The Jarkaster Journey – Empire State of Mind

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Collision In Cuba
Photo / Robbie Sutter

Hello again, everybody! It’s been a while since my last post dedicated to the comings and goings of my referee life. Before diving into Empire State Wrestling’s Rochester, N.Y. area debut “Empire State of Mind,” there are a few things that need to be addressed as my life was a bit tumultuous since last November.

After Empire State Wrestling’s “WrestleBash”, I was uncertain when the next time I would referee on a wrestling show. In December, there were two possibilities but both fell through. Then in January, I dealt with a medical issue that I hinted at in my last journal post.

Since March 2018, I felt a strange tightness sensation in my upper right abdominal area that was noticeable after eating and also onset by anxiety. I saw my doctor and initially it sounded like they were gallbladder related.

After multiple scans, visits to specialists and surgeons, a complete endoscopy, plus ruling out an enlarged spleen, inflamed lymph nodes, ulcers and colitis over a period of several months, my medical escapades concluded with being diagnosed with an under-active gallbladder without gallstones. The best way to deal with this was for it to be removed. So with literally all my time off from my day job being used on doctor’s appointments to determine my issue and the upcoming holidays, I scheduled the removal to take place in January 2019.

The surgery went without any issues. It was performed by a robot and I was discharged the same day. I could even walk up the stairs the same day which is a stark contrast to what happened with some of my family members that had their gallbladders removed years ago. They were bedridden for weeks, while I, still sore, was able to be at least semi-functional with the aid of pain medication.

Even though I was doing relatively well post-surgery, I was still hurting the week following the surgery. I was barred from lifting anything over 15 pounds, exercise or any other physically strenuous activity for four weeks. I could not even snow blow or pick up my daughter for some time, so reffing was completely out of the question during this time. Thus I missed ESW’s “A Night at the Johnsburg” as it took place the Saturday after my procedure.

I did keep busy on the writing end of things though. In January, I wrote a few articles. Including the Ilio DiPaolo Cup Finals at “WrestleBash” which you can read here:

Even though I was not going to be on the show, I did a preview on “A Night at the Johnsburg” that you can read here:

I also previewed my eventual return event “Empire State of Mind” that you can read here:

In February, I wrote about ESW’s new television deal with Western New York-based station WBXZ that you can read more about here:

Lastly, I wrote Part I of “A Brief History of Empire State Wrestling”, with future installments coming in later months. You can read this article here:

I also helped put together one podcast episode of “Inside the Empire” featuring Kate Carney. You can listen to it here:

Back to my recovery efforts, by mid-February I was ready to begin more physical activity and started slowly returning to the gym. However, around this time I also started feeling constantly sluggish, similar to that physically drained feeling you get when you have the flu. Each morning, it felt like I got hit by a car when I woke up and that feeling would persist on-and-off throughout the day. I started upping my fluids, food intake and take more vitamins and herbal supplements. I was determined to rid myself of this feeling before “Empire State of Mind” at the end of the month. I was also hoping it would help heal the area my gallbladder used to be as I still felt some lingering post-surgery soreness.

Overall, I figured out a plan in order to mask it which involved taking the things I mentioned previously plus more orange juice and green tea at specifically scheduled times to push me through. I was super itching to return to the ring and I did not want this standing in my way.

Show day arrived and I picked up my old pal Referee Andrew Mollon on our way out to Rochester. This was perfectly fitting as the two of us bonded together years ago driving out to plenty of shows in the area. It felt good to make the trek with one of my best friends in the business like we used to.

This was the first time I was booked on a show in the Rochester area in about 3 years. After my time concluded at different promotion I worked for, I thought I was done working in this area for good. But when this event was announced, it provided further fuel for my motivation to return to the ring and show the wrestling community, and myself, that I still good enough to be a part of the best independent wrestling promotion in Western New York.

The venue was Village Sports in Fairport, N.Y. – an Eastern suburb of Rochester. It is a unique place as the wrestling show was set up on a soccer turf area of the building next to a full hockey rink. On top of it being ESW’s first Rochester event, it was also the first time wrestling was held at this place.

There were a plethora of flags from many nations around the world hanging from the rafters. Brandon Thurston, Carney and myself tried to name all of the countries they they represented without looking them up. There were many obscure flags in this bunch and we can now recognize the flags of random nations such as Bermuda, Malta and Czechia.

The event highlighted many of the of ESW’s regulars but also those specifically from the Rochester area. I even got to catch up a little bit with some old faces from when I first broke into the Western New York indie scene, especially J.C. Money who worked backstage and Eric Emanon who I reffed later on that night.

My first match was “Captain” Nick Ando versus “Omega” Aaron Draven. This was a fast-paced match that I felt was a good test for myself. I also enjoyed working with Draven as he was in one of the first matches I reffed in Ohio back in 2007. There was an awesome Spanish Fly from the top rope spot during the match. Check it out on Powerslam.TV if you can.

Photo Credit: TMK Pro Wrestling Photogtaphy

I felt pretty relieved when it was over. I said to myself, “Yes, you can still do this!” Well, at least for one match I could.

My second match was Rob Sweet against Cloudy. I worked with both of these guys before and enjoyed it once again. Cloudy kept giving the middle finger throughout the match, and flipped me off after a near-fall saying “It should be three!” I then corrected him that he should be holding up three fingers instead.

Photo Credit: TMK Pro Wrestling Photography

However, at the end of this match, I did not feel right. My vitamins and stuff were wearing off and the constant body aches I felt returned. I did not feel like I was heading into a good place.

My last match was a triple threat match with Emanon, Gavin Glass and Leo St. Giovanni. I personally requested this match as it felt fitting for me and Emanon to be back together. My very first match in New York, we were in the ring together, and out of all those guys in it, we are the only two still active.

I made it through the match, but it was not my most spry performance. In the beginning of the match, there was a spot were Glass pops his thumb out of his socket, which I did not know he could do on his own, and I easily oversold it. Otherwise, I felt like I was dragging myself through the bout and could even feel my counts getting slower and I would not be shocked if the crowd noticed it, too. I was in a rough place afterward and stuck to helping take down the entrance way after the show rather than disassembling the ring.

The ride home was rather quiet. My wife accompanied Mollon and I as she came to the show with some of our friends. Mollon was not feeling well also from a bad cold and my wife was super tired. We tried to stop for food but did not feel like waiting at a sit down place and could not find a drive-thru in this part of town, so we just made the drive back to Buffalo.

So that is the gist of my return to wrestling after a 91-day layoff. Health-wise, I’m feeling mostly better after going back to the doctor’s office and getting some lab work done. The lab work determined that my pre-existing Vitamin D deficiency was even lower than normal, so I doubled up on my Vitamin D intake and that seems to helped me. Looking ahead, I will not let any ailments hold me back from making ESW’s next show “The Sky is The Limit” on March 30 in North Tonawanda, N.Y. and my return to reffing in my hometown area.

As always, thanks for reading!