It’s always hard to really write about the things you love, to me anyways.
Though writing in general is hard, and while writing about hating things is no easy picnic, I find it generally easier to do as conveying disgust and annoyance is usually very easy to do. With the opposite spectrum, though, it’s a lot more complicated. You want to paint something in the best light possible, using the right words, the right phrases, and the right atmosphere to show the reader not only what you love about that thing, but why you love it as well. Which is pretty much why I’ve kinda balked on some scrapped reviews and lists I wanted to get done. Hell, the first part of the “Wrestling IS Art” took about 4 or so months for me to complete as I walked away from it for a while because I thought I wasn’t doing the sheer level of awesome justice.
But here, I hope this to be a different story. Because I want to talk about a human being who has really impacted my life a lot as both a fan of wrestling and as a person.
If you watched CHIKARA from 2009-2013, you may recognize this “Mat Wrestling Machine” as a former clean cut face with a background in amateur wrestling, to a member of the ruthless and powerful BDK, to Young Lion’s Cup Champion, to the lone wolf psychopath that mentally and physically abused his manager Jakob Hammermier on his path to retribution against Hallowicked and to the CHIKARA Grand Championship against long time foe, Eddie Kingston. But he is also known for his work in Cleveland’s AIW where he is a former AIW Absolute champion and has had amazing matches in 2013-2014 with guys like EC3, Chris Hero, Danny Havoc, Alex Shelly, Matt Tremont, Eddie Kingston, Michael Elgin, and Josh Alexander.
That man is known as Mike Hopes to the public, but when he walks out that entrance way and is in the ring, he is known as only one person to the crowd:
Tim “Fucking Donst”.
I first encountered Donst in November of 2012. Back then, I was only just getting into independent wrestling, as I was growing tired of WWE and wanted something different. CHIKARA was my favorite promotion at the time just because of not only how funny they could be, but also how well crafted their stories could be too. Today not so much, but I digress. I heard they were coming to Cleveland and hopped on that chance to do so mainly because my favorite Indy wrestler at the time, Chuck Taylor, was booked (still love the guy’s work to death, by the way). So I attended and had an absolute blast as it was my first Indy show. One of the other people booked was Tim Donst, who I didn’t really gravitate towards as much as the other colorful characters as he just seemed too dark. I liked his promos, but thought he visually didn’t fight in.
Then I saw him wrestle.
While not his best match (against Dasher Hatfield), I saw big spark of light in that man’s in-ring work. EVERYTHING looked real, crisp, and had a purpose. He wanted to inflict pain and you believed it. He made me more a fan as more and more the match went on. After the show was done, I was a Donst-er (there must be a better name than that out there) and couldn’t wait to see more and more of him. I knew there was another Cleveland promotion know as AIW in Cleveland, but I didn’t pay much attention to it as I was too infatuated in CHIKARA at the time.
So about a year goes by. CHIKARA “went under” and I tried various other promotions to watch. ROH was too boring, PWG was just obnoxious, and DGUSA was meh to me. This was when I also started to dipped my whole foot into Puroresu and when WWE started to do the Authority angle which I couldn’t and still can’t handle to this day, so to say I was in need of a wrestling hero was an understatement. It was the most I ever faltered as a fan and just wanted something big to happen.
Then I heard about Absolute Intense Wrestling (thanks to a mix of Facebook posts and PWP’s reviews of the shows) holding an event in December (Dead Presidents) and, I don’t know what compelled me, but I decided to go. And holy damn was I in for an experience that took me to a world which I am thankful everyday for being introduced to. The show was not only great, but also fun. Saw a lot of my favorite people from PRIME (Fontaine, Scott, Boone, Iron, Gargano, Cross) and other Indy talents (Steen, Elgin, Ultramantis, Chris Hero) and, again, Tim Donst. Donst was booked against Hero, and I wanted to know the story behind the match. I looked back into his running history with AIW and was slackjawed by what I saw. A former world champ who lost his belt and fell down into a losing streak (including against Kingston again), and lost against a man who he felt doesn’t represent wrestling in Michael Hutter, better known know as EC3. Then he kicked into overdrive and got a big victory over him at Hell on Earth IX in a badass match and then challenged his former trainer, and the newly released, Chris Hero one on one. So the match came and boy howdy was I in for some intense action. Both Donst and Hero worked very well against each other and Donst had seemed to evolve as a wrestler since I last saw him and was even better than before. However, there was a small thing still in my mind. It looked like Donst wasn’t feeling that good at times and following a few of those Hero elbows, was looking a little worse. After the match, Tim called for a bucket, puked, and went on the mic saying he wrestled with a 105 degree fever, and after the show, I found out he got a concussion while wrestling.
Damn. That is hardcore as hell.
This was also the first show where I talked to him. Though he was sick and hurting, he was still awesome enough for a conversation and a photo. That awesomeness still permeates to this day as Donst is undoubtedly one of the nicest and humblest humans I have ever met in my life, always with a friendly aura and an approachability.
I would go on then to go to almost every AIW show that following year (missing out on the JLIT, Failure by Design, TGIF, and 2 GNO tapings) and develop more and more of an appreciation of Donst as a wrestler. His promo posted online about how “The War King Dies Because of Me” to hype up his match with Eddie Kingston at “Gauntlet for the Gold 8” was one hell of an awesome way to make killing a guy in wrestling not only sound believable, but freaking awesome!
Hell, I got wrapped in it so much, I made a poster of Eddie’s gravestone (shouldn’t be happy to say I had fun making a tombstone, but it is what it is). I also really liked the match. From my review of the show I have posted on this blog:
“Holy shit. I need to stop going to Tim Donst matches because everytime I do, my head gets woozy from me screaming and chanting “Tim Fucking Donst”. Anyway, this was the match that made me want to buy a ticket ASAP. Kingston and Donst have had one of the more brutal and personal rivalries in Indy wrestling and to see them kick each other’s ass like this was fantastic. I sincerely hope that this isn’t the final match between these two, because these guys and this rivalry deserves one final war to settle the score.”
Having him win the Gauntlet was also awesome
Next time, I saw him against Alex Shelly in another really awesome match at “Ain’t Nothing but a G’ Thang”. By this time, he was my favorite wrestler wrestling. He had transitioned from a tough technical guy to a technical/brawler hybrid which is something I love and wished more people would pick up as a style, something akin to a Kingston or a Kobashi. And his promo cutting was just on fire. I even looked back at his older CHIKARA stuff and was greatly entertained. By the way, if you have never seen the “Who is the man?” video, stop whatever you are doing with this article, don’t finish this then watch it, WATCH IT NOW!
Then comes “Absolution IX”. The grand stage of AIW and we get the long awaited match of Donst vs. Elgin for the Absolute title, thanks to Donst winning the Gauntlet. Donst produced ANOTHER awesome promo, which I think is my favorite promo of his he has ever done.
I think it’s time to bring up what I love so much about Tim Donst the character. Donst, to me, is this perfect package of hard knock cynicism and star eyed optimism. When he cuts promos, about how he is the worst because even with his abilities he loses and doesn’t get the opportunities he should get, you are taken aback by it a tiny bit because they feel so real and how different it is. Hell, his shirt says “Karma Isn’t Real”. But the cynicism isn’t overt to where he is moody and emo, he does have sense of humor and irony which makes him feel, again, real.
So back to Absolution, this is where I am mentally prepared to go insane when Donst wins the title. I bought the aforementioned shirt, watched the match, was awesome as Donst took Elgin to the limit and…..
Yeah. This kinda year and a half story ends with Donst NOT walking out of the biggest show of the year with the title, but instead with a loss. But you know what, despite my disapointment, it kinda made me an even bigger fan of his. Now I wanted to see him win the big one and defend it like an ace like Elgin. I wanted Donst to be the big man around town. I wanted people who went to the AIW shows who have never been there before ask “Who is the man?” and the regulars would answer “TIM FUCKING DONST”. I wanted a goddamn “Rocky II”.
After getting a rematch for the title at #WrestleRager2014 in a three way, thanks to a draw against Josh Alexander at Failure By Design, I was set to see some shit went down, and yeah, it did go down with a 3 way broadway (60 minute long match) that ended, again, in a draw, with a rematch set for Sunday that weekend. But then ROH and Canada screwed everything over (to this day they still do) and Elgin couldn’t come and defend the belt. So he was stripped and it was then Josh Alexander vs. Tim Donst for the title and after a good match, Alexander tapped and Donst finally won the title. This was honestly one of the happiest times in my life, to see my favorite wrestler overcome everything and finally walk out champ.
And as champ he defended it against the likes of Rickey Shane Page, Tyson Dux, Alexander again (in a 4 way at Hell on Earth X) and against Matt Tremont in another promotion, proving he was a fighting champ. As 2014 came and went and 2015 came upon us, the future was as bright as Venus in the night sky during a new moon. Donst was set up to debut in a wrestling capacity as part of CZW’s “Best of the Best” tournament and was going to face Rickey Shane Page for the belt at the next AIW show “I Choo-Choo-Choose You” and it was all going awesomely.
Then I saw on Twitter on February 13th or something that Tim was asking for thoughts and prayers as he was going into a hospital. I was obviously nervous about it and decided to buy him 2 cookies and a get well card if he attended the show. He did and I gave them to him and asked how he was doing, while he appeared calm and regular Donst. I thought it was a small injury that would keep him from wrestling just that show. He even gave me a cool Tim Donst watch for free, which I cherish to this day (By the way, Tim, thank you for being that cool).
It was later that night where everything went down south. Tim came out, thanked everyone for the concern and well wishes, but announced an uncertain future as he said that at the hospital they found a tumor in his kidney. The whole building felt like a giant weight was dropped on everything, even the air. I was the closest I have ever come to crying at a wrestling show or even at wrestling in general. I hugged him after the announcement, (as well as a lot of other people at the show who lined up for him) and after that, I really couldn’t be in a right mindset. It was like a family member announced it.
The months past and I was happy to see that the well wishes and support grew from people, including Mick Foley. I even changed the settings on my tablet to make sure the only twitter notifications I got where from Donst’s account whenever he tweeted about anything. Through this experience, I felt more and more appreciation for the man, not only going through this life altering event, but how he was handling it and changing his outlook on life. Before going into surgery to remove the kidney, he hosted a variety show called the Xtreme Talent Show, benefiting the Children’s Cancer Association, proving even with an uncertain future, he could still be an awesome and caring human being. March 24th, he went into surgery to remove the kidney, thankfully a success. But the future was still unknown. Would he still be able to wrestle? Would there still be some remaining cancer? It was a murky river of skepticism and doubt.
He actually showed up at AIW’s “Make Em Say Uhh”, surprisingly and I chatted with him and he seemed to be doing okay, again, with his trademark friendliness, patience, and warm aura. He said it was in late May if or not the news will come and he could wrestle again or must retire. I wished him the best.
At this has gone on, I began to slowly and surely make my decision that Donst was my all-time favorite wrestler, dethroning Kenta Kobashi, as I realized he is a combination of all my favorite wrestlers, with all the great qualities rolled into one: the badass quality of Steve Austin, the mad real promo skills of Eddie Kingston, and the wrestling ability and courage and toughness to overcome anything like Kobashi. Even with a (possibly) short career as his, he was still a bright enough star in the night sky for me to look at and say that it was my favorite one in the trillions of others.
Then came the JT Lightning Memorial Tournament this weekend. I was happy to see Donst at the commentary station, seeing a possible future of his as a commentator should he retire. I sat in front of the booth for all the matches on the second day, and hearing his commentary was cool and funny as hell (Do not skip the first match on the upcoming GNO 15 DVD. The commentary by Donst makes it. #LikeAWreckingBall). After intermission, he requested mic time from Pedro De Luca and entered the ring, thanking everyone for the support. He said that if he were to retire today, he would have been happy, being able to be in the BDK, a two time champ, etc. But then Nick Gage (who is terrifyingly jacked) came out and told Donst to shut up and said that he was the man, not Tim. But then Tim dropped the bombshell and announced he is not retiring and is now cleared to wrestle and will beat Gage’s ass at Absolution.
You ever get that feeling whenever you sob hard of like deep breathing and shaking throughout your whole body. This was me, minus the (almost tears), as I chanted “TIM FUCKING DONST” and “WELCOME BACK” as hard as I could. To hear that my favorite wrestler was okay and was going to come back and kick major ass was, no hyperbole or anything, THE most uncontrollably happy I have been in my life. Even as I am typing this I have as big of a grin as I can on my face, with a little bit of tear in my eye.
So July 10th, Tim Donst makes his return to take on Nick Gage at Absolution X and you bet I will be there to cheer on my definite favorite wrestler to ever walk in that square circle and my biggest role model in life who has told me to never give up and never tap out in life.
Thank you Tim for being a big influence on my life, both in wrestling and personally, thank you for all your work with the Children’s Cancer Association, and thank you for being such a positive and tremendous human being.
Now make Nick Gage wish he should have never left prison. Make him tap like you did to cancer. Make him your bitch.
Because no matter what, you will always be the man, Tim “Fucking” Donst.