Breaking In: FS Reprint
August 30, 2011
I wrote the following for my "Storm Front" article for "Fighting Spirit" Magazine, back in May, and it is being
reproduced with permission from Uncooked Media Ltd.
One of the more popular questions to ask pro-wrestlers today is, "If MMA was as popular as it is now when you broke in, would you have gone into MMA instead of pro-wrestling?" I think a better way to ask this question is, "If you were breaking in today what would you get into, MMA or pro-wrestling?" It's a more interesting question when you have to consider the current state of both industries, rather than comparing the popularity of today's MMA to the state of pro-wrestling 20+ years ago.
While I'm not sure this slight variation in the question would change my answer as far as MMA is concerned, I'm beginning to think it would change my answer as it pertains to pro-wrestling. Before I get into the pro-wrestling side of this question, let me quickly address the MMA side.
If I were growing up today I doubt I would consider MMA as a career option, despite how much I enjoy the sport. I was in my second year of University working on a business degree before I even considered an unconventional career like pro-wrestling, so I don't see how at that age, without a wrestling, boxing, or martial arts base, I would have considered jumping into a competitive sport like MMA. Even if I had one of those bases I doubt I have the killer instinct needed to succeed in MMA. While I have no aversion to grappling or even getting punched in the head, I'm not that comfortable punching and elbowing others in the face. I have a real aversion to injuring people. You need only look to my infamous chair shots at ECW's Barely Legal PPV for an illustration of this. Popularity aside I don't see me ever punching people in the face for a living.
Okay now the interesting part, if I was breaking in today, or more appropriately, if I was 20 years old and considering breaking in today, would I actually still make the decision to get into pro-wrestling?
The state of wrestling today is so much different than it was back in late 1989 when I made the decision to break into the business. This is important because I wasn't your typical kid who dreamt of being a wrestling superstar all his life who never had any doubt he would be a pro-wrestler. I was a very good student who never even considered a career in pro-wrestling as a kid and thought long and hard about it before finally making my decision.
When I broke in, the Territory system was still alive and running. It was on life support but since this was before the boom of the Internet, I didn't know this. Even when you exclude WCW and the WWF, you still had Stampede wrestling running as a full time territory on national TV in Canada; and the AWA, the USWA, where both in operation and on TV in the US, so there were a lot more apparent job opportunities out there for an aspiring wrestler. As an outsider looking in it appeared that at least a modest living could be made at the local fulltime Indy level.
All of these territories shut down with in a year or two of my breaking in and because of the far more secretive nature of the business, back then, my perception of the "fulltime" nature as well as the "modest living" to be made at this local Indy level were greatly over estimated. The true sad state of low level wrestling in 1990, doesn't change the fact that my perception of it when I made the call to give pro-wrestling ago was significantly higher than what my perception would be today if I were now a 20 year old contemplating his future.
Today there are still Independent organizations all over the place but none of them are legitimate full time territories nor do any of them have national TV exposure. Pay at the local Indy level is quite poor and thanks to a more open business and the information provide by the Internet that fact is pretty much public knowledge. Wrestlers breaking in today are very much in a yes and no situation when it comes to success in this industry. They either make it big and have great success, or they don't and have very little. There is very little middle ground, at least as far as true fame and fortune is concerned.
So while the state of the industry starting out is not all that much worse than it was 20 years ago, my perception of it would be greatly different and given those perceptions I doubt I'd have thought pro-wrestling was a viable enough career option to seriously consider.
Even if I was still willing to take the career gamble I'm not sure I'd have the level of interest I did back in the day. It's no secret that I've always been more interests in the "sports" side of the Sports Entertainment industry. When I broke in I was a fan of both WCW and the WWF, but I made no bones about the fact that I saw myself far better suited to the more wrestling based style of WCW than the colourful entertainment oriented style of the WWF.
It was the hopes of having great wrestling matches like I saw The Midnight Express, Brian Pillman, Ricky Steamboat, and the Great Muta having that made me want to be a wrestler. I'm not sure I see enough of that style of work on TV now days to peak my interest enough to throw caution to the wind and pursue a career in pro-wrestling.
The TNA product with its lack of wrestling and constant skits would have not appealed to me at all, and shows like NXT would have turned me off completely. The thought of being humiliated on national TV with dance contest and impromptu interviews segments that I know I would fail miserably at would have likely been the deciding factor on me sticking to more conventional career goals.
With all that said, the really sad thing is, I think I would likely have a greater chance of success breaking in today as compared to back in 1990 when I did. Despite the often silly skits and stuff on TV that I don't like, live events and PPVs still provide a great opportunity to have good matches and I have no doubt I would still very much enjoy a career in today's wrestling environment. More importantly perhaps even than that, with a WWE wellness policy now in place and a much cleaner, smaller wrestler being more the standard of today, a guy with my size, build, and athletic ability would likely stand out and get noticed a lot quicker than I did in 1990.
It's comical when you think about it. I originally made the decision to break in based on a complete misunderstanding of the industry. In many ways I was ill suited for the business back then and should not have succeeded, but I did. Today when I am better suited and my chances of success would be even greater, I doubt I'd make the decision to even try.
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