Pete Gasparino, aka Pete Gas, wrestled in sweater vests and khakis as part of the Mean Street Posse for three years with the WWE during the heyday of the attitude era. Gasparino and friend Rodney Leinhardt were brought into the organization by Shane McMahon, son of WWE Owner Vincent McMahon, and paired with independent wrestler Joey Abs to form “The Mean Street Posse.”
Based partly on Gasparino and Leinhardt’s real life friendship with Shane, the Mean Street Posse wrestled for WWE from 1999 to 2001, feuding with Hall of Famers like the APA and with Crash Holly over the WWE Hardcore Belt.
Oh sweet Jesus did I hate the Mean Street Posse when I was 15 and firmly entrenched in professional wrestling. Their smarmy attitudes, their ring gear, their oddly catchy reggae infused entrance theme, they were the WORST.
Looking back on the gimmick now, it’s absolutely genius. Three waspy wrestlers who think they’re better than everyone and talk about being from “The Mean Street of Greenwich, Connecticut” is genius. Absolutely genius.
You could NEVER do an angle like this in today’s WWE. A stable of privileged, arrogant white guys talking about how they like to beat up underprivileged people from neighboring towns for fun? It would never happen. If you don’t find this introductory promo amusing where Pete and his buddies talk about Shane McMahon and the Mean Street Posse beating up poor kids for fun, I just don’t know what to say. That’s a fabulous stable of heels.
But perhaps it was just the wrong place at the wrong time? It had to have been hard to carve out TV time in the WWE when you’re competing against the Hardy Boys, the Dudley Boys, the Acolytes, and SO many others during the height of WWE’s popularity.
Gasparino, now 45, took some time to look back on his career with the WWE and talked about his friendship with Shane, who really kicked the shit out of people in the ring, and wrestling in front of Philadelphia crowds.
Please, for full effect, listen to this while reading the interview. It’s an absolutely must.
The Coggin Toboggan: Who came up with the Mean Street Posse gimmick? What did you think when it was presented to you in your introduction to the WWF?
Pete Gas: Shane originally suggested to use us to help promote his match at WrestleMania that year vs XPac. The writers came up with the characters. I believe Chris Chambers, Ed Ferraro and Vince Russo all had a hand in developing the MSP. Once they saw the reaction from the crowd, Vince Russo ran with it from there.
The Coggin Toboggan: Do you think it was tougher wrestling for the WWE back in the late 90s when there was another competing company or would it be tougher to survive now when they’re basically the only game in town?
Pete Gas: I can’t answer this honestly because I have no idea what it’s like there now. Back then it was intense. Ratings were always being mentioned and comparing what we were airing at the same time what they were at WCW. It was a team effort and guys helped each other in developing ideas and critiquing in a positive manner.
It’s a different world now. WWE is publicly traded now so the storylines that everyone loved from back in the Attitude Era would never work today. Now things are geared more towards kids. The competition now for the current roster seems as at times it has to compete with the reputation of the Attitude Era.
The Coggin Toboggan: Any stories about wrestling in front of Philadelphia crowds?
Pete Gas: Philadelphia has always had a reputation for being a smart, tough crowd. They’re tough as Hell on you if you’re a heel and if you mess up a spot in the ring they are all over you. I remember early on we had a dark match. We were really green so our technique wasn’t up to par.
WWE made us wrestle in Philly because it taught us a lesson on how to keep going and move on even if you mess up. The key is to try and make it look like you meant to do it. It was a valuable lesson that helped us later in our careers.
The Coggin Toboggan: Who were some of the more stiffer guys you wrestled against? Bradshaw has to be up there.
Pete Gas: There were a few for sure. JBL is up there for sure as far as I’m concerned. We had some real battles with the Acolytes and some of those beatings we took were memorable for not only to me but the fans I talk to years later. Shortly after we got to Memphis for additional training, Steven Regal was our trainer. Enough said. Daniel Bryan soon after that was signed by WWE and worked with the Memphis roster and he always worked stiff. When he hit you, you knew it too.
The Coggin Toboggan: What’s your relationship with Shane still like? Any shot he comes back?
Pete Gas: My relationship with Shane is the same as its been since 10th grade. It’s never been any different. Sure there’s times where we can go a few weeks without talking but once we do it’s like we never missed a beat. There’s other times we talk everyday. It just depends on the circumstances. Now that we are “grown ups,” we both have obligations and responsibilities but we would both be there for each other in time of need.
He’s a true friend and those kind of friends are hard to find. As close as we are, there are things Shane keeps to himself. So to answer the second part of this question, I can tell you honestly that Shane is the only one that can answer that one. As a wrestling fan, I would love to see it. I think the crowd would go nuts!
The Coggin Toboggan: Favorite Val Venis film?
Pete Gas: Lol….. None come to mind right now.
The Coggin Toboggan: We’re OBSESSED with the Higher Power at the Coggin. What did you think of the big reveal?
Pete Gas: I LOVED it! I will always remember the expression on Vince’s face when he took off the hood. Classic moment and will always be a highlight moment in the Attitude Era.
The Coggin Toboggan: What’s more infamous, the Stone Cold black trunks and knee brace or the sweater vest and khakis?
Pete Gas: Lol…As much as I’d love to say the sweater vests and khakis, we will never be more infamous than Stone Cold’s black trunks and knee brace.
The Coggin Toboggan: Back in the day when the Mean Street Posse debuted (I was 15) I HATED them. Now, looking back, it’s absolutely genius. Were there any proposed story lines that never came about that you think would have propelled you guys to the top?
Pete Gas: If there were story lines to propel us, they were never discussed with us. We were always the last to know.
If you or anyone else hated us, then we did our jobs. To get a reaction is something special. Mr. Mac saw something in us. Think about it. Vince McMahon took two guys off the street with athletic ability but no wrestling experience and put us in the ring with the best in the business. All those fans that criticized and knocked us have no idea how hard that was to learn on the fly. I’d love to see those same people try and pull off what we did. I’m coming out with a biography later this year with all sorts of fun stories about me and your favorite wrestlers. I’m sure true fans of the Attitude Era will love it.