Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Trending - ESPN Playbook [Print without images]

Wednesday, October 3, 2012
Mr. Belding of 'Saved by the Bell' wrestling?

By Lynn Hoppes

Belding Wrestling
Dennis Haskins was the guest commissioner for a Pro Wrestling Syndicate match in New Jersey.
"Hey! Hey! Hey! What's going on here?"

Was that Mr. Belding of TV sitcom "Saved by the Bell" in a wrestling ring?

Dennis Haskins, who played principal Richard Belding for 11 years on the hit Saturday morning show, was captured on video in a wrestling ring in New Jersey by TMZ.com recently.

Playbook chased down Haskins in Southern California to ask about the wrestling event and whether he will return to the ring.

How did you get involved with the wrestling show?

"I'm friends with Mike 'The Miz' and his friend Zack Ryder, who both work for the WWE. Fans wanted me to consider going into wrestling but I didn't really want to be on the road five days a week. I'm an actor first. So Zach works also with Pro Wrestling Syndicate out of New Jersey. So he contacted me and asked if I wanted to be a guest commissioner for one night. I went to have fun, and then the world found out."

Are you a wrestling fan?

"I started watching wrestling when I was 10. I'm from Chattanooga, and wrestling was big in the South. I saw Dusty Rhodes, Ric Flair and the Four Horsemen. It was the days of good versus evil. A friend of mine from high school was Pistol Pez Whatley, who became a pro wrestler also."

Growing up did you have aspirations of getting into the ring?

"Not on your life. Those guys are in great shape. I was in shape in college but now, as TMZ pointed out, I'm an out-of-shape 61-year-old actor. I went in with the idea of settling disputes and one of the wrestlers said to me, 'How do you feel about throwing the stunner?' I said, 'What's a stunner?' I had forgotten that it was Stone Cold Steve Austin's finishing move. He showed me how to do it and I tried it. People were watching during rehearsal and they went crazy when I did it. They told me not to practice anymore. That night, I did it and it got a huge response from the fans. The video was sent to TMZ, and it has blown up."

Belding Wrestling
Dennis Haskins got in on the action in the ring in New Jersey recently.
Are you considering doing it again?

"They have reached out to me to do it again and come back. Because of all the publicity. I've been getting calls from all over. Clearly, I'm not in shape to be a wrestler. It was a great experience. And I saw a lot of people I've always wanted to meet. It's a whole subculture, wrestling, is. Velvet Skye was there. Matt Hardy. The coolest thing the whole night was when I got this tweet saying, 'Mr. Belding is one of the boyz.' With the Z. That is the highest compliment you can get from a wrestler. I still get chills even now."

How is your body holding up?

"The funny thing is I realized that night it wasn't going to be easy to get in and out of the ring without steps. I had to try to put my leg up and hoist myself over. You know about the Clint Eastwood movie, 'Magnum Force,' and the line: 'A good man always knows his limitations.' I know my limitations. It was exhilarating. I had a great time."

Some people might hate being typecast but you love being associated with "Saved by the Bell," which made stars of Mario Lopez, Mark-Paul Gosselaar and Tiffani Thiessen.

"Some people regret being stuck in a role. I am very proud of playing Mr. Belding for 11 years and the show reran for 21 years on TBS. Now, MTV2 and Netflix has picked it up, so we have a whole new set of fans. Yes, there are some limitations for 11 years of the same role. We looked like we were a prime-time role. Like in baseball, people considered us in the major leagues. But we were a Saturday morning show, so that means Triple-A in pay scale. I don't have a problem being stereotyped. It's so much fun getting this love from the fans. People have grown up watching the show. Why would I regret that?

And this latest stunt might propel you into even more work.

"It's been unbelievable. I had only 6,000 Twitter followers in December and now I have more than 22,000. I could not have planned it to go as well. Throw a stunner and look what happens. I'll see about going back. I'm an actor first. I'm out there auditioning all the time. I did 'Mad Men' this year. I've had other offers. I'm living this acting dream. But, for now, why not ride the wave?"