Kevin Fertig has found something he can sink his teeth into, and has a great life post-wrestling.
I approached Kevin's Indianapolis suburb home, knowing him through a mutual MMA media friend of all things. I'd been invited there in the past, but was finally able to make the trip.
The massive Fertig, dressed to the 9's, greeted me at the door and welcomed me into his home. As did his dog.
"You made it to the great city of Indianapolis and my house, which is pretty cool," he told me, in a room very clearly designed as his man-cave.
You know Kevin Fertig. You might remember him as Kevin Thorn, the most recent wrestling Vampire. You may remember the infamous Mordecai gimmick. I know him more as the guy who has found success outside of wrestling, but hasn't left that world behind.
We sat in front of his Kevin Fertig Realty sign. I asked if he really wanted that number front and center for the interview.
"If they want to buy a house, there’s the number. I will ask this, I get the occasional fan that wants to text me. I get it, my number’s out there and yes, you can text me. More than likely I will say “Hey, thanks.” But, strictly I would really like that to just be if you need a house," he laughed. "If mom and dad need a house give them the number. Definitely, of course follow me on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter-- for Instagram and Twitter, @KevinFertigRealty on Facebook. I would like to get to his (Twitter) numbers," Fertig joked, talking about my follower count.
Kevin's two professional lives have led to a beautiful home and a thriving personal life.
That first professional life, the one you remember him for, landed him in WWE by chance.
"For there it was just dumb luck," Fertig admitted. "For me it was because I was with Memphis Championship Wrestling and they needed extras. You had Pete Gas, Joey Abs, Rodney, all those guys—well, they needed guys that weren’t known just to be, for lack of a better term “job guys” for [Heat]. And that’s where I started there. The Essa Rios match was in Knoxville and I remember that one. I never wrestled a Spanish guy that couldn’t really speak English, so it was back and forth, back and forth, and then—It was a lot of [Rios impersonation] “You do this, I do this,” and stuff like that. It kinda worked out, I think. They brought me back a couple more times so I guess I didn’t get fired. It was definitely a learning experience for a guy, I think I was probably only really trained and in the business about two years at that time, to get that kind of exposure and everything else and walk out underneath the lights. It was pretty freakin’ cool."
From there, Fertig went to Ohio Valley Wrestling. At the time, the area was being restocked due to one of the most successful classes of all-time being brought up to the WWE main roster. Alongside people like Nick Dinsmore (Eugene), Travis Bane (Tyson Tomko), Mark Jindrak, Johnny Jeter, John Hennigan (Morrison) and Matt Cappottelli -- it was one with very high upside. But they had huge shoes to fill.
"My developmental class, OVW used to run its shows at Saint Therese—it was a Catholic gymnasium in Lousiville. I remember the first time I came in, and there’s Batista, Brock [Lesnar], Shelton [Benjamin], [John] Cena, [Randy] Orton, the list went on. You’re like holy—and I [was] 6’3, 270, I’m a good sized kid, I thought, and then you’re looking at Batista and Brock and Orton and Cena and you’re like, “Oh, man. I really gotta start working out a little bit better.” It was definitely an eye opening experience coming there. It’s like, “This is the big leagues," said Fertig, sharply dressed.
That era was one of size over everything, and there was plenty of that to go around. Fertig was on the road with WWE for months working house shows and dark matches. By his side was the eventual Tyson Tomko, who had teamed with Kevin on occasion since 2001 well outside of WWE. They were getting dark match wins and were traveling all over North America with the Raw brand, working with Lance Storm and Val Venis.
Tomko and Fertig were also getting good reactions backstage, things were looking good for them.
"Feedback was pretty solid, always," Fertig said of the team. "Lance and Val were kind at that place where “Why are we having to deal with these young kids all the time?” Not really that we were that much younger than them, but they’d been around a lot longer and done a lot more stuff than us. Almost everybody was pretty positive. The biggest thing that we had going for is I’m 6’4 / 270, Travis is 6’5 / 280 and looks like he’d straight rip your head off. I think we always had a little more respect coming in than most because we were two guys that looked like you’d never want to mess with in a bar anyway. We kind of had that demeanor to us. Everything was for the most part pretty positive."
A successful, several month run on the road, they thought they would be brought up to television as a team.
"It was supposed to be (us as a team)," Fertig remembered. "We were doing great things in OVW as a tag, they brought us up. We were pretty much attached to the hip of Lance Storm and Val [Venis]. We were on the road almost six months up until the point of WrestleMania 20. [Literally that’s what I thought we were going to do].
Even though Lance Storm and Val Venis were tasked with helping the giant, green youngsters prepare, it probably shouldn't surprise you that Lance Storm was a natural at it. A long-time wrestling vet, a future trainer and road agent, Fertig credits Storm and another WCW alumni with helping educate him.
"I learned so much from Lance, in between Mordecai and Kevin Thorn, because he was the trainer when I was down in OVW. Lance was, oh my god, he was so solid it seemed like every time there were agents there or whoever was there, we’d end up getting in the ring and they would put me to the test with him. I mean, you just listen to the guy and you just get in there with him and he’s just so smooth and so good, there’s just nothing like that. Same with Kanyon, God rest his soul, so I had that privilege of getting in there a couple of times in front of agents. I think I had probably some of my best matches and nobody ever saw them. It was in that OVW arena just trying to get back on TV. So, it was pretty cool," Fertig said with a smile.
At the time of our interview, the news of Storm's WWE wasn't re-hiring, but when informed of it, Fertig said that nobody was more deserving of a spot as an agent than Storm.
What Fertig had been setting up for, wasn't what happened.
"Then that very next day is when Vince [McMahon] brought us in separately and was basically lie, “What do you want to do?” “Well, me and Tyson got a great tag going on—” “I don’t want a tag team wrestlers. I want stars. I need singles stars.”
Fertig had never really spoken that much with Vince McMahon. The head honcho of WWE is known for being closed off today, but back then seemed to have more of an open door policy. Fertig said that outside of thanking Vince for being there, they didn't have many conversations. But this one was a big one. It was about Kevin's future.
These types of meetings had gained a degree of notoriety. In the 1999 film "Beyond the Mat," former NFL player turned wrestler Darren Drozdov was brought into a face-to-face with Vince, his son Shane McMahon and Jim Ross. Known for once barfing all over a football on national television, he was encouraged to puke on command on camera for the small audience in the room. The scene made the cut of the final movie.
"You know what? Yeah. You think it’s gonna be that way, I guess," Fertig said of expecting something similar. "First time I got called up to the office I’m looking for that area. We got tours before hand, all that kind of stuff. When you’re sitting there, and you’re in there, ‘cause it’s Vince, Stephanie [McMahon-Helmsley], John Laurinaitis, me. It was like, oh my god, here’s your question and answer session. If you don’t pass this question and answer session you’re probably going back to OVW for a long time. You gotta hit the homerun out of the park on that one. It was definitely cool."
Fertig had performed under the name "Seven" on the independent circuit before, as well as wrestling under his birth name. Max Cherry and Vengeance were a couple of others, but Vince McMahon wanted something different, and didn't want a tag team.
Fertig had to brainstorm. What he delivered would live in infamy.
"At the time, “Okay, I have this character named Malachi,” which was Mordecai and basically I just went right into it. Vince is sitting there, he’ll look down and then look up over his glasses and like literally—I was told a long time ago not to not stare the bull down and I’m trying as hard looking in the devil’s eyes in a way. Like, “I’m not gonna look away. I’m gonna stare this motherfucker down.” So, it was back and forth, back and forth and literally it was insane ‘cause then that transpired into Mordecai right there,"
They were off to the races. Tomko and Fertig were no more. Instead, Mordecai was upon us. It was a massive opportunity, but with 20/20 hindsight, he thinks that the duo was probably the safer bet.
"I think we would have killed it. I think professionally maybe, looking back, I think that would have been a better thing," Fertig admitted. "The reason for that is jumping out as Mordecai was cool, but I needed more [seasoning]. I need some more stuff. I think that would have given me more a little bit more seasoning before you make it to the grand stage. I think some of the greatest singles wrestlers of all times have always had that really good run as a tag team and then split up. Shawn Michaels, the list goes on of these guys. And the biggest thing is with OVW, these guys with NXT now, we don’t get quite seasoned enough as the guys who were there then had done. I think that transpires very, very well."
Mordecai had to be different. Different gear, different hair, tons of gimmicks. After being a little intimidated by his meeting with Vince McMahon, he'd appealed to his boss' attractions and successfully pitched a character. It was time to put everything in play.
Religious undertones, different visuals, movie inspirations, but most importantly... approval from a very controlling boss.
"He loved it," Fertig said of Vince. "The next day I was in Boston, I think, and I got put in the pre-tape room with Brooklyn Brawler for a while. he’s like, “They just want you to do promos of how you think this will be done.” I come from a Southern Baptist background, my dad was a deacon and all this stuff, but he was also a devout Catholic before then. He became Baptist, don’t ask. But anyway, the religion thing I did some good Baptist fire and brimstone messages, and that’s what it is, but it needs some of that Catholic weirdo… All the little ritual stuff goes along with it. That’s what I envisioned Mordecai, but I’m still to this day even as large as I am, I don’t like going to cornfields because Children of the Corn and Malachi."
But Malachi needed to be a little more than what we saw. You often hear about wrestling personalities being the person turned up to 11, but this couldn't be Kevin Fertig turned up to 11, or much of any sane human. Malachi turned up to 11 seemed like a fit, though.
"To me it was Malachi, it this really religious weirdo-ness to it, kinda of séance-y in a way. That’s how I envisioned the Mordecai thing. So, I ended up going and doing, the promo was “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil ‘cause my rod and staff,” and got into a little bit of wrestling instead of straight Bible verse, but I did it highs and lows, and I still remember they went and got Vince. Vince comes in, “Play it back.” All of a sudden he walks, he leaves. Then the next thing I know, the next day the video, I forget where we were at. But, it was SmackDown the next day. ‘Taker was there. They had come out of, basically, production meeting, catering was right next door. So all of a sudden I’m looking up, seeing Taker walk out. He’s talking to Vince and almost like lasers me. You can just tell [he was thinking] “You did good, kid.” Whatever this was good. ‘Cause I pitched that idea of white and black, but really in this case the white was the evil and Taker’s the good guy. It would’ve done something," said Fertig, with a smile.
The Undertaker? Quite the spot. Even more so when you put it into context.
In the years that preceded Mordecai's debut, The Undertaker wasn't the "Dead Man" character so many identify him with. Instead, he was the "American Badass" and "Big Evil." After four years, the undead wizard version of Undertaker had returned ahead of arguably what would be one of his most important runs of his career.
Things were ready to go. The Undertaker against his polar opposite. Well, almost. Things were going smooth, especially with Taker.
"It was awesome. I got the opportunity to ride with him for a while, everything else. It was starting to talk towards that. It was going to be built towards that. I’m a dumbass that got in a fight in a bar and basically ruined it. ‘Cause of situations that precursed that"
A bar fight ended it all.
Mordecai was 20-0 as a character, with two pay-per-view wins, and a lot of live event reps. He wasn't wrestling on television outside of PPV, so it came as a shock to many that just two days after beating Hardcore Holly at Great American Bash he lost in four minutes to Rey Mysterio and was never seen again.
Mordecai was done, and Fertig was banished to OVW and Memphis Wrestling
The fight itself took place when Fertig, Maven and Sylvain Grenier were all out at a bar in Louisville, Kentucky in March of that year, well before Mordecai's debut. Fertig alleges that a man tried to hit them with a bottle, only to be intercepted by Fertig's first, breaking his nose. After months of settlement attempts on Fertig's behalf, the other guy ended up suing both Fertig and WWE. When is became too much of a headache Vince McMahon said that he had to go.
"Pretty much just like that," Fertig recalled. "It’s like “You’re getting sued, we’re getting sued. This is stupid. We know—” and the very next day I went to Vince, I basically walked in the office and said “I’m an f’ing moron, man.” told him what had happened. He said, “Well, it sounds like situations would have just been that way anyway.” The unfortunate part is, we’re giants among men and it always looks bad for us because we’re supposedly trained killers in that situation. So it was automatically against us no matter what. It is what it is. Learning experience."
A year later, Fertig was gone from WWE. He went from pay-per-views back to high school gyms. For him, it wouldn't be long before he'd find himself back. It wasn't out of the blue, though. Fertig had been calling WWE to get back into the company after not enjoying the landscape outside of it. WWE wasn't on the table for a year, but OVW was.
"Man, I was calling Tommy every other day ‘cause I wasn’t hired with WWE. They had released me. Poor Tommy probably got a phone call from me every other day for a while. It was just like “Dude, how do I get back? This isn’t for me out here, it’s just not. I just wanna get back.” I still lived in Louisville, I still wanted to wrestle at OVW and still do whatever. I mean, I was already there. There’s no sense in doing anything other than that because, at the time, it was still OVW and WWE. The only way to get seen is “Hey, guess what? You’re not paying me? I’ll figure it out,” you know? I was fortunate enough to have Mordecai and a lot people kinda wanted that off the side, made some money doing independents and stuff with that gimmick," Fertig recalled.
It was a fortunate scenario for Fertig when in 2006, WWE added a third televised prime time program to their slate. The rebranded ECW appeared, and it needed new characters.
"It was kinda pitched to me. Dreamer ended up calling me and was like, “So, they’re going to have ECW on [Syfy]...”
They needed a vampire character. Well, they didn't need a vampire character, but SyFy, formerly characterized as Sci-Fi *wanted* a vampire character.
"Syfy’s call. It was Syfy’s call," Fertig reiterated. "They wanted all that. That’s why WWE did the stupid alien, but at least they can say they did it. So, that’s why it was done."
Back to the subject of Tommy Dreamer, he was hesitant. Not about Fertig, but the various characters that were thrown his way. Fortunately for Kevin, he ended up picking the one the stuck around. He was given Ariel as a manager, but they were supposed to be joined by a familiar face -- Gangrel.
"He’s like, “I don’t know if I like it, but they want a vampire, they want a werewolf, they want a this, they a that, a zombie at one point.” He’s like, “What do you think you could do?” I’m like, “I could definitely do the vampire thing.” Because, me, myself and I, Gangrel and [Shelly (Ariel)] were already supposed to be doing a tag team right before I got released. So, it only made sense. So I said, “Let’s do that.” That’s what it was supposed to be, it was supposed to be me, Shelly, and Gangrel. Got up there and “Where is Gangrel?” They never had a reason of why. I guess it was…whatever," a confused Fertig said.
Gangrel seemed to be on good enough terms with WWE. He worked a televised program in 2004 on the Smackdown brand, and had a dark match earlier that year on Velocity. Even though the 2006 call didn't come, he also appeared a year and a half later in a WWE Raw 15th Anniversary Battle Royal.
With both men rocking vampire gimmicks, and only one finding his way back to WWE regularly, you might expect there to be some bad blood so to say (SORRY). Fertig says that's not the case. In fact, they often find each other as partners on the indie circuit today.
"All the time," Fertig said of his fangy friend. "We got a show, and I don’t do much any more at all unless I know he’s on it or someone I really likes on it. Myself and him were on that Old School Championship Wrestling, we wrestled together there all the time. Other than Joe and Mary Sue being the sweetest promoters I’ve ever met in my entire life, but it’s to see him and hang out with him and everything else. He’s always been my biggest fan, which is the craziest thing. I still remember seeing him in Atlanta, and I was already into this and he’s like “You’re doing great. You’re doing this, I would do it like this.” Like, he didn’t have to do that. We became really, really good friends after that. I remember the very first time we tagged together was in Popular Bluff, Missouri, and I was Seven, I was still in OVW and it was him and Luna and me versus Derrick King and Nick Dinsmore. Literally we had the best f’n time ever. So, they had some valet that was with them. Well, Luna, all of a sudden something happened and [she’s like] “I hate that bitch.” Typical Luna. She just starts going to kick the shit out of this poor chick. And I don’t think this chick made it into wrestling after that. She probably quit and ran. But, we’re out there and I look at Dave and I’m like, “Should we be—” and he goes “No. Do not get near her right now.” He goes, “Let’s just hang out here.” It was just just killed her around the ring, around the ring, we finish the match, get to the back and all of a sudden Luna’s like “I love you guys!” I’m like, “Alright, I don’t know what happened here, but this is pretty cool.” And I mean, every time it we saw each other it’s always like we never left off. That’s the coolest part.
Gangrel still actively works the independent wrestling scene. He even made some 2020 appearances on Ring of Honor television, in full Gangrel gimmick. Following years of WWE licensing that character out from White Wolf, David Heath -- who portrays the character -- was able to land the federal tradmark for Gangrel in 2018.
"Gangrel owns Gangrel. He deserves it, he’s the O.G. He really is. When I look at everything, he’s the O.G. of the vampire character in out there.Nobody’s done it better, and still does everything. There’s been a couple of times we—I try not to be put in matches with us because he likes to do everything. Well, not everything, but he likes to take bumps and stuff, and I don’t. But, he’s like, “Yeah, slam me on the floor. Slam me—” No! Stop, Dave! Like it’s literally a fight out there, and I’m just like “Stop!” “No, do it, do it!” “No!” He’s all about it. He gives until it hurts. There’s very few individuals out there that are, to me, that class act and he’s a class act," Fertig glowed, telling us of the bond the two have developed over the years.
Before Kevin and Gangrel had developed their friendship, Kevin Thorn had a year and a half run with WWE. The spot involved a solid push on WWE's iteration of ECW and a WrestleMania match in front of an announced 80,000 at Ford Field in Detroit. Fertig, as Thorn, was joined by a high upside team of Elijah Burke, Matt Striker and the former Monty Brown against four former ECW World Champions in Rob Van Dam, Sandman, Tommy Dreamer and Sabu.
It was Fertig's only WrestleMania out of his on-and-off WWE relationship.
"It was insane," he remembered. "WrestleMania—we had spent almost a week before in [Mexico, Mexico City] basically having that match. That match was ten times better if we could have done the one we done in Mexico City. Tommy told the story a little while ago on a podcast I did with him—is basically, they were gonna cancel us and somehow we lucked up and went on. Which was so cool that the stars aligned and we got to do it. But it was, nobody would get the sound of a crowd until you do a WrestleMania. Because it was, you could hear them and then the volume would go out and then it would come back. So, like you would go to do something in the ring and you almost kinda waiting for it and then it would finally end up happening."
The WrestleMania ended up being one of the biggest the company has ever enjoyed. 1.2 million pay-per-view buys on a card largely headlined by Vince McMahon and the future President Donald Trump. Despite the card not holding up to shows in later years, it was one of the most successful in history, and that's not lost on Fertig.
"It was very surreal. Love or hate Trump, it is what it is. I don’t get into politics. But, it was pretty cool when he’s back there and I have a big spiky jacket on and all this stuff. he’s like “I really like that jacket.” I’m like, “Here, try it on.” He’s like, “No, no, no. That’s your deal.” It was pretty cool. Now looking at it—hey, the f’n President of the United States is in the back for wrestling. We had the actual President of the United States. Which is kinda cool when it all comes down to it," Fertig said.
In that moment, the investment seemed worth it. Fertig was handed a plethora of rough gimmick ideas and had doubled down on one that got him on cable TV weekly. The investment admittedly became too much, because he found himself buying new teeth to accentuate the gimmick far more often than he was comfortable with. When WWE had to make the investment themselves, they stepped back.
"He’s since passed, but I went to the same guy that was the Undertaker’s dentist when ‘Taker lived in Nashville. But, he did Gangrel’s teeth, too, and he did Luna’s teeth. ‘Cause Luna and Gangrel had legit teeth for a long time, implants. And went to him—got them sized, got them fit. First couple were just the stick in, Halloween store ones. I knew if I wasn’t gonna swallow one of these things I’d need—it’s almost like a retainer kind of thing. So I went there, got that fit. After I think the fourth or fifth pair that ended up either Stevie [Richards] or RVD or somebody broke, that’s when I finally went to the office and I was like “Look, I can’t spend $3,000 a time on these, can you guys help me out?” They were almost $3,000 a time! It was part of your gimmick. Finally I got them and then like after the second pair they had to buy, that’s when they were like “So, about the fang thing. Do you think you really you need them?” I was like, “No, not really.” So, it kinda shied away the whole fang thing," Fertig said.
In late 2007, things got weird for the Kevin Thorn character. He was taken off television for six weeks only to be re-debuted, before being taken off of WWE TV forever, in a confusing series of events that he would explain. Hip and shoulder surgery would be mixed in there somewhere, but at the time, there were big plans for him -- or so he was told. Thorn remembers an insane series of events that unfolded that led to the end again.
"I had hip surgery. I had a really bad torn labrum. I went and got it fixed because all of a sudden we went to the just generic look. Me and Dusty were coming up with all these cool promos and other cool stuff, and literally, this was when Dusty was kind of, nobody really knew Dusty was sick and he was off and wasn’t around for a while and kinda going back and forth, getting ready to be full time in Florida. I thought we were gearing towards going towards ‘Taker. That’s what Dusty was telling me, that’s why were coming up with all this cool stuff, and all of a sudden, they wanted me to pull the red out of my hair, they wanted me start wearing more black with my ties. All of this stuff I was doing to not look like the Undertaker I was starting to do. Then it was in Detroit, and it was I got through wrestling Curtis James—he was with [Michelle] McCool—got out of that match, we had one botched spot. It just didn’t happen. I didn’t get him on my back right, it looked like shit. It was. Still got through the match," Fertig said.
The match, seen above, didn't seem to please Vince McMahon.
"I get through the curtain and I’m getting yelled at by Vince of, “Why are you looking like ‘Taker, why you lookin’ like this, why you doin’ this?” I’m like, “That’s what I thought I was supposed to be doing.” I think a lot of miscommunication and everything else. At the end of the day, it’s his toy. So, however he wants me to look, I should look," he said.
Well, apparently how he should have looked wasn't how he looked. In a true Mr. Burns-Don Mattingly moment, the new-look Kevin Thorn appeared a month later much to the chagrin of WWE officials. He had two matches and was off TV for good.
"It just ended up happening. So I went, cut my hair, did everything, and then two weeks later it was “Why did you cut your hair? Why did you do this? Why are you looking like this?” So I’m like, “’Cause you guys freakin’ told me to.” They told me to! It was, “You need to go get your hair cut. You need to change up your gimmick. You need to do, this do that.” I did it. Then it was like, “Oh, that made sense. We want that back.” Well, I can’t grow my hair back right now like this. So then I got put on the shelf, I wrestled Kofi a bunch. It was kinda like, “We don’t know what to do with you.” That’s when I was like, “Screw this, I’m gonna go get my hip fixed.” I should have asked, but I didn’t. So, I’m in surgery. I get out of surgery and I get a call from Laurinaitis, “We got the deal, and it’s you and you’re gonna go up against the Undertaker,” and all this other crap. I went, “Uh, John, I’m gonna be laid up for six months.” But, they had to have known. Because the WWE doctor is the one that finally okayed me to getting the surgery."
WrestleMania was coming up, and it didn't look like the Undertaker program was happening.. Soon, Fertig was on the operating table, but was trying to get the Undertaker program back on the table. Dusty Rhodes allegedly told Fertig to prepare for it, only to lose out to another ill-fated character.
"So, I go to rehab. I work as hard as I can. I get out of rehab in like six weeks. Basically my doctor, Dr Meyers, said if I can run on the treadmill for a mile at a speed of six for that time he’ll give me the okay. I did that in six weeks. So normal labrum tear surgery is six months. I made it back in six weeks. So, go down to FCW, Tampa, I was put through a series of tests with Tom Pritchard, wrestled a bunch, did some stuff. Me and Dusty are working on promos again. Do the promo. Do a great, I mean it was killer, dude. I wish I had this thing on tape. [Billy] Kidman was in school for production and all this stuff, so they’re doing lightning in the back. It’s basically talking about train tracks and all this other stuff, but if you want to watch this promo it’s the exact verbiage from [Hade Vansen] that was there like two vignettes, basically talking about ‘Taker. That was the promo. It was my words, my and Dusty’s idea, and then he did it."
Hade Vansen was a 25-year old Englishman who would never end up wrestling for WWE's main brand, despite the vignettes. Word has it that Vince McMahon figured out he was 200 pounds and axed the angle. The fact that the vignettes were what Fertig had been working on, he wasn't happy.
"I was like motherfuck this," Fertig said. "So, they were in Pittsburgh and then Baltimore that following week. I was like, alright am I going to get called to TV? Nope. So, I was like “Screw this.” So I drove from Indianapolis to Pittsburgh, and I was like, “What’s going on?” Didn’t really get any answers. So I went up there, Freddie Prinze, Jr. was just starting to write. Me and him were back and forth on all kinds of stuff. Finally the day in Baltimore I got told, “They’re going to use you, but you’re not gonna be the mouthpiece, you’re gonna be his heavy.” I’m like, “No, no, no. Those are my promos, my this, this is what it is.”
Eventually, the frustration led to a face-to-face conversation with The Undertaker. Fertig had his program with the Undertaker ripped from him and given to someone else. When that backup plan didn't work, another pivot was made, in which Fertig admittedly overreacted to.
"A little while later went by and then ‘Taker called me. I went in, talked to him, and it was “they’re kiboshing it all for some reason.” I was like, “What do you mean?” “We’re gonna go against Shawn [Michaels], and lead Shawn straight into WrestleMania that year.” I was like, you gotta be shitting me. So, like an idiot, feelings hurt, I walked into Laurinaitis’s office and basically was just, “I quit. I’m done. I can’t do this anymore.” I literally was supposed to be off for six months, I killed myself to get back and we’re not going into this. Looking back I was an idiot. I should have just sucked it up and hung out for a little bit longer and eventually something would have happened, but it was just feelings hurt and everything else. I thought I could go quit and make it on my own, and I did for a while. But, it was just, I guess, an ego thing in a way," he said.
Fertig wasn't granted his release. In fact, WWE offered him a new contract in January 2009 after the Hade Vansen fiasco unfolded. He rejected that deal, and remained under contract until right after WrestleMania. He's never returned to WWE again.
Over a decade later, Fertig is liked by everyone he works with. He's worked matches for House of Hardcore, AIW, Black Label Pro, WrestlePro, WrestleCade, WrestleCon and others, in addition for a cup of coffee in a dark match for TNA. He's successful in the real estate business and still appears at conventions and signings.
He's so well liked, in fact, that his former WrestleMania teammate in Monty Brown made a rare pro wrestling appearance just last year for him to help benefit a child in need. Brown has been out of the spotlight since 2007, and jumped at the opportunity to help a child and a friend in need.
As far as how Brown has looked? You be the judge.
"Man, it’s like he never lost a beat when he was in there with me," Fertig said of Brown. "Now, granted he didn’t want to wrestle, but he got in there, talking and everything else. He became the Alpha Male instantaneously. He’s got a great personal training studio up there (in Michigan). He does a lot of stuff with athletes. For God’s sake, he’s an NFL guy. He played for the Patriots, he’s got Super Bowl rings. He’s got a little bit of everything. He played for Ferris [State University], was one of their stud linebackers. It’s definitely in Monty’s blood to do whatever Monty wants to do. That’s the cool part about him is he does it his way and that’s the only way."
As mentioned on his running list of indie shows, Fertig has a huge rolodex of promoters, and they all want to see Brown back in the ring, too. That's not in the cards for Brown, but helping out children seems to be for both of them.
"Everybody wants him. I got 8,000 phone calls, “Oh, how do I get a hold of him?” Well, you don’t. Because I’m not giving you his number. “Oh, please, c’mon.” No, because he asked me not to. He’s coming for me and me only. Yeah, he brought down his football helmets, his rings. My son got to try all that stuff on. Now, granted as a Colt’s fan I was a little… It made me a little nauseous with the Patriots on, but it didn’t make me that nauseous ‘cause it was my good friend’s helmet," said Fertig.
Friendships like the one he's developed with Monty Brown seem to make it worth it for Kevin Fertig. Sure, he had a few opportunities slip through his fingers, but he's made even bigger personal opportunities come to fruition. From terrifying opponents, to helping make things easier for a child in need. That's something the two share. If you were to ask at WrestleMania 23 how many future WrestleManias would have happened for them, zero wouldn't have been a safe answer. But the bonds build and lives affected have changed Fertig's outlook from creatively frustrated to successful and satisfied. Something his friend Monty learned a few years prior.
"Aw, dude, he’s my brother. Yeah, he came no questions asked. He didn’t even [want to get paid]. He was only doing it because it was something I was doing. That’s the best part about this business sometimes is the true friendship you get to do. Looking back and everything, man, I’m so blessed because of this career. All of this crazy stuff is because of this career, because of wrestling. Sometimes you look back and you tell stories—you get a little irritated, but then you’re like, everything all works itself out in the end for a reason. maybe I wasn’t supposed to main event WrestleMania, but maybe I was supposed to sell some killer houses to some killer individuals and make a lot of world champion homebuyers. that’s what I get to do now, We raised $30,000 in a night for a young man on my son’s football team last year tht got diagnoses with leukemia. Literally now we still have a reserve. He’s since in remission, but I have a reserve. So, if next year something happens—all medical bills were paid off this year. Next year, if something happens he’s, God forbid, something happens we’ve already got a reserve. We’re already going to be able to pay his deductible and then some out of the gate. Hopefully parents are never gonna have to worry about it. That’s all because of wrestling," he closed.