A painful introduction to the world of wrestling
By Blaine Meller
OK, a show of hands: How many people think professional wrestling is fake?
Or better yet, how many people have watched professional wrestling and thought to themselves, “hey, I could do that.”
Being honest, I had to raise my arm to the second question posed.
Boy, was I wrong.
On Feb. 8, the Reflector’s web editor and Reflector TV brainchild Kevin Rushworth and I ventured to the legendary BJ’s Gym in southeast Calgary to document just some of the training a professional wrestler goes through.
It would have been simple enough to show up, film and photograph these athletes — and yes, these guys are athletes — but that would not have told the entire story.
So what we decided to do was to have yours truly step inside the ropes and try to endure a taste of what these guys do night in and night out.
What a lesson I learned.
My host for the evening was “Ravenous” Randy Myers, a rather charismatic individual who wrestles under the banner of Prairie Wrestling Alliance. Myers, an 11-year professional, promised not to hurt me too severely, albeit with what I can only describe as an evil smirk.
The workout began innocently enough, with a standard deck of cards. A card was drawn, an exercise selected, and the number on the card was the number of reps we would perform. Rotations of squats, biceps curls, triceps pressdowns, sit-ups and push-ups were performed until all 52 cards had been drawn, an endeavour that took over an hour.
From there, more exercises were done, including 100 repetitions of leg presses with the wrestlers providing the resistance and some intense core and neck training.
Now it was time to move into the squared circle itself.
At the most basic level, wrestlers have to learn to take what are called “bumps.” You have to know how to fall and absorb blows from your opponent without hurting him or yourself.
We began with a simple back bump, which is exactly what it sounds like; falling on your back. It sounds simple, but when you take someone such as myself, who has had no previous professional wrestling training, and admittedly is not a finely tuned athlete, this can be quite the shock on your body.
The key, Myers said, is to make sure you land on your back, keeping your head from hitting the mat, thus lessening the chance to “knock yourself silly, which we’ve all done more than occasionally.”
I was also told to fall “loud,” meaning when I hit the mat, to make sure to slap it loudly with my arms, thus spreading the impact over more of my body and giving the trademark sound wrestling fans are familiar with.
I don’t want to say that a back bump “hurt,” but it was definitely a shock. The impact traveled through my back and straight into my chest, and for a moment, left me a little breathless. But these guys made it look so easy. Good thing I had checked my ego at the door.
Front bumps were somewhat easier, as I was allowed to begin “newbie” style and fall from my knees and not my feet. The concept was somewhat the same, fall landing on your hands and forearms, keeping your face from directly impacting the mat, or if it did, with as little force as possible.
Even running the ropes has a very specific technique to it, one that was explained to me a number of times, but one that even at a walking pace, is weird to feel and not easy to perform. Failure to perform this correctly, especially at a full run, could result in a painful fall through the ropes.
Two hours into my first venture into professional wrestling, I called it a night. I wasn’t overly sore that evening, but the next couple of days were a different animal altogether. I was sore everywhere, and I made sure people knew why.
Yes, I was treating it as a badge of honour, but in reality, it was a badge for something I now know I am not cut out for.
I watched these athletes perform at a Prairie Wrestling Alliance card here in Calgary Feb. 12 with a different perspective than I normally would.
I watched each of these wrestlers perform their moves with scintillating precision and timing. Something as simple as running the ropes was made to look effortless, and taking bumps and executing the various hold and throws, while not flawless, was still pretty damn impressive.
These athletes that go out and perform each and every week, whether it be in front of 250 fans at the Century Casino here in Calgary or 75,000 at WWE’s Wrestlemania, the men and women of professional wrestling have earned a newer respect from me for what they do.