Recently British TV broadcaster Channel 4 presented a documentary called The Wrestlers: Fighting With My Family. The program gave viewers the opportunity to witness the lives of the Knight family, all of whom are professional wrestlers.
There is the Dad, "Rowdy" Ricky Knight, the mother Sweet Saraya, brother Zak Zodiac and sister Britani Knight. As you probably can tell they went by their stage names for this show.
The documentary itself was a bit of a confusing mess. At first, it seemed like the focus was going to be on the sister who went to a WWE tryout and was signed on the spot. She currently wrestles for FCW and on NXT under the name of Paige. So I could be forgiven for thinking the documentary was starting out as a rags to riches story.
The Knight family don't exactly live the life. The British professional wrestling scene has been pretty lifeless since the 1980s (an article for another time) and doesn't exactly draw in a lot of money. The family live on a council estate (houses owned by the British government and rented primarily to lower income citizens), and their only hope for their children to get a better life is for them to succeed at WWE tryouts.
But after she is given a contract, the documentary only sparingly focuses on her afterward. Instead the show becomes about the brother. At the same tryout, where his sister was successful, he was turned down on the basis that he needed more muscle.
He bulks up and tries again the following year (missing an opportunity in-between due to a knee injury). Although he gets further, it resulted in him being squashed by Big Show during a handicap match on SmackDown. After the match, he was once again told that he didn't have the look required to make it in WWE.
Many of us know of WWE favouring guys of a certain look since Vince McMahon has always loved big muscular guys. While this may be unfair we just have to accept that that's life at times.
Zak Zodiac, according to an interview, claimed that he has been wrestling since he was six years old. Since then, being a wrestler and getting into the WWE has been his sole goal in life. His parents have never seemingly persuaded him to do anything else either.
There were two particular messages that stood out from this documentary that should really be emphasised so future wannabe wrestlers can make the right choices and know if this is the route that they want to take.
The first is that you cannot be naive. Being passionate is not the same as being serious.
Despite having wrestled from an early age, as far as I could tell, Zak has only wrestled locally. While I'll admit he couldn't afford to take the Chris Jericho route and travel to major hot spots around the world to hone his skills, he could at least still have gone to various points around the country. A single area will not let you witness enough of the business needed to hone your skills.
Then there is the fact that he was never seen working a mic while his sister at least had a sense of what to say toward a crowd to get it riled up. Most wrestlers suck on the mic at the beginning but need to use every opportunity to cut a promo regardless. If anything, it helps get rid of the nerves of speaking in front of large audiences.
His diet could have also been a problem. While it was never explored in depth, he was shown at home drinking beer after being told to bulk up. Drinking should have been cut out of his system until he reached the required size. After all, alcohol reduces testosterone and disrupts the anabolic activity of the body.
Another minor issue was his gimmick. This may be nit-picky, but it was that of a football hooligan. In Britain, this surely is a great gimmick of a heel, but it wouldn't translate well to international audiences. It also seemed like a crutch so he didn't have to rely on mic work. The gimmick is one that lends itself to starting fights rather than to cutting a decent promo.
The other major point was how there was nothing else for this kid apart from wrestling. If his WWE career never starts, he is going to be stuck wrestling in holiday camps, schools and bingo halls for the rest of his life. While he seemed content with doing so, it would be worse if that was to happen to others who don't have a family dynasty to fall back on.
It is one of the most commonly stressed points made by senior wrestlers when talking to trainees—always take your education as far as you can go in case wrestling doesn't work out. This is followed by, always save your money so you can support yourself if your career suddenly ends.
I am probably taking a rather pessimistic look at what was meant to be a light bit of TV entertainment. But it's kind of harrowing to see that the same regular mistakes are being made by upcoming wrestlers in a career that is more fickle than any other.
Either way, if you get a chance to watch the documentary I suggest doing so, as it does give a reasonable insight to the lowest workings of professional wrestling and how it is viewed by those that don't ever get the chance to make it big.