Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Tempting of the Doon

Seeing as my Winter classes will be starting in the next couple weeks, the amount of time I get to spend writing will be very limited for the next few months. My plan for the new year is to make several changes in my attitude and my basic outlook on life, and one of those changes is to be more brutally honest, and the first step in doing so is writing this particular article and getting something off my chest.

It’s no secret to anyone who knows me that I both love and hate professional wrestling for very disparate reasons. It’s also no secret to anyone with even a limited interest in the sport that it’s somewhat synonymous with steroids. Professional wrestling gets more criticism for steroid use than any other professional sport, even though wrestlers mainly use it for cosmetic purposes rather than performance enhancing. We’re not altering our stats, and steroids won’t make you a better professional wrestler. I’m not going to point out any wrestlers in particular, but come on, most of us know who does and doesn’t use them, you don’t get that big from doing bench presses alone.

My entire life I’ve been a bit of a goody-two-shoes. I’ve never smoked, I don’t drink alcohol, and my entire foray into drugs is limited to the one time I smoked marijuana when I was 14. When I first entered the professional wrestling business, I was adamantly against steroid use, even going as far as creating a MySpace group (HA! MySpace) called “Pro Wrestlers Against Steroids,” which decried the fact that the talented are left behind while the pretty were rewarded.

In the Summer of 2010, I made a conscious effort to improve my body. I needed to lose weight. By no means was I still a fat guy at this point, but I was sick of people telling me that if I had the body that I would have a contract with one of the big wrestling companies. I needed something to take my mind off of my recent breakup, and dieting was one of the solutions I chose. It turned out to be a good decision. Around this time last year, people had really started to notice a change in my body, and right now, well, if you haven’t deleted me from your Facebook feed yet, you’re well aware of how I feel about my body, I’m quite proud of what I’ve managed to accomplish. The only drawback from getting in shape is that I managed to do it in such a speedy fashion that in addition to losing the weight, I also lost a lot of muscle mass. Many people also thought that since my body had changed in such a dramatic fashion that I had done so by illegal means. Here’s a picture of me taken in December of 2010...


…and one taken on March 5th, 2011...


…and lastly, one taken on August 18th, 2011.


As you can see, in a span of about 8 months, I went from bulky to lean, I had completely transformed. A short time after that second picture was taken, I had signed up to attend an open tryout for TNA Wrestling (currently called Impact Wrestling) in Pittsburgh on April 9th. At the time, I was afraid of being too small. After years and years of denouncing the use of steroids, I started researching them like crazy. Which ones were the best for mass-building, which products I could use to prevent some of the unwanted side-effects, etc. Seeing as I’m a professional wrestler and that I also work at a gym, steroids would not be hard to come by if I really wanted them. About a week before I left for Pittsburgh with my good buddy Jake, I was hooked up with some steroids. I hadn’t taken them yet because I wanted to get other people’s opinions about them. I asked a lot of my friends, both in and out of the wrestling business. The non-wrestling friends gave me a unanimous “Absolutely not.” The friends I had in the wrestling business were more of a “If you do them, make sure you trust the guy you get them from.”

Knowing that Jake and I had a total of 12 hours of driving ahead of us to and from Pittsburgh, I wanted to discuss this with him. Jake and I often think alike, and I knew he would look at it from the perspective of both a professional wrestler and as one of my best friends, which is what I wanted. Looking back, it almost felt like I was waiting for just one person to tell me it was okay and then I would do them. By no means did Jake tell me it was okay, but he and I discussed the pros and cons and he left me to make my own decision, which I feel is what a real friend does, that man has always been brutally honest with me, and if he noticed that steroids were affecting me in negative ways, he’d be the first person to sit me down and say so.

Despite never being given the go-ahead, I decided to try them anyway. I remember being in my basement, with a loaded syringe, butt exposed to the world, and…I just couldn’t do it. I don’t know why, but I just couldn’t make myself do it. Maybe it was the fact that if I did it would make me the biggest hypocrite in the history of the world. I remember sitting there thinking about all the people that would be disappointed. I thought about my loved ones that had passed away, like Cole and my grandmother, and wondered just how much I would be letting them down. I thought “If I’m not good enough without them, will I be good enough with them?”

It’s amazing to think how far you’re willing to go in order to live your dream. I no longer look down on people that do or have done steroids because I understand their mentality, you just want to be better. It’s a very cut-throat world, and the world of professional wrestling is even more so.

In retrospect, I’m glad that I can still say that all of my muscles are 100% mine. I remember a guy who used to come into the gym admitting to me about his steroid use, and then bragging about how he was smaller than me but was bench pressing more than I could. He didn’t it take too kindly when I called him out for having synthetic muscles.

By no means do I consider myself better than someone who uses steroids, like I said, I understand. I guess I just realized that they aren’t for me, and I haven’t even considered using them since that day in my basement. We all have our moments of weakness, and that was one of mine. I’ve had many before, and I’m sure I’ll have plenty in the future. At this point, I’d rather never make it big and live with a clear conscience than make it big and be disappointed with myself.

However, with all this said, I don’t view steroids as a dangerous substance, when used correctly. I’m sure many people have a differing opinion than the one I hold, like the generic argument of “roid rage.” Hey, you know what else makes you act like an asshole when you abuse it? Alcohol. And which one, statistically, kills more people every year? That would also be alcohol. Steroids don’t crack the top 10 on the list of substances that kill the most people each year, as a matter of fact, they don’t even crack the top 100. Does that make them safe? Absolutely not. If someone came up to me and asked “Hey, should I do steroids?” My answer would be “Probably not.” But you’d be hard-pressed to get me to say anything other than “probably not” to a boatload of things. You probably shouldn’t jump in front of a speeding car. You probably shouldn’t have sex with prostitutes. You definitely shouldn’t do meth. Seriously? Meth? Come on, man.

It’s also hard for me to disprove the positives of steroid use. How am I supposed to explain to a child that he shouldn’t use performance-enhancing drugs when a great percentage of our professional athletes, men and women who should be setting positive examples for today’s youth, are users? Who am I to judge when I still hold Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone in such high regard? I still buy every weightlifting magazine I see with Arnold on the cover, and I can’t even explain how influential the Rocky films have been on my life.

I kind of veered away from my own personal experience there, but I wanted to try and explain why I had a change of heart. It wasn’t until I had my own moment of weakness that I understood why anyone would want to do them. I’m glad I was ultimately able to resist, but when I say I was an inch away from doing them, I mean it literally, that’s about how big the needle was.

For any loved one of mine who may be reading this, if I’ve let you down, I truly am sorry. I’m sure that some of you now see me in a different light. It may be a negative light for considering steroids, or it may be a positive light for ultimately resisting. Every one of us have that one thing in our lives that we feel people look down on us for, and we all say “They just don’t understand.” Well, after this experience, I’m able to say that I do understand. I understand completely.

Thank you for reading,

Wednesday, November 30, 2011


It’s no secret that I’m a diehard fan of The Simpsons. In my opinion, there has never been a greater television show, and I would test my knowledge of the show against anyone in the world. With that said, I thought it would be fun to go on eBay and just search for the most random pieces of Simpsons merchandise that I could find.

If you go to eBay and just type in “The Simpsons,” you want to know how many results there are? A lot. When I put the “items per page” up to the maximum of 200, there were over 60 pages to go through, meaning there was over 12,000 results. I went through the first 10 pages. I scanned a total of 2,000 pieces of Simpsons merchandise and picked the 15 that stuck out the most. Some are weird, some are awesome, and I want all of them.

15. The Simpsons Cereal


This isn’t very weird, a lot of television series have had cereal tie-ins, like Urkel-Os and Fruity Pebbles. The Homer’s Cinnamon Donuts and Bart’s Peanut Butter Crunch cereals would have been something I would actually eat and probably enjoy. However, the Krusty-Os, which are an actual cereal in the Simpsons show, I’m not so sure about. Whenever Krusty plugs his cereal on the show, there’s often horrifying disclaimers on the box, and there’s even an episode based on Bart eating some and needing to get his appendix removed. But I will say that the art on the box is a nice touch.

14. Homer at the Bat Figurines


Figurines specifically based on one of my top 5 favorite episodes? Count me in. The only downside of this is that it only features regular Simpsons characters like Homer and Mr. Burns, and doesn’t include any of the real baseball players used in the episode like Ken Griffey, Jr. or Wade Boggs. I would have loved it if they included a figure of Don Mattingly after he shaved off his “sideburns.”

13. Chia Pet Homer


This doesn’t make sense to me. Homer Simpson is bald, therefore, you shouldn’t be able to grow “hair” out of his head unless you’re using Dimoxinil. I’ve never understood Chia Pets, or plants in general, as you have to take care of them and they do nothing for you in return. You can’t snuggle a Chia Pet the way you can an actual pet, and if you do, you’re weird. Regardless, the pot looks like Homer Simpson, so I’m adding it to my wish list.

12. Krusty the Klown Corkscrew


Wait, it’s a statue of Krusty the Klown that I can take the head off of and use as a weapon? Sold. I don’t drink, so I literally have to practical reason for wanting this, but in case you haven’t been paying attention to what you’re reading, I like The Simpsons, and that’s reason enough for me.

11. Simpsons Driver’s Licenses


Still scratching my head on this one. A few years ago, a friend of mine bought me a novelty credit card with my name on it that was made to look like I was a member of Umbrella Corporation (Resident Evil for life!), but this is different. First of all, only two of the five people pictured are old enough to even have driver’s licenses. Second of all, this serves no purpose. At least with my Umbrella card it has my name on it and I can pretend I’m much more awesome than I actually am. What do I do with these? Am I going to fool the police with a Lisa Simpson driver’s license? I still want these, but only if they’re given to me, and even then, only if the person giving them to me got them for free. Wait a minute, it doesn't have their Evergreen Terrace address on them. Nevermind, take them back.

10. Maggie Simpson Head Backpack


This is pretty much the creepiest backpack (scratch that, the creepiest THING) I’ve ever seen, and it’s almost worth it based on that fact alone. Hey, you want to carry around the decapitated head of a cartoon baby? Well, here’s your chance.

9. Simpsons Cuckoo Clock


This is the first thing on the list that I must own. There’s just no two ways about it. At some point in time, I will own a house, I will have a den, and this thing will tell me every time the new hour begins. Also, it talks! I don’t know what Homer says, but I’m sure it’s brilliant.

8. Simpsons Vinyl Figures


These things are so weird. If they weren’t colored yellow, you probably wouldn’t be able to tell that they’re supposed to be Simpsons characters. But I must admit that they’re pretty darn cute, especially the Krusty the Klown with his adorable little smile. The figures remind me of the Japanese TV show Shin Chan.

7. “Blame It On Lisa” Episode Script


I’m not sure if this is a legitimate product or not. Anyone with rudimentary typing skills and this episode of The Simpsons could slap this together, make a cover page, and sell it as real, so I have my doubts. If it’s real, however, it’s a piece of Simpsons history. If it’s real, it means one of the voice actors had this in front of them as they spoke their lines, that may not seem like a big deal if you’re not a nerd, but for Simpsons fanatics like me, it would be something to treasure until the end of days.

6. Bart Simpson RC Skateboard


If I wake up on Christmas morning, and this is under the tree, that’s a wrap on the rest of the day. I will suddenly turn into an 8-year-old, open this up, take it outside and play with it. I will make ramps out of cinder blocks and plywood, and after I make Bart Simpson jump off of it, I’m going to say “Coooooool!!!”

5. Homer Simpson Luchador Plush


It’s pretty obvious why I love this so much. I love The Simpsons, I love professional wrestling, and here they are together, at last. Granted, they did release a video game called Simpsons Wrestling back on the original PlayStation, but the less said about that, the better. This plush won’t traumatize me nearly as much as that game did. Homer also bears a striking resemblance to Nacho Libre.

4. Simpsons Easy Bake Oven


Homer Simpson loves donuts, so they created a product enabling you to do the same. It’s a pretty good idea: Step 1. Take beloved child’s toy and slap The Simpson’s name on it. Step 2. Hookers and blow. Seems solid.

3. Simpsons Gold


Speaking of solid, how about some solid gold? Eh?…eh? Essentially, this is a bar of really cheap gold with the trademark Simpson’s couch gag engraved into it. I don’t know who thought of this or why they thought it was a good idea, but I am living proof that there are some really stupid Simpson’s fans in the world that will pay for it anyway.

2. Bart Simpson Phone


This is another one of those items that serves no functional purpose for me because I haven’t used a home telephone in probably about six years. As soon as I saw this, it immediately reminded me of how awesome toys used to be when I was a kid. The early 90s were the bomb when it came to toys. Also, Bart’s eyes flash when it rings. When was the last time your phone did anything cool when it rang? Sure, it’ll play that terrible song you love so much, but does your phone have eyes that light up? Didn’t think so.

1. Simpsons Mighty Beanz


Lastly, we have.....beanz? I have no earthly idea what these are, but I know that I want them. One problem, there’s only one person on eBay selling them…for $2,000. I’m sorry, but no beans, oh, excuse me, beanZ, are worth $2,000. I’m guessing that replacing the “s” with a “z” drives up the market value about $1,995. I still find these to be pretty cool, whatever they are. After doing a little research, I found that Mighty Beanz was a toy manufactured by Moose Enterprises, which is based in Australia and was launched in 2002 and lasted until 2006, and then re-launched in 2010. They also had other licenses like Pokemon and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and apparently these licensed beanz are extremely rare and collectible. I don’t really understand the appeal or even what you’re supposed to do with them (apparently you can race them if you want to), but it’s sad that they can put some Simpsons characters on them and suddenly they are something I really, really…REALLY want.

In closing, purple monkey dishwasher.

Monday, November 21, 2011

5 Ways Getting In Shape Has Messed With My Head

If you just met me within the past year, you may not know that I used to be a pretty big guy. Big as in “wide.” I was a pretty big guy my entire life. When I graduated high school I was 6’6” and weighed about 240 or so. Not huge by any means, and with my height, I wore it well. But I wasn’t happy with the way I looked. I often thought that the reason I wasn’t shooing women away with a stick was because I wasn’t an attractive guy, when really, it was probably more because I was antisocial (that‘s what listening to Korn does to you) and extremely shy. I was uncomfortable around people I didn’t know well. Talking to a girl I didn’t know was a bit of a small miracle.

2007: 315 lbs., 34% body fat, disgusting beard, man-boobs.

2011: 215 lbs., 10% body fat, and a beard that kills inferior beards...also, abs.

When I was around 21 years old, I ballooned to about 315 lbs. I was in a relationship with a girl I hated, I had quit college, I hated my job, my best friend’s health was getting worse, and I was more depressed than I had ever been in my life. I can’t blame my weight gain on any of those factors, but they definitely didn’t help. I would drown my sorrows by eating an entire pizza or staying up all night playing video games and eating chips, downing them with Pepsi. Going to the gym, which has been something I’ve loved since I was 16, became a chore. Sometimes I would tell my girlfriend I was going to the gym and then just go to my house for a few hours just to get away from her. After we split, I found myself with an abundance of free time, which was usually spent at the gym, and my weight went from 315 to about 260 in about six months, and it would stay there for a few years.

In late 2009, I went through a very nasty break-up with my fiance, and basically spent all of 2010 in a depressed haze. I eventually realized that being depressed was killing me, and in order to take my mind off of the break up, I immersed myself in two things: school, and dieting. In September of last year, I was 260 lbs. and my body fat was around 24%. Right now, I weigh between 210-215 and my body fat stays around 10-11%. For the first time in my life, I know that I have a fantastic body, save from the stretch marks and little bit of extra skin from my bigger days. However, despite looking the way I’ve always wanted to, it’s done some damage to my psyche in a number of ways.

5. I Fear My Favorite Foods
Like any red-blooded American, I like three things: violent sports, beautiful women, and eating things that used to be animals. Animals that were bred, killed, cut up, breaded, put in a fryer, smothered in hot sauce and served with other things that are made up of dead animals. Hot dogs fresh off the grill on the 4th of July, Little Caesar’s pizza while watching WrestleMania, and watching the Bengals with a big basket of buffalo wings in front of me, those are probably my three favorite things in the world. The only problem is that I’m scared shitless of all of those things now. My routine is basically like this: Monday through Friday is strict dieting, I won’t even allow myself to eat half a Tootsie Roll if it were in front of me. Saturday is a little less strict, but I try not to go too crazy. Then Sunday comes around, and if you put a cake in front of me, that bastard is getting eaten…entirely…by me. Then I get eater’s remorse and hate myself.

The best of all worlds.

I’ve always had a problem with eating too much. I can easily put away five plates of food at a buffet and still go in for two desserts. This past July, I went to Cici’s Pizza, and I ate so much that I couldn’t stand straight up (no, that‘s not hyperbole, I literally couldn‘t stand up straight). I had to go to the restroom and make myself throw up to feel better. The next time my friends gathered at Cici’s, I brought a protein shake and didn’t eat anything, just because I was afraid of overdoing it again. I haven’t had any incidents like that since, but I still have the fear in me. I’ll make plans to go to a BW3s to watch the game, and while I look forward to it, I’m incredibly frightened as well.

4. I Became An Arrogant Dick
To put it simply, I became the guy that I used to hate. For years, I would hit the gym, see the guys that constantly check themselves out in the mirror, and think “Dude, is that really necessary?” I now find myself walking extra slow anytime I find myself near a mirror. You know those guys that constantly take their shirts off because they know they look good? Two years ago you couldn’t pay me enough to take my shirt off in public. Now, it’d be a challenge to find a social function where I don’t. I’m sure it annoys a lot of people.

I don’t think I do it for purposes of vanity. I think I just spent so much time wanting the body that I have now that I’m still in somewhat of a shock that I achieved it. I make no bones about it when I say that I’m proud of myself for what I’ve achieved. I remember my very first year of college, I took weightlifting as an easy A, and one day the professor (I guess you can call him that) brought in a fitness magazine. If you’ve ever seen a fitness magazine, I don’t have to tell you that the cover of the magazine featured a guy with ripped muscles, 6-pack abs, the whole nine yards. The professor then said “This is not possible. The only way people look like this is if they have superior genetics or they use steroids.” Well, I would like to respectfully disagree. I’ve never used steroids (despite the fact that some people have challenged it), and while my father was a former athlete and Army man, looking at me as a child, it’s safe to say I didn’t have genetics that were “superior.” So to that professor who said it was impossible: go fuck yourself, because I did it.

Some people have shown disdain for me because of my newfound confidence. Many of you are familiar with one of my previous writings entitled I Got Some Hate Mail…This Is My Response. If you’re not, go read it, because it’s probably my favorite thing I’ve ever written. To make it brief, someone calling themselves “Kenny” (if that is your real name, Jason) had grown quite upset over my arrogance. He then went on to question my sexuality, challenge me to a fight, and insult my passion. I've always tried to make my arrogant comments come off as sarcastic, but seeing as some people are unfamiliar with sarcasm, I shall close the register at this point.

I also find myself walking in a public place and seeing very attractive women with their significant others, and I immediately think “I’m better looking than that dude.” And I’m not joking when I say it, I sincerely think that. Maybe that kind of confidence is a good thing, and if it is, I hope it pays off sometime soon.

I truly hope that anyone who knows me on a personal level doesn’t look down on me for these types of things. I hope they see it the same way I do, which is to say that I’m confident with how I look, and maybe I gloat about it, but in my normal everyday life, I’m actually quite modest and humble.

3. It’s Draining My Wallet
I buy a lot of supplements. Off the top of my head, everything that I currently take on a daily basis is: multivitamins, omega-3, CLA, Thermo Burst, creatine, BCAAs, glutamine, N.O. Explode, and two different types of protein. That puts quite a hit on the old bank account every few weeks. Buying supplements is a lot like being a drug addict. It starts off where you start drinking protein shakes, and you like it and it makes you feel good. Then someone says “Hey, give this a shot,” and then that thing becomes something you want all the time, but you can’t give up your protein shakes. So in terms of drugs, I started with smoking a joint, and worked my way up to crystal meth.

Supplements are a slippery slope. It starts with one thing, then progresses to another, and another, and another, until you eventually find yourself killing hookers for Muscle Milk. And much like an addict, I can’t stop taking the stuff. I once ran out of CLA, decided not to renew my stock, found that my body fat percentage had gone up slightly, and then ordered some immediately. At least now I can settle for the off-brand products, because they’re essentially the same thing, but I would be lying if I said I wouldn’t be better off financially if I could kick this habit. I just hope my future children don’t hear about daddy’s tortured past and think less of him.

The "Jack the Ripper" of the supplement world.

2. I Gained Confidence, Then Reality Kicked In
You ever have something awesome happen, and then someone ruins it. Like if you went up to a friend and said “I got an A on my exam, it’s the hardest class I’ve ever taken and I got an A,” and then your friend says “Yeah, but you didn’t get an A+.” That’s how I feel a lot of the time.

I used to think dudes that were in tremendous shape had it easier. For me, it’s improved almost nothing. I’m healthier, I look better, I receive a lot of compliments, I get a lot of people asking me for fitness advice. Outside of those types of things, stuff hasn’t really gotten any better. I still get angry, I still get depressed, and I still feel overwhelmed a lot of times. A lot of it has to do with women. I had much better luck when I was in the 260 lb range. The quality of women I get now has vastly improved, but more than once recently I’ve found myself on the receiving end of a “hit it and quit it,” although that may just be karma coming back to bite me in the ass. Earlier in the year I found a woman that I was and still am really into. I thought I had a shot, totally didn’t. No biggie, I moved on. Found a new girl, started dating her, and she dumps me to marry her 41-year-old boss. Shrug it off and move on again. There’s a few fine women I wouldn’t mind getting to know a little better, and then I think “Forget it, you know how it’s going to end.“ Now, I’m just kind of doing whatever. Despite my newfound confidence, I was quickly reminded that the world will kick your ass, and it doesn’t give a shit who you are or what you look like.

For years I heard from people in the wrestling business that if I had the body, I’d have a contract with one of the major companies. I won’t hesitate to tell anyone that I think I’m a damn good professional wrestler, and I would put my skill up there with anyone else on the independent circuit with my size. Now, I have the body, and nothing has really improved, as a matter of fact, some people think it’s diminished my appeal, as I don’t look as imposing as I used to. Maybe I haven’t marketed myself the right way, and I’ve taken steps towards changing that recently, so we’ll see.

1. Body Dysmorphic Disorder
According to Wikipedia, body dysmorphic disorder is described as: a type of mental illness, a somatoform disorder, wherein the affected person is exclusively concerned with body image, manifested as excessive concern about and preoccupation with a perceived defect of his or her physical features. I didn’t even know about this until my buddy Hooks told me about it a few months ago. He brought it up when I said something about being concerned about my body fat increasing slightly. When he told me about it I looked it up and thought “I’m not that crazy.” Then I noticed that I was becoming obsessed over things that I was already very meticulous about and letting it affect my mind. Like if my weight had gone up, I would get upset with myself. I would eat a little less at each meal, workout at a faster pace, do extra or more intense cardio that night, etc.

The more research I did about the disorder, the more I realized that I may indeed have a problem with it. I don’t have a lot of the “symptoms” like suicidal ideation, anxiety and panic attacks, or alcohol and drug abuse. But then they list several “compulsive behaviors” normally associated with it. Things like compulsive mirror checking, seeking reassurance from loved ones, and excessive dieting or exercising. All of which I am guilty of.

And honestly, I hate to say this, but it’s all about my abs, I really don‘t want to lose them because they‘re something I had always wanted. For a long time I thought that if I let myself stop dieting for even more than a few days that they would just disappear. At the time I was still new to dieting, and now that I’ve done more research and understand it better, I stress about it a lot less. I’ve lightened quite a bit now that I’ve reached a point where I’m actually trying to put on some muscle mass, and I know the only way to do that is by eating a lot more than I’m used to. I have my apprehensions about it, but I still make myself do it. I spent my entire life so dissatisfied with the way that I look that I’m terrified of reverting back to that state. I’ve gotten better. Scales and body fat calculators are things that I use very sparingly when I used to check them everyday. I learned that it’s more about what the mirror says and not what the scale says. Scales and body fat are so dependent on so many variables that it can fluctuate on a daily basis.

Why did I want to write about all this? I initially started writing trying to be funny, then it took a left turn into serious. Please, if you’re reading this, don’t worry about me, I’m good. All five of the things I listed are things that I’ve improved with recently. I no longer fear watching the game with a basket of wings in front of me, I don’t obsessively check myself out in the mirror other than to check my progress, and while I do still look at the abs, I don’t freak out about them anymore, at least not as much.

Like I said earlier, I’m proud of what I’ve done. I set a goal for myself, and when I reached it I kept going, maybe even going a little too far. But now I know that reaching your goals can still have its negatives. So for all of you that have asked me for dieting advice is the recent past, I’m a living example that what you want is possible, just don’t overdo it like I did.

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Top 10 Most Essential Episodes Of The Simpsons


The Simpsons are an institution.  Everybody knows who they are, and in my youth, they were the only reason to watch television on Sunday night.  Their mixture of over-the-top antics, subtle hilarity, and iconic characters has shaped the way people think about animated entertainment.  While there is no denying that The Simpsons have declined in quality in recent years, it doesn’t change the fact that the show is (in my opinion) the greatest show of all-time.  I would agree that it’s about time for Matt Groening to call it a day with the series and focus on different ventures (Futurama, for one, is still excellent), but I would be lying if I said that I wouldn’t be sad when the final episode comes to a close, as they were such an influential part of my life.  The show is still solid these days, and still a good way to spend thirty minutes, but the episodes these days aren’t the kind that I’m going to be text-quoting with my friends during class (more on that later).  I mourn for today’s youth because they just won’t understand how great the show was.  It may not be what it once was, but The Simpsons are to television what Mario is to video games, or what The Beatles are to music.  To put it simply, The Simpsons are timeless.  Being a Simpsons superfan for the majority of my life, I’ve compiled a list of the 10 most essential episodes of The Simpsons.  Even if you’re not a fan of the show, I truly feel these 10 episodes are ones that everyone can watch and enjoy.

Before I start, I would like to mention some episodes that didn’t quite make the cut but deserve honorable mentions:

“The Telltale Head”
“Bart the Daredevil”
“Mr. Plow”
“Marge Vs. The Monorail”
Basically every episode from seasons 5-8.

Now, let’s start the official list.

10) Simpsons Roasting On An Open Fire
Episode Number: 1
Original Air Date: 12/17/1989
Fun Fact: Originally planned to be episode 8 of season one.

What better way to kick off this list and by talking about the episode that started it all?  This episode tugs at my heartstrings every time I watch it, and it’s become a Christmas staple of mine, I watch it every year.  After Bart spies a tattoo parlor in the Springfield Mall, he heads in and gets tatted up.  An angry Marge has to use the money they were saving for Christmas to get the tattoo removed, and plans to use the Homer’s Christmas bonus to pay for presents.  The only problem being that Springfield’s very own Scrooge (and Homer’s boss), Mr. Burns, doesn’t give his employees a bonus that year.


To help pay for Christmas presents, Homer takes a second job as a mall Santa Claus.  After being exposed by Bart, Homer is fired.  Dejected, he goes with Barney to the dog track, using the last of his money to bet on a dog named “Santa’s Little Helper," viewing it as a sign from God.  Unfortunately, the greyhound finishes last.  While leaving the track, Santa’s owner abandons him, and Homer reluctantly takes the dog with him.  As Homer tries to think of a way to break the news to the family that there won’t be a Christmas that year, the family, thinking that Santa’s Little Helper is their Christmas gift, are overjoyed.

This is the very first episode of The Simpsons that ever aired, although it wasn’t originally planned that way.  But, in my opinion, this is the perfect episode to start the series off with, and I couldn’t imagine a world where it wasn’t.  It truly is the best reflection of what the family is: a group of people full of flaws, that despite everything, always know that they have one another.  This is the best episode to try and understand Homer Simpson as a character.  He’s a grotesque man-child, slacker extraordinaire who, at the end of the day, loves his family and will do whatever it takes to make them happy.  He may not always be able to provide them with the extravagant items they desire, but he will go above and beyond what most people would in order to try.


This episode isn’t so much memorable for one-liners and signature gags, but it’s a classic for every Simpsons fan.  Everybody has their Christmas traditions, and watching this episode is one of mine.

9) Treehouse Of Horror V
Episode Number: 109
Original Air Date: 10/30/1994
Fun Fact: Features James Earl Jones as the voice of Maggie.

The Treehouse of Horror episodes are a Simpsons tradition.  The annual Halloween episodes are generally considered to be one of the highlights of every season, and this particular installment from season six is, in my opinion, the best of the bunch, although it is definitely a tough contest.  Treehouse of Horror is always split into three separate stories, usually parodying classic horror cinema or literature.  Sometimes the episodes are book-ended with a story.  For instance, one of them starts with the kids eating too much Halloween candy, causing them to have nightmares, the nightmares being shown as the segments.  Everything from classic horror (Dracula, Night of the Living Dead) to classic literature (War of the Worlds, The Raven) to more recent flicks (A Nightmare of Elm Street, Sweeney Todd) have been the basis for some of the segments.  Alien characters Kang and Kodos are brought out every year for the Treehouse of Horror, usually in one of the sketches, but sometimes only in the opening or closing segments.  One other tradition is the use of “scary names” in the credits.  The easiest example being Matt Groening being billed as “Bat Groening.”

The first segment of this episode is widely considered to be one of the best things not only in the Halloween episodes, but in the entire series, and I would have to agree.  It’s called “The Shinning,” and you can pretty easily figure out what the parody is.  The Simpsons become the caretakers of Mr. Burns mansion, who cuts off the power and removes the beer from the extravagant home to try and ensure hard work from the family.  With Homer’s two favorite things completely removed from the house, he begins to slowly lose his mind.  Groundkeeper Willie discovers that Bart has “the shinning,” and can read his thoughts (but not between 4 and 5 because that’s “Willie’s time”), and tells Bart to use his “shin” to call for Willie if Homer goes crazy.  Homer, while sitting in a vacant bar in the mansion, is confronted by an apparition of Moe, who tells Homer to kill his family for a beer.  Homer does indeed try to off his family, and hilarity ensues.


The second segment is “Time and Punishment.”  While trying to fix a broken toaster, Homer accidentally turns it into a time machine.  Homer travels back in time and remembers his father’s words of “If you go back in time, don’t step on anything…”  Homer accidentally kills a small bug and shortly thereafter is transported back to the present day.  After seemingly nothing has changed, Homer believes he is in the clear, only to discover that Ned Flanders is the ruler of the world.  Homer returns to the past several times, and has a different present day each time he returns.  Homer eventually settles for an exact version of his life, only with a family who has lizard tongues.

Seeing as this particular entry is already running long, I will give you a brief description of the third and final segment, “Nightmare Cafeteria.”  You ever see Soylent Green?  It’s that.  The staff of the school start killing the kids in detention and turn them into food for their own consumption.


Every Treehouse of Horror is great in its own way, but this is definitely one of the standout entries, and like I said earlier, my personal favorite.  “The Shinning” is the standout of the episode, but each segment is solid and offers something completely different from the other two.  It also features the best gag of the Treehouse episodes, with Groundkeeper Willie being stabbed in the back with an ax in every segment.

8) The City of New York Vs. Homer Simpson
Episode Number: 179
Original Air Date: 09/21/1997
Fun Fact: I once wrote a blog about a Simpsons/September 11th conspiracy based on this episode.

Almost every episode that involves the Simpson family doing some traveling is a fantastic one.  They’ve been to every continent except Antarctica.  They’ve gone to Japan, China, Africa, Australia (more on that later), Italy, Brazil, Canada, and so on.  But sometimes they travel within the United States, and when the family traveled to the Big Apple, it was a classic.  The plot is simple: Barney, upset after being chosen as a designated driver, disappears with Homer’s car.  Months later, Homer receives a letter telling him that his car is illegally parked at 1 World Trade Plaza in New York.  Thus, the Simpsons go to New York City to retrieve the car.


The reason that these traveling episodes are always so good is because it’s always fun to see the family confronted with things they don’t see in their everyday lives.  In this particular adventure, the entire family is excited to go, except for Homer, who once had a terrible experience in the city, and just wants to go get his car and come home.  So Homer waits with the car until the boot is removed while the rest of the family explore.  The writers are always able to poke fun at the particular city they’re spotlighting and keep it funny, subtle, and tasteful.  They’re able to exploit the stereotypes of the population without offending, and in most cases, the population laughs along with everybody else.

This episode is the youngest on the list; the first episode of season nine.  That’s not to say that the seasons that follow this one aren’t top-notch, because they are, and if this were a top-20 list, I would probably have a few episodes from seasons ten, eleven, and probably even twelve, because there are some episodes on those seasons that are damn good. If this were a top-10 “favorite” episodes, this list would be different, but I’m listing the top “essential” episodes, and in that case, this is the way the cookie crumbles, and the ten essential Simpsons occur before the new millennium.

7) Homer’s Enemy
Episode Number: 176
Original Air Date: 05/04/1997
Fun Fact: The physical appearance of Frank Grimes is modeled after Michael Douglas in Falling Down.

The basic premise of this episode is to pair Homer with an everyman, the kind of guy who works hard but has very little.  Frank Grimes is that kind of man, a man who grew up poor and worked as a delivery boy who delivered presents to more fortunate children, used his few leisure moments to study science by mail, and lives above a bowling alley and below another bowling alley.  When that kind of person is paired with Homer Simpson, the shining example of a lazy, incompetent employee who somehow lives the “American Dream,” the interactions between the two make for comedy gold.

When Frank Grimes is hired by the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant, he is immediately dumbfounded by the fact that Homer is the safety inspector of the plant, referring to him as an “irresponsible oaf.”  All of Homer’s actions annoy “Grimey.”  Things like stealing and chewing all of Frank’s pencils, eating Frank’s lunch, and getting Frank in trouble after saving Homer from drinking a beaker of sulfuric acid and destroying Mr. Burns’ wall.


Homer, being upset about the fact that Frank hates him, invites Frank over for dinner.  After meeting the rest of the family, Frank becomes enraged at how easy Homer has it and how hard he’s had to work for considerably less, and eventually tells Homer off.  After talking with Marge, Homer decides that the best way to get on Frank’s good side is to become a model employee.  Not buying the charade, Frank alters a flyer for a children’s model power plant competition, tricking Homer into entering the competition and hopefully embarrassing him in the process.  Homer winds up winning the competition, which causes Frank Grimes to go crazy.  Frank goes on a rampage through the plant, trying to demonstrate Homer’s incompetence, but all Frank manages to do is kill himself by electrocution.


This episode is regarded as perhaps the darkest episode of the entire series due to the way it ends.  I, personally, would have loved to have come across Frank in later episodes.  They did have a Frank Grimes Jr. trying to get revenge on Homer later in the series, but Frank Grimes was always meant to be a one-time only character, and he is always brought up when people mention the best guest characters on the show.

6) A Star Is Burns
Episode Number: 121
Original Air Date: 03/05/1995
Fun Fact: Series creator Matt Groening hates this episode, and actually tried very hard to get it pulled.

This is the one and only time an episode of The Simpsons could be considered a crossover.  Anyone my age may remember the cartoon The Critic, which starred Jon Lovitz.  I personally never watched the show, so I can’t speak of its quality.  Matt Groening hated this episode, as I just mentioned, because he viewed it as an advertisement for another show.  He lobbied to get it pulled, and was unsuccessful, and I would like to go on record and give my thanks to whoever it was that stood up to Mr. Groening.  All due respect to you, sir, obviously I’m a big fan, but I love this episode, and I know a lot of other people that do as well.


Springfield is voted as the least cultural city in the United States, and a town meeting is called to find a solution.  Marge proposes the idea of holding a film festival, to which the town jovially agrees, making Marge the head of the festivities.  As another way to draw in tourists for the festival, Marge brings in New York film critic Jay Sherman to be a special celebrity judge.  Homer, feeling like Marge doesn’t respect his opinions, begs her to put him on the judges panel, and she reluctantly agrees.  Meanwhile, Mr. Burns, learning that his wealth has decreased because of his poor image with the public, decides that he will buy his way into the Springfieldians hearts by bribing the judges and winning the contest.  Long-time boozehound Barney Gumble enters a film into the contest as well, which is far superior to Mr. Burns’.  Unable to come to a consensus about the winner (Krusty and Mayor Quimby voting for Mr. Burns, Marge and Jay voting for Barney, and Homer voting for “Man Getting Hit By Football"), Homer gives the films another round of consideration.  After a long and tough debate (Barney’s film had heart but “Football in the Groin” had a football in the groin), Homer eventually chooses Barney’s film.

In addition to some great Rainier Wolfcastle scenes and perhaps the best use of a tumbleweed the television world has ever seen, there’s also a great character in Senior Spielbergo, Steven Spielberg’s non-union Mexican equivalent.  He doesn’t really say much, but his subtle approval of Bumblebee Man to star in Burns’ film I still find funny every time I watch it, and I wouldn’t mind seeing Spielbergo make another appearance in the series.

I understand Matt Groening’s reservations about this episode, but I can’t say that I was ever tempted to watch The Critic, and I’m still not, despite how much I love Jon Lovitz.

5) Homer At The Bat
Episode Number: 52
Original Air Date: 02/20/1992
Fun Fact: Surprising to no one, Jose Canseco was not cooperative, and insisted that his part be re-written.
Bonus Fact: Ryne Sandberg and Carlton Fisk rejected offers to appear in this episode.

The reason this episode is so fantastic is because it mixes one of America’s best television shows with America’s pastime, baseball (or softball if you want to be picky about it).  Mr. Burns makes a bet with Aristotle Amadopoulos (thank you, Wikipedia), the owner of the Shelbyville Nuclear Power Plant, that his plant’s softball team will beat Aristotle’s.  Mr. Burns then hires professional baseball players to be ringers for his team, giving them all jobs at the plant.  If you aren’t a long-time baseball fan, some of these names may not sound familiar, but the players Mr. Burns brings in are: Roger Clemens, Ken Griffey Jr., Steve Sax, Mike Scioscia, Wade Boggs, Don Mattingly, Jose Canseco, Ozzie Smith, and Darryl Strawberry.

With a stroke of bad luck, every player except for Strawberry has to miss the game, and that’s really what makes this episode so fantastic.  The reasons the players miss the game are just so ridiculous, and in some cases completely over-the-top:

-Roger Clemens thinks he is a chicken after being hypnotized.
-Wade Boggs gets knocked out by Barney at Moe’s tavern over an argument about who was Britain’s best prime minister.
-Ken Griffey Jr. develops gigantism after consuming Mr. Burns’ nerve tonic.
-Steve Sax is from New York and is arrested by Springfield Police because they assume he is responsible for every unsolved crime in the city of New York.
-Mike Scioscia develops radiation poisoning from taking his job at the plant too seriously.
-Don Mattingly is kicked off the team by Mr. Burns after repeated requests to shave sideburns that he doesn’t have.
-Ozzie Smith disappears into another dimension at “Sprinfield’s Mystery Spot.”
-Jose Canseco gets stuck rescuing a woman and all her possessions from a house fire.


Homer is downtrodden by the fact that even after everyone else misses the game and is replaced by the original team, his spot is still taken up by Darryl Strawberry.  I must say that Strawberry is my favorite character of all the players because he constantly sucks up to Mr. Burns, pointing out other players’ bad attitudes and referring to Mr. Burns as “Skip.”  However, with the game on the line, with bases loaded in the last inning, and Strawberry due up to bat, Mr. Burns, being the witty baseball man that he is, has Homer pinch-hit for Strawberry.  Homer steps in, ready to knock home the game-winning run…and gets hit in the head with the ball, and the winning run comes home.  Springfield wins!

And for the icing on the cake, the episode ends with an amazing song made for this episode called “Talkin’ Softball.”  I actually find myself listening to that song on my iPod just because it makes me so happy.


4) Bart Vs. Australia
Episode Number: 119
Original Air Date: 02/19/1995
Fun Fact: The staff of The Simpsons received over 100 letters from Australians who were insulted by this episode.

I mentioned earlier how it’s always fun to see the Simpson family outside of their element.  Seeing them in New York City was delightful, but when the family travels to the outback, it makes for one of the best episodes of the entire series.  I happen to think this episode is rather underrated, I don’t usually see it mentioned on too many ‘best of’ lists, but in my opinion, from start to finish, it’s a genuine classic.  It features so many subtle laughs that go unnoticed (like the Australian stamp that boasts: “Australia: 30 Years of Electricity"), and also a great performance by the late Phil Hartman in one of his many non-recurring character roles.  The one-liners are some of the best the writers have ever come up with, the “knifey-spooney” and “chazwozzers” lines being the standouts.


The basic story starts out with Bart and Lisa arguing about the “Coriolus Effect” (go look it up).  Trying to prove Lisa wrong, Bart makes a collect call to Australia and winds up leaving the phone off the hook, resulting in a 9-hour call and a phone bill of 900 dollary-doos.  Bart is then confronted by the United States Embassy and asked to go to Australia to make a public apology.  While Bart and Homer go together to make the apology, Lisa and Marge do some tourism.  The Australians trick Bart, and after his apology, try to punish him by giving him “the boot.”  It may just be a little kick in the bum, but Homer is outraged, disparages the boot (which is a bootable offense), and manages to wrestle it away and using it against the natives to escape back to the U.S. Embassy.

Bart, with a sudden surge of American pride, eventually relents to accept the booting, who then rescinds the offer by mooning the Prime Minister.  The Simpsons then escape on a helicopter.  The final scene of this episode is so good that I’m not going to ruin it, it begs to be viewed.


I mentioned in the fun fact that many Australians were very upset with this episode.  They do poke fun at a lot of Australian things, like Crocodile Dundee, Foster’s beer, and the language in general.  They even make mention of the fact that Australia was founded as a territory to house British convicts, and all the Australian natives are portrayed as a bunch of half-wits.  But you know what?  It’s funny, so lighten up, Australia.

3) Lemon of Troy
Episode Number: 127
Original Air Date: 05/14/1995
Fun Fact: The overall plot of this episode is an allegory to the Trojan War.

This is arguably the most quotable episode of The Simpsons.  I once spent a 3-hour class in college texting this entire episode back and forth with my friend Luke.  The story is basic: Springfield’s youth get into a scuffle with the youngsters of rival town, Shelbyville.  The Shelbyville children steal Springfield’s iconic lemon tree, and Bart and his cohorts must travel to the foreign land (where the fire hydrants are yellow) to get it back.


The episode starts with Marge catching Bart defacing public property, and she attempts to teach him a lesson about town pride.  Soon after the lesson sinks in, the boys of Springfield get into a trash-talking contest with the boys of Shelbyville.  The next day at school, Nelson Muntz interrupts class to inform the kids that the town’s lemon tree has been stolen.  The dream team of Bart, Milhouse, Nelson, Todd Flanders, Martin Prince, and Database go on a journey to their hated rival town to try to find the tree and bring it back where it belongs.  Bart later disguises himself (his wig makes him look just like one of the Beatles) and infiltrates the Shelbyville gang.  After outing himself as Bart Simpson...from Springfield, we have an epic skateboard chase scene that culminates in Bart being trapped in the tiger cage at the Shelbyville Zoo.  After narrowly making his escape, the parents of Springfield find their missing children, where the parents are informed of Shelbyville’s theft.  They come to discover that the tree is being held hostage inside the Shelbyville impound lot.

The plan they come up with is to park Flanders’ RV in a tow away zone to get the RV taken to the impound lot, where they successfully take back the lemon tree.


This is one episode of The Simpsons that you will see on almost everyone’s favorite episodes list.  It’s basically been scientifically proven that season six is the best season of The Simpsons, and quite possibly, the best season of any show, ever.  And this is the best episode of the season.

*Note: all scientific facts for this study were done by me, in my head.

2) Cape Feare
Episode Number: 83
Original Air Date: 10/07/1993
Fun Fact: In the original script, Sideshow Bob was only supposed to step on one rake, but, fearing they wouldn’t reach the minimum run time for the episode, the writers stretched the scene by making him step on nine.


Parodying the movie of the same (differently spelled) name, this episode features Kelsey Grammer reprising his role as Sideshow Bob, the former sidekick of Krusty the Clown and several time convict.  Every time Sideshow Bob comes back, he has some sort of gimmick: Aunt Selma’s husband, Mayor of Springfield, destroying television with terrorism, and even an episode where he is trying to live on the straight and narrow.  This episode, however, is Sideshow Bob doing what Sideshow Bob does best, which is attempting (and failing) to kill Bart Simpson.  Killing Bart is almost always Bob’s underlying motive, as Bart was the person to get Bob captured and locked away in the first place for robbing the Kwik-E-Mart.

In this particular adventure, Sideshow Bob slips through the cracks of the American legal system and is let out on parole.  He wastes no time going after his old nemesis.  After receiving several death threats, Bart and the family are relocated to Terror Lake, only to find that Bob has followed them.  One night on the Simpson’s new houseboat, Bob ties up the family, hijacks the boat, sets sail down the river, and finally, tries his best to rid the world of a one Bart Simpson.

Being the gentleman that he is, Sideshow Bob grants Bart one last wish.  Knowing that he needs to stall for time, his request is to have Bob perform the entirety of the H.M.S. Pinafore.  Just as Bob finishes the opera, ready to strike down the heathen that is Bart Simpson, the ship crashes on the shores of Springfield, where Chief Wiggum and the rest of Springfield’s “finest” are waiting to make the arrest.


Sideshow Bob episodes are always great, and I would say that Bob is the best recurring character in the entirety of the series, and this episode is the standout performance, and also marks the beginning of his now famous rake gag.  There really couldn’t be a better pick than Kelsey Grammer for this role.  Bob is a well-educated, well-spoken, debonair individual, much like the real Kelsey Grammer, only with more homicidal tendencies.

1) You Only Move Twice
Episode Number: 155
Original Air Date: 11/03/1996
Fun Fact: Albert Brooks, who voiced Hank Scorpio, ad-libbed the majority of his lines for this episode.


I will start by saying this:  if Sideshow Bob is the single best recurring character in the history of the series, then Hank Scorpio is the single greatest non-recurring character in the history of the series.  If you think I’m wrong then you haven’t seen this episode.  I’m tempted to not even mention the plot and just talk about him.  This is both the most essential and my personal favorite episode of the show.  I will say minimal about this one because seriously, even if you’re not a fan of the show, you will enjoy this particular episode.  The way Homer and Hank play off each other, the way that Homer is completely oblivious to his super-villain of a boss, the scenes with Bart in the remedial class, and Scorpio’s eccentricities all combine to make this an episode that can be viewed multiple times in a row without ever getting tired.


Long story short, Homer gets a new job with the Globex Corporation in Cypress Creek, working for Hank Scorpio.  That’s all I’m going to give you plot-wise, because anything else I say will just be ruining it.  Everyone owes it to themselves to see this one, and I believe all die-hard Simpsons fans would agree.

There it is, my top ten most essential episodes of The Simpsons.  You may not agree, but I’ve been a Simpsons connoisseur for almost my entire life, so I consider myself at least well-educated on the subject.  The Simpsons are my thing, and if you didn’t like this, then don’t have a cow, man (see what I did there?).

*Note: With the exception of where I thanked Wikipedia, this entire article was done by memory, so if I messed something up, shut up about it.

Thanks for reading!


Monday, September 19, 2011

Pro Wrestling: Living With The Knowledge That Pain Is Inevitable.

There are two truths about being a professional wrestler that everyone should know before ever stepping foot in a ring: 1) Telling a woman that you’re a pro wrestler will definitely get you laid at least once in your life, and 2) you will get hurt.  I’m 26 years old, and I’ve been wrestling for nearly eight years now, and my body often feels much older than 26.  I grew up playing sports.  Baseball was my first love, and I began playing at the age of 5.  When I was around 11, I broke my tailbone during a game.  I don’t remember how I did it, I just remember having excruciating pain in my lower back for the rest of the day.  I thought I had just pulled a muscle in my back at the time, it wasn’t until I had been wrestling for a couple years that I went to the doctor and got x-rays.  They asked me if I knew I had a broken tailbone.

“You mean I broke my tailbone?”
“No, it’s an old break.  Do you have back problems?”
“Every now and then.”
“That’s why.  The tailbone is shaped like a C, yours is shaped like an L.”

And with that, I realized that back pain was going to be a regular part of my life.  It’s not a constant thing by any means.  About once a year I’ll sleep on it wrong and it’ll hurt for about half a day, but for that half a day, I hate my life.  Unfortunately, there isn’t a whole lot that can me done for a tailbone break.  I broke my foot in high school and had a pin put in with surgery to repair it, but there’s nothing like that for the tailbone.

In my wrestling career, I’ve been lucky enough to avoid major injuries thus far.  That’s not to say that I haven’t witnessed some pretty bad ones.  I’ve seen some of my best friends get hurt.  I’ve seen Ed Gonzales break his ankle, I’ve seen Jay Donaldson mess up his knee, and I’ve seen my childhood friend Jerrod almost die from getting dropped on his head, and that’s not an exaggeration at all.  I’ve had lots of bumps and bruises, a lot of cuts and scrapes, and a few sweet scars to show for it.

You have to be crazy to be a professional wrestler.  Only a handful of professions require you to put your life on the line every time you go to work.  Stuff like our military (and I can’t stress enough how much I appreciate your service), police officers, firefighters, and other similar professions.  Yet, professional wrestlers do the same thing, but receive nowhere near the same amount of respect.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that Hulk Hogan deserves the same respect as General Patton, but at least the military doesn’t have to put up with people calling their profession fake.

The late Andrew “Test” Martin’s chiropractor once told him that every bump a wrestler takes is the equivalent of getting hit by a car going 25 miles-per-hour.  I don’t know how true that is, but what I do know is true is that every bump definitely takes its toll on the body.  The human body was not meant to fall on steel and wood, that’s why God gave us a center of gravity, so we could avoid doing so.  Yet, here I am, willingly doing it on a regular basis.

I don’t know if it’s because we’re fearless or just dumb.  As a child, Chris Jericho approached Jesse “The Body” Ventura and told him that he wanted to be a professional wrestler.  The first thing Ventura told him was “Be prepared for a life of pain.”

At my first day of training, before I even took my first bump, I knew it was going to hurt.  Then I took my first bump, and sure enough, it hurt.  Then I took another bump, and another bump, and another bump, and another bump, and they all yielded the same result.  But when I woke up in the morning, despite feeling like I had been hit by a train, I couldn’t wait to go back to training that night.  I’ve never understood it.  I hate pain.  I’m not some sadomasochist and I receive some weird pleasure from getting hurt.  I avoid confrontation at all costs because, well, to be honest, I don’t want to get hit.  I’ve been flicked in the balls, I’ve been hit with a baseball, and I’ve had my nipples pinched, and none of that feels good.  Pain is terrible.  But I still love getting into a ring and I still willingly do damage to my body, even if the damage isn’t immediately apparent.

If I happen to make it big one day, and wrestle the kind of grueling schedule that a star has, I know that eventually I’m going to break a bone or tear a muscle or get a concussion.  It’s a part of the business that’s unavoidable.  It happens to the best wrestlers in the world, and it often results in amazing careers being cut short, like Steve Austin and Edge, who both had at least a few good years left in their tanks before their careers had to end.  Shawn Michaels, a man who many consider to be the best wrestler of all-time, lost four years of his career because of a broken back.

I often hear about how the average career for a player in the NFL is about 3 years, therefore, players hold out for larger deals with more guaranteed money, and most of them still wind up broke shortly after their career ends.  When it comes to professional wrestling, I’ve been told “It’s not about how much you make, it’s about how much you save.”  That couldn’t be more true.  In most cases, pro wrestlers have to pay for their own food, gas, hotels, etc.  You think Tom Brady ever has to worry about food, gas, or hotels when the Patriots play a road game?  Maybe he pays for his own food, but when you make Tom Brady money, you can afford it.  Why do I bring up money?  Because there’s no retirement plan for professional wrestling.  That’s why you still see former huge stars wrestling on the independents.  Did you ever see the movie The Wrestler?  A lot of that movie is pretty accurate (and if you haven’t seen it, you really should).  If I were to ever make big money in wrestling, I’d like to think I would be smart enough to learn from the mistakes of others and be smart with my money, because I have no idea when my career will end.

Every time we step into the ring, we are literally putting our lives on the line.  Not only that, but we are entrusting our lives to someone other than ourselves, which is often a scary thought.  That’s not to say I don’t trust the guys I get into the ring with, because for the most part, I do.  But the idea of putting your life in someone else’s hands is a terrifying one for almost anybody.  After any match, I could wake up the next day in a hospital, unable to move my legs.  I could wake up at home and not be able to get out of bed, and even with this knowledge, I still do a swanton bomb in almost every match.  For any non-wrestling fans reading this, it’s basically doing a front flip off the top rope and landing on your back.  There’s no way I’m not going to pay the price for that at some point in my life.

I’m not much of a thrill-seeker outside of the ring.  For the most part, I’m a pretty laid back guy.  I’m much more of a “night at home” kind of guy than a “night on the town” kind of guy.  So why do I have such a dangerous hobby?  Why do I want to make that dangerous hobby my livelihood?  The honest answer is…I don’t know.  Why does someone grow up wanting to be a police officer or firefighter?  Some things you just feel you are born to do, regardless of how dangerous it is, and I like to think that I was born to be a professional wrestler.  That being said, I don’t intend on being a wrestler until I die, I do eventually want to retire and enjoy life without having to worry about things like money.  I just turned 26, and I’ve given myself until the age of 30 to make it in wrestling.  That’s not to say that I’ll never wrestle again after my 30th birthday, it just means that I’ll stop taking it as seriously, I’ll wrestle when I want to and enjoy it when I do.  But right now, I still have a few years left to fulfill this dream of mine, and I go out there every night and try to have the best match on the card. All I know is that I love professional wrestling, even though it's killing me.

Thursday, August 25, 2011


Pro wrestling is my life.  When I was 4-years old, I said “When I grow up, I want to be either first baseman for the Cincinnati Reds or a pro wrestler.”  When I was 14-years old, I said “When I grow up, I want to be either the singer of a heavy metal band or a pro wrestler.”  Now, I’m 26, and I’ve been a professional wrestler for almost 8 years.  I was a freshman in college, and used $900 of my student loan money to pay for training with independent wrestling star Shark Boy.  I didn’t care how many people told me it was “fake” or how many people thought I was crazy for not “growing out of it.“  Either you get it or you don’t, and I got it.  The first day of training was March 7th, 2004.  When I first stepped into the office building that featured a garage equipped with a wrestling ring, it wasn’t quite WrestleMania, but it was the most magical thing I had ever laid my eyes on.  This was the first step.  For 3 days a week, for the next 15 weeks, that office building was my life.  If I could have stayed later, I would have.  If I could have gotten there earlier, I would have.  After the first week of training, the soreness in my back was intense, but not bad enough to where I was going to skip training or avoid taking another bump.  I loved every second of it.

After being in the wrestling business for 8 years, I’ve learned a few things.  Mainly, I’ve learned that this is not a glamorous business.  I still love it as much as I ever did, but for different reasons.  I definitely look at it in a much different light than I did in 2004.  There are a lot of things that you don’t learn about the business until you become a part of it.  Here’s a few things I’ve learned:

Nobody gets into the wrestling business and says “My dream is to wrestle at the (insert county name) County Fair.”  Everyone that gets into wrestling has ambitions of making it big.  That’s the way it should be, otherwise, why even try?  I had those ambitions when I first started, and 8 years later, I still have those ambitions.  Sometimes, you’ll come across a guy and see something special, and other times you’ll come across a guy who you know is never going anywhere, and yet, both of those guys have the same dream.  This causes a bit of a problem.

Everyone on the independent wrestling circuit thinks they deserve to be somewhere that they’re not.  I’m guilty of this as well, although I do think I have the tools necessary to make it somewhere, someday.  But I can’t count the amount of indy wrestlers I’ve come across in locker rooms all over the country that say “If I were just given a chance, I could be the next huge superstar.”  The word in that sentence that bugs me the most is “given.”  Professional wrestling is a cutthroat business, full of snakes and vultures.  You’re not given anything, you have to take the things you want.  Unless you’re an established name, bookings aren’t going to find you.  The people looking for talent for the big companies aren’t going to do a YouTube search for you.  You have to be annoying if you want to get noticed.  Send your tapes to everyone, send them multiple times, so many times that they’ll give you a look just to get you to shut up.  If you’re truly as good as you think you are, you’ll get noticed.  Talent is talent, no matter who you are and no matter who is watching.  If you’re good, people will recognize it.

Of course…there are exceptions.

There have been countless articles written about how pro wrestlers are constantly working while hurt, so this is nothing you haven’t already heard before.  One common misconception about pro wrestling is that the ring is like a trampoline, or that it’s not “real blood.”  For anyone that hasn’t seen a wrestling ring being put together, I’ll keep it simple: there’s a lot of steel, a lot of wood, and a little bit of thin padding.  It’s basically like falling on a concrete floor that has a little bit of give to it.

I’ve seen some pretty horrific injuries in every sport, but they don’t compare to pro wrestling injuries.  Don’t believe me?  Would you like me to show you the Sid Vicious leg break video?  Because I will.  Or the countless number of guys dropping directly on their head?  Because I will.  The amazing thing about it all is that very rarely does an injury cause the match to stop.  Guys have had to finish matches with concussions, and later admit that they have no knowledge of the match ever taking place.  I have first-hand experience with this (I’m still sorry, Tony).  It’s a very scary thing.  And every wrestler is familiar with Triple H wrestling for several minutes with a completely torn quadriceps muscle.  Regardless of how you feel about Triple H, that man has bulldozers in his nutsack.  You’ll never see a football player play a game with a torn quadriceps, and you’ll never hear about a pro wrestler missing a match because of turf toe.

But that’s the business.  The show must always go on unless it absolutely can’t.  If you can get out of bed in the morning, you’re going to the ring that night.

So why do it if it hurts so much?  Three words:  We love it.  Not only is it a very painful business, it’s also not a lucrative one.  There is no money on the independent level of professional wrestling, at least not a substantial amount.  You’re not going to be able to support yourself (and a family) unless you’re with one of the major companies in the world.  Most independent companies in the country barely break even after a particular show.  I’ve also got personal experience on this end.  I’ve run a couple memorial/charity shows for a friend of mine who passed away.  After paying myself back for all the expenses I put into the show, we were only able to donate $200, luckily the majority of the boys on the show worked for free out of the kindness of their hearts, otherwise there would have been $0 donated, and I would have lost money instead of breaking even.  This is why I never complain unless the booker promises me a certain amount that they don’t live up to.  But I’m also past the point of working for free (with one exception).  Instead, every match is an opportunity to hone your craft and to improve.  You’re not going to become a better writer unless you write, you're not going to be a better golfer unless you golf, and you’re not going to become a better wrestler unless you wrestle.

Pro wrestling is a business full of people very passionate about something.  When I first started out, I would routinely make trips that ended with me losing money.  I once made a trip with 6 of my friends.  This trip was from Dayton, Ohio to Toronto, Canada, a 10-hour drive.  I wrestled in one of the bigger matches on the card against a well-known and well-respected wrestler.  His pay?  Probably a few hundred dollars.  My pay?  A t-shirt.  And we loved the experience so much that we did it again two weeks later for $10 each.  I don’t do stuff like that anymore, but would I do it again if I were just starting out?  You bet your ass.  In addition to being a labor of love, this is also a business of sacrifices.  Read any book written by a pro wrestler and you’ll understand.  Driving hundreds of miles, sleeping in a car with no heat, surviving on nothing more than raw potatoes.  That’s dedication, son.  On our Toronto trip, we crammed 7 guys in one hotel room, 4 of us slept in the beds, 2 on the floor, and an Asian sleeping under a table.  That was an interesting trip, and one of the best times I’ve ever had in my life.

Besides the military, you will never come across a more tightly-knit group of people than professional wrestlers.  There’s a reason we refer to each other as “brothers,” it’s because we are.  Every night you go out to the ring, you have your opponent’s life in your hands, and yours is in theirs.  Injuries happen frequently, and unfortunately, death is also a possibility.  It’s not something that happens a lot, at least not in the ring, but it has happened.  Do you have any idea how much you have to trust someone in order to put your life in their hands?  You have to trust them like they were your brother, your own flesh and blood.  Which is why 99% of the people in the world that I trust are in the wrestling business, because I know they would put their own safety at risk before they would mine.  I may not be good friends with everyone I get in the ring with, hell, I may even hate them, but I still have complete faith in them.

Professional wrestling has given me some of the best friends I will ever have, people that I wouldn’t hesitate to take a bullet for or donate an organ to.  Wrestling friendships are similar to marriage in the sense that you endure hardships together, and no matter how black the sky gets, you never turn your back on one another.  If you go out after a show with some of the boys, and someone tries to start shit with one of them, every wrestler at the scene is going to make them pay for it.  It’s the code of brotherhood.  Regardless of how tight you are with a certain guy, if he’s in the business, he’s in the business, and that takes precedent over personal feelings.

A lot of things get my adrenaline pumping: when the lights go out at a heavy metal concert, hitting the gym, the moments before getting laid, etc.  But there is nothing…NOTHING…that compares to the rush you get from stepping through the curtain to an amazing crowd.  Being a heel (bad guy) and getting a wave of boos rushing at you from ever corner of the building is a feeling I can’t describe.  You know those commercials for 5 gum, where they talk about stimulating your senses?  It’s like that, only more intense.  Sometimes, it’s an emotional thing.  I’ve wrestled on many memorial shows for friends of mine that I’ve lost, and every time I go out to the ring for one of those matches, I know I’m going to come close to tears.

The rush of professional wrestling can give you chills.  And sometimes, the rush doesn’t wear off for several hours.  If I go out to the ring, and put on a 5-star match, where everything goes off without a hitch, the crowd is into it, and you get the desired reactions and outcomes, the adrenaline doesn’t wear off until I have some time alone to calm down.  It makes you feel invincible.  It makes you feel like you could pick cars up over your head (note: don’t try that).

When you step through the ropes, nothing else matters.  All of life’s problems disappear.  Just got released from your job?  Don’t know how you’re going to pay your electric bill?  Your woman just left you so she can marry her boss?  None of that matters when you get in the ring.  Once the match is over, you still have the same problems you had before, but for that period of time, from start bell to end bell, you’re completely oblivious to all of life’s woes, and it’s a beautiful feeling.

When I was still in training with Shark Boy, I took a pen and a piece of notebook paper and wrote down a list of things I wanted to accomplish before I retired from wrestling.  I don’t have that list anymore, but I can still remember a lot of things I wrote down.  I remember the list having 3 tiers.  I started off small, things like: “Main event a wrestling show,” “Win a title,” and “Win a company’s heavyweight title.”  The second tier included bigger goals like “Wrestle outside of the United States,” “Wrestle in Japan,” and “Wrestle in a dark match for WWE.”  Finally, the third tier were goals that very few ever achieve: “Sign WWE contract,” “Compete at WrestleMania,” and the last goal on the list was “Main event WrestleMania.”

Will those tier 3 goals every come to fruition?  The odds are against me, but then again, the odds are against every wrestler that ever laces up a pair of boots.  I’ve been blessed with some advantages that most guys weren’t.  Even being a chubby kid basically my entire life up until about a year ago, I was always a pretty decent athlete.  I’m tall, which is great for wrestling.  And now, after a year of very hard work, I have a pretty good body, and I feel some pride when I say that I was able to do it 100% naturally, protein shakes notwithstanding.

I’ve also been blessed to have friends and family that believe in me.  I’ve had my moments where I thought “What’s the point of trying anymore?  Why would one of the big companies want me?  I’m nothing special.”  But then I have close friends, both in the business and out, that either truly believe in me or are just blowing smoke up my ass and say things like “You see this Dustin guy right here?  He’s the next guy from Cincinnati that’s gonna make it.”  Probably the best compliment I’ve ever received (thanks for that one, Ed).

Despite being 8 years older than I was when I first started wrestling, I still have the dream.  I still want to be traveling the country.  I still want to be able to wrestle every night, and make good money doing it.  I’ve had other dreams in my life, but professional wrestling is the one that never came and went, it was always constant.  Will I ever reach this dream?  Who knows?  All I know is that I’ve spent the last 8 years trying, and I’ve enjoyed the ride so far, so why not keep trying?  I would like to say that, yes, I definitely will, and while I do feel like I’m capable of doing so, this professional wrestling business is an odd one.  A lot of times, people who deserve to make it, people who actually are as good as they think they are, are just never given the opportunity because of this reason or that.  It’s unfortunate, but that’s the business.  But in spite of that, it’s a dream worth dreaming.