From Spandex to Spotlight: Why I Became An Actor
Updated: Jun 5, 2019
Professional wrestling is a hard act to follow (pun intended).
For me, being a professional wrestler involved living a completely unorthodox yet extraordinary lifestyle, and that was exactly how I wanted to live my life. I had to embrace an unpredictable and demanding work/life schedule that could be at times both immensely enjoyable and stressful - mentally and physically - together with the proverbial roller-coaster ride of emotional ups and downs. Having had the opportunity and the privilege to perform as a professional wrestler for World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) in America, I can tell you those factors are only intensified.
From the pre-match nerves and adrenaline rush of stepping out through those stage curtains, the feelings of confidence, serenity (and sometimes panic) of performing in front of hundreds, thousands, even millions of people around the world via TV, to the post-match euphoria you feel upon successfully completing your match. There is simply nothing else like it in the world. I am forever incredibly grateful for my time spent in the wrestling business.
So where do you go when it's all over?
"Best of luck on Your future endeavours" has become the fabled sign-off line the WWE delivers to talent who have, for one reason or another, ceased employment with the company. Coming up through the ranks of the WWE developmental system, it was a line that was often joked about among my fellow classmates - a possibility that hovered over us all and could descend upon any one of us at any time.
I had a number of different instructors over the course of my wrestling career, and each was invaluable in allowing me to fulfil my goal of becoming a WWE Superstar. One of my instructors, Al Snow, would regularly remind us in developmental: "You don't have a job - You have an opportunity to make money". He meant to remind us that even though we trained and performed under a WWE contract, we had no job security; nothing should be taken for granted, and that complacency was for fools. Fulfil Your goal, make some money, and if You do it right, You'll give something back to the business that gave You Your opportunity.
It's a lesson that stuck with me well over the years, and one that is in the fore-front of my mind now as a professional screen actor.
I won't lie to You: when I was told on the phone that I was let go, I was devastated. Who wouldn't be? Nobody gets to the level I was at in the business without a genuine love and passion for their craft. Like countless others before me, I'd dedicated, sacrificed and pursued with a single-minded conviction the goal to live out a long and successful career with the WWE, and in less than a minute, that goal has hit a serious brick wall.
But after my initial devastation had passed, an unexpected emotion began to take it's place:
Relief. And from that sense of relief came other feelings that had been subdued for some time: Optimism. Opportunity. Control of my fate.
Now, I won't digress too far at this point. Suffice it to say my recall of my experiences of professional wrestling so far in this blog has largely been through rose-tinted glasses. Any career will have it's negative aspects and I don't pretend for an instant I didn't have my share of disillusions and disheartening moments. But what is relevant to the title of this blog post is the difference in creative freedom you have as a performer between the developmental system and WWE programming.
Simply stated, a new talent has little to no creative freedom once they are called up to the main roster. Every aspect of your craft is micro-managed, censured and dictated by a team of producers and writers. Spontaneity, believability, interaction with the audience - so much is lost and replaced with a character that was often not of Your choosing or design.
More than the athleticism, more than the sense of brotherhood among my friends and classmates and certainly more than the money, what drew me to a career as a professional wrestler was the sense of unrestrained creativity. Like any other artist - be it painters, sculptors, writers, dancers, actors, you name it - all professional wrestlers are Creatives. Their actions and feats of athleticism tell a story that is written in the ring. Their promos - speeches directed to one another and the audience on a microphone - are a crucial component of that story-telling. Their words and under-lying personalities delivered with genuine emotion.
I had notepads full of promo ideas, notepads for storyline ideas and ways to progress my character, notepads full of move sequences - holds, reversals, high-spots - I had accumulated from my first wrestling match to my last. In the developmental system, I was free to create and given the opportunity to present something marketable to the company.
The title of this blog asks a simple question: Why did I choose to become an actor?
The simple truth is, I never stopped being one. I didn't change careers, I just altered the path on how I explored my true calling as an entertainer. On-screen physicality, learning dialogue, hitting marks, camera awareness, delivering a believable performance; all these experiences I carry with me and continue to evolve as a professional screen actor. The difference is now, I am once again in control of my fate.
No, I can't control the decisions of casting directors and producers, but I decide how my career should evolve - my skill-set, my education, my presentation, my professional goals - as a trained screen actor, I once again have my creative freedom back. My successes and failures as an actor are on my terms and no one else's.
And I have to say, it feels pretty damn good.