Skull Master to Grill Master

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 14, 2006

&uot;You can go north, south, east, or west, ’cause you’re foolin’ with nobody but the best!&uot;

Pete Hayes may remember walking out to the ring for his very first wrestling match at the Ozark Civic Center in 1979, but he doesn’t remember anything else about it until after it was over.

&uot;I got out there, and I just went blank,&uot; he said. &uot;I lost my first match, but I was just happy to be in that ring.&uot;

It becomes quickly obvious to anyone who talks with the &uot;It Don’t Matter&uot; Restaurant owner that he loves wrestling.

&uot;I had always wanted to be in wrestling,&uot; he said.

Hayes attended Highland Home School until his tenth grade year, and then he transferred to and graduated from Greenville Academy in 1979. During his high school career, he played football and received awards and recognition for having the most gains in yardage in rushing.

&uot;That was unusual for a fullback,&uot; Hayes said, proudly.

After graduation, Hayes said that he was looking in a Bulletin Board magazine and saw an advertisement for a wrestling school in Montgomery. Hayes paid up front for the lessons, but he was told that if he got hurt, he would have to start the lessons over and pay for them again.

&uot;These were con guys,&uot; he said. &uot;They tried to hurt me and the other guys who were there to learn how to wrestle.&uot;

Soon after starting the wrestling school, Hayes was approached by Jimmy Jones, Burrhead Jones and Johnny Devilla who told him that the con guys were purposely trying to hurt him.

&uot;I didn’t know any better at that time,&uot; he said. &uot;They met with me and told me that those guys had me landing the wrong way and that I was going to get hurt, so I asked them to help me, and they did. I watched them and learned from them.&uot;

Hayes began wrestling every weekend in what he called &uot;small house shows,&uot; where anywhere from 100 to 150 people would attend.

After six months of doing the small house shows, Hayes got in contact with Southeastern Championship Wrestling, which was shown on Channel 4 out of Dothan every Saturday at 5 p.m.

&uot;I started doing TV for them,&uot; he said. &uot;They’d let about 35 or 40 people into the studio for free for the TV taping. After I finished with that, I would wrestle that same night at the Houston County Farm Center.&uot;

But, then, something even bigger happened to Hayes.

&uot;I was at a friend’s house in Montgomery, and he had cable TV,&uot; he said. &uot;That was the first time I saw wrestling out of Atlanta.&uot;

Hayes had his wife Liz to take a picture of him and send it to Atlanta, where he soon received an invitation.

&uot;In Atlanta, we would start taping at 9:00 on Saturday mornings and do a two-hour taping,&uot; he said. &uot;Then, the show would come on TV that night. I would leave Atlanta right after the taping and meet up with Burrhead and Jimmy Jones and do a small house show that same night.&uot;

&uot;It was a lot of driving,&uot; he said.

Hayes was soon asked to go to Chattanooga, Tenn., and wrestle for the &uot;big house shows.&uot;

&uot;You would walk out, and there’d be anywhere from 5,000 to 7,000 people in the audience.&uot;

Ric Flair, Bob Armstrong, Kevin Sullivan, Dusty Rhodes, Tommy Rich and Michael Hayes were just some of the names that he was now working with.

&uot;That’s when my name got changed to ‘Pete Martin,’&uot; he said. &uot;I was told that they didn’t want people to think that I was related to Michael Hayes, so they changed my last name.&uot;

After Hayes became &uot;Pete Martin,&uot; his schedule became very hectic.

For two weekends, he taped the Atlanta show on a Saturday morning, then drove to and wrestled in Chattanooga, Tenn., that same night, and then drove back to Marietta, Ga., to wrestle that Sunday afternoon.

&uot;After that, I was asked to go on tour where I was gone all week,&uot; he said. &uot;We flew from Atlanta to Wheeling, W. Va., and wrestled in a different town each night. Then, we’d fly back into Atlanta Saturday mornings in time to tape the TV show, drive to Chattanooga to wrestle that night, and then drive back to Marietta, Ga., to wrestle that Sunday afternoon again.&uot;

Hayes said that every other week, he and the other wrestlers would fly out of Atlanta to do shows anywhere from Michigan to North Carolina.

Around this same time, Georgia Championship Wrestling was changed to World Championship Wrestling, or the WCW.

&uot;I was wrestling Labor Day weekend in 1985 in Augusta, Ga., when I jumped off the top rope and landed right on my elbow,&uot; Hayes said. &uot;It set up a staff infection and put me in the hospital for a week. You couldn’t even touch my elbow for four months because it was so painful.&uot;

&uot;My wife was pregnant then, too, and she wanted me home more, so I quit wrestling full-time and kept doing the small house shows that were close by,&uot; he said.

During his many years in wrestling, Hayes has been known by many other names in addition to &uot;Pete Martin.&uot;

Hayes has wrestled as The Enforcer, as Los Lobos, The Masked Superstar, and as one of The Assassins. His most recent title was The Skull Master.

&uot;95 percent of the time, I was a bad guy,&uot; he said. &uot;My one ‘good-guy’ character was ‘Hillbilly Pete,’ and I wore overalls and a hat.&uot;

Hayes is very proud of the fact that he is the Southern States Heavyweight Champion and has been since 1994.

Throughout his wrestling years, Hayes has had many broken bones, several fractures, a broken nose, dislocated ribs and a dislocated hip, broken fingers and major concussions.

His wrestling feats continued until he had back surgery in 2005.

However, he has not slowed down at all. In Feb. of 2005, he bought the It Don’t Matter Restaurant in Highland Home, which is open seven days a week. Michelle Miller and Little Pete Hayes, his son, are the managers of the restaurant. His younger son, Corey, who is a tenth grader at Highland Home School, works in the restaurant whenever he can.

Hayes’ wife, Liz, is employed with Sable Steel in Montgomery, and she can be found working at the restaurant, too.

&uot;All of our employees here are great, and this restaurant is growing because of them,&uot; he said. &uot;Plus, I can’t say enough about the great support we have from our customers and the entire community.&uot;

Hayes himself also works with the Montgomery Public School System Monday through Friday, and he recently bought the Highland Kar Care, or the &uot;HKC,&uot; which is located next door to the restaurant. Jon Colombini is the manager, and Loren Colombini is also employed there.

&uot;I’ve had to put wrestling on the backburner because of the restaurant,&uot; Hayes said. Every Friday and Saturday night, he can be found cooking all of the steaks for his customers.

&uot;I just love to work,&uot; he said. &uot;I always have.&uot;

So, are Pete Hayes’ wrestling days over?

&uot;Not hardly,&uot; he said, with a smile. &uot;It’s something that gets in your heart, and it never leaves you. I’d rather get in that ring than do anything else, and the rougher it is, the better I like it.&uot;