Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Bobby Piskor’s rise to local wrestling legend

- Sweat equity TONY NORMAN

At 33, Bobby Piskor has the aches and pains of a man many times his age. It is a sweet agony, though. The Munhall native and resident has been an initiate into a world of choreograp­hed violence and spectacle since he was in his mid-teens.

Along the way, he has slipped in and out of various personas and masks — sometimes literally.

Some fans will remember him as the second iteration of a masked man called “Mantis.” Others will know the scene-stealing “Robert Parker Williams,” whose feathered boa and beaded uniform — stitched together lovingly by his mom — gave no hint of the depths of his villainy.

Good guy or bad, he was always grateful to be a part of the largerthan-life drama that he’d been obsessed with since he was a kid.

As a young aspirant in the world of profession­al wrestling, Mr. Piskor wasn’t supposed to go anywhere near the squared circle until he turned 18 and the state of Pennsylvan­ia declared him physically capable of taking what the wrestling business calls “bumps” like a grown man.

But when he was 15, he stepped into the ring for the first time as “Harold Potter” — he rather resembled J.K. Rowling’s bespectacl­ed boy wizard.

“Whenever an athletic commission­er would come around to check everyone’s papers, I’d throw on a hoodie and sneak out of the locker room. So when he would do ID checks, I was gone,” Mr. Piskor said.

Too young to take bumps from men who often outweighed him by hundreds of pounds, Mr. Piskor was clever enough to make a convincing referee in the world of spandex-wearing behemoths.

So Bobby “Potter” Piskor donned the black-and-white uniform of the referees and was instantly hooked. By the time he was 16, he was part of a story line about a good referee (“Harold Potter”) versus a bad referee (“Marcus Steel”) in the now-defunct IYFW wrestling circuit out of Weirton, W.Va.

“In those days in West Virginia, you could put a 9-year-old in the ring and no one was going to say anything,” Mr. Piskor said of the IYFW — the initialism for “In Your Face Wrestling.”

In that story line, Marcus Steel would “reverse” Harold Potter’s judgments in the ring based on a willful misinterpr­etation of the rules, making it possible for bad guys to win even if they’d gotten pinned earlier. This set up the inevitable “war of the referees” feud.

Though the story was relatively short-lived because of IYFW’s sudden collapse, it was a satisfying run for Mr. Piskor. It confirmed his desire to be a part of that world of sawdust and sweat.

“I grew up in a household where

wrestling was always on television,” he said. “My father was a huge fan going back to the old studio wrestling days.”

Indeed, it was because of his father’s chance encounter with WWE wrestler Al Snow at a Detroit airport that the then-teenager’s parents didn’t object to their son’s deepening involvemen­t in wrestling.

Mr. Snow’s gimmick at the time was talking to a severed mannequin’s head and using it as a cudgel in the ring. Outside of the ring, he was apparently very erudite and convinced the elder Mr. Piskor that Bobby would thrive in that world provided he got the right training.

Bobby Piskor has come a long way since hanging out with his older brother and friends at the Eastland Mall in North Versailles, where they would see Pro Wrestling Express shows in the back of an old candy store.

The young wrestling fan was studying everyone’s moves. Because he was a high school student in Munhall, he tended to wrestle mostly locally but would put in appearance­s in West Virginia and Cleveland for various competing wrestling circuits.

Bobby didn’t care about school dances or hanging out with friends because he was focused on profession­al wrestling, which made him odd even by working-class Munhall standards. Other than truancy, he didn’t get into trouble at school and did enough work to graduate on time.

One of Mr. Piskor’s fondest memories was working for a promoter called James T. Lightning in Cleveland.

“I showed up on a Friday night with two guys from Pittsburgh in the Flats at a bar called Jimmy’s,” Mr. Piskor said. “Every Friday night, [Lightning] would throw on 12 matches. I showed up and discovered he’d forgotten to book a referee. He remembered me from a show we did in Erie.

“He asked if I had my gear and if I could ref. ‘I can’t pay you,’ he said.” That night, Mr. Piskor refereed 14 matches.

There were times when wrestling was lucrative enough to pay all of his bills and leave just enough for him to have fun, but he quickly points out that he was living at home with his parents with no overhead during those flush times.

Bobby Piskor has been married since 2011 and now has a daughter who is about to turn 6, so working for free isn’t something he can consider anymore. After 18 years, he’s considered a veteran on the local profession­al wrestling scene.

To pay the mortgage on his Munhall home, Mr. Piskor works in the office of Turtle Creek Magistrate Scott Schricker.

“I put bad guys in jail from 8 to 4, and then I go beat up people from 7:30 to 11 p.m.,” he said.

He kept his life as a wrestler under wraps from his colleagues at Turtle Creek borough until one of the district attorneys saw him in the ring one night.

“It was one of those really awkward moments in court one day,” he said. “It was, ‘Wait a second, I know you.’”

The Friday before our interview, Mr. Piskor had endured a six-man weapons match in McKeesport: “I’m a little beat up right now,” he said of the 3-vs.-3 guys Battle Royale with no rules.

“They had chairs, street signs, a ladder. My back has ladder marks on it right now. My calf is the size of a basketball. It was six months of storytelli­ng that built to this giant match,” he said.

In the fight, Bobby had the role of a member of bad guy group Steel Perfection. His main antagonist was a member of Young Blood called “Bro-hemoth.” The two groups had been beefing for months, but Young Blood finally won when Bro-hemoth pinned Bobby Piskor to the canvas.

This helped “sell” the newcomers as the future of Pro Wrestling Express, a circuit that has been very good to Mr. Piskor over the years.

These days, he works primarily for the IWC — the Internatio­nal Wrestling Cartel — based out of Elizabeth. It’s one of the biggest wrestling companies in Western Pennsylvan­ia and has sold out every one of its shows this year. It also brings in top stars and can be seen on payper-view. It streams all of its events.

He also wrestles and refs for a smaller company called Ryse Wrestling in Dunbar, Fayette County, near Uniontown.

Because wrestling isn’t his primary income, Mr. Piskor is able to spend plenty of time with his wife and daughter at home during the week.

His daughter loves his villainous Robert Parker Williams character and will ask to watch tapes of him performing the character. She also asks to watch the same classic wrestling tapes he used to watch as a kid.

“We sit back in the chair and watch wrestling,” Mr. Piskor said with a smile about his quality time with his daughter. That’s one of the few things he loves more than wrestling itself.

 ??  ?? Bobby Piskor during his blonde, “bad guy” wrestling phase.
Bobby Piskor during his blonde, “bad guy” wrestling phase.
 ?? Photos courtesy of Bobby Piskor ?? Top left:: Bobby Piskor, right, as a wrestling referee confronted by bad guy “Rhyno.” Mr. Piskor has been a profession­al wrestler and referee in the area since he was 15 — three years before he was technicall­y supposed to be. Top right: Bobby Piskor at 15 with one of his wrestling mentors. Above: Bobby Piskor, right, and wrestler Chris Jericho, also known as “Y2J,” seen during a wrestling match.
Photos courtesy of Bobby Piskor Top left:: Bobby Piskor, right, as a wrestling referee confronted by bad guy “Rhyno.” Mr. Piskor has been a profession­al wrestler and referee in the area since he was 15 — three years before he was technicall­y supposed to be. Top right: Bobby Piskor at 15 with one of his wrestling mentors. Above: Bobby Piskor, right, and wrestler Chris Jericho, also known as “Y2J,” seen during a wrestling match.
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