Written By: Mike Johns on 03/25/07
I love wrestling, but wrestling is not my life. Never has been, and it never will be. Not entirely. Even during my involvement in the local independents, I never truly made wrestling the center of my life. Perhaps that’s why I’m here now instead of anywhere else, because I wasn’t willing to sacrifice family, friends, and a love I thought was real at the time to pursue wrestling. But I did put my name on the line, and in the name of friendship, put what little reputation I had on the line to promote something that eventually got stolen out from under me by someone who we both trusted. But that’s what happens. I’m not here to go on about my sh*t. But I will talk about passion. A passion, even if I had once, I don’t have anymore.
To make it in wrestling, you generally have to be willing to sacrifice everything for wrestling. At least, that’s what usually happens. There are the select few who gain major success in the business without ever really committing to it, but the careers of those men are often short-lived, and they tend to leave resentful fans behind once their careers end. Generally, if you’re not willing to live and die for wrestling, you’ll never get anywhere. Sleeping in cars, working for next to nothing, traveling the road 300-some-odd days a year, never being appreciated, never having time for family or proper rest, not having the time to take care of yourself physically, psychologically, or spiritually, and living in a constant state of paranoia is all a part of the wrestling life. It doesn’t make it right, or fair, as some skinny third-generation anorexic pain in the ass will get a better job than you based on his last name alone, and a muscle-bound, immobile behemoth will get a better push than you simply because he looks intimidating. But that’s the wrestling business, and if you ever want a real shot, you have to eat sh*t. They say it builds character, and shows your passion. After all, if you’re willing to put up with the constant butt-f*cking just to be a part of the wrestling business, you’ll earn it.
When talking to casual fans about the wrestling world, I often compare it to the mafia, in the sense that those inside are entrenched in a world and a lifestyle where the norms are so vastly different from those in what we consider “normal life” outside of the business. Wrestlers, especially those within WWE, spend nearly their entire lives together, no outsiders, no ties to normal life. In their world, the locker room politics are life, and if you’re on someone’s sh*tlist, then you should expect some sh*t in your gym bag, or, at some point, being taken to wrestler’s court because you rubbed someone the wrong way, or took the wrong seat, or didn’t shake this guy’s hand or that guy’s hand, or, if you have any self-confidence whatsoever. There’s a lot of internet fans who think they know what this world is like. I know because I’ve been there. I’ve been on the sh*tlist, and, believe me, you don’t want to be the guy with heat backstage. Coming from the real world into the wrestling world, never having been taught right from wrong within the secret society, you’re going to rub someone wrong from the get-go, and you live with it. You figure it out later, but, by then, the damage is done, and you’re screwed. Some people learn how to live through it, not make those mistakes, and persevere. A lot of people, though, get discouraged and quit.
Most people, when treated as less-than-human for long periods of time, tend to react negatively to it. Some just get up and walk away from the situation, never to return. Some become paranoid, others get depressed, and some even become suicidal. It should be said that many these “premature” wrestling deaths that we read about on what seems to be a daily basis anymore are attributed, in some way or another, to the fact that many of these wrestlers, after having spent their entire lives trying to make something of themselves in wrestling, find themselves in a hole of drugs, depression, recurring pain, and loneliness. The passion they had for wrestling, and the sacrifices they made for that passion, came up short, and many times, these men have nothing to show for it. It’s at this point when you really have to start asking yourself, “Is wrestling really worth all this?”
While I may often compare the backstage world of wrestling to the mafia, I ought to be comparing it to prison life. You spend most of your time locked in small spaces, scraping for what little pleasures you can. You run the constant risk of being assaulted, raped, and killed by others who generally don’t give a f*ck about you. You have no real privacy, yet, you’re almost always alone. There’s no way to leave, and the longer you’re inside, the more jaded you become. We, as fans, see wrestlers living out life as heroic gladiators, fighting on the field of honor for the sake of pride and glory. The reality of it is, much like the Roman Gladiators of old, is that they’re slaves, prisoners forced to fight each other to the death for the amusement of the masses. Some fans of wrestling see this reality right away, and ditch their dreams of wrestling glory for something more conventional. It’s not because they don’t love the art of professional wrestling, though. Most of them love it, and will continue to watch it. But many of the fans who are trying to break into wrestling today will leave the wrestling world learning that the cost of potential success is often much higher than the average person can pay.
If you asked me 6 years ago if I’d be writing something like this and putting it up on the internet, I may have ignored you. If you asked me last year, I would have said that I was surprised I haven’t already written it. But here is the truth – if you, right now, would come to me and ask me how to get into the wrestling business, or if it were all worth it, I would honestly say “no” and do everything I could to discourage you from walking this road. But, I also know that nothing I can say to you will stop you, especially if you have a passion for wrestling.
I’m not writing this because I don’t love wrestling. I do, and I hope I always will on some level, but I don’t love it enough to make it the end-all, be-all of my existence. I love life, and want to be able to live for a long time to come. Maybe even get married, have kids, build a family… Stuff like that. Sometimes it might be nice to think about what it might be like to be center-stage at WrestleMania, holding the WWE Title over my head as 70,000 screaming fans chant my name, but the truth is, I’d rather hear the woman I love whisper my name in the middle of the night and say “I love you”.