Not long ago, I mentioned that a former student of mine has entered the world of professional wrestling. These days, what most of us see of the business is the high-octane flashbang entertainment of the big promotions like the WWE, but of course, very few wrestlers get to work at that level, and even fewer start there.
Instead, most of these guys start in the small, independent promotions, playing the high school gyms and wide spots in the road for the locals. Think of it as a traveling carnival with bruises. That’s what my student — a very bright, thoughtful kid — is doing now, paying his dues and chasing a dream of becoming a contemporary superhero or -villain.
At present, he’s a hero (babyface or face, as the argot has it), and he recently made his debut in the SWA.
As I watched, I noticed how much this reminded me of the wrestling shows I watched on TV when I was a kid in Nashville, where Gordon Solie would narrate the adventures of folks like Jerry “The King” Lawler and the recently departed Jackie Fargo as though he was a witness to Armageddon. The other thing I noticed was that the pace is much slower here than it is in the big shows — again, as it was in the mid-1970s when I was a Saturday afternoon viewer. It’s old school “wrasslin'”, and as a veteran of playing music in grungy bars when I was Jake’s age, I also recognize and honor it as dues-paying and developing skills.
So he now is both actor and stuntman on a small square stage in Southern tank towns. As his career continues, he’ll be both hero and villain, both “face” and “heel.” And no matter what happens, he’ll know that there was a night when little kids were chanting his name.