Gotta finish up these lemons! This one I pretty much just made up. I was thinking about it a bit last year, never saw any need to write any of it down…but what the hell, we’re here, aren’t we?
Me: You’re from a small town?
X: I am from a really small town.
Me: And what did you want to be, when you were a kid?
X: An actor. An actor, an actor, an actor.
Me: And do you consider yourself an actor?
X: No, not really.
Me: An entertainer?
X: To tell you the truth, I get a little tired of that “entertainer” thing people say. Not knocking anybody, and sure, I think we put on a good show, and it’s fun and it’s exciting and all that…and it’s extremely technical work, too, I’m sure they all told you…
Me: They did.
X: They did, but I bet they made it sound like an excuse for something. Didn’t they?
Me: Uh…maybe a little.
X: See, that’s wrong. People shouldn’t be apologizing for their skills. Do clowns apologize? Do dancers? Do mimes? Do magicians? Acrobats?
X: No. They don’t. But we do. And you know why? Because, let me tell you friend, you have no idea what it’s like not to be taken seriously, until you’ve been both the drama geek and the captain of the football team, in a really small town…and then you hit L.A., and you can’t get work. It’s like being a points leader in junior, then you get up to the big time and you have to fight for your life, just to be a third-line enforcer. It’s a real splash of cold water. It’s a deadly combination.
Me: How did you get into wrestling?
X: Through doing stunt work. Auditions were driving me crazy, all I was trying out for was a lot of stuff like “Goon #3″…three lines and then the Spunky Girl smashes a vase over your head. And those are the good parts. Doing stunts, it took me a while to figure that one out, not everybody can do it — hardly anyone can do it, actually — and you work, and you get paid well, and you get respect. Not like cast-respect. Crew respect. Blue-collar respect, for how well you do your job.
Me: But it’s dangerous.
X: It’s fucking dangerous, yeah. And it’s damn tough.
Me: And it’s not like being a star.
X: That really didn’t come into it, at first. Well, “star” never came into it, even now this isn’t about being a star, it’s about getting the chance to perform. And anyway I didn’t want to be a wrestler. But I knew a guy who laid it out for me: you get paid real well for your very special skill-set, there aren’t as many random factors you have to worry about — life and death rarely come into it — and there’s no explosions, and hell, like he said to me, you’re embarrassed? You can wear a mask, wear a bunch of make-up, a hood…whatever. I was already thinking “work is work” anyway, I’d gotten married, we wanted to buy a nice house, all that stuff. The maximum you can get hurt in wrestling over twenty years is like what you can easily rack up in stuntwork in your first year. It made sense, and it was an opportunity I was lucky to get. And I still thought “one day I’ll get my break as an actor.” I could still think about that, that was still a possibility. In the meantime it gave me something to point at and say “look, this is me being a success, at something.” I can hold my head up, I’m not just a hamster on a wheel. At the same time I could think of it as part-time work, and pretty temporary.
But that’s how they get you. Because every match is like a little story, and the more experienced guys are the ones who write it — they do the choreography, they decide what’s going to happen. And I thought, “well, I can do this just as well as they can.” I saw places in a match where I would’ve done it differently, I’d kind of sketch a ring while I was waiting to get my car serviced, fool around with ideas for stunts…coming from the stunt background more than the athletic one, I thought of how it would look, I think, a little bit differently than a lot of guys. And eventually I thought, I’m filling up a lot of notebooks here, maybe I should put myself forward a little. And then, too, I was thinking…you make more money, and you work a lot more, if you do that.
Only thing is…the more you work, the bigger your character has to be, too. And at some point they come to you and say “well, you’ve gotta lose the mask, you’ve gotta go for a costume re-fit…you have to figure this out, if you want to play a bigger role you have to get more serious about playing it.” So, you know…I did that. And my character went into the big script box for the longer-ranging storylines, for other people to play with. That soap-opera element: you kind of have to let them own your ass a bit more, for that. But then you’ve got a lot more to sink your teeth into with the matches, you can roughly plan three matches out ahead of time, saying “this is where the turn comes, this is where the big kind of semi-plot point is, here’s the finish.” It’s more absorbing work.
Me: “How they get you.”
X: But it is how they get you. They do own your ass, and one day you do wake up and you go “oh shit, this is my real job now.” You’ve got to put it on your passport. All that time your mental image of yourself was Dustin Hoffman, suddenly you realize you’re Hulk Hogan, you’re Mr. T. You’re reality-show bait, at best.
X: I know, you’re gonna say, like, “what about The Rock?” But Dwayne’s Dwayne, it worked for him for a whole lotta different reasons…and it might not’ve. You can’t go by what other people do. Anything might happen, Schwarzenegger became a big movie star, he came out of bodybuilding and ended up doing comedies with Danny DeVito and being the Governor. Great. But then there’s Lou Ferrigno, he was the Hulk for a while, and then he was just Lou Ferrigno again. He’s got a good life, nothing wrong with it! But we can’t all be Arnold.
Not that I’m not working on it. I’ve got a manager, an agent…and the odds are a bit upped, when I do get a role it’s not gonna be “Goon #3” any more, I can’t really get Goon #3 anymore but if I do get something it’ll be better than that, and maybe I can roll with it, turn it into something. Meanwhile, keep on jobbing. I mean what else can you do? You get your hand, and you play it.
Me: “All you need is a chip and a chair”.
X: Well, it’s true. And I’m no better or worse than anybody else in this town…the vast majority of ’em, anyway. And I’ve got an angle I can work, which is more than a lot of people have. But it’s not like I ever planned for this, really. I still don’t consider myself a “real” wrestler. Sometimes I think I am. But then I look around and see guys who didn’t fall into this ass-backwards and, you know, they’re the real wrestlers, they’re the really professional athletes…I’m just a guy they let play in their sandbox. I still nurture these dreams of being an actor, and…I don’t know, I think it screws me up a little bit, sometimes. I could get something better than Goon #3, but I’ll get it because of the wrestling, and…you know, that’s kind of a bit of…pressure, or something, because…
Me: Because…you haven’t been working all this time, as an actor?
X: Because I might not be any good. They won’t be getting me because they’ve seen my work and gone “oh, hey, this guy’s good”, basically what I do for a living is roar at people…so how do I know I can live up to the role, no matter what role it is? They don’t know that, either. I mean I do believe I can do it, that’s not the problem; the problem is, that’s all at the level of belief, still.
Me: You don’t know you can do it.
X: How could I? Man… Wrestling. It’s all about belief, that’s the through-line of every story. The guy beats on you with a chair…then you come back, ’cause it’s something that’s just inside you. Never say die! It’s Rocky every night, it’s where Banner turns into the Hulk, every night. Every. Night. That’s the only story there is. It gets into everything. But it’s totally arbitrary. It’s like the weather: rain, shine, rain, shine, snow. Can’t do nothing about it. It’s like being an action figure, somewhere up above there’s a big eight-year-old who spends all day bashing you against the other action figures. “Raar! Raaar!” Then he starts all over again tomorrow.
Me: It’s too much of a metaphor.
X: It’s too much of one, yeah. In that way, it’s just as dangerous as stuntwork. You gotta be mentally tough to survive it. It’s like a…sort of like that thing they say, on the sets…the spiderweb…
Me: The velvet spiderweb?
X: Wrestling’s like a barbed-wire spiderweb. Like a rusty barbed-wire spiderweb. It’s not really anything to fool around with if you can’t keep yourself grounded to reality somehow.
Me: It’s like being a bartender…bar life just turns into this pattern…
X: You have to learn to keep your life at least a little bit out of the job. See, that’s why wrestlers, why athletes, their marriages work more often than not. Big Hollywood actors can’t make that stuff work: ’cause they’re never “out of the job.”
Me: That’s not why they do it.
X: It isn’t.
Me: So…maybe you dodged a bullet, there?
X: (sighs) I don’t know. Yeah, maybe. I guess it all depends on what kind of person you are. Man, I’m really not too sure about this interview now.
Me: What? Why?
X: I think it’s just sounding fucking depressing.
Me: I don’t think it sounds depressing, I think it sounds interesting. Like, whoever said a pro wrestler isn’t worth interviewing about his, y’know, philosophy of life, or whatever? I mean what’s that about? I’m gonna ask you about politics next, hell they ask bozos on the street about politics…
X: Yeah, I don’t know.
Jesus, I’m like a lazy Studs Terkel with a bit of brain damage, aren’t I? Why did I start doing this again?
Oh yeah: Andy in Mongolia, bullshitting about sub-Gor fantasy series. I remember now…that was really quite impossible to leave unrecorded…
But I’m thinking now maybe I should get a slightly more functional hobby! I mean you should see the work I’m not doing, to do these things! Yikes.
But anyway there ya go.