Steve Johnson, aka Johnny Danger of the PCW.
Presented by the unholy alliance of WrestlingwithPopCulture.com and the Silver Scream Spookshow, Monstrosity Championship Wrestling (MCW) takes over the Asylum East Atlanta on Friday Jan. 4 at 9 p.m. featuring such scary stars as Dragula, Papa Marko, Cru Jones and Stryknyn, as well as live music by Bigfoot. Then on Saturday Jan, 5 at 6 p.m., the entire slate of Platinum Championship Wrestling (PCW) fighters will spar for the Platinum Royal, while Shane Marx battles Supernatural, the Undead Luchador for their league title in their new HQ at 2001 Main Street in Porterdale, GA. PCW now has bouts on every first and third Saturday of the month there.
Everyone has a dream, but Steve Johnson, aka Johnny Danger, has scored the rare opportunity to live it, combining his twin passions for classic monsters and wrestling. In just a little over a year, Johnny has gone from a horror movie-loving geek and Silver Scream Spookshow/Atlanta Zombie Apocalypse performer with a special love for Godzilla to a regular with both Platinum Championship Wrestling and Monstrosity Championship Wrestling. Back in November, we caught up with regular MCW/PCW announcer and fellow monster fan Chuck Porterfield, but since both leagues have major bouts this weekend, we thought it would be the perfect time to revisit the growing world of Atlanta wrestling and get to know another of its most colorful characters as Kool Kat of the Week.
ATLRetro: You’re relatively new to wrestling. When/why did you decide to throw yourself into the ring?
Johnny Danger: It was something I always wanted to do ever since I was a kid, which I’ll talk more about later. I made the mistake of pretty much “phoning it in” during my high school years, getting pretty lackluster grades. I paid no attention to career counseling, had no hopes of going to college. I only wanted one thing in life. – the answer was always the same: “I’m gonna be a wrestler.” Well, when I graduated high school at 6’0 and 155 pounds, it was pretty obvious that my genetics did not agree with my plans, so, I put my dream aside and went to work.
Fast forward to 2011, and I’m planning to marry the woman I’d been with for the better part of the past 10 years. The traditional “bachelor party” held no appeal to me; women had been teasing me and taking my money ever since high school, so I’m not a fan of strip clubs! So I got the crazy idea to get trained to wrestle and have ONE professional match as my “last hurrah” before I settled down and became a responsible married man. Over a year later, I’m still knockin’ heads in the ring and loving it, baby!
Professor Morte officiates at the wedding of Johnny and Divine Danger, with bride and groom in wardrobe inspired by Mothra and wrestling superstar Randy Savage respectively.
I reached out to my various friends and contacts in the local entertainment industry, I think it was actually Sadie Hawkins, a burlesque performer [in Blast-Off Burlesque], who mentioned the name Stephen Platinum, the owner of a wrestling promotion in Georgia called Platinum Championship Wrestling. At the time, Steve was running shows every week at the Academy Theater in Avondale Estates. We contacted him, and he invited me out to see a show and to speak with him after the card. I was impressed by the wide range of talent and characters that wrestled that night, and even more so by Platinum himself; he was not at all the shady, bitter type you hear about running wrestling shows. He was into what I was trying to do and agreed to train me. When my plans changed from “wrestling one show with my friends” to “becoming a full-time wrestler,” he agreed to take a chance on an out of shape, out-of-practice nearly 30-year-old nobody, and try to make him into a star.
As for getting accepted, it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. From the first time I hit that ring in my first training class with Steve, I knew I was in for the fight of my LIFE. Just from a couple hours, my first class, I couldn’t walk normally for two weeks. I started at over 220 pounds, fat and slow. I couldn’t get through a single class without running to the restroom to vomit. I’d just roll to the floor and lay there, embarrassed, unable to finish a drill. Little by little, though, things started to click, and I got just a little bit better. Steve started to see improvement in my wrestling abilities, but I think what really impressed him was my talking ability. You have a lot of people in wrestling who are great, natural athletes, amazingly put together, but they can’t connect with the crowd emotionally; they can’t captivate them on the microphone. I’m not the most physically impressive guy, but I can grab ahold of you and make you believe.
As for being accepted in the ring with the other wrestlers, I had to prove myself, something I’m still doing. I changed my entire life for this. I’m in the gym most of the week, and the evenings I’m not there, I’m at PCW’s new home base in Porterdale, working in the ring with WCW veteran Fred Avery, who’s battled everybody in this industry from Sting to Cactus Jack to the British Bulldog. I’ve changed my diet, I’m down to about 170 pounds today. It’s all about holding up your end in the ring and proving you can go, to the fans and to the other wrestlers. To show that I have respect for the business, and for the people who got me into it – Mr. Platinum, the other wrestlers and the fans – I’m just always trying to get better.
Why Johnny Danger?
Why not? It’s a name I used for myself when I wrestled with my friends in high school and when I created myself in various wrestling video games. At his heart, Johnny Danger is a kid with a dream. He wants to be a superstar, a rock star, [and] more than that, a superhero. He wants to beat up the bad guy, get the girl, and fly off into the sunset, only to do it all again next week. I thrive on danger, the challenge that forces me onward. I can literally say Danger is my last name! That’s evident every time I step into the ring. I gained a reputation as a guy who’d charge into battle no matter the odds. There were literally nights I would fight three other guys, all of ’em bigger than me, all of ’em hating me, at the same time. And, as you’d expect, I got pretty beat up. But I never made it easy for ’em. Being the embodiment of danger means never backing down, using your entire body as a living weapon. I may destroy myself in the process, but if I have anything to say about it I’m taking you with me!!
Costumes can be a big part of wrestling. Can you talk a little bit about your look.
Sure. When I first started, I had a pair of shiny vinyl pants made, black with blue flames – which is kind of my signature look, inspired by Godzilla‘s blue atomic breath ray – with Godzilla’s face on one leg and “DANGER” down the other. I’d pair that with a T-shirt representing my various interests, everything from the Silver Scream Spookshow to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles accompanied me into battle. It was a cool, grungy look fit for a brawler, but I didn’t quite look like a pro wrestler.
Well, the pants got pretty beat up during my wars, and as I started shedding the pounds I decided to drop the T-shirt to become quicker and harder to hang on to in the ring. I went to fellow wrestler Rick Michaels, who’s made gear for several huge names in the game; he actually once worked with the WWE making ring attire for their top stars. I pretty much just told him: “Make me something that’s black, with blue flames and kinda looks like an Elvis jumpsuit,” and he came up with my current look. I think he knocked it out of the park. I’ve got a lot of positive feedback on it, and I love it. I’ve also been wearing facepaint recently to show solidarity with my current biggest ally, the pound-for-pound Toughest Woman in Wrestling, Pandora, who always wears the war paint into battle herself. But perhaps what I’m most known for is my signature long black hair. It can be a liability in the ring, but Johnny Danger can’t rock out with a buzzcut, ya know?!
OK, there’s a lot of showmanship, but it’s got to hurt, right? Have you had any major injuries and do you ever question your sanity for getting into this crazy sport?
Constantly. Like I said before, the training process alone was a nightmare. My elbows and knees are constantly skinned up, lumpy and bruised from the rigors of the ring. My back, which was bad to begin with, hurts constantly. As I approach my one-year anniversary as an active competitor, my list of injuries reads something like this: bruised/cracked ribs; various cuts, scrapes and bruises; broken fingers; broken nose (twice); bruised throat; jaw knocked out of place; a concussion; and worst of all, in a battle royal on September 29 at our big show Sacred Ground Chapter III, I was thrown clear out of the ring to the floor – and keep in mind we don’t use mats at ringside, so I splattered on the damn floor – breaking a finger on impact and far worse, wrecked my back. It gave me two bulging discs and caused leakage of spinal fluid; the injury put me out of action for over two months.
I didn’t know if I’d ever be able to wrestle again. The first month was pure screaming agony. As for my sanity, honestly, I think you have to be a little bit nuts to be in this business. In football, you load up on protective gear and if you don’t want to take the hit, you can take a knee or run out of bounds. Boxers wear gloves. Now, all the respect in the world for those who partake in those forms of competition, but in pro wrestling, you have no choice but to take the hit, to get slammed down on that ring – and for those wondering, a pro wrestling ring is nothing but steel, wood, and just enough padding to keep you from being broken the first time you fall down – and then get up and do it again about 30 more times a night. You tell me what normal person thinks that sounds like a good idea?! Who looks at these guys beating the HELL out of each other and goes “That’s for me”?! But when I’m out there doing what I do, and I hear the people chanting my name or cursing it depending on what the situation is, it’s all worth it. It’s the greatest, most natural “high” in the world, and I don’t feel that pain until hours later when I finally come down.
What’s your most memorable bout so far and why?
I’ve had surprisingly many in my short time in the sport. I’ve battled Supernatural, the Undead Luchador, all over the state. We pretty much beat the crap out of each other till we became friends. We still do it from time to time for old time’s sake. I was part of the first steel cage match in Porterdale, GA, in 30 years. I was in a 12-man Revolutionary War Games match on July 4th that had hundreds of fans in attendance and took two rings and two cages to contain us all. I’ve had wars with my former allies, Marko Polo, Quasi Mandisco and Nina Monet. I was a half second away from winning the EMPIRE Title from Shane Marx in only my FOURTH pro match.
But I’ve got to go with a match I came up with, an I Quit Singapore Cane Match where I took on Dynomite Soul Eric Walker. Just to set the stage, I had been on a seven-month losing streak in PCW. Think about that. Every Friday for seven months, I ended up with my back on the mat, counting the lights. I started to doubt myself, if I should even get into the ring. Then it finally happened. Along with my partner in a team called The Surrealists, De La Vega, we joined up with the Washington Bullets to take on four members of The EMPIRE, the evil group that was attempting to take over PCW – attempting, hell, they DID take over and basically called the shots from November 2011 until they were finally defeated at Sacred Ground Chapter III. During the final moments of that match, Vega and myself hit a double team maneuver on Eric Walker, and I dove on top for the pin. I got that win I’d been chasing since January. Then the following week, Walker challenged me one on one, and I beat him again, all by myself.
Something inside Walker and the EMPIRE snapped. A bunch of EMPIRE members, including their 300+ pound monster bodyguard Antioch, charged the ring and beat the hell out of me for several minutes. Antioch injured my ribs with repeated big splashes. Walker bruised my back with repeated strikes from his singapore cane. They tried to put me out of wrestling, plain and simple. But the one thing Johnny Danger doesn’t do is quit. You may beat me, you may break me, but I will come back, I will get up. I didn’t take kindly to the attempt to put me out of the sport I love. So I came back with my own cane, and I challenged Walker to one last war to settle the score. Both our canes would be legal; hell, EVERYTHING would be legal, and the only way to win the match would be to get your opponent to say two words I’ve never said: “I Quit.” We beat the HELL out of each other that night. I hit that bastard with everything I could get my hands on – the ring bell, a fan’s soda can, a steel chain and, of course, my cane. Walker did the same to me. He assaulted my body. He knew where I was hurt, and he zeroed in like a rabid dog.
But I wouldn’t quit. Walker’s manager, Marty Freeman, produced a pair of handcuffs, and I was handcuffed to the top turnbuckle. Dynomite went NUTS with the singapore cane, he split my forehead wide open. You can see the scars to this day. He plastered me across the back of the head. I had a fist-sized lump at the base of my skull for over a week, but I would not quit. My wife and mother were in attendance for this match, and they couldn’t stand seeing me assaulted any longer. They KNEW I wouldn’t quit. My wife stood up and screamed for Dynomite to stop, and he set his sights on her. My vision was blurred from the head trauma I suffered and the blood in my eyes, but I saw him slide to the floor and grab my wife by the hair. I heard her scream. I grabbed the microphone from the referee, and I finally said the words he couldn’t beat out of me. I quit the match to save the woman I love. Classic, right? I wonder why Clubber Lang didn’t think of that? Just beat Adrian retarded, maybe then Rocky would’ve quit? Hate to say it, but he outsmarted me. And after I’d received medical attention and calmed down a LONG time later, despite the mutual hate we have for each other, Walker and myself both admitted it was the best match of our respective careers.
Who will you be up against at the PCW match on Jan. 5, and what can you tell us in general about that night?
I’m up against the entire locker room! Seriously! It’s the return of the match that put me out of the sport with a back injury – the Platinum Royal. Every PCW wrestler is invited to participate. It starts out as a normal battle royal where you throw wrestlers to the floor to eliminate them. The last wrestler left standing at the end then faces the wrestler who threw out the most people to determine the ultimate winner, who is then guaranteed a title shot against the current champion, Shane Marx. Now, I won the battle royal portion of this match back on March 30, 2012, but came up short in the final battle. I’m tougher, I’m smarter, and I’m hungrier than ever now. And I’m putting the entire locker room on notice.
Now Pandora’s been watching my back since I came back, and I’m going to watch hers too. In a perfect world, it’ll come down to the two of us, and then one of us WILL get that shot against Shane Marx. But ANYBODY else who crosses my path in that match, friend or foe, I’m not going to risk injury again – and I’m not going to miss out on this championship opportunity – you’re likely to find yourself Danger-kicked out to the floor. This is the time to come out and see a Platinum Championship Wrestling event if you’ve been putting it off. You’ll see every top star in the company in the ring at the same time, except two.
The champion, Shane Marx, is putting his belt on the line against Supernatural. I’ll be very interested in that match as well, because if I win that Platinum Royal, I’ll be the first to challenge whoever the champion is after January 5. Like I mentioned earlier, I’ve got history with both men. Shane Marx is big, strong and possibly the very best wrestler in the locker room. Supernatural is lightning fast and hits harder pound for pound than anyone else I’ve been in the ring with. Either one of them makes a tremendous champion, but I think PCW could use a leader who’s a little more DANGERous, if ya catch my meaning.
Johnny Danger as Santa checks out the glamorous Ghouls of Silver Scream Spookshow to see who's been naughty and nice.
You’re also heavily into monster movies, especially Godzilla and kaiju eiga, and perform in the Silver Scream Spookshow. Thinking back to growing up, what were your first experiences with both, and do you see a connection between your love of monsters and your love of wrestling?
Oh, no doubt. Thanks to television growing up in Atlanta, watching Godzilla movies with Grampa Munster on Super Scary Saturday on TBS, and watching pro wrestling, are two of my earliest, most treasured memories. Ever since I could talk, I’d stand in front of my bathroom mirror, pose, and imitate the interview stylings of Hulk Hogan and Macho Man Randy Savage. I used to push the couches together in the living room, load them up with all my stuffed animals and have battle royals, throwing them out one by one. It always came down to me as Hulk Hogan facing off with an enormous teddy bear stand-in for Andre the Giant. And yeah I always won. Come on, I was Hogan!
There’s definitely a connection. Some of the best Godzilla movies are pro wrestling storylines at heart. Take GHIDOROAH THE THREE-HEADED MONSTER (1964). This new, evil, terribly powerful space monster, Ghidorah, attacks the Earth. In the previous film, MOTHRA VS GODZILLA (1964), another monster, Mothra, is the only thing that could stop Godzilla’s rampage. Godzilla actually kills the adult Mothra only to be driven away by her larval offspring. So when Ghidorah attacks, the people are powerless, and Mothra has to appeal to Godzilla and Rodan to team up with her to save the Earth. Godzilla and Rodan don’t care, humanity has always despised them, so Mothra goes to fight Ghidorah alone. Godzilla and Rodan are impressed by her bravery and run in to save her, turning “good” and driving off the evil space monster. That’s classic pro wrestling! I was a despised villain in Porterdale till I’d seen enough of my former team mates, The Priority Males, assaulting Pandora, and I stormed the ring to save her. Like I mentioned earlier, I had Godzilla’s face on my old wrestling pants, a Godzilla roar plays at the beginning of my entrance music, and I’ve dubbed my finishing move “Godzilla’s Revenge. You mentioned the Spookshow, that’s the perfect environment for me as well! I’ve played everything from giant monsters to Santa Claus in the show, and look forward to working with them again soon once renovations at the Plaza Theatre are complete and Professor Morte rises from his crypt once more!
Why Godzilla and how big a Big G collection do you have? Any tips on Godzilla collecting today?
Why not? What little kid wouldn’t love Godzilla growing up? NOBODY could tell him what to do; he didn’t have a room to clean, he’d wreck Tokyo, beat up another giant monster or two, and leave the poor saps of Japan to clean up the mess! And seeing as how I never stopped being a kid, it’s a love from my childhood I’ll never grow out of. The emotion of the monsters, the heart of the hand-made effects, you don’t get that in movies today. As for my collection, the only one I know that can compete with it is Professor Morte‘s alter-ego Shane Morton. I’ve got hundreds of toys, movie posters dating back to 1965, two Godzilla-related tattoos and plans for many more.
As for today’s collectors, the market is way different than it was in the ’90s when I started my collection. I have toys I paid $200 for that I struggle to sell for $80 today. You’ve got to realize, eBay wasn’t a thing back then. You had to find specialized dealers to get these things from. My only tip is to only pay what you personally feel something is worth. The “value” of these things fluctuates so much; just be smart and patient. There’s a few groups on Facebook devoted to Godzilla collectors, just look around!
Given that, I’m guessing Monstrosity Championship Wrestling represents the best of both worlds to you. Can you talk a little bit about what makes a MCW match different from a traditional one and what’s your favorite experience with MCW so far?
MCW is wild. We’ve got flamboyant vampires and intolerant redneck misanthrope lycanthropes. It lets a lot of us to expose our dark sides. The Zombie King, Papa Marko has managed to temporarily “zombify” PCW stars like the Washington Bullets and Worse Case Scenerio. He’s even allegedly resurrected deceased wrestling stars like members of the Von Erich family! Casey Kincaid, one of the toughest wrestlers in PCW history, lets his well-documented darkness consume him to become The Phantom once more, an alter-ego we thought he put behind him. We thought it was safe; we were wrong. Then you’ve got guys like Supernatural who fit right in with MCW as is! Not only that, word of mouth is spreading, and we’ve got even more of the top stars in Georgia coming out to be a part of the carnage at MCW’s next show on January 4. Me, I’ve actually struggled to find my place in MCW, which is kind of surprising. I spent a brief period of time as a Frankenstein Monster. I think my fondest memory was wrestling in front of a HUGE crowd at this past Rock ‘N Roll MonsterBash at the Starlight Drive-In. It was blazingly hot, as usual, but all the freaks and misfits and punks and everyone else that came out for the movies, music and mayhem surrounded the ring to see me as part of a team known as The Greasy Bastards take on Supernatural and some ridiculous Leprechaun he found lurking in the bowels of the drive-in.
Event organizer Jonathan Williams, of WrestlingwithPopCulture.com, told me that you’re going to reveal a big surprise at this Friday’s bout. Without giving away any secrets, can you tell us a bit about the overall festivities?
I’ll say this, when I was out injured earlier this year, I had a lot of free time on my hands. I had to find something to get my mind off wrestling. I didn’t know if I could EVER compete again. I thought I’d wasted the last year of my life and permanently crippled myself. I did some research into my family tree of all things. I honestly couldn’t believe what I’d found – didn’t think there was ANY way it could be true. I’ve got extensive knowledge of monster fiction I knew what I’d found, but didn’t think it could be real. But as we all know, truth can be stranger than fiction. It turns out a branch of my family once had a different name than the one we carry today. It also turns out I’m the last one from that family line – a heritage that I will reveal upon MCW’s return on January 4th at the Asylum. A pedigree that spells doom for each and every one of MCW’s nightmarish combatants – a bloodline I cannot deny.
You even got married in the costume of your favorite wrestler and your lovely wife Samantha wore a wicked awesome Mothra wedding gown at the Plaza Theatre. Can you say a few words about it for folks who weren’t there and how you had the dream wedding of all time?
Oh man, it was wild, and I have so many people to thank for being a part of it: Professor Morte for allowing us to be married by a monster; Gayle and Jonny Rej, who allowed us into the Plaza Theatre under their run as owners. If I was going to get married, it was going to have to be an event. I don’t do the whole church thing. I wanted to break tradition and do something memorable. Well, the Plaza has become our church. All the joy in my life over the past five years, the Spookshow, the Atlanta Zombie Apocalypse, even becoming a PCW wrestler, all possible through people I’ve met at the Plaza. I had someone make me a replica of the outfit Randy Savage wore for his pay-per-view wedding to Miss Elizabeth from SummerSlam 1991, and entered to the sounds of “Pomp and Circumstance,” the tune that signaled Macho’s arrival for his matches. My four best men came down the aisle to the entrance theme of The Four Horsemen. We exited the ceremony to AC/DC‘s “Highway to Hell.” Instead of a boring reception with dancing and embarrassing speeches, those who stayed after the ceremonies were treated to a big screen viewing of KING KONG VS GODZILLA (1962). Instead of a fancy catered lunch, we ate the best popcorn in the world from the Plaza’s snack bar.
What’s next for Johnny Danger?
Heh, even I don’t know. I’ve accomplished so much in my first year of wrestling. I’ve fought the best in the locker room. I’ve bled, sweat and cried in that ring. I’ve wrestled in a steel cage in front of 500 people, and I wrestled a match at 1:30 in the morning in front of five or six people. Tag team matches, street fights, battle royals, I’ve done ’em all. Even spent some time behind the announce table doing color commentary during my recovery. The only thing I haven’t done is win championship gold. Anybody who ever gets in the ring, they dream of one day holding a belt [and] I’m no different. 2013 is the year I show I’m for real. Yeah, at heart, I’m still a kid with a dream. But I want to show I have the ability to back up that dream. I’ll never be the toughest, the biggest, the fastest or the strongest.
I’m not the best technical wrestler in the locker room. But I’ve got the biggest heart, I’ve proved that time and time again. There is no better “feel-good story.” If I can win that title to sit atop the mountain, even just for ONE NIGHT, it’s a victory for everyone in the crowd that’s ever believed. There’s nowhere else on the planet where any fan that buys a ticket can be so intimately connected to an experience. And that’s something I’d love to share with all my fans. Wherever I go, PCW will always be my home, where it all started. I love that company and our fans; they are a second family to me. We give you our all, twice a month, the first and third Saturday in Porterdale, Georgia. Please come out and see us!
Note: All photographs are courtesy and copyright of Johnny Danger.