005, five months after the launch of the Celtic Dungeon training camp in Dublin City. I would spend the two years between 2005 and 2007 working as a wrestler, indy promoter and trainer. I sold Celtic Pro and hung up my boots in April of 2007.
Before ending my run, however, I had one final match.
My first wrestling student, Mark Cosgrave, had been making rumblings about returning to the ring for one more run. He'd made a one-show appearance in the 2006 Celtic Rumble, where he made an extremely impressive showing, and soon after I left Celtic Pro he resurfaced with Adam Joyce as his manager. In June, an incident occurred when my wife Natina was at a Celtic Pro show to catch up with our good friend Sean O' Hanlon. Adam took it upon himself to say some very classless and deragatory things about Natina, and Natina, never one to let things go, confronted him. It quickly turned into a horrible incident where Mark Cosgrave dragged her into the ring and threatened to hit her.
I returned to Celtic Pro to confront Mark shortly thereafter to build the feud. On August 25th, 2007, I wrestled my final match in Ireland.
Having been involved with wrestling for over ten years now, I find it impossible to believe I won't continue to be involved in some form. But my passion for performing and storyline writing has many avenues I have yet to explore, so at this point in my life I've decided to also pursue interests. The Surviving The Dungeon documentary is nearly complete, and I hope that it will serve as an exclamation point on what I am proud to say has been a very enjoyable and successful career in pro wrestling.