Two weeks ago, I was reconsidering my foray into pro wrestling. I took a nasty Senton Bomb off the third rope and hurt my ribs. I didn't get any permanent damage (that I know of), but it was definitely one of the most painful things I've experienced. That probably makes me a big baby, but it made me throw everything into doubt. Do I really want to wrestle? What am I doing here? Why am I putting myself in danger so casually? Finally I came to the conclusion that this was to be a bump in the road, and that I'd move past it, just like any other obstacle.
That was two weeks ago. Then yesterday I wrestled Muundo. For his belt.
This was my third overall wrestling match (not counting the Battle Royale I was tossed out of) and only my second singles match. I was worried in the two weeks leading up to the match. I was partially worried because I'd botched a move in me previous showing, but there's one bigger thing that had me worried. I'm a heel, a bad guy. My job is to make the face, the good guy, look good. While there's a lot that goes into being a good heel (and way more than I know or can talk about without being full of shit) the main thing that had me worried was getting heat. The part of the match when I'm supposed to beat the crap out of the face to make their comeback all the sweeter. The reason I was worried was how much improvisation I'd have to do. Improvising moves I'd only spent about five months practicing. In my last match against Carlos, this was a struggle. You're trying not to freeze in the ring. You're trying to start the compelling story that leads to the face's comeback, to the crowd rallying behind him as he goes for the win. All the way up to my match with Muundo, I was worried about getting that heat. Now the ALE's Sherbrooke Champ did make things a bit easier for me by structuring the match, writing it out and being in the gym to practice it and work out the kinks.
I studied that sheet of paper the whole time I was backstage (really more like behind a tent). It was going to be my most complicated, important match to date. I didn't want to make Muundo look bad. I wanted him to look great (and maybe look good a bit myself). I studied that match like it was the last exam before graduation in a class I was failing. All too quick, I was out of time and our match was up. I remember walking up to the ring, and how much I hate my entrance song (no one to blame but myself, haven't found that perfect song yet). I remember sneering at the crowd, telling them they were unwashed hippies who didn't deserve to see me. I remember Muundo entering the ring, the crowd already behind him. We locked up, he tossed me, and I don't remember much else of what happened in the match. It's not a concussion or anything drastic. It might just be the adrenaline. All I know is I went through the motions, taking the hits and pulling off my own, right up until the finish. That moment is clear in my mind. I remember being absolutely out of breath, the heat stifling the little cardio I have. I remember thinking "Oh crap, I'm supposed to take a spear right now" about five seconds before Muundo tackles me to the mat. I remember the finish, and how loud the crowd was. I had done my job.
Muundo would later tell me this was one of his top ten matches. My coaches would later tell me it was a great match, and eventually point out the flaws in my performance after I pressed them for criticism. I finally allowed myself to think "Yeah, I think I did good." Because I did, even if there's a lot of room for improvement.
Pro wrestling isn't necessarily my dream, not the way it is for many others. I happened on it by accident, encouraged by a friend (a diehard wrestling fan) to pursue it as a way to improve as an actor and a stuntman. I started training at a local wrestling school in February, not sure of where I'd go with it. Over time I got more and more involved in the training, the community and by extension the promotion. I was put in my first wrestling match at the end of May, essentially as a body to be thrown out of the ring during a Battle Royale (an elimination wrestling match with a bunch of wrestlers who have to toss each other out until only one is left). Then, about a week later, I was in my first real match. While the technical skills I'm building will definitely help my grind as an actor, the real value I'm getting out of this venture is less obvious. It's mindset. It's like getting a preview of the stakes I'll see as an actor, of the sacrifices I'll be making and the hardship I'll be facing (the first time I got involved in a wrestling show was only working ring crew, and that was a 16 hour day, which I worked for free). I started out not being sure I was doing this, and I've had moments when I thought I should quit, but now I'm seeing how much I'm learning from this and how much I'm going to learn going forward. I've made bonds with fascinating, passionate people, and I've joined a company I want to see grow. Unless a Star Wars film wants to cast me as their lead tomorrow, I don't see myself giving up on this journey.