MASSENA - A woman who says the tattoos that line her arms tell the story of her life won $100 Saturday in a tattoo contest judged by professional wrestler Jesse Neal.
Laura Westovers tattoos earned her the cash prize over Arnie Bush, but Mr. Neal said it wasnt an easy choice.
Im more of a fan of his, but sorry, I like hers. I like the stories, he said.
While Ms. Westover won the $100 cash prize in the free tattoo competition, others whose tattoos impressed Mr. Neal received autographed pictures of the former TNA Impact star.
Its not every day that you get paid to have a tattoo, Justin Berry, Malone, owner and operator of the Adirondack Pro Wrestling Federation, said.
Mr. Neals appearance at MoJo Rising Tattoo in downtown Massena was sponsored by the Adirondack Pro Wrestling Federation as part of their Headlock on Hunger effort. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of photos for autographs was donated to Barnabas House of Malone, a homeless shelter for men.
He also spent time signing autographs at the Alice Hyde Nursing Home and American Legion Post 219 in Malone, where he received a citation from the Sons of the American Legion for his U.S. Navy service aboard the USS Cole.
Mr. Neal, who joined the Navy two days after his high school graduation, was a petty officer on the USS Cole when it was suicide bombed on Oct. 12, 2000. He has a tattoo on his right forearm with the initials of his best friend, who was killed in the attack.
He made his first appearance in TNA Wrestling in 2008, wearing his naval uniform when he introduced a match between Brutus Magnus and Eric Young, and then confronted Sheik Abdul Bashir before singing God Bless America.
Mr. Neal wrestled his first match on June 4, 2009 and later teamed up with Shannon Moore to form the tag team of Ink Inc.
His final appearance for TNA Wrestling was on Dec. 15, 2011
Now Mr. Neal is wrestling in an independent promotion called NWA Ring Warriors. In his most recent match held in Nassau, Bahamas, he defeated Francisco Ciatso. Prior to that, he teamed with Christina Von Eerie to defeat Chasyn Rance and Santana Garrett.
Every weekend Im usually doing something. Im starting to get really busy, he said, noting he would be attending the Florida Supercon, South Floridas Comic Book, Anime, Animation, Video Game, Fantasy, Sci-Fi and Pop Culture Convention from June 29 to July 2.
He said he realizes that wrestling fans in the north country are starved for action.
Were talking about doing our own shows and bringing them to the smaller towns, he said.
Mr. Neal spent an hour meeting with fans in Massena, signing autographs, posing for photos and judging the tattoo competition.
I love stuff like this, he said, taking the time to share stories and advice to those who wanted to get into wrestling, such as Definitely go to college first. I wish I did.
Prior to his arrival in Massena, he had met with residents of the Alice Hyde Nursing Home in Malone, some in the nursing homes community area and others in their room.
A lot of people were happy to see us, Mr. Neal said. I always try to see as many people as I can.