Tag Archives: wrestling

WWE Superstar John Cena grants Maspeth boy’s wish

| agiudice@ridgewoodtimes.com

Photo courtesy the Lanzer family

To wrestling fans around the world WWE Superstar John Cena is known for being a 15-time world champion, but outside of the ring he is best known for his work with the Make-A-Wish Foundation. On Monday night Cena set the record for most celebrity wishes at 500, by making an 8-year-old boy from Maspeth’s dream come true.

Last week Cena surprised Rocco Lanzer, who was diagnosed with acute t-cell lymphoblastic leukemia in January, on the set of the “Today” show with tickets to “Monday Night Raw” at the Barclays Center and a championship belt.

“He was ecstatic. He was at a loss for words,” said Maria Lanzer, Rocco’s mother. “He was walking on cloud nine and still is. John Cena is his favorite. He enjoys everything about the WWE, but John Cena is his number one favorite.”

As part of his wish, Rocco played games with Cena at a party at a Dave & Buster’s restaurant and joined Cena in ringing the opening bell of the New York Stock Exchange on Friday.

“Mommy, I can’t believe I met John Cena and I played games with him at Dave & Busters,” Rocco told his mother.

Before Monday’s edition of “Raw,” Cena took Rocco backstage to meet several other WWE Superstars, get autographs and snap photos with some of his favorites.

“He got to meet a lot of the wrestlers. He got autographs and took pictures,” Lanzer said. “He got to walk down the entrance ramp with John Cena as his music was playing. After the show, John met with us outside of our limo and told Rocco to keep up the good spirits and to write to him. He shook his hand and gave him a hug.”

Cena’s motto of “never give up” is more than just a catchphrase; it has become a beacon of hope for children who are going through difficult times. Rocco has seen his share of tough times, receiving chemotherapy regularly three to four times a week, as well as blood transfusions when his blood counts become too low, Lanzer said.

“From the beginning I was telling him to never give up and he said, ‘That’s what John Cena says,” and I told him, “See, if John Cena says it you can’t give up,’” Lanzer recalled. “The motto fits for Rocco’s case. He is going through treatments like a champ.”

The Lanzers were very grateful to Cena for helping their child’s wish come true.

“Throughout his treatment and all the bumps in the road, it was great to see him smile. It lifted his spirts so much,” Lanzer said. “Meeting his hero and being there last night, seeing the smile on his face makes me and my husband so grateful for everyone who was involved with his wish. We were so happy and crying because he got to meet his idol and his role model.”

John Cena wore the loom bracelet Rocco made for him in ring, which added more to Rocco’s happiness that night, Lanzer added.

“His smile was from ear to ear all night,” she said. “John Cena has his heart in every wish he grants, which makes it more special. It was a chance of a lifetime and I would love to give a shoutout to Make-A-Wish and the WWE for granting his wish.”


Wild night of ‘Big Battel’ wrestling in Elmhurst

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Kelly Marie Mancuso


As the lights of Queens Boulevard began to dim and store owners pulled down their metal gates on the night of July 10, a diverse crowd began to assemble at the Elmhurst Elks Club to watch costumed monsters square off in a ring as Boston-based wrestling sensation Kaiju Big Battel roared into town.

Kaiju (Japanese for “monster” or “mysterious beast”) features an ever-changing roster of giant, costumed, out-of-this-world creatures facing off in battles that are part Japanese sci-fi, part American pro-wrestling. The battleground is littered with monster movie props, including cardboard and foam skyscrapers upon which the monsters delightfully stomp and destroy.

The Friday night crowd that gathered to watch the late-night spectacle ranged from twentysomething guys and pastel-haired teens to the after-work crowd and young children, eager to see monsters and aliens smashing cardboard cityscapes and each other.

The audience was led into the Elks Club through the Jolly Corks lounge, where club regulars and newcomers sipped $3 pints of beer from plastic cups amid the wood-paneled hunting lodge walls.

Once inside, fans had the chance to purchase postcards, pins and posters of their favorite Kaiju heroes. Uniquely named treats such as “Ebola Cola” and “Danger Cakes,” Kaiju’s take on the classic Hostess cupcake, were also available to hungry fans.

The crowds cheered as the Kaiju crew began setting up homemade Styrofoam and cardboard buildings crafted from recycled boxes in the ring. Colorful MC Anthony Salbino, clad in aviator glasses and a sailors cap, kicked off the tournament.

Kaiju villain Dr. Cube entered with his posse of square-headed henchmen. He revealed a new, unnamed creation to fight crowd favorite and Kaiju sage Dusto Bunny. At first, Dr. Cube’s creation had Dusto Bunny on the ropes, slamming him onto the mat in a cloud of talcum powder and despair. But Dusto Bunny battled back to win the match and earned a standing ovation from the crowd.

Kaiju alien Steam Powered Tentacle Boulder came out to talk to the crowd but was interrupted by Dr. Cube. SPTB slammed Cube to scare him, earning him cheers from the crowd.

Kung Fu Chicken Noodle, an alleged former factory worker-turned-soup can, paired with French Toast as the team “Soup and Waffle.” The duo is the current Kaiju Double Danger Tandem Title Champions. They beat Dr. Cube’s creations Tucor and Hell Monkey in a hardcore match that allowed foreign objects, namely old Guitar Hero controllers. MC Salbino led the crowd in chants of “Soup! Soup!” as Kung Fu Chicken Noodle won the match.

Kaiju hero Sun Blaster, a good guy with an old game controller for an arm, beat his opponent by using the controller to take over his body.

The next match saw American Beetle, a patriotic space bug, face off against Gambling Bug, a bankrupt developer from a laundromat in Denver. American Beetle was led to victory with chants of “USA! USA!”

The headline event was a title match between reigning Kaiju champ Silver Potato and Cycloptopus, a furry, one-eyed green demon with red lobster claws for hands. Silver Potato was the early crowd favorite, handing out slices of pizza from Costco. The crowd cheered “Pizza!” and “Po-ta-to!” as he entered the ring.

Dr. Cube and the yellow spiked alien Unibouzu interfered on behalf of Cycloptopus, but Silver Potato used his pizza box to defeat his opponents and retain his belt and title.

After the tournament was over, the audience was invited to take home pieces of the shattered cardboard and foam skyscrapers as mementos of their wild night watching aliens and monsters duke it out in Queens.



Ridgewood gets ready to thumb-le at wrestling event

| editorial@ridgewoodtimes.com

Photo courtesy of Julia's Beer and Wine Bar


A Ridgewood bar has given the thumbs-up to the neighborhood’s first-ever thumb wrestling competition this Thursday night.

With the battle cry, “1, 2, 3, and 4…Prepare those thumbs for war,” the event will take place beginning at 6 p.m. at Julia’s Beer and Wine Bar, located at 818 Woodward Ave.

Competitors will have the chance to square off in miniature plastic thumb wrestling rings complete with mini ropes and sponsored by Finback Brewery. A referee will judge the competition based on the official Thumb Wrestling Association (TWA) rules.

William Reder, bartender, brewer and co-partner of Julia’s, described the “tongue-in-cheek” event as a fun, offbeat way to celebrate Queens Beer Week.

“We encourage costumes and stage names,” he explained. “We want this to be more about having fun than competing.”

Ultimately, a champion will be crowned and will enjoy the “glory” of sporting the championship thumb ring. Other prizes will include beer, gift certificates and more from Finback Brewery and Julia’s Beer and Wine Bar.

Registration for the Ridgewood Thumb Wrestling Competition will be held the night of the event, from 6 to 7 p.m. Competitors must be 21 years of age and older to participate and must produce a valid state ID. Tickets for competitors are available here.

Julia’s will feature beer from Queens-based breweries, including Finback, in honor of Queens Beer Week. They also have an extensive menu of New York State wines sourced from small, family-owned vineyards, as well as a delectable menu of small plates, salads and appetizers.

The event is open to the public and cheering is greatly encouraged.


Cardozo wrestling city champs set sights on national tourney

| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Liam La Guerre

Follow  me @liamlaguerre


Before Benjamin Cardozo senior Douglas Chau joined the wrestling team, he was, as he put it, a “boring kid.”

Chau, 17, didn’t play any sports, wasn’t in any clubs, didn’t interact with many of his peers and maintained average grades (about 80 percent), before his freshman year in high school.

But wrestling became the catalyst of change for the Bayside resident.

He joined at the recommendation of his older sister, who had friends on the team. And Chau said the first time he trained on the mat, he enjoyed the camaraderie and discipline the sport taught. Since then he said he’s become a more social person, and Chau is set to graduate at the end of this semester with an 89 percent average.

“It made me dedicated to everything that I do,” Chau said. “I found myself more disciplined than I was ever before. I can’t exactly say the reason why I like wrestling, but I can feel it.”

After four years of hard work on the team, Chau won the PSAL Division I wrestling individual city championship at 113 pounds last month, his first city-wide title. A city championship was the goal, but this summer he hopes to win a national championship at the Fargo Wrestling Tournament in North Dakota to complete the mission.

Chau’s teammate and training partner, Steve Kim, a junior at Benjamin Cardozo, is also looking to win a national championship at the Fargo tournament. Kim won the PSAL Division I individual city championships at 145 pounds, and before the summer tournament he’ll compete in a national event in Virginia Beach on March 24 as well.

Unlike Chau, Kim has been wrestling since he was a young child. His older brother taught his techniques at home and in the past he was fond of the WWE, the professional wrestling show.

Kim, 17, has designed a special diet to go with his training that emphasizes natural foods, such as fruits, vegetables and water, and he eats few carbs. It’s a testament to his dedication and desire to win a medal at the next level.

“That would be just beyond my dreams, that’s something unexplainable and unimaginable, to become a national champ,” Kim said.

The pair train about five days a week for two hours a day, sometimes conditioning in the weight room, and other times wrestling each other.

Chau said his Fargo appearance will be his last time on the mat because he’ll focus on studying pre-law at St. John’s University.

But after his personal wrestling experience comes to an end, he plans to start a brand new journey with another goal.

“My plan is to join the coaching staff at Cardozo,” Chau said. “My next mission is to help Cardozo move on and get another city champion.”



Wrestling voted out of Olympics

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Hofstra University


The sport of wrestling is now fighting for its life.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) voted the sport, which was part of the inaugural 1896 Olympics held in Athens, Greece, off the 2020 games program.

Richard Zbytniewski, a wrestling coach at MS 72 Count Basie in Jamaica, said he couldn’t understand the decision made by the IOC because wrestling has been a part of the Olympics since the beginning.

“If you’re going to get rid of one of the oldest sports then you’re losing the identity of the Olympics,” he said.

Robert Anspach, head coach of wrestling at Hofstra University, said he was shocked when he learned the news and at first thought it was a joke.

“I didn’t even know it was up for discussion,” he said.

Anspach argued with one of the reasons the IOC gave for voting wrestling off, low ratings.

“If you’re going to put it on at 1 or 2 o’clock in the afternoon of course nobody’s going to be to watch it,” he said.

Anspach said that despite the decreasing ratings, there seems to be a growing support for wrestling, citing growing attendance at Hofstra’s wrestling events.

Zbytniewski said when he was a wrestler in college he’d use the Olympics for motivation.

“The Olympics were inspiring me to do better,” he said, adding that the event does the same for the students he coaches at the middle school.

Anspach said that the Olympics may not be the only goal that all wrestlers look to, but that it is one of the main ones.

“It’s the dream and aspiration of some of these guys,” Anspach said of his wrestlers.

Anspach and Zbytniewski also said that wrestling should stay in the Olympics because it is, in their opinion, the ultimate sport.

“It’s something that you’re born with, it’s instinctual,” Anspach said. “It’s the only sport that’s opened to everybody. There’s a weight class for everyone. You don’t see a short basketball player. But in wrestling there’s a division for everyone.”

“There are sports on that list that I really wouldn’t even consider to be a sport,” Zbytniewski echoed. “They don’t take any skill to do. Wrestling is a highly skilled sport that you need to train hard for in order to get good at.”

Anspach, when asked if there was any official word on what would happen in the wrestling community, said everything is still up in the air.

“People are asking us ‘what’s going to happen?’” he said. “We don’t know. It’s not official yet that it’s going to happen and I really hope they overturn the decision.”

Wrestling still has a fighting chance to be included in the 2020 games, but has to apply for inclusion along with six other sports: baseball/softball, karate, roller sports, sport climbing, squash, wakeboarding and wushu (Chinese martial arts).

Anspach said this could be a lesson for the wrestling community, saying those in charge need to be more active in promoting their sport.

“We need to stop being reactionary and start being more proactive,” he said. “It might be too late to stop this, but now we need to figure out how we prevent this from happening again.”