Pierzynski makes pro wrestling debut

Pierzynski tries pro wrestling

ORLANDO -- Approximately two hours prior to A.J. Pierzynski's pro wrestling debut Sunday night on a production lot soundstage at Universal Studios, Chris Widger succinctly summed up what anyone who previously knew Pierzynski already understood.

The controversial White Sox starting catcher might have missed out on his true calling by not being part of this particular entertainment form sooner.

"This is perfect for A.J. because wrestling is all about controversy, and he won't even get in trouble for this," said Widger, one of a handful of baseball players on hand to support Pierzynski on Sunday. "People actually love him for doing this. It's a perfect situation."

Pierzynski actually was scheduled to be the co-manager, with Bobby "The Brain" Heenan, in a six-man tag match featured on TNA Wrestling's pay-per-view event. Pierzynski was supporting the fan-favorite trio of Dale Torborg, Chris Sabin and Sonjay Dutt against the heels known as the "Diamonds in the Rough."

Torborg, the White Sox Minor League conditioning coordinator, who also spent time with the World Series champions during the 2005 campaign, previously competed professionally for the now defunct World Championship Wrestling. Torborg's character was known as "The Demon," the moniker with which most White Sox players referred to Torborg during the course of the year.

It was Torborg, along with TNA broadcaster Mike Tenay, who put together this storyline when Tenay heard an announcer on ESPN refer to Pierzynski as "the phenomenal A.J. Pierzynski" in a highlight during the playoffs. A.J. Styles, one of TNA's top performers, also uses the "phenomenal" nickname, so it seemed only natural to have the two exchange gifts from their respective organizations during a recent television taping.

Chaos ensued, as often happens in pro wrestling or in many innocent situations involving Pierzynski, leading to Sunday's setup. There was Pierzynski, walking into the ring with his team, wearing his White Sox jersey and carrying a baseball bat. Wrestling's newest celebrity missed the sign in the crowd stating, "Hey, Pierzynski. The ball never bounced," referring to his now historic non-out in the bottom of the ninth of Game 2 of the American League Championship Series.

But Pierzynski did notice all the White Sox shirts and hats in the crowd of 800, as he peered out from behind his intense case of jitters.

"I was nervous. I'm not going to lie," said Pierzynski with a smile. "This is their life. I don't want to come in as an outsider and mess it up.

"At some point, it would be like these guys going out and trying to play baseball. I was a lot more nervous than I was in the World Series because I was outside my comfort zone. I just wanted to do the best job I could."

Pierzynski achieved his goal. With Widger, White Sox center fielder-to-be Brian Anderson and Minor League third baseman Josh Fields looking on in the front row, Pierzynski spent four or five minutes moving around outside the ring and cheering on his team. He also prevented Simon Diamond and his colleagues from running back to the dressing room by threatening to use his bat in a somewhat unflattering manner.

When the match's outcome finally played out, though, there was Pierzynski right in the thick of the action. After Diamond apparently knocked out Torborg by hitting him with a catcher's shin guard, it was Pierzynski who grabbed the referee's leg and yanked him out of the ring before he could complete his three-count.

Shortly thereafter, Pierzynski jumped into the ring with a base that would be a little too sturdy to be found on a baseball field, got Diamond's attention and cracked him over the head. The base was handed to Pierzynski by none other than Johnny Damon.

Yes, it would be tough to make up this stuff, unless it was scripted beforehand. But Pierzynski's friend and former schoolmate at Dr. Phillips High School in Orlando had a hand in Pierzynski's trio getting the cover and the victory.

The night went off without a hitch. A star was born, and a beaming Pierzynski looked as if he had just launched the game-winning home run during the seventh game of the World Series after the fact.

"Being on the Oprah [Winfrey] Show probably has to be No. 1 because it's Oprah, but this isn't far behind, I'll tell you that," said Pierzynski of his pro wrestling appearance. "It's pretty cool because I was a wrestling fan growing up. How could I say no to getting a chance to get in the ring?"

"He was incredible," added Torborg, who plans to venture into the ring only on special occasions. "I think A.J. missed his calling as a wrestler. I couldn't be any prouder of him. He took to this like a fish to water. It was awesome."

Jeff Torborg, Dale's father and the former White Sox manager, and both Pierzynski's mother and father were ringside for Sunday night's exciting action. The biggest concern for Pierzynski was hitting Simon Diamond as hard as he could with the base, as he was instructed to do beforehand.

The biggest concern for Torborg was to make sure the White Sox franchise catcher left the show unscathed. Torborg joked that if Pierzynski suffered any serious injury, he simply would need to look at general manager Ken Williams' phone number on his Caller ID to know he was looking for a new job.

Torborg mentioned hopes of getting Williams to join in someday or maybe even manager Ozzie Guillen. Pierzynski enjoyed his manager's role so much that the White Sox might have to include a rare pro wrestling clause in his next contract.

"Hell, yeah, I would love to do this again," Pierzynski said. "Maybe next time, I can actually get in the ring if the White sox would let me."

"I think he's an unbelievable baseball player," added Torborg of Pierzynski. "But he could have done equally well or better in this sport."

Pierzynski's appearance helped increase TNA Wrestling's national profile. His managerial debut also showed a Major League Baseball player who is enjoying life, having found a home for the defending World Series champions.

Even barbs from the "Diamond Exchange" concerning Pierzynski's .257 average this past season couldn't raise the catcher's dander.

"I knew A.J. wanted to do this, and I knew this was going to be on TV," Widger said. "If A.J. was doing it, they were going to get some press out of it. Plus, we know A.J. just hates the attention."

Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.