AS I SEE IT - 7/22/2002:
A "Hero of the Heart" Revisited

by: Bob Magee

As many of you know, I often make a point of featuring comment on the human side of the wrestling business; rather than just discussing Monday night ratings, PPV buyrates, or who's going over in an upcoming match; as so many columnists do.

This week again brings one of those columns, about two lives and the need to celebrate life in general.

While the events of September 11th has shown us all many real-life heroes among us who became heroes by doing what they did everyday...there are other heroes in life whose stories aren't found in the headlines.

Here is the story of one such hero.

As reported on the website recently, independent wrestler Jeff Peterson has again had a recurrence of his cancer; and was hospitalized at the Moffitt Cancer Institute in Tampa, FL. He recently returned home from that stay.

An update given at the ECWA show in Wilmington, DE last Saturday indicated that his condition had been severe enough that Peterson had been in a coma for two weeks during that hospital stay.

Peterson delivered a brief taped message to the ECWA audience on the "ECWAtron" projection screen used at Jim Kettner's shows. Jeff looked particularly drawn...even for him. At best, Jeff is 180 pounds soaking wet. He is certainly far less than that now.

All of us at Pro Wrestling: Between the Sheets and all the other websites/e-newsletters in the US, Canada, The United Kingdom and elsewhere that carry AS I SEE IT ask that you keep Jeff in your prayers. Even though he has worked for some time within wrestling, Jeff is only 19 years old.

It is true that some fans gave Jeff a hard time when he first started, assuming that he only was involved in wrestling due to Jim Kettner running the Delaware-based East Coast Wrestling Alliance. Whatever those fans may have thought back then, there is no question that Jeff is held in the highest regard by all those with whom he works; whether in his uncle's ECWA, Pennsylvania Championship Wrestling, IPW-Hardcore Wrestling in Florida, California's All-Pro Wrestling, or elsewhere.

Peterson was trained by Lance "Simon" Diamond and Too Cold Scorpio at the Wrestletech wrestling school, and wrestled in the 1999 and 2000 ECWA Super 8 tournaments, losing in 2000 to Jet Jaguar. has worked such independent mainstays as Reckless Youth, Christopher Daniels, Jimi V, Chan Hill, as well as Florida's OG Scarface and Frankie Capone.

My favorite thought on Jeff Peterson comes from one night back in 1999 at an ECWA show down at the promotion's homebase of St. Matthew's in Newport (just outside of Wilmington), 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 (as usual) 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 a voice (in a carny stage whisper) "skiz-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.

Only days after this, Jeff Peterson was diagnosed with lymphoma.

Jeff received chemotherapy beginning in April 2000. He has had a difficult time of it, with one previous remission, then a return of the cancer, then another remission. He has now had a second recurrence of the cancer.

Above all, Jeff has missed being in and around wrestling and his extended family in the ECWA...which seemed to him to be the biggest hurt of all. Fortunately his uncle Jim Kettner keeps him as close as circumstances and his health will allow.

In July 2000, while battling the first stage of his cancer, Peterson 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."

Peterson returned to the ring this past April 6th to work a match with longtime ECWA heel Ruffhouse Rivera, only to suffer the most recent recurrence shortly afterward.

In so many ways, Jeff reminds me of Brian Hildebrand: a well-respected and well-loved man who loves the wrestling business more than life itself... a young man who is slight of body, but never slight of spirit. He's fought cancer since April 2000 and refuses to let it defeat him.

I hope that while he exhibits Brian's courage, he does not suffer Brian's fate.

Those who wish to send Jeff their prayers and thoughts can do so at Jeff Peterson, 435 Carriage House Lane, Tarpon Springs, FL 34689-7251.

Along with Jeff, another such wrestler who also needs your thoughts and prayers is wrestler Chris Champion, who had a run with WCW as part of The New Breed with Sean Royal in the late 1980s. Most recently, he was working for NWA Main Event out of Mississippi.

Champion suffered a major stroke last week, and was on a ventilator at last report. He was transferred from a Shelbyville, TN hospital to St. Thomas Hospital in Nashville, which is better to care for him. Champion's mother is on the way from England, and his brother Mark Starr is on the way to Nashville from Florida, to be with Chris.

If anyone wants to send a card or letter to Chris or his family, or if you would like to send a donation to help with his expenses... please send any cards or letters to: Chris Champion, c/o: NWA Main Event Wrestling, P.O. Box 60688, Nashville, TN 37206

Until next time...


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