David “Fit” Finlay hated hearing excuses from the WWE pro wrestlers he trained.
That helps explain why he isn’t making any for the actions that got him fired from the company.
At a non-televised March show in Champaign, Ill., Mike “The Miz” Mizanin interrupted The Star-Spangled Banner to deliver a villainous interview. The gesture drew a highly negative response from representatives of the U.S. National Guard who were in attendance.
Never mind that WWE has pushed far more offensive material through decades of storylines. The fact that Mizanin’s actions infuriated a major WWE sponsor meant someone would suffer the consequences.
It wasn’t Mizanin, who would be difficult to sacrifice as one of the company’s headline talents. It was Finlay, who was in charge backstage of show presentation.
He was fired after having served 10 years as a WWE wrestler, trainer and road agent.
Well-respected among fans and his peers, Finlay could justifiably complain about such treatment. Finlay, though, refuses to blame anyone but himself.
“I was shocked to get fired, but it was totally my fault,” Finlay said Tuesday. “WWE trusted me and I broke that trust. I let everyone down. For that I am really sorry.”
Finlay also balked when told that his transgression wasn’t as egregious as others committed in WWE that resulted in far-less-severe punishment.
“It is a big deal because we have troops in Afghanistan and Iraq,” said the Irish-born Finlay, who now lives in the Atlanta area. “I think I hurt their feelings. People have lost loved ones over there. I made the decision to cut the anthem and hit (Mizanin’s) entrance music for entertainment. It was the wrong call.”
Finlay may someday get a second chance with WWE, especially considering that he doesn’t have a history of arrests or unprofessionalism outside the ring.
But he isn’t sitting at home waiting for the phone to ring. Finlay is now accepting dates from independent promotions starting with a July 26 appearance on the Evolve 9: Gargano vs. Taylor Internet pay-per-view card emanating from New York City.
Evolve, which focuses on in-ring action with scant outside frills, should serve as an excellent showcase for Finlay’s ample technical skill.
“I’ve always worked for big companies since my career started in 1974,” said Finlay, who promised to teach rising independent star Sami Callihan “a lesson” in their match. “This is my first experience like this, but I’m excited about it.”
Finlay’s WWE legacy lives on through those performers he either trained or led through early matches after arriving from World Championship Wrestling in 2001.
Finlay was especially renowned for his work with WWE’s female performers. Trish Stratus, Gail Kim and Amy “Lita” Dumas are among those who benefited from Finlay’s tutelage.
Finlay tried to pass along the knowledge given to him by his father (legendary Irish wrestler Dave Finlay) as well as tips he learned in an international 37-year grappling career.
“I have a lot of knowledge of different styles, so there are little things I can feature that they’ve never really seen before,” Finlay said. “But the key is getting to know the talent and what makes them tick inside. You can then teach things that suit their persona or temperament. As a teacher, you can’t be a dictator. You have to let the talent have input as to what’s going on in the ring.”
Working as a trainer whetted Finlay’s appetite for his own in-ring return. He began wrestling full time for WWE in 2006.
After initially debuting as a heel, Finlay showcased his flexibility by working as a babyface with storyline son Dylan “Hornswoggle” Postl between 2007 and 2009.
“I never was on that side of the fence before,” Finlay said. “It took a while to become comfortable. I knew what I was doing, but on the inside it didn’t feel right. It was going against my personality. I’d rather be knocking heads around than hugging babies. But I got into it. I learned a lot and enjoyed it.”
Finlay said he still enjoys the wrestling industry so much that he would like to continue grappling “until I’m 107.” But while still in fantastic physical shape, the 53-year-old Finlay also knows the day is coming when he will permanently hang up his boots.
“I don’t want to embarrass the business, myself or my family by trying to hang on for one more match like some people do when their work starts to fade,” he said.
“I want someone to be honest with me and tell me it’s time to quit.
“I’d rather do that than throw all my years in this business into the trash.”
Alex Marvez takes a ringside look at the latest in professional wrestling.. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org