The Starter Guide To Becoming A Professional Wrestler
I'm often asked, "Hey Bam, how does one actually go about becoming a professional wrestler?" And I found myself repeating the same things over and over and over again. So I decided to write this guide, for YOU!
I've been performing in wrestling rings for just over 5 years now. I've made good decisions, terrible decisions, and everything in between. I've wrestled for small crowds, big crowds, birthday parties, summer camps, high school fundraisers. I've wrestled - and been critiqued - by some of the best in the wrestling industry including EVOLVE's Gabe Sapolsky and world renowned performer Drew Gulak. As of this writing, I've been making my name in the "deathmatch" sub-genre in the northeastern United States (we'll get to sub-genres later on). My knowledge and experience go far beyond just that, and I've put together a guide to help you get started. It's time to make those dreams a reality.
So, let's begin.
Finding The Right School.
(And how to weed out the wrong ones.)
This is arguably the MOST important step. Not only will this serve as the foundation of your in-ring training, it will also serve as the foundation for your out-of-ring training as well. This includes introducing you to your immediate social networks, your behavior in the locker-room, and the overall level of professionalism that you will carry with you to other places.
The sad reality is that there are people looking to rip you off. There are "schools" that are designed to take your money and promise you spots on shows right away. While this may sound enticing, we know that Rome wasn't built in a day, nor was the greatest professional wrestler. Proper training takes time, commitment, and consistency. It's a lot of hard work for something that may never pay off. By that I mean the idealistic view of "success" isn't a guarantee even for the hardest worker. Whatever your reasons for joining are, passion is going to have to be somewhere high on your list.
What to look for:
When scouting to find the best wrestling school in your area, start with familiarizing yourself with the trainers. Look them up. Study them. Are they working for high places, or if they're retired, DID they work for high places? Are they known within the independent wrestling scene? Have they produced any recognizable talent? That last one is very important. When I came across the New York Wrestling Connection, which is the school that trained me, I was stoked to find out that the facility was overseen by ECW legend, Mikey Whipwreck. The head trainer at the time was Mike Mondo (formerly Mikey of the Spirit Squad), and our school was responsible for training Zack Ryder, Curt Hawkins, and Tony Nese (who is also a former trainer at NYWC). As of this writing, we also have a talent in Alex Coughlin, who is currently competing for one of NJPW's dojos in California. Our current head trainer is former NXT superstar Bull James. You get the picture, find a facility that is trusted in the community and has produced talent.
If you are looking into a school that also produces shows on a regular basis, attend them. Are the shows entertaining to you? Do the shows draw large crowds? How is the reception from the audience during these shows? How does the quality of the ring look? Attending a live show will give you a clear outlook on the standard the company is looking to uphold. Remember, that is the ring you are going to be performing in and these are the shows you are going to be performing on.
Presentation is also important, albeit less important than who the trainers and students are. How is the company's social media presence? How is the company's website? Does it look professionally designed, or pieced together in Microsoft paint? A company that invests in it's presentation is a company that's more likely to invest in the other various aspects of their business, and most importantly, in you.
What to avoid:
There are a few red flags you should look out for. Sadly, most of them aren't fully recognized until after signing up (which is why it's important to find a place that's willing to have you watch a few training sessions before taking your money. A school that is confident in their abilities should have no issue with you spectating before paying).
If a school promises you success, that's an immediate disqualifier. Some people are more fortunate than others, and success cannot be guaranteed. Find a school that will treat you with the honesty that you deserve.
If a school promises to have you on shows quickly, that is a red flag. It isn't an immediate disqualifier, as some students are quicker learners than others, but buyer beware. If it sounds too good to be true, it most likely is.
If a school puts you in the in-ring action right away, that may also be something to look out for. Being in the ring is a privilege that should be earned. Every facility will have their own curriculum, but generally speaking you will spend a few months learning proper chain/takedowns, footwork, rolls, and bumping before throwing you in there to actually wrestle at training classes.
Pay attention to how the students conduct themselves as well. Are they in the ring with sneakers on, leaning on the ropes and slacking off? This may be a sign of a school that lacks the necessary discipline that's expected of a true professional wrestling school. Remember, you're not looking to be just a wrestler; you're looking to be a professional wrestler. (That's not to say there can't be some relaxed days, or more "fun" days. But if that's every session, I would search elsewhere).
Which takes me to the next step.
(Who do you want to be?)
You will probably hear this over and over, but wrestling has many different "flavors of ice cream." There are many different sub-genres of wrestling. There's comedy, technical, high flying, deathmatch/hardcore, lucha, strong style, etc. Now - and I can't stress this enough - your basic foundation should be 100% on point before even worrying what path you want to take in professional wrestling. Your 450 splash doesn't mean shit if your footwork and psychology are all over the place. You should be able to wrestle a traditional match WAY before you are even considering grabbing a weapon and swinging it. Get it? A safe and proper foundation comes before finding your niche.
The reason I placed this step AFTER finding a good school is because of how important having that foundation is. If you are looking to learn lucha, but your trainer doesn't have any knowledge on lucha, that's okay for now. Your first step is finding a good school and establishing a foundation. Once you've gotten that down, then you can start worrying about styles of wrestling.
Even though you may find your tastes changing and developing as you go, it is good to have a general idea of what style you're looking to learn. Some students come in with a clear picture of what they want, and spend their energy moving themselves in that direction. Others may not know, and that's okay too. Currently, many of my bookings are deathmatches. I can confidently say that when I first started training, that wasn't even a thought in my mind. I was one of those who didn't have a clear vision of what I wanted to be. I developed a solid foundation, and the rest just kind of fell into place.
At the end of the day though, you will want to be well versed in many different styles. That will open up more bookings for you and give you a larger network to grow in. Remember, just because you may work one particular style, doesn't mean your opponents will always be that same style. This goes back to my earlier point, have a solid foundation.
Becoming A Professional.
(Learn good habits. It's much easier than unlearning bad ones.)
The importance of being a professional cannot be understated. At the end of the day, this is a business.
Wearing proper attire to both training and shows is important (as well as attending training and shows on time). Just like at a regular job, you don't want to show up late and looking like a bum. Same is true for wrestling. If you are attending a show that you want to be booked on/are booked on, it doesn't hurt to wear a nice polo and slacks. Something business appropriate.
A professional does not rely on excuses. Trust me when I tell you, there is not a reputable trainer or a wrestler in this world that wants to hear your excuses. Your excuses why you missed training, your excuses why you were late, your excuses why you weren't able to help with setting up the ring, etc.
When training in front of a trainer, make sure you execute the moves the way the trainer wants them to be executed. It doesn't matter if one person showed you a headlock one specific way. If you are wrestling in front of Ric Flair and he tells you he prefers to take a shoulder tackle closer to the ropes, then you take that tackle closer to the ropes. Trust me, they don't want to hear "but so-and-so taught me this way".
Make sure you greet everyone at training, and everyone at shows. This includes the owner(s)/promoter(s), the trainers, the students, the wrestlers, the referees, the video people, the sound people, the photographers, the photographer's pet goldfish, everyone. It is considered a sign of respect to introduce yourself and greet every person who walks through those doors. And if you are unsure if someone is a part of the show or company, greet them anyways. It's better to be polite and respectful. Up until 2020, handshaking was the norm. However most would agree, just politely greeting one another is usually more than enough.
Being a professional also means making yourself useful outside of the ring. If you are booked for a show, help promote it. When you show up on time, help with the ring. Help every way you can. If someone needs to be picked up from the train station, volunteer. If the booker needs you to run a quick errand, say yes. Make yourself reliable. You are above nothing. Still to this day, when the promoter of NYWC asks me to make a quick 7-11 run for him, I'm already there.
Never Stop Learning.
(You are never going to learn it all. But you should try.)
You will never be above learning. You must always be humble and open minded. Study as often as you can. When you aren't physically at training, study tape. Go on YouTube, go on the WWE network, go on the various other wrestling streaming services and STUDY. There is always something new to learn, and there is always something you have overlooked. If you see something you like, write it down and present it to your trainer in class.
In addition to your regular classes at your school, you will also hear about "try-outs" and "clinics". Do your absolute best to take advantage of them. Try-outs usually take place in front of very knowledgeable people. So even if you don't get the call back, at the very least you walked away with something new. Clinics are usually training sessions that are headed by talent that have built up names for themselves. These usually include Q+A sessions where you can pick the brain of said talent, and working with them in the ring (either with other students in front of him/her, or even with them directly). Both clinics and tryouts can be anywhere from $20 to a few hundred dollars or more. This is a business investment. Another benefit is being able to network with students/wrestlers/etc you otherwise wouldn't have met.
Tony Nese once asked me at a show, "What was one new thing you learned this week at training?". He then went on to stress the importance of always leaving training with something new. At least one. Regardless of skill level.
Networking And Getting Bookings.
(Time to put yourself out there.)
Okay, so you've found a great school and have been training for a while. You're on shows and you're becoming a professional both in and outside the ring. Now it's time to put yourself out there and get some bookings.
The art of networking was something I was terrible at as I've always been a shy and quiet person. But now is the time to step out of your shell. Networking is going to be your bread and butter of getting yourself out there. And it's as simple as introducing yourself, making small talk, and offering to exchange contact information. For me, this comes easy when I actually wrestle someone. I take pride in being safe and effective in the ring. If I have an opportunity to wrestle someone from company "X", you will have hours to speak with this person both before and after the match. It's an easy ice breaker, and if you're good (and make them look good), this person may want to wrestle you again in the future. Exchange contact information, and politely ask them how you may be able to get into company "X".
Something you can do from the comfort of anywhere in the world is utilizing social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, etc. The promotion you want to work for has one of these pages, or at least a website. If so, contact them through these mediums. Politely introduce yourself, provide some of your material if you have (such as matches, promo shots, etc) and explain that you are looking for an opportunity. Sometimes it's best to start small. Ask them if you can at least attend the show. Purchase a ticket, introduce yourself to the talent and the promoter, and make yourself useful during/before/and after the show. This means helping with chairs, setting up/breaking down the ring, sweeping, anything. Show that you want a spot on their show. Nothing is guaranteed, but you should position yourself for these potential opportunities.
Another way to network is by utilizing OTHER'S bookings. What I mean by that, is asking around your wrestling school to see if anyone's traveling for bookings. See if you can hop in their car and travel with them. Of course, make sure you get the okay from the promoter first. Pack your gear, hop in their car, introduce yourself when you get there and make yourself useful. You never know, they could have a cancellation from a talent and that may open up a spot for you. If not, then maybe a future opportunity. Or nothing at all. Take nothing personally, and keep putting yourself out there anyways.
Try-outs and clinics are also great ways to meet new people and get new bookings. You'll be working with those in the wrestling business from all over the world, in places that you want to work for. And if you attend a try-out, you may just be lucky enough to get a call back. Sometimes not even right away, but down the road. So don't be discouraged if you leave without a definite answer. Again, at the very least, you put yourself out there and hopefully learned something new in the process.
There You Have It.
These are some of the best tips I can provide for a beginner looking to enter the world of professional wrestling. While nothing written here is 100% rule of law - and there are always exceptions to the rule - this information will get you on the right path. Professional wrestling has been my passion ever since I was 12 years old. Since I've started training, I've kept a close eye on the do's and don'ts. I've made mistakes, I've taken advantage of opportunities and failed at others, I've carried matches and I've had to be carried, and I've developed a foundation for what it takes to keep those opportunities coming. I wish you the best of luck on your journey. It can be grueling and rewarding. It can break your heart and lift you up to the highest highs you will ever feel. If you have any questions for me, If I can be helpful in your journey, feel free to email me anytime. I just ask that you subscribe below, and send me an email at email@example.com.
(I will be updating this with new information as time goes on. Thank you.)