Talking about wrestling with PJ Polaco is similar to getting a lesson from a professor about a college course. The information PJ shares is not only interesting but also very knowledgeable. There is no doubt that PJ knows all there is to know about the pro wrestling game. The Connecticut-born wrestler is still actively participating in matches. Maybe not to the degree he did when he started, but no way can he be considered retired.
After dedicating nearly 30 years to the sport he should know a thing or two. One could say he is a master of the trade. PJ can talk about ring psychology, angles, storylines, the evolution of wrestling, and television production.
And who again is PJ Polaco? Well, he’s Justin Credible.
PJ started as a jobber in 1992 in the WWF after training with the famous Hart Family in Calgary Alberta, Canada. Then his wrestling name was PJ Walker and his main role for Vince McMahon was to make the company’s top talent look good. Then, Hulk Hogan and the Ultimate Warrior were fighting for the top spot. Other big names on the roster were men like Randy Savage, Lex Lugar, Yokozuma, and the Undertaker.
The action inside the ring might have been exciting to watch if you were a fan, but what was unfolding behind the scenes was nothing Vince McMahon Jr. could have been thrilled to be dealing with. The wrestling promoter was on trial for supplying illegal anabolic steroids to his wrestlers. On July 23, 1994, a jury found him not guilty. In what looked like a way to keep costs down for the wrestling company, a great deal of its business was kept in the northeastern part of the United States.
“Since I was living in Connecticut I was getting a lot of work for television tapings. With a lot of the shows being in New York, Maine, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Maryland, I could easily drive there,” Polaco said. “Even though I wasn’t on a contract I was on T.V. every week. It got me noticed by the agents, the producers, and Vince McMahon himself.”
A new era started for PJ in 1994 when he wrestled as Aldo Montoya. For the next three years, he had several television appearances and a string of wins over wrestlers such as Kwang, Pierre, Steve Dunn, and the Brooklyn Brawler. However, he never broke out of that mid-card status and his run ended with the company in 1997. From there he left to go to Extreme Championship Wrestling and started working under the name of Justin Credible. This time though, he would turn heel!
Leading ECW at that time was Paul Heyman who had the role of the booker. The magic that was created at the promotion while he was in charge there was near genius. The style of wrestling plus the caliber of talent who worked there made a good combination for the fans to keep watching. Having matches that did not fit the traditional mold for wrestling, the company exhibited contests with tables, ladders, chairs, barbed wire, and just about anything else one could imagine.
Some of the wrestlers that blazed the trail at ECW were Tommy Dreamer, the Sandman, Shane Douglas, Sabu, and the Dudleys, to name a few. It was a wrestling scene that presented an over-the-top product with a following that encouraged every bad decision and violent act the wrestlers came up with.
“Paul said I didn’t have to do that stuff if I didn’t want to. They also needed guys to go out there and have a good match,” Polaco explained. “They wanted a little bit of everything. They wanted the hardcore wrestling, but they also wanted highflying, the luchador, and the technical matches too.”
When you look back at the action that was taking place regularly at the ECW Arena, one could call it intense. Adapting to a scene like that could have its challenges. For Justin however, he chose to take the style he used when wrestling as Aldo and combined it with several old school moves.
Working for ECW was a smooth transition for Justin when he arrived, due to his prior experience of wrestling on television. The best part about him starting with the WWF is that he gained a great working proficiency for live broadcasting. That knowledge was not only beneficial for him, but since he was willing to pass along his knowledge it also helped the younger wrestlers who worked beside him.
“Being live on RAW helped me out greatly. A lot of the guys at ECW at the time were not prepared to work on television,” Polaco stated. “I found out that it helped me when I helped the younger guys who had never been on T.V before on how to do it.”
ECW allowed him to grow into his character and to participate in some unique storylines. Something he never had the opportunity to take part in the three years he worked at the WWF. ECW was a melting pot of talent and it loved to surprise the audience with the unpredictable antics delivered from just about everyone on the roster.
Wrestling for only six months at ECW, PJ found himself working with the likes of Steve Corino, Dusty Rhodes, Terry Funk, Tommy Dreamer, and Sabu. Those wrestlers and several others who work at the company went all out every time they stepped in the ring.
“I was doing some creative work and I was playing with some of the best,” Polcao recalled. “It was an amazing time. A lot of the wrestlers understood if it was done right, ECW was a good fit.”
Paul Heyman had a vision for the ECW brand and the fans were buying it. Yes, there were several talented people at the promotion in its prime. The talent’s strength came out when the stories were told in the ring and outside of it.
Paul had a knack for refining the storyline to fit the individual. That is the main reason why PJ believes ECW was so successful for the time that it was.
Doing a lot of crazy moves is not wrestling to PJ. He is one of those wrestlers who still believe in telling a story in the ring. Some of the high-risk moves that are being done in wrestling today can be exciting to watch, but the fast pace of today’s product makes it hard for the fan to take it all in and follow.
Justin admits that he has been critical of AEW. His major complaint is that many of the wrestlers on the roster there do too much flying and no one is selling the punishment that they are receiving. PJ thinks that the fans will care more for the hero if they could make the audience empathize with them.
“I can watch AEW and say that it is not real wrestling,” Polaco insisted. “But 25 years ago people were saying the same thing when it came to hardcore wrestling.
Very few wrestling promotions can compare to ECW, if fans followed the promotion for the shock value, it was there. ECW allowed many rising stars to push the limits on creating their characters by allowing the talent to have fun and be themselves.
“It was a great place to work at one point,” Polaco remembers. “It was great creatively and to this day, very few companies are spoken about with such a high regard as ECW.”