June 20, 2020
By: Tiffany Razzano
PORT RICHEY – Al Schaefer will turn the parking lot of his shop, Vape Supply Plus in Port Richey, into a wrestling ring for Father’s Day.
“I figured nobody else has done it before, so why not see what happens,” he said.
This Sunday, starting at 1 p.m., he hosts IPW Hardcore Wrestling for an afternoon of matches featuring Logan Creed, “The Marquee” Bruce Santee, “The Authority” Eddie Taurus, OaO (Snoop Strikes and Hunter Law), The Dirty Blondes and other wrestlers. This is a free, family-friendly event.
“These are all really, really talented young men,” Schaefer said. “They’re not the WWE, but they’re super talented. The only difference between them and Madison Square Garden is $1 million in production and payroll. These guys work really hard.”
The event serves as the one-year anniversary celebration for his shop, which he opened June 1 last year. He also hopes to draw new customers to his store.
“It’s a thank you to my loyal customers and also a way to bring in some new faces,” he said. “Just come and enjoy the show. There’s no prerequisite to buy anything, no strings attached…Just come and enjoy a wrestling show.”
Wrestling has been an important part of Schaefer’s life since the 1980s. He even went on to wrestle professionally with the World Wrestling Federation from 1990 to 1994.
He adopted the moniker Broadway Sonny Blaze, “a New York tough guy,” in the ring and trained under wrestling legend Mick Foley.
“What a talent he was,” Schaefer said. “It was rare. He was a wrestler, actor, a best-selling author. He did everything.”
He considers himself “blessed” to have been a professional wrestler, but he wasn’t naïve about his talent, he said. “It was great, but I didn’t have the talent to really be one of the top guys, and there comes a time where you go, ok, if I’m not going to make the big money, then you’ve got to do something else.”
Schaefer added, “I received every opportunity in the world. I was very blessed. Imagine you’re a singer and have every top record company listening to you, but you just don’t sing that well. You sing well enough to be in a bar band, but not to sell records.”
After his wrestling career ended, the New York native owned a small supermarket on Long Island before moving to Florida and getting into the automobile business. He currently works as finance director for Castriota Chevrolet in Hudson.
Wanting to cut down on cigarette smoking, the Oldsmar resident started vaping about three years ago. After his nephew opened a vape shop, Schaefer decided to open his own.
Though it’s been decades since he competed in the ring, he’s occasionally hosted wrestling events as charity fundraisers. This time, he didn’t want to organize the show himself, though, so he booked IPW Hardcore Wrestling for Sunday’s event.
For those worried about the COVID-19 pandemic, Schaefer said the show will take place outdoors, and he will follow social distancing and other CDC guidelines.
“We’ll follow the 6 feet rule. We’re gonna have people there trying to maintain the crowd properly,” he said. “Wrestling fans are beautiful people. They really do follow instructions very well. They’re seldom rowdy. You’d think pro wrestling would attract very rowdy people. It doesn’t. It attracts families.”
In fact, he hopes Sunday’s events draws families looking for a fun Father’s Day outing.
“It’s going to be as family-friendly as pro wrestling can be,” he said. “I would love every father and their son or daughter to come out and see the show, just have a couple of hours where they don’t get to think about anything but enjoying wrestling, put their normal Monday through Friday problems behind them and have an escape. Wrestling is a suspension of reality.”