By Dr. Abner Mality

Greetings, rasslin’ fans! Every week, millions of folks turn on their TV to get their weekly dose of pro wrestling action. The vast majority of what they watch comes either from industry colossus WWE or its brash young competitor AEW. Others seeking a deeper dive into the wrestling world will watch Impact Wrestling, MLW or the NWA. That accounts for a huge chunk of fans.

However, wrestling also thrives on the local level, with literally hundreds of small promotions that don’t have regular television. At most, these local outfits will have a Youtube show where audiences often number in the hundreds. Yet these small promotions provide a valuable learning experience for young wrestlers learning their trade. Every big time superstar got their start in the indies, without exception. They act as a vital pipeline of talent into the bigger wrestling leagues.

In my hometown of Rockford, Illinois, the local promotion is known as Damage Inc. Wrestling. One of the familiar homegrown wrestlers making his way and getting valuable experience there is a shaggy blond brute by the name of Moondog Murray. Moondog is pretty much a hometown product, having grown up in nearby Belvidere, IL. I thought it would be a cool twist to have a chat with a guy that grew up about 15 miles away from where I did.

What I got was a real eye-opening conversation that dug deep into the emotional side of an up and coming wrestler. This is actually one of the better interviews of any kind you’re gonna read at Wormwood. Years from now, when Moondog is strutting his stuff in WWE or AEW, we can look back on this chat and say we knew him when! Because the potential and work ethic is there.

Take it away, Moondog...

WORMWOOD CHRONICLES; Greetings, Moondog! First thing I want to ask is, what lit the fire in you to try pro wrestling? Who were the stars that inspired you to try wrestling?

MOONDOG MURRAY: COVID hit, I was on the brink of suicide. I had nothing to live for. Then the idea of trying pro wrestling came into my mind. I had always wanted to be a wrestler but didn't think I could do it. Have no athletic background, was almost 300 pounds. Well, after the shutdown and seeing how easy is was to almost lose your full freedom to do the things you used to do everyday, it made me realize how short life is. So I said to hell with it, least I can do is try. I didn't want to be 50 years old and asking myself "What if I tried?" as opposed to "Well I tried, just didn't work out." Of course 2 years and over 100 matches later here I still am.

WC: Were you familiar with the history and legacy of all the Moondogs in wrestling? There’s been quite a few over the years!

MM: I was a super fan well before becoming a wrestler. Read everyone's books, listened to all the podcasts, watched whatever I got my hands on. So the Moondogs were definitely a team I was well aware of. Especially Spot when I watched Wrestling Classic 1985 where he outsmarted Terry Funk. Mayne I learned about watching Portland Wrestling on YouTube and being blown away by a Moondog that could actually cut a promo. Then as a fan going to local Indy shows I saw a guy named Moondog Bernard, who I know still wrestles. Actually, it might be the reason I don't wrestle at a certain promotion in the area as well but that’s speculation. I don't know what's facts or fiction but wrestlers from that promotion told me "It's because we already have a Moondog".

WC: Did you have a pretty athletic background? Did you play high school football or basketball or do any amateur wrestling?

MM: . Had no athletic background, my character work really helps carry me where I lack as a wrestler. Though I still go to wrestling training every week, hit the gym almost everyday. It's making me an athlete, it's just a little more difficult because I didn't have that background. It's a huge hindrance to anybody that wants to get into wrestling. You almost have to work harder than those who do have the athletic backgrounds. All because guys like that are judging you and questioning why you even bother. Just for you to bust your ass and show them why you belong. Then suddenly they’ re your friend.

WC: Who were your trainers in wrestling and how tough was breaking into it? Was there ever a time when you thought “maybe I got myself in too deep”?

MM: I started training at a place in Woodstock. They taught me pretty good basics and how to adlib in between spots, especially when things go wrong. However ,the trainer anytime I'd ask "How'd I do?" It'd be "Keep doing what you're doing" or "That was terrible." When I'd ask for further explanation I'd get hit with the "We'll talk about it later," and later would never come. The guy was so afraid of conflict but loved to just tear you down. So I left, joined Chicago Style Wrestling Academy, which is led by Steve Boz, Axel Rico and Jason Hades. Those three helped make me the guy I am today. Without them there's no Moondog Murray or Dog-Faced Bastard Greg Murray.

WC: Do you pretty much stick to the Northern Illinois/Southern Wisconsin area for matches or do you travel pretty far afield?

MM: I wrestle anywhere a promoter wants to book me. I'm based out of the Chicago area so I do a lot of shows in that area. Sometimes go up to Janesville for Janesville Wrestling Alliance or Twin Lakes, WI for POWW. However I also wrestle every other month up in Cadillac, Michigan for Eric Freedom. Farthest I've went was San Antonio, Texas for a show during their Gay Pride Fest. I'm really hoping to someday wrestle in the Florida, Vegas and LA scenes.

WC: What promotions would you say you are most active in? Would you consider Damage Inc. your “home” promotion?

MM: I'm active in Chicago Style Wrestling, Northland Pro Wrestling and POWW. CSW is my home promotion which includes Northland. Northland is pretty much the NXT to CSW where it's a show for trainees to wrestle and perfect their craft working in front of crowds. As of the past year I've been a staple to POWW's Saturday Night Fights which is POWW's version of NXT shows for the students of POWW. Me of course still being green I'm sort of lumped into that category. Rockford Damage and UWE out of Cadillac, MI I consider under that POWW umbrella being it's the same staff booking and wrestling wise. I'm at the moment trying to become a regular at Janesville Wrestling Alliance but hopefully my schedule allows it for 2023.

WC: You are becoming really popular in Damage Inc. Do you get the babyface reaction everywhere or do you go the heel route outside of Damage Inc?

MM: Me being from Belvidere, IL I'm pretty much the hometown kid for the Damage fans. I pretty much get everybody doing the bark everywhere I go. However, there are places where I'm a heel where I'm able to get the people to hate me. It's almost a great chip on my shoulder because guys will complain "God, I couldn't get the crowd behind me," and here I am in my head going "Oh yeah watch this" and get the people into it. They may not know me at first, but at the end they're gonna be barking or booing.

WC: What style of wrestling do you prefer, face or heel? Or is it really necessary to master both these days?

MM: I am one of the few wrestlers who prefers to be a face. There's something about that genuine reaction from the fans that want to cheer you and see you win that blows me away. Me, a guy who was once way out of shape at almost 300 pounds, 2 years later I’m 220-230 pounds, as athletic as I've ever been in my whole life and getting cheered.

WC: What would you say was your toughest and most physical match so far?

MM: My most toughest matches have been against Kyzyle. Kyle and I lay into each other everytime we go out there. So I'm feeling it right after every time. It's funny cause here we are throwing snug strikes at each other, then right after we're hugging going "Good shit, brother" and laughing with each other. Only in wrestling can you do that.

WC: What’s the oddest location you’ve wrestled in?

MM: There haven’t been too many odd places... guess the toughest place was San Antonio, Texas. We were out on the local fairgrounds during Pride Fest, anybody aware of Pride month knows it takes place in June. Well, guess what state is very hot in June? So long story short, I'm working Byron Adams (A Texas area wrestler) in 102-107 degree weather. Well ,being how often hot it is in Texas, they're obviously not canceling the show. We ended up cutting a spot and going to the finish because it was unbearable. Think we managed to go 6 or 7 minutes? We had to get out of there, though.

WC: You go at it pretty hard. Have you had any major injuries so far and does the possibility of getting hurt ever affect how you do things?

MM: Only injuries I've suffered were tweaks. Tweaked my back twice, rolled my ankle but that's nothing KT tape, Icy Hot and at worst a week off can't help.

WC: How do you see yourself progressing in the next few years? The indy wrestling scene is huge right now...are you content to stay in the Midwest or would you relocate?

MM: I am taking it all one day at a time, I never thought I'd make it past my first match, let alone a hundred. So wherever my journey takes me, I'm gonna go.

WC: Do you think you will stay “Moondog Murray” for the duration of your career or could you maybe switch to a different persona?

MM: I've already began transitioning into the Dog-Faced Bastard Greg Murray as opposed to Moondog Murray. For the most part promotions have changed my name. However, POWW insists I at least keep the name Moondog for a few more months for them. Obviously they're one of my frequent bookings, so I'm not gonna rock the boat too much over it.

WC: Who would be your dream opponent?

MM: Right now my dream opponent is Steve Boz. Boz is my trainer and he doesn't just wrestle any of the students so to me him getting in the ring with me is a sign of respect and trust. It's something I have to accomplish before he retires.

WC: What would you say is the one aspect of pro wrestling you need to focus on more?

MM: The aspect I need to focus on is getting better. There's still so many little things that need to be worked on. So much stuff in general that needs my attention when it comes to being a better pro wrestler.

WC: Any last words for your fans out there?

MM: Please keep supporting your local indies, please keep supporting the wrestlers at their merch tables and please enjoy wrestling. For as frustrating as some wrestling can be to some fans, deep down they're a fan for a reason and they can't get enough of pro wrestling.