Phillip Eisenstein was a wrestling fan as a kid. He grew up and stopped thinking about it, much. But at the end of this month, under the stage name Ike Phillips, he will take the ring at the Celebrity Theatre at The Claridge alongside a poster-full of big-name talents for the first ever Boardwalk Beatdown.
Ike the wrestler got started late because he had other things to do. He was a football coach at the University of Miami. But it was in Florida that he started to revisit his childhood wrestling fandom, after Wrestlemania wrestlers showed up to train. “Half the roster was working out in our gym,” he says.
He moved back to Atlantic City to teach physical education and coach. His cousin was working as a referee at Old Time Wrestling. Tank Toland was a teacher at the Atlantic City High School. They both, separately, pointed not-yet Ike toward the ring.
“I didn’t really think it was going to be anything but I wanted to go and check it out,” he says. “As soon as I got there I just fell in love.”
Last week, sitting at Bungalow Beach (Eisenstein’s day job is there), he talked about what it’s like to make his hometown debut.
“It means everything to be able to connect people from this area to the world of wrestling,” he says. He wants to be a positive role model to kids in the area. He wants to give everyone a different form of entertainment they aren’t used to.
“The city’s definitely on the rise. It’s going to rise slowly, but you can feel it,” he says. “The city needs to attract people that are not into gaming. There’s casinos popping up everywhere now, so what can we offer that other cities can’t? Number one is the ocean….Let’s build on that, build on the boardwalk,” he says.
Ike Phillips is sharing a bill with some big-name headliners for the Boardwalk Beatdown (Goldberg! Sting!). Chad Minnes of Standalone Wrestling is organizing the Beatdown, which will be a two-day wrestling convention.
On Friday, Aug. 24, the Beatdown will kick off with dinner on the Steel Pier with some of the stars of the show. Then on Saturday, the Claridge will open to convention-goers at 9 am for kid-friendly entertainment, including an opportunity for kids to dress up and learn some tricks. There will also be the chance to mill around vendors’ stands, play games for prizes and take pictures with and meet the professionals that will be in the ring later that night.
Because his own wrestling background isn’t a traditional one, Ike Phillips draws a different crowd, he says. It’s a more family-friendly crowd, he says. “They’re not hardcore wrestling fans so they always cheer for the good guys… it’s a nice refreshing crowd,” he says.
Minnes says that he’s bringing his eight-year-old. “There’s no cursing, no heavy violence or anything like that, no blood,” he says, then adds that he can’t make the same guarantee for the after party.
Minnes has big plans for Standalone Wrestling in South Jersey, and particularly for Atlantic City. He hopes to do more AC shows in the next year and repeat the convention, next year, maybe with an additional day.
Ike Phillips, meanwhile, is excited to tell his wrestling story to his hometown crowd.
“I want to tell the best wrestling story. I want everyone yearning to attend the following show to see what happens next,” he writes in a social media message after the interview. “The people of Atlantic city know my story. I was on top of the world at one point coaching nfl and college football. I came back home to teach and coach in atlantic city. To be a role model. After two years I was fired for breaking up a fight protecting a child from a bully. And now it’s time for me to rise again.
“Everyone loves a comeback story. And I’m ready to bring them one.”
Tickets for the Boardwalk Beatdown are available here.