Professional Wrestling Careers
One of the fastest growing sports in North America in the last 15 years has been professional wrestling.
A far cry from what you see on the mats in high school, college, or the Olympics, professional wrestling has strayed from the confines of strict, uniform rules to become more of an entertainment exhibition than a sport. Also unlike the more traditional forms, professional wrestling includes women as well as men, although the sexes do not normally compete against one another. Professional wrestlers typically wear flashy costumes, with one combatant taking the role of the hero and the other playing the part of the villain. The audience boisterously cheers the hero and jeers the villain. The match takes place in a padded, roped off arena similar to a boxing ring. The opponents may cling to the ropes or even jump out of the ring during the match. Tag team matches, in which pairs of wrestlers take turns battling one another, also are popular.
A variety of jobs exist in the area related to professional wrestling, from ring announcer and manager to promoter and television commentator. Naturally, most of the attention is focused upon the combatants in the "squared circle."
The explosion of cable television and syndication has brought the colorful and exciting spectacle of professional wrestling into the living rooms of North America. Its widespread popularity has made household names of Hulk Hogan, Wendy Richter, SychoSid Sergeant Slaughter, The Road Warriors, Ric Flair, and others,
How can someone enter this career? King Kaluha is an example of a part time wrestler. He suggested, "It helps to have a wrestling or martial arts (like karate) background. In addition, athletic experience and weight training are a must." Kaluha, who has bench pressed over 400 pounds, has wrestled on the East Coast from Maine to Florida, usually in small facilities, arenas, and gymnasiums, on weekends or holidays.
King Kaluha said that wrestling is a great part time job. During his first seven years of wrestling, he wrestled against some of the most famous wrestlers-Tonga Kid, David Sanmario, Rick Martel, Sergeant Slaughter, The Road Warriors, and others. He said, "I've always been an extrovert. The showmanship in this sport is perfect for me. There's not a lot of good wrestlers around. There's some big guys who can't wrestle or excite the crowd and some others close to retirement."
There are hundreds of professional wrestlers like Kaluha who work part time. They may wrestle one to four days per week and lifts weights five or six days per week. People may pay them to appear at events like birthdays or car sales.
Offering the best in contemporary showmanship and wrestling skills is "Nature Boy" Ric Flair, the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) champion for many years. He wrestles in the United States, Canada, and other countries and is one of the best paid athletes in North America. He learned from a former wrestling champion, Verne Gagne, who is now retired. Millions of people watch Flair's television performances and from 500 to 20,000 people attend each of his live matches. Some weeks he travels only two miles, but other weeks he travels as far as Japan!
The life of a wrestler is very exciting, but it is also very hard work. Practicing takes a lot of time. Flair said, "I emphasize endurance training and weight training in my conditioning program. I even give my leisure time to athletic hobbies; I particularly like water sports.
"It's important to achieve athletically and academically," the world champion said. "The habits that you develop in school and college will help you compete in life and in the ring. In addition, read and study about topics that can enhance your athletic ability; for example, nutrition and weight training."
Not for Men Only
There exists a whole world of wrestling for women in the ring, not just as a manager, and it's growing.
Typical is the career of championship wrestling pro Heide Lee Morgan, originally from Elmer, New Jersey. As a young girl, she pursued gymnastics as a hobby while also enjoying dance, basketball, and Softball. She said, "Gymnastics gave me the excellent agility so important in successful professional wrestling." In high school, she began weight training to shape and proportions her body. This resulted in her winning several bodybuilding championships, including becoming the two time Greater Philadelphia Body Building Champion (women's teenage division).
Having developed an impressive sports body, she gained part time employment in posing expositions, some of which were at wrestling events. Finally, after the encouragement of numerous people, she attended the Fabulous Moolah Wrestling School in Columbia, South Carolina.
Her life in the wrestling world really began when she attended matches of her father. He wrestled as "The Crazy Yankee" and as "Little Abner." When he participated in the latter role, she would precede him into the arena dressed as the cartoon character "Daisy Mae" and give daisies to the fans.
Upon completion of wrestling school, Morgan started slowly with matches on the East Coast. As she achieved success and the fans began to take notice, she moved up to wrestle for the American Wrestling Association (AWA) and the prestigious National Wrestling Alliance (NWA). Her success included being a member of the Ladies Professional Wrestling Association (LPWA) tag team champions. Heide's career has taken her to Japan, Italy, South America, Canada, and coast to coast in the United States. She stated, "One great fringe benefit is seeing the world and getting paid for it.
"Professional wrestling-as with life-causes you to make sacrifices if you want to be successful. However, one thing you should never sacrifice are your morals or values, or your reputation will be ruined," Morgan emphasized. She further added, "Women have been neglected and have not gotten their proper recognition in this business."
Professional wrestling today combines physical skills and showmanship. Therefore, future wrestlers need to develop good speaking skills.
Flair and Kaluha learned their profession as apprentices to other wrestlers. However, many future wrestlers will attend school to learn their skills. Wrestling schools teach young wrestlers special techniques of falling to prevent injury. The schools also teach different wrestling moves such as "body slamming," "suplexing" and "sunset flipping." There are many schools in the United States. Some of the well known schools are listed at the end of this chapter.
"Opportunities exist for new wrestlers to rise to the top. But young people must remember that success requires developing a positive mental attitude and good habits," says Ric Flair. His words apply not only to the game of wrestling, but also to the game of life.
Pro wrestling fans interested in training for positions as ring announcers, managers, promoters, and related careers should contact one of the wrestling schools. Prospective employees should remember that, as with other jobs, beginners should start small-in this case, with independent regional promotions-and after gaining skill and experience, graduate to the "big time" (the major wrestling organizations). Salaries for major professional wrestlers are excellent; those for most related positions lag considerably behind the combatants. However, if you love "show business and wrestling" this could be for you.