Nick Cvjetkovich has always had a creative imagination, something the man known in the wrestling world as Sinn Bodhi attributes to his childhood.
Cvjetkovich, you see, who is more wildly known for his run as Kizarny in World Wrestling Entertainment, spent a good chunk of his younger years reading comics and watching – you guessed it – pro wrestling.
Add to that the fact that both his mother and father were martial arts experts and it’s not difficult to see that Cvjetkovich’s fate was sealed at an early age.
“I grew up in a little farmhouse on the outskirts of Orangeville, Ontario, Canada, Cvjetkovich said. “So after school, it was always an ordeal for me to get into town to play with my friends and all of that stuff. It was almost like a field trip. I could squeak maybe one of those out a week or so. It was kind of a pain in the butt with how long and how hard my parents were working. So when I was trapped at home, like a little circus runaway, I had comic books and I had pro wrestling. I just was sort of immersed in both.”
Orangeville in the 1990s can now officially be considered a hotbed of professional wrestling with the addition of Cvjetkovich to two other extremely famous wrestlers who hail from the tiny town of some 30,000 souls: Adam (Edge) Copeland and Jay (Christian) Reso.
“I met Adam – Edge — in Grade 3 or 4,” Cvjetkovich recalled. “We used to wrestle in our buddy’s backyard as little kids, or at recess or whatever. I’d be Roddy Piper and Adam would be Hulk Hogan or we’d be the Rock N’ Roll Express or stuff like,” he added.
Reso, Cvjetkovich added, made an immediate first impression.
“Christian was actually the very first kid I ever remember meeting on this planet,” he said. “We met in the sandbox in kindergarten. He defended me from some bully who wanted to take my little superhero action figure. I had one of those old little bendy Spider-Man dolls or whatever. I don’t know how I remember. I can’t remember what I ate for breakfast, but I remember Jay saving my ass in the sandbox five million years ago. We’ve been buddies ever since.”
And while all members of the Orangeville trio would go on to successful wrestling careers, in those days, it was hard to imagine that happening, Cvjetkovich said, particularly for the smaller Reso and himself.
“I was a little guy in high school,” Cvjetkovich said. “Jay was a little bit smaller than I was and Edge was kind of scrawny, but he just all of a sudden shot up. Over one summer in high school, he pretty much went from six feet to six-foot-four or five, or whatever he is. Me and Jay were still little guys.”
Copeland’s story is now the stuff of wrestling lore. He spotted a newspaper essay contest in which the winner would be trained by pro wrestling trainers Ron Hutchison and Sweet Daddy Siki in Toronto. He won, became a prized student, joined World Wrestling Entertainment and went on to a Hall of Fame career. He’s now retired and acting for a living.
“Everybody knows the story: he won the essay contest, he got to train with those guys and off he went,” Cvjetkovich said of his friend Copeland.
Meanwhile, Cvjetkovich said, he and Reso decided that they’d try to get into college. Failing that, they’d follow in Copeland’s footsteps and try to get into the wrestling school.
“I got into college and Jay didn’t, so Jay went ahead and followed Adam into that wrestling school a year or two later,” Cvjetkovich said, adding that he owes his dream to Reso, whom Cvjetkovich said pursued his dream despite his size disadvantage.
“We really didn’t know anything about cruiserweight wrestling or Japanese or Mexican wrestling or what have you. We just saw WWF Saturday mornings or we saw the Pro Wrestling Illustrated magazine, where all these guys looked like monsters. I thought you had to be seven feet tall just to be a referee. I figured at that stage of the game, I’m just shy of 6-2, I’m 230-240 pounds, in shape and I’m still thinking I’m kind of runty. Jay was a little bit smaller than I was, but he was still a big guy, but I credit Jay because we were sort of like X-Pac size at that stage of the game, which was really runty in the grand scheme of things. So, he still had the balls to kind of go and do it, and he followed it.”
Having seen his two childhood friends chase their dreams, Cvjetkovich went for the Orangeville sweep.
“I could not stand college,” he said. “I hated it. I was so bored and so uninspired by it that when I finally left, I was like ‘I’m gonna follow my dream, come hell or high water.’ I credit Jay for kinda going first. I might not have ever followed through if it was not for Christian taking those first couple of steps.”
What Cvjetkovich found waiting for him in his path to wrestling stardom was one tough Torontonian with a penchant for producing successful stars … Ron (Masked Thunderbolt) Hutchison.
“Nobody gets a free pass with Ron,” Cvjetkovich recalled. “Ron’s pretty militant and he’s pretty altruistic in his views of our business. He’s not a rapport guy, he’s not a politician. You’ve got to earn your way through his door and into his ring and onto his show. He made it really hard, in a fun way. He was awesome. He was a great guy and I’m super glad that he was my original trainer. He really taught you the right way to do things.”
Looking back now, Cvjetkovich sees a marked difference in training now versus training under Hutchison and Siki.
“I travel a lot of places these days and I do a lot of seminars and I wrestle at a lot of shows all over the planet and I don’t like to be the guy who says back in my day, but … back in my day, you had to ask to go to the bathroom, you had to be laced up and warmed up 15 minutes prior to class, you certainly didn’t look at your cellphone – I don’t know if I had a cellphone that’s how long ago it was. We really took it like Rocky Balboa seriously.
“We were piggy-backing each other up dripping staircases, with rusty pipes, at a rickety old building in Sully’s gym. We did it pretty hard knocks and when I roll into some places and see how cushy guys have it these days, I’m happy for them, that’s great, but I just think ‘Man, we did some Rambo stuff when we were training.’ ”
He’s not saying today’s wrestlers don’t have it as tough as he did, but … yes, actually, he is.
“I giggle when I hear ‘Oh man, we had to travel like an hour to get to this show’ or whatever. Again, back in my day, it wasn’t anything to travel five, 10, 15, 20 hours to a show and then right back home. I don’t know if the work ethic is different these days. To use a Tennessee term, I don’t think people have a whole lot of launching these days. We had that old school, gung-ho initiative. We had that work ethic.”
That work ethic wasn’t instilled into them. It was driven into them by a man now universally considered one of the best trainers of his generation.
“I can tell you something about Ron’s school,” Cvjetkovich said. “It was driven by such fuel and fire and passion that, before I went to Ron’s school, I was and am a lifelong martial artist. There is nothing easy about the martial arts. But I can tell you just about every wrestling class was the equivalent of my black belt grading. Those gradings are designed to make or break you. That was pretty much every class of Ron Hutchison’s.”
Consider Day 1 under Hutchison, Cvjetkovich recalled.
“I remember my first day at Ron Hutchison’s school, he said nobody gets a water break until somebody pukes and class is not over until somebody quits and never comes back,” he said. “It was about three and a half hours into it, we got a water break and about four and a half hours into it, somebody quit. There was nothing easy about any single minute within that four-and-a-half-hour stretch.”
Even Canadian hockey players, the gold standard of athletes north of the border, marveled at Hutchison-trained wrestlers, Cvjetkovich said.
“I remember a lot of the hockey players putting us over and saying ‘Man, you guys have no off-season, you don’t wear helmets or padding.’ They were really appreciative of the duress we physically put on our body. And what we do, there is a big fictional element to it, but make no mistake, there is a physical duress and I mean Ron really helps prepare you for that and sometimes does them a really mean favour of weeding them out because there are certain people that are just not cut out for it.”
Cvjetkovich also possessed something that is somewhat of an X factor in wrestling: passion. Like his friends before him, and under the guidance of his mentor, Cvjetkovich willed his way through the rigorous training, inspired by his friends.
“Adam was definitely a massive influence,” Cvjetkovich said. “Ron was a great influence. Ron is a great coach. He’s so passionate. I think if anybody can take anything away from me … I’m a pretty humble guy, but I’ll toot my own horn and say I’m pretty creative, but I think passion would supersede creativity. I think anybody – actor, athlete, musician, anybody that’s following their dreams – If they’re not propelled by passion, what are they propelled by? I think you could see a mile away if somebody was driven by money because their heart’s not into it. You can see people that lead with their heart on their sleeve. I think I’ve been guilty of being that guy. I don’t make the smartest decisions sometimes, but whatever my decisions are is propelled by passion.”
Reso and Copeland would emerge as one of the most beloved and successful tag teams of all time, and both would go on to enjoy singles success, with Copeland rising to become the face of WWE, culminating with his retirement and induction into the WWE Hall of Fame.
While Cvjetkovich never found success on the same level as his boyhood friends, he never wished them any ill will, but rather nothing but success.
“I love professional wrestling, but I love my friendship with my friends and family more. I will never, ever be mad or jealous of Adam or Jay, or Ron or Jake the Snake, or anybody that I hold dear,” Cvjetkovich said, adding that if his brother, also a pro wrestler, were signed to WWE tomorrow and made its champ, he’d have nothing but love and support.
“I am super happy for everything that Adam and Jay have done. Wrestling is a very political thing, it’s such a weird thing, right place, right time and Adam and Jay have all the talent in the world and all the karma in the world. They’re such great, sweet guys. You don’t maintain a friendship since kindergarten without having some kind of rapport.”
Besides, Cvjetkovich said, he owes a lot of his own success to Copeland.
“I can say also, Edge and Jake the Snake, there’s not two people on this planet that have done more for me in my wrestling career. Maybe, a third and fourth runner-up would be Al Snow and Dusty Rhodes,” he said, also adding Dr. Tom Prichard to the mix. “These are all guys that really have helped me so I have no reason to be mad or jealous at any of those guys because they’ve only ever been my friends and only ever tried to help me.”
Much like his childhood pals, who broke into WWE as blood-sucking members of Gangrel’s Brood, Cvjetkovich entered the WWE as a bizarre character, Kizarny, a circus freak of sorts.
While the WWE incarnation of Sinn Bodhi was never what Cvjetkovich envisioned, the character itself was a lifetime in the making, he said.
“I loved wrestling, but I was a martial arts brat,” Cvjetkovich said. “My parents were black belts, my mom had a dojo, my dad was a ranked fighter when I was a kid, so I grew up in karate tournaments, backstage and competing and all of that stuff. I was running around guys like Chuck Norris and Benny the Jet even though my heart was in WWF,” Cvjetkovich said, adding that he loved circus things, comics and super heroes as a child.
“For me, creatively, it was all in the same sort of wheelhouse,” he said.
It didn’t take long once he’d started wrestling for his inner alter ego to emerge.
“Early into my wrestling career, I got the opportunity to be a circus strongman for Carnival Diablo, which is a really cool Canadian-based show. It was created by Scott McClelland, who is a really cool, really creative performer. So I got to learn a lot of legitimate circus strongman feats within Carnival Diablo and I just figured all this kind of stuff would help make me just that much more unique, which would get the eyes of Vince McMahon and all of that stuff, and it did.”
Now all he needed was a name, the kind of stuff that can make or break someone in pro wrestling. Case in point: Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. Stunning Steve Austin.
Cvjetkovich came by his wrestling moniker honestly.
“When I was still learning from Ron, usually what happens is you start out as a babyface so you can be led by the heel, who kind of leads that metaphoric band, but at the time, Ron was really needing heels for his Acopolypse Wrestling Federation show and I just looked scarier, meaner looking, what have you. He did not see me as a babyface whatsoever,” he quipped. “Out of happenstance, I just got thrown into the deep end and kind of had to be a heel right away. He’s like ‘Think of a name that’s scary.’ Out of all my creativity, I was kind of panicking, thinking this was kind of my first crack at show business and I came up with the more boring name ever: Sinn. To this day, (Chris) Jericho still teases me. He’s like ‘Man, you’re so creative, why didn’t you come up with some crazy name. You come up with Sinn, you asshole.’
Sinn has stuck, through several in-carnie-ations, if you will.
“I was Original Sinn for a long time. When I got hired by WWE, I was Sinn. Ron tacked on the Original part, I do believe. When I got hired, I knew I looked very over the top and all of that stuff, so I wanted to have sort of a name name, something with a first and last name. I wanted Sinn to be almost my nickname. The reason I picked Sinn in the first place, the inner hippy in me figured, well, that’s the only thing every human has in common, whatever religion you are, whatever sexual orientation you are, whatever, anything you are, we all have sin in common. So even though I was a bad guy, I kind of took that name for a really hippy-ish reason.”
The last name, however, is a tribute to one of Cvjetkovich’s movie idols.
“When I got hired by WWE and I wanted to have a last name, I picked my favourite character of all time, (who was) Bodhi, played by Patrick Swayze in Point Break, who was like this anarchistic, bank-robbing surfer guy. He was like this Robin Hood, he just didn’t play by the rules. He didn’t want to hurt anybody, but he didn’t want to be told what to do either. I just thought ‘What a great character.’ It just spoke to me. As a scared little kid, who was shy and timid and so forth, I just thought what a great, empowering character, so hence, Sinn Bodhi.”
Following his training at the hands of Hutchison, Cvjetkovich spent the first four years of his wrestling career working the independent scene, developing his skills and his character. His first big break came when Total Nonstop Action’s Jeff Jarrett came calling.
The TNA experience was a great learning curve, Cvjetkovich said.
“I was still pretty green at that stage of the game,” he said of his first pro contract. “In that situation, I really, really soaked up knowledge like crazy from all of these different guys and that helped me sort of figure out how to be a good worker. I really got a big taste of that was when I got hired by TNA.”
After a couple of years with TNA, Cvjetkovich got the call he’d been waiting for his entire life. WWE came calling.
“It was so surreal, Cvjetkovich recalled.
In fact, it’s difficult to describe something that is life changing, Cvjetkovich said.
“I cannot describe it. I am a pretty creative guy, but words do not describe what I was feeling. I was so excited. I felt like a little kid going there. I’m like ‘Oh, there’s a Horseman, there’s a Dragon.’ The only place ever I would like to meet IRS is backstage at WWE. It was awesome. It was so cool.
“As far childhood dreams go, I got there. That was super fun. I think about it sometimes in the sense that there’s what, maybe 300 people in the NFL, there’s roughly a hundred guys at WWE, so mathematically, it’s three times harder to get into WWE than it is to get into the NFL.”
Something that can never be duplicated is that first moment during your debut, Cvjetkovich said.
“Walking through the curtain on my debut, as much as I didn’t like what I was about to do, you’re just walking out and you know that’s your moment and all those people are there. That many people’s voices, you can feel that on your skin, not just emotionally, but you can feel the bass of their voice hitting you like wind. That is just such an awesome feeling. I’m trying to articulate how I can even explain that feeling. It’s just like it validates you in the universe. Happenstance is what it is, but not for lack of trying hard.”
That moment is now one he enjoys helping others achieve.
“When I see a brand new guy getting in the ring, it reminds me of my debut night because it lets me know that person was brave enough to follow their dreams, even though they’re stepping into a shitty, rickety ring in a tiny little garage or a little bingo hall or something. But do you know what kind of guts it takes just to do that? It’s so enamouring and so powerful that I can’t even describe it.”
Cvjetkovich looks back at his WWE experience with mixed emotions. He’s certainly proud that he got there, but the experience itself wasn’t what he envisioned.
“The problem was when I went to WWE as Sinn Bowdee, this carnival guy, they just kind of reinvented the wheel and tried to fix what wasn’t really broke, I suppose,” Cvjetkovich recalled. “They kind of asked me to do stuff that I really didn’t want to do and they sort of convoluted that character and sort of vanilla-ed out that character, that’s what Kizarny was. Being taught by Ron, being that good warrior, saying ‘OK, I’m a soldier, yes boss,’ doing what the decision makers want, so be it. I went and did what I could do, given the parameters they wanted me to do it in and that was that. Everything you see that I do now is what I would have done – woulda, shoulda, coulda done – if given permission to do at WWE.”
The most frustrating part, Cvjetkovich said, was that he believed WWE liked what he was proposing from the get-go.
“(WWE chairman) Vince (McMahon) loved me,” Cvjetkovich said. “When I walked through the door, Vince was all about it. He was ready to book me in some main-event angle right out of the gate. I think a lot of guys didn’t understand what I was. Everybody saw me as a villain, which I agree, I should have come out as a villain, but for some reason, Vince just totally took me as a good guy. I was like ‘OK, I don’t mind being a good guy at some point, but given my own choices, given my own opinions, come out as a bad guy, be fun to hate and then pretty soon, you’re going to be a good guy.’”
In the end, the WWE experience didn’t pan out, but it’s an experience Cvjetkovich still draws upon.
“It was definitely a stinger,” he said of his release from WWE. “To this day, I really don’t know what happened. I’ve heard rumours of political things or whatever, but you really don’t get any answers and it’s kind of like breaking up from the biggest relationship of your life with no closure,” he said, adding that he’s on good terms with the company to this day.
Following his departure from WWE, Cvjetkovich took his creativity and his Sinn Bodhi character and started up his own company, Freakshow Wrestling, which is based out of Sin City, Las Vegas.
“I’m not a guy who cries over spilled milk,” Cvjetkovich said. “I’m not a ‘Woulda, shoulda, coulda, guy. I just want to move forward and be positive. I take my life experiences and I learn from them. Everything I do on Freakshow Wrestling is things that they wouldn’t let fly in WWE, whether it was not PG enough, or they just thought it was too out of the box.”
Using that trademark toughness instilled in him by his parents and his trainer Hutchison, his connections in wrestling and his own creativity and drive, Cvjetkovich set out to shake up the wrestling world. Freakshow wrestling’s next show is this Friday at 425 Fremont St. in Vegas.
“People are always scared or trepidatious of new ideas, but I just think creating something new is just that. Why reinvent the wheel? Why not create something new? Why not sort of push the limits. Like (Albert) Einstein said: ‘Every genius idea starts out ridiculous.’ Not that my idea is genius, but I’m just daring to try something. I think there are a lot of great performers on the show that fans really love to see. That’s the whole point of Freakshow Wrestling.”
While something like Freakshow Wrestling might not have found a place in the wrestling landscape a decade ago, Cvjetkovich believes times have changed.
“Ten years ago, I wouldn’t have accepted it,” he said. “I’m aware of the times and I’m savvy to the times, I’m an old-school guy but I’m also built for a modern day. I’m smart enough to know what works now wouldn’t work then, what worked then wouldn’t work now, but bits and pieces definitely do, and when you put them in interesting formations and so forth, you can really create interesting things. I was really a big believer in kayfabe and stuff, and I still am, but this show is more like the Muppet Show meets Raw or SmackDown.
“It’s Saturday Night Live in a wrestling ring. We’ve got guys doing funny stuff, sexy stuff, scary stuff. It’s kind of a smorgasbord of fun. You don’t need to be a wrestling fan to like Freakshow Wrestling. If you like South Park, you would be more apt to like Freakshow Wrestling.”
Matches on the card for this week’s show are highlighted by a main event that features three former WWE stars: Cvjetkovich as Kizarny, Gangrel and Boogeyman.
“Boogeyman vs. Kizarny vs. Gangrel should be an interesting three-way because you’ve got the creepiest guy in Boogeyman versus the weirdest guy in Kizarny versus the scariest guy in Gangrel,” Cvjetkovich said. “Those three food groups in WWE history, that’s got to be pretty cool for your wrestling fan. I’m looking forward to it.”
The company is also in the midst of growth, Cvjetkovich revealed.
“We’re going to start doing more stuff with a friend company, it’s not a sister company but it’s definitely a friend company, up in Oakland called HoodSlam. Also, I think there shall be a Freakshow Wrestling in Dallas on WrestleMania weekend. I am announcing that here and now.”
With Halloween fast approaching, what could be better than a show featuring the likes of Gangrel, Boogeyman, Kizarni, Cereal Man, Dos Psychos and others?
“I try to live every day like it’s somewhere between Halloween and Christmas,” Cvjetkovich quipped, only half joking.
Looking back, Cvjetkovich admits he’s proud of his body of work so far, but is far from satisfied.
“As far as I’m concerned, I’m just getting warmed up,” he said. “I’ve got a lot of plans for Freakshow Wrestling, and when I’m too old and too rickety to perform, I will definitely be writing and directing more Freakshow stuff, I’m working on movie stuff in L.A. I did stunts on this Star Trek movie that’s coming out now that’s going to be the pilot for the next big Star Trek franchise. I write all the storylines and all the bits, all the characters for Freakshow Wrestling, plan for all the guests to come on Freakshow Wrestling. I want to do more of that stuff, I want to do more movie stuff and just have fun.”
Cvjetkovich ends the interview with what will perhaps some day be read by generations as an epitaph on his headstone.
“I’m a giant child so while I’m stuck on planet Earth, I’m going to have the best time possible.”
So far, so good.
For more information on Freakshow Wrestling, go to http://www.freakshowwrestling.com or check out the Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/freakshowwrestlingofficial.