Irish Mickey Doyle estimates that he’s had 3,000 matches in his years of tangling in the squared circle.
"Name a guy, and I probably worked with him or at least knew him."
He maintained himself as mostly a mid to lower mid-carder; and primarily a journeyman, a carpenter. Someone who uses their skill set to help build and enhance talent. And if you go by what his peers say, he was darn great at it.
The hardworking Irish Mickey Doyle loved the business and lived his dream of becoming a professional wrestler. In his well-traveled career bankrolled by mostly paltry paychecks, he developed a camaraderie with many legends of the sport, accumulating miles and many memorable stories along the way.
"I hate the term ‘jobber.’ It usually comes from someone who doesn’t have a clue about pro wrestling. They think they do but don’t. It’s kind of a slur."
– Irish Mickey Doyle
Irish Mickey Doyle – The Life of a Journeyman Wrestler
In 1971, with just a couple of years of experience under his belt, and wrestling in The Sheik’s Big Time Wrestling promotion out of Detroit, Michigan, Mickey Doyle met a very young Terry Brunk.
Unbeknownst to him, this child would become the hardcore icon named Sabu. Later in 1985, they faced each other in Sabu’s third-ever match when he was then going by the moniker Terry S.R. "Irish" Mickey Doyle was now teaming with Al Costello in the fifth version of the Fabulous Kangaroos.
"Mickey told my uncle (The Sheik) that I was a natural, and he made me look like a million dollars," recalled Sabu in the afterword of the recommended biography Everybody Loves Mickey: The Life and Times of “Irish” Mickey Doyle. "My uncle said he was almost proud of me after that match, which from him was high praise. He could tell I could follow when being led."
Sabu added, "In the wrestling business, heels are usually nice people outside of the ring, and the babyfaces are pricks. Mickey Doyle (usually babyface) was a nice guy in the ring and a nice guy in life. A lot of guys fake it or get bitter as they get older. He never got bitter. He has one of the true, nice, genuine hearts in the business."
The Start of an Incredible Journey
On June 24th, 1948, Mike Doyle was born in Herman Keifer Hospital in downtown Detroit, Michigan. The Doyles later moved to St. Claire Shores, a northeast Detroit suburb, when Mike was seven years old. He got his first taste of professional wrestling when he’d visit his cousins in Buffalo, New York, and while hanging out in their basement. Mike Doyle remembers his enthralment by what he saw on TV.
"It was a guy named Ilio DiPaolo against Yukon Eric," he remembers and records for posterity in his newly released biography. "I was in amazement, and that’s where my dream of becoming a professional wrestler started."
Doyle also watched wrestling from Fred Kohler’s Chicago territory via the Dumont Network back home in Detroit. And on Saturdays, he caught film from wrestling from Boston run by Vince McMahon Sr.
But to reach that dream, Mike Doyle would have to start from the bottom and train at the famous Lou Klein’s Gym in Allen Park, Michigan. In late 1969, his journey began after Doyle met wrestlers Ray Elmore and John Madincia while working as an instructor at a Vic Tanny health club.
Lou Klein followed a successful amateur career with 36 years in the pros. At one point, he used the last name Bastien and partnered with Red Bastien throughout the country. He was also the first opponent of The Sheik of Araby in 1949, who later became feared and loathed as The Original Shiek, Ed Farhat.
Lou Klein’s gym had a stellar reputation, but it indeed didn’t look like a first-class anything.
The room was 15 feet wide by 20 feet long with a wooden platform raised from the floor about a foot and with ropes made of garden hose. Two sides were wood-paneled walls, and needless to say, the thin mat made the ring hard as concrete. You had to pretend to bounce off the ropes because there was no give to them and only use two sides because the others were walls.
"His ring was terrible," Doyle admitted. "Bumps were hard. Later, when we’d try to do bumps and crazy stuff, we’d throw each other into the pop machine in the corner of the room!"
As with most old-school trainers, Lou tried to discourage Doyle from becoming a pro wrestler and urged him to attend college instead. But when Mike convinced him he was serious about the grappling game, Lou smartened him up and explained that wrestling was about "guys working together, relaxed and loose, so nobody gets killed."
Each student’s goal was the chance to work in Big Time Wrestling, the NWA affiliated promotion owned by The Sheik. Soon, Mike Doyle would get his chance.
Working The Territories
Dave Burzynski was the official photographer for the promotion’s magazine called Body Press from 1965-1974, wrote for Wrestling Revue, and in 1974 even got involved in the action becoming manager "Supermouth" Dave Drason. He explains why Mike Doyle didn’t get too many opportunities starting in Detroit.
"Cobo [Arena] was really hot and selling out every show. The Dick the Bruiser-Sheik promotional war was going on, so they were bringing in a lot of top stars from all other NWA territories. There really wasn’t a spot for young guys at all, except for prelim matches against one of those bigger stars."
In Doyle’s first professional match, he drew none other than "The Hollywood Fashion Plate," "Classy" Freddie Blassie at a TV taping for WXON-TV 20 in Walled Lake, Michigan.
He remembers being overwhelmed but thankful that the ring veteran that was Freddie Blassie took charge. The match didn’t take long and ended with a swinging neck breaker and Mickey belly up staring at the ceiling, but not before being thrust into the ring post and not blocking the blow. Doyle needlessly got busted open hard way on his very first outing!
In the end, Mike made $25 for his first match, before trainer Lou Klein got his 10 percent cut of $2.50. A real rough start for someone with wide-eyed dreams of becoming a pro wrestler.
In his second match, he did a 30-minute Broadway (went the distance in a draw) against fellow journeyman grappler Mike Loren who wrestled as Porky, The Shiek’s bodyguard, driver, and locker room spy. In other words: The Sheik’s Stooge.
"After that, I probably did 10 or 12 jobs in a row," remembers Mickey Doyle. But during these early matches, he started doing dropkicks and head scissors that reminded people of “Leaping” Larry Chene.
But most importantly, in Dayton, Ohio, while The Sheik’s booker Jack Cain showed Doyle what his upcoming shows were, he told him, "We gotta change your name. From now on, you are ‘Irish Mickey,’" a name that stuck to this very day.
Watch "Irish" Mickey Doyle Take On Ron Starr in Los Angeles, 1980:
During 1971, including his short stint in the WWWF (now WWE), in Philadelphia and Hamburg, Pennsylvania, Irish Mickey Doyle had real schooling. He faced the likes of The Shiek, Tiger Jeet Singh, The Stomper, "Killer" Tim Brooks, Chris Tolos, Hans Schmidt, Sweet Daddy Siki, "Blackjack" Mulligan, George "Crybaby" Cannon, Baron Mikel Scicluna, Crusher Verdu, Wild Bull Curry, Stan "The Man" Stasiak, Luis Martinez, Tarzan Tyler, "Crazy Luke Graham, Dingo the Sundowner (Les Roberts from Australia), Karl Gotch, Black Bart, Scandor Akbar, The Kelly Brothers, Ronnie Garvin, and Killer Kowalski.
But Doyle’s highest success was yet to come. He needed to become a hippie, but not in San Francisco, California. Instead, in Mobile, Alabama!
Becoming a Hippie in Alabama
Irish Mickey Doyle’s next sojourn was five months in Tampa, Florida, and it’s when he realized "how green he really was," because there, "everybody could wrestle."
Midwest territories traditionally were more about kicking and punching and, to a lesser extent, wrestling. In Florida, he remembers guys like Eddie Graham, Ronnie Garvin, and Hiro Matsuda, who he says was “their sensei,” and NWA World Champion Jack Brisco, who frequently became a companion on the road.
“[Brisco] was a nice man,” relates Doyle. “I would watch his arm drag because it was textbook, and I’d try to emulate that. He was left-handed like me, and I’d watch how he threw left-handed shots.”
Then at the end of 1971, it was off to Lee Field’s Gulf Coast Championship Wrestling.
Based in Mobile, Alabama, the territory also extended into Mississippi, northern Florida and, the occasional foray into Memphis and Nashville, Tennesse, and Evansville, Indiana. Irish Mickey Doyle considers that he reached his peak in wrestling in this territory, often clearing $400 to $500 a week. That’s $2,618 to $3,273 converted to the 2021 equivalent.
He was almost immediately teamed with Mike Bowyer when arriving. Bowyer wrestled as Mike Boyette, The California Hippie. Boyette, a native of Tucson, Arizona, was trained by the venerable Verne Gagne and "The Trainer of Champions" Eddie Sharkey.
"The Hippie [Boyette] was a legitimate tough guy, about 6’1" 240 lbs,” Doyle said. “We both had the same bushy hair. He was over big. He was a legend there already, as the Hippie three or four years before I got there. He could talk; God, he was good on the mic. He had a gift and was funny. He always came up with something weird."
During the next three years, Doyle did most of the high spots and heel bumps as part of The California Hippies because he was better coordinated than his partner. Boyette’s calling card was that he readily lived the gimmick and generated most of the white heat with the fans.
"He always carried this bag filled with bullets," remembers Doyle. “He’d say, ‘If Mickey and I have a problem…,’ and he’d dangle the bag, but no one else ever knew what was inside.”
The California Hippies were babyfaces in Mobile but hated heels everywhere else in the territory.
Eddie Sullivan and Rip Tyler were their arch-rivals and described by Doyle as “two old beer-brawling guys who could really go outside of the ring.” He mentions that in the South, the promoters wouldn’t give the championship belts to just anybody. They needed to be able to take care of themselves inside and outside of the ring.
"People were always jumping in the ring down there. If a fan came into the ring, the boys in the back were on it, and usually, it was bad for the fans. I’ve probably been in the ring 20 to 25 times when people did this."
Doyle continues, "The scariest time was in a little town in Alabama when the Hippie and I were wrestling two black guys. We were giving these guys the business and beat them. Then all I remember is the overhead ring lights shining off knives of four or five guys around the ring. We just put our backs to each other and started moving in a circle, just waiting and praying. The next thing I know, it seemed like ten minutes — but probably wasn’t — there were six or seven policemen coming in the ring who told us, ‘Get the fuck out of here! Go between us!’ When we got to the back, our bags were packed, and the promoter, Billy Golden, said, ‘Get the fuck out of here!’ and we did."
Another incident happened while Doyle and Boyette had been thrown outside of the ring by their opponents.
"There was a guy in the ring who had to be 7’0" and 400 lbs,” Doyle recalled. “He was going after Eddie [Sullivan] and Rip [Tyler]. My first instinct was to get in there and help them, but by the time I got to the ring, Eddie had the guy’s arms behind his back, and Rip was using his head like a speed bag.”
Mickey Doyle also remembers getting slashed in the arm with a jackknife when he was protecting another wrestler.
But the hatred for them carried outside of the arena too. Once Doyle found his car’s windshield peppered with BB shots while he was at home. He also had a run-in with fans at the local laundry mat. And in one of the saddest and most disturbing cases, after a half-hour trip to the gym, he found his Pekingese dog dead outside his home.
"I’m not sure what happened, but she was a sweetheart," laments Doyle.
The California Hippies won the United States Tag Team Championship (Gulf Coast version) on several occasions and even faced Sputnik Monroe and Norvell Austin in Nashville, Tennessee. Later, they obtained the NWA Tri-State Tag Team Championships in Montgomery, Alabama, by defeating Buddy Wayne and Golden Hawk, where for some odd reason, the promotion didn’t have title belts for them. Instead, they got jackets to wear to the ring.
The California Hippies were tremendously successful in several southern states yet unable to obtain more nationwide popularity because Boyette was unwilling to stray from his girlfriend, Betty, for an extended period. His girlfriend, according to Doyle, “was a cute little petite blonde stripper.”
Their worst missed opportunity was when Dory Funk offered them to work in Amarillo, Texas. “They would’ve been juice matches, no doubt because Amarillo was a blood-bath territory. But can you imagine the wealth of knowledge I would’ve picked up working with those guys? They hated hippies down there! We definitely would’ve been heels."
The California Hippies got separated, with Boyette first going to Los Angeles, and the plan was for Doyle to follow. But Boyette’s work wasn’t too agreeable for them on the west coast, so Doyle went to work in the Pacific Northwest with Don Owen’s promotion instead. The two kept in touch but never reunited after that. Mike Boyette passed away in 2012 at the age of 69.
A Well-Traveled Successful Career for Irish Mickey Doyle
Irish Mickey Doyle continued working the territories as both a babyface and heel and even went back to Detroit, but this time to work for "Flying" Fred Curry, the son of "Wild Bull" Curry.
Doyle continued wrestling part-time into the ‘90s and ’00s and teamed with a young Al Snow who he considers a true friend.
As a respected, seasoned veteran on the indie circuit, Doyle and other wrestlers like rookie Scott F. D’Amore and veteran Denny Kass helped create the Can-Am Wrestling School in late ’92, and Border City Wrestling in Ontario, Canada is affiliated with the said school.
Irish Mickey Doyle’s last match was on February 13th, 2016, in Michigan for Upper Peninsula Wrestling against Nathan Gust in a royal rumble style match. In the stark Rialto Theater, he concluded a fascinating and eventful career in the squared circle. His journey had ended.
"The people went crazy. All the kids came into the ring and started hugging me. I got emotional; it was so cool. After that, I thought it was the perfect way to finish up. On the way back to the dressing room, all the old ladies were kissing me. It was nice!"
You can learn more about the life and times of Irish Mickey Doyle in his newly released biography entitled Everybody Loves Mickey: The Life and Times of “Irish” Mickey Doyle written by Tim Keenan.
Listen to Irish Mickey Doyle as a guest on Wrestling and Everything Coast to Coast hosted by Evan Ginzburg and Buddy Sotello:
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