So I have been thinking about doing this post for a while but it takes a little more research than most editions of What I Love About Pro-Wrestling. I love the storylines of sports entertainment but sometimes the stories behind the scenes can be just as entertaining. We live in a new world where we can see farther behind the curtain than we ever could before while carefully maintaining suspension of disbelief. I am not comfortable with the term “Amateur Wrestling” because it implies that what they do is lesser than Professional Wrestling. While professional wrestling is incredibly impressive athletically, it is scripted and improvised with full cooperation between “opponents”. I do not use the term “amateur” and instead, I call them “real wrestlers”. So here’s another list of sports entertainers who were real wrestlers before their careers took off. The premise here is that real wrestling helps to make you a better athlete and therefore a better performer. It is one part of a three-part equation.
I have known of Xavier Woods as a performer for quite a long time. I first noticed him when he showed up in the Total Nonstop Action promotion as a young and eager performer. He wrestled under the name Consequences Creed, originally so he could pair with Ron “The Truth” Killings for a tag team with an obvious name. He later teamed with Jay Lethal and wrestled on his own as a high flier with an Apollo Creed kind of gimmick. The next I saw him, he had shown up in NXT under the name Xavier Woods. He still had that high energy and great work ethic but he had embraced his geeky side. He yelled “It’s Morphin Time!” on his way to the ring and had “Over 9000” written on his tights. Now he’s one-third of the mega-popular tag team The New Day and helps to come up with the geekiest ideas in sports entertainment today. However, back in the day, he was a real wrestler at Sprayberry High School in Marietta, Georgia. He was reportedly the best at his school and actually had a high school feud with the next guy on the list. Obviously, the conditioning and technical know-how have stayed with him into his career and helped him to the top.
I have spoken of Cody Rhodes before in this blog but it has been a while. Cody is the son of a son of a plumber as his father is the legendary Dusty Rhodes and he is also the brother of Goldust. Cody recently transformed his on-screen persona into Stardust, a creepy and insane version of himself that mixed his father’s legacy, his brother’s persona and a lot of additional creativity. He is one of the strongest workers in the business as he has done nothing but improve his skills over the years. Just this week, Cody decided to end his employment with the WWE and become probably the hottest free agent in the business in a long time. Whatever he decides to do, he will be excellent at it. I am sure of this because he has a strong work ethic and undying loyalty to whatever he is doing. Part of that comes from his history in real wrestling back in high school. He got up before dawn and started working out in order to be the best his high school had at the time. He has glowing words for the sport of Greco-roman wrestling and was appropriately a local hero of Marietta, Georgia. He also credits the sport with reuniting his family after a period of estrangement between his dad and his brother.
I first saw James Storm in the mid-2000s through the Total Nonstop Action (TNA) promotion which was still kind of in its infancy. He was part of the tag team America’s Most Wanted for a long while and was a mainstay on the roster. Storm gained even more popularity during a singles career and also in the awesome tag team Beer Money. He was a little bit of a high flyer but, as his career progressed, his became more of a brawler and more of a technician. He projected an aura of toughness that was both blue collar and roughneck. However, every move felt like it was perfectly timed and executed with a high level of skill. He had a lot of legendary (but poorly attended) matches that were long and brutal. We can owe a lot of this skill and conditioning with the same attitude that put him on his high school wrestling team. Those lessons stick with you for the rest of your life, especially if you are an athlete. Unfortunately, Storm decided to remain a star in the constantly ship called TNA rather than make the jump to the WWE. It’s a shame but he’ll continue to be a star wherever he is.
Alberto Del Rio
I never followed the early career of Alberto Del Rio who got his start in Asistencia Asesoría y Administración but it is hard to see Mexican promotion’s matches in this country. He is the son of Dos Caras and the nephew of Mil Mascaras. While I have heard a lot of criticism of Mil Mascaras, I do know that all three men are part of one of the most famous sports entertainment families in the world. Del Rio comes from the world of Lucha which is a pretty different style from traditional United States styles. Eventually, he made the move from Mexico to the United States when he debuted in the WWE where he has had a lot of success as both a heel and a face. Arguably, he’s a better heel than he is a face but it cannot be argued that he is a great technician in the ring. He took a break from the WWE and headed south once again and eventually found himself in Lucha Underground as Alberto Patron. From what I’ve read, he decided to take up real wrestling for a challenge as a kid and to prove that he could hang in that world. He was part of the Mexican national team and would have gone to the Olympics but Mexico could not afford to send him that year. Still, that training is clear in a lot of his movements, especially his vaunted cross arm breaker hold.
The man who plays Matanza Cueto (Jeffrey Cobb) on Lucha Underground is a monster of a man. He is not extremely tall but he is thick, muscular and explosively fast. I honestly do not know much about his career but I do know that it has not been a long one so far. He has really just started under the Matanza Cueto gimmick but he has made an immediate impact, taking their big championship by defeating several men in one match. He has also shelved or matched some of the best competitors in the company in a very believable fashion. He is extremely athletic and did I mention that he is deceptively fast for a big guy? His reflexes, strength and size do a lot to let him portray a monster who used to be a man. Cobb is actually the first person I have heard who is listed as Guamanian which means he is from the tiny nation of Guam. It was in Guam that he began his career as a real wrestler where he learned the skills needed to become an International competitor. He competed in international tournaments and eventually went to the 2004 Olympics in Athens. Unfortunately, he finished nineteenth out of twenty-two wrestlers but just to compete on a stage that huge shows that he was skilled as Hell. I look forward to seeing just what this guy can do with those skills and all of the new skills he is probably learning.