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Ron Celentano (aka Ron Zombie) keeps his hometown in his heart and frequently in his travels as a professional wrestler and heavy metal guitarist. (Photo by Matthew DaCorte/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
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Some in East Haven may know the name Ron Celentano, but others may know him as “Ron Zombie,” his moniker in the wrestling world. Ron shared some stories about growing up in East Haven, his careers in wrestling and music, and how he’s still connected to the town.
Having grown up on Highland Avenue, Ron called East Haven a cool, close-knit town where everyone knows each other. He says he has a lot of great memories from town, and he still has family and lifelong friends here.
“I’m from East Haven, I was born in East Haven, I went to school in East Haven, I’ll always be East Haven,” Ron says.
Ron is a professional wrestler, and became a fan of wrestling at a young age. One night when he couldn’t sleep, he saw his father watching TV, which Ron perceived to be a guy beating up three very small people.
When he asked his father what was going on, he told Ron that the three small guys were normal sized people, but they were wrestling André the Giant. After watching again the next week, Ron says he was hooked.
Ron shares a story from before he was formally trained in the craft: In a stairwell at the old high school on Tyler Street, he was practicing a wrestling maneuver with a friend when things didn’t go quite right and his friend got a concussion.
“Put that under ‘Don’t try this at home,’” Ron says, adding he still feels bad about that.
He was first formally trained by Walter “Killer” Kowalski, and Ron says he would drive from East Haven to the school in Malden, Massachusetts two to three times per week to train. He recalls former World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) stars Chyna, Prince Albert, and Perry Saturn were also there during his time training.
“It was a fun journey, and I’m still glad it’s going on,” Ron says.
Now, Ron wrestles primarily for a promotion called Northeast Wrestling, which holds many events in Connecticut. Not long ago, he got to work with current WWE star Matt Hardy, and even struck up a friendship with him, calling him a “phenomenal talent and a good guy.”
Ron wrestled at the WrestleJam 16 event held at Ferrara Elementary School on Nov. 4. The event was held to honor Ferrara student Lynette Ely, who had been diagnosed with cancer, and proceeds from the event went to Mikey’s Way Foundation, a non-profit organization that donates electronic presents to children in cancer units.
He says it’s always great to come back to East Haven, but the cause was another reason he did it, adding he’s friends with the Ely family.
“It’s not just a random cause,” Ron says, “It’s a cause that has a face for me.”
In addition to being a wrestler, Ron is also a musician, and plays with two heavy metal bands. His band Nasty Disaster performs original songs, and the other is a Metallica tribute band called Alcoholica.
On Nov. 25, Ron played a show with a slightly different version of Nasty Disaster (Ron says the singer is currently on hiatus after having a child). Dubbing it “A tribute to Nasty Disaster featuring members of Nasty Disaster,” he and the band played a show in Wallingford for the Farquharson Fund.
The fundraiser is in honor of friend of his from East Haven, Scott Farquharson, who had passed away; proceeds from the show go to a scholarship that is awarded to a graduating East Haven High School senior seeking a degree in the music field.
He’s played in shows for the fundraiser previously, and says the bands feature people from the East Haven and Branford area. In fact, Ron had a story that involved wrestling, his music, and Farquharson.
There was one night Ron wrestled at show in Bristol and was hit on his hands with a cookie sheet by one of the other wrestlers. He had to play a show with both of his bands in New Haven later that night.
After the wrestling show, Farquharson drove Ron to the venue in New Haven where his bands were playing.
“My middle finger and my index finger swell up like balloons, and I’m freaking out on him because I’ve got to go play with two bands now,” Ron says.
In the end, Ron “ran on stage total rock star style” just in time to play with Nasty Disaster. After a few other bands played, he finished the night playing with Alcoholica.
“That next Sunday I did nothing,” Ron says, “It was a hell of a night to do all three in one night.”
For his efforts in wrestling, Ron was inducted into the New England Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame, which honors wrestling personalities who have made significant contributions to professional wrestling in New England and the Northeastern United States.
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