[aka: ‘So You Want To Try Pro Wrestling’]
Well, things are getting weird. Last week I put up a column that, when I’ve done it for Wrestlemania, has generated a heated discussion. This time… Nothing. I know it got viewed, but it was obviously so dull only one person could be bothered commenting. The week before I interviewed my son, and this discussion with an 8 1/2 year old garnered a great discussion. I’m not sure what the people want. The figures state that a few people read me each week, but it’s come to a point where I’m not sure why.
So I’ve given up trying to work out things. I’ve come to accept that what I write here isn’t going to generate Blair levels of commenting, or even any levels of commenting. So I’ll just write what’s interesting to me.
Having said that, I did get an e-mail a few weeks ago now. So I think I’ll respond to it in this rather public forum.
Hey Steve (I prefer Steven, for what it’s worth)
I like your columns and want to ask you a question. You say you’ve wrestled for years and what I want to know is how some1 learns about how to wrestle. What do you need to do to learn. What shud you expect when you go to a wrestling school.
Will you ever come to America. I wood love to see you wrestle.
TK (I won’t put his name, but will say he’s from NV, whatever a NV is)
Thanks, TK. You know, this is something that might actually be useful.
I will, however start with the last question first. I doubt I’d get to America. I have a developed a fear of flying, due in part to a dose of claustrophobia and a bigger dose of enochlophobia (performing in front of crowds and public speaking are not problems, however), so 20+ hours in an airplane would be a nightmare. Further, after my recent concussion, I haven’t been back to training, and it’s still 2 weeks before I should even consider it. At my age (40+) a return to the ring is something I need to seriously think about.
Now – how some-one learns to wrestle. Find a school. Not a school that puts a little advert on the Internet and charges you a few hundred dollars to try out, then disappears. A real school. So before then, you need to go to wrestling shows. Check out the indy promotions in your area/state/whatever. Look at their in-ring product. Is it clean? Are there any injuries that look legit? How many? Do the matches have flow (good) or are they all spot-fests (not good)? Does the card flow (good), or is every match trying to outdo every other match (not good)? Do they have the same wrestlers (or a lot of the same wrestlers) each time they have a show (good), or do they rely on bringing in a lot of outside talent (not as good)? How often do they have shows? Are they affiliated with any national / international bodies?
That’s a lot of questions, but you want to be sure that what you’re stepping into is going to be right for you and for your development, and that you are going to get an opportunity, not throw money away.
Once you’ve worked out which wrestling promotions look like their workers are working the best, then look them up on the internet or approach some-one at a show and ask about a training school. Expect to pay for a try-out, or have a large upfront fee to start with after a tryout. This shows the promoter that you’re serious. And they have overheads as well. Then expect to pay a monthly/weekly/per session fee. Again, overheads. They have to make money somehow. A lot of people decide it’s not for them, or just can’t cut the mustard, and the time and effort put into them should not have been a charity by the people running the joint.
If you are promised to be on a show in a few weeks, get out of there. It does not matter how good you were as a footballer / gymnast / weight-lifter / bouncer, you need to learn to wrestle. I would say you won’t get onto a show for months, maybe even a year. But that’s okay – there’s a lot to learn.
To learn, you will need to be reasonably strong and have some agility. Hit the gym. Even if you end up with a body like mine, you can do it. I can still bench-press 100kg (220lbs) with a bung shoulder, and leg press 250kg (550lb), which is disappointing because I could do almost 400kg (880lb) before I destroyed my knee. Strength is important. Hit the gym.
Cardio is also important. Try sprinting for five minutes – that’s a wrestling match. So get out there and jog, ride a bike, swim, whatever you need to to make sure you can go the distance.
Your first lessons will be spent, generally, doing two things – grappling and bumping. You need to learn basic holds, chain wrestling, etc. Not throws or take-downs, just safe holds. And you really need to learn how to take a bump safely. If you spend your first month just bumping so much your back feels like it’s made out of stone, don’t worry – it’s for the best. You are not going to learn a corkscrew moonsault in your first month there (and if they say you can, get out of there fast!), and asking to just makes you look like a moron. Take your time. You have plenty of time, take all you need. Better to be safe than sorry. Get your basics as perfect as you can and you’ll be able to put on a watchable match; botch the high spots and you’ll be laughed out of the ring.
Listen to the trainers and listen to the veterans. For God’s sake – listen! Don’t go in thinking that you know everything about wrestling because you’ve seen the Wrestlemania Anthology series AND every WWE PPV since 2004, some of them twice! You don’t. You know how to watch wrestling. Doing it is something completely different. The trainers are trainers for a reason, and the veterans are still around because they know how to work. If they tell you your suplex looks like you’re dry humping your opponent, you’d better change it. This cannot be stressed enough – LISTEN. You have two ears and one mouth; listen twice as much as you speak.
Expect to lose for a long while. That’s okay as well. You don’t get paid any different for winning or losing – if you do get paid differently it’s due only to your place on the card. Normally.
Avoid the backyard wrestling. Sure, some of it may look okay, but I cringe all the time when I see them trying moves they’ve only learnt from television. As a former gymnast, one thing that really irks me is when people use their head to rotate backwards instead of their hips. And in backyard wrestling without a good trainer, you will pick up some shocking habits. A bad habit is harder the break than a good habit is to get. So don’t do it.
When it comes to your ‘career’, aim as high as you can, but remember that a very, very small percentage of those wrestling around the world are ever going to make it to the WWE.
Finally, you need to have a passion for it. Driving for four hours to wrestle in crappy school gyms or smoky pubs in front of crowds of less than a hundred for a fiver that won’t even cover petrol money takes a certain sort of idiot, and that sort of idiot is us – the indy pro wrestler. If you’re not prepared to put in the time to train, to practice, to go to shows, then don’t bother. And you need to realise that you probably won’t get to a point where it will be your complete living. You will probably need a “real” job as well.
Some small things to finish – watch wrestling. Good and bad, watch it. You need to know what to do and how to do it, and what to avoid doing. Read the books of the wrestlers, find out how hard they did it, and realise that nowadays we have it easier. Ask questions. No matter how stupid, ask away. And last but far from least – remember that wrestling is a team sport. You need to work together to entertain a crowd. If you put yourself over at the expense of your opponent, who’s going to want to work with you?
Hope that answers your questions.
Tags: indy, wrestling