NILES, Ohio (WKBN) – For Niles business owner Michael Rickard, selling products at local events has been in his blood for generations.
The owner of Wild Card Video Games in Niles has been selling collectibles since he was 19. Along the way, he’s had one business partner: his mom Patricia Rickard.
On Saturday, May 20, Michael and Patricia will be celebrating the nine-year anniversary of the video game store by hosting WWE legend Tito Santana and other professional wrestlers Virgil and Lord Zoltan.
Michael’s first business venture with his parents early in his 20s wasn’t very successful. Michael and Patricia, along with his stepfather, Lou Boccia, opened Wild Card Mike’s in 1999. Michael tried to sell sports cards, but he soon realized that too many sports cards were being made at the time. He had to close his store after five years.
“I didn’t realize that I wasn’t going to get the customers,” Michael said.
Michael has learned a lot from his parents through the years while working at state fairs, saying that his years of experience with them showed him how to work with people. Michael even cited his grandfather as inspiration. Michael said he was one of the first vendors to sell hot sausage sandwiches at the Trumbull County Fair.
“It’s been in my blood, basically. My family helped me learn how to work with people, be a good businessperson and negotiate,” he said.
When times have gotten tough, Michael has turned to pro wrestling to grow closer to himself and his family. Michael said he was first intrigued by the WWE when he was nine years old. When his parents were going through a divorce, Michael turned on the TV and saw The Ultimate Warrior running down the ramp. He was hooked.
“He was the guy who got me into wrestling. He was the Ultimate Warrior. Wrestling was kind of there for me when I didn’t have a father,” Michael said.
Pro wrestling has also gotten him through other difficult times in his life. Michael’s stepfather, who he was really close to, was in poor health in 2006. Michael had purchased tickets to WWE WrestleMania 22 in Chicago. His stepfather was in the hospital with health issues during that weekend, but his mother told him to still go to the show.
Michael was able to go to the show and make it home to see Boccia before he passed away.
“He’s been watching over me ever since, too. I told him before he passed away, ‘Don’t worry about anything. I’m gonna take care of everything now,’ and I have been,” he said.
Michael and his mother have continued to bond since then. They even attended back-to-back WrestleMania shows together in 2011 and 2012. Even though Michael said that his mother wasn’t always a fan of wrestling, he said she enjoyed seeing all of the action in Atlanta and Miami.
“She loved it. She loved every moment of it,” he said.
After years of working in retail management, Michael decided to combine his passions to go a different business route. Michael decided to combine his passion for pro wrestling with his passion for video games to create the store he has now.
He first remembered playing a Nintendo system when he had chicken pox.
“I was playing Nintendo in my room for the whole week, and that just got me into video games,” he said.
Michael said the pandemic resulted in an uptick in his business.
“People were home and they didn’t have anything to do, and they wanted to play video games,” he said.
The store owner continues to network at vendor shows, just like he did in the past. At these shows, Michael and another business partner, Anthony D’Alfonso, try to meet wrestlers face to face. From there, they make friends with the wrestlers and negotiate autograph signings.
One of the great friends that Michael has made is Bill Eadie, better known as Ax from the former WWE tag team Demolition.
Michael had a signing with Demolition last year. He said he talks to Ax multiple times a week.
“It’s pretty wild. I would never expect a little 7-year-old Mike to be talking to Ax from Demolition all the time. You know, it’s really cool,” he said.
Rickard recently had a signing with current AEW and ROH star Brian Cage last month.
Saturday will be the first time that Michael has worked with WWE legend Tito Santana. Santana said Michael and Anthony seem like great fans who love the wrestling business just like he does.
“We work together on the table and we talk and we go out to eat. It’s a common love affair,” he said.
Santana has fond memories of Ohio crowds from when he used to work for World Championship Wrestling (WCW) during his career.
“The business was fantastic in the early eighties and the fans were unbelievable there,” Santana said.
Santana, whose real name is Merced Solis, is currently a middle school Spanish teacher in the Roxbury, New Jersey school district. Tito said that he will have copies of his new book Don’t Call Me Chico at the event. Tito is excited about the upcoming show.
Hopefully, we have a great turnout and everybody makes a lot of money and we meet a lot of fans,” Santana said.
As Michael continues to have more shows in the future, Patricia will continue to be by her son’s side, giving him words of encouragement.
“It’s just always good to have somebody that cares about you and says, ‘Hey, you could do this. Just, you know, put your mind to it and you can get this going for sure. I love her to death because of it.”
The Niles Retro Toy Market at Wild Card Video Games will be held from 10 a.m.- 4 p.m. at the 400 block of Robbins Avenue. Admission is free. For more information about the event, visit the Niles Retro Toy Market Facebook page.