Shawn Casey lives pro wrestling. Talk to him for five minutes and he'll tell fantastic stories about big-time beat-downs and busty babes with names like Onyx and KC Spinelli. And he'll be quick to mention his hopes of turning his memorabilia collection into a pro wrestling museum in Missoula, even as it seems to slip from his grasp.
Casey, 45, started as a booking agent for young wrestlers on the indy circuit in 2005. He called his Great Falls-based business Bodyslam Talent Booking, and he worked with up-and-comers such as Dewey "The Legends Impersonator" and "Bad Boy" Danny Pagan. He threw in the towel last fall, he says, to devote more time to building a museum.
"I thought Missoula would be perfect for a museum, because things are happening up here," Casey says. The idea came to him when he was in the Montana State Hospital.
Casey suffered a stroke in 2008. He kept up the booking business online after relocating to Helena. His contacts in the wrestling world were supportive, he says. They continued to send autographed photos, which he hung neatly on his walls. He moved to a nursing home in Deer Lodge for a while. A few newspapers wrote stories about his passion, and his struggle.
Times have changed. Casey's signed photos now reside in a stack of binders stashed in his closet at the J's House group home in Missoula. A shirt he says was worn by wrestler Mike Savage during a fight is tacked to the wall above his bed. "You can see there's still some blood on it," he says.
His shelves are crowded with pillows, each devoted to a different pro wrestler. Some of them he makes for Wrestler's Rescue, he says, a group that raises money to provide health care for retired pro wrestlers. Two newspaper articles about Casey hang by the door.
"I used to have a lot more photos," he says as he flips through a binder titled "Legends." "They got lost in moves and stuff."
Casey realizes he's slowed down since his early booking days. That's due to the stroke, he says. But no one should doubt his sincerity about the museum.
"If it weren't for wrestling," he says, "I'd have lost my mind a long time ago."