Where Are They Now? Crowbar
Got a nagging injury you want to fix? A bad back? Stiff knees? If you’re in the market for a physical therapist, look no further than the pipe-wielding wildman of WCW, Crowbar.
While that may not sound like the best advertisement for a therapist, the former WCW Hardcore and Cruiserweight Champion, whose real name is Christopher Ford, has dedicated years of his life to the craft, working with several hospitals in northern New Jersey before branching out and opening his own practice.
And he did it all while competing in the ring, bouncing around between WCW, ECW and WWE before finding a stable spot in Ted Turner’s Atlanta-based organization in 1999. But the story of how Ford got there, and what he’s done since leaving WCW in 2001 is stunning. ( CLASSIC PHOTOS | CURRENT PHOTOS | VIDEO PLAYLIST)
Ford’s love of wrestling began at childhood. A major fan of superheroes and comic books, the Rutherford, N.J., native was originally drawn to larger-than-life characters like Hulk Hogan and Ultimate Warrior. But as he got older and was drawn more to the craft of wrestling, Superstars like Randy Savage and Ric Flair began to mesmerize him.
By the time he hit high school, wrestling became an extreme passion for Ford and he began to consider stepping in the squared circle.
“It was getting to where being a fan wasn’t enough,” he told WWE.com.
During his sophomore year of high school, Crowbar found out that former WWE Superstar “Iron” Mike Sharpe was going to open a wrestling school in Brick Township, N.J., about 90 minutes from home. That was all he needed to hear to make up his mind. He spent the summer working as a bus boy in a banquet hall, eventually saving up enough to begin training at Sharpe’s school.
Ford was “Iron” Mike’s first student at the Jersey Shore academy. He quickly learned that there wasn’t much of a difference between Sharpe, the man he had seen on television, and Sharpe, the teacher.
“What you saw of him on TV was how he trained you,” Ford explained. “He would put on his black tights and boots, tape up his wrists and actually oil up to train. He would be explaining the moves and all that, but he was working out himself, too.”
And if you’re wondering, Sharpe did occasionally wear his trademark leather armband, his student said.
Sharpe’s quirkiness didn’t end in the ring, though, as he’s long been rumored to be one of the “neatest” grapplers ever — a fact which Ford laughed about when asked about his teacher’s penchant for organization, before confirming it was true.
“His bag was immaculate,” he said. “If you opened it up, it was a series of Ziploc bags. It was almost like those Russian egg dolls. You would open one bag that would go into a smaller one that would go into a smaller one.”
After studying under Sharpe for nine months, Ford hit the independent scene on the east coast in early 1992. Taking the name “Dangerous” Devon Storm, he barnstormed throughout New York and New Jersey, wowing crowds with talent like Ace Darling, who later became his tag team partner in WCW. The bleach blond grappler adapted an aerial style he learned from Bill DeMott. Devon Storm’s high-flying ability caught the attention of WCW’s higher-ups, who put the young New Jersey native on the biggest stage they had to offer. Ford began working for the company on a regular basis, appearing on several episodes of Saturday Night and an early edition of Monday Nitro, challenging then–United States Champion Konnan.
Though he was taking to the air on national television, when the cameras were off, Ford was trying to keep his feet firmly on the ground and his nose in books. When he wasn’t wrestling, he was a full-time student at Kean University, pursuing a degree in physical therapy so he’d have something to fall back on.
“It was a unique thing,” he explained. “I would attend school, get my work done ahead of time and fly out to TV.”
He left WCW in 1996, but returned a year later with his running buddy, Ace Darling, for a short-lived run as The Extreme. Though the two took on top teams like The Outsiders, success wasn’t on their side very often.
In between his WCW stints, Ford kept his grades up in school, but on the weekends, he was going from the lecture hall to the bingo hall. He spent the rest of 1996 in the Land of Extreme, trying to break through, but was mainly a punching bag for the hardcore warriors.
“I had a few good matches, but for the most part, I was getting beat up, paying dues,” he said.
Still, Storm’s natural ability in the ring made people take notice of him. It was another Superstar from the Garden State who would give Ford the push he needed to succeed in the business.
“I became very friendly with Dallas Page,” Ford said. “He said, ‘It’s great you’re down here, you have potential, but if you don’t [get out of the losing ways], you’re never going to break out of the typecast.’ He told me to go finish school and give him a call when I was done and if he could help me out, he would.”
So Ford headed back to school, still working the independent circuit on the weekend while studying and working internships during the week.
He even had a brief run in WWE, when the company was trying to get its Light Heavyweight Division off the ground. Jim Cornette got Devon Storm and Ace Darling a match on Monday Night Raw in Pittsburgh. Unfortunately for the two youngsters, who had driven out together and would be driving back to New Jersey after the show to get back in time for classes, one of the most memorable interviews in WWE history forced their match to be much shorter than expected.
“That was the night Bret ‘Hit Man’ Hart talked about sticking an enema in Pittsburgh,” Ford recalled. “Bret went late on his interview. You watch [our] match, it’s literally 22 seconds long, with the introductions.” ( WATC H)
Cornette felt bad and got the pair another match on Shotgun Saturday Night, but the opportunity didn’t pan out beyond that.
Not long after, Ford graduated school and began working at New Jersey hospitals. This was something he kept up with throughout his in-ring career. Whenever he wasn’t on the road, he was putting in hours as a physical therapist, building up a solid reputation with doctors in the area. Eventually, though, Ford called in his favor with DDP. The three-time WCW Champion asked him if he was ready to move down to Atlanta and start training at the infamous Power Plant. Ford didn’t hesitate to answer the master of the Diamond Cutter.
“I packed up the car, got a futon and found an apartment; it was time to go,” he said. “I had my degree, I could fall back on it, but it was time to chase the dream a bit.”
Ford continued wrestling as Devon Storm, but took on a darker look, dyeing his hair black and wearing black eye makeup. He mainly competed on WCW Saturday Night, where the company showcased its younger talent. After several months in Atlanta and nearly avoiding a sweep of job cuts at WCW, Ford was finally given the chance to show his stuff on the biggest stage the company had to offer.
“I was home for Christmas and they called and said, ‘We need you in Salisbury, Md., for Thunder. We have an idea for you,” he recalled.
Ford got to the arena, not knowing what was in store for him, and was handed a gas station attendant’s shirt and a pair of jeans, giving birth to his most famous identity.
At the time, David Flair was in the midst of a complete mental breakdown. He was rampaging through WCW, whacking anyone in sight with a crowbar. That night on Thunder, he and his shrieking girlfriend, Daffney, pulled into a dimly lit gas station and confronted the surly attendant.
“What’s your name?” Flair cackled maniacally.
“Some people call me Crowbar,” the attendant responded, sending the three into a fit of hysterical laughter.
The unstable, pipe-wielding Crowbar later saved Flair and Daffney from an attack by Vampiro and The Misfits, and one of WCW’s most unusual alliances was formed. ( WATCH)
In the beginning, Ford wasn’t sure what to expect from David, son of WWE Hall of Famer Ric Flair. It would have been easy to assume that the descendant of wrestling royalty would be a little full of himself, despite not being as adept in the ring as his father. That was not the case at all.
“He was the complete opposite, a real nice guy,” Ford said of his second-generation partner. “He knew his limitations and was happy to be there and trying to enjoy the ride. He was appreciative that I was there to pick up some of the wrestling end of things.”
The maniacal Flair and Crowbar meshed well and even won a one-night tournament to crown new WCW Tag Team Champions in early 2000. ( WATCH CROWBAR & FLAIR VS. KEVIN NASH & SCOTT STEINER) When the pair eventually broke up, Crowbar found a new home in WCW: the Hardcore division. Having spent time in ECW, he picked up an appreciation for the brutal style, which he perfected in the Atlanta-based promotion, capturing the WCW Hardcore Title.
That gave Ford the opportunity to live out a dream and compete against one of his idols, Terry Funk. He told WWE.com that Funk’s vicious “I Quit” Match with Ric Flair at Clash of the Champions IX was one of his favorite matches.
“It was one of the first hardcore matches, they were fighting outside the ring, throwing each other over tables, using chairs, the microphone, everything,” he said. “To have the opportunity to work with [Funk] was awesome, one of my favorite moments from my whole career.”
Though Funk defeated him for the WCW Hardcore Title at Starrcade 2000 ( WATCH), Crowbar hung around the company until March 2000. He was released just before WWE purchased WCW.
“It was devastating, but it would have been more devastating if I didn’t have something to go back to,” he explained.
Ford began focusing more on his physical therapy career, but still wrestled several tryout matches for WWE shortly after his release, including a bout against an up-and-comer named John Cena in Philadelphia. Nothing came out of those opportunities, so he dedicated more time to therapy.
This past May, he opened up his own practice. Due to the good reputation he’s built up with doctors in the past 14 years, business has been booming. ( CURRENT PHOTOS)
“I couldn’t have hoped for a better turnout; we’re packed,” Ford said.
When he’s not busy at work, Ford enjoys spending time with his family: his wife Dina and his two children, Mia, 3 and Nicholas, 4. In 2011, however, Ford and his family went through a battle that no in-ring struggle could have ever prepared him for. He and his wife noticed a change in their daughter, who they thought had been developing normally.
“She wasn’t responding to her name, she started toe walking,” he explained. “We’d asker her a question and she’d answer with pre-recorded statements from a TV show. She stopped playing with her brother, and this was noticed by us, her teachers, everyone that saw her.”
Ford began to fear that Mia was showing symptoms of autism, based on his experience with family and friends with autistic children, along with an internship he completed at a hospital that serves them. He and his wife, scared beyond belief, attempted to get their daughter whatever aid they could, only to find that help wouldn’t be immediate.
“We called for neurology appointments, but everybody was booked up until August,” Ford said.
They tried to get Mia into Early Intervention, a federal program available in New Jersey that provides therapy and various services to children with developmental disabilities and their families. However, the service was also backed up, as New Jersey has a high autism rate (1 in 49 children, according to a March 2012 study by the Centers for Disease Control).
With nowhere to go, the Fords began to panic, wondering what was going to happen to their daughter.
Eventually, a co-worker of Ford’s who had children in Early Intervention put him in touch with Paul Cimins, the father of an autistic child who operates AutismRadio.org, a podcast and networking site for parents dealing with autism spectrum disorders.
“He’s up on the mainstream and up and coming causes and treatments for autism,” Ford said. “He talked to me for an hour and a half and calmed me down. Just real caring.”
Ford explained to Cimins how his daughter had been on and off antibiotics for recurring ear infections. Cimins recommended he put Mia on a gluten-free diet and the supplement acidophilus to replenish the body’s good bacteria. At first, Ford and his wife were unsure if this was what they wanted to do.
“I’m the biggest skeptic on the planet about stuff like that,” he told WWE.com.
However, they were desperate to help Mia until they could get to a doctor. Much like his in-ring persona, Ford was willing to do anything to help his daughter.
“It was out of sheer desperation,” Ford said. “We had nothing to lose.”
Though they were unsure of the unusual treatment, the Fords went ahead with the diet plan. The results they got were stunning.
“Fast forward a year and, for lack of a better word, she’s normal,” Ford happily said. “[She’s] totally different than the kid we saw a year ago.”
Mia’s had occupational, speech and behavioral therapy since the initial scare, but everyone is amazed at the transformation over the past year.
"We saw it, her teachers saw it, her therapists saw it,” Ford said as he credited Cimins with helping his family reclaim their life.
“We went from our darkest time ever to having our daughter back,” the former Crowbar declared. “I don’t care if you mention my business at all. If this story could help one family, that’s what I want more than anything else.”
For more information on Crowbar’s physical therapy practice in Rutherford, N.J., check out ChristopherFordPT.com, which will be launching soon.