It was the punch that reverberated throughout the pro wrestling world and spawned the term “steelhorsing.”
Tommy Taylor, who has been wrestling for more than 10 years, wasn’t happy with the way the lesser experienced Steelhorse Vachon conducted himself in the ring during their match at a recent Vintage Wrestling event at the Salvation Army Gym in Sanford, Fla.
As a result, Taylor allegedly veered off the plan for the match and gave him a shot to the eye. The former WWE developmental star says he saw Vachon’s “lack of respect to the business, to the company and to himself” even from their first meeting.
“It definitely didn’t go unnoticed from the get-go,” Taylor said. “He came in and didn’t shake anybody’s hands. The way he conducted himself even when we were going over some of the main parts of the match, it kind of upset me a little bit because he didn’t show me respect.
“He had only been doing this a few years. I’ve been doing this a little bit longer. My main goal of the whole match was to make him look really good. It was to make him look like a monster, and I was kind of upset that he wasn’t really paying me that much respect.
“So when it came down to the actual match, he was almost taking liberties with me. He wasn’t taking care of my body and doing things that potentially could have hurt me or seriously injured me, if not ended my career. At that point, I had to put him in his place and give him a wakeup call. I gave him a ‘receipt’, which is what we call it in the wrestling business. Immediately after that, I went straight back to doing the match and being a professional and putting a good match on. We got through the match, and I thought that was it. I thought the issue was squashed, and maybe we would talk about it in the back, but no.”
This is not uncommon in such a rough-and-tough business. There have been many instances in wrestling history where a veteran has been stiff with their greener opponent to teach a lesson, see what they’re made of or give them a wakeup call to get their head in the game. So the punch or kick or slam is harder (stiff) on purpose, sending a message to the opponent.
“It happens in matches, especially when you are working with guys who have been in the business for only a few years,” Taylor said. “It happens. I’ve been on both ends of it. I haven’t always been the guy to teach them the way to take it on the chin. When you come in the business you learn to ask questions, pick the brain of the person who came before you. It’s a learning experience.”
The punch really wasn’t unprecedented, but what followed was. Vachon allegedly called the police on Taylor.
Vachon, who is not related to the famous Vachon family, could not be reached for comment.
• Legit police report
However, according to the initial police report obtained from the Sanford Police Department, the officer who responded talked to those who witnessed the incident and obtained sworn statements. This included someone who was filming the match, who said the striking in the eye was not part of the event.
Names were blacked out of the police report, as the incident was still being investigated. The report says when (blank) entered the dressing room, he heard several wrestlers discussing how (blank) admitted to striking (blank) on purpose.
Someone else the officer spoke to, according to the report, said he was in the vicinity of the wrestlers’ dressing room after the match and didn’t see any activity between (blank) and (blank). The report notes (blank) said he wishes to press charges against (blank) for battery due to (blank) striking (blank) with a closed fist in the face, as it was not part of the planned event.
You can fill in the blanks.
The officer wrote probable cause for battery was determined, based on (blank’s) statement, due to (blank) not following the script and intentionally striking (blank) in the face with intent to cause physical injury. (Blank) stated he did not give (blank) permission to use a closed fist and to strike him in the eye.
The report also noted digital photos were taken, and the case was being sent to the Florida State Attorney’s Office. As of press time, the State Attorney has not returned requests for an update regarding the decision in the case. Taylor, 26, wasn’t there when police arrived and did not return to the scene that night.
“The show was still going on, and I had to leave early to get home to my family,” Taylor said. “Literally, when I was a couple of blocks down the road, I received a call that police showed up to see me for assaulting my partner and going off script. I thought it was a joke, and up until the next day, I still thought it was a joke. I guess he had five cop cars there, about two paramedics and a fire truck.
“I don’t know what kind of call he made, but he must have made it sound real serious, like he had been jumped, and it was some kind of assault. As far as I know, he was seen by a paramedic if not taken off in an ambulance for a little punch to the top of the head that didn’t leave a mark.”
He didn’t return to speak to the police, as by then he says he got a phone call saying not to worry about it; it would blow over.
Taylor has since said he hasn’t been contacted as of press time by authorities.
“They saw the ridiculous side to it,” Taylor said. “There was no point in going back and making matters worse since he was still there as well. I went home, went to bed and didn’t think anything else of it. I woke up the next day and it kind of blew up…
“It’s closed case. He [Vachon] has since deleted his Facebook and stopped answering phone calls. A lot of radio stations and podcasts have been trying to reach out to him to get his words. I don’t know, maybe this is him trying to say his wrestling career is over.”
Word spread about the incident, and within 24 hours Taylor was the talk of the business. Wrestlers from TNA, WWE and the independent scene began using “#steelhorsing” taking Taylor’s side on Twitter.
“A lot of the respected wrestlers were coming out saying how ridiculous the whole thing was by using the whole hashtag steelhorsing in their tweets,” Taylor said. “A lot of guys from WWE and TNA were doing it.”
Taylor heard from the likes of WWE superstar Tyson Kidd asking him for his story and others like former WWE talent MVP and Dr. Tom Prichard showing their support. Video and images popped up parodying the punch and police phone call.
Within days there were Taylor and ‘steelhorsing’ T-shirts. You can even find the term in the urban dictionary. The definition says, “The act, specific to professional wrestling, of involving police presence to settle internal disputes or actions that take place within the context of a match.”
Taylor believes everything happens for a reason. He is making the most of the added exposure by making appearances on a multitude of media outlets. The “British Lion” says his phone has been ringing off the hook with bookings.
“I have made a lot of sacrifices for professional wrestling and working hard to try to get to a point where I can make a living out of it,” Taylor said. “Since I left WWE, I’ve always remained in contact with them…TNA has actually contacted me, and I received a few bookings, too, including on February 23 for Ring Warriors in South Florida.”
• Promoter discusses situation
Jhon Builus , the promoter for the Vintage Wrestling show, says in his nine years in the business he has never seen or heard of a wrestler calling the police on another wrestler.
“People get hit in the face really hard all the time,” he said. “Some are more stiff or snug in the ring than others. To the naked eye, it just looked like a hard-hitting match. The fact that Steelhorse got back into the match and finished without any qualms and went to the locker room, to the untrained eye, it looked like everything was as it should be. He walked into [Taylor] in the locker room and leaned in real close saying, ‘What was that about? You jumped me. You called me a coward.’
“A few of the guys who were in earshot thought something had happened, and they were going to throw down like wrestlers do, like men do, and then when you’re done, you go back and have beers afterward. No. He just stormed out and that was that. He didn’t return to the locker room. Around 10 to 15 minutes I heard the police had arrived.
“There was some confusion at first. We were all under the impression that they were talking about a fan that had gotten jumped because someone called and said they were jumped by one of the wrestlers. Steelhorse was in his car as the cops kept coming in and out to question everyone. They were saying that he was [accusing] him of going off script, and that he wanted to press charges. The police officers, one of them out of the two in the locker room, flat-out told us that it was the most ridiculous call he ever had made.”
Builus wasn’t called for further questioning.
“It was pretty much dropped by police that night, as far as I know,” he said. “They got all of our statements. Even the official of the match, his statement was pretty much how it went. He said, ‘As the official of the match all I saw was two men wrestling.’”
Builus hasn’t been in contact with Vachon but did get in touch with one of the trainers at the Team 3D Academy, where Vachon spent some time.
“As far as I know, he is no longer associated with the school,” Builus said. “...From what I was told, the reasoning he gave from the few he has been in contact with was that he was so upset about what happened that he believed if he took matters into his own hands, he would have ended up in jail. So he said he just called the police.”
• Not a student of the Team 3D Academy
Contraire to reports, the Team 3D Academy (under the direction of Bubba Ray and Devon Dudley) is not where Vachon got his start nor where he regularly trained.
Dan Carr, a trainer at the Team 3D Academy, wanted to set the record straight that Steelhorse Vachon wasn’t a student of the school. He says Vachon had eight years under his belt as a pro wrestler in the Northeast, before his Florida stint.
“I don’t even consider him a product of this school,” Carr said. “He was one of those guys who came down for some extra training. Those who start from the beginning, we’ll claim those guys, but that guy was an eight-year guy out of New York. He was here off and on. I haven't event seen him for the last couple of months.
“I know [the media] have attached him to our name, but he was such a hit-and-miss guy. He came down here for a couple of months. He would leave and come back again, but we wouldn't really consider him our student.
“I'm not saying he didn't train here, but he came down here as a veteran. We’re connected to a bodybuilding gym, and he spent more time in there. He wanted to be a wrestler, but he was worrying about puffing up and looking like a bodybuilder. I got a little irritated about him being associated with us. This is the last school he participated in, but he wasn't really a student because he was a wrestler for eight years in New York City.”
The Team 3D Academy built a solid reputation in a short time including TNA wrestler Big Rob Terry, former TNA talent Jesse Neal and Rosie Lottalove and WWE superstar Camacho.
“I'm not surprised by [what Vachon did],” Carr said. “I've been here since we opened the place with Bubba [Bully Ray]. I wish somebody would have checked in to this and stop attaching him to us. He wanted to come in when he felt like it and mainly used the gym to workout and the weightlifting part. He came here sporadically [1 1/2 years], and that's the truth.
“I got a call after it happened, and as soon as the guys heard about it they barred him from the school right off the bat. I was shocked they attached him to us just because he used our gym. I will claim who started here from the start, who’ve trained here a lot with me and the Dudleys and are here all the time, but this guy wasn't. That's what is frustrating to me.
“I know they [Dudleys] don't want to talk about it because it gives a bad name to all the hard work they've done. In the business, we have such a good reputation, and all of sudden a guy who isn't really one of us drags us down.”
• It’s real
The Taylor/Vachonincident occurred following stories such as athlete Manti Te’o and his imaginary girlfriend. So it’s no surprise a few questioned the validity of the incident.
“I really do wish it was. Because if it was, we could still get together and make some money out of it with a rematch or something,” Taylor said. “At the end of the day, the police were there, and he put my life in jeopardy. They could have arrested me for assault or battery, but to people who think this is a joke or a hoax, I don’t know what to say. All I can say is I wish it was. I’m not the kind of guy who comes up with these incredible ideas…”
• Taylor made
Taylor started to wrestle about 11 years age at age 16 in Leeds, England. He was signed by WWE for its developmental program at age 20, where he says they paid for his visa and helped him relocate to Tampa. After the company wanted him to get more experience developing the American style, Taylor competed on the independent scene in the United States, working for many from Ring of Honor to Full Impact Pro.
• Taylor wrestling in South Florida
South Florida wrestling fans can catch Tommy Taylor in action at the Ring Warriors “February Fury” at 8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 23 at the Broward College Gym, 7200 Pines Blvd. in Pembroke Pines.
• Follow Taylor on Twitter: @REALtommytaylor.
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