Welcome to part 2 of our exclusive interview with deathmatch legend Matt Tremont. In part one, we discussed his illustrious career, how he came to and organised his retirement, and how H2O was formed. In this part, we’re going to discuss how to run a promotion in the COVID era, how he became a trainer, and casting an eye on both the future indie wrestling scene and plans for H2O. Enjoy as we dive even deeper into the mind of The Bulldozer.

How hard has it been to run this year with COVID crippling everything?

“It has been a challenge and a half. When it first was announced, we had our Hardcore Kingdom show. COVID had just started that week, going into our show that weekend. It affected attendance; Hardcore Kingdom is one of our premier events that we sold out the building the year before. We had half the crowd, and I knew it was because of the pandemic. So, that was the first strike of what COVID was to hurt us. Then the complete shutdown, and with this being the first time in the building, running the company, I was a little nervous. Running shows is a big source of income for us, and when we’re shut down, I can’t rent the building out for rentals or birthday parties. I can’t run Undiscovered shows, so there was no income coming in. The only money coming in, thankfully those three months when we were shut down in the beginning, and I never made this mandatory, was students paying their tuition. If they didn’t want to, they didn’t have to. Our school is $100 a month. That’s all I charge these kids because it’s never been about money, as long as the bills are paid, that’s all I’m worried about. All of them were still willing to pay their tuition, so that was all the income we had coming in to pay the rent. The rent is $2000 a month here, and having the number of students that we have, that’s what takes care of the rent at the end of the day. All of them were still willing to pay that when the school was closed for two or three months. Still, to this day, I tell them I appreciate it because I didn’t know how we were going to survive. I was very worried. Once things started to open back up, we were the first promotion in the area to re-open our school, and one of the first promotions to run in general. We abided by all the health and safety restrictions, wearing masks, hand sanitiser everywhere, and all that stuff. We’ve been on top of it since day one. We’ve never had any issues or people get sick, to my knowledge. It was definitely a test for me as a business owner, promoter because I had to do my day-to-day logistic stuff and worry about COVID.

“Especially now, we thought we’d be in the tail end of it, but it feels like it’s the second chapter of it all now. I can only have twenty-five fans at the shows right now. Twenty-five paying customers when you know you have a payroll that’s X amount of dollars, it’s tough. But we’ve been able to build the brand and build the name, and we have other avenues of revenue to get money from now. In the beginning, it was just making money at the shows, then it was show money, school money, and now building the brand and content to make money from Smart Mark and IWTV. It’s not a million dollars, but we’ve been building and making our name. Without all that, we’d be in some trouble, but we’ve done all we can to get through it. We have two shows left before the end of the year and a student show last night. Only twenty-five people allowed, but people were scared to come out. Which is understandable with everything going on. So I think we had twelve people last night, which hey, for twelve people to come out on a freezing cold night, during a pandemic, I greatly appreciate those twelve people that came out. It means a lot. We will keep rocking and rolling as much as we can, but at the end of the day, the biggest thing is safety and making sure everybody is healthy. I think we’ve done okay, and we will continue to do what we’ve been doing. We have a show Saturday, twenty-five people in the building, we’ll do the best we can with what we can.”

How did you decide what to teach the students? You’re a classically trained wrestler with a heavy deathmatch background, how did you decide what to teach the students?

“I never thought, in a million years, I would become a trainer. Some people in the business probably shook their heads, at first, like the deathmatch guy is roping in a wrestling school? He can’t work. He don’t know how to wrestle. That’s how things are. Perception is reality for a lot of people, but they don’t know the reality and judge a book by its cover. At the end of the day, yes, deathmatch wrestling was my bread and butter, and it was how I made my name, but you have to have a good foundation of your fundamentals and be a good worker and wrestler before you even do any of the violence. My first teaching of anything ever, the first seminar I ever did was at Rockstar Pro Wrestling in Dayton, Ohio, in 2015. I had seven or eight people at the seminar that paid $25 to be a part of a Matt Tremont seminar. I was CZW Champ at the time, and two of the kids that were in that seminar just got signed to the WWE in Zachary Wentz and Dezmond Xavier. Those two kids are awesome dudes. I’ll tell a quick story, Zachary Wentz took part in that seminar, and to me, as a wrestling trainer, it’s about more than being a wrestling trainer. I got forty-seven plus students that are all young, impressionable kids that are living life and growing up and now growing up in the wrestling business, which is a crazy business to be a part of. The cast of characters you will meet, the things you will hear and see, is like no other. So, this is a weird thing to say. I’m a father figure to some of these kids, a role, a person in their lives that gives them some structure, some responsibility. I take great pride in that. The wife and I don’t have kids of our own, and I call all the students my kids. It’s an important thing, and I don’t take it lightly. At that seminar, apart from all the bumps and the rolls and learning all the wrestling stuff, I think I remember wrapping up the seminar just talking about being a good person and all the things I was able to accomplish. I was just being myself when conducting business for any promotion I worked for, and I treated everybody how I would want to be treated.

“I was respectful with people, did good business, and was just a good human being. At the end of the day, your path might take a little longer, the old adage, nice guys finish last, you’ll finish on top, but sometimes the path might be a little longer. It resonated so much with Zachary Wentz, they finally got to CZW a year later, and then at Spring Break, after me and Alex Colon, as I walked through the locker room, I’m a bloody mess, glass all over me. I’m walking past everyone as there’s another show setting up. I’m just gracefully walking to my seat, sit down, my wife is checking me because I got a cut under my stomach and a doctor trying to pull the glass out, and then Zachary Wentz walks up. He was there, watched the entire match, and starts to get very emotional, and I start getting emotional, and he just said, “You’re the fucking man, thank you for everything.” It meant a lot, and it just goes back to that seminar I had with him in 2015. Now, look where the kid is today. Something as small as a wrestling seminar resonated that much on him, and look where he is now in life, married and in WWE, the kids doing pretty good for himself, and is a good person on top of it. You want that person to succeed.

 

“It meant a lot to me, and I felt so good after that first seminar. I felt like this might be something I want to do one day. Then when we were able to move in here, and the opportunity presented itself and like businesswise, we have to open a school so we can pay the bills and do this thing. I knew if I was going to open a wrestling academy, it was going to be done the right way. It’s going to be done my way, the old-school way. I don’t say old-school in a bad way. I feel that gets a bad rep when you say like the old-school way and treat people like that, which I have seen. It’s not so nice sometimes. I just mean old-school as in respecting the business, taking care of one another and looking out for each other, taking pride in what you do, and earning what you have. No silver spoons, nothing handed to you. These kids know as long as they show up to training every week, pay their tuition on time, treat everyone how they wanted to be treated, and work together, I will do everything I can to give them a platform to succeed.

“I want everyone to come out of this school to get signed, make millions of dollars, and do what they love and enjoy to do and take care of their families. That’s my goal now, that’s what’s getting me up every day. I can get the same satisfaction from a good match now by helping these kids succeed in creating a path. There’s a lot of drama and bullshit and politics in the wrestling business, and I can control the H2O bubble and make sure their path is one without all that. I can get them prepared for what is the crazy business that is wrestling once they venture off outside of H2O. I tell them there’ll be a point where I let the baby birds fly on their own. But yeah, again, something I didn’t know I was going to do, but man, I love teaching and showing someone something, whether it’s a physical thing in the ring or a move or cutting promos. To have a quiet, timid, young kid that barely speaks because he’s so nervous, to then six months later cutting a great promo is awesome to see. If there’s anything I’m going to be known for, it’s talking and promos. It’s something I love, so to see that out of someone and be able to drop some knowledge to somebody, and then them use it and process it and make fucking magic out of it, is the best feeling in the world.”

 

Out of your current crop of students and just on the wrestling circuit in general, who has really taken your eye? Who are the top prospects? I remember you talking about AKIRA after his match and your students blowing up, who has taken your eye?

“I try to stay up to date with the current scene. AKIRA is definitely one of them after I worked him in July. The last couple of months, a lot of the attention that has come out of H2O has been on the students. Usually, when I put out press releases and promote them, I never call them students. I call them rising stars, that’s done for a reason. If they’re perceived as students in the promoting of them, I look at it as CZW did it years ago, 2006/2007, once a student made their debut, they were just looked at as a student. Their own students were in an uphill battle because of how they were presented and promoted. I never wanted to do that, so I always labelled them as rising stars, and I tell them all the time, I’m only going to be able to show you so much, and it’s up to you when it clicks. I feel like it just started clicking with everybody. They’re all doing so good, exceeding expectations. They’re blowing my mind as far as their work in the ring, their psychology, and putting a match together, then all the little things rolled into one. No one here is more than two years in. They’re way better than me at two years in. I was the drizzling shits when I was two years in. These kids are good, and the few that have been getting the most buzz, earned it for good reason, putting the effort in.

“Dyln McKay, Marcus Mathers, Austin Luke, GG Everson is another one, he’s on the main roster now with Stockade. Man, all the kids, Decklan Grant, Chris Bradley, Kristian Ross, Nicholas Grande, Nothing Face, and Anthraxx. It’s a crazy cast of characters, and they’re all doing so well. There’s no way I could pick one. I would feel horrible to pick just one. I wouldn’t want to get some bad looks from them. If I had to break out star or a star to look out for in 2021, it’s all the students at the H2O wrestling academy. That’s not just me blowing smoke up their ass because they’re from this school. They’re putting in the work and doing it the right way. It’s awesome to see, and it’s pro-wrestling. They’re going out there and doing their own thing. It’s not just high-spots and super indie stuff. There’s a time and place for it, but there’s nothing better, to me pro-wrestling is having a good story. The promos, the matches, and everything. They’re all beyond their years, which is scary. So I can only imagine in a year in a half, two years’ time how good all these kids are going to be. They’re all coming up to main roster way before I thought they would. They’ve gotten to the point where I don’t want to hold them down. I have to bring them up, and it’s all going to benefit them, the promotion as a whole in the long term. It’s fresh faces on the new shows, so it’s just been a win-win for everything. The school truly is the foundation of everything businesswise, product-wise, presentation. Without the school, or those rising stars, this company is nothing.”

 

Any plans for the future? What is the future of H2O and yourself going forward?

“I’ve got so many ideas. The pandemic overall since March to December currently, we’ve grown more now in these six to eight months than we did in the previous four years. The pandemic has obviously been a horrible thing, getting sick and people passing away, but as far as still being able to run and do our thing, it’s been a blessing in disguise. Only so many promotions are running, so there’s not as much wrestling to watch. People are going to watch what is on, so it’s given us a chance to be seen by new eyes, by more eyes internationally and domestically. IWTV was such a big thing for us. I thank those guys after every show and before the show during the meetings. I hope the other promotions express how valuable IWTV is. To have that distribution is incredible. We’ve grown so much to the point that, okay, we’re doing this now, this is happening now. We can do a lot of things. I have a lot of ideas. A lot of the kids came here. They knew it was Matt Tremont running the place, so a lot of the kids were fans of mine and wanted to do hardcore. I told them you have to become a good worker first, and then we can dabble. But a lot of the kids are itching to do a bit of the hardcore or a little deathmatch. So, 110% something similar to like Prince of the Deathmatches. We’re going to have a hardcore tournament; I’ll probably announce it in a few weeks. I’m working out everything now. A hardcore tournament that is just with the rising stars with something on the line, so it has purpose and meaning. Say it’s twelve rising stars in the tournament, each of those rising stars will have a veteran on their side, kind of like a Mickey to their Rocky. They’ll help them train and get ready for this big tournament. I think we’re going to add a few tournaments to the calendar year, one for them, probably a women’s hardcore tournament as well. All while trying to accomplish things amongst a pandemic.

“That’s probably been the most difficult thing, planning far ahead. I’m very old-school in booking, and I book long-term as best as we can with the storylines and angles. Right now, I have a lot of ideas, nothing set in stone but definitely some tournaments, and to run as many shows as possible. Hopefully, things get back to somewhat normal, and I really want to hit the road. Even just here in Jersey. There’s a lot of counties that haven’t been tapped into, I want to start and do house shows in the area to build to the big shows here in our building. Kind of like what ECW did. Running more live events and putting out more content. Again, the IWTV platform is huge for us. Right now, I think our current roster is the best it’s ever been. It’s the most diverse it’s ever been, and it’s different from everyone else. We don’t use every other wrestler that every other company is using. We’ve given guys a chance that might not have gotten a chance elsewhere. Now we’ve got all these rising stars coming up the pipe, taking other people’s spots and filling other spots. I’m excited about the product as a whole and what we’re going to be able to do presentation-wise and product-wise in the ring. Business-wise, I’m definitely going to put more time into the merchandising. We’ve put a little bit more effort into that as of late. Last Extravaganza were the biggest shows we ever did. Running two nights, back-to-back days, it was a huge risk. I think it was the equivalent of when McMahon ran WrestleMania 1, and if it didn’t do well, WWE might not be here today. I put all the eggs in one basket for Last Extravaganza, and it was like that risk/reward, and I knew if we hit a home run and hit it out of the park that it was going to benefit the company long-term and short-term. It really did. If it didn’t, I may not be here talking to you today. For what it was, I’m glad it worked out.

“So yeah, more live shows, more merchandising, and continuing to build the brand all amongst the pandemic. We’ve been really thankful for what we’ve been able to do, and what I hope we can do next going into 2021. It keeps me excited, and I got to stay busy, so that I don’t go crazy since I’m not wrestling anymore. I’m in the office right now, the ring is right out there, and I haven’t taken a bump, even during training. I’m really trying to stay busy creatively with booking and promoting because I do miss it, but this is keeping me just as busy and excited as wrestling would. We haven’t even gotten to our full potential yet. I think some people are still sleeping on H2O. When we really start to hit our stride, not that we aren’t already, it’s that we’re doing something different. I really like our product. If I took our product as just a wrestling fan, watching the H2O product, I really think I’d enjoy it, and that’s what I want the fans to do. Enjoy our product of not just doing matches for the sake of doing matches. Wrestling with purpose is my biggest thing now. I’m going to give the boys in the locker room purpose, those rising stars purpose, and it gives me purpose, so I don’t go crazy and want to go back to wrestling. Seeing people cover the shows, that’s the biggest thrill for me now, reading that stuff.

“It’s another part of the company growing and seeing people taking the time out, watching the shows, and reviewing them. What you like, what you don’t like, I want to hear and read all that input. It’s awesome to see, and once again, overwhelming in a good way. That pushes me. I look forward to the reviews once you do the shows. I still read the message boards and want to see all the inputs. It keeps me going because I know I have forty-something kids trying to chase their dream. I got a locker room full of guys trying to do something they love and enjoy and make a few bucks and build this company. We’re all doing this together, there’s no John Cena or Roman Reigns here, that’s the main draw. The whole company is the draw, and we’re all doing it together. I have two goals as a promoter and two goals in running H2O. Hopefully, the ECW Arena stays around because I want to run at least one show at the Arena in Philly, and I want to take H2O and that locker room of guys who really deserve it to Japan, like I did. To me, that was the end all be all, going to Japan. Once I did that, if I hung my boots up the next day, I’d be complete. There’s a lot of guys willing and deserving of those opportunities. Those are my goals, and none of them are possible without the fan’s support. Since day one, fifteen years ago, the fans have been supporting, and I can’t thank them enough.”

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, H2O Twitter, Earl Gardner Photography, GCW Twitter, Matt Tremont Twitter,