IN LAIMAN'S TERMS: So You Want to Be a Pro Wrestler
By Al Laiman
Jun 6, 2012 - 11:41:49 PM
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First things first, my fifth book, third in the wrestling saga "The Elven Warrior" has just been released. For anyone who buys the new book and sends me a picture of it, I will send you a free, autographed copy of "Taking Bumps: How I Made 49 Bucks in Pro Wrestling." It is available here: https://www.createspace.com/3640895 or on Amazon under my shoot name: Alexander Goodlive. Be sure to like my author page and the other two project pages as well! The artist of the cover has created a t-shirt of the amazing work he did, which can be found here. http://punintended.spreadshirt.com/lantlas-the-elven-warrior-the-elven-return-t-shirt-men-s-A10070469
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IN LAIMAN'S TERMS: So You Want to Be a Pro Wrestler
This is one of the first columns I wrote for LOP, back when I was writing on the forums. I decided to repost this due to many emails asking about the pro wrestling training experience. Enjoy.
"You get out of this business what you put into it."
-Christopher Daniels to me, August 2006
There's something about the allure of stepping into that ring with all eyes on you. When asked what made it so appealing by a non-fan, I once answered that it's like being a rock star, an athlete, and a celebrity all in one. You get your own entrance music, you perform the moves you've been trained to do and people cheer you for it, and after the show, people will actually wait to ask for your autograph or get a picture with you! The absolute relation of recognition in that moment totally makes you forget about the fact that you just drove three hours to spend eleven hours inside a gymnasium for five bucks.
I can't type this letter from the desk of Vince McMahon and tell you what it takes to make it to the pinnacle of this business. I've resigned myself to the fact that I'm just a kid who made it a lot further than he should have. However, in my few years working within the walls of kayfabe, I've seen everything. There's a whole world within those closed doors that they won't even talk about on television, and you can't truly understand it until you've experienced them firsthand.
Everyone has their story. You'll find a lot of wrestlers were fans when they were younger, and grew up just waiting for the chance when they could chase their dreams and headline Wrestlemania. Some didn't even wait for the chance to get trained for the business, and they participate in "backyard" groups while one of their friends films the shows with a handheld camera. Let me give you one piece of advice if that was you...
DON'T EVER, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, MENTION THIS. EVER!
If it's your first day of training, and your trainer asks you if you've ever wrestled before, just say "no" and shut the hell up. If you say "I did some backyard wrestling", you may as well have just wandered down to the local dojo and offered to be the karate dummy. Due to the popularity of wrestling in the Attitude Era, a bunch of kids decided that if Mick Foley could get noticed by jumping off a roof, then they could too. The problem is, when they go to actual wrestling training, a lot of them come in with an Attitude of their own, most specifically one that they already know what they're talking about and these sessions are just a stepping stone toward their ultimate desire.
Let me put this as kindly as I can... Nobody gives a shit. You've saved your money and thrown down anywhere from 15 to 300 dollars for a first payment. You've signed the forms, bought the clothes, and you have this image in your head of walking through two glass doors to this gorgeous training facility with air-conditioned rooms, tumble mats surrounding the area, supporters standing around just awaiting the appearance of the next breakout star in professional wrestling.
What you've really done is told the trainer of this specific professional wrestling school: "I want to be a professional wrestler, and I want you to show me how to do it." Why do you need to do this? Simple. I don't care how many Tough Enough episodes you've studied, how many friends you have in the business, or what you think you can do because your friend had a trampoline... You don't know a goddamn thing, and the trainer knows that as well as you do. By assuming that you already know more than your trainer, you're not only disrespecting him, but the business itself. Let me tell you, nobody who respects this business takes very kindly to that.
Now, you may be reading this and saying "Al Laiman, what gives you the right to step on that soapbox and act like you're impervious to all of these things?" And I say to you, and listen to me very carefully... "This is not a soapbox. These are the hard lessons I had to learn. I made these mistakes, and I am quite aware of what the consequences can be."
That's right, my friends. That night that Christopher Daniels spoke to me, I was inspired. I was a little gopher boy for a well-known local independent wrestling company, and I was dreaming big. Some of the local workers were becoming my friends, and I was driving big names to airports and motels. That little bit of ego began to grow subconsciously, because I believed that I was working my way into the business, and therefore had a leg up on the competition. I was going to be wrestling in front of these crowds in no time! They'd remember me as the guy from the second row at every show, and now suddenly he's squaring off in front of them! What a story!
Seven months after that night that I spent with Christopher Daniels, AJ Styles, and Chris Sabin, I was setting up a ring in a building no bigger than a two car garage. I was feeling pretty confident though, telling stories about the people I've met and the experiences I've had. I was like a super smark in a chatroom full of Cena marks; I knew better than them, and I was letting them know it.
The trainer, oh he knew it too. He was just waiting for the opportunity to drill into my head just how little I really knew. The ring was set up, my wrestling shoes were tied, and seven veterans of the local company were inside the ring. Two of us were ready for our first day, and about to get the wake-up call of a lifetime.
"Cross your arms over your chest, kick your legs back, and fall square on your back. This is the basic back bump."
Oh yeah, I already know that. I'd practiced it a million times on the trampoline. I got cocky, did my little Triple H walk to the middle of the ring, and kicked back to the center of the mat. BAM!
FUCK! THAT HURTS!
Lesson number two of professional wrestling: Everything hurts.
"Do it again."
What? I just did it right, didn't I? Okay, I'll get up and do it one more time. BAM! That hurt even more than the last one!
"Now do four of them facing each side of the ring!"
Are you kidding me? My back feels like it's on fire right now! Having no meat to absorb these bumps in a stiff ring was a really bad idea. I probably should've worked out a little more... okay a lot more. I look like I just got out of Auschwitz, what the hell am I thinking? BAM! Ow. BAM! Ow again. BAM! I'm struggling just to get to my feet this time, and BAM! I black out for a second. Besides landing on your back, there's another thing you need to remember about bumping... Tuck your neck. If you don't, your head hits the mat. And when you fall from several feet in the air with force and it gets abruptly stopped by a gym mat over wood, it doesn't feel that great.
A few minutes after that, it's time for running the ropes. All right, this'll be easy, right? They're bouncy, it can't be that hard. I don't even need to pay attention to the trainer, I know how to do this shit. I got it... Run, turn, bounce, repeat.
"Laiman! What the fuck are you doing?! You're going to sprain an ankle twisting like that!"
"Laiman! You're taking baby steps! Two steps, three maximum, turn, and back out!"
"Laiman! Pivot, turn, hit! Get on the ropes, you're doing this until you get it right!"
One leg in front of the other, now I'm bouncing off the ropes into the trainer's son. He'll push me back, and I'll bounce again, neither of my hands leaving the ropes. Bounce, bounce, bounce. This is really starting to hurt. These ropes aren't anything what I thought they were. I can already feel the welts on my back starting to swell. This isn't nearly as much fun as I thought it would be. What the fuck am I doing here? Nobody warned me about this.
45 minutes of bouncing later, and it's time to learn a simple schoolboy roll-up. Good, something I've seen a million times and can pull off flawlessly. My training buddy should be happy that a guy with such "experience" is here to guide him along the way. Headlock, shift, and roll just like he said... Shit his head just hit the ropes! Oh god, is he okay? Uh-oh, the trainer is pissed!
"Laiman, I don't want to hear another goddamn word about who you know, what you've done, or who you've driven to the airport. All of those guys, we've worked before and have had dinner with them. You've proven to us that you don't know a goddamn thing, so shut the fuck up or get out of this training center!"
After six hours of my skin-and-bones body taking abuse for which it was not ready, I barely managed a walk back to my ride's car. I never wanted to wrestle again, and I couldn't even relax in the seat because I had lines of welts from hitting the ropes non-stop for 45 straight minutes. I'd gone in with the complete wrong attitude, gotten a huge head, and paid the price. I'd disrespected the business, the wrestlers, and the head trainer who was taking time out of his day to teach me the basics, and I metaphorically spat in his face for his effort.
It took almost a year for me to step foot in a wrestling ring again. Hitting rock bottom in my personal life and working my way up from it, my entire perspective on everything changed. I would learn in the next few years that I was more of the norm than the exception to the rule of first-day trainees who went into a training center with the wrong attitude. Many don't ever come back after the first day, and for a long time I never thought I would. I'd learned a painful lesson about professional wrestling, one that I'd never forget, and next time I would be much more prepared.
Time to hit the gym, I've got a long way to go.