16 Aug

Earlier on in my blog I mentioned that I was a professional wrestler for a short while. To me, since it’s my own life, it doesn’t seem remarkable, but over time I’ve realized a lot of people find this quite unusual, and because of that it might make for some good blogging. So here we go.

I can make the ostensibly impressive boast that I have wrestled professionally in three states: Florida, Georgia, and Alabama. However, if you had been there for the shows I’ve done, you would realize that there was nothing prestigious or otherwise boast-worthy about any of them. I will tell you about one particular show I did in the sprawling metropolis of Brunswick, Georgia.

This was in March of 2008, so I was a sophomore in college. Despite going to school in New Hampshire, I still looked for the occasional wrestling gig when I was home in Florida on breaks. All of Spring Break I had tried to find bookings on local shows to no avail. Then, the very last weekend before I had to go back to school, I get a call from my friend and occasional training partner Craig, a.k.a. “Craig Classic.” He was the guy who gave me my first professional match, and I guess he liked the idea of me being his apprentice, or “young boy,” as the Japanese wrestlers would call it, so the majority of the bookings I got were through him.

He was booked on this show in Brunswick and had talked the guy into letting him bring both me and my other occasional training partner Kolby. I was excited to finally get some ring action again.

After an uneventful car ride, the three of us arrive some time between four and five o’clock. The first thing we notice about Brunswick is signs in people’s front yard reading “MOVE THE JAIL.” Lovely.

Before I continue, let me just get this out of the way: If you have seen the movie “The Wrestler” with Mickey Rourke, I can tell you this: everything about its depiction of independent wrestling is correct. In fact, for my very first professional match, my “locker room” where I put on my outfit was some kindergarten classroom, much like Randy The Ram in one scene. Indy wrestling often takes place in shitty small venues, and I had no illusion before going that this Brunswick show was going to be any different. However, the venue was not the problem. The problem I will continue to elaborate on is how far some people stretch the term “professional” wrestling.

We arrive at the place, which, of course, is the basketball court at some municipal gymnasium. Seems odd to come so far for something so insignificant, but of course, I was doing it for the love of the craft, so it didn’t bother me. What did kind of bother me was the start time of the event was supposed to be 7:30 PM, it was five, and they hadn’t even started putting the ring up.

I hadn’t done any pro wrestling for months before that point. Normally at shows they have the ring set up beforehand so people can warm up and go over moves they might want to do in their matches.  I needed to, at the very least, make sure I could run the ropes properly and get a feel for the ring. Hell, even that not withstanding, as an athlete I needed to stretch out and warm up to make sure I didn’t get injured. Whatever, so it goes, you move on and work with what you got.

I do the normal routine when you get to a wrestling show: meet with the booker to let them know you’re there, hand the sound guy the CD of your theme music, and then shake the hand of every other wrestler or crew member you see. The one thing every single ring veteran told me to do when I was training was to shake everyone’s hand at a show, because apparently in the wrestling business egos are so fragile, or people are so paranoid about respect, that if you don’t shake everyone’s hand, someone might think you’re snubbing them, and then they’ll spread the word you have a shitty attitude, and then you’re blackballed from a shitload of promotions.

It was during my hand-shaking round I noticed the next strike against this show: Craig, Kolby, and I were the most athletic-looking guys there.

Now, I definitely don’t subscribe to the theory that you have to be big and muscular to be a good pro wrestler. Size has nothing to do with it. However, at least look athletic, like someone who does sports. Every other person in that locker room was at one extreme or another: bloated fat or skinny with a sunken chest.

At that time, I was a modest 160 pounds with a 5’6″ frame. I was no body-builder, but at least I looked like I’ve been around a push-up that wasn’t ice cream. If you have to wrestle in a t-shirt to hide your concave pecs, you do not look like a credible wrestler.

Again, I’m just doing this for the love of the craft, so I take this in stride. At the very least, I would look all the more impressive.

I learned that I was going to be booked in a tag match. In the intervening years between then and now, I have completely forgotten all the names of everyone involved with this horrendous production, so I will use nicknames. My partner, I will refer to as “green singlet pudgy dude,” as that is pretty descriptive, and my opponents in the match I will call “skinny ratty guy in wife beater” and “fat dude in black biker shirt.”

This was not the first tag match I had been booked in, and thanks to a lot of help from other training partners like Scott Commodity and Preston James, I felt confident about handling myself in a tag match. How the others handled themselves proved to be a different story.

For those not in the know: when you figure out who you’re booked to wrestle against, or “work,” you typically talk with that person/persons beforehand and talk out the progression of your match and what series of moves, or “spots,” you might want to fit in. Neither my partner nor my opponents seemed to have lots of ideas for the match. Me and green singlet were playing the good guys, or “face” wrestlers, and black shirt and wife beater were the bad guys, or “heels,” and they were going to win the match.

I just remember talking to both my partner and opponents about what moves they do, and them just providing vague or unhelpful answers like “I dunno, we’ll just do it in the ring.” We were able to work out the finish, where my partner was going to abandon the ring and allow me to get double-teamed by the heels and get pinned. Fine, I thought, green singlet wants to develop some kind of story line for his character that the five people who come to this show can follow into the next show. Aside from that, though, I was kind of unsettled by the lack of thought any of these guys were willing to put into this match.

I believe we were the first match out for this show, which was delayed a little while to “allow more fans to come.” It all went downhill from there.

Remember how I said I had given the sound guy a CD with my theme music? I was wrestling using my Spectrum gimmick, and my theme song was supposed to be “Dragostea Din Tei” by O-Zone. I even saw the sound guy copy it into his computer and rename the file “Spectrum’s theme.”

So there I am, standing behind the curtain, waiting to make my entrance, and some hip-hop song starts playing on the speakers. I thought he made a mistake and would soon correct it, but no. The hip-hop continued to play for a good minute, so I figured I might as well not hold up the show any longer and just went out.

There I was, Spectrum, the guy in a rainbow-colored singlet and happy face mask, bouncing around while some hard hip-hop played in the background. Now, I intended the gimmick to be an unusual sight, something different, but the juxtaposition of that against hip-hop must have appeared to be some odd dadaist wrestling mashup I’m surprised didn’t make everyone in the building release an audible, collective “what the fuck?”

Somehow, though, the crowd was into it, I was able to slap a few high fives, and people were ready to see Spectrum wrestle.

The details of the actual match are a bit of a blur to me, as they are for most of my pro matches not on tape, except for the biggest fuck-ups, like I am about to tell you now.

Early in the match, I got into the ring with wife beater and started to do a little chain wrestling. Chain wrestling doesn’t necessitate a lot of communication in the ring, as you’re in constant physical contact, and you just react to each other’s movements. I put you in a headlock, fine, you reverse it into a hammerlock, good. However, this fucking guy just wanted to do move after move and rarely give me any chance to do some of my own.

Here’s a basic rule of pro wrestling psychology: the face is always the better wrestler. Always. The crowd wants to cheer the face because he is superior at winning a wrestling match by the rules. The heel only gets the upper hand by dirty tactics. That’s how you get the crowd to react.

Mr. wife beater however, just wants to put me in holds and tell me to do flips when he wrenches my arm, making me look like a chump. There were some moments where he would just do things he would need to tell me, like send me to the ropes and clothesline me, without saying anything.

Now, I’m not a very assertive person, but at that point, I got as angry as I was planning to get. I gave him an arm drag, got him in a hold, and just shouted at him “call your god damn moves before you do them.” I didn’t care if the fans heard me and I was “exposing the business,” I just wanted this guy to stop being an idiot and work.

What I generally remember was that any time I tagged in green singlet, he rarely tried to do anything that made sense. When I was in the ring, I would try and do moves affecting my opponent’s arm to weaken it up, and green singlet would just ignore that and do moves to the back, head, whatever, despite what I set up for him.

Next fuck-up: wife beater and black shirt are both double-teaming me, getting heel “heat” as they say, and back me up against the ropes, getting ready to send me off and perform a move on me. This is what I hear from both of them at the same time:

Black shirt: “Back body drop.”
Wife beater: “Double clothesline.”

Now, instead of one of them changing his mind to agree with the other, they both just give each other an unsure look, and then send me off the ropes anyway!

At that moment in time, I remember the words of my trainer Soul Man Alex G, saying that if a guy sends you off the ropes without saying what he’s gonna do, when you get to the other side of the ring, just stop and hold on the ropes, because the guy might injure you since he doesn’t fucking know what he’s doing.

My dumb ass, however, decide I wasn’t experienced enough to cover for the sudden stop in the action that would incur, so I decide, for the sake of the match, to just risk my life and keep running. They eventually agree and I get a double back body drop, which thankfully I took with no injury.

Fast forward again to the final fuck-up. We get to the finish and it goes as planned. I get double-teamed by the heels, I try to make the tag, green singlet walks away, I get a t-bone suplex from black shirt and pinned for the one, two, three. Fine, this clusterfuck is over.

However, after the heels get out and I’m lying down, selling the finisher, green singlet gets back in the ring. I figure he’s going to give me another move or hit me or something to cement to the audience that he himself has turned heel.

Not what happens. He picks me up, hugs me, raises my hand to the crowd for them to cheer, and the ten people in the audience, because they’re stupid, fucking cheer. This asshole in the green singlet does not realize he’s just contradicting the idea he came up with. I, dumbfounded, go along with it, and just walk backstage so I can be safe from any further stupidity.

After I get back behind the curtain, I noticed that wife beater guy was arguing pretty loudly with some other dude who was running the show. Craig, who didn’t watch the match, came up to me and was like “what did you do?” afraid that the argument was because I had messed something up or hurt somebody. However, we both listened in, and apparently the other dude had given wife beater some critical remarks, and naturally wife beater took umbrage.

I remember hearing wife beater say something along the lines of “well, how many years have you been in the business? I’ve been in the business for two years!” This was some skinny ratty dude in a wife beater who couldn’t even properly call a move performing in a tiny municipal gymnasium talking about his “years in the business.”

At that point I just smiled, changed out of my costume, and went into the crowd to enjoy the rest of the show. One benefit of being a masked wrestler is the ability to do that without being recognized by the audience, although seeing someone who wasn’t in the crowd before, is covered in sweat, and had a similar build to someone just in the ring might give them a clue.

All of the matches with the Georgian wrestlers were horrendous. One involved two sunken-chested shirtless dudes where I swear the second move of the match was a falcon arrow, a move most wrestlers use as a finishing move. The match proceeded for 10 or 15 minutes after that. You don’t have to be a die hard wrestling fan to know it’s stupid to continue a match 10 minutes after using a god damn finishing move! Unbelievable.

Kolby and Craig were in the main event, and, of course, they had a decent match, but compared to the rest of the damn card, it was a five-star match of the year, and the audience reacted as if it were such just because it was competent. Holy shit, there’s actually build-up to the big moves and psychology and a story.

The show ended, Craig got to keep the money the promoter gave him since he needed to pay for the gas, and we went to Waffle House for dinner, which is the only way for a southeastern wrestler to celebrate after a show. Trust me. Craig even played the little claw machine and won a Mickey Mouse doll. It was a good night.

I just couldn’t help but keep thinking of wide beater vehemently defending how he was above the other guy’s criticism because of his “two years in the business.” How can one be so shitty and yet still have this inflated sense of self? It still puzzles me even to this day, how one can lack humility and simple self-awareness to that extent. I think the comedy equivalent would be some open mic-er getting indignant at criticism just because he’s been watching stand-up comedy for so many years.

I asked Craig at dinner that night, and he just shrugged and said “fucking backyarders.”

I guess what I took away from this event was just that a) not everybody involved with “professional” wrestling is a real professional, b) there is always somebody shittier than you who thinks he’s better, and c) try not to be that guy.


One Response to “Wrasslin’”

  1. Philip 08/16/2010 at 8:28 am #

    Great post man, its nice to have some insight on the dregs of pro wrestling. I know there are competent indy promotions out there, but its more fun to hear about the ones that are garbage. Im just glad the idiots didnt break your damn neck.

    Spotfests only work when competent wrestlers are doing them. If you arent as talented, stick with the fucking basics. Putting on a watchable wrestling match isnt rocket science, it just requires some thought, effort, and a little bit of skill.

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