AS I SEE IT
by: Bob Magee
This week, AS I SEE IT welcomes Wrestle-Central.com, Wrestling Outlawz,
Wrestling Unleashed, and Da Smackdown News, bringing the total of sites and newsletters
carrying AS I SEE IT to 45.
Wrestling can be a dirty business. Really dirty.
Some of you have witnessed the situation that has occurred with the New Jersey affiliate of the NWA in late December; as it's been played out online and elsewhere.
In late December, Dennis Coralluzzo, longtime NWA-NJ promoter and NWA Board member was removed from the NWA Board, due in part (with an emphasis on "in part") to a debt, depending on who is doing the reporting somewhere in the vicinity of $6,000.
It had nothing to do with "his health", as was claimed this past week by Philadelphia Daily News writer Michael Tearson. It had nothing to do with the supposed actions of Donnie Bucci (NWA-NJ and now Sports Entertainment Group booker) at a show last year as some people online apparently believe.
It had to do with a combination of factors relating to personal conduct and professional ethics that, over the years, added up. In the judgement of Gino Moore, Fred "Fred Richards" Rubenstein, and Joe "Dapper Johnny Falco" Panzarino, the sum of those factors apparently added up in December 1999 to a total that was too high for too long a period of time; causing them to relieve Dennis of his responsibilities with the company, and to reorganize under the Sports Entertainment Group corporate banner.
I've known Dennis Coralluzzo for about 10 years. Many of you who follow independent wrestling in the northeastern United States know about the rivalry between Coralluzzo and first, Tri-State Wrestling Alliance promoter Joel Goodhart...then, later, ECW promoters Tod Gordon and Paul Heyman.
It wasn't a pretty thing. Promotional wars never are. Even if they're one-sided, as this particular series of promotional wars were.
This war started out of a disagreement over, of all things, Goodhart's workers allegedly showing up Coralluzzo's workers at a charity fundraiser for a Philadelphia wrestling fan suffering from a major illness. Things went downhill from there....
During this promotional war, I personally witnessed physical harassment of female rival company employees in a public bar, heard Dennis Coraluzzo bragging contemptuously toward his then-rival Goodhart that "I taught Joel Goodhart everything he knows about skimming"; and became aware of tapes of carefully selected footage being sent to schools that ECW was seeking for shows, in order to cost them these venues.
Any of you who are longtime followers of professional wrestling can come up with plenty of examples of promotional wars that are as bad or worse than this... promotional wars in Atlanta, in Tennessee, in Texas.
But this current promotional war that is now beginning between Dennis Coralluzzo and those running the new SEG organization will be seen as worse in the minds of some; because of the death of kayfabe and because of the ability of the Internet to spread news and rumors with lightning speed.
The first shots were fired by Howard Brody when he criticized Donnie Bucci for an incident that occurred at a NWA-NJ show in his syndicated "Notes From the President" column. Bucci fired back in a column that appears on 1wrestling.com and elsewhere. After Dennis Coralluzzo was removed, fans accused Bucci online of being responsible for the removal. Bucci replied in turn that he had nothing to do with it, and hinted at Dennis having "other problems", which he diplomatically chose not to discuss.
Then, the first of the directly involved parties went public. Dennis Coralluzzo went to Georgianne Makropoulos of the Wrestling Chatterbox and 1wrestling.com to air his side of the story.
Something has to be said. Georgianne's loyalty toward friends is admirable. On more than one occasion, she's shown it even when it might not have been popular, such as her defense of Bret Hart after Montreal. It earned her vulgar verbal abuse from Vince Russo on the online show that the WWF had at the time. She's offered on at least one other occasion to do it behalf of a person who was victimized by the promoter by whom they were employed. So you have to view what is said below through that prism.
Georgie interviewed Coralluzzo on 1/12/2000. Here are some excerpts from that interview:
Georgianne Makropoulos: Dennis, please tell us what happened with you leaving the NWA?
Dennis Coralluzzo: Back in October, they (NWA) had their 51st Anniversary Show. I was unable to attend because I was preparing for my 4th Annual Eddie Gilbert Tribute Show and I didn't have the time to take 4 or 5 days off to go to North Carolina. So I sent my son Marc down (who is a member). He went down with Fred Rubenstein who is suppose to be an advisor for the Board for the NWA.
While there, they struck up a deal where I would pay them back for Nagawa (presumably he meant Ogawa) coming to the US, money owed for him, and we worked out an arrangement. The arrangement was that each show that I done after that, I would give the money to Fred and he would send the money to the NWA, therefore we would have a record. And he was acting on my behalf, as he is the one who made the deal. Well, what happen was in the middle of all that, I was in the process of my wife filing divorce from me (which that problem should be resolved very soon, but that's neither here nor there).
At the time I was mentally devastated from it, and when we had the shows, I just completely forgot about it and Fred didn't ask me which I later found out, he was deliberately not asking me for the money, because he had a master plan in which they would all screw me. Well, come December I get a letter from Brody stating that I had to pay the whole amount by the end of December, if not they would take action against me.
I called Fred Rubenstein told him, I would start sending him money, I had forgotten because of the problems I was having. It was an oversight. He said he would take care of it, which later I found out he never did, because part of his plan was to pull Dapper Johnny and Gino Moore from our group and start their own group.
Well, what had happened I received a fax on Christmas Eve at 1:30 am, then I received a letter New Year's Day telling me that I was out of the NWA. On December 28th my Mom died, timing kind of sucked, they could have waited. What had happened was, my Mom's viewing was January 2nd, on a Sunday night and the funeral was January 3rd....
....Well they all came to my Mom's viewing and the next morning they call me on a three way and told me that they were kicking me out of the group and they were starting their own company because I have lost control, lost my edge, that I let Donnie B do what he wanted to do in the locker room, because Donnie was my booker. And it cost them sponsors, they totally denigrated and knocked Donnie B. And Gino Moore later verified this to Donnie B in a phone conversation with the three of us. Then that night they hired him as their booker.
To make matters worse, just the timing sucked. What they did to me is the worst they could do to anybody. One of the group members started to get into my personal life, but I put a quick end to that. Still problems continue at their end, while I'm sitting back not doing nothing to anybody. I've been promoting 15 years before them, and I will be promoting 15 years after them.
I'm just trying to get my own thing started again, and I'm not interfering with them. Someone already fed a story to the Daily News -Michael Tearson that I'm out of the wrestling business because of health reasons.
There's nothing wrong with my health, physically or mentally. And that better be retracted.
Can I quote something without making trouble for you?
(Coralluzzo then made a remark that was racist and homophobic to the point I won't quote it. You'll have to read it in the original column).
The interview resumes:
"GM: Will you be running shows with your son Marc?
DC: Marc is going to be running NWA 2000 and I will be forming my own new company. I just got word that I might have a big backer for it. Either way, with or without the backer, we are going to continue running shows in New Jersey. I have more allies now because of the screwjob I got, than I had before.
Everyone thinks I'm out of New Jersey and when I was in New Jersey, no one came into the state because they had respect for me. But now everyone is trying to come in here, but I'm NOT out of here. And I'll be back on top again and things will be status quo.
GM: You won't be NWA anymore, is that correct?
DC: No, I can't be NWA. They talked about letting me back in the group but I really don't care if I get back or not. Another thing that happened was, during the period my Mom died and was buried, Marc went on the Internet ripping Brody for throwing me out of the NWA.
And the NWA has a confidentiality agreement where they are not allowed to talk about other members. So what happens Fred (the Brody shill, who's in Brody's pocket) went and tried to get a referendum form, where they would have a vote to have Marc also thrown out of the NWA for violating that rule.
But Marc turned around and proved to them he didn't violate the rule because Howard Brody prior to that (maybe a week before) went on the Internet while I was still a member and blasted me and Donnie B, Bill Behrens and Dave Republic.
Then Donnie B threatened Howard Brody for talking about him. Brody tried to say it was a work, but anytime he gets snagged on something, and gets heat on something it always turns out to be a work. So Marc proved that if they were going to throw him out, they had to throw Brody out, so then they backpaddle out of it.
So now he has Rick O'Brien (I haven't talked to Rick, so I shouldn't say nothing about him) who I always thought was an independent thinking type person, but it seems now that he'll do anything Rubenstein wants him to do. He supposedly gave them permission to run in New Jersey and I don't know how he can give permission to them, when they aren't even NWA members.
So they are saying Rick O'Brien is running New Jersey, when in fact it's Rubenstein and his gang. SEG is owned by Gino Moore but their all just hanging on his coattails. Down the line they will probably screw him too."
I can say to readers that I was aware for at least a month that the potential existed for Coralluzzo to be removed from the NWA Board, as well as other elements of what followed. I was asked to keep that information in confidence, so as to allow for the process to continue to its conclusion. I honored that confidence.
Gino Moore, Fred Rubenstein, and Joe Panzarino of SEG then replied to Coralluzzo's comments on January 13th, in a press release that has appeared on various websites. Excerpts follow:
"There is no ill will or bad wishes in our hearts towards Dennis Coralluzzo. We cannot understand why Dennis has chosen to soil the internet with malicious lies and attacks against us. However, those of us who know Dennis realize that this is consistent with his proven unscrupulous conduct. Dennis Coralluzzo has spent his life blaming others for his many failures - both personal and professional.
We have heard and seen Mr. Coralluzzo deceive and ridicule his friends. We have witnessed Dennis espouse racism and bigotry against some of his closest allies and business associates. Dennis has a dangerous and perverse passion for exploiting and abusing women. If anyone was ever qualified to be the poster child for sexual harassment, certainly Dennis Coralluzzo hits the mark."
Gino Moore then spoke individually: "On January 4, 2000, Joe Panzarino, Fred Rubenstein and me made a conference call to Dennis to schedule an appointment so we could advise him of our decision face-to-face. Dennis refused our request and demanded we tell him immediately. We did. During his response he said, without a twinge of emotion or regret, that if Donnie Bucci was a problem, he would fire Donnie at once and assume the booker position himself. I told this to Donnie in a conference call with Dennis on-the-line. We hired Donnie because of his professionalism. Donnie knows our policies and will conduct himself in accordance with the directives of SEG."
Joe ("Dapper Johnny Falco") Panzarino: "What I have come to know about Dennis Coralluzzo is that he is a grand master at backstabbing, misappropriating other peoples money, and double and triple billing his friends for insurance (that might not even exist) and other commodities. Dennis lies with ease and has never shown remorse. Mr. Coralluzzo has absolutely no respect for the feelings or dignity of those who were the most loyal to him.
Many of you who read this are the very same people who cringe at the mention of Dennis name. Many of you will remember the bounced checks and promises of paydays that never materialized. I cannot begin to tell you how much money Dennis Coralluzzo has cost Gino, Fred, me and the wrestlers and support personnel by losing venues for the promotion due to his (Dennis) failure to exercise self control and monitor the shows. Dennis is the type of man a father prays that his daughter never brings home."
Fred ("Fred Richards") Rubenstein: "I am not going to vilify Dennis Coralluzzo. Dennis and I had a lot of good times and I will remember them fondly. I do not expect Dennis to be happy about our leaving the nest to go it on our own. However, we had reached irreconcilable business differences and forming our own promotion was the only mature decision.
I will not break the promise of confidentiality I made when elected consultant by the NWAs Board of Directors. I believe a strong and united NWA is critical to the survival of independent wrestling. It is wrong to send out internet hogwash attacking the President of any organization you might belong to. Adults address such disputes at the organizations meetings; children turn to electronic bulletin boards or the walls of a public bathroom. Such juvenile conduct shows reckless disregard for the economic survival of Brother and Sister members.
If a member of an organization turns renegade and discloses internal affairs, then I enthusiastically support a rule or bylaw that provides for their censure or expulsion. It is an honor to serve as consultant to the NWA Board and I have the greatest respect and admiration for every member of the National Wrestling Alliance."
"SEG cannot ignore Dennis Coralluzzos barbaric assault upon the integrity of Promoters Rick and Carlina OBrien. Mr. OBrien and his wife had a dream and have built their business from the ground up in the most competitive section of our country - New York City. They did it all with their own money; there was no "backer" or "money-mark." We are honored to join hands with the OBriens in the best interests of the business we all love. SEG believes that the only reason Mr. Coralluzzo chooses to condemn Rick and Carlina OBrien is because his (Dennis) scheme that sabotaged one of Ricks shows backfired....
....The business world is not a club nor a fraternity. It is a serious place where substantial monies can be lost if deadlines are ignored. The President of a company has a fiduciary (legal) responsibility to act when directed to do so by a vote of a Board of Directors. She (or he) has no discretion to overrule or delay the edict of the controlling Board. It was an unfortunate coincidence that Dennis had a loss at the very same time his long overdue payment had to be made. However, the responsibility to pay was his alone and you should have zero tolerance for his feeble attempts to pawn blame off on others - Dennis is the one who ran up the debt.
In Dennis own confession made over the internet, this money had been owed for close to eighteen months. How can any person of good conscience excuse Dennis failing to even acknowledge his debt to a former employee who had been paying interest on a consumer loan since mid-1998? We were eyewitnesses as Dennis stood over the stretcher carrying a fallen worker in March of 1999 in Toms River, NJ.
Dennis assured this young hero that his medical bills would be covered by his (Dennis) insurance - insurance that Dennis knew did not exist. That young man was harassed by bill collectors and threatened with a law suit for nonpayment. Dennis Coralluzzo has yet to make any attempt to pay this bill and it is obvious he could care less about this gentlemans credit rating. While Dennis Coralluzzo is a lot of things - he is not a victim.
SEG wishes Dennis Coralluzzo the best that life can offer...."
I can tell readers that there are large elements of what is said above that is correct, either through personal observation, or through the personal observations of people I trust. There are other, smaller, portions of what Moore, Rubenstein and Panzarino stated above about which I have limited or no knowledge.
I have to say that I've only had one dealing with Rick and Carlina O'Brien, in their endorsement of the Wrestling Fans Against Censorship campaign started by PWBTS. From that limited contact, O'Brien struck me as someone that had a love of wrestling, and as someone that understood the meaning of the word business.
Based on personal observation of the scene that has surrounded the NWA-NJ promotion, those qualities will be badly needed. Moore, Rubenstein, and Panzarino will benefit from O'Brien's role until they receive approval on their own as the NWA representative promotion from New Jersey.
During the upcoming year, SEG head Gino Moore has obtained a contract to run weekly wrestling shows in Wildwood this summer. Shows were run there the previous two summers by Independent Superstars of Professional Wrestling promoter Tommy Fierro.
Joe Panzarino had been responsible for selling and organizing numerous wrestling venues for NWA-NJ, and presumably will continue to do so in the future for SEG.
Fred Rubenstein will serve as in advisory and legal capacity. Hopefully, those of us in the Northeast will still get to harass "Fred The Ref" once in awhile, too, when we come to shows.
Many of you will read this article and form your own opinions as to which parties are being truthful. No one in this whole situation is a saint. Real human beings aren't. Most of us that are adults know that.
But let this story give all of you an idea of what wrestling as a business can be like. Wrestling's dark side is full of imperfect people, of independent promoters who do very stupid, selfish things... things that hurt those dedicated men and women who live and breath this business for $10, $20, $50 payoffs...if they get paid at all. Those types of promoters use people personally, sexually, and any other way they can just because they can.
But while it's important to understand promoters like that DO exist, it's equally important to understand that they aren't the ONLY types of promoters that exist. There are independent promoters like Jim Kettner of the ECWA, Ed Zohn of LAW and other promotions, Gary Walter of the Pennsylvania based FWA, Les Thatcher of the Heartland Wrestling Association, and others who love the business and treat their workers with the respect they're due. They exist, too.
Perhaps this column will make you stop and think about the reality behind the fantasy you see each time you go to an independent show. Perhaps it'll make you understand what the worker you see on TV or at a major arena had to go through to get there.
Until next time...
(If you have comments or questions, I can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org)