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Monday, June 18, 2012

Interview with IZW Commissioner Brandon Bishop

“I'm heading into my 12th year of this silly crap.”

Wrestling fans know very well who Brandon Bishop is.  Some say he’s a loudmouth, an egomaniac, even a jerk.  That all might be true, but behind the scenes, Bishop is a true professional that has given his adult life to a business that is known for chewing people up and spitting them out, yet Bishop still remains a force to be reckoned with.  

Getting to know the man behind the attitude and bravado is tough because they’re one in the same, but what you will find in Brandon Bishop is someone who has given as much blood, sweat and tears to the business as just about anyone.  The spark was ignited early on as a child and as an adult some unique business opportunities and an entrepreneurial spirit continued to fan the flames as Bishop details in the first of a two-part interview.

“Wrestling hit me in the cheekbone like a sledgehammer when I was about five years old.  I don't have many vivid memories from those years, but eagerly hiking through the pages of my mom's red leather bound scrapbook, featuring all the wrestling icons she grew up watching at Cobo Hall every month or week, that's a memory that even Alzheimer’s couldn't take away from me,” Bishop remembered.

“My mom would hop the bus in Detroit to the Cobo Hall, and every time Big Time Wrestling set up their ring, my mom was ringside. Bobo Brazil, The Original Sheik, Haystacks Calhoun, Whisper Watson, Tex Mackenzie, Irish Mickey Doyle, Blackjack Mulligan, etc., my mom grew up idolizing these people.  I can't even begin to tell you how badly I wish I could've also witnessed some of those historic events featuring those legends in the amazing atmosphere.  It had to have been incredible,” Bishop continued.

“So as a child I stumbled upon this magnificent scrapbook and was transfixed! I had no idea this stuff was even still on TV, or still existed, all I had was the scrapbook, and those bloodied grimacing faces and larger than life stories and articles and huge people was all I needed to become a fan,” Bishop said.

“After that, around the age of six or seven, I stayed up a little late and popped the button on the 13" black and white TV with the aluminum foil and screwdriver antenna.  Once the tubes fizzed and warmed up and the picture came in, I learned all about The Three Stooges and Laurel and Hardy, which played back to back on The CBC (Canadian Broadcast Channel).  I was again hooked on these shows, and began staying up late every night to catch it, although usually I’d fall asleep by the end of Laurel and Hardy.  But one night I was still wide awake, and after Laurel and Hardy came a show called Global Wrestling hosted by Gordon Solie showing wrestling highlights from all the territories. I lit up like an inferno and couldn't believe what I saw in my mom's scrapbook was actually on my little TV. I remember names like Bob Backlund, Billy Graham, Bruno Sammartino, Dick Murdoch, Dusty Rhodes and the list goes on.  Needless to say, I didn't sleep very well as a child, which in turn probably led to my insomnia later in life.  Even back then wrestling was ruining my health and well-being.  In 2010, my mom gave me that scrapbook and I display it proudly to this day,” Bishop declared. 

Between his mom’s scrapbook and Global Wrestling, Bishop got to experience a culture of wrestling that is long gone in today’s environment…a thriving territorial system with tons of regional stars who all had the ability to connect with the local fans and those watching on cable TV.  It was these early experiences as a child that planted the seeds for Bishop’s foray into the business of pro wrestling as an adult as he moved from a fan of the sport to a jack of all trades.  Always ready to grab the bull by the horns and take a proactive approach, years later, Bishop turned a scheduling snafu at his job into an opportunity to have his cake and eat it too. 

“I ran a nightclub in Lawton, Oklahoma while I was in the Army. In 2001, I was commissioned with filling Monday nights at the Asylum Concert Club, which led to a conflict of interest for me, because, um... that's wrestling night people! I'm not missing RAW for freakin' work! So I came up with the idea to show RAW at The Asylum and get paid to watch it. Genius! Well that idea led to another idea of getting a few security people, bartenders, sound people and myself to goof around during commercials in a make shift ring and just basically do contests and have fun. Later, we came across an actual wrestling ring, it was in shambles, but it had a frame, ropes and warped plywood and carpet padding for a floor.  I didn't care.  It was the coolest damn thing I've ever seen at that point. We fixed it up, put hundreds of dollars into it, and a month or two later, it was usable and not entirely dangerous,” Bishop chuckled.

From there, Bishop was hooked and everything he remembered as a child from the scrapbook to watching wrestling on TV late at night only served as fodder for the fire.  Bishop was turning his childhood dreams into reality and doing it his own way.

“So in 2001, we started training. We met a couple of guys with a little experience on the Indy circuit, Jeffery Parker was who we got the ring from, he was an interesting fellow to say the least, the personification of Lawton, Oklahoma in my view in those days.  He drove an old Limo, had few teeth, golden balding ponytailed dyed hair, porn star stash and a bad lisp.  But I would be lying if I said that he didn't have a major hand in helping ACW [Asylum Championship Wrestling] and myself, and in turn 50% of the current circuit including most of IZW, in getting started. If you follow the timeline backwards, a lot of it leads to that moment I met Jeffery Parker.   Jeff introduced me to Todd French. Later, I came up with the name "Magnificent" Ty Magnus and the fun and friendship between us began. He had a few years of Indy work under his belt and he taught myself and a ragged group of club employees how to do the basics, and nearly killed us in the process. We were doing hundreds of bumps on a ring that was barely safe to bump on, but we did it and kept doing it until we got it.  I learned a lot from guys like Chris Matthews, Se7en, Jef Tiger, John O'Malley, Angel Williams, The Blonde Bomber, Faith and others. Mostly they just kicked my ass around the building. We trained for about a year before I started in ACW and Mid-South in 2002.  I think I did it the right way, not many do these days, but I didn't want to crap the bed too badly when I debuted in the ring,” Bishop joked.

While running ACW, Bishop learned everything about the business from the ground up.   He already had the wrestling skillset, but has been evolving ever since, making ACW the best it can be.  “In my position I'm already creative, performer, marketer, advertising, web designer, graphic designer, video editor, talent relations, scout, show director, TV producer, public relations, drama killer, trainer, and manager of operations... Do I need to be or do anything else?  Nah, but making a solid living off of it, that would be fantastic!”

Through it all, the humble beginnings, the unique start, the wild road trips, and everything in between, Bishop has accomplished more than most and come out fairly unscathed in a business full of landmines at every step.
“I've lost jobs, family and friends due to my love for pro wrestling. Even at this age it creeps into daily life and throws a seizure that shakes up everything in a negative manner.  But it's what I do and who I am.  I've been lucky as far as my health and injuries.  I broke a few things here and there, but I’ve only missed two scheduled matches in 12 years.  I've always tried to be a leader and keep things as fun as possible, but I quickly learned that just because someone is awesome in front of you, it doesn't mean they're not tearing you to shreds behind your back. That used to irk me quite a bit, it doesn't matter how much you pay out, doesn't matter how great the spots are, or the attendance or how nice you are as a person. People talk smack and don't know how to stop. So I realized that no matter what I do, I can't change that, so I stopped caring. Actually it's laughable at this point, so talk away boys, it all gets back to me eventually. I learned that the more they bitch, it’s fun to give them more to bitch about,” Bishop said.

More recently, Bishop has come full circle in his pro wrestling career as he is an integral piece of Lawton, Oklahoma based IZW, and serves as the Commissioner.  With only a few months under his belt in his return to Impact Zone Wrestling, Bishop has still managed to turn IZW upside down on its head.  “My goals in wrestling have been met... I made a name for myself in front of thousands of fans and fellow workers, ACW has left its mark in wrestling history and I'm proud of 99% of everything I’ve accomplished.  My trips to IZW a couple times a month are quite enough for me these days.  I just want to make my own promotion, ACW, as big and good as it can be, and make the other promotions like IZW as good as I can help make it.  I've already succeeded in my eyes,” Bishop reflected.

Tune in to Part 2 in the coming weeks where Bishop covers IZW in depth, his relationship with owner and rival Johnny Z and  IZW's next iPPV "Evolution" on July 21 on

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