AS I SEE IT - 4/08/2002:
A "Hero of the Heart" . . .and a Special Moment
Seldom am I happier to go to an independent show than I was on April 6th.
The lineup wasn't a blow-away lineup....it was pretty much a typical lineup for the promotion.
There weren't any new workers I hadn't seen before, and was anticipating seeing like I had the month before...and there weren't any ***** matches on it as there had been at the promotion's show the month before.
Still, I came home very, very happy that I was there.
The reason was 19 year old US independent wrestler, Jeff Peterson, who has fought a 2 year battle with lymphoma, a battle he has apparently won.
For those of you who may not recall my previous columns on him, Jeff regularly worked for his uncle Jim Kettner, promoter of the Delaware-based ECWA since March 21, 1998, and had worked in the past for the now-defunct Pennsylvania Championship Wrestling, IPW-Hardcore Wrestling in Florida, and California's All-Pro Wrestling.
Peterson was trained by Lance "Simon" Diamond and Too Cold Scorpio at the Wrestletech wrestling school. Peterson wrestled in the 1999 and 2000 ECWA Super 8 tournaments, losing in 2000 to Jet Jaguar. Peterson has worked with such other independent mainstays as Reckless Youth, Christopher Daniels, Jimi V, Chan Hill, as well as Florida's OG Scarface and Frankie Capone.
Back in the April 21, 2000 AS I SEE IT, I told a story about Jeff:
"My favorite thought on Jeff Peterson comes from one night last year at an ECWA show down at their homebase of St. Matthew's in Newport, Delaware. It was at the end of another of the traditional heel-babyface matches Kettner favors. As the end of this tag team match approached, my younger brother and I played armchair booker and tried to guess the finish. Then, one heel stood on the apron holding one of the babyfaces with his arms pinned waiting for the inevitable punch; so we said out loud 'rollup, or...'.
Immediately behind us, chirped this voice (in a carny stage whisper) 'sk-iz-ool-biz-oy', with a grin on his face. It was Peterson, who was back in the crowd being a fan, after he'd already worked earlier in the evening."
Jeff received chemotherapy for his lymphoma beginning in April 2000. He has had a difficult time of it, with one previous remission, then a return of the cancer. He also missed being in and around wrestling and his extended family in the ECWA...which seemed to him to be the biggest hurt of all.
In July 2000, while still battling his cancer, he came back to a ECWA show to be inaugurated into the ECWA's Hall of Fame; and to help his uncle, promoter Jim Kettner, get over the angle that would result in the ECWA's biggest moment to date: the November 25, 2000 show at the Bob Carpenter Center, which drew over 2,200 fans far and away the largest crowd in the promotion's history.
The ECWA website had at the time a report on the July 22 show which ran the angle to set up the "Battle at the Bob". It speaks of Jeff and his history in words far more eloquent than any I can summon:
"Hero. A four letter word rarely used to its proper context in today's world full of chaos and turmoil. What characteristics does a true hero possess? Strength, perhaps? Courage in the face of severe adversity. The ability to put on a smile though the heart is aching. In this life, and more particularly in the East Coast Wrestling Association, a young man of eighteen years is the obvious choice. Since he was a toddler, all Jeffrey Peterson ever wanted to do was wrestle, nothing more and nothing less. Nearly three years ago, his uncle and ECWA promoter Jim Kettner awarded him to opportunity to live a dream.
On March twenty-first in 1998, WrestleTech's first student, 'All-American' Jeff Peterson made his pro-wrestling debut. The then-sixteen year old was a picture of charisma, a true underdog who had overcome the odds to achieve his goals. On February 27 of the following year, Jeff was allotted the chance to live another dream, wrestling in the annual Super 8 tournament.
On that very night, Peterson wrestled Christopher Daniels in a match that will forever be remembered by many as the greatest in tournament history. Young Jeffrey Peterson had once again defied the odds. It was his turn to bask in the spotlight.
One year later, he did it again, battling Florida independent star Jet Jaguar in a classic, high-flying game of chess. It would be his last match in the ECWA, at least for the time being. A month later, Jeffrey was dealt a curve ball that a normal teenager would get caught looking at, to borrow a line from baseball. But not Jeff, not now, not ever. Jeff Peterson was diagnosed with cancer. Months passed with Jeff receiving treatment after treatment and going in and out of the hospital in his home state of Florida.
Emotions were at an all-time high when the 'All-American' made his triumphant return to the ECWA on July 22. Another superstar fans rightfully call a hero, Cheetah Master, declared that one man whose dreams could not be denied was Jeff Peterson. Jim Kettner agreed, thus setting the entire East Coast Wrestling Association on the 'road to the Bob.' Jeff Peterson, tears in his eyes, embraced his uncle as the entire locker room surrounded the ring, pounding the mat to 'Jeffrey, Jeffrey' chants in the ultimate show of unity and team spirit. Jeff is fighting his horrible illness with dignity and unheard of bravery. He has spat in the face of adversity. Jeff Peterson is a hero of the heart."
Jeff made his comeback on Saturday night, April 6th and worked a match with heel Ruffhouse Rivera. The match won't make any Dave Meltzer Match of the Year list. Rob Feinstein and his RF Video won't sell tons of the tape of the show, as he has of the 2002 Super 8 from the month before...except perhaps to the ECWA regulars and to the people who know Jeff Peterson.
But the show was far more important than the far more ballyhooed (and deservedly so) show of the month before....because a gusty young man came back from the worst killers of all... cancer; and has returned to live out his dream of being part of the business he's loved since childhood....professional wrestling.
Far more important than a ***** match, a good buy-rates or a TV ratings, a courageous young man got to live on and keep living his dream.
That's why I was happy to go to St. Matthews Parish Center on April 6th.
Until next time...
(If you have comments or questions, I can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org)