(CBS Baltimore/CBS Local) -- In life, it's not often that we get a second chance. And in the life of a professional athlete, the odds of getting a do-over are about the same as winning the lottery and getting struck by lightning on the same day.
With that being the case, you can consider Carl Joseph Yvon Ouellet to be the luckiest man on the face of the earth. Ouellet, known better as the half-human, half-monster character PCO in Ring of Honor, is having a resurgence after more than 30 years in professional wrestling. It's a career filled with ups and downs and more than a few twists and turns.
The Canadian-born Ouellet first stepped into the ring in 1987 and spent the next few years cutting his teeth on the independent circuit. It wasn't long before he branched out from his Montreal-area home and began doling out punishment across the world. He would crisscross the oceans banking both frequent flyer miles and valuable experience.
Eventually his hard work would pay off when he caught the eye of someone in Vince McMahon's World Wrestling Federation, now known as World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE). Shortly after signing a contract with the company in 1993, he became a six-year overnight success as one-half of The Quebecers tag team with Jacques Rougeau, better known to longtime fans as The Mountie. The duo would go on to become three-time tag team champions in the promotion before ping-ponging back and forth between there and rival World Championship Wrestling for the next few years. His career also included stops in the original incarnation of Extreme Championship Wrestling and TNA Impact Wrestling.
By the age of 43, with his career momentum stalled, Ouellet decided that he had enough and opted to hang up his boots.
Yes, he had achieved a certain level of fame from his time in WWF as a tag champion, but he was never really viewed as being a true contender for the World Title that was held by the likes of fellow Canadian Bret Hart or Shawn Michaels or the iconic Hulk Hogan. Maybe that contributed to his decision to retire.
The wrestling industry is notorious for a "never say never" attitude about coming out of retirement, but as the years rolled past and his gear gathered dust on the shelf, that scenario seemed increasingly unlikely. For five years, the layer of dust grew ever thicker.
Still, something nagged at him. He always wanted to be the guy in a promotion. Not as a tag team wrestler. Not as a three-man faction. He wanted to be the face of the promotion. And he wanted to do it as a singles wrestler.
In a journal kept over time, Ouellet had written frequently about his desire. Each time he would set a target date to achieve his goal. The dates became moving targets as time marched on, and he was still without gold around his waist. After he walked away from the business in 2011, it seemed as though that day would never come.
While working a more comfortable job with a steady income, Ouellet would spend time thinking about ways to reinvent himself. How could he get people to stop thinking of him as one of the brightly colored Quebecers and view him as a legitimate contender?
Enter PCO -- Perfect Creation One. It's hard to describe the character other than it being a half-dead, half-human, pseudo Frankenstein with zero regard for the punishment his body is taking.
In 2016, PCO rose from the dead along with Ouellet's career. The monster persona quickly caught on with fans who were awestruck by both the stories being told in the ring as well as the story of a nearly 50-year-old long forgotten wrestler attempting to revitalize his career against astronomical odds. Through a nightmarish character, Ouellet became the poster boy for never giving up on one's dreams.
The name of PCO spread like wildfire throughout the wrestling community. Coincidentally, his return coincided with an overall resurgence of pro wrestling. Among the most popular promotions was Ring of Honor which was arguably the second most powerful wrestling company in the world at that point.
He debuted there in December 2018 shortly before his 51st birthday. By this point in life, most professional athletes have long since ridden off into the sunset. But as PCO, Ouellet was about to embark on the most rewarding year of his career as part of Villain Enterprises, a faction led by Marty Scurll, whom many believe will be the next big star plucked from the ROH tree by WWE or All Elite Wrestling.
Within a matter of months of debuting in ROH, Ouellet captured tag team gold, wrestled in front of a sold-out crowd at Madison Square Garden in the largest show in the promotion's history, and shortly before Christmas finally achieved his lifelong dream. After writing affirmations time and again about wanting to become the face of a promotion and carry a world title around his waist, his intention finally came to fruition.
On December 13, 2019 in Baltimore, PCO became ROH World Champion by defeating RUSH, a high-flying grappler 21 years his junior. Just a couple weeks later he would be celebrated by his hometown heroes, the Montreal Canadians of the National Hockey League. It was a dream come true for the longtime hockey fan who just became pro wrestling's version of Rocky.
I had the opportunity to catch up with him as he prepared to his title in a rematch against RUSH Saturday night in Atlanta. The match will be streamed live online for HonorClub subscribers. We chatted about his long and winding road to the top, how he's connecting with fans, recent negative claims about ROH made by a former employee, and where things go from here.
Your story is so unique. It's so rare what you've been able to do as far as coming back in this business. Define what it means to reinvent yourself as a talent.
For me, it's not trying to get booked or trying to live off the past, so that's what it means. It's creating something new, something unique, and something that's going to appeal to the wrestling fans. … It's like you're not running on your glory days or your fast days. You are actually fresh and new on the market. Then you're acting as a rookie, and you're not acting as someone who was there to sell everybody. No, that's not the way to do it, you shouldn't do it like this. ...You should be the one trying to learn from that new generation, because the business has evolved, and you have to be able to adapt with changes, which is the main thing.
Even though when you came back after that hiatus and you had completely reinvented your character, were you still nervous at all about how you would be received?
Absolutely. You never know, you know? I've taken a lot of risks, always had in my mind that if you want to make it in something, you have to prove to yourself and prove to life itself that you believe in yourself. And for me, it was about quitting great jobs with security, jobs where I know how much money I could make for a week. I know I was meeting my ends, being able to afford nice certain things. … You have to be creative, and you have to be willing to sacrifice your security.
I didn't do it for the money. I didn't do it for anything else than achieving myself, which is also a big difference with some of the wrestlers. They need the money, it's hard for them to do another job, or to perform in life other than in the wrestling business. That said, the case for me, I can adapt. I've done other things. But deep down inside I had the desire that I wanted it to become the world champion in this business. And I felt like I was unaccomplished. That's the only reason why the resurrection and everything, because it never really died inside of me. It was always a burning desire that was there.
After you come back, you start climbing the ranks on the indies and your name starts going everywhere. When did you realize that, hey, I really have something with this PCO gimmick?
As soon as I finished my match during WrestleMania 34 weekend at Joey Janela's Spring Break 2. I got back in the dressing room, and the internet was on fire, and it was a huge buzz about PCO right then. Now I knew that I could quit my other job, even though I didn't have any bookings in front of me. I knew that it was on now, that it was real and that I could make a good living off that.
What is it about the PCO character that you think fans connect with so much?
I think the fans are connecting a lot with the story. I think it's a little bit of a Rocky movie, but it's real and not fiction. It's really what I did with my life, and it's really about fighting back, and it's really about not letting people tell you what you can do or what you can't do... When John F. Kennedy said, "We're going to the moon" and everybody said, "How are we going to do that?" He said, "I don't know, but I'm making that decision that we're going to the moon, and we'll find a way."
When did you get a phone call from Ring Of Honor? They were red hot as a promotion when you debuted.
Marty [Scurll] was the one who was getting in touch during the year where I was the poster boy for indy wrestling and was on the middle of the poster for every promotion in the United States and Germany and England and Canada… He reached out a few times to me, and every other promotion had reached out too. And then from Marty, it was the executives at ROH who reached out. … Ring Of Honor was the most professional company, where they said, "We'll fly you in, and we want to talk to you." It wasn't just a text or over the phone. It was really serious. They flew me in to Baltimore, and they had me visit their headquarters… and showed me the dojo where they have up-and-coming superstars working there. They have a bunch of rings and a room for the interviews.
And being able to talk about creative, what was coming up for PCO in that next year, if I was going to sign there. And when they said Villain Enterprises, I said, "I know Marty. I met him in 2007. I knew he was a good guy and he was talented. Brody King had worked against him many times during the year. I knew he was super talented. I knew the chemistry between the three of us would be good." So that's all I needed to know… I went home for a couple of days, and after that we called each other and we made the deal. And then the rest is history.
I've never been treated by a company the way that Ring of Honor is treating me as far as top airlines, best hotels, and they pay for the rental cars. In the WWE I had to pay for my room and pay for my rental car and things like that. And they've been super professional. So that's why I just decided I was going to give it a go, and I never regretted it.
Clearly, it's worked out well for you. I want to ask you about the recent claims made by a former employee [Joey Mercury]. This is the other side of the coin from what you were talking about. He claimed there is a lack of safety measures in place for talent as far as concussions and a lack of medical personnel backstage at shows. You're someone who has been around and has a wealth of experience. How do the safety measures in place with Ring of Honor compare to other places where you've worked?
I just think it is a sad story. I thought that person had so much to give to the business. So valuable, great mind. But I think it was a tough time of his life or something. Most, I would say, if not the whole company was kind of shocked. We were shocked to hear things like that. I don't want any beef with anybody. I can only talk for myself.
I did a dive one night where usually we have two rows of mat on the outside of the ring. Instead of diving on the guy, I dive on this space and I hit the cement floor and I hit my head hard and get 17 stitches in my eye. The ref wants me to stop the match. I said, "No, I'm finishing the match. I'm not getting out of there." But everybody was pulling on me to get out of there. But being PCO, there was no way. I never got out of the match. And so I was going to finish that match no matter what. And it's part of my life, and it's part of my character, as it's part of who I am.
So I finished the match, and as soon as I got on the other side (there were EMTs)… There is always two, three guys that they have a minimum of knowledge about health and care and things like that. They called me to the hospital right away and put stuff on my eyes to stop the bleeding. Everything was so professional. Then I had two people from the dojo that brought me to the hospital and stayed with me the whole time. I was totally conscious. They did the stitches, they always wanted to make sure I was all fine. They put me through a CAT scan, which costs tons of money.
They never charged me for one thing. They sent an agent after the show was done. They took care of everything, signed the papers, brought me back to the hotel, made sure I was okay. [Whenever I get] a little banged up or something, I always get a phone call. "Are you good? Are you okay?" And the next day, "Thanks for what you've done." They are nothing but a first-class organization.
So I don't know why he said those things. I don't know if it might've been some frustration because things weren't going the way that that person was hoping. Was it a personal vendetta? I don't know what it was. I can't talk for that guy. And I love him to death, but from my side, it has been nothing but first-class from Ring of Honor. From my signing to every event and to everything that they do.
Now you're the champion after all these years. How did that finally come to pass? Was it you who pitched the storyline, or did they come to you?
I think that's a company that are really aware of what the fans are saying. They don't shove something down the throat of the fans or say, "We are in charge of what we're going to give you, and you're paying for the tickets and you're going to get whatever we want to feed you." … It's been building up during the whole year. I was getting more over and more over and more over, and then the tournament for the number-one contender came about. The final is supposed to be me against Bandido, but Bandido got injured. So he was out for a couple of months. And on the other side you had Marty, you had Jay Lethal, who are all good talents. So it ended up being me and Marty against each other on the world title number-one contender.
It was just something that I didn't expect. Two guys from the same faction, but it was kind of cool for the crowd, they wondered what was going to happen, because two guys from the same team were fighting each other for a chance at the world titles. Then, when I went over Marty, I was supposed to go to Japan for a tag league with Brody King for three weeks in December, just before Final Battle. I knew that I was the number-one contender for the world title, but by Brody King getting injured and not going to Japan, I could have been so depressed, because New Japan is good money and everything. Great company.
I was a little bit bummed out, but then I said, "Well, I'm just going to make the best out of that, no matter what happened, that's going to give me more time to focus on Final Battle. And then (the front office) called kind of [a] party meeting mid-December, maybe three weeks before Final Battle where we had a nice buffet and a great positive meeting about where we want to go in 2020. They wanted our input as the wrestlers to make it better. It was super positive.
I got the chance to get a hell of a promo for RUSH, and I just think being there, being so focused, so involved, and getting that great promo that I couldn't have cut if I was in Japan, and really telling the story and everything. I'd say all that kind of gelled everything going towards that famous night, December 13 Final Battle. It was just working the process.
I signed, went on a winning streak, and did one of the most, probably most spectacular entrance ever for Ring of Honor or even... Almost compare[s] with Undertaker and big names, because the insurance I had at Madison Square Garden when it was sold out on April last year. 21,000 people chanting "He's not human! He's not human!" Taking that power bomb from inside the ring to the cement floors, sitting out, having the people going crazy; all those moments it was just adding to another thing. Timing's always right. I mean, it was always right.
I didn't know I was going to become the champion until the day that I became the champion. So it was pretty unreal.
You've wanted to be champion for so long. What was that day actually like for you?
Really I'm a pretty sensitive guy already. So I became so emotional. Working so hard for something so many years, and for me, when the match was all over, and it was all said and done. No one had left the building, all the boys were in the back. And when I came across the curtains, I had a huge standing ovation from everybody. And then I said to them, "Thanks to every one of you and I really appreciate it. I wouldn't have done it without you. And for you, maybe it's not such a big deal if some of you became champion at a fairly young age. But for me, it's a life-long achievement of a goal. And it means a lot to me." So, and I saw tears in some of the wrestlers' eyes, and that meant a lot to me.
They knew they felt a sacrifice and all the efforts that I'm putting every night. Putting my body and mind... You know, really working hard for this. So that really touched me to see that. It felt good, and yeah. I think the timing was right. So that's where I'm at now. Now that I reached that level, it's not the end, it's just the beginning. Now we're entering the era of the PCO Monster Mania. Now the goal is to sell out buildings, to have one of the greatest gates ever, one of the best buy-rates ever for a pay-per-view. I don't know again how it's going to happen, which way things are going to take place, but I know it's going to be a great location, and it's going to be a super great opponent. It's going to be a hell of a rivalry, and it's going to be a night to be remembered, and it's going to impact the wrestling business forever. So I just know that's my next goal, and I know that I will accomplish it. Maybe people are skeptical right now, but I will prove myself again once more.
Chuck Carroll is former pro wrestling announcer and referee turned sports media personality. He once appeared on Monday Night RAW when he presented Robert Griffin III with a WWE title belt in the Redskins locker room.
Follow him on Twitter @ChuckCarrollWLC.
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