Livin’ The Dream:The Mike Daugherty Story

A typical Saturday morning in 1985, cartoons were complimented by the WWF’s Rock N’ Wrestling era of television, a period of time when one-sided bouts were often featured on WWF television to promote the stars of Vince McMahon’s national expansion that saw house show, or live event tours, advertise big time match-ups to send fans to the box office for tickets to the arenas across the country. On this particular weekend, top star, Hulk Hogan, clade in white boots and trunks, as the famous red and yellow hadn’t became the trademark yet, squared off against longtime preliminary grappler, Tiger Chung Lee. The result was in little doubt when The Hulkster, beaming under the television lights from an almost comical tan, dropped the leg on Chung Lee, defeating the grizzled pro in just under four minutes. Business as usual for Hogan, and for WWF TV at the time.

However, for one youngster that stumbled upon that sports entertainment spectacle that morning, the experience was anything but typical. For Mike Daugherty, the larger than life wrestler that touted the 24-inch pythons memorized him and unknowingly shaped the direction of his life in the process. At just five years old, Daugherty found a passion that stuck with him a few decades later. Within a short period of time, the young Mike found himself searching for professional wrestling on TV during an era when the territory system of the 80s offered a variety of options for fans. He cheered on Magnum TA against Ric Flair in the NWA, watched The Von Erichs battle the villains on World Class, saw Curt Hennig work his way to the top of the AWA, and of course witnessed Hulk collide with the legendary “Rowdy” Roddy Piper in the WWF.

“I started watching religiously. About a half a year later, I was watching whatever I could find on TV. I loved the passion, the feud builds up to the main matches, the pain these men and women put themselves through day in and day out,” Mike explained.

But, professional wrestling wasn’t just pure entertainment or a way to pass the time. For Mike, similar to many that become such diehard fans of the sport, it was an escape from some of the unpleasant realities of life.

“I got bullied a lot in school, I never really cared about that because I knew what I got home on Mondays, I had Prime Time Wrestling with Gorilla, The Brain, and Vince. All three of these men had me calling matches while I sat around playing with the LJN wrestlers,” Daugherty said.

With miniature versions of Greg Valentine, Brutus Beefcake, and Hulk in front of him, Mike spent hours re-enacting his own matches, complete with his own commentary. It wasn’t uncommon for him to answer an imaginary question from Bobby Hennan as the classic rubber wrestlers lost a few paint chips during the action of improvised figure matches.

There was always something that Mike intrinsically identified with when he intently listened to the broadcasts. The iconic calls of “Hulkamania is here” by Gorilla Monsoon or “the greatest night in the history of our sport” by Schiavone were the soundtrack to moments that were etched into history books.
Daugherty wanted to be a part of those moments, he wanted to provide the lyrics to the in-ring music that generated such an emotional response from the viewing audience.

With an original goal of work in radio or pro wrestling itself, Daugherty spent his college years at California University of Pennsylvania studying radio and TV broadcasting so it was a natural fit when a friend of his got involved in independent professional wrestling that Mike would be referred to take a position behind the mic. The Renegade Wrestling Alliance, a blue collar organization that was founded in 2009 by Derek Widziszewski, was formed from the passion that Widziszewski had for the industry, and generated a diehard fan base for its product. Widziszewski, sometimes known as the villainous manager Dr. Feelbad, contacted Mike through MySpace at a time when that was still the standard social media platform to hire him as the lead announcer for the upstart project. Ironically, his pal that helped him land the gig, Ray Alan, known as the mischievous “Rev Church” at the desk, was on the call alongside his friend to help him through this brand new adventure.

“My first show I was nervous and scared, I didn’t know anyone. I stumbled here and there, but I was okay so they decided To have me back. Honestly, being there with my close friend, Church was a help. He is one of the reasons I was able to adapt and get the hang of things. It was more comfortable experiencing the first couple times with friends,” Mike remembers.

Almost a dozen years later, Mike works for four different promotions across the PA independent circuit, including, RWA, 2PW, and Eclipse Wrestling. The journey was a learning experience, but became rewarding on a number of levels, both professionally and personally. Daugherty made lifelong friends and had a chance to live his dream as a figure within the sport that he drew him to the television at such a young age. Known as “Doc” among his peers, Mike found himself seeking advice from veterans in his early years, as well as scribbling down a myriad of notes before bell time. Throughout his time involved in the wrestling scene, Mike gained a sense of confidence as he cemented himself as one of the voices of the sport around Pittsburgh.

“Just being accepted and respected for my work and what I do on commentary and interviews. I have called so many great matches from a multitude of talent. Being praised by Matt Hardy was amazing after his match with Ryan Mitchell in RWA. Another highlight would be commentary with my friends Church of over twenty years and Tony Kincaid of over 10 years. These two really have had some awesome ideas and things to get the talent over. I would not be Doc without them. Marshall Gambino offered me my second job as a commentator for 2PW. He and Derek have become like father figures to me. They always believed in me and give me the confidence I need to keep doing this. My highlights are when a talent or booker is happy with my work. I want their story to be told and I want to represent them the best I can,” Mike commented.

Now, the 43-year-old has a family, including his son, Bodie, who plays with action figures when he returns home from elementary school, the same way Mike did a few decades earlier. When he’s not playing deck hockey, chasing down collectibles, or calling wrestling matches, Daugherty works as a therapist in the mental health field, a career choice that he find rewarding and beneficial in many different aspects.

“It is fulfilling for me because sometimes I apply the things I learn in either profession to both jobs and utilize them to help the client or in fact put over the talent. My ultimate goal is to go as far as the wrestling gods let me go. I’d love to make it to the big show one day, but if doing what I am now is what is in the cards then I look at it like this, I got to do the one thing I always wanted as a child. Calling the action, put the talent over, and be a part of the wrestling business. I’ve made many friends and family in this business,” he said.

The action, drama, and spectacle of professional wrestling might be entertainment, but the impact of the emotional response it draws from the audience can be very legitimate. Mike Daugherty discovered professional wrestling because he was shunned as a youngster, but through his pursuit of the industry, he developed a sense of confidence that allowed him to flourish with a successful career and family life. Perhaps, the biggest takeaway from the story of “Doc” Daugherty is to take the chance to live the dream. Mike went from calling his own matches as a youngster to actually calling professional bouts as one of the voices of Pittsburgh independent wrestling.

For more information about Mike, you can follow him on Twitter @WrestlingWDoc

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Until next week
-Jim LaMotta
E mail | You can follow me on Twitter @jimlamotta