by Daniel Johnson
Interviewer’s Note: Robi Vio is an independent wrestler based in Alabama who has wrestled across the southern United States. Despite his small size he was inspired to wrestle after one night seeing Sonjay Dutt on the independent scene. Some promotions Vio has worked for include Southern Legacy Wrestling (SLW), NWA ProSouth Wrestling (PSW) and Southern Championship Wrestling (SCW). Vio has held numerous championships including the PSW Heavyweight Championship, the SLW Championship and the PSW Tag Team Championship. He currently hosts the MMA focused radio show, Tap Nap or Snap and has a YouTube channel that can be found here. This interview was completed on August 10, 2013. In this interview Vio and I focus on the topic of wrestling on Alabama’s independent scene.
Daniel Johnson: In a nutshell how would you describe yourself as a performer?
Robi Vio: I think that I’m a bit overrated honestly, I don’t think I am horrible or anything, but people tend to think I am either one of the best or worst around and I’ve always seen myself somewhere in the middle, above average seems fair.
Daniel Johnson: Kind of like Mike Sanders then? Anyway, for those unfamiliar with you how old are you and where are you from originally?
Robi Vio: I try not to date myself too hard by letting people know how old I am, but I am on the closer end to 30. My family is from the Gaffney, South Carolina region and ended up moving into Alabama where I was raised until adulthood.
Daniel Johnson: What is your first memory of watching wrestling?
Robi Vio: I’m not exactly sure, there are a lot of kind of random images and bit memories that I have watching wrestling when I was younger. I’m wanting to say it was seeing Michael “P.S.” Hayes win the NWA United States Heavyweight Championship from Lex Luger. I think that is the earliest I can remember Hayes coming out to “Free Bird” and even the finish where Hayes was just kind of flopped down on top of Luger by Terry Gordy. I was lucky compared to most guys first wrestling memories, haha.
Daniel Johnson: What was your first experience of independent wrestling in Alabama? Did you go to any local shows prior to becoming a wrestler?
Robi Vio: Okay, well this is where things will take a bit of a “left.” I was always more into martial arts as a hobby simply because I never saw myself as a large enough guy to wrestle, it was the land of the giants when I was younger. One night I saw Sonjay Dutt wrestling a match and decided that I wasn’t too small to at least give it a try. I went to a local promotion and I talked to the owner who was a good guy named David Torres and he let me come on as a referee/commentator, essentially anything but wrestler, but one night a bit of wrestling drama happened and they were left a man short for their main event that night and I was pretty much the only guy they had to put there. I put on a bunch of gear that was thrown at me and I never really looked back.
Daniel Johnson: How much training did you have at the point when you were put into substitute?
Robi Vio: Lucky for me I had been training around with the guys there for about four to five months. I don’t think I was anywhere near a complete performer at that point and I spent a lot of the next year or two landing on my head until I figured out how to perform things safely. If there is one thing I would have changed it would have been to have had more of an opportunity to train before I was thrown into the world of pro wrestling. I think I was passable at that point but there was much work to be done. I would never recommend anyone jumping into pro wrestling as quick as I did. Four to five months doesn’t sound very quick, but in terms of wrestling training, that was way too quick.
Daniel Johnson: Were there any Alabama wrestlers that stood out to you early on that you really enjoyed? Have you gotten a chance to work with any of them since?
Robi Vio: For sure, guys like Greg Kaibal, Eric Michaels, Torque and David Michaels were all guys who I liked to work with and I was able to work with most of them later on when I would travel and there was even a few that I brought in when I ran a few shows of my own. I still say that Greg Kaibal is one of the most underrated talents in the Alabama wrestling scene.
Daniel Johnson: What was the experience like of running your own show? Did you run the same promotion a few times or did you run shows under different names?
Robi Vio: Well, running my own show was quite the learning experience. It honestly showed me that as much as I loved wrestling, I didn’t love it that much. I am just not the “diplomat” that it would take to be a successful promoter. I wouldn’t use anyone whom I didn’t trust as a person, in the pro wrestling business that was a very small list. As months went by, some guys fell off that list and it became a truly low point in my wrestling tenure. I trusted some people whom I shouldn’t have and they used that trust to try to have my show shut down. By the time this happened, I was so discouraged with wrestling as a whole that I couldn’t really fight them to get the building back. I was just too drained of any interest at that point. I’m one of the few guys who never booked himself to win a match on their own show. I went under to every single guy I booked myself against and enjoyed the hell out of it, but you can’t please them all.
Daniel Johnson: Getting back to earlier in your career you mentioned you trained for about four to five months before wrestling. What was a typical day of training like for you?
Robi Vio: Bumps and bumps and bumps and bumps, haha, for the most part it was like anyone’s training, I showed up and they kicked my ass for a few hours. I remember one day of just being tested as to running the ropes and I was told that I couldn’t stop until Greg Kaibal stopped. He of course is about 5’8″ and nothing but boundless energy so of course this lasted around six to eight minutes straight before I began trying to trip Greg when he would come back and cross with me. Some days it was fun, but most of the time it was just a matter of gritting your teeth and remembering that if you do this, you get a chance to be a pro wrestler. At that point in life, I would have done anything to be a pro wrestler so there was no argument to be had with myself on that one.
Daniel Johnson: For those unfamiliar with the independent scene in Alabama today, how would you describe it as it stands today?
Robi Vio: It’s almost a wasteland. There is just not that many promotions and with the exception of a few shows, there really isn’t even a wrestling scene anymore. Recently the Alabama Athletic Commission has started overseeing pro wrestling and it has led a lot of promotions to close doors and a lot of wrestlers to hang up their boots. There are a few shows left, Birmingham Hardcore Wrestling (BHW) comes to mind as I worked for them not too long ago and Global Championship Wrestling (GCW) in Pell City, Alabama is another fine show that has some really good talent, but with the exceptions of those there really isn’t much left to the Alabama scene. Kind of sad actually.
Daniel Johnson: Are there any promotions outside of the ones you name still kicking? Also, what promotions have you worked for in Alabama that have since folded?
Robi Vio: I know that the League of Extraordinary Wrestlers (LXW) is still a thing, they are a show that runs every few months and they’ve had some success and as of now that is probably the only one going, in northern Alabama anyways.
Daniel Johnson: One Alabama promotion you have worked for is ProSouth Wrestling. How did you first get involved in this promotion? Was that with David Torres or was Torres with another promotion?
Robi Vio: Torres is another promotion, He ran Extreme Outlaw Wrestling (EOW) in the Anniston/Oxford area. ProSouth on the other hand was one of those things that if I looked back on it now, I would have never went. I don’t think anything killed off my liking the business anymore than that place. I went in with about four or five other guys and they were looking for people to use on the shows coming up, the only two they kept of the group were me and a guy whom I was friendly with at the time in Rod Storm, they teamed us together and brought us in. I can’t tell you how or why I ended up in ProSouth really other than just trying to work another show, but once I got there I just wanted out.
Daniel Johnson: At PSW you held the PSW Tag Team Championship as Xtreme Xpress with Ace Haven. What are your memories of this reign and what stands out most about it?
Robi Vio: Haha, this was probably the least amount of fun that I have ever had wearing a championship. By the time that me and Ace had won the tag team titles, I couldn’t stand the guy. He was the booker of the promotion and once he saw me getting over he instantly stuck himself to my side with us winning the tag titles with a total of 45 seconds of build up. He was one of those guys that just wasn’t a good person. We were champions for a good lengthy amount of time, but it took the meaning out of it for me. Other times when I’ve won championships, not to sound foolish but it meant a bit of something even if the only thing it meant was, “The promoter believed in you”, in this case it was “I’m over and the promoter wants to hold a title, I’ll help.” It just wasn’t the feeling that it usually was. I can think back and I do have a few memories that aren’t abysmal though. We had some fun matches with a wrestler by the name of Stupid who has always been cool to me and is a hell of a worker, he would bring out a partner and we’d go against him and whoever that week and it was a fun time, it wasn’t all bad. Most of the things that stand out though are a lot of me being very frustrated with the promotion and team as a whole. The crowd was into me and wanted me and Ace to feud and it just became a broken record of having to go in with this fake smile and pretend that i was best friends every week with a guy whom I couldn’t stand to look at without wanting to knock him out. I do remember feeling a lot better when we finally dropped the titles to a young guy named Scott Spade and Stupid, and I felt better about dropping the belts to a young guy like Spade than I felt about the entire title reign.
Daniel Johnson: What do you believe is the most prestigious title you have held to date is in Alabama or otherwise? Also, was the most prestigious title also the one you had the most fun holding?
Robi Vio: Oh wow, well I had the most fun as the Southern Legacy Wrestling Champion, it was right down the road from ProSouth and when ProSouth’s booker put himself in a title run for a year, they brought me in and made me their champion right down the road. There was a lot of fun to be had in that reign, and it’s got to be one of my favorites. I was also in the Allied Indepndent Wrestling Federations’ (AIWF) Xtreme Wrestling Alliance (XWA) Tag Team Champions at one time and that was a very fun run indeed. I don’t like to put any one title too far above all others or anything like that so it’s hard to answer what was the most prestigious, but I will say one of the most prestigious “titles” that has ever been given to me was when Jimmy Rave said that, “The guy that made the best of what he is handed.” It may not have been too much to anyone else, but when Rave said that about me in the ProSouth building, I took it as a tremendous compliment and it’s probably the most prestigious “title” I’ve been given to date really. I’ll admit, that may seem like it is a bit of a slimy way to avoid the question, but it is honesty.
Daniel Johnson: No problem, getting back to more generally talking about wrestling in Alabama what are your favorite venues to work in, in Alabama?
Robi Vio: Alabama isn’t one of the states that is really known for it’s venues, but in honesty the only arena that is probably better than ProSouth’s is the Oxford National Guard Armory, there is a strange platform there for no reason that is set up just right for dives and such. It’s a good arena. Southern Alliance Wrestling Entertainment (SAWE) in Hanceville Alabama has a very interesting venue as well. The only way to describe the locker room is a treehouse and I’m not saying that is a bad thing either, haha. Very interesting place.
Daniel Johnson: Is there anything unique about wrestling crowds in Alabama? If so then what is it?
Robi Vio: Pretty much the same thing that is unique to the crowds in the south in general. There is a distinct style change somewhere between Virginia and Pennsylavania where all of a sudden you go from the ROH/”indie” style to the, “Don’t plan anything because you have no idea what this crowd wants,” style. I don’t know where it comes from, but it’s just the way it is. The different regions have all evolved to kind of have their own flavors, and in Alabama there is a more comical friendly crowd and they are a lot more forgiving of mistakes, there aren’t near as many, “You f’d up,” chants as you see up north and they tend to want to “believe” the match as opposed to in some other places you see people who want to “appreciate” the match. There are exceptions to this, but for the most part the Alabama crowds want to “believe” it.
Daniel Johnson: What has been the best crowd you have ever worked in front of in Alabama or otherwise? What made that crowd particularly good and what did you do to get the biggest reactions out of them you could?
Robi Vio: I worked Curry Kid once for Mid-Georgia Championship Wrestling (MGCW) and there were only a few hundred people, but it was in this tiny gym and they were so loud and so ready for wrestling. It was one of the most exited groups of people that I have ever seen, I’ve wrestled in front of bigger crowds, but this one was just amazingly energized for wrestling. Curry and I put on the best match that we could and they were with us the whole way through, but the highlight was at the end watching Curry Kid dancing through the gym with a hoard of children behind him and he looked like some kind of dancing pied piper being followed by at least 30 to 50 children to some kind of crazy dance music. It was quite a sight and that was a great crowd, I honestly can’t even remember the name of the town though and that is the downer to the whole thing, but that happens after a while. All the organizations’ names turn into alphabet soup and the names of towns start to get harder to remember.
Daniel Johnson: Haha on the flip side what about hostile or apathetic crowds? Have you had any of those and if so then how did you handle the experience?
Robi Vio: For sure, There was a crowd in Georgia, which is strange, because they tend to just want to believe like Alabama does. They were literally screaming racial slurs at me, and it was almost a very hostile situation but I am one of those that doesn’t do the smartest thing in the world sometimes and I told them to, “Go f themselves” and “Get in the ring and I’d kick the rest of their teeth out.” They just kept calling me all kinds of shit and I just finished up and made a very hasty exit to the back. That was a lot of heat and I didn’t even have to do anything to get it, but it was the wrong kind of heat.
Daniel Johnson: Yeah, sounds like it could have gotten real scary, real quickly. Anyway, who are some Alabama based wrestlers that you would recommend to readers to check out?
Robi Vio: This may be a big list. Greg Kaibal if he is still around is always worth a peek, Wes Crowe is a young guy who has come a long way since he started and is now a really fun guy to watch as he’s only getting better. Jeremy Foster is another really talented guy who I could see going somewhere one day. There are just so many, There is a really kick ass manager named, The Wicked Nemesis, who is always great to watch and I think he is in the GCW product that I mentioned earlier. If you are a fan of the old ECW/CZW style of match then guys like John Rare, Spidar Boodrow and Bryant Woods would be right up your alley at Birmingham Hardcore Wrestling and there are some really good female wrestlers like Tracey Taylor and Auctavia who are working around the state. Alabama has it’s highs and lows but there are a lot of people who are around in the state whom are worth checking out, some not so much, but yeah you got to take that risk sometimes. Haha.
Daniel Johnson: Is there anything else you wanted to say about wrestling in Alabama before we move on?
Robi Vio: The best equal I can put to it would be to liken it to, “Crabs in a bucket.”
Daniel Johnson: Outside of Alabama where and for what promotions would you like to wrestle?
Robi Vio: I’ve had fun working for a lot of people outside of the state of Alabama. NWA Alternative Pro Wrestling (APW) was fun, AIWF Young Blood Wrestling (YBW) is another that I have a lot of fun at. There are so many places that it is almost unfair to mention some as I may forget others. AIWF SCW is another fine group to work with.
Daniel Johnson: What do you believe your best match is to date and what makes this match stand out?
Robi Vio: The match I defeated Stupid for the ProSouth Heavyweight Championship was a big one. We weren’t suppose to have a good match and we did and the fact that we pulled it off and did it against the will of the booker made it 100 percent more satisfying. I also had a bout with Brandon Collum once and we had one of the most surprisingly good matches I’ve ever been in two times. That guy and me had some great chemistry.
Daniel Johnson: Who are some of the wrestlers you believe you have the best chemistry with?
Robi Vio: Greg Kaibal, Brandon Collum, Stupid and Eric Michaels were always guys who we just meshed well together in the ring.
Daniel Johnson: Do you consider yourself a tag team specialist or more of a singles performer?
Robi Vio: I think that I am probably one of the guys who you would consider a tag team specialist. I’ve had prominent singles titles, but I have managed to win the tag team titles in almost every promotion I’ve ever walked into.
Daniel Johnson: Is there any wrestler you have yet to work with that you would like to work with? If so, who are they and why would you like to work with them?
Robi Vio: I always wanted to do a match where I teamed with a guy named Cabana Man Dan. He was somewhat responsible for me getting into wrestling and I always thought that eventually we would get to do a tag match together. Another guy that I definitely want to work with would be Skirra Corvis from NWA Anarchy Wrestling (AW) fame. That guy is probably one of the best workers around. Also, Dustin Knight and Ken Lee from Flatline wrestling would be fun to work with I think.
Daniel Johnson: I also had five non-wrestling related questions I like to ask everyone to make interviews a little more fun. What television shows do you enjoy watching today?
Robi Vio: I actually don’t watch television, haha, but I do enjoy watching the Joe Rogan Podcast on YouTube and I also like to check out a lot of various channels on YouTube. On TV, if I am stuck watching television and have to find something to look at, I tend to either be watching MMA fights or The Golden Girls.
Daniel Johnson: What was your favorite movie that came out this year?
Robi Vio: I actually don’t know if i have watched a major motion picture in years, but I did watch a movie called Cannibal Holocaust for the first time this year and that was quite an experience to anyone who watches horror movies. Not for the faint at heart for sure. My favorite film is Eraserhead so it’s safe to say I have a strange taste in film.
Daniel Johnson: What food did you try for the first time this year that you most enjoyed?
Robi Vio: I tried crunchy crab rolls at a sushi place earlier in the year and I am pretty hooked on it at this point. That is some good stuff.
Daniel Johnson: What was your favorite song to come out this year?
Robi Vio: I’m so detached from pop culture that I don’t even know if this came out this year, but the song “Sail” [by Awolnation] that came out recently isn’t too bad, not my favorite stuff, but still, not bad.
Daniel Johnson: What was the last book you read and would you recommend it?
Robi Vio: The last book I read not so much, but before that I was reading The Sociopath Next Door [by Martha Stout], and I highly recommend it to everyone. We all know at least one sociopath and it’s a decent tool for identifying those people in your life.
Daniel Johnson: I also had a few more questions related to wrestling. What is the weirdest part of being a wrestler?
Robi Vio: Honestly? It’s when your family gets mad at you for losing. You can explain the business all day long but when my grandmother sees it and I lose, she tends to spend at least 30 minutes telling me what I should have done to beat the guy. I love them, but it’s still weird to deal with every time.
Daniel Johnson: Who is one wrestler 25 or younger that you think readers should know about?
Robi Vio: If I had to pick one, I would say Ken Lee. I think he is going to be a big player in the southern independent scene. Also, if you are more into women’s wrestling, Auctavia from GCW in Alabama is a good female wrestler, damn it and Wes Crowe too. There are just so many it’s hard to only name a few.
Daniel Johnson: What would you like to accomplish by the end of the year, if anything in particular, in wrestling?
Robi Vio: I am the type of guy who has held at least one championship every year since I have been wrestling. I would say that winning a championship and keeping that streak alive is important to achieve right now.
Daniel Johnson: What about thinking more long-term? Where would you like to be in five years and how do you plan to get there?
Robi Vio: In five years I would like to be able to be in a spot where I feel there are no more mountains to climb or battles to be won. I don’t know how that will play out, but I would like to be able to feel some closure starting to come in by that time. I don’t want to wrestle forever, but I want to complete the path that I have started. I don’t want to seem like too much of a weirdo, but I just want to finish my path.
Daniel Johnson: Is there anything you would like to promote?
Robi Vio: I do a radio show on mixed martial arts now called Tap Nap or Snap (TNS) radio and we do interviews with several stars of MMA and do a lot of general discussion. I’d also like to plug Birmingham Hardcore Wrestling simply because they are a fine group giving people something different to look at, and I’ll throw one out to AIWF XWA who run shows weekly in Jasper, Tennessee and are on the verge of some big things happening.
Daniel Johnson: Is there anything you would like to add?
Robi Vio: Just want to tell you thank you, and to anyone who takes the time to read this I thank them as well.
Check out Robi Vio in action! Here he wrestles Wes Crowe in what begins as a singles match for SCW, but soon turns into a tag match also involving Corey Dye and Joey Idol:
Categories: Wrestling Interviews