A lot of words can be used to describe the man known simply as Rhino in the wrestling world.
Intense. Talented. Fearless. Fierce. Proud. Tireless. To name some.
There are also a lot of words that can be used to describe the man behind that legendary wrestling force, Terry Gerin.
Articulate. Passionate. Intelligent. Honest. Engaging. Patriotic.
Rhino can talk about his toughest foe, listen to Ric Flair tell stories or explain what the business has meant to his life and career.
Gerin, on the other hand, can cover all of that, but also branch out and discuss his other passion, politics.
On this day, it’s a blend of both as the legendary wrestler who’s worked for every major company in history is in the mood to talk.
With his seeminly nonstop indie appearances, on top of competing on WWE’s NXT brand, Rhino might be the busiest man in wrestling.
“I try to be,” he said in a telephone interview.
At the age of 40, and some 20-plus years into his career, Gerin, quite simply, is a pro in every sense of the word.
“When you work hard and you’ve got a good attitude and you’ve got a good faith-based overlook on everything, you can’t do anything but succeed,” he said ahead of his latest independent appearance, on Saturday in Kingston as part of Mecca Pro Wrestling. “When the hard times hit, you muscle through them.”
Muscle is something the five-foot-10, 295-pound beast of a man knows a thing or two about. Work ethic is another.
“Like anything, you have to put in the work,” Gerin said. “When promoters book you and rely on you, you have to be there. And I just love what I do.”
The key, Gerin said, is to put yourself in the shoes of the promoter.
“I’m very fortunate and I know what it takes as far as to book a show and promote a show, whether it’s a small show or a large show,” he said. “It takes a lot of work and if you can be professional for a promoter, they really appreciate that, whether it’s being on time, showing up to work, and treating it like a business.”
Gerin is philosophical when it comes to the business he’s given most of his life to as his career slowly winds down, though you’d hardly know it by the schedule he keeps and the shape he’s in.
“You go out there and you work hard no matter what because we never know when this ride’s going to end, so you might as well enjoy it,” he said. “It’s also opened a lot of doors in other areas that would’ve never opened up.”
The way Gerin sees it, wrestling isn’t a show, it’s an experience.
“Wrestling is … about family, it’s about community and it’s about creating memories that will last a lifetime.”
That family, he said, extends from the men and women you share the ring with, to those you travel with and even extends to those who came before you.
“Ever since I started wrestling, I’d hear the generation before (mine) talk about (people like) The Sheik, Bobo Brazil, Mighty Igor, Dick the Bruiser, guys who they watched with their parents at the old (Detroit) Olympia, in Cobo Hall. Their parents would take them down there, their uncles would take them and their uncles or parents aren’t here anymore, but they lived through that memory. It was a good time in their lives.”
Rhino is now one of those legends whose stories can now be heard and enjoyed by those who’ve come after him. But those who know the man at all know that as passionate as he is about wrestling, he’s equally as passionate about politics.
“I really love politics. I love the art of politics,” Gerin said, adding that he even kept an eye on the recent Canadian election.
While he may enjoy talking politics, Gerin said he’s not a fan of the current political climate.
“The bigger the government, the more they control,” he said. “The more they control, the less freedoms you have because they start dictating your life, he said, adding that he feels a “divided society and a dumb society is a good society for big government.”
Gerin offered his take on a number of hot button political issues:
- On America’s Common Core education initiative : “I’ve heard nothing but bad things about Common Core. It’s set up to dummy down society.”
- On gun control: “There are so many deaths by gun violence (other than mass school shootings), but you don’t hear about that in the media. It’s gangs. It’s a culture that is just going out there and shooting them up. The right to bear arms isn’t meant to defend yourself from an intruder. It’s about defending yourself against a government like Nazi Germany. Why are these school shootings happening? Because of people that are mentally disturbed,” he said, adding that America’s deadliest school tragedy was a bombing in 1927 that killed 44 people. “Was that guy mentally stable? I don’t know about you, but anybody that is blowing up a school and killing kids isn’t mentally stable. A lot of times, people just need to be talked to.”
- On taxes: “(Governments) waste our tax dollars. This is governments throughout the world. I’m all for social programs, social security. My father was on social security disability for 16 years. What he collected, I paid back in two years with WWE. My brothers, they’re good members of society. They’re skilled tradespeople. They’ve been paying taxes their whole lives.”
- On abortion: “I’m pro-life, but I don’t think the law should change. I don’t think you should illegalize abortion. One thing I’ve noticed, everybody (in favour of) abortion has already been born. I mean, my life has been hell sometimes, we all know personal pain, but the thing is, I know what it is to enjoy an ice cream. I’m no doctor, but at the point the of conception, people argue that it’s not human life yet, but if you don’t interrupt that with an abortion, or if it’s not interrupted by a miscarriage, what happens in nine months, unless it’s premature? A baby will be born. We can call agree on that.”
- On the divisiveness in the U.S.: “We need to come together as a society and we need to work on things together as a society and as a community because together we stand.”
- On decriminalizing marijuana: “I don’t think people should be sitting in jail for marijuana. Do you legalize it? So many people are on the fence and a lot of politicians will say what they think is the popular thing at the time just to get elected. Here’s the solution to marijuana. Decriminalize it, to a certain extent. If I pull you over and you’ve got two freezer bags of marijuana, chances are you’re going to sell it. It’s not for you to take off the edge on the weekend. I’m going to write you a ticket. I’m going to weigh it, I’m going figure out roughly what it is street value. Say the street value of that is $5,000; I’m going to fine you $1,000. You’re eventually going to pay it or you’re going to sell a thousand of it to pay. You’re creating revenue, but you’re not legalizing it and you’re not throwing the guy in jail. You’re decriminalizing it. You’re writing tickets. If you’ve got a Cheech and Chong van and it’s made of marijuana and you’re sneaking it through, chances are we’re going to have to take you downtown and ask you a few questions.”
- On racism and violence: “I’ve never understood that. I’ve thought to myself, ‘How do you dislike someone because of their culture, their religion?’ My religion teaches me ‘don’t judge, work on yourself.’ I’m only in control of myself. I want people to say, ‘Wow, that guy is a good guy, how did he get that way?’ ”
While you can almost always engage Gerin in a political discussion, he’s much more private when it comes to his personal beliefs and family. Those are subjects Gerin rarely talks about openly, or freely. On this day, he makes an exception.
Gerin credits his faith in God to overcoming a dark period in his life, one which he admits he wasn’t sure he would even live through to tell.
“I usually don’t like to talk about religion,” Gerin said, “but I have a personal relationship with God.”
At the height of his fame and success, Gerin said, he battled his toughest foe, alcohol. It’s a battle he almost lost.
“I shouldn’t be here,” he said somberly. “There was a point in my life – I don’t talk about this – but I drank something fierce because I spent a lot of time at home.”
He doesn’t blame wrestling, despite its well documented history of wrestlers with addiction woes and an ever-growing trail of death.
“It didn’t have anything with the road, I just got caught up,” Gerin said somberly.
“I shouldn’t be here,” he repeated. “Not that I was drinking and driving, but I’d sit at home and I’d drink a lot. If I told you how much I would drink, you would think I was lying to you. And it was liquor.”
With same ferociousness he displays inside a ring, but in a very real circumstance, Gerin fought his way through his struggles and emerged victorious. And while he makes it sound like it was an easy victory, the silence and long pauses during the discussion suggest otherwise.
“One day, I just woke up and I was like, ‘I’m done with this.’ I haven’t had a drink in six years,” he said. “Am I an alcoholic? I don’t think so. Can I go to a bar and not have a drink? Yeah.”
Gerin’s victory and subsequent recovery have left him feeling “very blessed,” but he admits that he only learned how close he could have been to death when the subject of alcohol came up years later when speaking with a friend of his, who is a doctor. It was then that Gerin learned how serious the implications of drinking heavily can be.
“If you overdrink, your brain tells your lungs to relax, because of all the chemicals, then your lungs relax, and then there’s no oxygen in your blood and your heart will eventually stop,” he said, adding that his friend, an open heart surgeon, described the dangers in vivid detail, oblivious to the fact that Gerin had once battled a drinking problem. “We were just talking about that one day, a year or two after I had stopped drinking. He didn’t know I drank that much. A lot of people don’t.”
Having faced his mortality, and still here to talk about it, Gerin has a new outlook on life now, but it’s not without its regrets.
“One thing I struggle with is (that) my mom passed away in ’09 — she had cancer — and I was drinking a lot then,” Gerin said. “With your parents, you always think they’re going to be there, and then one day they’re not. My father died when I was 14,” he added.
In the absence of his parents, Gerin holds on tightly to the memories of his role models, those who gave him life and inspiration and encouragement, not to mention the mental toughness to overcome his demons.
“When you hear the word Dad, you remember,” he said. “It’ll be 25 years in January. I was very blessed to have a father who raised us and taught us right from wrong and taught us, ‘Hey, if you want to eat, you work.’ It’s stuff like that. (With) my mom, I could have been a better son, but how do I represent her? By doing well in life. We’re a representation of the people we love.”
Instead of wallowing in the sadness and what could have been, Gerin chooses to focus on what was and what is.
“We’ve all experienced personal pain, we’ve all experienced loss, but I believe there’s a reason for things that happen in our lives.”
Again, Gerin harkens back to his belief in God, a topic he knows is a sensitive one in today’s society.
“We won’t know until we die who’s right and who’s wrong (about the existence of God),” Gerin said, “but religion teaches me to be a better a person. Hopefully I’m right, and I’ll pray for you,” he quipped.
“But at the end of the day, I won’t have any regrets.”
A passionate and patriotic Gerin remains humble, despite his fame, success and the huge impact he’s made in the pro wrestling landscape. He is, after all, still the kid who aspired to live his dreams.
“A lot of people looked at me and said, ‘Why are you even wasting your time at wrestling?’” Gerin recalled. “It was my dream. Bill Gates, he was a dreamer, I’m sure he was. Steve Jobs … Henry Ford. Look at what these guys created.”
And when nature, and age, dictate that Gerin’s in-ring career is over, he’ll continue to create opportunities for himself, he said.
“After I’m no longer able to perform in the ring, there’s a lot of stuff I can do outside the ring. I can pass my knowledge on. Some of that knowledge people can take and put to use. Some of that knowledge won’t be useful to anyone.”
MECCA PRO WRESTLING
When: Saturday, Nov. 7, 7 p.m.
Where: Royal Canadian Legion, 734 Montreal St., Kingston.
What else: Meet-and-greet with Rhino beginning at 6 p.m.
Charity: Kingston artist Fred Dunn, who drew a custom Rhyno portrait, will be presenting Rhyno with the piece, which the wrestler will sign. It will then be auctioned off in support of a local charity.
Mecca champion Joey Valentyne teams with Rhino to take on Payne and Ray Steele in the main event.
Eve vs. Persephone Vice
MPW POUND FOR POUND CHAMPIONSHIP:
Crimson X vs. Bret MacLeod (champion)
THE RETURN OF RUKIN!
Jae Rukin vs. Sexxxy Eddy
REMATCH OF THE HUNKS:
Cheeky vs. Deeno
Decker “The Ax” Lockhart vs. Catalyst
Thunder vs. Randy Reign (MPW debut)
“Magic” Mario Bryant vs. Frank “The Beast” Bradley
Mystify vs. KL Shock