I’m here with Val Capone before Freelance Pro Wrestling’s: A Shift In Power. Val is a roller derby legend, a badass bartender and rising star in the world of wrestling commentary/ring-announcing plus like 20 other cool things. Val thank you so much for talking with me.
JK: First thing I want to ask is what is your favorite wrestling memory from your childhood?
Val Capone: The first show I remember being at, because I’m a little bit older than your average bear at wrestling shows these days, I was about seven and it was WrestleMania II and it was the Chicago leg of it. I just remember being blown away by the fact that women quote unquote could wrestle because I didn’t know that it was okay for women to be strong and badass and be female wrestlers. Watching it now it’s not as great of a match but as a child watching Velvet McIntyre lose to not-so Fabulous Moolah blew my mind.
Then also, quite a few years later I remember watching Monday Night Raw, I want to say like 1997, and Hunter Hearst Helmsley was wrestling Goldust, who is one of my favorite wrestlers of all time, and this woman came out, and I was stunned because I’d never seen a woman like her before, and she picked up Marlena who was Goldust’s valet and the typical prototype of woman you would see at a wrestling show, and there’s nothing wrong with that: gorgeous, boobs, hair, glitter, but then out came out this woman who I found out was Chyna. She just rag-dolled Marlena, and I literally sprung from the couch and almost went nose-to-nose with the television and was like who is that?
JK: How did you first get involved in the Chicago/Midwest wrestling scene and what drew you into wrestling as a profession?
Val Capone: I had been supporting independent wrestling for years because I loved it, and a friend of mine who is one of the producers for AAW, Dr. Keith, they needed someone last minute to fill in on ring-announcing, and so with less than twelve hours notice I stepped up to the plate. I just became like an understudy for ring announcers here in Chicago, whenever someone couldn’t, I would make sure that I could. So I got to sit under the learning tree of Kirby Alexander, who is spectacular, and that turned into Matt Knicks from Freelance Wrestling saying- listen now that Kirby’s back full time after me filling in for a few months, Kirby’s our guy but we want you to be our guy, what if I created a job for you, and it was the job of the backstage correspondent which at the time did not exist for Freelance. It was quite an honor that he thought highly enough of my skill set or whatever, and that drew the eyes and ears of Principal Steve Tortorello of Warrior Wrestling, and it just became like a domino effect and so many promotions asked me to work with them which was pretty surreal considering my first show was when I was seven years old.
JK: You are going to be a part of the upcoming Zelo Pro Texas Show on Friday April 1st in Fort Worth, Texas. What should wrestling fans look forward to for that show?
VC: I’m super, super stoked for that show it’s going to be the first show I work this year of WrestleMania week which for me is really exciting. I just saw a tag match that was announced that is two of Wisconsin’s finest teams duking it out in the state of Texas which is kind of crazy but awesome, and that’s what I love about Mania week is that you get bizarre matchups like that. So it’s Country Air taking on Big John Crowley and Swoggle, so that’s going to be awesome. We have Warhorse and Shazza McKenzie. I believe, if it hasn’t been officially announced I guess I’m leaking it, GPA and Laynie Luck, our hashtag power couple, and they’re going to be taking on a couple that I love so much in Victor Benjamin and Lady Frost. I’m so stoked to see the two of them put this quote unquote power couple on ice because GPA and Laynie need to chill a bit if you know what I mean! I can’t think of a better duo to do it then Benjamin and Lady Frost. Chelsea Green is on the show, taking on Rachel Ellering, and I love Chelsea but Rachel Ellering is absolutely one of my favorites I’ve gotten the pleasure to work with. She’s just a good human all-around and a badass in the ring, and I love that she’s introducing the world to the art of Strong Smile, because she’ll whup your ass, but she’ll do it with a smile and you got to love that.
JK: Another special show you’ve worked Effy’s Big Gay Bruch. What was that experience like?
Yep, working both jobs today…but THIS makes it totally worthwhile. So stoked that my @GayRasslin fans came in today! Can’t wait to use these every & anywhere, especially @EFFYlives Big Gay Brunch in TX! pic.twitter.com/uZg0oV5OpF
— val capone: she/her (@valcapone) February 19, 2022
VC: Working with Effy as you can imagine is a really good time. Working with him is special because he finds what people are good at and helps them shine. They might not be the biggest name out there, but they will be after they work with Effy, because Effy loves to put the spotlight on everyone not just themselves. So I got asked to do it, and I was blown away. I had worked with Effy for years here at Freelance, and the first Big Gay Brunch was supposed to be in Tampa, but it got postponed because of the pandamarama (COVID-19 pandemic), so I got lucky enough to work the makeup date in October of 2020, and Effy had the faith in me to make me a co-host aka ring-announcer with my bro J-Rose, he’s amazing J-Rose is fantastic, and it was so special to me. As a bisexual woman it’s very important to see the representation because there are so many people that don’t feel comfortable in the world just trying to be who they are, but wrestling is and always should be a safe space for all walks of life, regardless of who you love, what your skin color is, how your identify gender-wise, religion-wise, none of that should matter as long as you love wrestling here I am with open arms trying to high-five you if you want that and if you don’t that’s okay too. So it’s been a treat and I got to do Effy’s Big Gay Brunch in Tampa when we finally got to run Tampa during The Collective Remix, and now I get to do Big Gay Brunch in Texas and I’m soooo excited.
JK: Who are your female inspirations in the world of wrestling?
VC: I gotta say of course Chyna, I mean I have multiple pictures of her throughout my place so whenever I’m having a rough day I can stay motivated and my head on straight and heart in the right place. I really love and respect the work of Charlotte Flair. I think because of the heavy weight that comes along with her family members she’s had a lot of weight to bear and people claim the only reason she get XY and Z is because of her lineage, but I like to think that maybe the door got cracked but she kicked it wide open and she is fantastic in the ring. I really love and admire Kylie Rae, she’s gone through some stuff and she’s done it with a smile, and it’s not always easy to put that smile on, but watching her in the ring is truly inspiring. Also Kimber Lee is an inspiration to me in a lot of ways. She also has Crohn’s disease, and I battle with it same as Big Swole so seeing the two of them just be badasses in the ring is just so important. Thunder Rosa is a great example of somebody who says: you say I can’t do something, screw you I’m going to do it and kick your face in while I do. The list goes on and on and on, there’s so many women in wrestling that inspire me on a daily basis. Oh! Dark Shiek, oh my gosh literally she is one of my ultimate favorites, and I’ve had the pleasure of working with her numerous times because of Effy’s Big Gay Brunch and her bout with Edith Surreal at The Collective 2020 maybe one of my favorite ring-announcing spots that I’ve personally had. I could go on for days about all the inspirational women in wrestling. Shazza McKenzie, she basically put her entire life on hold, threw everything she had at taking a chance on taking a chance on herself, because if you don’t nobody else will, and she basically got stuck here in America because of the pandamarama shutting everything down, and she’s from Australia and she’s waited two years to come to American soil. So just like perseverance and dedication and never giving up, that’s what’s important to me, and that’s what I take from all the women that I’ve named.
JK: What characteristics make a great ring announcer?
VC: So for me, I’m kind of a spaz and can’t always put a cork on it, which I don’t know if that’s great or not, but when I listen to Kirby, who I think is a great ring-announcer, and Rich Palladino, and J-Rose I see how much fun they’re having. All three of them all have a very different style, but they’re all very professional and each and every one of them have more fun than anyone else in the entire building, so that’s what I strive for: to be a facilitator of fun. That’s what I think my job is. I don’t know what makes for good ring-announcing except when I hear it, but having a good voice sure doesn’t hurt, so I hope I got one of those.
JK: Who are some wrestlers that you love doing the introduction for and who are some that you’d love to do in the future?
VC: If I could ever get the opportunity to say Charlotte or Ashley Flair into a microphone that would be one. Dark Shiek is one of my favorite people to ring intro. I love doing Effy, it’s so dramatic and beautiful. There’s so many good ones, I’m so fortunate like anytime I get to say Thunder Rosa into a microphone I’m like: is it my birthday today? It’s such a gift. Ninja Mack gets me so stoked because I know he’s going to put on an obscenely insane performance. Jordan Oliver ohhhh so good. Like there’s so many fantastic wrestlers out there and it’s such a pleasure that I get to announce for them. I really am a lady-mark at heart and I don’t think that’s a bad word, I think it’s cool to love what you do and it’s surreal that this is what I get to do for at least part of my income.
JK: Has there ever been a time that you forgot a piece of information while ring announcing?
VC: Oh yeah, 2000%. I played roller derby for 15 years, I’ve had more concussions than I haven’t, that’s why I don’t wrestle. I just did it the other day, instead of say Lil Rascalz I said Young Rascalz because I just heard someone say Young Goat about Bryon Reed, excuse me Myron Reed, see look there you go, I mean it happens you know.
I personally utilize note cards, I hope that I don’t ever need them on the spot, but I have them just in case because I think it’s a disservice to the performers and competitors that I don’t remember their spiel just because I want not to have notecards. I would rather not have notecards but unfortunately I’ve had a lot of concussions so better safe then sorry.
JK: I heard you on Toilet-Side Wrestling Podcast say that you have permission from the Capone family to use the name. How did that come about?
VC: We’ll it’s a really long story, and I’m not going to get into details, but more or less the great-granddaughter of Al Capone was very appreciative and said the family is very appreciative that I’m putting a positive spin on the family name because of roller derby we do a lot of charity work. So I’ve been given a blessing I guess from the Capone which is very comforting and I think it’s very important to pay homage to your city’s history and I’m born and raised Chicagoan so obviously the Capone name has a lot to do with the history of the greatest city on Earth.
JK: Growing up both your parents were rock roadies. What is the craziest story they ever told you about their time?
VC: Oh that I can’t talk about (laughs loudly).
JK: Is that still your favorite type of music?
VC: I have a boom box on the inside of my right bicep, because I love all genres of music. I think music is far too good to limit yourself to one genre. I do have a pension for heavy metal, punk rock, hip-hop, and pop music but I do love country, I do love dancehall, I love ska music I might be one of the only people other than Sami Zayn that admits to liking ska music. I like everything, but the only type of music I don’t care for is if I need liner notes to know what your message is because I can’t decipher your lyrics. I don’t mind screaming, Iron Maiden one of the greatest bands of all-time, some people don’t understand why I love them but it’s more melodic than screaming I don’t know.
JK: I saw a picture of you with a tattoo of a sharpie holding a sharpie on your hand, what’s the meaning of that tattoo?
VC: We’ll you should never be without one so I never am.
JK: Another job you’ve had is beer vendor for the Cubs. What’s your favorite Cubs memory?
VC: I’ve been a beer vendor for the Cubs, I want to say this will be my sixteenth season. My favorite memory would be working every single game of the 2016 World Series, but also getting to attend them all as a fan. I can’t even believe that I get paid to watch baseball at the ballpark I grew up across the street from. I’m also a season ticket holder because I’m such an idiot I love the Cubs so much, I’m so dumb, so dumb for the Cubs. That’s one of my many tattoos is a Cubs logo.
JK: You also have your own Pro Wrestling Tees shirt and work as their store manager. What are you excited about for the future of PWT?
VC It’s kind of hard to say because I was the manager of the retail store and we decided to close the retail store to keep up with the online orders, which is a wonderful problem to have, but it is really sad because I really loved getting to connect with individuals that would come into the store. As a lady-mark it meant a lot to me to have fun with the fans and the people that are buying, whether it’d be that they are marks or lady-marks themselves or just a casual fan, or somebody buying a present for somebody else, I really took a lot of pride in that role. So now I’m shifting over to our embroidery department, which is wonderful. So any hats, fanny packs, backpacks, overnight bags, polos, things like that. It’s cool to see our work all over the place, and I know we might not be everyone’s cup of tea but I really love what I get to do and the fact that I have health insurance that quite literally saved my life because of Pro Wrestling Tees is something I’m quite grateful for. And a 401k, I mean that’s insane, that I can build a retirement plan off of wrestling tee shirts.
JK: Another job you have held is a vaccine coordinator in California. Why is that something that you wanted to do?
VC: Because I wanted to get back to living life and not just talking about it. I am a full supporter of vaccinations, I unfortunately came down with COVID over New Years and I am suffering from long-haul symptoms. I’m going in for a cat-scan next week, I’ve already had one on my lungs and they can’t figure out why I can’t breathe anymore. But I think it’s really important to give yourself a shot at living, and since I used to manage music festivals’ bar operations, it was an easy way to translate the skillset that I have to help get the country and the world back to life.
JK: Your start was in the roller derby scene both as a player and commentator. How is roller derby similar or different than wrestling and why should wrestling fans check it out?
Val Capone: Oh absolutely, the athletic side of it of course. I like to say that wrestling is athletic theater and sports entertainment and roller derby is most definitely an entertaining sport. The only thing that’s gimmicked in roller derby is some of the names on the back of our jerseys, and that’s just to keep our private lives private. What I would recommend if someone wants to get involved either as a fan or a participant is wherever you live just google and find out if there’s roller derby near you.
JK: One of the things you were able to do during your roller derby career was as a coach for a men’s National competition in Paris?
VC: No actually in Paris I was playing, and I got MVP in that game which was one of my career highlights, but I was one of the assistant coaches for USA Men’s Roller Derby at the Men’s World Cup, so I’m a gold medal coach that’s kinda surreal. I’m very much a supporter of feminism and I believe in equality, and so why would I not want to support the men and boys that supported us women getting roller derby off the ground when it had unfortunately taken a multi-decade siesta. So I am a supporter of men’s roller derby just as I am of women’s.
JK: So I’m a huge I’m movie fan, I’ve watch 600 (currently at 616) new movies in a row. I saw in a Chicago Tribune article that you worked on the roller derby movie Whip It?
VC: I was an advisor to help them find stunt doubles and perform the skating, so there were a handful of skaters that I got asked about and I was like hell yeah they’re awesome. I actually got to sing the seventh inning stretch at Wrigley Field with Drew Barrymore because of that.
JK: Do you have a favorite sports movie?
Val Capone: I want to say Wildcats. It’s about football, and when you see it at the end they do a rap. Funny enough it’s about a female coach of male sports. Yeah Wildcats with Goldie Hawn. A League Of Their Own, I’ve never not cried.
JK: What is your favorite Disneyland and Disney-world ride?
VC: Disneyland is easy because I’m going to go with Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, because that is no longer, and I would have signed up for protests. So yeah Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride was always a must-ride at Disneyland and at Disney-world definitely Haunted Mansion 100%.
JK: You’re the manager of an all Disney wrestling faction. Who do you want on your team?
Val Capone: Definitely Tiana because she’s a badass who works her ass off. Mulan, I mean duh. Tinker Bell, she’s got the right amount of stubbornness and glam and glitz. Ummmmmm
JK: One more. You got to have the Horsewomen of Disney.
VC: The Four Horsewomen of Disney. Well shit not Ariel because she can sing but. Oh jeez this is hard. This is really hard! Questions never stump me. Penelope Von Schweetz! Because she knows how to f***ing compete and have good time. Oh I didn’t mean to swear sorry about that.
JK: Well thank you…
VC: Vanellope von Schweetz. I said Penelope. Oy vey. This is why I carry notecards.