Few people in the deathmatch business can claim to be as beloved as Matt Tremont. Fifteen plus years in the game have made him one of the most recognisable and most-loved icons from the US deathmatch scene, even if he doesn’t want to admit it. Now, as the owner and trainer at H2O Wrestling and retired, he seems busier than ever. We here at SteelChair got to talk to Matt Tremont in an exclusive interview. Here in part one, we discuss his career, coming into the business, and the nuts and bolts of the Separate Ways Tour, as well as the story of how H2O was formed. Enjoy!

I’d like to start by going over your career a bit. You recently retired and I was wondering if you’d be able to pick some of the highlights of your career?

Retiring was not a thing that I thought was going to be a thing when 2020 started. It really came out of left field and wasn’t something I really thought about. Then a few events took place during the year, and I came to that decision. Many a time, especially recently, looking back on all the craziness and chaos that is pro-wrestling. As for highlights, anything I got to do in the states and Japan with Onita. I think that was the programme and storyline and working with someone the calibre of Onita really helped elevate my name and get my name out there to an even broader audience. Winning the CZW title in 2015. Growing up a CZW fan, buying tickets and going to CZW shows at the ECW Arena. It was my home promotion growing up, and that was the company I wanted to be a part of. When I started in the business and debuted in 2007, I didn’t make it to CZW until 2011, so my first three-four years in the business was just working local independents in the Tri-State area, Jersey, Philadelphia, Delaware. Just scratching and clawing, waiting for that first opportunity, or booking to get to the Combat Zone. When that finally happened, it was like one thing led to the next thing that led to the next thing.

“That story wrote itself, but CZW was my only real goal in the beginning. That was the place I wanted to be, that’s where I wanted to get to, and once I got that platform at CZW, I was able to and fortunate enough to accomplish all those things I accomplished and make the name I was able to make for myself. Many moons ago, Drake Younger told me you only make it in this industry kid, when you fly on someone else’s dime. I never flew on a plane until I was in the wrestling business. Never ventured too far out of the Tri-State area until I was travelling for wrestling. So, looking now, I’m 31 years old. I grew up in the business. I started training when I was seventeen and to look back and look at all the places I was able to travel to, internationally and domestically, and get paid for it. You know, being able to take care of the wife and the dog and to pay the bills. If I have to look back overall at the bigger picture, that’s probably the biggest thing of them all, that I was able to put on a singlet, strap on some boots and do some crazy wrestling all over the world and get paid to do it. I’m very fortunate for that.”

 

How does it feel to be considered one of the best American deathmatch wrestlers on the planet? You’ve done it all, took the world by storm, and wrestled some of the biggest and brightest…

“It’s pretty crazy because I do not ever, and my students can attest to this, as I tell them this all the time. There are many people in this business who will walk around and think their shit don’t stink, and they use those accolades and that character to think they’re better than anybody. I have always treated everyone as an equal, how I would want to be treated. I’ve never walked around and had anything from pro-wrestling change me as a human being or how I would treat someone else. I’m a normal dude, just like anybody else. A kid from South Jersey that was able to achieve and live his dream. When I hear things, especially since I’ve retired, I’ll see it in the deathmatch groups and on the Twitter world and even general conversation to hear icon and legend. It’s very weird. It’s greatly appreciated, never did I think, and if I still even do think my name’s in that category, that was never my motivation. No, “I want to be a legend at the end of the day,” nothing like that. It’s very cool but very weird and surreal to even think about those things.

“I don’t walk around thinking I’m the Bulldozer when I’m walking around Walmart or something. I’m just a regular dude, but it means a lot to be acknowledged by your peers and the fans because, without the fan’s support, you don’t have anything. I’ve been fortunate enough since I started in the business, and really once I got to CZW, once I hopped the guardrail at the ECW Arena in 2011. Half that crowd already knew my face because I was sitting in the crowd for so many years. They looked at me as one of them, a local guy, hopping the guardrail. I literally hopped the guardrail from the corner I used to sit in for months and months and months at so many shows and fans that are still coming to shows today would tell me, that I didn’t even know at the time, would say, “Matt I used to sit next to you in the crowd, then all of a sudden, the next month you’re hopping the guardrail and wrestling.” They had no idea I was working the smaller circuit at the time.  So again, very weird, very surreal, but I appreciate it very much and now I can continue to take care of my family and pay bills off of what I did for the last half of my life and because of the support of the fans for all those years.”

What went into the planning of the Separate Ways Tour? How did you pick the right moment to retire?

“I guess from a few different perspectives. From a business perspective, there’s been many times in my fifteen years where I would make X amount of dollars, and I saw the promotions and promoters make a whole lot more off my name, work, blood, and sweat. So, once I started promoting shows and running a promotion, I really put myself in their shoes, and it gave me a really different perspective. Especially right now with a pandemic going on, with only so many promotions. We at H2O have been fortunate enough to be one of those promotions that are able to run right now. Which has been a blessing in disguise for us during all this going on. I knew, once we announced The Last Extravaganza weekend and those shows that were nothing but a tribute to Danny Havoc, my best friend for the past ten years, in and out of the ring. With everything going on in life and Danny passing and a lot of other things bringing to the conclusion of, “Okay, I think I’m going to retire; I want H2O to benefit,” and I just felt it made that weekend even bigger. Me having my last match in my H2O. CZW was always my home promotion, but H2O is my home now, my hearts here and my works here and our locker room. I just knew it would benefit the company, and it would be the biggest weekend of this young promotion’s history, and it really was.

“Since that weekend, we’ve had a lot of new eyes on the company, that was the right show to do it on, the right night. I was back and forth on it too. I didn’t want to take away from what the weekend was all about, paying tribute to Danny, crowning the first Danny Havoc Hardcore champion, and I asked a lot of my peers and people in the locker room and fellow wrestlers, referees, anyone here really if it was the right thing to do. I didn’t want to take away from things, and no one had any problems with it. It was a tough decision, and it’s been weird since I’ve been retired. It’s been a lot tougher than I thought it would be. It’s been a little over forty-something days, and I’m bored already. I miss the ring, but I knew when I made the decision to do this, a lot of people are back and forth and the old adage of Terry Funk coming out of retirement whenever he wanted, but I knew going into it, I was going to be a man of my word. Even amongst a pandemic, the amount of people that came out to see that last match and be a part of that last match, that night and that moment. I don’t want to take away from that moment and those people who came out to see that. Will I wrestle again one day? Probably, but never a full-time schedule or a part-time schedule, maybe once in a while, but it’s going to be some time. It’s been weird so far, that life of retirement being a booker, promoter, and trainer of the school. I knew it was the right place and the right time.”

Was there a specific road map, or was it more I’ll do this match, then this match, etc.? Why choose Rickey Shane Page as your last opponent?

“Going back to your original question, I knew, going out again, I wanted to do that last match at H2O. I wanted to do a tour because I knew I was done, and I wanted to face as many of my students as possible and a few people I either never got to work with, or I wanted to work with one more time at certain promotions that meant something to me. The majority of the tour was here at H2O, IWA Mid-South, GCW at Spring Break, ICW, and the ECWA Super 8. I was able to work with a lot of people that I wanted to work with, and the two biggest matches of the tour was me and Alex at Spring Break and me and Rickey for the last match. There were a lot of variables going into it. Rickey and Alex are two good people, two good human beings, two of the best performers going today in the genre and just overall. We all have a connection with Danny Havoc, all three of our careers, and I’m sure they’ll attest to this, Danny Havoc was very influential on all our careers. If I didn’t wrestle Danny Havoc in that Carnage Cup and get suplexed on a shopping cart, then for him to speak up and get me my job at CZW, I wouldn’t be here talking to you today. Rickey came into CZW and had those matches with Danny Havoc. Alex had Havoc’s last CZW match. The three of us had a bond. The connection was there.

“I wanted to wrestle Alex at GCW because we’d already wrestled at CZW and H2O. With Rickey, one of my favourite matches ever in my career was the finals of TOD with me and him a few years ago. I love that match, and I watched it for the first time during the pandemic early on. I was like, “Man, I’d really like to have one more with him and just tell a good story.” Once I knew Alex was the guy for GCW and that match, I knew Rickey, I wanted Rickey to be my last match. Just as far as his heel work in the last year and a half plus with 44OH! his work has been fantastic. A good heel, a good babyface, and a good story. You’re going to put butts in seats, get people watching live on IWTV, and that’s all I’ve ever been about, telling stories and drawing some kind of emotion into what I’m doing. Then to get emotion from the people who are buying and watching what we’re doing. It couldn’t have gone any better. It was special, and the entire tour itself went great. I will say, I think it was thirteen or fourteen matches on the tour total, I couldn’t have felt any better. Like of all the reasons on the list of retirement, on the bottom was my wellbeing. I probably feel the best I have in quite a few years and was having a lot of great matches on the way out. That felt good. But again, it was the right place and right time, and Rickey was the right guy, and so was Alex. Those two matches with those two guys were two of my best ever. Great storytelling, everything clicked, and I wouldn’t change anything about them.”

Are there any regrets? Things you wished you could have done or things you could have made people see?

“I think as far as accomplishments go, if anything, the only thing that I was really set on or wanted to do, that I could have put more work in to myself on it, was just doing something on national television. Whether it was Impact or if that match with Cody ever came to fruition or anything like that. Just doing something on national television and being seen by a different and larger audience. Whether it was deathmatches or not, it could have been straight-up regular wrestling. It didn’t matter. No regrets whatsoever, though. I’ve just always assessed life like this, everything happens for a reason. There’s a learning experience from it, whether good or bad, and it’s up to me to apply it, how I’m going to apply it. I have no regrets at all. I am the man I am at thirty-one years old because of the wrestling business that I went through and started with when I was fifteen.”

So, I’d like to talk a bit about H2O, your school, promotion, and everything in-between. How did that come about? It was originally an idea between you and Danny Havoc if I remember correctly?

“Yes. Before H2O, I used to run On Point Wrestling with Loudy. We started that company together in 2013. He was the booker. I was the promoter. I did the daily logistics of the company and that was my practice, learning all about booking and all that craziness and business of running a promotion. At the end of the day, I knew that it was his business and his baby, and I was just coddling the baby. I really wanted to do something on my own, so probably late 2015, early 2016 was when, I think, I really wanted to do something. I started to talk to Grant, Danny Havoc about it, and we had another business partner at the time going into the first show in June 2016. Going into it, I never had any intentions of where the company is today because, at that time, I thought that the first show was going to be it. It was just kind of something fun to do, book all my buddies, and have a fun show. That’s really what the beginning was going to be. The second show wasn’t until six months later with our first Christmas show. Now it’s an annual Christmas show we do. Then we ran a few months later after that. The first three or four shows were very sporadic and far out. It was just something fun to do on the side because, at that time, I was still wrestling full-time. Between 2015 and the beginning of 2018, I was on the road every weekend. I was so busy I didn’t have a lot of time to dedicate to it. On top of that, I still had my store, my wrestling memorabilia store, so I was just a busy guy. I was driving the wife nuts.

“Then it got to a point where I had my store, my careers going good. I’ve always wanted to put my hand in different pots and try different things, so we started to run a little bit more. The building we’re in now was the OTW arena, Old Time Wrestling. That was run by Jim Molineaux, a former ECW referee. I built a good relationship and rapport with Jim, and in May of 2018, gave me a call and told me, “Matt, business is kind of slow,” and he wanted to wipe his hands of running full time. They were going to move out of the building and put me in a position to talk to the landlord and all that stuff. He was like if you want to move in, you can. This came out of left-field. We were running shows. I was just happy to run. When I got presented that, to move into our own facility and have a place to call home, and to begin to lay the bricks and build our own foundation and to do so much stuff. We could run shows, run weekly, open a school, renting the building out to other promotions, even doing birthday party stuff. I just knew it would take time, but it would pay off in the long run. Financially, it would be in a good position to do a lot of good things. I told Jim, of course, and jumped on it right away. I got in contact with the landlord that owns the facility since there’s multiple buildings in this business complex, and they were like you can move right in. The building went from one wrestling company to another, so I didn’t have to go through a lot of the logistics and paperwork. It was easy. Which was great until they said right, $5500, first month, last month, and security deposit.

“I may have had $50 in my pocket at the time. But I knew, if we could get in this building, it could not only do a lot of good things for H2O, it would change my life for the better. Both businesswise and personally for me and the wife. I literally sold everything I own. My deathmatch tournament trophies, personal items of mine that I knew were of value to others that would appreciate it. Sold everything I could and made the $5500 in a week and a half’s time. Paid it, moved in on July 1st, 2018, and we announced our first show under the H2O Wrestling banner that Saturday. I knew even though we’d just paid $5500, we’d have to give them rent at the end of the month, so we’ve got to run a show right away. We moved in, then it was me and Devon Moore, we opened the garage door that first day, and it was a fucking mess. There’s shit everywhere. We cleaned the building all week and got the building ready in just six days to have our first show under our banner now. It truly changed the game. After we moved in, the next month, in August, we opened the school and the school is the internal foundation of the company. H2O wrestling live events, anything H2O doesn’t happen without the foundation, and the foundation is the H2O academy itself. The first day of the school, when we opened it up, we had like four kids. I now have over forty-five students. Which is crazy, it’s insane. We have so many new kids my wife doesn’t even know everyone’s name. In the last six to eight months, the school has grown so much. Through our Undiscovered shows, the bigger shows that the kids have, the Pay your Dues, Opportunity Knocks shows. They’ve built their own brand and name, and they’ve all put the work in. It’s overwhelming but in a good way. It’s the most fulfilling thing that I’ve had in fifteen years of wrestling.

“It’s building something with your bare hands and having limited resources to make all this happen. So the payoff at the end when you see a student make his debut, or when IWTV tells you very good numbers or views on a show, it means all that hard work is paying off, and people are enjoying and investing in the product. People are coming to the school to learn under my learning tree and Finneus James learning tree, and Michael Quest and Michael Keener. The schools open four days a week now, four different trainers, they’re learning from so many different people. It’s pretty cool to see. Another thing that’s very surreal. That we’ve been able to do what we’ve been able to do, again with limited resources. A lot of the time, I’ll say we’re like the Mom-and-Pop corner store of the wrestling business. I feel we really are the home South Jersey-based company. A neutral company where everyone gets along where everyone can just enjoy themselves and do what they do. I tell my students all the time, and I’m pretty sure I said it in the retirement speech, the wrestling business owes us nothing, but I was good to it, and it gave me a lot in return. Now I can give back to the business, teaching these kids the right way and making them work hard, pay their dues, and earn everything they got, so when they get success and get signed and make a million dollars, they can take pride in that. While knowing they did it the right way, they didn’t cut corners, they didn’t do carny wrestling stuff or play politics or anything like that. So yeah, wrestling has been good to me, and I’m trying to be good back to it.”

H2O’s Next Big Event: Nightmare After Christmas December 26th

H2O on Smart Mark: Here

H2O on IWTV: Here

H2O on Social Media: Twitter, FaceBook

All images courtesy of Chris Grasso, Earl Gardner Photography, H2O Twitter, CZW YouTube