“That match showed to us that we could hang with legit the best tag team in the business at the time and have an awesome match. I think that’s where we really won over people. I feel like a lot of people didn’t think we would do well with a T.V. caliber team but we knocked it out of the park with them and the coolest part was when they showed us absolute respect after the match and the crowd gave us a standing ovation.”
I’m not going to lie, there are a few wrestlers that I am legit terrified of. Steve Mack is definitely high up on this list. Along with his partner Dan Maff, Steve Mack commands an intimidating presence and is someone I would hate to get into a fight with. Luckily, I didn’t get into a fight with Steve (nor do I plan to) but I did get the opportunity to interview him- an opportunity I will forever be privileged to have.
After speaking with Steve for three hours, I can honestly say that Steve Mack is one of the coolest persons I have ever met in my life. Within minutes I felt like I were talking to a friend rather than conducting an interview. He is definitely not one to shy away from expressing his thoughts and opinions. Steve went into a lot of detail as he talked about his humble beginnings, to his time in ROH and his most recent accomplishments. But the most exciting parts about this interview is when he talks about the business itself. There is just a passion that resonates with his words and the way he expresses himself.
After a while, I just sat back and let Steve talk. And what a talker he is! This is hands down the most in-depth interview I have ever conducted and I am honored to share this with the rest of the world.
Well Steve, thanks for taking the time to do this interview. There is so much we can talk about given your tenure in the business. I’ll be honest, I have no idea where to even begin. So how about you tell our readers a little bit about yourself to get things started.
I grew up in Bay Ridge Brooklyn. Although that was my home, I had family all over so I spent a lot of time in the Bed Stuy area as well as the Coney Island Area. I loved pro wrestling from the time I was about 3. I watched it all the time with my Uncle and Grandfather. My cousin, Low Ki, lived a few blocks away from me so we spent a lot of time together in school and outside. We shared a lot of the same friends and our one friend, Mace Mendoza, and his friend, Lowlife Louie Ramos, invited us one day to come to this church in Brooklyn where there was a ring set up and they used to rent it out for their public access show, Insane World Wrestling. We went back in February of 1997 and started out path in pro wrestling together.
That is the most amazing story I have ever heard! A wrestling ring in a church, that has to be a first. So you mentioned that you have been watching wrestling from the age of 3, what is your earliest memory?
I can honestly say my career has had all kinds of amazing things happen in it (laughs). My earliest memory was watching the Wild Samoans, Afa and Sika, destroy jobbers and Andre The Giant taking on three guys for the WWF(E). Then once I saw Hulk Hogan, I was instantly hooked. It was an awesome time to be a fan.
I started watching wrestling during the Attitude Era. So I have to ask, for you, which was better, the Attitude Era or the 80s Golden Era? It’s an ongoing debate online.
Each has its own merits as to which one was better than the other but when you consider the luxury of the fans not knowing about the magic, the golden era wins because you had to work smarter to win the fans over. That’s why they’re so many workers from that era still working. The Attitude Era was great but they had to kill each other to keep up and do better than last week’s violence. I love me some Stone Cold and The Rock but Macho Man and Hogan have my heart (laughs).
Hey, to each his own, I totally get where you’re coming from. So having started in ’97, you would have witnessed the growth and expansion of indy wrestling over the years. How much has the business changed since then? Would you say it’s easier to get your name out there now?Also, how much has the style evolved since then?
It’s incredibly easy to get your name out now between Facebook, Twitter and Youtube. When Ki and I started, we still had to make VHS demo tapes and had to send them out and wait for a response, maybe. Now a kid 5 minutes into the biz can post an edited video highlight reel and be a star before his first match. When Da Hit Squad got famous, we did it with zero social media. It was all tape trading and word of mouth.
So much has changed about the business now it’s almost a completely different monster from when I started. Back then you rarely socialized with the fans. If you did it was in private. Very few fans were allowed in. Now the fans are practically allowed in the back. People used to get kicked out of the building if they even looked at the locker room. I feel like now people go back there to take pics with the boys and the wrestlers don’t even get bothered by it. It’s a way different time
Is that a change you welcome? What are your thoughts on letting fans in on the business?
Fans knew about kayfabe before I got into the biz so there’s nothing I could do about that. I don’t like them in the back. You go to a broadway play, are you allowed access to the dressing rooms? No, of course not. There are a lot of various ways to communicate with your favorite wrestler now. Hit them up that way. When they are at a show, give them their privacy and respect. Too many fans want to know what’s going on so they can brag to their friends. It doesn’t make you part of the show. It just makes you lucky that someone didn’t hear you give spoilers and kill you for doing so.
I agree completely. Now before I go ahead, I just want to go back to your training. Who were you trained by and was it anything like you expected?
I met Homicide in September of ‘97 and after talking to him and working with him, he took Ki and I under his wing and showed us how to do things the right way. I played football in high school the year before so the training really wasn’t as hard for me as it was for others. I was kinda ready for it. But if it wasn’t for that, I don’t know if I would’ve been able to complete it. I was also trained by Laithon Wilkerson who went by the name of The Tower Of Torture. He was about 6’7″ and weighed about 350 lbs but could move like a light heavyweight half his size. Between the two of them, I spent thousands of hours learning at our gym, the Doghouse Wrestling Academy in Brooklyn.
Could you expand on ‘the right way’? What are some tips you picked up from Homicide that really made a difference to your work in the ring?
Homicide stressed footwork. You could learn how to bump and jump off the top rope but if you don’t have good footwork, you will always be stumbling and look lost in the ring. Especially for someone my size. If you don’t have that good foot work, it’s really easy for people to think you’re an amateur who doesn’t belong. He also taught us how to stay tough. In the ring, anything can go wrong and if you aren’t ready, it can cost you a lot.
By ‘stay tough’ do you mean looking out for an opponent who might be stiff or learning to protect yourself from a dangerous worker?
Yes exactly. If Sexy Star taught us anything, it’s that anyone can shoot on you at any given moment. If you dont know what to expect, you’ll get eaten up. Even tho times are different and you shouldn’t expect to be shot on, anyone can get upset and try to take it out on you if they think they can. So you just have to know how to protect yourself.
I’m glad you brought up that incident. Your thoughts on that Sexy Star shoot? I know the obvious response is “it’s bullshit” but to think that in 2017 shit like that still happens, it makes you wonder what the hell is wrong with this business sometimes.
The thing is, while I’m not taking any sides and it is bullshit to shoot on anyone in the ring, there is always three sides to any story. Sexy Star’s side, Rosemary’s side and the truth. We still are not sure what caused Star to flip out. Rosemary, from what I hear is a cool person and didn’t deserve to get shot on. Everyone has a bad day. It’s how you handle the stress that proves what kind of person you are. Sexy Star failed on Saturday. She might’ve been a saint the rest of her life but now her career is going to suffer because of this. It’s a learning experience, however not just for her but for everyone in the biz. Shows us all what happens when you can’t control your emotions and the consequences that follow
Well said. The full story will eventually be released one day and I’m really interested to hear what actually happened. Just out of curiosity, has anyone ever tried to take liberties with you in the ring? I’ll find it very hard to believe that someone will look at a man your size and try to make a name for themselves at your expense.
(laughs) People have tried but usually a slap calms them down. It’s more common however for people to get so hyped up that they are working with me that they think they have to knock me out with every shot. I usually give two warnings first. But if there’s a third, I let them know just how much they messed up (laughs)
(laughs) Well I’d hate to be on the receiving end of the first warning shot, much less for the third. So we’ve talked at great length about a bunch of stuff- let’s get into the wrestling side of things. Jersey All Pro Wrestling. We can’t talk about Monsta Mack or Da Hit Squad without talking about JAPW. How instrumental was that promotion in your development as a worker?
Jersey All Pro Wrestling is home. No matter where or who I work for, I will always represent JAPW. Thats where I got my start and where I will make my end when the time comes. I met Maff there and we started a terror spree that made the whole world take notice of this little bingo hall in Bayonne, NJ. If not for JAPW, it would’ve been a much different northeast pro wrestling scene. Who knows if Ring Of Honor got started without JAPW. Fat Frank gave us all an opportunity and we took the ball and never stopped running. As I start to transition my way to the back, the one thing I preach is opportunity simply because that gave us the world and I want Frank’s legacy to live on and do the same for the young wrestlers of today. There is no other company I love more than JAPW.
You also mentioned Ring of Honor. Da Hit Squad was a part of the early days of ROH. What I liked about you guys’ (yourself, Maff, Homicide) character work, was that it was just something different. It felt real. You guys brought the street cred to ROH, so to speak. Was that done intentionally? Talk about your time in ROH and what led to Da Hit Squad’s sudden disappearance?
With us we wanted you to believe in everything that we did. All of us being fans of that Golden Era where you believed what you saw helped mold us into what we wanted to present to the fans that came to see us. Add to that, the fact that we all loved Japanese Strong Style and how it was presented as a sport and we did our best to bring something different to the table. That’s why ROH worked. We weren’t MMA fighters but you knew if anyone of us got into a fight that we could all handle ourselves very well. ROH was fun for the most part. It was cool in that we were changing the business with ROH. Whether for the good or bad, we all left our mark because if the work we did in ROH and it showed how much of a mark in the generations that followed us. Definitely a cool feeling when someone like a Zack Sabre Jr asks me for a pic because they grew up watching what I did in ROH back in 2002. As for why things came to a sudden stop, it was a culmination of things. First I got hurt with a fractured foot. With that, I knew between Maff and I, Gabe had started to favor Maff more. So I rushed back because I was afraid of losing my spot. By the time I got back, not sure if it was more on Gabe or Maff, but it was decided to break up Da Hit Squad to give Maff a singles run. I didn’t help my cause because I wasn’t one to keep my thoughts and opinions to myself and that all led to me being fired. I tried to get back in but Gabe was not interested. I would’ve liked to have it end differently but that’s the way it went down.
As you mentioned it, I do remember that storyline. Didn’t know it was based on a real life scenario. What is your relationship with Gabe like today?
Today we both have been able to talk and he shouted us out on Twitter when we wrestled War Machine at Beyond Wrestling which I thought was really cool. I popped when I saw his pic sitting behind Triple H backstage SummerSlam weekend. We have been able to talk about wrestling and laugh at a bunch of things. It’s been refreshing.
I’m definitely glad to hear that. Now like I said, there is so much we can talk about. For this interview, I really want to focus on what has been, in my opinion, a career resurgence for you and Maff over the last two or three years. You guys have been bigger, badder and better than ever. Am I wrong in saying that Beyond Wrestling helped re-launched your careers?
Without a doubt Beyond helped make Da Hit Squad cool again. We went into into it knowing that we had to compete at a high level because the talent they used were hungry lions. Not only did we do that but we evolved our work. We started working smarter as well as bring a bigger presence in the ring. But the secret to our return being as crazy as it has been is the fans. They are right on the ring and you hear everything. We never wanted to let them down. We made sure to bring it every time we were in a Beyond ring. In return, whenever we needed their love in the ring, they would show it and keep us in the match by cheering for us. It’s crazy to explain but working there is like nowhere else.
I know you said it’s crazy to explain but how can you best describe that environment? It’s such an interactive crowd as they are literally ringside. Also, do you ever get scared that you might accidentally hurt a fan?
It’s legit the closest thing to a rock concert environment as you can get. If you get them rockin n rollin with you, it’s almost as if you can feel the wave of love from them in the ring. I’ve kicked a fan or two but again because of how Homicide trained us with foot work, I do my best to make sure it’s not a full force foot hitting them. Anything is possible but you become hypersensitive to your environment.
Great description, I can feel the energy just by reading it. And well, when the action is that close, I guess those are the risks you take (laughs). Let’s talk about your accomplishments in Beyond. You and Maff won the Tournament For Tomorrow 4. A very emotional victory, how did it feel?
It was incredibly emotional because up til that point, even though the fans were loving us, I still felt like we had something to prove to everyone. When we were in the last 10-15 minutes of the match, it came down to Da Hit Squad and our natural rivals, EYFBO. We bring out the best in Mike and Angel and they bring out the best in us like not too many before. We love those two. We went to war and every shot had extra emphasis in it. It was brutal. But that match cemented our legacy as well as elevated EYFBO as our eventual successors. How could it get any better than that?
I’m really happy you brought up EYFBO because my next question pertains to your series of matches with them. Great matches, I’ve enjoyed every single one of them. How is it that you guys have such amazing chemistry? What exactly makes some wrestlers gel so well and others not so much? Also how did it feel being, I guess, the leaders of the match given your experience? Briefly walk me through basically how the matches were put together in terms of tweaking ideas and that sort of thing. Who had more input or was it 50/50, that sort of thing
With them, they were huge Da Hit Squad fans before they got into wrestling. That and they all came from the same hoods and situations as us. We knew they had the same hunger and desire to be the best. We understood each other. Made it easy to communicate. When you have that good verbal communication with someone, it makes calling things easy. For me it’s usually a matter of where do we want to go. What story do we want the fans to see when they walk away from this. I’m usually good at placement. Maff is great with emotional sentiment. With younger guys we place their signature stuff and fill in the blanks out there. At first with EYFBO it was all us in charge. As trust and time built up, we are more confident and comfortable with them taking the wheel.
Well that’s a testimony to the ability of those two. Really glad to see them on a larger platform these days. You also got to work with Ciampa and Gargano. Thoughts on that match? I remember the crowd being electric for it.
I am very happy for the run Mike and Angel are having right now. With DIY, I remember that there was a lot of buzz going around over if things were going to get crazy or not since Ciampa was a little trigger happy and Da Hit Squad was Da Hit Squad (laughs). Honestly, it continued our momentum after the TFT4 win and began our year on such a high note. That match showed to us that we could hang with legit the best tag team in the business at the time and have an awesome match. I think that’s where we really won over people. I feel like a lot of people didn’t think we would do well with a T.V. caliber team but we knocked it out of the park with them and the coolest part was when they showed us absolute respect after the match and the crowd gave us a standing ovation
Well I like to think Da Hit Squad was already made before that match, but it was a fantastic match. Outside of Beyond and Da Hit Squad, you teamed with Kyle The Beast in Game Changer Wrestling. Your thoughts on teaming with Kyle? I think he’s such an underrated talent.
We were made but that was back in 2000. It was now 15 years later and we had to reclaim our member into the cool kids club (laughs). Kyle is one of my favorite people that I have ever met. So humble and insanely talented. He reminds me of a young Maff. Big and quick and a heavy hitter. The difference is Kyle can do moonsaults and 450s with ease. Super agile and athletic. His potential is limitless to me. He’s also a super tough guy. You could hit him with a truck and the truck would say ouch. I loved being a part of the Beast Squad with him because it let me do what I love to do, mentor someone who I know will take advantage of what I showed him and put it to good use. Since we have stopped teaming, his stock has only elevated. I really think he needs to get to T.V. and absorb what the veterans on that level can show him. If he does, hes will be on a whole other level than anyone else I know
Shout out to Kyle The Beast if he is reading this! (I hope he is). And before we wrap up, talk about winning the CZW tag titles. You also got to bring the EYFBO matches to the Combat Zone. Your thoughts on everything surrounding your recent involvement in CZW?
When it comes to goals in pro wrestling, for me there are very few left. Going to Europe and back to Japan, eating catering backstage at MSG and winning the ROH and CZW Tag Titles. Winning the CZW titles brought more validation to us in that it showed that a company believed in us that we can carry their titles with respect. With us winning those titles, it opened us to a new fanbase and gave us a chance to be part of a Filsinger Card set which was super cool to me. While we were champions, it was like a resurgence took place in the CZW Tag Title scene as EYFBO, Scarlet And Graves, The Dub Boys and The Crist Brothers all came in around the same time. It was kinda cool to see. I just felt bad because while I was dedicated to CZW, Maff had commitments at Wrestle Pro that caused him to miss a few shows. I feel like we would’ve had a longer run if he would’ve been able to not miss as many shows but whatever we did get, I was appreciative for because DJ Hyde and CZW has always shown me love. I was also happy to be able to give the rub to EYFBO by having them take the titles from us. It’s a give and take in this biz and this was our turn to give back to them for them giving to us with the TFT4 win.
Very insightful and what a show of respect. Steve, my final question, what can we expect from you and DHS for rest of 2017 as well as the near future?
Well as far as Da Hit Squad goes, I’m not 100% sure what is left for us. I would definitely like one more huge match up in Beyond, maybe a rematch with War Machine. I definitely have a dream match I’d like to get for JAPW in mind. As far as outside of that, I have a time frame for when I want to step away from the ring full time. I don’t want to say retire because we all know wrestlers don’t retire but after twenty plus years in the ring, I know it’s only a matter of time before my body officially retires without giving me a heads up (laughs). I would love to complete my goals but if for whatever reason none of what’s left happens, I am more than comfortable with all that I have accomplished in pro wrestling. I am a short, fat hispanic guy from Brooklyn who got paid to travel the world and meet the most interesting of people. I’ve been in a movie, a ppv, magazines, newspaper and tv shows all because of pro wrestling. If that isn’t someone who has been fortunate, I don’t know what is. Just know that I feel like I overachieved in life. I never thought I would amount to much of anything growing up. I did ok for myself.
Very touching words. Steve, it was an absolute pleasure talking to you. Before I officially end this, is there anything you’d like to plug?
Well you can catch me on my Facebook under Steve Mack and my Twitter and Instagram. Also for any of the Beyond Wrestling stuff we talked about, you can subscribe to Beyond Demand As well as CZWrestling.com to see any of the CZW matches on their CZW Studios account. October 21st JAPW returns to the Rahway Rec Center with Uprising. Go to JAPW.net for info and tickets. Also you can catch me every Sunday at 12 noon on either JAPW or Modtrom Youtube channels hosting JAPW WorldWide. Thank you for having me. It’s been a blast. Now I’m going to play some Sonic Mania on my PS4 (laughs)
(laughs) Awesome stuff. Once again Steve, thank you so much for taking the time to do this. I wish you all the best in your career as well as personal life. I really hope you get to achieve all your goals.