Wednesday, June 19, 2013

In The Words of a Somewhat Well-Known Wrestler: "Know Your Role..."

...his name is The Rock, if you read a book about wrestling you may see his name somewhere towards the back.

When I first started my training with Shark Boy back in 2004, he told me that out of all the people in the first Shark Tank class, that I was the one that had the best opportunity to make it big in the wrestling business because, in his words: "You can't teach size." At the time, I took that to mean "The WWE will be calling me in the next few months." I've written previously about how a pro wrestler should measure their own success, and everything I said then still holds true now. I still love the wrestling business, and when I look back and realize that I've been fortunate enough to step in the ring with men and women from WWE, TNA, ROH, New Japan, and some of the top independent stars in the country, I have no doubt that I've had a better career than probably 95% of wrestlers in the world today (that percentage may be lower if you only count competent workers).

I still love the business, being in the locker room with the boys, talking to fans, hearing my music hit and getting that adrenaline rush, it's what makes the business so great. But I've come to realize that I'm not the wrestler that I had always envisioned. I'm not a "top guy," I'm a role-player. Now, some of you may think "If you quit crying and work harder, you can be a top guy." And to you, sir, I say "I'm not crying, I just have something in my eye." I don't say that I'm a role-player in order to get people to feel sorry for me and guilt them into inflating my ego, it's just a fact of my career, and I'm completely fine with that. Even when I was the NWF Champion I wasn't the top guy, I was a placeholder. That's not bitterness, either. They needed a babyface to hold the title for a little while because the heel champion had already beaten everyone else, and it was Roger Ruffen's brilliant booking that turned me into the top babyface at the time. I was just playing the role that they needed me to play. That story is still my second favorite angle I've ever been a part of, only my recent angle with Jake Omen beats it (more on that later). Am I a good wrestler? Yes, I am. Am I a great wrestler? Eh, sometimes. I think a great worker is someone who can have a decent match with anyone, can work around their opponent's weaknesses, and still make them look like a million bucks. At the very least, I feel like I can have a decent match with anyone. It's not going to be a 5-star epic, but solid nonetheless.

At my current home of Rockstar Pro Wrestling, it's increasingly apparent that I'm a role-player. When I look in one direction and see Dave and Jake Crist, look another direction and see Ron Mathis, and look yet another direction and see Aaron Williams and Matt Taylor, it becomes easier to accept that position. Being a role-player at a quality promotion is better than being a top guy at a mediocre one. If I could make a baseball analogy (and I'll use the Reds as my example seeing as how they're the best and all), I'm like Jay Bruce. What does that mean? Well, Jay Bruce is not Joey Votto, every Reds fan knows that. But Jay Bruce is still a quality player. I'm not going to be the superstar and I'm not the MVP, but I consistently have good matches (some days are better than others), every few matches I'll hit a home run, occasionally I'm needed to fill the shoes of a better player, but in the end, most teams (promotions) would be happy to have me on their team.

In that previously linked article I talk about how I no longer felt bitterness towards the wrestling business. Some guys in this business never get the fair shake that they deserve. I know at least ten guys off the top of my head who have never received the chance they should have by now, and it's a travesty. Some people have lumped me into this category, which I'm very appreciative of and have always tried to stay humble about. I definitely tried to get that chance, I didn't try as hard as I could have, and certainly not as hard as some other guys that I know, but I can't be bitter about it. Some guys are not predestined to make a name for themselves, and there's nothing wrong with that. Every time someone would give me suggestions on what I needed to do to make it big, I would consider them, even if it was something that I was against doing, like steroids. But not everyone's road leads to somewhere like the WWE. Most people believe that their road has several forks, and the directions you choose are the ones that determine where you end up. I don't believe that, however. I believe that everyone is on one long road that occasionally curves left and occasionally curves right, but when the road ends, you end up exactly where you were always meant to. It's nothing to be upset about, there are hundreds of other ways that you can contribute. When I look back on my career, I could retire right now and be completely content with what I've accomplished.

Now, I need to let everyone in on a little secret: Over the past few months, I actually have been giving serious consideration to retiring. Not from the business altogether, necessarily, but just from the in-ring aspect. It's due to a variety of reasons.

1) Reoccurring back injuries.

I broke my tailbone playing baseball when I was 11-years-old, and for anyone that has never had a tailbone injury, there really isn't anything you can do except just deal with it. You're going to have lower back pain the rest of your life, and that's that. It used to be something that was easier to deal with, but over a nine year wrestling career, repeatedly taking falls that the body was never meant to take, the injuries are becoming more frequent, more painful, and now take considerably more time to heal. You always hear about wrestlers retiring because they want to be able to play with their kids when they grow up, and it's true. Even though my wife and I have no plans to have children in the near future, we do intend to add to our family some day, and this is another aspect I need to consider.

2) A growing interest in other fields.

Obviously, I have a love of writing. A lot of you may be reading this on WrestleOhio, who I can't thank enough for posting my blogs and helping my writing reach a greater audience. I love to write about wrestling, and my wrestling articles are always the ones that get the most views, so perhaps pursuing that to a greater degree would be beneficial for me. After my aforementioned angle with Jake Omen, an angle that was 12 weeks long and was almost entirely concocted by Jake and I (with added input from Cody Hawk), I thought that I may know a thing or two about telling a solid story, and maybe the creative aspect of wresting is something to consider. I've also always wanted to try my hand at commentating. It's not something I have a lot of experience with, but I've always felt comfortable being and speaking on camera, and with my experience in the business I think it could possibly be something I have a knack for. Other areas of interest include the video/TV aspect of the business, and helping younger wrestlers. I try to watch as many matches as I can of the younger wrestlers and try to offer tips on anything I notice. I'm not saying that I am capable of training the next Dean Ambrose, but you do pick up a nugget of knowledge or two if you're taught right and hang around people smarter than you, which I've done my entire career.

3) Other things have become more important to me.

At one point in my career, I made two trips from Dayton, Ohio to Oshawa, Ontario, Canada. On the first trip our payment was the experience. On the second, $10 and a free t-shirt. When I was 19, I considered that to be "living the dream," but these days it would be impossible to get me to do that for anything less than around $2,000, which is about $1,950 more than I'm worth. But now that I'm married, my other option outside of wrestling is to sit on my couch with my wife, playing Borderlands 2 and eating pizza, which is never not awesome. So if I'm going to be spending a weekend traveling, it has to be better than couch-sitting, game-playing, and pizza-eating combined. Also, my wife and I are assistant youth pastors at our church, and being in that leadership role means I have greater responsibility. What does church have to do with wrestling, you ask? Well, it means I can't always be counted on to be a focal point of your product. When it comes to choosing God or wrestling, God wins every time. If our church has an event where I'm needed, I'm going to be there, and if it happens to fall on the date of your show, I'm sorry.

4) A waning interest in wrestling that I'm not involved in.

I used to breathe wrestling. I would watch every match I could, whether it was WWE, independent, or something in-between. I just couldn't get enough of it. But now, it's different. I haven't watched Raw/Smackdown/Impact in well over a year, I haven't watched a pay-per-view since last October, and most independent wrestling makes me wish I had pencils to jam into my eyes. The closest I come to watching wrestling these days is Botchamania.

So how can I love professional wrestling after everything I just said? The answer is quite simple. When I'm at a show, I can't get enough of it. When I'm not at a show, I don't even think about it. Sort of like a wrestling version of bi-polar disorder, my attitude is always switching from hot to cold. While in the locker room, I wonder "Why would I ever want to quit this?" But then there are times that I would rather stay home on a Saturday and regret taking that booking. Would my attitude be different if I were making money and/or getting interest from a major company? Probably, but that's not where my path has taken me, and that motivation I once had for wrestling has been replaced by motivation for other things. For those guys like Sami Callihan and Ron Mathis who take every booking they can and have that incredible work ethic, more power to them, they deserve whatever success comes their way.

I still haven't made up my mind about retirement. At this point I feel like I can play a greater role outside of the ring than I can inside of it, but wrestling is the most addictive drug in the world for me, and it's hard to let go of something you love so much.

Thank you for reading.