Exclusive: Ashe Samuels Talks Growing Up on the Indy Circuit, Lessons He’s Learned, Catalyst Wrestling

Ashe Samuels, who now goes by his real name, Lee Mandon, recently took part in an exclusive interview with PWMania.com. Samuels has a long-storied career, competing in promotions such as Ring of Honor and Jersey All Pro Wrestling, and is now the owner and founder of Catalyst Wrestling. Below is the interview:

You’ve been running shows since 2017. How did the structure of your shows change during the pandemic?

“We were running low-budget, no-fan shoots for two years, which from a production standpoint was actually super fun because we didn’t have to worry about burning out a crowd. So, if you wanted to tape 14 matches at a clip, you could. Everyone was really laid back and once guys got into the groove of wrestling for no fans and not doing rest holds and crowd work, it was great. We had Homicide helping these guys putting matches together. Homicide and Colby Corino did a last man standing match to blow off their feud. KC Navarro and Steve Gibki had a whole program, ending in an I Quit Match. Before the pandemic, we started working with O’Shay Edwards and Darius Carter.

“I know I just dropped a lot of names, but I honestly can’t say enough about our roster. And it’s truly been a payoff because during the pandemic, we had the choice to either not put out any content or just plow through and do it anyway. Coming out of the pandemic though, we’ve had to adhere to a lot of live show constraints and there are certain younger talent that I would love to have working for us that aren’t available right now.”

Who are some of the talents you’d like to work with?

“Dezmond Cole is super dope, real nice kid. Griffin McCoy,too. The Wrestling Prodigies out of North Carolina who just turned 18. We wanted to book them for one of our first New York shows back, but we couldn’t because they weren’t 18.”

Where do you guys mostly run shows?

“We were a New Jersey based company for a long time when we were called Capitol Wrestling. But for now, we run shows in Brooklyn.”

When’s your next show?

“Next one is November 6th. So far, we have Alex Shelley vs. Darius Carter. We’re kicking off the Women’s Tournament, we got Colby Corino vs. Rob Killjoy where Colby turned on Rob. We got the Tristate Saints, which is basically guys I grew up with: Steve Mack, Jeez and Joker.”

How did you decide to start a wrestling company?

“I basically quit wrestling when I was 30. I had been involved in it since I was 14. From age 16-23, I was in the ring and then I started forgetting things after so many head injuries. I didn’t get a chance to be a kid the way most people did because I was on the road every weekend. In my early 30s, I decided to get my life together. My worldview was shaped by pro wrestling and I grew up in the wild west of pro wrestling in the early 2000s. It was still the waning days of the 80s and 90s. I have some great memories, but sometimes it was sad because people were dying, like Trent and Candido. I think I buried more of my friends and colleagues than my dad did and he’s 75.

“Anyways, in the midst of getting my life together, I ended up moving in with Cory Kastle and we started doing stand up comedy and I got invited to a Capitol Wrestling show by Marcus and decided to go. And I was shocked that people remembered me from wrestling. People in the locker room were like, “You were Lit from Special K.” And I was like, “You remember that?” And they were like, “Yeah you guys were the best!” And then from that point on, I got involved with the company and started getting more responsibilities until they made me the third owner of the company.

“What changed my mind about starting a wrestling company was Lucha Underground. They pushed the boundaries of reality and made it more of a television show, and that’s what Capitol wanted to do; to not just be a wrestling company.

“It also made me realize that things are different now. We have a lot of knowledge that we didn’t have back then. For instance, you may still see death matches, but you don’t see too many unprotected chair shots to the head. And the party scene has died down from when I was coming up. Or maybe I just don’t see it because I don’t partake in it.”

I think people would agree with that, I interviewed Crowbar a few months back and he said the same thing.

“I love Crowbar. When I was 17, I got messed up at a Christmas party and he would not let me drive, even though I cursed him out. I also remember when I was on a show with him during my senior year of high school and he changed my match and said ‘You’re working with me tonight.’ He’s such an earnest human being.”

What else do you see nowadays that’s different from when you came up?

“There’s so much wrestling available nowadays and because of that, I think there’s a lot of sameness among guys. There’s like 75 Johnny Garganos or Sami Zayns, and no knock on those guys, but there just seems to be sameness. Plus, I feel like some guys are impatient when it comes to “making it” in pro wrestling. There’ll be guys that are like, “I’ve been doing this three years and I haven’t gotten a contract yet.” Unless you’re 275 and muscled up, you can’t expect a contract for maybe 10 years.

“But on the flip side, so many kids get so good so quick in less than 4 years. Anthony Bowens, for example, has been wrestling for six years, but when he was with us, he got good in 2-3 years.

“Something that Jack Evans and I were discussing is trying to be the mentor for these young guys that we needed when we grew up. When I was coming up, the locker room was 70% ECW guys and I was able to pick their brains. It’s not that way anymore, so it’s important to give these young talents a space to grow and to learn.

“But that’s the thing about pro wrestling; it always changes. And some people still want current wrestling to be how it was. Like if you showed somebody in 1986 a Young Bucks match, they would do everything in their power to stop it.

“Or even, back then, when you wanted to see your match, you had to get the DVD to see it and hope they didn’t cut your match or segment! Whereas these days, any match is readily available on IWTV or wherever else.”

What do you think are some lessons you’ve learned?

“Having a family has put things into perspective for me. A lot of the stuff people get mad at in wrestling is stuff that doesn’t matter. Like, “this promoter screwed me out of a show” or “this booker didn’t book me how I wanted.” I got older and think, “Man, I almost died a bunch of times.” And don’t get me wrong, you still need to get people to do what they need to do, but since I now have an amazing woman in my life and raising two daughters and have a great job, I feel very fortunate.

“But ever since I’ve started on this new path, there are times when I wish guys like Trent were still here. Plus, I’ve lost a lot of friendships with people that I used to do things with back when I was partying, doing drugs, drinking etc when I decided not to do that stuff anymore. I literally used to embody the character of Lit from Special K and that became an excuse for bad behavior.”

I’m glad you were able to get out of that and find new enjoyment in pro wrestling to the point where you are now running an exciting, up-and-coming company! Is there anything else you’d like to say to our readers?

“Check out GaS Digital Network podcast, ibattle, King of the Dot and my old roommate Cory Kastle’s podcast And thanks to everyone who has bought a ticket and checked out Catalyst Wrestling. We’ll see you at the next show!”

Thanks again, Ashe! Looking forward to everything you’ve got in store for us.