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Where Are They Now?: Mideon
During his 15 years in the ring, Dennis Knight portrayed a Texas outlaw, a pig farmer, a hired bodyguard, a Satanic disciple and WWE’s resident exhibitionist. Now, he’s aiming to combine everything he picked up along the way with his culinary skills to become a star in the world of cooking television.
Since leaving WWE in 2000, Knight has become a wizard in the kitchen, operating his own catering company and planning to throw his name in the hat for an upcoming season of the hit reality series “Food Network Star.”
Knight’s road from the ring to the kitchen started during his youth in Clearwater, Fla. Growing up in a family of wrestling fans, he was enamored of the Florida territory, home to heroes like WWE Hall of Famer Dusty Rhodes and Mike Graham. From a young age, Knight knew he wanted to be a wrestler.
However, his dreams of gridiron success were cut short. While playing at Salem College in West Virginia, Knight injured his shoulder, requiring total reconstructive surgery. He went back home to Florida and entered a line of work that many of his contemporaries were in before the squared circle.
“I started bouncing, just like everybody else did,” Knight joked.
Sports-entertainment reentered his life when he discovered that some co-workers were headed over to a nearby school run by Steve Keirn to give wrestling a shot. Knight tagged along and within six months, he was competing in the territory he grew up watching.
“I was full-time right off the bat,” he explained. “I was extremely fortunate.”
Knight moved to the Carolinas to continue plying his craft before settling down for a bit in the infamous Memphis territory, working as Leatherface, a play on the “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” villain. Still a youngster in the business, competing against talented names like Jerry “The King” Lawler and Jeff Jarrett was invaluable experience, though he often found himself roughing it in The River City.
“I was working five or six times a week, for $40 bucks a night,” he recalled. “I didn’t have a lot of money or anything, but I had a blast.”
Knight definitely paid his dues during his time in Memphis, enduring overnight bus trips to Dallas, Texas, where he wrestled in the legendary Sportatorium. Away from the road, he scrounged to get the most out of whatever living arrangements he could find.
“Two nights a week, I had a place to stay because of the bus,” Knight told WWEClassics.com. “Then, one night a week, I would wait outside this hotel in Memphis until six in the morning, because if you checked in at six, you had the room for the entire day and that night. I literally lived in the parking lot for an entire night before I had a place to stay.”
Many would pack up and head home before slumming it in a Memphis parking lot, but Knight stuck to his guns while living out his dream.
“It sounds terrible, but it wasn’t. It was great,” he said.
After leaving Memphis, Knight bounced around between Florida, Japan and Puerto Rico before a huge opportunity presented itself. His stepfather, a former wrestler himself, had some contacts in WCW’s front offices. That and Knight’s prior work with Dusty Rhodes, now a producer with WCW, earned him a tryout with the Atlanta-based company in 1992.
“I wrestled Joey Maggs and had a really good match,” Knight said. “Dusty got up from the back and came all the way around the arena to see me and gave me a job right there.”
That night, he was paired up with Mark Canterbury, who would be his tag team partner for the better part of the next six years. In WCW, they were Tex Slazenger (Knight) and Shanghai Pierce (Canterbury), a pair of ornery Texas outlaws straight out of a John Wayne movie.
Though they never held the WCW Tag Team Titles, Tex and Shanghai tangled with many of the company’s top stars. Knight easily recalled battles with Sting, Ric Flair, Arn Anderson, Rick Rude and Ricky Steamboat. But it was car rides with legends like Anderson, Barry Windham and Harley Race that he credits with educating him on the business.
“There was no GPS or movies on your phone or anything like that,” Knight explained. “You just sat in the car and talked. We got to learn so much about what to do and what not to do from those rides.”
By 1994, Canterbury was hired by WWE to portray the evil hog farmer Henry Godwinn. Knight traveled to Puerto Rico and Japan before heading back to Memphis. He lived with Road Dogg and wrestled in The River City for nearly a year before he got a call that changed his life.
“At a TV taping in Memphis, Jerry Lawler came into the locker room and pulled me aside,” Knight told WWEClassics.com. “He said WWE wanted to bring me up as Henry Godwinn’s cousin, be the dumb hillbilly. The next day, I was on a plane to California.”
Knight took on the persona of Phineas Godwinn, Henry’s simple, fun-loving cousin. With Hillbilly Jim in their corner, The Godwinns square-danced their way into the hearts of WWE fans. Knight even took part in a little romantic story, where Sunny used her feminine wiles to try taking advantage of Phineas.
“It was the perfect storm, working with two of my favorite people in the world, Chris Candido and Tom Prichard,” Knight said of the Superstars behind Skip and Zip. “ Sunny was great at what she did. The night I got to slop her was a huge highlight. Plus, our first WrestleMania against The Bodydonnas was awesome.”
Eventually, the Godwinn personas ran their course, leaving Knight and Canterbury looking for something fresh to do in WWE. Knight found inspiration on the silver screen, from Chow-Yun Fat’s 1998 action flick, “The Replacement Killers.” The character of an assassin-for-hire in a sharp suit inspired the look for Southern Justice. Knight and Canterbury hired themselves out as bodyguards for Tennessee Lee and Jeff Jarrett.
“I was always told to evolve yourself and try something different,” Knight said.
It wouldn’t be too long before he had to evolve again. A neck injury sidelined Canterbury indefinitely, leaving Knight to find his way in WWE on his own. Becoming the first member of The Undertaker’s Ministry of Darkness, he was reborn as Mideon in an eerie ceremony that left the WWE Universe ill at ease.
“There was a Clive Barker movie, ‘Nightbreed,’” Knight said. “The name of the town where all the monsters lived was called Mideon. I always thought it was the coolest name. It started with that and evolved into everything else.”
Mideon was one of The Deadman’s closest confidantes during his huge rivalries with “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and Mr. McMahon. A close friend of Undertaker’s outside the ring, Knight was honored to compete alongside the legendary Superstar.
“In all of pro wrestling, one of the most iconic things has got to be Undertaker’s entrance,” Knight said. “One of the best things for me was going out at Madison Square Garden with Undertaker and Paul Bearer against Mankind and Ken Shamrock.”
By 2000, The Ministry split. Knight was still competing as Mideon, making the WWE Universe uneasy with the eyeball he carried around in a jar. Later that year, however, Knight’s sense of humor landed him a new, unexpected persona.
“Naked Mideon,” Knight said with a hearty laugh.
“I remember we were in Connecticut,” he explained. “[WWE officials Jack Lanza and Tony Garea] were in the hallway calling for someone, they needed them to do a meet and greet. Everybody was gone and I had just gotten out of the shower.”
“I always liked to have fun, so I strapped my fanny pack around my waist and went out into the hallway naked,” Knight continued. “I said, ‘Where did you say the meet and greet was?’ Everybody laughed.”
Knight couldn’t have expected the meeting he’d have the next day.
“Mr. McMahon called me into his office and said they wanted me to run down to the ring in a fanny pack,” Knight told WWEClassics.com.
After a test run before a television taping, Knight streaked to the ring donning a fanny pack and a smile, giving birth to one of WWE’s most infamous personas. Though some might have found the idea behind Naked Mideon embarrassing, the affable Knight relished in the opportunity.
“The best part about that was, I was getting paid the same amount of money as I was wrestling every night,” he said. “But instead of getting my head kicked in, I was running out in a fanny pack for three minutes. It turned out to be the best thing for my body.”
As the end of 2000 approached, Knight was released from WWE. Although he made occasional appearances at independent shows, he knew he wanted to find a career outside of the squared circle. He had a passion for cooking, but hadn’t worked in a restaurant since high school. Still, he took a gamble by walking into Café Ponte in Clearwater.
“I found the fanciest restaurant in town and met with the chef,” Knight said. “He really liked me and took me under his wing and taught me all this super fancy stuff, which is kind of my trademark. I like the presentation and using fancy ingredients.”
Knight began working in the kitchen at Café Ponte, before moving on to the Sandpearl Resort in Clearwater Beach. Today, he runs his own private catering company, Dennis Knight Catering, taking on private parties and other cooking endeavors.
“If you want to have a fancy dinner at your house for you and your wife on your anniversary, I’ll come over and cook a four or five course meal,” he told WWEClassics.com.
When he’s not in the kitchen, Knight enjoys spending time with his 4-year-old niece, a stark contrast from the hard-hitting days of his wrestling career.
“We make cookies and brush doll hair,” he said with a laugh. “It’s amazing, all the things I did in wrestling and now I’m making food and taking care of a little blonde girl.”
In his spare time, Knight is also sharpening his writing skills. He’s working on a screenplay featuring The Undertaker, which he hopes to have completed in a few months.
As he looks back on his career in the ring and in the kitchen, Knight often sees ways he can combine the skills he’s learned in both, especially when he watches shows like “Food Network Star.”
“The cooking is almost secondary,” Knight said. “They have to do promos, like ‘Here’s a plate of linguini with clam sauce, talk about it for 30 seconds.’ That’s what we do in wrestling. I have 20 years of experience in that.”
Knight is seriously considering auditioning for the next season of the reality show. While many might see him as a Guy Fieri-type, chowing down on barbecue at dives around the country, it’s actually quite the opposite.
“I’m six-foot-seven and covered in tattoos, but I like making roses out of vegetables and fancy ingredients like truffles and foie gras,” he said.
“Who wouldn’t watch that?”
For more information on Dennis Knight Catering, email Dennis at firstname.lastname@example.org .