For those who watch pro wrestling beyond WWE, you know it can be a zany world.
From large crowds at smaller venues or smaller crowds at the same venue — sometimes being fewer than 100 in the crowd — the life of a wrestler on the independent circuit can be hard.
In recent weeks and months I’ve talked to several independent wrestlers and personalities with the hope of working on a series for the blog. The idea is to tell the stories of these wrestlers, the life on the road and the good and the bad.
The great thing about wrestlers? They all have a story to tell and, usually, it’s a different story. My hope is to take these stories and add on and have longer versions and turn those into an e-Book, but the series and/or book won’t be finished for at least a few months as I’m just starting to get into it.
It’s a crazy life these wrestlers live. This series of stories should even be compelling to non-wrestling fans because there are things you’ll read that will make you wonder why any sane person would get involved with this profession.
I know what many people will say — “Come on, wrestling’s fake…”
When describing professional wrestling, one thing I despise is the word “fake.”
You want fake? Ask indy wrestler Charade if it’s fake. Check out this YouTube video. Be warned — this is kind of crazy and I firmly believe Charade should feel lucky he’s alive today. There’s no blood in this video, but what happens will make most people cringe. Note that the wrestler did live and apparently is better off than many might be in this situation.
So, the word “fake” is the wrong one to use.
Maybe planned? Choreographed? Worked? It’s entertainment. This isn’t the 50s or 70s or something like that anymore where the public didn’t — or acted like they didn’t — know what was going on.
These guys, after all, are still athletes and do some insanely crazy things.
When watching, you just hope they are trained correctly, can put on a good show and don’t get seriously maimed doing it.
This past Saturday, I had a really cool opportunity to join Binghamton-area wrestlers Sean Carr and Chuck Szili, who competes as Kage in the wrestling world, on a road trip to the Scranton area and see a training seminar. Carr, an acrobatic wrestler, is a relative newcomer to the sport, competing for about four or five years. Szili is the veteran, entering his 13th year. He’s traveled throughout the world to wrestle, even getting a proverbial cup of coffee with the WWE, wrestling on the Smackdown show a few years ago.
The two also form the tag team “CK,” and compete in 2CW (Squared Circle Wrestling), a top-level independent federation based out of Syracuse. Like many indy wrestlers, they also compete in other federations throughout the Northeast, but 2CW is their main spot.
Over the past few months, I’ve had to chat with these two at cards and such and have really been impressed with them. Not just as athletes, but how they look at this profession, realistically. They see it more than doing 15 high-risk moves and not doing anything beyond it. They think about telling a story, saving the big spots for when needed and being able to connect with the crowd.
As a fan, I appreciate that. When I go to a wrestling event — whether it be the best of the best or the worst of the worst — I just want to believe for a few hours. I still enjoy heroes and villains, cheering and booing and going along with being part of the show. After all, the crowd is a major part of wrestling. But if a wrestler is poorly trained, it becomes less believable.
In the dozen or so 2CW cards I’ve seen, the believability is there. The villains are villains. The heroes are heroes. Does that line sometime get skewed? Sure. But for the most part, the good vs. bad is present.
Many federations don’t seem to be able to do this well — thus taking away believability. I once went to a card where one of the guys yelled to the crowd “we’re supposed to be the good guys.”
Here’s a bit of advice — if you are having to tell people if you are the villain or the hero? You haven’t done your job.
Beyond that, the action has to be believable. I want to watch a show, be entertained and know the people put everything into it. Federations like 2CW are like that. Others are the complete opposite. It might be about being “hardcore” or doing a ton of crazy things that could send one to the hospital.
It’s not worth it when you are getting $20 or $30 a night — if you are lucky.
Saturday’s trip took Szili and Carr to Back Breakers Training Center. Szili had trained there some 10 years ago and has a good relationship with the head of the school, Justyn Glory.
What followed was an impressive 3 1/2 hour session full of hip tosses, slams, running of the ropes, stories and advice.
I walked away with a new appreciation of what these guys do.
Here’s a bit of history. When I was in high school, one of my dreams was to be a professional wrestler. I’ll touch more on this when I run the full series of these stories, but I dreamed of one day being the (then) WWF champion. I actually researched wrestling schools and was pretty close to attempting it.
I’m not sure what stopped me (money, most likely), but watching this training session made me realize I likely never would have made it to mid-card status on an independent show, let alone the WWF champion.
Wrestling is a lot different than when I was in high school, too.
Back then, there was a fine line between giving away “secrets.” Wrestling was still “real.” These days, the majority of wrestling fans realize what it is — entertainment. These are highly athletic people who put on one hell of a show. Whether it’s a 50-minute endurance match or a 5-minute quickie, they entertain.
If what they did was fully real, there’d be many more injuries and, likely, deaths.
Still, when you step foot into these rings, you have to know what you are doing. From taking a bump to delivering basic moves, you are not only working to keep yourself safe, but to also keep your opponent safe. You are also telling a story to the fans in the crowd and giving them the chance to forget the real world for a few hours, taking them on a journey of believability.
Alas, this isn’t a backyard wrestling thing — just like anything else, you have to train to become a professional wrestler.
The harsh reality is probably 99 percent of all these guys who train to wrestle or wrestle on the independent scene won’t ever make it to the WWE, or even TNA. That’s not to say that there’s not a lot of places an indy wrestler could do well — such as Ring of Honor, Chikara or a place like 2CW.
It depends on what one is looking for.
One of the people at the training session even noted to Carr and Szili that he doesn’t have the goal of getting to the WWE. To that, Szili made sure to point out to give everyone one has at whatever level they are on.
The two made some great points to the students — from noting to have fun to making sure the youngsters stay out of politics and drama.
The best part was watching everything unfold. The students who attended were really focused. They listened and asked questions. They seemed to hang on the words of Carr and Kage. During the workout, they took additional bumps to better techniques. They listened. One guy even took his first hip tosses. Pretty cool to watch.
They told stories of the road — about how promoters can swindle you out of the small payday. Or how some promoters will treat you like gold, no matter who you are. There are the stories on the road — such as Carr missing the birth of his child because he got into an accident on the way home from a show.
The life isn’t glamorous — and it’s something Carr and Szili made sure to show these new wrestlers.
One thing I really saw was how good Szili was with these students. I have no doubt that one day in the future, when the days of in-ring work are over, Szili could have a calling as a trainer. His experience as well as his demeanor in the ring worked really well in this environment.
For those who only watch wrestling on television, it’s usually a polished product. The independent scene is anything but. Though you’ll have the chance to see some amazing people, there’s a reason not everybody makes it to the “big leagues.”
That’s what makes it so wonderful, though. It’s not perfect.
And not many people get the opportunity I got with Szili and Carr — having the chance to watch a training session up-close and personal.
The business has changed over the years, that’s for sure. There will always be good and bad people in the business. There will always be good and bad workers, promoters and anything else.
In the end, the business continues. At the lowest levels and at the highest levels. The dreams will always be there, too. To be the next big thing or whatever else. But with wresting — as it is with nearly everything else in life — one needs to be grounded and realistic to truly succeed.
With the way Carr and Szili carried themselves this weekend, it shows why they have been successful in their careers. Hopefully, that will rub off on these newer wrestlers, allowing them to also find success in their careers.
You can see all the photos from this day at this Flickr set.
Submitting as part of Dude Write’s weekly challenge.
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