By Devin Leith-Yessian
BERLIN — Finding a few action figures of himself and propping them up on the table he was signing autographs, former world heavyweight champion Justin Credible visited Ken’s Cards as part of a documentary on his path to sobriety and a return to professional wrestling.
"This whole thing is just a journey of my life and career and what I went from to what I am today,” said Peter Polaco, who uses the stage name Justin Credible. “It just shows the journey of a man navigating his way through addiction, through family problems, through the industry of pro-wrestling.”
The film crew spoke with Polaco and some of his fans in the shop’s wrestling room, surrounded by action figures, DVDs and posters.
Polaco said he went into treatment for alcohol abuse in June 2017, adding the outpouring of support he received was humbling. Among those who reached out was David Gere and Douglas Cartelli, fans of Polaco’s who offered to make a documentary about his recovery.
The Connecticut natives have worked on dozens of films. Their latest effort, titled “Credible”, is scheduled to come out this winter and will be available on digital platforms after its theatrical premiere. It is being distributed by Green Apple Entertainment and is being filmed under Douglas Cartelli Productions and Shadow Vale Productions, Gere’s production company.
Polaco, who has been in wrestling since the 1990s, is best known for his appearances with World Wrestling Entertainment — he had two stints with the promotion twice, including as Aldo Montoya with the then World Wrestling Federation — and Extreme Championship Wrestling.
"He was in ECW when it was at it's most popular. He was their final champion, he was one of the pioneers of the hardcore style, which has pretty much gone away,” said Ken Asal, owner of the downtown collectibles shop.
"What a lot of people don't understand is recovery from addiction is probably the bumpiest road you'll ever drive on,” said Eric Nyenhuis, the film’s director. "How this ends is up to him completely. This can either end up in a complete dumpster fire or be the best thing that ever happened to him. I want this to be the best thing that ever happened to him.
"We're not trying to create a wrestling documentary, we're trying to record his recovery, and we hope more than anything his redemption,” he added.
Polaco said his story can help others.
"I just hope the film touches people and it kind of humanizes the disease of alcoholism,” he said.
"I am happy to support this project, as Pete's story is a remarkable one. The hope is that his journey, as shown in this documentary, brings awareness and hope to many who have found themselves in a similar place,” said Cartelli.
"If it touches and reaches out to some people and somebody can relate to what's being filmed and shown, then that's a plus, that helps out anybody. There's some people that really look up to Justin and want to see him do well,” said Bill Brown, a Middletown resident who has been a friend of Polaco’s for around 25 years. "He's had stardom, he's had success and he's his failures. It's good to see that he's been battling and trying to continue to better himself despite all the setbacks that he's had.”