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Connelly Law Staff Receives Hall of Fame Honors

Connelly Law Staff Member to be Inducted into New England Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame

By Attorney RJ Connelly III, CELA

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Attorney RJ Connelly III

It's hard to fully appreciate someone's background and experiences until you really get to know them. I was acquainted with Don Drake as the retired clinician and administrator for substance abuse treatment programs and a Massachusetts Department of Public Health trainer. It wasn't until later that I discovered his extensive involvement in professional wrestling over 30 years ago. I'm happy to share that he will receive a well-deserved honor next weekend, which he is understandably proud of.

On Friday and Saturday, July 28 and 29, he is being inducted into the New England Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame. This event will take place at the Crown Plaza in Warwick, Rhode Island, featuring some of the biggest names in professional wrestling from around the world at the fanfest on Saturday. In today's blog, I want to take some time to discuss his career that went from the squared circle of the professional wrestling ring to helping those with drug addictions.

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The event in Rhode Island next weekend

About the Hall of Fame

In January 2008, Joe Breun established the New England Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame. With over 18 years of experience in the pro wrestling industry and being a fan since he was five years old, Mr. Breun has held various roles such as ring announcer, manager, booker, promoter, and talk show host. The first-ever induction ceremonies were held in 2009 to recognize twenty outstanding superstars and personalities from New England and the East Coast.

The New England Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame has recognized wrestling personalities from different organizations, including the "territory-era" World Wide Wrestling Federation, International World Class Championship Wrestling, Killer Kowalski's International Wrestling Federation, and Big Time Wrestling. The Hall of Fame has also acknowledged contemporary independent promotions such as All-Star Wrestling, Century Wrestling Alliance, New England Championship Wrestling, and New England Wrestling Alliance.

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DC "Mad Dog" Drake TWA Champion

The New England Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame has inducted numerous members, such as Ox Baker, "Dangerous" Danny Davis, The Iron Sheik, Brutus "The Barber" Beefcake, Doink the Clown, Paul Bearer, Tammy Lynn Sytch (also known as Sunny), Rosita, Shane Douglas, Samula Anoa'i, Tito Santana, Rick Martel, Chief Jay Strongbow and many more.

Don, who went by the ring name D.C. "Mad Dog" Drake, achieved great success in the wrestling world. He won several regional titles and became the National Wrestling Federation heavyweight champion in the mid-1980s, a highly respected accomplishment. He held onto that title for over two years, defending it around the globe, before moving on to win the Tri-State Wrestling Alliance championship in Philadelphia in 1989, which he held for nearly a year.

Drake told me he took the National Wrestling Federation title from the late, great Rocky Jones in Manahawkin, New Jersey. In the initial month after becoming the champion, Drake's travel schedule made him question his commitment to the pro wrestling business. He had matches against the Tonga Kid in Hazleton, Pennsylvania, Rick Martel in London, Ontario, the Moon Dog in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Sargent Slaughter in Kalispell, Montana, and Chavo Guerrero Sr. in Los Angeles, California. However, Drake was able to reorganize his schedule after that challenging month.

The Induction

Knuckles Nelson, an accomplished professional wrestler in his own right, whose real name is Brendan Higgins, will be inducting Drake into the Hall of Fame. Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, Higgins competed in various regional promotions, such as the Century Wrestling Alliance, National Wrestling Alliance, and United States Wrestling Association.

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Brendan Higgins

He also made brief appearances in World Championship Wrestling and World Wrestling Federation and toured Japan from 1997 to 1999 under the name Super Destroyer. Currently residing in Kingstown, Rhode Island, Higgins is retired from wrestling and has become an author and contributing writer for RINewsToday.

Drake shared that it was a fortunate coincidence that he met Brendan. Drake had missed the opportunity to see Brendan's wrestling performances live as he was leaving the full-time rigors of the wrestling industry by then. However, one day Brendan reached out to Drake after seeing a Facebook post and asked him to participate in an interview. Drake felt honored that someone remembered his career after so many years. They met for the interview and immediately bonded over their shared love of professional wrestling.

The Meeting

In January 2023, Brendan wrote an article about Drake's career, which was published in RINewsToday and later picked up by the website SLAM wrestling. This article brought Drake back on the radar screen for Joe Breun, the founder of the New England Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame, who contacted him about the ceremonies. In the piece, Brendan shared how he had become familiar with Drake long before meeting him. Below are some excerpts from that article:

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Drake jumped off the pages of the magazines

It would be difficult for today’s wrestling fan to imagine life without the internet or the newest iPhone. Today you can easily do research on just about anything. Back in the mid-1980s, if you wanted to keep up to date on the latest news in the professional wrestling world, you bought wrestling magazines. The pages of which were dominated by the WWF, NWA, and AWA. Hulk Hogan was the WWF world champion.

I lived in the rural town of Scituate, Rhode Island, and cable television was not yet available. I’d heard about cable TV, and I salivated over the thought of getting it, mainly because it would unlock the world of many other wrestling promotions from across the country. Until cable TV arrived in our area, the only wrestling I watched was WWF. In order to keep up on the happenings in the wrestling world, I bought magazines. Lots and lots of magazines.

There was a promotion within these publications called the National Wrestling Federation. I knew many of their wrestlers from the AWA, NWA, and WWF. The NWF world champion was a diabolical wrestler named DC “Mad Dog” Drake. While the Hulkster was telling his Hulkamaniacs to train, say their prayers, and take their vitamins, Drake was eating raw meat and foaming from the mouth during his interviews. He wore a dog collar around his neck with a heavy chain attached to it. His eyes had circles of thick black paint around them. He was anti-establishment. His wrestling style was hardcore before anyone was using that word. He could also get down on the mat and wrestle. In addition, he took some crazy bumps for that period of time. I thought his whole deal was cool. Drake jumped off the pages of wrestling magazines.

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Drake attacks Superstar Billy Graham

I became aware Drake was living in Massachusetts. I reached out to him in hopes of having a sit-down interview. He was open to the idea. I was about to find out this man took a very different path in life than most wrestlers from that era. What he was showing the public was the complete opposite of who he is in real life. His story is remarkable. He traveled the globe engaging in bloody feuds with some of the biggest names in wrestling history. He battled the likes of Bruiser Brody, Sgt. Slaughter, Superstar Billy Graham, and Cactus Jack just to name a few. During his career, he had over 1,000 professional matches.

The talent who stepped foot in an NWF ring is a who’s who of wrestling. Drake was heavyweight champion. He would hold the title for over two years. He defended the title hundreds of times. Wendi Richter was women’s champion. Other wrestlers included Superstar Billy Graham, Sgt. Slaughter, Dr. D. David Shultz, Abdullah the Butcher, Rocky Johnson, Nikolai Volkoff, Jimmy Snuka, Ivan Koloff, Tonga Kid, Heidi Lee Morgan, Misty Blue, and Paul Heyman. Tag Teams included the Wild Samoans, the Midnight Rockers, the Fantastics, Buddy Rose and Doug Sommers, The Road Warriors, and many others. The ring announcer was Gary Michael Cappetta. His presence brought instant credibility to the NWF.

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DC Drake, Carmine DeSpirito, and Mick Foley

DC Drake retired from the ring in 1995. He had an opportunity to work for Extreme Championship Wrestling after a one off appearance for them. Drake decided to walk away instead. It was a wild ride. He left his mark on the wrestling world. He retired from the ring with honor and dignity on his own terms. He knew in his heart it was time to say goodbye to the business he loved.

Mr. Higgins mentioned that Drake has had a successful career outside of the wrestling ring. For almost a decade, he served in law enforcement in New Jersey, and for thirty years, he worked in the substance abuse and mental health field. He became a program director at Steppingstone, Inc. in Fall River, Massachusetts, and oversaw the partial hospitalization outpatient treatment program for Tri-Hab in Rhode Island.

Drake was also a QPR trainer for the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, a suicide prevention program, and a trainer for the Massachusetts Council on Compulsive Gambling. He played a significant role in opening a homeless shelter in Fall River and ended his career as the director of a substance abuse treatment program at Shattuck Hospital in Boston, helping those with HIV and long-term substance abuse issues. He retired in 2017 but returned to work at Connelly Law about a year later.

The Event

When I spoke with him, Don expressed deep humility and gratitude for being inducted into the New England Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame. He feels honored, especially considering the legendary wrestlers who are already members and those being inducted with him. Drake is also a dedicated supporter of the Dana Farber Cancer Institute and The Jimmy Fund, and he has teamed with them for this event, donating all proceeds from his signed photo sales to these organizations. He recognizes that their work far surpasses anything he has accomplished and admires their dedication to helping those affected by cancer. In his words, they are the true heroes who make a difference every single day.

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