You can't buy experience, you can't be taught experience and you can't fake experience―you can only do what Drew Hankinson did and earn it.
Hankinson has performed in over a dozen countries. He's worked with over a dozen future Hall of Famers. He's been in top storylines for both WWE and TNA Impact wrestling on national networks. He's done all of this and is only 29 years old.
The impostor Kane, Festus, Luke Gallows and D.O.C. are the most prominent characters he's worked as. It was recently announced that he will no longer be working for TNA Impact wrestling as D.O.C. in the Aces & Eights group.
I spoke to Hankinson on TribLIVE radio where he commented on this and much more. He said that he was not fired, but signed a one-year deal with TNA that expired on July 12.
“We could not come to an agreement, but I have no ill will towards TNA or any of the people in the office,” says Hankinson. He went on to talk about how it was a business decision not to sign a new deal with the company.
"They weren't up for what I wanted and I really wasn't in agreement with moving forward.”
Hankinson was most comfortable performing as a member of a biker gang, since he enjoys motorcycles and felt it was the closest character to himself he'd ever played. On the other end of the spectrum, he got started in WWE impersonating someone else as the impostor Kane.
A quick run as the impostor Kane served WWE's purpose to help build to WWE's first movie See No Evil starring Kane. It served a different purpose for Hankinson, as it allowed him to work his first pay-per-view match with a veteran at age 22. This led to a role which embodied the opposite of everything he had learned: Festus, a mentally challenged man.
“It was different. That was a Vince McMahon idea and I wanted to please everybody there and do it to the best of my ability. It was funny because it was almost like you had to do the opposite. I was down in developmental working on being in shape, working on promos and working on the best in-ring worker I can be. Now all of the sudden you have this mentally challenged character who isn't suppose to wrestle like everyone else, not supposed to be in good shape like everyone else. He's not supposed to be pleasing to the eye.”
The character was entertaining and Hankinson made it his own, embracing all of Festus' differences compared to others in the ring.
While the Festus character had a shelf life, it allowed him to prove himself to the right people. He explained that while preparing to once again be moved into a new character, one that would wear a mask, he was handpicked for a different role.
"At the time, I was being repackaged. They were actually talking about doing a mask character. So I had gone to Orlando and hooking up with a guy at Universal Studios. He did a really cool, basically a horror movie costume and mask. Very elaborate, it was like a $6,000 outfit. I had that done. I went down to FCW because they wanted me to try it out in front of a crowd. For whatever reason Punk and The Undertaker were there looking for big guys.”
Hankinson said the two veterans liked his work and knew he could be relied upon, given that he had already taken on various other characters in his young career. This was how Luke Gallows was born and joined the Straight Edge Society standing alongside Punk.
It was this persona that elevated Hankinson to the next level. Unfortunately, injuries, releases and Punk being moved left the Luke Gallows character standing solo without a stable and a storyline. Eventually he would be released.
However, the release presented an opportunity for Hankinson to do some things he'd never had the chance to, since he joined WWE's system so young. He traveled around the world and maintained a full-time independent wrestling schedule.
What's next for Hankinson isn't known, but history shows that he's in demand. It's a safe bet you won't have to go long without seeing him.