The following edition of "Off the Air" is the second part of a two-part series.
Part one can be viewed by visiting http://www.wrestlezone.com/editorials/243464-off-the-air-the-untold-gregory-iron-story
*During the writing of this column, Michael Tarver debuted at the Impact TV taping using the name "Tyson Tarver."
"I hate John Cena!" -Michael Tarver, former WWE and current Impact Wrestling superstar
In the ring and on the mic, Michael Tarver commands attention. But one on one, Tyrone Evans is soft spoken and easy going. Tarver and Evans may share the same body, but that seems to be where the similarities begin and end. Tyrone's alter-ego, "Michael Tarver" was developed during his time under contract to WWE, where he was an original member of The Nexus. Humble and laid back, it's hard to believe this is the same man that would intentionally suplex the cerebral palsy-stricken Gregory Iron on his head, causing Iron's brain to bleed so badly that he almost died. After viewing the cell phone footage on YouTube, it was clear that while Evans does suplex Greg viciously, he isn't the only one. Another participant is Raymond Rowe. Rowe performs multiple maneuvers on Iron, much like a dog pouncing on a chew-toy. When I asked Iron why he rarely mentions Ray Rowe, he admits that Evans isn't the only one at fault, but states his anger stems from a lack of apology. "Every time I've seen Ray, he apologized. He called me constantly and even pulled me aside at a show once to say he was sorry and talk to me. That's something Tyrone never did, and I never forgot that."
With the topic of bullying becoming so mainstream lately, was this a case of several much larger athletes picking on a small, nearly defenseless, crippled kid? Many believe that to be the scenario, while some are saying the situation has been blown out of proportion and others seem to be on both sides of the fence. Joe Dombrowski was at ringside providing play-by-play for the match and recalls, "Thinking back to that battle royal, my most vivid memory was the sheer physicality of all of the suplexes and the powerbomb given to Greg. I can remember cringing upon impact. I could tell it was a little more than your typical scenario, but at the time I chalked it up to initiating the rookie. Not until after the event did I realize how gravely serious the situation truly was."
Josh Kimbrell, who can be seen giving Iron a fallaway slam during the match says, "I felt bad when I realized after-wards he was hurt. I'm sure he was hurt before I threw him and it didn't help." Jeremy Hudgens, a cerebral palsy victim himself, refereed the event. It seemed to strike a cord when I questioned him about the possibility of Gregory Iron being bullied. Says Hudgens, "Did they take advantage of him? Of course they did. They see Greg has a small disadvantage and attack the worst part of his body, his head. With cerebral palsy, the brain is permanently swollen and the blows Greg took can be lethal." Rickey Shane Page witnessed the battle royal from the locker room, while preparing for his match later on the card. Page offers his perspective, "I saw and talked to Greg after it happened and he definitely had a concussion. I watched it, he was (concussed) I saw the whole thing. Both Tyrone and Ray took advantage of him. Why were they even doing suplexes in a battle royal?"
In researching this story, I found it very uncommon for journalists to speak with Evans. That didn't seem fair. What did Tyrone have to say about all the controversy? I walked into the One Wellness Sports & Health Center in Eastlake, Ohio to talk face to face with Evans. I'd have to be patient as he was conducting a seminar, in cooperation with Hard Knock Wrestling, for 20 up and coming independent wrestlers. Evans is a polished speaker, having just finished a soon to be released album. It was no surprise to hear him dropping knowledge, much of which he gained from his tenure in the WWE. In the hour that I observed (and learned), the former Michael Tarver took his time and went over everything from the fundamentals and basics of telling a story in the ring, to the importance of the ring entrance, to pointing out the philosophy of "less is more." He finished the seminar by answering any and all questions the class had (including making brief statements on Gregory Iron and John Cena). As we sat down to talk, he opened with, "I hate Greg Iron and I hate John Cena even more!" He was quick to add that he was joking, of course. But was he? Tyrone stated he never felt the need to answer publicly in regards to the Gregory Iron incident. He said he feels he's moved on from the situation and, "I pray God protects him in the ring and he makes it as far as he can." Evans has noted that he suplexed Greg once in that match, and it wasn't directly onto his head, then left him alone. He points out that there were others that suplexed, powerbombed and slammed Iron multiple times. Evans goes so far as to refute Iron's claim that he never apologized for nearly ending his life, "I did apologize to Greg in person, at a Pittsburgh independent show." Iron counters that by saying, "He accuses me of lying. He said I lied about my concussion. He claimed he had done nothing wrong, that I exaggerated and told me I don't know what being close to death is like. He never apologized."
I offered to arrange a meeting, allowing them the opportunity to come to a mutual understanding. Maybe Tyrone did apologize, but due to the severity of the concussion and the after effects, is it possible that Greg has no recollection of it? If I could get Tyrone to apologize at my proposed meeting, could they squash the beef? Greg answered without hesitation, "I think an apology is too late… especially since four years later he still can't own up to it. He was reckless. And now he's blaming John Cena publicly for intentionally injuring him. He says Cena was intimidated by him. Ironic." Tyrone doesn't budge on his stance either, "Greg is trying to use his situation to make a name at my expense and off of my name. He's using my issues with John Cena to do it. He is not telling the truth at all. What Cena did to me was malicious. What happened to Greg was an accident. Greg, I showed you love (in a farewell speech for Absolute Intense Wrestling -www.aiwrestling.com) and you're trying to make a name off my name. It's cool, tell the Firestorm guys I said hi -if they are still running." (Firestorm is a small indy fed that currently books Iron). For those wondering what Tyrone is referring to when he speaks out about John Cena being malicious, Evans points to an incident several months ago where "Cena hit myself and David Otunga with multiple chair shots that we didn't know were coming. One was aimed for my head, so I put my arm up to protect myself and the chair caught my arm fracturing it."
No one has gone on record to back up Iron's claim of Tyrone Evans being reckless in the ring. Past opponents of the former Nexus member, Josh Kimbrell and Charles Bruce were quoted recently, "When I asked him to lighten up, he did. For as big of a guy as he is, if he was being careless he could have done plenty of damage to me and didn't." -says Kimbrell (also known as Canadian Bad Boy). Bruce, who wrestles under the name Brandon X, wrestled Tyrone Evans in Evans' first match. He tells Off the Air, "I would never have known it was his first match. I never felt like I was at risk then, or in any of the other matches we had together." But those guys are over six feet tall. What about the smaller guys in the business? How about someone more Greg's size? Well, I'm 5' 4" and I worked with Tyrone Evans as the opposing manager in a year long, bloody feud. We had several tag matches in which I was on the receiving end of his "KillShot" spear among other moves. I never suffered any long term injuries, nor did feel he worked a reckless style. In the end though, the only person's opinion that really matters is Gregory Iron's. He was the one laying in the hospital bed for several days, his brain bleeding and staring death in the face.
The more I wrote about them, the more I thought that maybe these two men really aren't that different. Could Greg be trying to garner more notoriety by using Michael Tarver's name, until WWE or Impact Wrestling offers him a contract? Could Tarver be attempting to stay relevant by using John Cena's name until he signs a deal with Impact Wrestling? Honestly, I'm writing my column and using the current top WWE superstar, CM Punk's name who used the sudden media favorite (ESPN, Sports Illustrated, etc.), Gregory Iron's name (and disability), who is using former WWE star (and now Impact Wrestling star), Michael Tarver's name, who is using the current most-recognizable wrestler in the world, John Cena's name. With the exception of me, each of those mentioned above are doing quite well. Punk was recently revealed as the top seller in WWE merchandise. Iron is enjoying a blitz of media attention that no other indy wrestler has ever seen. Michael Tarver signed and debuted with Impact Wrestling (now known as Tyson Tarver) while I was finishing the final draft of this column. And John Cena is still the WWE's favorite son, with a soon-to-be-released movie and an upcoming WrestleMania main event against the returning Rock. In spite of all the drama, they all lived happily ever after. Now to hit the send option and check out this email from "Dixie." Probably more spam, I'll just delete it.
*CM Punk publicly endorsing Gregory Iron can be seen at: http://youtu.be/CUm-O7Z3S0M