John Masiulionis, by his own admission, was obsessed with wrestling.
Creator of the popular Internet-based “Monday Night Mayhem” show, Masiulionis, better known by his “Big Mosh” handle, had long ago crossed the invisible line that separated reality from fantasy.
Since early childhood, pro wrestling had provided the New York native with an outlet. It had even been an escape.
Only recently did Masiulionis come to the life-changing realization that reality, as he had known it, was taking him down an unfulfilling path.
Masiulionis says he had an “epiphany” when he discovered that his life, indeed, reflected the title of his popular wrestling podcast.
“My whole life was mayhem. It was stress, anxiety, chaos. I discovered there was no need for that anymore.”
Masiulionis also made the difficult — but necessary — decision to bid farewell to his critically acclaimed 12-year-old show. The program, which he started as a broadcasting major at Buffalo State College, had produced thousands of hours of wrestling-related entertainment along with hundreds of guests.
But, like a wrestler who knows when it’s time to lace up the boots for the final time, the 32-year-old Masiulionis knew it was time to wrap up the show.
“The show had a great run. Twelve years of doing anything in the wrestling industry — in any way, shape or form — is pretty long.”
The final show is scheduled for Dec. 13.
While one show ends, another one is beginning for the affable Masiulionis, who is changing gears with a weekly health and wellness program called “Soul Luminous Radio.”
The show, says Masiulionis, will reflect his new and improved outlook.
“I realized I was placed on this earth to help people. If people have gone through similar things, I want to tell them there is a way out.”
While he makes it clear that he still loves pro wrestling, he simply realized that, on a grander scale, there’s more important things.
“Wrestling is a small component of life, but for a lot of us, it was our lives. Monday Night Mayhem was the greatest life lesson that I ever had. It basically taught me what life was about.
“It’s not about the mayhem. It’s not about the wrestling. It’s about the people. It’s about the memories. It’s what you do and make with your life.”
New game plan
Masiulionis had his own personal reasons — emotional and physical — for ending the show.
Health problems began to surface two years ago when he found himself out of work for eight months on short-term disability.
Doctors were puzzled. An endocrinologist thought he might have Pituitary Cushing’s disease.
“I really didn’t know what was going on. I had a myriad of symptoms,” he says. “My stress hormones were off the chart. It was emotional that was triggering physical.”
Fortunately, he says, a number of pivotal people began to enter his life, and he soon developed a new game plan.
“Emily Pogany, who did PR work for The Hardy Show at the time, had experienced some similar things. She’s the person that I give credit for truly saving my life. In my darkest times, when I thought I had Pituitary Cushing’s and didn’t know what was going on, she assured me that I was going to get through this.”
She forwarded Masiulionis on to North Carolina-based intuitive healer Jennifer Norton.
“She also began to change my life at that point,” he says.
Masiulionis, who at one time weighed nearly 300 pounds, began a gluten-free, dairy-free diet. He also began doing DDP Yoya.
“Back in 2005 when I met him (Diamond Dallas Page) at a wrestling reunion show, he was already starting to sell me on the yoga.”
“Listen, Mosh, you gotta get yourself in shape,” Page told Masiulionis, who is now down to 185 pounds.
“I stayed in touch with him over the years, and the first actual exercise I did last spring was DDP Yoga. It made such a difference.”
“Everything started to get better,” says Masiulionis, who admits that there were still some lingering emotional issues that had to be confronted.
“I had a little bit of a setback, because I was still holding a lot of guilt and bad emotions from the past.”
Enter Joanie Eisinger, a channeler out of New Jersey, who had gone through a similar health journey. “I realized that a lot of this was having to retrain and reset my brain because my brain was going at warped speed all the time,” he says.
Masiulionis is now working with Michelle Rober, a New Hampshire-based health, wellness and life coach.
“She completely changed my life. She’s going to be doing some stuff nationally with me. We’re going to be starting a show called ‘Soul Luminous Radio’ in January. The sole principle of that is that there’s tons of people out there that find ways to let their light shine from within out to the rest of the world and inspire people. I realized that’s why I’m here ... to help people.”
Masiulionis is excited about what lies ahead.
“I have an attitude of appreciation and gratitude. I never had that before. It was all on the surface.”
Masiulionis says the show will include everyone from authors and athletes to pastors and even wrestlers. DDP, he says, will be among his first guests.
“Wrestling will be a small component, but it will be wrestling from the aspect of how wrestlers give back to others and how they inspire others. It’s going to resonate so much more on a greater level when it comes to helping people.”
Mosh and Mayhem
Masiulionis started his wrestling show in 2002 while he was attending Buffalo State. He presided over the show at one of the longest-running college stations in the country.
The show was originally titled “Big Mosh’s Monday Night Mayhem.”
Masiulionis was given the name by his high school gym teacher at St. Mary's High School in Lancaster, N.Y., the oldest parochial high school in the country.
“My gym teacher couldn’t promote my last name, so he called me ‘Mosh.’ And because I was bigger at that point, he called me ‘The Big Mosh.’”
The original format was only 30 minutes, with “Big Mosh” talking about wrestling in general. It took Masiulionis nearly six months to land the show’s first guest.
“This was before Facebook, before Twitter, before MySpace,” he says.
Ring of Honor and TNA started the same year, though, and business began to pick up in the wrestling radio world.
“A lot of cool things happened in 2002,” he says. “The show began to attract more name guests.”
Two years later, after building a respectable following, Masiulionis moved the show to the Internet with several sponsors in tow.
At first, though, Masiulionis had to make a weekly hour drive every Monday night — sometimes through “very horrendous Buffalo weather” —to a location in Arcade, N.Y., where the show initially was recorded.
“We were really starting to get some play. People were starting to come on the show at that point.”
MNM continued to pick up momentum until it became one of the most respected wrestling-based shows on the Internet.
And it wasn’t just independent or recently released WWE talent who would be featured on the show. Mainstream performers such as Bret Hart, Chris Jericho, Bill Goldberg and Eric Bischoff routinely appeared on MNM. Masiulionis proudly points to a show that featured Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair and Dixie Carter.
Some of his favorite guests have included D’Von Dudley, Brian Nobbs, Matt Morgan, Chavo Guerrero, Diamond Dallas Page and Mike Tenay.
“Not one specific guest stands out — I guess that’s just the result of doing years and years worth of shows,” he says.
Sometimes, he notes, mainstream artists outside the wrestling business would join the show such as NFL great Jim Kelly, New York Yankees outfielder Curtis Granderson, Billy Corrgan of The Smashing Pumpkins, TV host Nancy O’Dell, “Saved By the Bell” actor Dennis Haskins and stand-up comedian Greg Fitsimmons.
MNM also was one of the first shows to feature dedicated pay-per-view preview and recap correspondents such as former WCW broadcaster Scott Hudson and former ECW referee Jim Molineaux.
“One of the best shows we did from a live remote was at Scott Hudson’s house in Atlanta on Wrestlemania Sunday in Atlanta. He opened his palatial estate to us, and we did a two-hour live remote at his house. Brian Shields, author of the WWE Encyclopedia, came over and we had a great show. That was some of the most fun that I’ve ever had.”
Todd Espinosa, MNM co-host, says doing the show was “a blast.”
“It was a (heck) of a ride full of twists and turns, but we always had fun on-air (especially during our WWE PPV previews with Scott Hudson and Jim Molineaux), and I always learned something from listening to our guests. I thank John for asking me to be an on-air contributor.”
After a while, says Masiulionis, the show became his solace — his drug of choice.
He uses the words of Shakespeare to describe his relationship with wrestling.
“It’s sort of like what Juliet says in ‘Romeo and Juliet:’ ‘My only love was sprung from my only hate.’ I didn’t hate the show, but it was causing a lot of stress.”
Masiulionis, though, admits the problems began much earlier.
“One of the reasons why I had gravitated toward wrestling as a kid was that it was fantasy land. I loved my mom, my dad and my sister, but it was a very difficult family dynamic growing up. So I gravitated to something that was, for lack of a better term, pre-determined.
When Monday Night Mayhem came into the mix, I made that my reality. I sort of led the life of where Mosh was just a nickname, but it evolved to where Mosh was taking care of John on the surface. I don’t want to say that I was wasting it on the wrestling industry, but I didn’t get the big picture.
“My entire life I was molded and shaped to follow what other’s people vision of me was. It was about pleasing other people and making sure everyone else was OK. But in the long run, I really lost touch with my own emotional self.
“This has been a spiritual journey. There has been a religious component, but it’s been more about finding my true self. Now I know what a lot of the guys in the industry go through to a certain extent when they make wrestling their life. If you make one thing your entire life, it will do damage to you. I’m so blessed and so fortunate to finally be able to get the big picture.”
Masiulionis credits the folks at the Wrestleview website and radio network with helping him keep the show alive.
“When I was off the show for eight months going through my health issues, the original plan was to transition the show into a podcast because people were listening at their own leisure. Adam Martin, who was the editor-in-chief at Wrestleview, is one of the smartest and most talented guys in the online wrestling scene. The guys gave us an opportunity that was very much appreciated.”
As much as he loved wrestling, he says, the potential for his new venture is limitless.
“The show (MNM) resonated with so many people. I invested thousands of dollars of my own money into something I won’t receive back. I made the decision to end something that was the toughest decision in my life. Now I’m starting to realize my true potential, and I can give my all to something that’s going to be my livelihood. Imagine the possibilities.”
The process begins, he says, by acknowledging that the body, mind and spirit are inextricably intertwined.
“A lot of it is mental. There’s something to the yoga and meditation. If you’re not comfortable in your own skin, you’re going to be the kind of person that projects out to other people. You wonder why people pick on people. Because they have their own insecurities inside. Why do people gravitate toward drugs and alcohol? Because they have all these emotional things inside. I’m a firm believer that every disease or illness, for the most part, is a result of emotions. You can heal your life with emotions like love and acceptance and gratitude.”
Masiulionis is leaving MNM with mixed emotions.
“It’s actually ending on my own terms, which is really what I wanted from the beginning,” he says. “Even though we’re calling this the Mayhem Farewell Tour, it’s not like I’m going anywhere. I’m just going on to bigger and better things.”
Todd Espinosa, the show’s co-host, hints that fans may not have seen the last of MNM.
“I believe the show is ending a bit prematurely as the rest of us still have gas left in the tank and want to continue,” he says. “While nothing is confirmed as of yet, there is a strong possibility that I (and possibly some of the other MNM contributors) will carry on a piece of the MNM legacy with a spin-off show in 2014.”
Masiulionis says he’d like to think that the show made a difference.
“I never would have thought in a million years that someone would have cared about my thoughts about anything in life. I was a wrestling fan first, but I always classified myself as a journalist of sorts. We had to break the walls down. We had the stigma of being an Internet wrestling radio show. For years we were like a red-headed stepchild. But we kept kicking the doors down.
“Everybody who’s anyone in the business has either listened to MNM, been on the show or had a friend who did. You’ve definitely heard of the show in some shape or form. The legacy of the show is the impact that we made on the wrestling community. It might have been a small blip on the screen in the long-term scheme of things. We were there when TNA and ROH started. We actually grew up with guys like C.M. Punk and Daniel Bryan.”
Masiulionis says he just hopes fans had a good time following the show.
“It’s been a journey, and as strange as this sounds, I would not change a thing. It was a great show. The people loved it. But at the end of the day, it’s not the Mayhem that I’m going to remember. It’s the memories. They will live with me until the day that I die.”
Check out MondayNightMayhem.com for previous shows.
Reach Mike Mooneyham at 843-937-5517 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him on Twitter at @ByMike Mooneyham and on Facebook at Facebook.com/MikeMooneyham.