Long before the wrestling world would get to know the Cornbelt Cowboy, ‘1 Called Manders’ was just Steve Manders, a high school kid from Maryland, and sure, he did wrestle 2 years in high school but he was mainly known as a star on the gridiron. Manders, who had grown up idolizing the stars of the Attitude Era, was an avid wrestling fan but at this point in time was putting it into ‘First Gear’ on the football field.
After an excellent season, and being named first team all-state as a senior, Manders would parlay his on-field success into a chance to walk on at Iowa, and earning a spot on the team, first playing linebacker before switching to play Fullback. On the practice field and the locker room his fandom came out often dropping Ric Flair quotes and getting his teammates fired up. Love of football and wrestling caught the eye of a fellow Hawkeye and major wrestling fanatic, current San Fransisco 49er George Kittle.
“In 2015 I believe Is when it really became a thing with me and George on loving wrestling. We both loved it as kids. After workouts in the mornings I would always go to his house and kick it. When the WWE network became a thing around then and the cruiserweight Classic. We would watch old matches with guys like Sting, Austin, the Rock. The more and more we did that the more and more came with watching Raw and ROH and Japanese wrestling. Rest is history.”
It was at the University of Iowa where Manders would have a career altering conversation with another mega star of his own profession, and former Iowa Hawkeye WWE Superstar Big E. Blown away by his humble attitude and down to earth Big E was, the two became acquainted, and with the knowledge that Manders had some interest in wrestling himself, Big E made a suggestion to Manders to check out the nearby Black & Brave Wrestling Academy, which is owned and operated by Seth Rollins and lets just say the rest was history
Manders on Big E being the spark that helped start his career:
“Me and Big E are super close. Without him I never would of been a wrestler. Literally. If I would of never came into that Iowa football facility that day and into the weight room there probably wouldn’t be a Manders in pro wrestling. He means so much to me and it doesn’t matter how long I haven’t talked to him or what hour of the night or day…he always responds and gives every ounce of his being into talking to me and everyone else and that’s something as a human being you strive to be like. He’s a major influence and I can’t thank him enough.”
Admittedly, Manders has said the in first few weeks at the academy, the trainers weren’t necessarily taking it easy on the newcomers, as they wanted to find out who had what it took to really become a wrestler. Despite the grueling pace of training, he said that he knew right away THIS was for him and fit his blue collar Cowboy way of thinking. At the end of his senior year, after football season ended, he balanced his final classes and exams with hours of wrestling training, driving an hour back and forth to make it work. Upon graduation he put 100% of his focus into The Black And Brave Academy and making it in the world of independent wrestling. Manders credits all of his trainers for getting the best out of their students and pushing them to not just settle for good.
Manders on The Black and Brave Wrestling Academy:
“Learning under Seth Rollins is a great experience. You talk about a guy who’s at the highest level of wrestling. Basically has done it all. To have that in your left pocket is special. Also, a guy like Marek Brave who knows a lot about wrestling and cares and wants you to do the best of your abilities is awesome to have as well. Krotch is also another good one as well. Because with all of them…they always seek out what you can do better instead of some people saying ah man that’s good. They always want you to try better and harder.”
And get better he did, just 3 years later due to hard work and dedication, Manders has made the transformation from his small promotions and local shows in Iowa sharpening his skills, to becoming a major player in the independent scene. In 2019 ‘1 Called Manders’ continued his rise by competing in big time matches for some of the hottest companies on the indies such as Beyond, Southern Underground Pro, BLP, AIW and Game Changer Wrestling. It was at these high profile shows that he’d form bonds and friendships with a group of likeminded wrestlers that developed into the increasingly popular group on the indies Second Gear Crew (SGW)
Manders on SGC:
“The SGC (Second Gear Crew) was started at a GCW show in LA. It was Mance Warner, Matthew Justice, and Eddie Kingston all just sitting there before the show talking like us boys do. Eddie was making fun of Mance and then it just started and got stuck.
The intentions of the group wasn’t to start a faction in wrestling and be “cool”. It’s just before and after shows we all hangout with one another. We’re all actual boys and friends in real life. Guys like Mance, Effy, AJ, Justice, Eddie, Fonzie, and me all are boys and do anything for one another. After awhile people just started noticing and we just run with it.”
What matches thus far in your independent wrestling career best showcase who you are as a wrestler:
“There’s a lot of matches I feel that way with. To name a few that come to mind…there’s a match with me and Ben Carter at SCW for the SCW championship. It’s on YouTube. It’s a match where I show my power and also my athleticism. Me vs Nick Gage at AIW “Baby It’s Cold Outside” where I showed going the levels with Nick Gage. Me vs Curt Stallion at SCI Tank Throwdown show. I’d also say Me vs Tony Deppen at Beyond’s Uncharted Territory S2 E2 & Actions XMas show as well.”
2020 began with an unexpected halt that hit independent wrestlers hard by derailing most planned matches and events scheduled for the late winter and early spring. As summer began to roll around and shows were making their comeback, Manders would be heavily featured and showcased across the country seemingly picking up where he left off in March without missing a beat in the ring. A prime example of this came on July 26th in Atlantic City,where Manders pulled double duty alongside his SGC teammates for both Beyond & GCW to wrestle in a 6 man, and an 8 man tag match respectively. Despite the hot start out of quarantine, and to no ones surprise that knows the attitude and work ethic of Steve Manders, he’s not quite satisfied to this point with his 2020 resume, and is continuing to “Make The Towns”, as per his motto.
When asked who’s next for Manders to wrestle going forward in 2020 and into 2021 he had this to say:
“I’ve gotten to wrestle some big names in my short time in wrestling but I guess for me there’s still a couple..I think me and Mance(Warner)would be awesome. Even though we’re boys,but still. Sekimoto is guy who I look up too in Japanese wrestling would be awesome. Especially if possible to wrestle him at a GCW Japan tour. Another guys would be (Calvin)Tankman. Now me and Tankman have gone toe to toe a lot but I just think me and him in our careers right now would be sooo awesome.”
“I think two other guys who you wouldn’t expect would be Lee Moriarty and Alex Shelley. Guys with that grapple style and a style you don’t see me much doing. It’s a style I really love and I don’t really get to showcase,and that would be something to see I think. I think too Eric Stevens and Josh Alexander. Two guys who are hard hitting and can really go would be awesome too. Guys that I look up too and hope to be one day”
Looking into possible future matchups who are some names in WWE,AEW & NJPW you’d love to face down the line?
“It be weird if I didn’t say Seth Rollins,ofcourse. since he is my trainer.”
“Another one would be Tommaso Ciampa, just because of what I’ve seen him do for our business and his ruthless aggression he brings.”
“It would be hard if I didn’t say Hangman Page ofcourse. Literally two cowboys in a Show-Down-Throwdown would be awesome.”
“Another would also be Will Hobbs and Wardlow. Two hosses and going toe to toe would be sweet. Funny…was suppose to wrestle Wardlow at an AIW event, but then he got signed.”
Suzuki and Ishii would be insane. Just two guys with so much history and are both rugged and tough. That’s the kinda guy I am and that be so awesome. So many in new japan. One of my favorites to watch.”
All signs are pointing to 2021 as The Year Of The Cowboy, for now, be sure to catch ‘1 Called Manders’ showcasing what makes him one of the hottest independent wrestlers in the world while wrestling on 5 different shows & matches at The Collective, a 12 show event spanning over 3 days in Indianapolis October 9-11th.