Posts Tagged ‘The Cliq’

Having been in the pro wrestling industry all across the globe for a good quarter-century, I thought to write a handbook or guide of sorts for young wrestlers and newer talents in – or just coming into – the wrestling business, based on what I’ve seen and experienced over my career.

I do this partially out of necessity, as I’ve seen the younger stock damn near kill the ”business” side of the industry for the other workers out there, and in part as a public service to give back to the industry where it stands today.

When I say this guide was born out of necessity, I say so mainly out of the fact that the ”professional” side of our industry is suffering tremendously, even though there are more shows taking place now than at any time in recent memory. Yet, the pay scale is one of the facets being demolished and many a newer talent is to blame for this, be they promoters or workers. I’ve also seen the near-death of actual etiquette in terms of how to carry one’s self in the business, which should be addressed for the welfare of the industry at large. With this in mind, now is the time to listen up, so let us commence with this free, but invaluable, 101 in How To Handle Yourself In Pro Wrestling!

Lesson #1: Act Like a Pro

How to Look in Pro Wrestling

Now kids, boys and girls alike, working for free just to get bookings and paying to play is not the way to go if you want a future in any trade. Earning your stripes and paying your dues while working for nil to free is one or two year period, at most. Back in the day when this business was still a real trade that supported a workers’ family, if any said talent undersold themselves intentionally just to get booked, or if they sabotaged a comrade in the territory by underselling themselves just to get booked, they risked getting the living shit beat out of them by the locker room.

It’s called PRO Wresting for a reason. The Pro word is there to let you understand that you should have the intent of making as much coin at it as you can over the course of your career. You must learn to make yourself valuable. Your work must be worth something. If not, why should anyone pay to see you?

Get real wresting gear, invest in yourself.  Get a good looking pair of tights, singlet or trunks made.  Buy a quality pair of real wrestling boots.  Look the part.  Do not wrestle in sneakers and shorts, to say nothing of a t-shirt.  If you look like a punter, you deserve to be treated like a punter.  If you don’t have enough sun around your climes to get a natural tan, then either hit the solarium or get a spraytan for any and all wrestling shows that you might be booked on.  I cannot stress this enough: look the part.  Look professional.

Now, I understand the way the world is going. I understand that all across the board, in live music, in the postal service, in the construction sector, etc. the jobs are increasingly going to those who will work harder and longer for less pay. This, however, is pure sabotage and is destined to end badly for everyone. You can always negotiate down, but it’s freaking hard to negotiate up. There’s always someone who will do the job for less, as you all know. Make yourself and your personal piece of business so valuable that promoters and fans are going to be willing to pay for your talents, but also, know what the pay scale is. Know your place on the pay scale, based on your experience, number of matches worked, past accolades, current profile and overall value on any said, given card. It’s not grand on the indies these days, by any stretch. Like former WCW wrestler PN News, aka Cannonball Grizzly, so aptly stated back in 2013 in a locker room in Germany: ”I might be a whore, because I sell my body for money. At least I’m not a slut who gives it away for free.”

There have been several gaijins (foreigners) over the last few years who can be held accountable for killing the once extremely profitable wrestling promised land of Japan. These newer faces went in, paying their own three-month visa, paying their own flights, sleeping on dojo floors and making next to nothing in pay just to play superstar and say they’ve wrestled in Japan. Talk about being a mark! It makes me sick to my gut. By the same token, the promoters who took them up on their offers are just as guilty. They collectively killed Japan for the rest of us, for the veterans included, who deserve to make a reasonable living at this game after sacrificing their bodies for so many years. Japan used to be a place, along with Mexico, where a good hand could make a decent chunk of change and maybe even put some of it away in savings. Sayonara now to that notion.

Moral of the story: you must act like a pro to be considered a pro. Period.

Lesson #2: Make Yourself Valuable

AJ Styles

AJ Styles is a classic case of a guy whose work ethic and skills made him valuable, so that he was able to reach the pinnacle of his profession.

Get your look in order. Invest in a gym membership and an experienced, knowledgeable personal trainer if you don’t have the know-how to build your body up to be muscular and strong. You will need that strength in the ring, I assure you, and the look is your aesthetic sales pitch. It’s the mirage of the product before delivery to your audience, after which it’s up to you to you produce — looking like the Big Mac on the menu board, or like the sorry, flattened burger that very well might get handed to you. People do not want to see jabronies that look just like them. If the guy changing your oil at Jiffy Lube could just as easily be a member of Motley Crue, then you have a perception problem because the star aura is sorely missing. Pro wrestling is meant to be bigger than life. Always has, always will be. That said, this is the exact same epidemic that has flattened out and deflated the aura, mysticism and grandeur of rock music at large, in addition to spoiling beauty pageants where the girls actually have to be a cut above the status quo to qualify, to allowing professional politicians into public office who fail to represent the interests of the public at large in any way and just capitalize on personal gain at your expense.

My old coach, Lance Storm, once so appropriately stated that a wrestler need three things to even have a fighting chance at making it in the pro wrestling business: 1) the look, meaning body and image, 2) the actual ring skills and 3) charisma to make people either love or hate you, but no middle ”they’re okay, I guess” ground.

If you lack in any of the three attributes aforementioned, get busy filling in the blanks, because while you’re daydreaming, someone else is hustling and doing what has to be done. And as they say, the early bird gets the worm (read: bookings).

Lesson #3: Don’t be a Mark

bullshit

Pro wrestling is a bullshitters’ business. Don’t be fooled, everyone is ”working” the next guy, because no one wants to risk losing their spot or moving a peg down. Everyone is looking out for number one. Many would sell their mother down a river to get a foothold over you. Al Snow once aptly said, as we were touring Egypt back in 2009: ”There are no brothers in this business, only business associates”.

Don’t be too gullible for your own good. Take everything with a grain of salt. Believe it only when you have your plane tickets in hand or when you are actually at the said show. Everything up to that point is just talk, and talk is cheap. Truth be told, only after you’ve actually been paid your agreed on wage can you really believe it.

Also, don’t be a mark for yourself. Just because you know how to play the game doesn’t make you King Midas. Don’t think that you are God’s gift to wrestling just because you might look like a million dollars or you can do a reverse 450 Firebird Splash. Don’t think you are indispensable. Don’t think that just because you’ve bought 10 pairs of tights and four pairs of boots that you are somehow better for it than the guy that just has one pair of each.  Never take anything for granted. Stay humble. Be a good sport. Don’t be an egomaniac. Have a strong ego that drives you, but don’t let your ego control you.

Lesson #4: Pro Wrestling is still Territorial

El Ligero

El Ligero of England

You’ve probably heard a million times that the territories died back at the end of the ’80s. Still, the way the wrestling business and promoters operate today is highly territorial. For example, if you live in a place like Finland, at the ass end of the world like myself, and a promoter can get four guys crammed into a car out of Germany to go wrestle in Italy, who do you think they will choose? Hmm. A guy like me, here in the worst possible demographic area on the map, will have to have his shit together and all his sales arguments in line, be relevant and credible and bringing something of salable use to the table, if he hopes to score gigs in the face of this aforementioned, stark reality.

When I say wrestling is still territorial, I’ll break it down for you: a promoter is looking to make as much money as possible and in doing so they look to cut their costs. The promoter will try to take the cheapest route possible, acquire talent from nearby, just like the four-to-a-car model I mentioned, and they will sometimes even try to skimp on offering accommodations if they are able to do so, having you drive back home in the middle of the night. Yes, there are places where the talent gets treated like circus animals, even to this day. Therefore, if a promoter can keep their costs down by taking in talent from right next door, then for you to be considered from several countries away… well, you had better have something that the promoter and their show really needs. You visage on a poster better sell an adequate amount of tickets to cover your costs or you had better have the kinds of skills that make other people (read: local wrestlers of said promotion you wish to work for) look good. Or then you had better be politically important. Or then, you had better have a name in the wrestling business. Unless you are a younger talent with a name like Will Ospreay (read: a well-known internet darling) you can forget the last line I just wrote.

Lesson #5: Pro Wrestling is Ruled by Cliques

The Cliq

If you don’t know the impact of this group, then get busy on Google.

If you don’t belong to a clique, part of somebody’s group of inside faves, your chances of getting booked are slim and rare. I didn’t say slim to none, I said slim to rare. It’s the truth, even if it is a sorry state of affairs. There are shitloads of great guitarists out there who are just as good as Steve Vai or Alexi Laiho who never get anywhere or reach greater acclaim. They simply don’t belong to the right social circle and they aren’t the darlings of a certain clique, so they are shut out of the larger window of opportunity. It’s often not what you know, as valuable as that is, it’s who you know. Age-old wisdom that is, as Yoda would say.

I don’t say this as an exhortation of any sort, that you should start kissing ass and buttering up the nearest influencer, as most of these people can smell you coming a mile away. I would advise you to simply be diligent, hustle, be humble, listen, constantly improve your game and ask for the advice of those ahead of you in the game, carry the veteran’s bags and even get them coffee, and keep putting in the best effort you possibly can each and every time you go out there and step into a ring. It’s called the law of sowing and reaping. It’s the path that I took and I can tell you that it sure as shit ain’t the fast track. It took me a lot longer to get my due and get noticed, because I never kissed asses and never played locker room politics. I invested in making myself the best wrestler I could be. I got the whole package together and honed it down to a proverbial ”T”. I built up my resumé and got my personal piece of business down so solid that it became valuable. Remember: value comes to value, always. My work and ultimately my reputation stood as my calling card. Then, certain circles began letting me in, simply based on the quality of my work and my working ethic, plus the fact that I wasn’t a trouble-maker and I was dependable. I know, the path less taken doesn’t sound very sexy and it doesn’t offer instant gratification.

Still, you can try the asskissing route if you want to try short-cutting your way to the top. No guarantees that it’ll work, however. And I won’t even get into the bookers and promoters who might try implying that you trade sexual favors for bookings. Be forwarned, they are out there. Have the dignity to say NO, even if it comes at the cost of getting booked.

Lesson #6: Every Match is a CV Match

Never ”take the night off”. Never ”just wing it”. Invest yourself in making each and every match as good as you possibly can. Think of what elements you and your opponent bring to the table and tell the best story that you can with those elements in mind.

Remember: you never know who will see your bout. I say this again, because it is pivotally important: think of what elements you will need to apply to best tell the intended story of your altercation. Don’t think that you need to showcase every single move you know, nor ”get all your shit in”. No, you need to tell the story of the match. And not every match needs to be a five-star affair. Maybe that’s not the purpose of your match in the big picture of the overall show. Maybe your position on the card requires something else from you.

Still, you need to come out of it looking like a star, but so does your opponent. Remember, you are only as good as the person that you are in the ring with. If they look like shit, you look like shit. And if you need that last one explained, you need to go back to wrestling school under a better coach.

Lesson #7: Be Adaptable and Always Keep Learning

Adam Flex Maxted

Adam “Flex” Maxted

I’m reminded by a young man I met while on a wrestling tour of Pakistan last year. His name is Adam Maxted from the UK. Adam is very young in the business, but he already has a million dollar body. He’s invested his time in the gym. He’s hungry to learn, constantly taking part in seminars of old warhorses like Marty Jones, always looking to up his game. And voilá… in less than one year since I met him, the kid is already IPW All England champion in the UK and has an upcoming match booked against Rey Mysterio for one of the largest companies there this coming March. Believe me when I tell you: you do not get chosen to be booked against a guy the likes of Rey unless you have all of the various pieces of the puzzle together. Adam deserves all the credit in the world for being a model example of hustling his ass off, being humble, keeping his ears open and being able to learn from constructive criticism. He is on the fast track to becoming a big name in our industry, and he will have earned it by the sweat of his brow, once that inevitable day comes. And once that day does arrive, Adam will have people like Marty Jones to thank, because he has been taught the essentials of what it reads on the marquee: WRESTLING.

The same applies to you. No matter who you are booked against, know your groundwork. Know how to actually wrestle. If your match falls apart, the highspots aren’t going to save you. Garbage wrestling isn’t going to save you, either. The name of the game is still wrestling at the end of the day. Can you pull it off?

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