Former professional wrestler ‘Max Blue’ Dennis Dodson shares his enthusiasm for the sport with his grandson, Franklin Central’s Aidan Williams
Dennis Dodson spent 23 years wrestling professionally as ‘Max Blue’ for the WWF and other organizations, 16 or 17 of those years competing with and against some of the best names in the sport. He’s never lost interest in wrestling, although nowadays he’s more interested in guiding and watching his grandson, Aidan Williams, compete.
Williams is an eighth grader at Franklin Township Middle School East.
“I told him it would be rough,” Dodson said. “I told him he wouldn’t win many matches. He didn’t. He was really getting frustrated. I went through the same thing in high school wrestling. I said hang in there. There was a coaching change that helped him start over this year. He’s developed into a fine little wrestler.”
Williams is currently 12-1 this season. He’s had quite the role model.
“Imagining your grandpa wrestling is a funny thing,” Williams said. “I think it’s pretty amusing. My grandpa always talked about wrestling (when I was) growing up. Eventually my mom said I should do it and I did. I really enjoyed it. (My grandpa) goes to almost every meet. I enjoy him being there. He always gives me good advice, what I should do. He encourages me. He tells me that I just need to keep working hard, what I do wrong and how to fix it.”
Dodson was a member of the first graduating class of Chartrand High School, which is now Roncalli, in 1966. There, he played football, wrestled and ran track. He went on to play football at Indiana State University and played a year as a semi-pro before he was injured. He was watching wrestling on TV one day and said that’s what he’ll do. He had a friend who rented a house to Robert Windham, a professional wrestler who went by the name of Blackjack Mulligan. He asked Windham for some advice on how to get into the business, then competed in his first tag-team match as Max Blue in 1973, at 24 years old. He lost, “big time,” but was motivated to keep going.
“You just enjoy it, the guys and everything,” Dodson said. “My football days were over. The closest I could get was wrestling.”
Dodson worked in in jobs that gave him the chance to wrestle on the weekends, often taking off Friday nights and not returning home until Sundays. He wrestled with/against some big names at the time – from Nick Bockwinkel, Dick the Bruiser, Jim Brunzell to Verne Gagne.
“Everyone thinks you rehearse or you talk it out somewhere,” Dodson said. “You don’t. It’s all ad lib. Sometimes you have an idea who’s gonna win, but that’s it. The rest of it’s what you do in the match. It’s good to know the guy you’re working against. Sometimes you don’t, then you better be good. Wrestling is an all-visual sport for the fans. There’s three people involved: the referee and two wrestlers. If it isn’t flowing right, it can be mush. If you’re not what they expect it, they won’t call you back.”
Dodson trained every day, lifting weights – all for an, albeit exhausting, 15 minutes in the ring. While strength and stamina play a big part in being a good athlete, to be a good wrestler, he needed something more.
“Reading people, predicting their movements,” Dodson said. “You can be the greatest athlete in the world, but if you don’t have that instinct, you won’t make it. Sometimes it takes a lot of years of work to get there.”
While it was a good time in Dodson’s past, it was also a rough time and he started backing down, stopping after 23 years. At that time, he started officiating high school wrestling in Indianapolis, which he did for 13 years. He left that, too, and is now enjoying time as a retiree, working part time as as a medical courier, going to the gym, playing golf, and spending time with his family and friends. He and his wife, Mary Ellen, have nine grandchildren. A couple of his grandsons tried their hand at wrestling, like their grandfather, but it stuck with Aidan.
“I enjoy that it gets me in good shape and I enjoy beating other people,” Aidan said. “I like being on the team and working together with my friends.”
Aidan also does cross country and track, but said wrestling is his favorite. He wrestles in the 90-lb. weight class. His season will end March 3 with the Franklin Township Middle School invite at the high school. He intends to keep wrestling once he enters high school next year.
“I’m looking forward to what happens,” Dodson said. “I just want to see how he develops, how far he can go.”