Northeast Times

Home sweet home

Ready to rumble: Mi­chael Manna grew up in Port Rich­mond and gradu­ated from Frank­ford High School. In ad­di­tion to his pro wrest­ling ca­reer, he hosts T4, a tech­no­logy show on the In­ter­net, and is a cat en­thu­si­ast.

Mi­chael Manna is com­ing home.

Manna, who has been pro­fes­sion­al wrest­ler Stevie Richards for more than 20 years, grew up in Port Rich­mond and gradu­ated from Frank­ford High School.

Dur­ing his wrest­ling ca­reer, he starred in ECW, WCW, WWE and TNA. Now, he’s back home rep­res­ent­ing Ex­treme Rising as the pro­mo­tion’s heavy­weight cham­pi­on.

But he’s still Mi­chael Manna.

“I’ll be in town, but people shouldn’t ex­pect me to be Ric Flair, I’m prob­ably the most bor­ing cham­pi­on in the world,” Manna said. “I’ll work out, do my yoga, play video games, hang out. I won’t be out all night, party­ing. I’ll spend time with fam­ily and friends, but I like to stick to my routine and that’s work­ing out, play­ing video games and liv­ing what some would con­sider a bor­ing life.”

That’s be­cause Manna is ex­tremely ser­i­ous about his job as a pro­fes­sion­al wrest­ler. It’s why he stays in great shape. It’s why he works out so hard.

“Every time I wrestle, I come out in the best shape I can be in be­cause I know that’s what the fans ex­pect,” Manna said.

This week­end, he bet­ter be in great shape. The champ is slated to make a pair of title de­fenses at the former ECW Arena at Swan­son and Rit­ner streets in South Phil­adelphia.

On Fri­day night, Manna will square off against ECW le­gend Sabu. This is the third meet­ing between the two, and both pre­vi­ous con­tests — won by Sabu — were clas­sics, ac­cord­ing to many wrest­ling fans.

Should he de­feat ar­gu­ably the top guy in the former ECW, Richards will meet Ex­treme Rising up-and-comer Luke Hawx on Sat­urday.

Manna will head­line both shows, which will be­gin at 8 p.m. Also sched­uled to ap­pear are former le­gends of the Phil­adelphia-based ECW, in­clud­ing the Sand­man, Rhino, Balls Ma­honey and Axl Rot­ten.

For Manna, get­ting in the ring at home isn’t much dif­fer­ent, al­though his spot on the card has changed.

“For me, the only dif­fer­ence is where I’m placed on the card and that my pic­ture is now on a lot more posters,” Manna said. “I look at it the same way. I’m go­ing to go out there and have the best match pos­sible.”

His week­end should be ex­cit­ing, but it could also come with a lot of bumps and bruises. Sabu is known for his dare­dev­il style. He likes to in­cor­por­ate tables, chairs and any oth­er weapon he can find.

Hawx wrestles a dif­fer­ent style. He’s a brawl­er who likes to wrestle on the mat and oc­ca­sion­ally take to the air.

“I wrestled Sabu back at House­p­arty (1996), and that was really my com­ing-out match,” Manna said. “I’ll want to be care­ful be­cause I don’t want to get hurt. He’s a good friend of mine, but he won’t be (Fri­day).

“And if I keep the title, I ex­pect an­oth­er tough match from Hawx. He’s a great wrest­ler who has done great for Ex­treme Rising and else­where. I’ve ac­tu­ally wrestled him more than I wrestled Sabu, so we know each oth­er. He’s also a friend.”

Manna is also a great friend to Ex­treme Rising own­er Steve O’Neill. That’s not only be­cause Manna is a good guy, but be­cause he’s a very re­li­able and ded­ic­ated wrest­ler.

“Stevie does whatever he can to help us and he’s al­ways will­ing to go above and bey­ond,” said O’Neill, a Mor­rell Park res­id­ent and Arch­bish­op Ry­an High School grad.

His ef­forts go far bey­ond the wrest­ling ring. Manna also hosts T4, a tech­no­logy show on the In­ter­net where he re­views video games, phones and oth­er gad­gets. He’s also a cer­ti­fied train­er for DDP Yoga, a pro­gram named after former pro wrest­ler Dia­mond Dal­las Page. The yoga is used by many wrest­lers and pro­fes­sion­al ath­letes.

“I take everything I do ser­i­ously,” Manna said. “I’ve al­ways been a tech­no­logy fan. Whenev­er my friends have a prob­lem, they call me. I joke when they call me, they’ll im­me­di­ately ask me their prob­lem and I’ll re­spond, ‘I’m great, thanks for ask­ing.’ I’m al­ways play­ing with new things.

“DDP Yoga changed my life, and it’s very re­ward­ing be­ing able to teach people this. It helps so much with the bumps and bruises, and any­one can do it.”

Oh, there’s one more pas­sion Manna has, and it’s cer­tainly not one a big, bad pro wrest­ler would have.

Manna is a huge fe­line fan.

“Every­one knows I love cats,” Manna said. “That’s been out there for years, so I don’t hear much about it any­more. That’s over. Every­one ac­cepts it.”

If they don’t, they’ll get a Stevie Kick. ••

For tick­ets to the show, vis­it www.ex­tremer­ising.com. Tick­ets are also avail­able at The Beer Box, 3350 Grant Ave., and will be avail­able at the door. 

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