Originally published in The Kingston Whig-Standard on Saturday, March 3, 2012. All rights reserved.
I often get asked similar questions by fans. The two most prevalent questions are: what was my favourite match, which I can’t answer because I have so many; and how do I become a professional wrestler? This question is easy for me to answer, but I propose some guidelines for the response.
1. Realistic goals: The first thing I usually say is continue your education, just in case you do not make it. The chances of making it as a pro wrestler are quite slim considering that there are only two places in which to make a decent living — World Wrestling Entertainment and Total Nonstop Action. To put that into perspective, imagine that there were only two professional sports teams on which to make money in Major League Baseball, the National Football League, National Hockey League, pro soccer, tennis, UFC or boxing. Or that there were only two law firms for which to work if your goal was to be a lawyer, or two hospitals at which to work if you wanted to be a doctor, or two schools at which to teach if you wanted to be a teacher. By now, I’m sure I’ve made my point about exactly how hard it is to make it in sports entertainment.
2. Physical goals: I have to break this down into subcategories.
2a) You will get hurt. Your body will be pushed to levels of pain unlike anything you’ve ever experienced before. Professional wrestling has no equal. It is unnatural to fall forward without putting your hands in front of you to brace your fall. And it is unnatural to fall backward without reaching behind you. Tell a supposedly sane person to run as fast as they can into steel cables just so they can propel you forward at a faster speed and check out the look on their face.
My first time on the top rope, I was told to jump off and do a belly flop like I would into a pool. Well guess what? I was in a boxing ring and there was no water, except for the beads of sweat coming off my head.
2b) If you are not already involved in athletics, don’t have athletic ability or you think because you watch wrestling on TV, you can master this craft, well, think again. I have seen professional athletes come to a wrestling school or tryout and quit because of it being too hard. And don’t think you will get in shape if you go to wrestling school. You should come into a wrestling school already being in the gym and doing cardio exercises, which will improve your chances.
2c) Age, height and appearance are key factors in today’s business, so if you are 30, it is quite difficult both physically and mentally to try and make it to the big time. I’m not saying you won’t make it, but you have a much steeper hill to climb. If you are 29 years old, five-foot- nine and not in the best shape, you will get overlooked by scouts in favour of the 22-year-old, six-foot-two muscular man.
3. Dedication: This journey is a lifelong commitment. It is so physically demanding on your body and mentally draining on your emotions, if you go about it halfheartedly, you will achieve half results. This is a marathon race, not a sprint. Just as in any sport, you have to start on the lowest level.
If you wanted, for instance, to be a baseball player, you would play in high school and college before possibly being drafted and then play in the minor leagues un- til you get called to the big leagues.
Well no high schools or colleges offer pro wrestling, so amateur will help with the conditioning, then once trained, it is many minor league shows until you are maybe fortunate enough to receive a tryout with a major organization. You can try to enter a contest, like WWE’s Tough Enough, but once the winner is chosen, it is the same path. And FYI, some Tough Enough winners found success, while others went into obscurity.
4. Reputable wrestling school: Research the school you are thinking of attending. If you have never heard of the trainer before and you are a wrestling fan, that should be red flag number one. I am not saying that every trainer had to make it into WWE, but I have heard many tales of people going to a school, handing the trainer money and the school or the trainer leaves town soon thereafter.
The Internet has tons of information about schools for wrestlers. If you are thinking about attending a school, ask if you can watch a practice or attend a show. If all the talent on the card is not good or you have never heard of them, that’s probably because their trainer is not very good. If the school has been at an established location for a long time, that is a good sign. You should research the trainer and find out whether he has some successful students in the industry already. These are all good signs that it may be the place for you. After all, you don’t just walk into a car dealership and say “here is my money, give me the red one.” Do your homework, your future depends on it.
The other thing I often hear that amuses me is when people tell me they were going to become professional wrestlers, but the school was too far, cost too much money, or they had to work or go to school. Those are all excuses.
I had many jobs, went to school and drove an hour, not accounting for traffic — sometimes three — one way to achieve my dream. So did many others. Maybe now you have a deeper appreciation for the men and women you see on TV.
If you meet the following criteria, then I hope to see you on TV one day as well.
Thanks for reading.
Tommy Dreamer is a legendary and influential pro wrestler and a father and husband who has worked for World Wrestling Entertainment, Extreme Championship Wrestling and Total Nonstop Action and the creator of House of Hardcore wrestling. Follow him on Twitter — @THETOMMYDREAMER — and check out his website at www.thetommydreamer.com.He can be booked for live appearances through his website. For HoH information, go to houseofhardcore.net.