In honor of Halloween, we’re gonna stray off our usual path, and walk down a much darker, more creepier one. When I think of October 31st, I think of loads of candy, Michael Myers, and oh yeah, the sounds of one of the greatest bands ever – the Misfits. To keep in the holiday spirit, this week we’re gonna pay tribute to their former lead singer, Michale Graves, as we honor him as the first ever Wrestlecrap Halloween Ghoul Of The Week.
Looking like he just stepped out of some haunted cemetery, Graves entered WCW in 1999 alongside his legendary punk rock bandmates. They may have been demonic-looking newcomers to the sport, but they soon found themselves thrust into battle against wrestling monsters like Dr.Death and the Wall, who tried to decapitate the ‘Fits any chance they could get. Backstage, things would get even crazier as Graves went one on one against Booker T. A while back, I caught up with Michale for a chat about his times with the Misfits in WCW, his new music, and the finer arts of using BBQ sauce as a weapon.
BB: First off Michale, before you joined WCW had you ever watched wrestling before?
MG: I watched wrestling when I was a kid, sure. The old days of Hulk Hogan, Junkyard Dog, George “the Animal” Steele biting the turnbuckle, eating it out. That’s when I got into wrestling.
BB: Did you keep up with it or was it something you grew out of?
MG: I grew out of it.
BB: Years later, how did you and the Misfits end up becoming a part of WCW?
MG: The Misfits were on tour, a South American tour, and Vampiro met Jerry Only (the Misfits founder). The Misfits were one of Vampiro’s favorite bands. We, coming from a punk rock background, could relate to Vampiro cause he kinda came up from punk rock roots in wrestling. We had a lot in common. As the Misfits, we had always treated ourselves and trained as athletes. It worked out well. We hooked up with Vampiro and just started brainstorming. Jerry wanted to be a wrestler so bad. He ha an intense passion for it. He really pushed.
BB: How much time was there between you guys signing and your first appearance on WCW?
MG: Almost immediately. Maybe a couple of weeks. Jerry made a couple of appearances and then they brought the rest of us into it. To tell you the truth, at first I wasn’t completely sure I wanted to do that. Again, I loved watching it. But as much as people say wrestling is fake, yeah, the outcome is choregraphed, but there is nothing fake about a 300 lb.man picking you up over his head and slamming you onto the canvas. You can’t fake it. Those are big boys and they play hard. Its like playing with a bear. Bears can only be so gentle!
BB: Did you have a lot of time to train and learn the moves or was it more of a learning on the job thing?
MG: We pretty much learned on the job. We worked out every day on the road. We treated and trained ourselves as athletes. It was more learning the moves and doing them correctly. We were taught well by WCW staff. Obviously Vampiro showed us a lot.
With Vampiro by their side, the Misfits made their pro wrestling debut in November 1999. Their first angle would be against Berlyn and his bodyguard the Wall. It was a short lived feud, but the Misfits seemed up to their new challenge and poised to succeed in their second career. I asked Michale what the long range plans for the Misfits were.
MG: The long range plans with WCW that I knew of, again that was when the Misfits started gaining popularity. WCW were trying to keep things together cause the WWF was just buying everything up and taking over the whole market. So what we wanted to do, as well as what WCW wanted us to do, was continue to wrestle but add the music element into what they were doing. We had ideas and plans to play on a segment of the show. Write and record and do videos to include on the show. Introduce our characters and how our characters got here, with spaceships. (BB: LOL! And here you guys thought that WCW was just gonna let the Scorpion’s old spaceship rot away in their storage garage, huh. That baby was getting ready to soar again!!!) Just tons of stuff. Everybody was incredibly creative and had lots of ideas. A lot of them unfortunately didn’t come to fruition. Unfortunately, we were there at a great time in WCW and at the same time we were there at a terrible time because like I said the WWF was just buying everything up and a lot of the talent went over to the WWF.
BB: Despite the losing battle with the WWF, how was the morale backstage? Positive? Semi-positive?
MG: Always felt it was positive. For real, really always felt it was positive. From the top talent, you know Sting was the man, Goldberg was the man. Bret Hart was finishing up his career. They were motivated, in tip-top shape, top of their game, and focused to succeed. Everybody was working together and doing their best to succeed. I don’t know what happened with the company. Again, its so unfortunate.
(BB: RD explained just how unfortunate in Death of WCW.)
As the Misfits moved into December of 99, they would turn their attention to their greatest rivals – everyone’s favorite faux Palsy victim Oklahoma and Dr.Death Steve Williams.
BB: One of your feuds was against Dr.Death and Oklahoma. On a few occasions, the Doc hit you with some really stiff shots. I’m surprised your head didn’t come unattached.
MG: Yeah, he literally got off the plane from Japan and went right into WCW. He wasn’t too happy about working with us “rookies.” His eyes would get all glazed over and he would charge at you like a bull and he made sure you felt it. And when it came time for someone to get punched in the stomach or tossed around, it was always me. Jerry and Chud (the drummer) were too big, and Doyle (the guitarist) had a bad back. So I became the Misfits’ stunt dummy (laughs). I don’t have to tell you, these guys are 300 lb. monsters and they demand a certain deal of respect. Especially when somebody like me, a 5’9″ punk-rocker getting in the ring with them, they made sure I knew that I was a musician and not really a wrestler.
BB: The sad part about that is the skinny actor David Arquette became WCW champion at one point. That could have been you. He’s smaller than you.
MG: (laughs) I would have been a good WCW champion. I would have been like the Phantom of the Opera of WCW. The crazy, freaky dude who lives in the basement of
WCW who’ll jack your ass with a chair or something!
BB: I think if you had been champ, WCW would still be in business.
MG: I appreciate it!!
BB: Well, you made history on one thing. I believe you’re the first guy in the history of wrestling to assault someone with BBQ sauce.
MG: YEAH, YEAH!!!
BB: The Misfits were holding Oklahoma and you came in and started abusing him with the condiments.
MG: Just sauced him with his own sauce.
BB: That’s history right there. That’s lethal.
MG: It was. You ever get BBQ sauce in your eyes? Whew!
BB: It’s more deadly than pepper spray.
MG: My God!
With the Misfits and Vampiro getting the best of Oklahoma, the rest of Graves’ highjinks would take place backstage. It was here where he faced off against the future 5-time champ Booker T, one on one.
MG: Booker T. was the Playstation guru. He would take on anybody and beat em’. He’d get all pumped and say, “Bring it!!! The train keep a’ rolling!”
BB: How did you fare against him?
MG: I only played him once or twice. He killed me playing Madden and hockey.
Backstage was where the Misfits final angle would play out. As Vampiro and the boys were hanging out by the water cooler, David Flair’s girlfriend Daffney stopped by to get a drink. Jerry Only, with Graves egging him on, would use his New Jersey charm, as well as entries #4 and #5 on Maxim’s all-time lamest pickup lines list, to try to convince Daffney of the benefits of being a part of a punk-rock train. One kick to the groin and an attempt to bite Jerry’s nose off later, and it seemed the Misfits next feud with David Flair would soon be under way. However, a dispute would arise between Jerry Only and Vampiro over the direction of the Misfits in WCW. Rumors spun out of control and soon, the Misfits and WCW parted ways.
MG: Along with the fallout from WCW, there was a clash between Jerry and Vampiro. There was a lot of internal stuff going on with the Misfits, as well as a lot of internal stuff going on in WCW. Jerry and Vampiro had a falling out and it affected the relationship between WCW and the Misfits.
BB: I heard some rumors that WCW wanted to oust Jerry and put Vampiro in the band, sort of making the Misfits WCW’s “official” in-house band.
MG: Some of the rumors spun out of control. Some stuff got back to Jerry that wasn’t true. Some stuff was true. Jerry did what he felt was right in protecting his business. At the same time, I saw the other side of it and I knew what was going on with Vampiro. It was something that could have easily, easily been worked out if everyone had just sat down and talked about it, everything would’ve been cool. It was one of those things that snowballed and once rumors started getting out it took on a life of its own. You can’t blame Jerry for taking a defensive posture like he did, but I really don’t think WCW in any way, shape, or form was looking to take anything from him or exploit anything that was his without him having a hand in it.
BB: You’ve long since left WCW and the Misfits. We here at Wrestlecrap love to shill, so tell everyone about your awesome new cd from Horror High Records entitled, “Punk Rock Is Dead.”
MG: The new album is basically my middle finger towards everybody. It’s my return to the punk-style writing and horror themes of the past. I had a lot to prove, and wanted to prove my abilities as a solo musician, and show how influential I was to the Misfits back then.
BB: It’s a great CD. Needless to say, if you’re a Misfits or punk-rock fan, it’s a must have.
MG: It’s presently #1 on www.punkradiocast.com, as well as a top seller on www.interpunk.com. I also recently did a track on Roadrunner Records release called Roadrunner United: The All Star Sessions, entitled “I Don’t Wanna Be (A Superhero).”
BB: So, what does a ghoulish guy like yourself have planned for Halloween?
MG: This Halloween, there’s gonna be a huge gathering of the Jersey punk scene at Connections in Passiac, NJ. Myself, (ex-Misfits member) Dr.Chud, Blitzkid, Sardonica. Sardonica – those guys are legends. I used to listen to them when I was little.
BB: That sounds like the ideal, demonic Halloween night out!!
Those were some excerpts from two interviews I conducted with a punk rock icon. For all you out there who are into music that is heavy and sometimes dark, trust the Blade on this one. Go see Michale if he is anywhere near your town. If you are a fan of metal/punk you will not be disappointed with his show or the new album. You can check out his tour dates, as well as download some free audio and video clips from his website.