Throughout my travels to hundreds of pro wrestling shows in So. Cal in the 90’s, there was one person who literally was at 90% of every show that I was at. Whether it be at a Lucha Libre show, or a WWF TV taping, or a local indie show, Agustin “Augie” Loya, better known to the wrestling audience as “Thunder Machine” was an active part of the show. When AAA decided to start running shows at the L.A. Sports Arena in 1993, Thunder Machine was a part of those shows, starting the show off in the first match many times. From San Jose to San Diego and everywhere in-between, it was not to surprising to drive to a show, and see him on the card, even if the show was based towards an American audience, or a hispanic audience. He was often booked to team with and wrestle against such names as Super Boy, “Mr. Outrageous” Al Burke (the man who, in the movie “The Wedding Singer”, was the Billy Idol fan on the plane near the end of the movie), Vandal Drummond, and so many more. If they were a name, no matter how big or small, especially in the 90’s, odds are he has wrestled them. I’ll never forget the first time I saw him wrestle, as being at a Lucha show, I was a little surprised to see a white guy in the ring. His gimmick? He wore a t-shirt that said “No Soy Porky” (I’m not fat), which obviously, got the crowd to chant Porky at him, and he would over-exaggerate and put his hands over his ears, as the crowd would chant it louder and louder. As much as this fits the term “cheap heat”, it worked and to a tee.
Augie grew up in North Hollywood, and was a fan of pro wrestling from the first time he turned on the television. Here, I sit down with Augie and ask him about his career in pro wrestling, from where he started, to his days wrestling in Lucha Libre promotions, to his days wrestling for the WWF, why he chose the name he did when he wrestled for them, advice for anyone interested in becoming a pro wrestler, and everything else in-between
Roy – Were you a wrestling fan growing up?
Augie – Absolutely! I used to watch the local LA promotion from the Olympic Auditorium on UHF & KCOP Channel 13
Roy – Who were some of your favorite wrestlers to watch growing up?
Augie – In the preteen years, I was scared to death of the Original Sheik. I got to watch & grew to hate Roddy Piper because of his constant feuds with Chavo Guerrero, the Hang Man, Victor Rivera, etc. Gorman & Goliath were also amazing heels to watch in action.
Roy – At what point did you decide that pro wrestling was a career that you wanted to be a part of?
Augie – It all happened kind of by accident. One of my good friends growing up was Broadway Danny Wolf. He was working for a television network at the time known as FNN (Financial news network). They were in the process of becoming a sports station and did a story on a new gym that opened up in Sun Valley California called Slammers Wrestling Gym. Danny told me all about it and also indicated that you can rent the ring at an hourly rate. So of course, I got together with some friends, contacted the gym, and spoke to a gentleman by the name of Verne Langdon. We booked time there and we’re giving a tour the facility by Verne. He ran us through some basics so there wouldn’t be a death in the ring and we were off potatoing each other within a short amount of time. It was a lot of fun, but damn did it hurt. Because of course while we thought we knew what we were doing, we had absolutely no clue. After a few weeks of going there from time to time, Bill Anderson showed up to check out Slammers. I recognized Billy from all the work he did locally & on the WWF shows. Pretty soon I was taking classes with Billy at Slammers… After a while, I hated it. This wasn’t fun, this was work and I took a six-month break from the ring. After a while, I missed it, and decided to start training again. But this time, I knew what was expected and what I had to do if I wanted to become competent.
Roy – Where did you come up with the moniker “Thunder Machine”?
Augie – That was after I left Slammers Wrestling gym… I struck up a friendship with Kurt Brown, Greg Regalado, and Eric Anderson. They introduced me to learning the Lucha libre style. Kurt got us booked at a place called All Nations Center in the Hollenbeck area of LA. I did not want to use the name “Avalanche” which was the name given to me when I was wrestling at Slammers. Ironically, the Fabulous Moolah is who gave me the name Avalanche, but I really did not want to use it going forward. So after long conversations with Dan Farren, and Kurt we came up with Thunder Machine. It would be a solid name as a monster wearing a mask walking into the ring with Thunderstruck by AC/DC blaring over the speakers. One problem, we didn’t have a mask that would fit the gimmick and we were going to wrestle within a couple days. So I made the decision that I would go out there without a mask and just roll with the name.
Roy – When was your first match and who was it against and where was it at?
Augie – Technically my first match was against Eric Anderson aka The Ebony Blade at Slammers. But my first real professional one was a tag team match at All Nations Center. Thunder Machine & Vandal Drummond vs The Gemini Kid (Eric under a hood) & Greg Regalado.
Roy – You were a regular at many Lucha Libre shows in the 90’s. How did that come about?
Augie – While I was definitely NOT the best wrestler out there, my ring psychology & ability to illicit a reaction from the fans is what made me matter to promoters. I wrestled as a Rudo so my primary responsibility was to put the Technicos over with the fans & make them look good in the process. I was fast tracked because of this & a few times I had some disaster matches! But I had a good attitude & didn’t give people problems.
Roy – Where did you come up with the idea for the “No Soy Porky” shirt?
Augie – Well… I was wrestling in a tag match at All Nations when me & Vandal were teasing getting in the ring, then powdering out when Gemini & Greg tried to get at us. It was getting under the fans’ skin, then this guy in the front row said the following words to me, “Get back in the ring and fight Porky!” I immediately stopped what I was doing, turned around at him, and asked him what he called me. He said Porky, then I covered my ears and yelled at him to stop it. His friends then started chanting Porky at me, and I just started acting like they were ruining my day, then Vandal, genius that he is put his hands over my ears & yelled at the fans for hurting my feelings, of course this made them chant Porky even louder. The following day, I bought a shirt that said LEAVE ME ALONE on the front of it. On the back, I wrote in marker NO SOY PORKY. I started wearing that out to the ring at Lucha shows & fans would just start in on me…. I sold for them, it was really cool
Roy – How did you feel when you were asked to work as an enhancement wrestler on TV when the WWF would be in town?
Augie – Excited at first… But then you’d hear the horror stories about Vader, the Steiners, Warrior, Headshrinkers, etc and the liberties they would take with “enhancement talent”… So, then anxiety set in… First booking was in San Jose the day after the 1993 Royal Rumble. First we hear when we walk in is that Marty Janetty was fired. Sensational Sherri was so upset, I was standing next to Al Burke, whom she knew for years prior, and was furious at Ray Stevens for it. Rumor was that Ray Stevens accused Marty of being on drugs cause he was asleep in the locker room. Needless to say, that created a lot of tension for us 1st timers cause the vibe was really odd back there…
Roy – Where did you come up with the idea to use the name of your longtime friend “Dan Farren” as your name in the WWF?
Augie – OMG… That’s funny… A couple of things influenced that decision. First, Billy had a student named “Thor”, and that was his legit name. He was a good worker who was born with a clubbed foot, you couldnt’ tell when he wrestled cause he moved so good & bumped really well. When he was asked what his name was, he told the agent, whom I believe was either Rene Goulet or Chief Jay Strongbow that day that he was Thor. The agent looked at him & asked him again, to which he replied Thor. The agent thought about it, and said tonight your name is “Matt Burns”. Well, I didn’t want a similar situation when I would tell them my name is Augie, so I came up with the idea of using Dan’s name which lead some seriously funny shit that I could not have forseen, Since we were in San Jose, I knew that Dave Meltzer would be there so that made it even more epic cause Dan was a long time Observer reader & contributor. That’s how the legend of Dan Farren was born.
Roy – During your career, who would you say were your favorites opponents to work with?
Augie – My favs were Gemini Kid, Al Burke, and Jason Free. We brought the best in each other, and had a tremendous amount of trust between us.
Roy – If you count pinpoint one moment in your career that was your “highlight” what would it be?
Augie – Both a highlight & lowlight at the same time… Working the opener of the AAA show at the LA Sports Arena with Super Boy. We worked really hard to put together a good opener, then were told it was only going to be 1 fall, we improvised, came up with a 1 fall match with a false finish. We botched a spot, which we did a decent job of covering up, then we went for the false finish when our ref, the legendary Sergio Garcia aka Platano counted 3 when he was supposed to only count 2 3/4. Super Boy who was supposed to go over alertly then went to straight to our finish which involved him running up to the top rope and doing a reverse backflip onto me for the real 3 count. and the finish. Sucks cause the next night in San Diego in front of a lighter house we had a great match, but it would have been awesome to pull that off the previous night…
Roy – Are you still active in the ring?
Augie – On the rare occasion if needed, I will climb in if I choose to. I play lots of ice hockey which requires a high amount of cardio, so at least I won’t blow up too bad out there in a ring, but the stuff that the kids do today is on another level. I’d really have to slow it down, and establish a more story based match than the amazing spotfests that these guys do today.
Roy – Are there any guys in the area that, if the chance presented itself, you would like to work with in the ring?
Augie – None that I can think of. I’d love to lace em up once more vs Gemini, but he’s a fucking lawyer now, so he’d probably sue me for kicking the shit out of him… LOL
Roy – What are the biggest changes you’ve seen in the So. Cal scene over the past 25 years since you started in the business?
Augie – The athletes… Size was a huge factor when I was coming up. Luckily I was naturally tall & “bulky”, so I didn’t have to juice up, and besides being a ripped muscle guy wasn’t my selling point. I am happy that guys like Eli Everfly get a fair shake even though they are not 6’6″ 350lb monsters. I really wish there was a true regional promotion with a TV product that could truly support a wrestler trying to make a living. Not to take away anything Hollywood Championship Wrestling, bless them for giving locals an opportunity to work in front of the cameras and a live audience. I am referring to a day long since gone that would be comparable to the LA scene in the 70s. A product that people really enrolled themselves in and would follow week to week. I have nothing but respect & admiration for the local rings run by the Santino Bros,, Knokx Pro, all the Lucha guys who train relentlessly at rings in backyards, garages, make shift gyms, etc. There’s so much talent in SoCal, just wish there was a way for more people in the world to enjoy it…
Roy – Any advice for someone who wants a career in the business here in So. Cal?
Augie – Go to a legitimate Wrestling School. Treat everyone with respect, especially those that have been there, done that. Don’t get caught up in the rat race. Pay your dues, learn, be okay with admitting you’re wrong, messed up a spot, no one is perfect. Learn & train!!! Network, and establish good relationships with everyone you meet….
Roy – Thank you for your time Augie. We appreciate all the years of hard work and dedication that you gave to us fans here in So. Cal
Augie – You’re very welcome Roy… Thanks for taking the time to reach out…
And if that wasn’t enough, we have quotes from those who have been a major part of Augie’s past, including two of his trainers, and longtime promoter, friend, and “victim of rib”, Dan Farren.
Jesse Hernandez (EWF Owner and Trainer and also trainer of Augie) – Only thing I can say is that Augie Loya looked great last time I saw him a couple of years or so ago. Totally in great shape. As a young guy he showed a lot of heart for the business. He was quite young and certainly a great guy who made many good friends.
Dan Farren – The first time I met Augie Loya he was a wrestling fan. Like a lot of fans, he had dreams of becoming a professional wrestler. We were at Slammers Gym at the same time. He was training to be a wrestler and I was the referee/booker. Several years ago when I was booking MPW, I brought some of my veteran friends on board to work with the young guys. I was really impressed with Augie. He had matured as a worker, was a locker room leader and made the young guys look good. And even more important I can’t begin to tell you what a great friend he is away from the ring. Augie pulled a rib on me that still follows me to this day. If you see results from WWF TV in the early 90s you might see that I jobbed to Mr. Hughes, El Gigante and a couple of other superstars. That was Augie, using my name since he wasn’t allowed to use the “Thunder Machine” name on WWF TV. My favorite was when they pulled him from a tag match but forgot to tell the ring announcer. They introduced the Masked Prowler (Mike Enos) as “Dan Farren”. It looked like I wore a mask but went by my real name. I was at that taping, the only person more surprised than me was Mike Enos.
Billy Anderson (one of Augie’s trainers) – I always enjoyed being around Augie, as his love and respect for the wrestling business was much appreciated!
Kurt “Vandal Drummond” Brown – Augie, from day one, had a really good booking mind, especially when it came to booking a compelling match without relying on run-ins and foreign objects, as many younger indie workers did who had the opportunity to call their matches did back in the 90’s. Specifically, I remember a match he had with Frankie Dee in 1994, when Frankie wrestled under a hood as “Kimera”. At face value, it looked like a potential WWE squash, as Augie was so much larger than Frankie. But lo and behold, he gave Frankie just enough spots to make the match look competitive without Frankie’s size difference looking unbelievable. It was a small but near packed building in La Puente, and the crowd was usually good and responsive, but Augie had this crowd getting really loud and jazzed! And it was not a main event, only the second or third match of the night. It reminded me of how William Regal had the WCW fans popping like crazy when he sold for Rey Misterio.
Frankie Dee – Yes I remember that match, actually it was the very first time we ever worked and let me tell you I was so scared cuz I only weighed about maybe 150 or 160 but I know we have them a hell of a show though. I actually think he won that match also out was maybe my 5th or 10th match so far and him being the heel that night he had the people ready to kill him for destroying me that night I’m surprised he got out of that place alive lol
(A big thank you to Jesse Hernandez, Frankie Dee, Kurt Brown, Dan Farren, Billy Anderson, and Augie Loya for their help with this story)