“The Hardcore Giant” Ron Niemi is
controversial yet he loves wrestling as much as he loves his family. Ask anyone who has worked for him or run a show in the
same territory throughout Florida or met him in a bar after a show
(like reality personality Johnny Fairplay.) However you view Niemi you have to admit he has been successful at providing great
shows with some of the top talent across America. It was 2003 when Alan J. Wojcik and Niemi last did an
interview. With Niemi moving into Deep South Wrestling and now AWA/World-1 South, Mr. Wojcik felt it was time to conduct this
online interview. Hope you enjoy be warned Niemi pulls no punches no matter the topic.
J. Wojcik: Time to take a trip back to September 2003. IPW Hardcore ran a show during the Ybor City Florida Bike Fest. You
booked big names like Abdullah the Butcher, Kevin Sullivan, New Jack along with your normal roster. The next day you told
me via email that IPW was folding. What went wrong with IPW considering you were on the local UPN TV and getting good ratings?
Niemi: I was losing money hand over fist keeping IPW Hardcore Wrestling on UPN 44 along with keeping the WrestlePlex open
and running a pretty heavy schedule of shows. The sponsorship needed simply wasn’t there for an independent promotion
even getting the great ratings we were. Eventually I ran out of lines of credit and the bottom really dropped out with
that disaster in YborCity to the point I had to make the decision to shut down IPW.
J. Wojcik: What made you decide to throw your weight and knowledge behind Joe Price’s NWA Florida which had been running
in conjunction with IPW for years?
Niemi: Basically it was going to be a renamed version of IPW Hardcore Wrestling with Joe Price as the backer. What started
out as a great idea with a ton of support went down the tubes when it became apparent Joe had no clue of what he was doing,
had no financial resources and simply wouldn’t do any of the legwork to make a promotion successful. In hindsight
I swear to you he ran shows simply so he could book “friends” like Danny Doring and Steve Corino. If you
ask any of the boys around back then they will all tell you that we were pretty convinced Joe was in love with these two guys.
On the flipside it was cool having them around so often because they are both great guys and great talents, unfortunately
for them one of the ugliest men in wrestling pines for them 24 hours a day.
J. Wojcik: During that time you had a verbal and at one point a physical war with FIP and its owner Sal Hamaoui. Yet you later
worked with him through a DVD distribution deal. Talk about what seems to be a love/hate relationship with him.
Niemi: Sal and I are both extremely passionate about anything we are involved in and are also both hotheads who used to get
irrational on a regular basis back then instead of letting cooler heads prevail. MANY people involved in the FL indie
scene back then stirred the pot and figured to benefit if they kept us 2 at odds with each other. That lasted a couple
years but once we buried that hatchet we buried it for good and Sal is somebody I consider a friend of mine and somebody I
will be doing business with for a long time. He is still a fucking nutcase though; maybe that is why we get along so
J. Wojcik: In the summer of 2004 TNA Wrestling began filming Impact in Orlando and you worked Gorilla (backstage) for them. How
did the job come to you and talk about working for the promotion.
Niemi: Jimmy Hart pushed the powers that be in TNA to bring me on in the capacity of a manager or commentator. Quite
a few folks in power made sure to block that from happening but Jeff and Jerry Jarrett brought me on to handle the gorilla
position which was a great experience. The only reason I left was due to a scheduling conflict with the job I was stuck
working at the time to make ends meet. Fuck You Verifone!
J. Wojcik: You made headlines that summer for an altercation with Johnny “Fairplay” Dalton after a taping. Give your side
of what went down and did it cost you the TNA gig?
Niemi: The crew from TNA always gathered at the Orlando Ale House after the tapings and as luck would have it Fairplay and
Niemi seemed to have drank about double of what anybody else had considered consuming by the time rolled around. Drunk
shit talking turned into arguing and then that turned into pushing and shoving and the rest is history. Actually the
rest seems to depend on who you talk to and my version of the story is I didn’t lay a hand on the guy BUT I tried like
a mother fucker. Shark Boy seems to have another version but that is for another time and another place. Thank God my
buddy Jody Peterman also happens to be a great attorney because my life is a little easier without that Assault and Battery
Charge on my squeaky clean record.
J. Wojcik: In the summer of 2005 you stepped away from NWA Florida and the promotion has never been heard from again. Why
did this happen and what led to the creation of Pro Wrestling Warfare?
Niemi: Joe Price was making a ridiculous amount of enemies with his Championleather.com business and it was time to distance
myself from that mess. Everybody from CZW to Wildside to promotions in Europe and everybody in between had seemed to order belts, pay for the belts and then never hear from Joe
again. That business had nothing to do with NWA Florida but as you can imagine it was reflecting on me badly as people
considered Joe and myself partners. The reason it vanished after I left with my people is because like I said before
NWA Florida was basically just IPW revisited and Joe Price was the figurehead guy who “ran things” but in reality
J. Wojcik: In September 2005 you “got the band back together” with an IPW Hardcore Reunion show. Was it sparked
by the success of the ECW show that year or was it something you felt the fans and wrestlers wanted?
Niemi: We did get the idea from the ECW One Night Stand deal and I felt it was a huge success and the fans and boys really
seemed to appreciate it. The whole night was just one big Feel Good type of gig and I would like to do it again when
the time is right.
J. Wojcik: Since June of 2003 sixteen of the best cruiserweights have come to Florida for the Jeff Peterson Memorial Cup. What led to
its creation and were you surprised at the international talent that has been part of the event since like 2005 winner Chris
Sabin and 2006 winner Milano Collection AT?
Niemi: The Jeff Peterson Memorial Cup was and is meant to honor our buddy Jeff Peterson who we lost to cancer a few years
back. Jeff would be thrilled to know that such a great event was held in his name each year and that it has continued
to thrive and grow as time goes on. For some reason some folks involved in wrestling seem to want to make people believe
Jeff wasn’t a part of the Florida indie scene but the truth is he wrestled FAR more in Florida than he did anywhere else and he was like a little
brother to all of us. Jeff is missed in a major way.
J. Wojcik: In January 2005 you witnessed two dreams come true when Mike and Todd Shane (the recently released Gymini) signed
with WWE and Antonio Banks (MVP) eventually followed. Talk about what you feel it takes to be signed by WWE.
Niemi: I think the main thing it takes to be signed in the WWE is to have the size they want and to be marketable. It
is thrilling to watch the MVP become such a major player in the WWE and I am really proud of what he has accomplished and
he really only seems to be getting started. I don’t feel Mike and Todd Shane were given a fair shot in the WWE
but they never complain about their experience with Deep South Wrestling or the WWE and I hope to see them find their way
back there in the near future.
J. Wojcik: In 2005 you became involved with the WWE developmental Deep South Wrestling territory. What is your job title with
the outfit and are you enjoying living in Georgia?
Niemi: I was brought in by Bill Demott to handle commentary for Deep South Wrestling for when they eventually debuted on TV.
Jody Hamilton never seemed real high on me as a commentator and really seemed to settle on Nigel Sherrod and Bill Demott as
his announcing team. I did dark matches and occasionally did TV when Bill was involved in an angle or there was a reason
for him not being able to commentate. After about 6 months I felt the writing was on the wall and there was no chance
I was going to move up to TV which meant I wasn’t getting the exposure I needed with the WWE so I thanked Jody and Bill
for everything and have not returned.
J. Wojcik: While you have worked for DSW you saw first hand the transformations of the Shane Twins into the Gymini, Antonio
Banks into the MVP and “Uptown” Frankie Capone into Francisco Ciatso and now “Throwback” Frank Coverdale.
Talk about their development and how soon before Frankie is a WWE superstar?
Niemi: I never liked the Gymini gimmick and think Mike and Todd Shane would have worked just fine. I did like Simon
Dean as their manager but I still wasn’t high on that gimmick for them. I knew about the MVP gimmick long before
he was allowed to debut the character and I always loved it. Hassan has shown he got what it takes creatively to make
it in the WWE as that gimmick is all his as far as I am concerned the MVP idea is a huge reason he got his job. The
idea got him the job but now his performance in the ring is what will keep him on top of this business. I am excited
about the future of MVP. As far as Frankie I feel he has done everything he can to get a deal in the WWE and it didn’t
matter if it was as Frankie Capone, Frankie Ciatso or Frankie Coverdale they only seem to let him get so far. Frankie
has far more heart than most in this business but like the rest of us he can be his own worst enemy at times mentally.
I feel that if given a legit chance to shine he could be a great asset to the WWE as a wrestler, manager or referee but I
have a hard time seeing him take it to the next level when they have him doing two minute jobs each week in Deep South.
That’s hard to say as he is my brother but I am protective of those close to me and I don’t think he is being
given a legit shot.
J. Wojcik: Who are some of the other DSW wrestlers you think we will be seeing working on Raw/Smackdown or ECW in 2007?
Niemi: The ones I thought all had legit shots got fired. I cannot believe they never brought in High Impact with Traci
Taylor and I think if TNA doesn’t bring them in ASAP they are dropping the ball in a major way. Bradley Jay has
improved greatly since getting to Deep South and if he continues to do so I can see him getting a shot. Watch out for what I consider a new version of the
Samoan Swat Team as Afa Jr. and Sonny Siaki have formed a team and I can see these guys kicking some serious ass if given
the green light.
J. Wojcik: While you have been working for DSW some former IPW stars have grown to national names. Two of them being “the
Messiah of the Backbreaker” Roderick Strong and “the Marquee” Bruce Santee.
Niemi: Roderick is going to be a major star before all is said and done. I have no idea what TNA was thinking in regards
to him but their loss is everybody else’s gain and I am sure the WWE will be all over him in no time. Roderick
has been on fire for years now as far as I am concerned and was kicking ass in IPW Hardcore Wrestling and NWA Florida before
we started sending him to CZW and JAPW which led to Gabe (Sapolsky) bringing him into ROH and giving him the state he needed
to showcase his talents worldwide. The sky is the limit for Roderick and I will be watching his career closely.
Bruce Santee is one of the best big men in the business who simply needs an opportunity. I thought Bruce would have
got picked up by WWE by now as TNA used him on a regular basis in an enhancement role but never seemed to want to bring him
in as a regular. One of these days TNA is going to realize the assload of talent in both Florida and Georgia and start paying some
much needed attention to what is right under their noses. One person stands in the way of Bruce making it and that is
Bruce. If he can keep his head on straight he will make it in my honest opinion.
J. Wojcik: In March 2006 you and the legendary Lance Russell did commentary for the Legend of Wrestling PPV held in Hard Rock
Live. Which is harder calling action live or doing it in a studio and what was the Lance Russell experience like?
Niemi: I got to call the WWL PPV because of my mentor Jimmy Hart. This guy has done more for me than anybody else in
the business and he never expects anything in return. I just wish I would have known him sooner as he seems to realize
the potential in me and bends over backwards to get my shots like this. I always like calling matches live compared
to in the studio and working on that show with the legendary Lance Russell, Corey Macklin and one of my all time heroes Jim
Cornette was just a phenomenal experience. When it comes to Cornette I just tried to stay out of his way but it was
hard to not just sit there and pop for everything he did because I am such a huge fan of his. I hope to get to work
with those guys again and if I don’t I consider myself one of the luckiest guys in the business for having that one
J. Wojcik: This past summer you got involved with AWA/World-1 South. What is your current role with the group and how does
the Georgia wrestling landscape differ from Florida?
Niemi: I got involved because Jody Peterman has helped me so much in the past that I wanted to return the favor any way I
could. Jody was looking for some help with securing talent, with booking and wanted to use Frankie and myself as talent
on his shows. I liked the idea of all of that as the AWA/World-1 shows are really a great time with no politics whatsoever
going on and that was a big part of me getting onboard as I am really not all that interested in that stuff anymore.
It’s hard to compare anything to the Florida indie scene because there is an endless supply of top talent there but I feel we got one hell of
a crew with AWA/World-1 and it just seems to be getting better with each show. Jody is a class act and I love working
J. Wojcik: AWA/World 1 South ran in January with veterans like Tully Blanchard, Demolition Ax and Glacier wrestling with Roderick
Strong, Bruce Santee, Vordell Walker and others. Is this going be a normal AWA/WS1 show, veterans and younger wrestlers?
Niemi: I would look for less name/veteran types in the future and more up and coming indie talents like the ones you just
mentioned. Expect The Shane Brothers to be brought in shortly along with some other great talent.
J. Wojcik: Having been involved in Florida wrestling for years what do you think of the current landscape with Full Impact Pro seemingly the
number one outfit and other like AWF, ACW, SCW, D1PW and MPXW also running successfully?
Niemi: To an outsider FIP seems to be the only promotion doing anything but that has a lot to do with the fact that the other
promotions aren’t catering to the Internet type fanbase and they do very little to get any exposure outside of their
little areas they run. Richard Merritt from AWF is doing one hell of a job with his shows but like many others he has
a few horrible workers that if gone would improve his shows 100 fold. ACW seems to be running more and more but does
so very quietly mainly in bars on weekdays which means it don’t really have the look of a major promotion. SCW
is as invisible now as it was the day Chris Carson started it unfortunately for their workers or in some case fortunately
as most fans would shit all over some of his “top guys.” D1PW I honestly have no clue what that is and MXPW
I think is getting more pub because Andy Vitale is onboard and does a good job getting the word out. MXPW is now a stripped
down version of what it was trying to be in the beginning when they had money. See when they had money they didn’t
seem to want to have much to do with many Florida wrestlers but when the well ran dry those very same workers all of the sudden seemed to meet the
criteria to join their roster which is typical really. One promotion you didn’t mention that everybody should keep their
eyes on is Frank Goodman’s UXW. He has only run one show in Florida so far and has another one at the Central Florida
Fairgrounds scheduled on 2/24/07 and I think that is going to be a great show as it is LOADED. If they start running more they
will be a major force to be reckoned with. Currently FIP is hands down the promotion to work for in Florida and that won’t be changing
until Sal decides he is bored and is moving onto the next project, which might be around 2017.
J. Wojcik: Let’s close with a simple question. What is next for Ron Niemi in professional wrestling?
Niemi: I am having fun with wrestling now and my involvement is very limited. The second it stops being fun I am out
the door and onto the next project that is a good time. I am getting more bookings now due to not being a conflict of
interest with Florida and Georgia promoters so I am sure you will see me from time to time at places like FIP, AWF and UXW in Florida and
of course I will be a mainstay on the AWA/World-1 shows for some time to come. By the way everybody can find me on Myspace.com