He may have main evented the first ever episode of Monday Night Raw against the legendary Undertaker but for Damian Demento, he never reached anything like the heights of his famous opponent that night. Today we ask Whatever Happened to Phil Theis, the man that portrayed Demento during his brief WWE run?
As that old saying goes….”Size Matters,” and in the case of Phil Theis…size certainly helped his pro wrestling career. Theis stood 6 foot 3 inches tall and weighed close to 300 pounds. He had that ‘look’ that wrestling promoters desired back in the 80’s and 90’s. Theis could have been a pro football player…but seeing the quick success pro wrestling offered, decided to train to become a wrestler at the famed Gleason’s Gym in Brooklyn, New York with Johnny Rodz.
Rodz…a former WWF wrestler himself…has trained several wrestlers on to successful careers including the Dudley Boyz…Tommy Dreamer…Hugh Morrus/Bill DeMott and Matt Striker. While Theis wasn’t the most technically sound wrestler in the world…he had the size that got him in the door of a few major promotions…starting with WCW in 1992.
He wrestled a dark match for the company under the name of ‘Mando Phil’ and defeated a wrestler by the name of Chris Allen. Either The try out match led to nothing substantial with World Championship Wrestling…but it did lead Vince McMahon and the WWF to take notice of him. In the latter part of 1992, Theis was signed to the company and began his WWF career as ‘Mondo Kleen.’ He lost his debut match to Jeff Jarrett and soon after was completely repackaged.
Theis was given the gimmick of a sort of futuristic wanderer by the name of Damian Demento and he hailed from “The outer reaches of your mind.” His WWF career never quite blossomed they it was hoped for in the beginning. He was used mainly as an under/mid card performer. His biggest claim to fame in the World Wrestling Federation came on the debut episode of Monday Night Raw in January of 1993…when Demento became an answer to wrestling trivia question.
Who main-evented the debut episode of Monday Night Raw? The answer….the Undertaker faced and defeated Damian Demento. Other than his defeat at the hands of the Undertaker and sporadic victories over lesser talent…Demento never really achieved any great success with the company. He left the WWF in the latter part of 1993 after having a dispute with management over its drug testing policies.
Theis returned to competing on the indy circuit as Mondo Kleen…but in 1994…Theis decided to switch occupations and retired from full time wrestling after a promoter asked him to bleed ie cut himself with a razor blade. Theis said proudly that he never cut himself to make a match more interesting.
So….Whatever happened to Damian Demento?!? After his retirement…Theis returned to his other passion…the arts. Theis always had a knack and passion for art work since his childhood and when he attended college on a football scholarship…Theis majored in art.
Since painting and sculpting didn’t always pay the bills…Theis worked jobs in security and construction and also dabbled in acting. His biggest part was as a heavy in the movie Die Hard with a Vengeance starring Bruce Willis. Theis would continue his art and had his work featured in galleries across New York City and a feature in the New York Times.
Theis currently resides in Manhattan where he continues his art and sculpting. He still wrestles sporadically…but for the most part…his art is what he mainly focuses on.
You can read all previous ‘Whatever Happened to?’ pieces here.