There are many that talk about “the day the business died” in all sorts of terms over the last several years. Some say it died when WCW was closed and the major competition in the industry ended. Others have suggested the collapse began when the focus shifted from realism to entertainment. I have been witness to “ole-timers” talk in locker rooms about how the generation of today destroyed it just because they are the generation of today. I guess it depends on if they personalize it or mean it as a generalization. I know the day the business died for me. It was the day it became a job.
In the fall of 1999, I was “fortunate” enough to get a developmental contract with the World Wrestling Federation. I say that with a good deal of sarcasm because I never envisioned myself as having much of a chance in the “land of giants” at that time. I can say with certainty that the scope of the wrestlers overall size has changed dramatically since but at that time the only person around my size was Crash Holly and he was continuously destroyed by guys averaging double his weight. I wasn’t getting the “warm and fuzzies” from anyone there and thought that if I would ever get on national TV in the United States it would have been under the WCW banner.
At the time, D-Lo Brown was working for the company and his influence actually got me to that try-out camp led by Terry Taylor. I had been to the camp on a few prior occasions but my size really led to a lack of overall interest by members of management like Bruce Pritchard. The “word” was that company management felt that there was no real talent on the independent circuit and they were better off developing their own talent with monsters from other industries such as football or body building. They thought of independent wrestlers more as damaged goods because of the lack of proper training and education in the field. Not only did many lack the size that management was looking for but they also had to be re-conditioned from a more intimate independent wrestling style to that of the WWF wrestling style. Don’t ask me what that was because I spent a good year trying to be “educated” on this style that seemed to change from week to week. Thanks for all those traumatic memories Kevin Kelly. I was definitely one of those guys that reflected that intimate style that needed to be re-conditioned at great length.
I just want to say that I always had the utmost respect for those that actually put on a pair of tights and learned the craft. Whether I may have agreed or not, I would always listen and respect words from guys like Tom Prichard and Terry Taylor while with the WWF. Tom Prichard alone was a small man that survived many years in a big man sport and he was well deserving of all of the respect he had in the business. If he told me something, I listened with the respect like how a son would have for his father. The same could be said with just about wrestler I was surrounded during my tenure there even down to Jim Neidhart. My problem came more with members of management like Bruce Pritchard and Kevin Kelly.
I found it very difficult to take the ever changing advice especially from those who did little or nothing in the business accept reap the rewards of the work of others. I would regularly be lectured on how I needed to conform to the company style that changed from week to week. One week I would be lectured by either of those two individuals on how I had to work fast and just get spots in. The following week I would be told that I needed to slow down and sell more when I was trying to do what they told me the week prior. I really think it was them just messing with me. Whether it could have been my downfall or not but I was very vocal about my distain even on some cases saying it directly to either of them. I definitely never really conformed to the standard and played the little guy that was just happy I had a job. That’s probably much of the reason that I’m here writing about it and not on TV doing it. I can laugh though because whatever it may have been I definitely did it my way and really have no regrets. I decided not to renew with them and never looked back at it as a bad decision.
Without getting too far off track on a different subject than how this started, that long year as a developmental talent in their Memphis territory changed my perspective completely. I remember sitting next to Rodney of the Mean Street Posse while was wondering out loud a few weeks prior to his contract expiration if he was going to be renewed. As the days got closer, he talked more about whether he was even going to be resigned. I remember thinking that this is supposed to be Shane McMahon’s friend and he’s worried about a job. A few days before his contract was supposed to expire, he got his renewal papers. He was relieved and revived. It was only one week after he had signed his new contract that he was terminated.
I loved wrestling but was terrified to become a slave to it as my only option in life. I guess I didn’t love it enough. I respect and admire those that do but I couldn’t wear that cross for me or any family I would plan to have in the future. Something as volatile and unstable as that was far too distracting to me. I knew at that point that I would not be one of the “lucky” that would make my life in the business. Not long after that, I notified the office of my intention to not renew my contract. A few months after I left Memphis, they closed support for that territory and released all but one of the guys remaining there. I’ll never really know what my future may have held with them but I certainly don’t loose sleep at night about it. Some guys are trying to make a dream of being on TV, having an action figure, or appearing in a video game. I was just having fun entertaining a few people along the way. Once it stopped being fun and became my job was the day it died from me.