The Bouncers have become one of the more popular teams in Ring Of Honor, and the two are close friends on and off of the road. Brian Milonas and the Beer City Bruiser spoke with WrestleZone Managing Editor Bill Pritchard about the positive momentum ROH gained at the beginning of 2020, how the wrestling world has changed in recent weeks due to the coronavirus and how they’re spending their time while they wait to get back in the ring.
The tag team partners are used to being on the road together each week, but being sent home because of the pandemic definitely presents a new challenge. Bruiser says they still talk almost every day but there was definitely an adjustment period of not being able to see each other right now.
“It’s weird looking at the calendar, thinking about a particular city you were supposed to be in that night,” Milonas said. “Bizarre times we’re living in.”
One of Ring Of Honor’s big events was supposed to the two-night 18th Anniversary Show in Las Vegas last month, but that was a last-minute cancelation due to how rapidly the situation was changing with the coronavirus’ spread. Milonas ultimately went home and didn’t fly out to Las Vegas, but Bruiser got a first-hand look at how crazy things were about to get for travelers.
It was really weird because the world literally changed within four hours.
Bruiser said everything was normal when he left Atlanta, but everything completely changed by the time his flight landed in Las Vegas a few hours later.
“When I landed in Vegas and I turned my phone on, I had about 5-6 text messages from Brian saying we were canceled.” Bruiser said. “I said, ‘What do you mean we’re canceled? What’s going on?’ He says ‘they told me not to get on my flight.’
“I was just trying to feel it out with everyone on my flight and finding out that the shows were canceled and we don’t know what we’re going to do. They had a meeting the next day with all of the talent that was there, which was not a lot of us, and the mood was ‘we need to film content, we don’t know what’s going on. We don’t know what’s going on with Supercard…’ or anything.” Bruiser said. “It was just such a surreal time but the locker room leaders, Delirious and Marty being the leaders that they are, they made sure we didn’t have to worry about anything and kept us busy.”
Milonas noted that he was at his gate and ten minutes from boarding the plane, and a last-minute call saved him a trip that would result in no shows that weekend. He says that while he misses a lot of things—wrestling, friends, family and fans—it’s important for everyone to stay healthy and “beat this thing so we could get back to doing the things we love sooner rather than later.”
She’s a good wrestler, never gambled before! She won’t leave me alone. pic.twitter.com/IQPnaCvgff
— Beer City Bruiser (@bcbwinchester) March 13, 2020
Milonas still works outside of Ring Of Honor and both have families that keep them busy. When asked what keeps them occupied at home right now, Milonas joked that “sane” is a tough sell when you’ve got two young kids at home to keep him busy.
“I have an 8-year-old and a 4-year-old and they keep me pretty busy. They are young kids, so there’s a lot of confusion but we also try and educate them. My 4-year old has no concept of what’s going on,” Milonas said, “but my 8-year-old daughter understands that people are getting sick and it’s weird. We can’t see family right now but a lot of my time right now is spent trying to entertain them because they get bored pretty quick too. There’s only so much YouTube and video games you can play.
Beer City Bruiser, true to his name, said he’s still drinking beer as well as working out at home and watching wrestling archives. His daughter is a softball player in her junior year of high school, so she’s a little more self-sufficient but they still hang out and keep her arm fresh. Like many students across the country, they are stuck at home and missing out on social and educational experiences, with some seniors not even being able to graduate. He said some recruiting visits were postponed after her season got canceled, but is a little optimistic in spite of it since she can still have a senior year next year.
“My daughter is good with it, she’s really self-motivated but her big thing is, she’s a junior in high school and supposed to be applying to colleges, going on visits,” Bruiser said. “She was supposed to have recruiters coming out and watch her. We went to Arizona State for a walkthrough and their coach was supposed to come out but [that’s done] now that the season is over. [My daughter] still has a senior year, thank God. With my Ring Of Honor schedule, I was able to get her into some different camps and she got herself ready. This was going to be her year and then the apocalypse happened.”
Milonas noted that his kids are much younger than Bruiser’s so they might not be as self-motivated as a teenager is, but it’s still a tough situation for everyone because a lot of students are still losing some very valuable experience right now.
The wrestling world came to a screeching halt in March after everyone learned how serious the coronavirus pandemic was, and now many performers are left without an audience to entertain. The Bouncers have been keeping a presence on social media in their own ways, and both have written blog entries for ROH’s “HonorPost” feature. While they are presented on TV as beer drinking brawlers, they do have a softer side. As noted in Milonas’ HonorPost blog, he’s a huge Disney fan.
“It’s so immersive. With Disney, you either get it or you don’t. Main Street USA—that’s my happy place. The movies, I say they’re for the kids but I’ve been watching them before I had kids and I’ve been to the theatre without my kids. There’s a lot of things from a company standpoint,” Milonas said, “but just the theme park experience and going there—I’m a big Star Wars fan too, so Galaxy’s Edge—when they do something, they do it big. I love it. I think what I love the most is there’s no half-assing anything. It’s all in and I can’t wait until it reopens.”
Bruiser has also started hosting live Q&A sessions on Facebook, noting that it’s a good way to continue to give back to the people that made them who they are.
“Doing the vlogs is helping me keep my sanity, doing the last one with drinking the beers and connecting with the fans… if it wasn’t for the fans, The Bouncers wouldn’t be anything. When we first started,” Bruiser said, “it was literally ‘go out and get over’ and we did. Now with this, we’re just trying to stay active with the fans.”
Bruiser says one idea they had was to start calling fans that buy their merchandise as a way to say thanks and to keep in touch. Ring Of Honor is taking care of their talent by paying them for canceled events and appearances, but the reality is many other wrestlers are finding new ways to market themselves online—or will soon have to—due to a lack of income. Some are finding success with some outside of the box thinking and Bruiser already has a line of cigars, so they were asked if they’d entertain marketing their own beer in the future. As it turns out, they’d already had some preliminary talks about it but like most new ventures, that’s all on hold because of various stay-at-home orders and travel restrictions.
“We had some talks with breweries,” Milonas said. “We’re trying to do something but that’s been put on hold. We’d love to do something like that, especially if it gives us free beer.”
“Free beer is the best beer,” Bruiser added. “Our characters are not too different from us. We’re two beer drinkin’ ass-kickers, so with this downtime I’ve been trying new and different beers. It might be something a fan suggests to me, or I go grocery shopping and give one a try. We totally want to have our own brew. Like Brian said, we had been in the preliminary stages but with everything shut down it’s not like we can test it or fly out and OK things right now. It’s all pretty much in a holding pattern.”
ROH saw some negative press at the end of 2019 but started this year with a lot of momentum, including Marty Scurll’s new role, the Pure Championship’s return and announcing a new Women’s Championship tournament. As a preventative measure for the coronavirus pandemic, Ring Of Honor canceled all events through May 31 (and has since stated they won’t risk anyone’s health by running in Florida despite the local government’s clearances), but The Bruisers are just playing the waiting game. This time, ROH’s luck was out of their hands, something Bruiser said they aimed to change during a locker room meeting last year.
“The end of last year, everyone was writing Ring Of Honor off. I remember we had a big locker room meeting,” Bruiser noted, “we said it’s up to us to turn this around. We started getting a lot of positive press and Ring Of Honor as a company had some momentum moving forward, The Bouncers were getting some momentum when Session Moth [Martina] came in and they put her with us. That was a big thing and literally in Vegas when everything was shut down, we were scrambling around to film as much as we could and get all of the content that we could, but we didn’t know how long it was going to be.”
“I think as a company we’re going to be OK. It’s a little setback.” Bruiser said. “Cary Silkin always says ‘Ring Of Honor has always been down, but it’s never been out’ and I think we’re on such a good, positive high that we’re going to come back and be stronger than ever.”
Milonas added that perspective is important in this situation, given how serious the pandemic has impacted the entire world. He said you can debate over running shows or not, but he’s happy to work for a company that wants to keep him home, safe and healthy right now. “Everything stops temporarily but we’ll come back with a bang and better than ever,” Milonas said, “We’ll get back to work soon enough.”