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.