Dustin Starr (a.k.a. Daniel Skyler)
By: George Wren
GW: How did you get you start in professional wrestling?
DS: I was actually just being a kid and stumbled upon it. At the time, I was only fifteen years old and had been a wrestling fan my entire life. It's so weird to even think about it now and how it actually all worked out. I actually picked up the phone book and called Channel 5 Studios, in Memphis, TN. I asked them how I could get in contact with the wrestling organization, Memphis Power Pro Wrestling. They gave me a phone number without giving me a name to ask for. So, I called that number and Randy Hales happened to answer the phone, whom was the booker and owner of Power Pro. From there, he directed me to "The Outlaw" Don Bass, who had been one of the original Assassins. Shortly after I spoke with Donnie, my mother and I met up with him at a small truck stop, in West Memphis, AR. My mother and Donnie spoke for a little while and she agreed to pay the down payment to get started. I paid the rest. It all started, just like that.
GW: When was you born?
DS: I was born on October 22nd.
GW: Where was you born?
DS: The Land of the Delta Blues, the home of rock n' roll & barbecue... Memphis, Tennessee.
GW: Where are you currently residing at the present time?
DS: I'm back in Memphis, TN.
GW: Who has been some of your toughest opponents?
DS: Oh, I'm not sure about my toughest opponents. I know that I'll never forget wrestling Zack Ryder on ECW television, at the FedEx Forum, in front of 15,000 Memphians. One of my favorite memories is when ring announcer, Justin Roberts, came to me backstage and told me how many "Dustin Starr signs" there were in the audience. I called him a liar and laughed it off. When I entered the ring that night, I looked out and saw them for myself. I wish I had a photo of that moment. It was surreal. My friends, fans-alike and family showed up for me.Most of my best memories and toughest opponents come from workouts and training sessions.
GW: Who trained you?
DS: "The Outlaw" Don Bass initially trained me. But I feel I was really polished by guys like Derrick King, Motley Cruz, Tasha Samone and many of the Power Pro Wrestling guys, back then.Obviously, I went through training at Florida Championship Wrestling. I've had training by WWE's head trainer Tom Prichard, Steve Keirn, Dusty Rhodes, Ricky Steamboat, Norman Smiley, Billy Kidman, Arn Anderson, Fit Finley, Road Warrior Animal, Jamie Noble, the WWE referees, John Laurinitis himself... you name it. It's been quite an experience. I've done camps run by Mike Bucci. I've been given advice from guys like Edge and Sheamus. So, it's one of those things where you are never finished training.
GW: Do you remember your first match?
DS: Yes, I do. It was in Paragould, Arkansas.
GW: Who was it against and how did the match go?
DS: I wrestled my training partner, Jett Logan. It didn't go too well, to be honest. I was scared, small and very nervous. I was just going through the motions without any confidence, at all. I got the victory... on accident. That's a long story, but anyway. I won that match. When it was over, I remember being so excited that I couldn't wait to get back out there and do it again. Then, I found out there was a battle royal and got nervous all over again.
GW: What titles have you held that stick out the most?
DS: Being in the business for over twelve years, there's obviously quite a few titles the I've held on the independent scene. But, as far as championships are concerned, I'd have to give the nod to the Southern Junior Heavyweight & Southern Tag Titles. More recently, the Unites States Junior Heavyweight title. The Southern Championships were televised on Memphis Wrestling and have a very prominent respect in the Mid-South. The US Junior title victory was televised all over Mississippi and has a rich history, as well. What's more valuable than Championships won inside the ring, is fan-voted awards. I have been voted Wrestler of the Year and Hoizon Star of the Year numerous times thru RRONews.com. Memphis Sport Magazine, a non-wrestling magazine, had their fans vote me #3 Favorite Fighter behind only Rampage Jackson and Jerry Lawler.So, I hold fan-voted awards in just as high of regard as titles won in the ring.
GW: In your early years you and Simon (known as Kryptonite at the time) was known as Sex & Violence. How did the name come about?
DS: Oh, I don't remember, it's been so long ago. We were young. We had an old saying, because of his curly hair and my spiked hair, "spikes and curls get all the girls". It was a fun time and learning experience. We barely knew what we were doing, back then.
GW: In 2003 you started working for Corey Maclin's Memphis Wrestling where you did a lifeguard gimmick both with Reed Richardson (Simon) and later on with Wes Adams (Scott Starr who worked in WWE as a official) who did you enjoy working with the most in the team? DS: As far as a tag team partner, I think Wes was a better fit. We looked like brothers and had a very similar in-ring style. Wes is a great guy and was up for anything, as long as it was good for business. A quick story about Wes... In Alabama, we had a conversation in the ring, after a match. The match went a little hey-wire towards the end, with a few guys trying to take liberties. So, I asked Wes if he was ready for what was coming when we walked into the locker room. He was game. And he held his word. Simon was always a little more controversial. He attracted the heat. Just the smallest statements would garner so much negative attention. I'll never forget the time that Simon was trying to call spots for Terry Taylor, whom was our agent for a televised match. There are just certain things that you aren’t supposed to do. Sometimes, Simon didn’t see it that way. But we were great friends for a long time. GW: While doing the lifeguard gimmick you was part of the match that was a Concession Stand Battle Royal in Memphis, Tennessee on November 29, 2003 where Larry Booker (Moondog Spot) passed away in the ring. When did everyone notice in the ring that something had went wrong?
DS: I have a ton of vivid memories, from that night, inside and outside of the ring. I remember Larry slouched down, in the corner. I think I hit him with a few punches and walked away, after I noticed that he was no-selling me. That was typical of the Moondogs, though. I thought nothing of it. Ricky Morton, of the Rock ‘n Roll Express, came to me and said, “Something’s wrong with Larry! Get out!” Then, he threw me over the top rope, to eliminate me from the match. Everything abruptly ended. From there, I just watched the stretcher run down the isle. They tried to save Larry and couldn’t. It’s such a dream-like moment. Standing in the locker room, I saw the paramedics race Larry to the back, Larry’s youngest son running after the stretcher while crying & the boys just standing around in shock. There was a garage door that was shut, so no one could see what was going on. That was the last I saw of Larry.Larry and I were very good friends. He was the first booker that told me he could draw money with me. He loved my look, although I was young, skinny and green. He liked me. And when Sir Mo (from Men on a Mission) booked me and Larry together, in Dyersburg, as a punishment for me… Larry took great care of me and we were able to make some pretty good memories, in the ring. I still miss Larry. What a great guy. So soft spoken and kind. Totally different than his in-ring personality.
GW: You won the Jr. Title with the company and was the last Jr. Champion after the promotion went off the air. What are your thoughts bring the last Jr. Champion of the company?
DS: I don’t think THAT particular Memphis Wrestling group was nearly as important as a Power Pro Wrestling or USWA. So, in that perspective, it’s tough to say. It’s always something nice to look back on, though. I always thought that I had so much more to offer Memphis Wrestling than what I was allowed to contribute.
GW: When did you guys actually know that Memphis Wrestling was going off the air?
DS: I don’t even remember. Jerry Lawler held a meeting to tell us about it. Then, boom, it was gone.
GW: What are your thoughts working for Corey Maclin?
DS: I enjoyed working for Corey. I was never in Corey’s “clique”, so to speak. But he always kept me working and kept me on television. For that, I have to thank him. I just disagreed with a lot of the booking that Corey did. But to be fair, I have disagreed with a lot of the booking I’ve seen, over the years. That’s just the way it is, in the business.Corey is a good salesman. Not a good booker.
GW: What do you feel was the down fall for it going off the air and going out of business?
DS: I’m not sure. But if I had to guess, I’d have to say it was Corey Maclin. Corey wasn’t the best at keeping promises. Corey wasn’t the best, so I hear, with money, either. So, there’s no telling. The word we all got, came from Jerry Lawler. He said the television station was being sold and they didn’t want to carry the financial responsibilities of wrestling, any longer.I only knew what they told me.
GW: You have had your share with The Walker's from Dyersberg, Tennessee that ran a small outlaw show for many years. Would you like to shed some light on the problems you have had with them?
DS: I don’t have any problems with the Walker’s. We’ve had our problems, but as far as I’m concerned, they’re in the past. Whether it’s the Walker family or any other family, if I’m promised money – I want it. If someone lies to my face, I have a problem with it. And if someone wants to threaten me, I have a problem with it. I have no beef with the Walker family.
GW: Is there anyone you dispise in the business?
GW: You worked for Florida Championship Wrestling (FCW) the WWE's developmental farm as Daniel Skyler. How did all that come about?
DS: Hard work, to be honest. I had been in the business for over ten years and had several looks from WWE. So, I decided to really go for it.In June of 2009, I had a series of tryout matches. I went in weighing 215 pounds. They were impressed with me, but said I didn’t have anything that really stood out. So, I worked hard, sent some photos and had another tryout in September of 2009. I went in, this time, at 183 pounds. They thought I looked bigger and better. The fact was, I was leaner and had a better appearance. I requested a meeting with John Laurinitis, the head of talent relations. When we met, he agreed that I had “something” and would contact me by the end of the week. We shook hands on what I thought was a job. It didn’t happen. Somehow, it fell thru. From there, I went to the FCW Camp. Another tryout. I had unbelievable feedback. Even Edge came to me, afterward. He told me that I had something special and that they would notice it and hire me. But, that didn’t happen then, either. So, I was booked at the start of February at the Royal Rumble, RAW & Smackdown! I had more tryouts and this time, I succeeded. The bottom line was, everything they told me to do – I did. Everything they wanted me to get better at – I got better at. They wanted me to get over – I got over. I was almost thrown out of the building, at the Royal Rumble, because of some of the things I did leading up to the bookings. Sometimes you just have to step out there and take chances. That’s what I did.
GW: Was you under a developmental deal while working FCW?
DS: Yes. I had a three-year deal.
GW: Was there a reason while you was an official instead of a worker/wrestler?
DS: The word I received from the office was that my height would hamper me, in the long run. They did like my look, but not my height. So, they wanted me to be a ring announcer / referee. Unfortunately, I never had the opportunity to ring announce. I only officiated. There were many, many people who disagreed with the decision to make me a referee. Those folks who disagreed worked at FCW and even on the road with WWE. No one ever spoke up, though. Whenever I spoke up for myself, it caused trouble.
GW: What was the reason for your departure?
DS: It just wasn’t a good fit. I think we both realized that. There was discussion of me going to the roster to show them what I could do, but the timing was wrong. The door is always open for me to go back, but we would have to agree on what capacity that would be.I don’t have any hard feelings towards WWE. They took care of me. They gave me a great opportunity. Unfortunately for the two of us, it wasn’t a good fit.
GW: What did you enjoy the most working for FCW?
DS: I enjoyed the training. Come on. You’re working every single week with guys like Dusty Rhodes, Tom Prichard, Norman Smiley, Steve Keirn. X-Pac, DDP, Sheamus or someone like that just popping, from time to time. The training and amount of knowledge that you get from a place like that is just incredible.
GW: How long were you actually there?
DS: I was signed in February. I moved to Tampa in March. I was there until December.
GW: There has been speculations that you had "heat" with Jerry Lawler over a blog?
DS: Jerry Lawler never liked my blog. But no, I do not have heat with Jerry. There were people that liked to stir the pot and misquote some of the things I wrote about. But we do not have any heat.
GW: Why didn't you work for Lawler's short 14 week creation of Memphis Wrestling?
DS: I wasn’t in town. I think I came back towards the tail-end of it. I hadn’t been in the ring in almost one year. My body wasn’t ready for wrestling. There are several reasons.
GW: Haven't you done tryout matches for TNA?
DS: I was in Orlando for tryouts in February. I have photos posted on my Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/home.php#!/profile.php?id=100001901564527....I loved it. Everything went very well. There’s a totally different vide working with TNA than there is with WWE.
GW: What was the feedback you got after your tryout matches?
DS: I received great feedback. It seemed like they were pleased with my appearance and my work. The crowd seemed to get behind me. I was teamed up with Jay Lethal and as you know, he’s very popular with the fans. So, it was a great experience and I certainly hope to be back. Working the tryout match is one of my favorite memories of my career.
GW: If you had your preference who would you rather work for WWE or TNA?
DS: I think I’d rather work for the company that was going to put full confidence in me to showcase what I truly can do. I just want to be able to contribute. I want to be given the chance to show what value I have. I feel that I’m very valuable to any company. When WWE signed me, I was very hopeful that I would get the opportunity to show that. So, it really doesn’t matter which company it would be. I just want to perform.
GW: Would you rather be a "face" or a "heel"?
DS: That really doesn’t matter, at all. I’m confident doing both.
GW: What is your deal with The Riverkings (hockey) and how did all that come about?
DS: I have been the emcee for their hockey games for the last three seasons. Since returning to Memphis, in December, I’ve actually come on board fulltime. I’m their Corporate Partnership Manager, now. So, not only do I get to entertain but I work very closely with advertising, sponsorships, fundraising and everything else that comes with a professional sports organization. I was actually called by a good friend to tryout for the emcee job at the Memphis Grizzlies, a few years back. I had no idea what I was doing and really didn’t know anything about it. I just knew that I’d be working with an NBA team and in front of thousands of people every single game. I liked the idea of it. So, I tried out. I didn’t get the gig but I received a phone call, a few days later. The voice mail was from the game-ops coordinator at the Mississippi RiverKings organization, Joey Thorsen. Joey offered me the job right then and there. No tryout needed. He wanted me for every home game. So, without any experience, I started and have been doing it since. I love it. It’s certainly the best thing that I’ve ever done. The audience is so loyal. RiverKings have great fans.
GW: Describe your physique and daily routine in the gvm/diet?
DS: For years and years, I thought I needed to be bigger, in order to wrestle. It was only a few years back that I shifted my way of thinking and decided to get as lean as possible. I just wanted to look better. So, I changed my diet and cardio. Then, eventually I changed the way I lifted and trained altogether. So, by doing that, I look different and feel much better. I do an hour of cardio per day. I focus in on one body-part to train per day. I also super-set on almost every workout, to burn more calories. It’s exhausting, but the results are great. There’s so much that goes into it. Eating, drinking, supplements, cardio, training… it’s just my way of life. You definitely have to have a passion for it.
GW: What are the main principles you have to have to make it in the wrestling business today?
DS: You have to get in the gym. If you don’t LOOK like a wrestler, people will not THINK that you’re a wrestler. Also, I’d say that you have to expand your work. Don’t JUST wrestle. Do many different things to get noticed. I’ve walked the runway and modeled tuxedos. I’ve written for magazines and newspapers. I’ve blogged, tweeted, Facebooked… I’ve emceed hockey games and even intro’ed monster trucks. You have to get out there.
GW: What advice would you give to any inspiring person wanting to break into the wrestling business?
DS: Do not expect wrestling to be your number one job. Even in developmental, you’re not making big money. There is such a small percentage of guys who truly “make it”. You have to have a “Plan A”. Make wrestling your “Plan B”. TRUST ME!!!
GW: What are some of the highlights that stand out in your career?
DS: I’ve had the opportunity to wrestle on WWE’s Smackdown!, Heat, ECW and have had spots on WWE RAW. I was on the receiving end of “Sweet Chin Music” from Shawn Michaels, on RAW. That was pretty cool. I’ve performed on TNA Xplosion and have wrestled in the Impact Zone! I’m happy with those events. It was really neat to wrestle in the Mid-South Coliseum, before it was shut down. I always enjoyed performing on live television, for Memphis Wrestling. I would say the biggest highlight was getting signed by WWE. That’s the pinnacle. That’s what you strive for. So, I would have to say, regardless of how it turned out, that’s the highlight of all highlights.When I received the phone call, I knew it. I knew I was close, before that. But getting the call and having the confidence instilled in me the way they did it… nothing compares. On the other hand, the best thing I’ve ever done, personally, career-wise… was working with the Mississippi RiverKings hockey team. I’ve grown so much through those times and those games. I’ve gotten better at a lot of aspects of my performance, just because of that organization. It certainly has made me look at sports entertainment in a different light. I love acting crazy and firing up our fans.
GW: Your currently working for New Experience Wrestling (N.E.W.) in West Memphis, Arkansas on a weekly basis for "Nightmare" Ken Wayne where you currently held their US Jr. Title. Why do you feel like the attendance hasen't changed where they draw anywhere from 30 to 40 people.
DS: Well, it really isn't about attendance. If you've ever been to an NEW event or seen their product on television, you can see that the studio is very small. There's only a few rows of chairs around the ring. Whenever NEW has a live event, put of town in a different venue, they draw pretty well. The audience they draw for television is not that big of a deal. The production work, camera angles and professionalism of how the show is put together is what makes NEW so attractive to the workers and to myself.
GW: Many have said that the layout of N.E.W has the look of the old Memphis studio look like it was back in the 80's?
DS: There is a lot of truth in that. From the desk, to the curtains around the ring, even to the lighting. NEW had. Great set-up, for sure.
GW: Memphis Wrestling is returning on 5/7 on WHBQ in Memphis. Do you have any plans of working for the promotion?
DS: I have been in talks about working there. But nothing has been made solid, as of yet. I have a few other plans that could conflict. I'm certainly not opposed to working the show, as long as our schedules work well together.
GW: With so many promotions that has come and gone in Memphis do you see this promotion being any different?
DS: Not really. I think it'll have a good run. But things change daily. Promotions come and go. Someone might have a better idea, one day. I know Jerry Lawler has his hands in it, again, so it should be good.
GW: Where do you see the wrestling business in 20 years from now?
DS: I’ll leave that to the old-timers. I don’t know. I don’t see it changing all that much. It’s been very similar for so long. Bodies have changed. Hair-styles have changed. Attire has changed. Who knows what’s next? GW: What are your thoughts on the fans?
DS: I love my fans. My fans are the greatest fans in the world. My fans are my friends, family and those who support me thru it all. I have a following from Tampa that I keep in touch with, to this very day. I’m in contact with my fans from the Mississippi RiverKings organization every single day. I have fans contact me and tell me to come and work shows in their area because they miss having me around. That’s the ultimate compliment. When I returned to the RiverKings’ organization, after being in Tampa for the past year, I was so shocked at the response that I received. The fans were happy to have me back. I can’t explain to you how that feels. But I know it feels great.
GW: What are your future plans?
DS: I haven’t done too much wrestling. I’ll wrestle a few dates per month with New Experience Wrestling, out of West Memphis, Arkansas. I keep in contact with TNA and WWE and explore opportunities with them. I may do a few spot shows here and there. But for the most part, I’m going to grow my brand and career with the RiverKings and other entertainment related events. I’ll keep in the gym. I’ll keep in touch with my fans and friends. I’ll tweet (@DustinStarr) about my passion for health and nutrition. I’ll try to inspire people. I’m going to be happy.
GW: Any closing words?
GW: Dustin I would like to thank you for your time, and wish you all the best.
DS: Thank you so much.
Photo Credit: Lee South and Dustin Starr collection
George Wren is a professional photographer for New Wave, Toxxic, and Wrestling World Publications. He has also done correspondents for The Wrestling Observer in the past. He is currently doing interviews on a weekly basis with the superstars of the mat.