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Category Archives: Behind the Scenes with The ShowStopper

My Texas Date Nite

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The date nights I have with my wife have changed quite a bit over 15 years of marriage, but this may have been the best! Sure, it’s not what I imagine most folks think we do… But it is!
Not only time together talking, laughing and carrying on, but filming my wife bagging her biggest whitetail ever. That’s right, Christmas Eve, my wife and I grabbed our camera, Intercept crossbow and jumped into the Nature blind.

We had been out the night before and were hoping to get my wife her yearly spike. That’s what she usually does out on the ranch, is take care of culling the spikes. This year, however, would be different.
We saw this big 8-point with hay bale wire wrapped in his horns and, after aging him, realized he needed to be culled as well. We didn’t get the opportunity that night…but Christmas Eve? That was a different story. We waited them out, saw a number of great young bucks, but finally the big bruiser came in.

My camera work isn’t great but, thankfully, my wife’s shooting is!! My wife has never shot a buck that big and was elated. We may not have the traditional date nights that other husbands and wives share, but I wouldn’t change ours for anything in the world.

Saving my Deer Herd

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Pigs! What can you say about pigs? Fun to hunt, fun to eat, a pain in the @$$ to have to try and control…especially on your own ranch. We’ve managed to do a pretty good job over the last few years, but this last year it has really gotten tough.

Hopefully by the time you read this, we will have successfully eradicated the entire pig population on our ranch. At least for the foreseeable future. That’s right! We’re trying to get rid of them all! They’re just doing too much damage to the overall health of our ranch. When they’re not tearing up the pastures, they’re wreaking havoc on my food plots or worse, eating and killing the young whitetail fawns.

I’ll admit, I was willing to put up with the first two, work around it, and keep them for hunting and food. Call me dumb, but I didn’t know they were a danger to the fawns. I do my best to manage the predators on our ranch, and honestly, only concern myself with coyotes. I’ve never seen a bobcat out here and am unaware of any other predators out here that would hurt our fawn crop. That was until this year.

While I was away at an appearance, my father-in-law went to an outdoor seminar on food plots. We’re constantly trying to find out what’s best gonna grow out here, and help us grow big, healthy whitetail deer. That’s what we do. Try to grow big, healthy deer…it’s a Texas thing. Actually it’s an “a lot of people” thing.

Anyway, while he was there, the biologist said that hogs are extremely detrimental to growing your deer herd. I didn’t know that! I didn’t know they feasted on young fawns. Needless to say, that’s all I needed to hear, they had to go. I’m proud to say, the pigs are gone (at least for now), the deer herd has a chance to flourish, and a certain local church got more pounds of pork in a weekend than, I’m willing to bet, they’ve received in a year!

Outdoor Channel Bonding

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The Outdoor television world is so fun sometimes! Now you must understand, whether you grasp it or not, these are the guys that I watched on TV when I wasn’t wrestling. Yes, I watched other shows, more traditional shows, but every fall and winter when I knew I was going to get very few days out in the woods, due to my schedule, these guys carried me through hunting season. Mike Waddell and the Bone Collectors, Jackie Bushman, Keith Warren and numerous other outdoor greats, graced my television on many a day and night. Fast forward many years later, and here I am being included on the first ever Squirrel Master Classic with all the aforementioned legends as well as the equally accomplished Jon and Gina Brunson! Not a bad way to spend a weekend.

The MRA crew did pretty well coming in 3rd place, but more importantly, I got to spend some time getting to know these people I’ve watched for so long. In the outdoor world, we all keep busy doing our separate shows and rarely see each other. A few times a year, we all gather at various outdoor conventions and get to spend some time together but are usually kept pretty busy as well. Needless to say, the Squirrel Master Classic was a very enjoyable experience for this Outdoor television fan. They’re all great people, and it was a real pleasure for me to get to know them just a little bit better. Again, having a love of the outdoors and hunting has given me the opportunity to meet some of the most pleasant, salt-of-the-earth people I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. Just as my wrestling career allowed me to do the same, both at work and at appearances, I’ve met some great people in a world not everybody totally understands.

The ShowStopper

Proud hunter, Christian and Family man

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As I’ve been doing these Blogs, I’ve noticed a common theme in many. I write about how fun it is and the enjoyment of sharing it with friends. I’m not sure if anything captures that quite like bird hunting. Dove, pheasant, quail, you name it, it’s a blast, not to mention, good eatin’! I love dove hunting with my kids! I cut our sunflower fields, and the dove come piling in! If the fields don’t work, hunting over the ponds is sure to deliver. You’re outside in beautiful weather, hanging with your children, while teaching them a valuable lesson in being able to provide for your family. We can talk, walk, sit, whatever we want — they fly in and guns go a blazin’!

We have a safe and extremely fun time. Perhaps the most rewarding is the smile of accomplishment on their faces knowing they helped provide dinner, as their mother prepares the meal. In this edition of MRA, I was not hunting with my kids but my MRA family and some new friends. The great thing about hunting is that no matter how many people you meet and how different you or they may be from each other, you always share something in common. Something you’re equally passionate about while knowing not everyone will understand it.

Once again, a very similar experience I had with my old job. Some folks just didn’t get it, thought it was silly, or even outright stupid. Wanna know the irony? When people who supported me in my old line of work found out I’d moved on to another passion of mine, they began to be the ones expressing how silly and stupid it was…just with tons more profanity and insults. Thankfully, I remember how it all started, being mocked, made fun, for being a pro wrestler. Then, again, when I became a Christian. And, then again, when I joined the outdoor world. Come to think of it, it’s happened a lot! It’s old hat. People fear, condemn and judge harshly out of not understanding or just plain ol’ ignorance.

Heck, I’ve done it. The way I see it, I’ve had the unbelievably wonderful pleasure of being a part of some pretty elite groups. I’m proud of my WWE career, I’m proud to be a Christian, and I’m damn proud to be a hunter!

The ShowStopper

Turkey Hunting

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Turkey hunting! As strange as it may seem, this may be one of the biggest upsides to doing MRA. Given all the places we go and the variety of big game we get to hunt, that may surprise some.

The reason is simple. Once again, due to my WWE career, Spring turkey was something I never got to do much. It was WrestleMania time in the WWE and was usually followed by a European tour. Even the years I had taken off after WrestleMania, it was usually dedicated to family time.

The times I did go out, well, I was unsuccessful. I went out at times with a buddy from church and others with my wife. I learned very quickly, as did my wife, why everyone always raved about spring turkey! Even in our lack of success, we had the best time.

To this day, my wife counts that as her most enjoyable hunt. (That might change now as this last Christmas Eve she took her biggest buck ever, but still.) The reason for that is turkey hunting is so interactive! If your “runnin’ and gunnin’ it’s even more fun!

The majority of my spring turkey hunting has taken place on camera doing MRA, and I wouldn’t change that for anything. It’s an area I always wanted to grow in yet never had the time. One of the ironic similarities to my WWE career and MRA is I’m learning and growing on TV. It’s both incredibly risky and exciting, all at the same time.

They’re both very different genres, yet I’ve chosen to go about them the same — in front of you, on TV. Sure hope I develop as well in this as I did in the other. Time will tell.

The ShowStopper

Josh Ishmael – Hunting Buddy or Employee

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I’m pretty sure we’re not the first guys to dedicate a show to our cameraman. I’m not even sure if we feel differently about our guy as others do about theirs. Unless, of course, they don’t have a real soft spot for them and don’t consider them a part of the family.

Now, don’t get me wrong, Josh should be treated strictly as an employee and nothing more…it’s just that Keith and I aren’t any good at it. Keith has known Josh for most of his life, coached him in baseball when he was a kid, and employed Josh when he did the original MRA years ago. Keith has an excuse to treat Josh as far more than just an employee…me, I have none. He’s our cameraman, hired to do a job. Ah, if it were that simple.

Ya see, you spend days, weeks, months in the fall with these guys. Often, you stay in less-than-ideal conditions with them, not showering, wearing the same clothes for days, eating less than a “well-balanced meal”. It just makes it tough to keep any kind of hierarchy when you have to ask that man to help you up from crouching after taking a…well, “#2 in the woods”. Not to mention hours/days on end in a blind. You gotta talk to someone!! You sorta get past all the small talk in a very short amount of time and have no other choice but to really get to know one another.

If all that’s not enough for you, the cameraman is, basically, the boss of you in the field. Telling you when you can shoot, when you can’t, do this, don’t do that. Sure, they see you at your best, but they also see you at your worst…and often they have it on film. Hmmm, very perplexing situation. It would seem that keeping Josh happy would be a good “business” decision for both Keith and myself since he has our “image” at his fingertips.

Thankfully for us, it’s not a matter of business or personal, it’s Josh is simply not just part of the MRA team but part of the MRA family. He, too, is one our hunting buddies. Is he good for our business? Yes, he is. We think he’s one of, if not the most talented videographers in Outdoor television. But who cares? He’s @joshishmaelcam to us. And trust me, you don’t call your cameraman by his Twitter handle if it’s just business. :-)

The ShowStopper
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Africa – No longer just for the job

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Hunting in Africa has got to be one of the greatest things I’ve got to do in this whole outdoor gig! You have to understand, I just never thought I would ever get that opportunity. Yeah, I know a lot of people are saying, “you traveled all over the world with WWE”. Yes that’s true, but you must understand, that was work! Very structured! Airport, hotel, gym, back to hotel, eat and get to the building, repeat. Yes, I enjoyed the job…and I really enjoy what we do with MRA as well. I now get a chance to travel the world…slow down, take the time to take in and appreciate what it has to offer…while doing something I love to do, hunt with my buddy. I always dreamed of going to Africa to hunt but, honestly, never would have done it. Organizing it, planning it, then going…by myself? Not happening! I know me, I just wouldn’t have done it. Enter Keith Mark…he plans, organizes and keeps me accountable when I feel like backing out due to missing my family. His biggest asset? Making it fun! A Blog, that started about the joy of hunting Africa, has transitioned into a Blog about the importance of a good hunting buddy. It also transitions into why I even do MRA…it’s because I get to do something I love with one of my best friends in the world. When it’s all said and done, no matter how much we may love our jobs, doing it with your friends makes it…well, not a job at all.

The ShowStopper

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Outdoor Adventure Foundation – Thankful!

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We do a lot of great hunts every year but none better than our hunts with the Outdoor Adventure Foundation. I know you’ve heard people say that hunting with wounded military or children battling life-threatening diseases is special, but it bears repeating. “Special” simply doesn’t do the experience justice. For the past 4 years, I’ve had the opportunity to hunt with some of the most amazing individuals I’ve ever met. When people compliment me on my WWE career (as appreciative as I am for it) it seems so silly and, quite frankly, irrelevant compared to what these individuals have done or are going through. It is simply awe-inspiring. The courage and strength that they show, not only on these hunts, but in their lives, is nothing short of astounding! As amazing as the experiences are, I often wonder how well I handle them. What does one say to a child clinging to life when all they should be thinking about is meeting their friends at the pizza joint or acing that next math test or attending the next school football game? What do you say to that soldier that has had their legs blown off defending the freedoms you so casually enjoy everyday? “Thank you” or “Hang in there” just doesn’t seem to cover it. I’m never sure if I say the right things or not. What I DO know is this: The hunts that we do every year with these amazing individuals are printed on the tablet of my heart! I’m not certain, but I believe we can honor them most by being truly thankful, appreciative for where we, those of us who aren’t carrying their burdens, are, and really CHECK ourselves and not grumble and complain at the perceived “burdens” we think we are carrying.

The ShowStopper

California Blacktail

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I’m not sure if I’ve ever had a more frustrating hunt than our California Blacktail hunt! Obviously, what made it frustrating was not that it was unsuccessful, but that it was unsuccessful in such humiliating fashion. I’ve missed shots before…I’m pretty sure everyone has, but I’m not sure if I’ve missed so many times, in so many ways, and I’m sure I’ve never done it on TV for all the world to see. During my WWE career I’ve been mocked, heckled, cursed, threatened–you name it, I’ve been through it. The same could possibly happen as result of this show. I have to tell you though, just as I did in my WWE career, I learned more from this failure than I ever did from my successes. We had the choice not to air any of those missed shots. But, that’s not what happened! I had a horrible hunt, and that was the reality of it. You needed to see it. It doesn’t always go well…life doesn’t always go well. What do we do? Give up? Quit? Crawl in a hole and hope that it goes away? No! We get back on the horse and forge ahead. What I enjoy most about doing Outdoor television is, just as in my WWE career, I find that no matter how crappy things might appear, I’m an individual that has SO much to be thankful for. Just like the end of this week’s show indicates, my appreciation for that is always right around the corner.

The ShowStopper

Legend of Curly

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Oh Curly! Have you ever been mildly obsessed with anything? I know I have. I just sort of figured though, that after my career in the WWE, those “obsessive” moments would have been a thing of the past. With my family, my faith and then my retirement, I’ve mellowed out quite a bit. In fact, I’m proud to say I’ve become down right boring. And I’ve enjoyed that. Then came Curly. Now, I’ve watched countless outdoor shows and seen guys hunt the same deer year after year. I’ve heard them speak about how smart the deer is and how conditions had to be right for it to happen. I guess all I’m saying is, I’ve seen all sorts of stuff on TV, but I was always pretty sure it wasn’t gonna happen to me. Well, in this particular situation, it did!! Curly was a deer the previous owner told us needed to be taken as he was getting old. When I was shown his picture, I was thrilled to do it. I just didn’t know it was going to take 3 years! Thankfully, I managed to take other deer in those years, but suffice to say, I have a new-found appreciation for, not only big old wily whitetails, but the men who hunt them.

The ShowStopper

Texas Whitetail Hunting

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Whitetail hunting at my ranch in Texas. If I can be perfectly honest, there may not be a better time for me in my life. Now, hear me out!! Before everyone starts getting into the whole spending-time-with-your-family, Christmas, Birthdays and WrestleMania moments, hear me out. I’m at home, I’m with my family, enjoying glorious Texas scenery, I’m hunting with my buddies, doing what we love to do!

There are no words to describe how much I enjoy those times. My friends and family enjoying what we all love. Spending time together, hanging out, hunting, eating great food, getting our “work” done in the great outdoors….it is the best!! As I’ve been doing this show for the past 4 years, I truly understand those guys who hunt whitetail 24/7 year after year.

Sure it’s not what the MRA crew does…we hunt them all, but make no mistake about it, if I didn’t get to do the show, it’s probably what I’d be doing every year. It’s on these whitetail hunts on my ranch with the MRA crew that I find myself very thankful and appreciative of what the good Lord has blessed me with!!!!

The ShowStopper

Shawn Moose Master

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This was my fourth trip up to the Yukon and I foolishly thought that maybe, just maybe, this time, I might be able to calmly and professionally go about the hunt. Boy, was I wrong!! You just never get used to the majesty, scenery and outright awe of the Yukon. It feels new all over again. The mountains, trees, river and….well, the wildlife.

Especially, the Alaskan Yukon Moose! You just can’t take for granted, or get “used to,” a 1600 lb. animal. As in years past, we ventured up and down the beautiful river, encountered various weather conditions, and put plenty of miles on our Rocky boots. In the end, Keith and I both put moose on the ground….well, actually, we both put our moose in the river.

Which, by the way, created a whole new world of wet and other complications we’ve yet to encounter in the Yukon. It’s like I said at the beginning…you just never “get used to” the Yukon.