The Tale of a Journeyman Wrestler
Life as a wrestler is nothing more than a blur in time and space. One week you’re in Boston and the next you are in Maine. The reality of the situation is that it’s always the same place.
No matter what town you're in, things are always the same. The promoters are grimy and the fans are nothing but bodies with different faces on them. It is a vicious, never-ending cycle that a person in this profession has to deal with.
When I first broke into the wrestling business, things were so much better for me. I was a young kid who viewed life as his for the taking. I often wonder what happened to that happy guy who lived life like there was no tomorrow.
That was over 10 years ago though, and since then I have learned a cruel but valuable lesson: in the world of professional wrestling you are as only good as your last match.
We kill ourselves night-in and night-out for 50 bucks and some cheap applause. The fact is, we are nothing more than common whores, and once our bodies are used up, we are discarded like trash.
I often find myself asking why I continue to wrestle and put myself through this sh*t. I can say with all honesty that I do not have a good answer for that question. Maybe one of these days, I can figure it out before I die.
The wrestling business is much like a powerful drug. The only difference is that it is legal. You are often hooked as a child. As a kid you can’t help but to get mesmerized by the bright lights and the fame.
You see these over-the-top, larger-than-life characters and you think to yourself, "That could be me on TV."
That is the free taste of this powerful drug that gets most wrestlers hooked. After that you are doing nothing more than chasing the dragon.
There are many who grow up on wrestling, but who later outgrow it. I consider those to be the lucky ones. For those that choose to follow this road in life, it is nothing short of a brutal, cruel, and twisted path.
The first turn on this road is when you first break into the business. You find a wrestling school where you train and learn. Most promoters will train anyone as long as you have the money.
They hook you in by filling your head with false dreams and promises. By the time you’re done listening to them, you will believe you are the next Hogan. As a young man with a dream, it is likely you will believe any horsesh*t they fling your way.
By the time you finish wrestling school, over half the class will have dropped out. Once again, those would be the lucky ones. At least they escaped the business with nothing more than a few bumps and bruises.
If you do make it through training, you will feel invincible. This is the next dose of the drug that is fed to you. You will feel unstoppable and think that your path is set for greatness.
This grand delusion that you feel will only be far stronger after the promoters are done feeding your head. The reality of the situation is they don’t give a crap about you; all they want is to assure they have their card filled for the night.
Most promoters will tell you anything you want to hear as long as the money is coming in. All they ever really care about is keeping their small-time operation running. Once you stop making them money, they will spit you out like stale gum.
The wrestling business did have its great moments, though. I remember my first match like it was yesterday. I must have puked twice before the bout even started. Once my music hit though, it was like I was in a whole new world.
I felt like I was a puppet master who could control the audience with a few pulls of the strings. It was a feeling that can’t be explained in words. The only analogy I can think of is it’s like playing god for 15 minutes.
The climax, like a good orgasm, would come at the end. As I stood in the ring and drank up the fans reaction like Kool-Aid, I said to myself, "This is the greatest feeling in the world."
This is the third and final dose of the drug known as professional wrestling. For some, this high can last the rest of their lives. For the others, this high has no timetable. It can last a week, a month or years.
Once this high is lost, though, it is rarely ever found again.
My high lasted about five years. I often see the night it ended over and over again in my dreams. I was climbing the turnbuckles so I could nail a move off the top. My footing must have been off because the next thing I knew, I was falling.
My right knee landed right on the edge of the steps. I can still remember the feeling I had as the steel tore through my flesh like paper. On that fateful night, I completely shattered my right knee.
The surgery went okay, but the doctor strongly recommended to me that I should never wrestle again. Hearing him say those words felt like a knife ripping through my heart. I was in my prime and close to signing a big contract; how could I quit now?
So instead of taking the doc's advice, I chose to ignore it. After all, how could he possibly know or understand what I was feeling and going through? I was knocking on the door of the Promised Land; there was no way I could quit now.
As I sat at home rehabbing I couldn’t help but feel cheated. I had worked so hard to get to that point and then fate decided to play a cruel joke. I was determined to make it though, and I wouldn’t let this hold me back.
My return to the ring went smoother then I thought it would. My knee was feeling fine and I was moving around in the ring like I was before. The trainers constantly reminded me to take things slow but I chose to ignore them.
I was on a collision course for greatness and there was nothing that would stand in my way. After a year or so, though; the bumps I was taking were starting to take their toll on me. I was losing a step or two and everyone was starting to take notice.
The bookers were soon dropping me from the top of the cards. I was officially stuck in mid-card limbo. As a wrestler, that is a very scary feeling. When you are a mid-carder, it is because either you are too green or you are no longer a top dog.
It was a sting that would hurt me badly. As I said before, you’re as only as good as your last match. The promoters that praised me in the past were now looking at me with pity and disgust.
Still I had my fans, though. They kept me going strong for the next couple of years. As long as I had a strong fan support, I would continue to be booked. As time would pass though, the injuries would start to catch up to me.
Both my knees were shot and my back wasn’t too far away from following them. I soon found myself taking painkillers like candy, and drinking booze like water in order to kill the pain.
And for what? I was no longer that kid with promise. I was now a man in his 30s and falling apart.
My shot at the bigs had come and gone.
The only thing I had left was the rush I got from the crowd.
The final turn in my long, twisty path would come to me a year ago. I pulled a disk after a botched move and landed hard on the outside. I was again told by the doctors that I should never wrestle again.
Just like before, I would choose not to listen to their warnings. I would make my return to the ring six months later. I wasn’t even fully recovered and I was taking bumps in and outside of the ring.
Things are much different for me these days. I no longer have the ability to really wrestle anymore. I am living off my name alone and everyone knows it. Getting booked for a match has become much harder now.
Now when I’m in the ring, instead of hearing cheers and praise, I hear the “You're washed up!" chants, or even worse, I hear nothing at all. The new kids are passing me by every day.
I can see the looks in their eyes when they come back from a match. It is a look I once had, and I miss it dearly. I want to warn them, but warning a young man is as productive as punching a brick wall.
So instead of warning them I wish them the best of luck, and let them be on their way. I’m not sure what hurts worse these days: the pain I feel after the match or the look of pity I get from the guys in the locker room.
I am no longer chasing the dragon; I lost the dragon a long time ago.
I have been reduced to a washed up “never was” who refuses to let the business pass him by. My life has become a living hell. I only wish God would come and take me away now.
At least then I can be at peace.
(This article was not about me. It was about my friend who was a local wrestler. It’s also dedicated to all the hard working Indy guys who never made it, or never will make it into TNA or WWE.)
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