"The first wrestling live show I ever went to was in 1985 at the Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, and the main event was Hulk Hogan and Ricky Steamboat versus Don Muraco and Mr. Fuji," Vince Averill tells me over lunch at a Mexican spot in Glendale, CA. It's early June and I find myself chatting about wrestling with the guy, but the real reason we're blabbing over a couple of taco plates is that Vince, like me, is a hardcore music lifer.
You see, back in a former life, Vince was part of the hardcore scene of the '90s, releasing the much revered Ottawa/Jihad split LP through his then-label, Abiology Records. He might not have kept the label going too long, but that 1994 split still manages to influence hardcore musicians, almost 25 years later. "I took the money from my high school graduation party and started the label with my buddy, Eric Kane, who was in Nema and some other bands. It was a split with Council Records, which was Matt Weeks, another friend who also played in Ottawa, Current, Nema, and Calvary.
"The Ottawa demo was huge in Michigan and had even gotten reviewed in Maximum Rocknroll — which was a big deal back then."
"So, yeah, people were just lathered for that record. That split just went bananas. I think we initally did 2,000 copies, but the response was already crazy by the time it came out, so it kept selling" says Vince, who these days is a comedian and host of the popular We Watch Wrestling Podcast.
Co-hosted with Vince's fellow stand-up comedian friends Matt McCarthy and Tom Sibley, We Watch Wrestling Podcast streamed its first episode in 2013, and has been going strong ever since. "I moved to Los Angeles in May of 2013, and my co-host, Tom, had just started watching wrestling. Our other future co-host, Matt — who you might know from College Humor and Conan — had just finished a year stint working as a writer at WWE. So, Tom wanted to start a wrestling podcast and Matt said that he wouldn't do it unless I was also involved. I honestly remember being reluctant at first because I didn't think anyone would care, but it worked out incredibly. Since Tom doesn't really know that much about wrestling, if you're a listener that is in the same boat, you don't feel like an outsider. Our 5-year anniversary is in August and we're developing some TV ideas right now, so things are going really well right now.
Podcasts loom large in Vince's Los Angeles area home. The hardcore and wrestling-loving Michigan native is married to Georgia Hardstark, who along with co-host Karen Kilgariff, are the women behind the mega-huge true crime podcast, My Favorite Murder. Taking his DIY knowledge from his days in the hardcore scene, Vince is tour managing the My Favorite Murder tour stops throughout the globe. "Very early on, I was like, 'you guys need to make some shirts and buttons.' They do really well from their merch, but they have such dedicated fans that they'll make their own homemade t-shirts and stuff. [Laughs] They're very cool about it. The community around their show is so huge and really supportive."
For those of you who don't know My Favorite Murder, to put the show's popularity in perspective, there are numerous Facebook groups dedicated to the podcast, with its official one boasting over 200,000 members from around the world.
Since we've already talked a bit about wrestling and hardcore, Vince brings up one of his latest projects that brings together both scenes. "Recently, we've started to do the live commentary at these wrestling matches where they also have hardcore bands playing on the bill. There's one happening in July with a very special guest that I think people will love [he tells me who the band is but I am sworn to secrecy].
Before we go our separate ways, I put Vince on the spot and ask him what his all-time favorite Michigan hardcore record is. "I have to probably say Current's Coliseum album . That was such a big point in my life, coming out of high school, and knowing those guys. Current was the band that everyone loved back home during that period. I will always love that record."
And finally, the million-dollar question: Ottawa or Jihad? "Ottawa, duh! [Laughs] Everyone knows that's the better side! The Ottawa stuff holds up all these years later. It's a classic."