Sunday, June 6, 2010

Finally Answering THAT Question

"When did you realize you wanted to become a professional wrestler?" That's the question I get asked the most. In passing. At the gym. Online. During interviews. It seems like I always give a different answer. Not because I mean to, but because I just really don't know the right answer. That is, until I was reminded on a trip I just took.

It was sometime in 1995 in beautiful southern California. I lived in a small house in an even smaller city (which has since exploded) called Rancho Cucamonga. I was a 12 year old boy who loved all things sports, mainly basketball and of course professional wrestling. Wrestling had actually taken kind of a step back at the time. My main interest was the Chicago Bulls where my favorite player Michael Jordan played at the time. Almost my entire childhood, WWF was the only thing I watched but for a short period of time I swore I would become the next John Stockton. One day, me, my brothers and a few of our friends begged my parents to take us to the local comic book shop where we collected NBA trading cards. We were regular visitors of the store. However, this trip turned out to be a little different than the others. I remember running up to the glass door of the shop and seeing the WWF logo and a bunch of familiar faces on a colorful poster. Wide-eyed and with my jaw nearly on the floor, I started to mentally name off each persons picture that I saw. "Razor Ramon! Sid Vicious! Diesel! Shawn Michaels! 123 Kid!" I was losing my mind. "And they're coming to my town!?" Of course I was going to be there no matter what, even though the poster read that the show was months away from happening. My dad (who actually was the original person to introduce me to professional wrestling when I was a baby) had to be one of the first people to grab tickets for the entire family after I made my plea. It didn't take much though, as my dad has always been a fan. I remember counting down the days and minutes to the event. Every day I'd tell my mom, "only so and so more days until WWF!"

Finally, time came to go to my very first live wrestling event. I remember it being a really hot day, but that didn't bother me one bit. The show was going to be held out-doors at a small stadium where the local minor league baseball team the Quakes played. My family and I were all under the impression that we were attending a taping of Monday Night Raw. After all, that’s what it said on the ticket stub. I wouldn't find out until later that it was just the name they gave their house show tour at the time. We got to the outside of the small stadium with posters in our hands (that we made days earlier) and saw a bunch of other wrestling fans. Some dressed up in Bret Hart costumes, some holding championship belts and many with hand made signs just like us. I remember my dad looking around this strange environment and saying, "Wow. I didn't realize this many people actually watched wrestling." We made our way into the building and right away I started recognizing faces even then. I smiled as I saw Dave and Earl Hebner pass by. "What are they doing out here with us fans? I remember thinking. (Earl has now refereed several of my matches). We made our way to our seats by walking up the steps. I took one step and looked up. Still more steps to go. I took a few more steps and looked up. Still more steps. Finally, I made it to the top and peaked out to a beautiful scene. I was astonished. It was a World Wrestling Federation ring and it was unreal. I wanted to run down and get into that thing so bad. "I wonder what it feels like?" I thought. I kept envisioning myself jumping off the top rope like Shawn, or entering the ring through the middle rope like Bret. We took to our seats which were luckily right by the entrance.

The small building would finally fill up, but looking back, there couldn't have been more than 2,500 people there. At the time, it looked like a million. When the bell rang, I popped and stood to my feet - the very place I'd be unfortunately for the people behind me, the entire course of the night. The show was underway! I couldn't tell you the exact line-up by memory but I do remember 123 Kid wrestling Nikolai Volkoff first. My eyes followed absolutely every movement 123 Kid made from the time he walked through the curtain, to the time he walked back. I remember him spitting on the wall after the match on his way back and seeing a web of blood. "There is proof! I knew this was real!" I thought to myself.

The show continued and so did my excitement. One after another, my favorite wrestlers would come through the curtain. I remember the highlight of the entire show was when Shawn Michaels ACTUALLY gave me a high-five! I bragged about this for sometime. (years later, I'd sit in WWE catering with him and share a 20 minute conversation). I remember someone accidentally leaving the curtain half open and spotting the biggest villain at the time, Yokozuna smiling and playing with a child backstage. "What was that all about!?" I remembered thinking. I quickly forced myself to erase it out of my mind. Any thought of pro-wrestling being fake at the time had to be dismissed immediately no matter how much my uncles would tease me about it. "Ya know that stuffs phony though right Baby-Matt?" I'd roll my eyes and walk away. (I was called “Baby Matt” for multiple years by various family members in order to differentiate myself from my father. Even well into my teens).

Another highlight was seeing Diesel wrestle Razor Ramon. Diesel was the biggest guy I'd ever seen, and Razor looked like an absolute rock star with all of that gold dripping from his tanned body. He even happened to have the Intercontinental belt with him! It was so surreal. For some reason, I remember having to convince my sister DJ the whole night that these were the ACTUAL wrestlers. Throughout the night, she kept saying into my ear, "Oh, by the way, that's not really so and so. The real so and so wouldn't be here." I think she was finally convinced after her and my dad accidentally ran into Adam Bomb on the way to the restroom and had a short conversation with him.

The show would end eventually, but a special meet and greet with the wrestlers was announced over the loud speaker. I begged my parents, and they obliged. We soon made it over to the area that this was taking place and it was packed. I saw a bunch of the superstars shaking hands and signing autographs with the fans. My dad muttered something about traffic and we were soon on our way back to the parking lot. I was heart broken. I still have heat over that, dad.

I remember laying in bed that night unable to sleep because of all the excitement. I couldn't get the images of everything I saw that day out of my head. At 12 years old, I knew what I was going to do when I grew up.

Me and my brother are currently on board a plane headed back home from a three day house show loop. We wrestled in Lincoln, Sioux City and Brookings for TNA Wrestling. Three different cities from three different states in three days. Oddly enough, one of the guys we wrestled all three nights was Kevin Nash (Diesel). Wrestling Kevin was something that I personally never imagined ever happening. It was just... freaken awesome. After the second night of the loop, Kevin asked us where we were from. "We're from a city in southern California called Rancho Cucamonga," I answered. "Oh yeah. We did a show or two at the baseball stadium out there." I couldn't believe he remembered. He shared a couple of stories about it being so hot out that day that 123 Kid came backstage and told the rest of the boys that he may have suffered a third degree burn from the heat of the mat. For him, wrestling in Rancho Cucamonga at the Quakes Stadium was probably just another town on a never ending tour of shows. But for me, it was the day I found out that I was going to be a professional wrestler.

So now any time I'm asked, "When did you realize you wanted to become a professional wrestler?" My answer will be, "I was 12 years old and saw my first wrestling show at a minor league baseball stadium in the same town I was raised."

I now stand from the ring using my hand as a visor, looking out into the crowd from the opposite side and wonder if there are any kids out there that are going to be just like me?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Nicks concussion.

I sit on the cold floor in the hallway, outside of the room where my baby brother lays inside of a giant machine that's going to take a picture of his brain. With my face buried in my hands, I rewind back only an hour ago and replay exactly what happened.

I remember Nick rolling out of the ring and heading to the back. I went to stop him to see what was going on, and he turned back and looked at me with a confused and irritated face - the same face I remembered seeing four years earlier when he suffered his first concussion at the hands of a wrestler named Human Tornado. He said, "What happened?! What's going on!?" I knew right away he had been hurt. I reminded him we were in the middle of a wrestling match and he must of hurt his head. He was puzzled and could swear the match had already ended. He was frustrated that he couldn't remember. I was so scared. This was all too familiar. My younger brother getting hurt again on my watch. I assured him that I'd finish the match without him. Our good friend Scott Lost told me to carry him out there, prop him in our corner and to try my best to get to the end on my own. Our opponents El Generico and Paul London eventually came to the back to see what was going on and were soon notified of the bad news. Paul realized he had accidentally given Nick a bad bump on a slam where Nicks arms weren't let go in time to protect his fall. He felt terrible. As soon as I knew it, I was back in the ring with not a clue what was going to happen...

My pocket started vibrating and I was shook out of my day dream. I reached and looked into my hand seeing that my iPhone was lit up. I recieved a text message from my wonderful wife Dana who was checking up on us. She was the reason we were at the hospital, as she demanded I not take no for an answer when I told Nick we were going there. I explained to her that I was waiting on Nicks CT scan. I re-read the content of the text message I just sent to her and still couldn't believe that, that was actually what I was really doing. "Is this even worth it? And for what?" I thought to myself. I began to do what I do at least twice a day - question my career choice. 

My thoughts went back where they left off. I was back in the ring. I knew my opponents were just as confused as I was. "What are we going to do?" This was the same thought the three of us all had. I look to the corner where Nick is suppossed to be laying until I realize it's empty. In fact, he's up on his feet fighting off London and Generico, putting the match back together. What!? The guy who just got knocked out unconscious and couldn't even remember where he was a second ago is leading the charge and calling the spots? He's on a completely different level. A level that 99% of wrestlers will never reach. Impossibly, minutes later we finish the match. He rolls out of the ring and I wrap my arms around him. "Please tell me you're okay Nick?" He responsed, "No." We walk to the back where our best friends the Cutlers
are standing by to assist with helping Nick get undressed and iced. Scott Lost was also a huge help. He mentioned that he was experienced with this sort of thing after teaming with Chris Bosh for so long.

Back in the hallway, the door opened and out rolled Nick (they had him in a wheel chair. Little did they know) along with the nurse who did the CT scan. I remember right before Nick went into the room I told him to act like he was going in a tanning booth to psych him self out. 

We waited for about a half hour in another room until we received the fantastic news that there was no bleeding in the brain and that he'd be okay. We were so thrilled to know that nothing too serious had happened. We called and text messaged our family and friends who we're all still awake, praying. 

Minutes later, the Cutlers, Nick and myself were eating inside an In 'N Out Burger recapping the day. I looked to my left where my brother was, chowing down on a double-double and enjoying his "Animal-Style" French fries. I couldn't help but smile. We'd been on the road for practically 3 wks and hadn't slept in days. I knew for a fact that he was just as tired and home sick as me. I was just happy that he was going to be okay. 

Soon after, I got home where I walked into my dark apartment. The cats (Zeek and Cali) rushed me as I opened the front door. After a short walk past the living room, I see my wife all alone in bed. Half-asleep, suddenly she popped up and said, "Babe! You're home!" I hadn't seen her in days. We hugged. I held her close to me and fought back tears. Being on the road, the chances of getting hurt, the sleeplessness, the stress - I thought of all of the reasons I hate being a professional wrestler. 

After a quick shower, I ly awake in bed with my eyes wide open, to tired to sleep. In my mind I once again rewind back to what happened earlier that night. Again. And again.  

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

PWG. "The Run."

I can't speak for Nick but I personally feel that our nearly two year run as PWG Tag Team Champions was the best thing we've ever been involved in as professional wrestlers. I will forever look back with pride when I think of everything we accomplished in the course of that run. After thinking about it from the beginning, it's funny to think that none of this was ever planned - but sometimes the best things are unplanned... Like the birth of Malachi Buck.

For one way or another, the story of the Young Bucks defending their PWG tag team titles against everyone in the world was intriguing. Each show's main interest became, "who are the Bucks wrestling and can so and so be the ones to finally do it!?" This made the matches compelling and exciting.

Me and Nick came into PWG during a tough time for the company. They had lost or were in the process of losing almost all of their homegrown talent, and the tag team belts had taken a big hit because of a string of injuries and bad luck. So it comes with great pride when I think about how popular the company has gotten and how valuable those tag team titles now are. (One of the originals was stolen out of my bag last year and never returned). We don't take full credit for anything but like to think that we definitely lent a helping hand in the last few years of this companies success. We would like to thank PWG for letting us be our selves. No other company (to this day) has ever completely given us the green-light to wrestle with our hair down and sleeves pulled back. I think freedom is the reason the title run was so successful. But most importantly, the fans/viewers can see and feel when the entertainers are having fun. It just shows and comes through from the screen or from your seat... And that's exactly how I'd describe our run as the champs. It was a freaken blast.

I'll be honest when I say that thinking about the Young Bucks without the PWG tag team titles seems a little odd. Remember how weird Hogan looked when Savage took the belt? Naked, huh? (Check out the ego on me, comparing us to Hogan)! But yeah, it was bitter-sweet losing those things, but I think ultimately it's time for someone else's story.

The thing fans from all around the world mention to us the most (even more than us being on TV) is our crazy matches we've had in that little building in Reseda. A run down building that you’d look at from the outside and never picture as being anything other than a place that old people gather to drink beer and talk war stories. I’ve wrestled at the ECW Arena in Philadelphia, the Korakuen Hall in Tokyo, the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York City and the Impact Zone in Orlando yet the only place to capture the moments I’ll remember the most when my career is over is that little dump in Reseda for a company called Pro Wrestling Guerrilla.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

house-show loop, J. Hardy, Chikara, Owen-like, here comes summer

We're running on two hours of sleep while seated uncomfortably in a jam packed airplane. As soon as Nick and I got to our seats, just like all flights we are on, we searched for crying babies and/or children that seem like they’ll misbehave. Unfortunately for us, one of these was heading right toward us. Nick gave me the look. Then, two more were spotted.... And then another! Our heads moved from left to right. We were surrounded! Before take-off, a "problem-child" kept kicking the back of Nick’s seat. Nick looked at me with a defeated, disgusted face. We were just getting in the air when two of the toddlers sitting together decided to have a screaming contest. I looked at Nick like I wanted to cry. He shared my pain.

So, since sleeping is not an option, I'm going to write this.

We just completed a couple of house shows for TNA Wrestling in Vicksburg and Greenwood, Mississippi which had crowds that were both large and enthusiastic. The weather was muggy and damp all weekend which was actually quite uncomfortable. It felt like I was locked in a bathroom, and the shower was on at its hottest temperature. Nonetheless, the shows were absolutely killer, especially the second night in which we tore the house down with the Machine Guns. On this loop, we got to spend some time chatting and making conversation with Jeff Hardy. He is easily the coolest dude we've met during our TNA run. He mentioned how watching us work reminds him so much of he and his brother when they were our age. We mentioned how High Risk Wrestling (our independent group we started) was influenced largely by OMEGA, and that we grew up watching them come up. He gave us some really good advice that we intend on using, and just came across as a truly humble person. We look forward to spending more time with him.

Last weekend we brought our youngest brother Malachi with us to Philadelphia for Chikara's King of Trios three day events at the old ECW Arena. It was fun traveling with both of my brothers - it's something I could get used too. If someone would have told me a few years ago that the Three "Jackson" boys would be headlining an ECW Arena show one day, I wouldn't have believed them. It was a very cool feeling being out there with them. That building is obviously special to Nick and me, as we've had many breakout performances there. How fitting, for Malachi to do the same. Night 2 was fun, watching from the crowd as my baby brother took the stage all alone. At 19 years old, it's got to be intimidating but he didn't even show it. Nick and I we're so proud of him. The third night we had a fantastic match against Mike Quackenbush and Jigsaw. The crowd really ate it up. While on the subject of Mike, he really is a great guy that runs a wonderful promotion. The guy just does it RIGHT. Everything about his show is air tight, professional and squeaky clean. I can't say enough how much I wish more independent wrestling companies were like Chikara.

When someone asked me earlier, why we'd rather fly all the way across the country back home (which we're doing right now), rather than just go straight to Orlando for TV like most of the roster is doing, I answered that I'd do absolutely anything in my power to spend any extra time I have with Dana. It may seem like a hassle, but 36 hours at home with my beautiful wife is worth it. I said, "I guess I'm Owen Hart about these types of things." I remember reading stories about Owen taking the latest flights out, and earliest flights back home and how he completely went out of his way for more family time. Man, I can totally relate to that. So anyhow, this means that tomorrow night we will be heading back to the airport for a red-eye flight across country to Orlando. I think we've spent equal time in the air with time we've spent on land this year.

After we film TNA iMPACT! we will fly home Wednesday morning, but catch another red-eye flight Friday night for a Pro Wrestling Syndicate show in New York on Saturday. Sunday morning, we will fly back home where we have the possibility of wrestling three times in one night for Pro Wrestling Guerrilla's DDT4 tournament. Nick and I have our work cut out for us these next few days to say the least.

Dana and I are on the hunt for some patio furniture. We both agree that it'd be fun to have a nice table set up outside for us to enjoy. The thought of a nice lunch outside on a hot California Summer day with Dana seated across from me sounds awesome. We're both really excited about this time of year. Maybe it’s because we were formally introduced to each other this time of year nearly 7 years ago? Every time I get home from the road, we have a little simple tradition. I ALWAYS take her out to a nice dinner. This way, she doesn't have to cook, and we can get caught up on lost time. Leaving is never easy, but having little things like this to look forward to really makes a difference. She and I have been doing a lot of talking about our future. I'm so excited what the Lord may bring us in the next couple of years!

Anyhow, I'm about to ask for a coffee from one of the flight attendants - the equivalency of me tapping out. There really is no chance of getting any sleep on this flight under these circumstances. It's like Chuck E. Cheese's in here minus the smell of pizza and children's feet. Well, okay, it kind of does smell like feet.


Friday, April 9, 2010

Orlando w/wife, anxiety, finishing a chapter.

I'm currently on an airplane seated in the middle of the row. I've got a bitter old man to my left and my wonderful wife to my right. The old man keeps accidentally touching me and stealing my arm rest. C'mon bro, I thought it was common knowledge that the person seated in the middle gets both arm rests? It's only fair. Usually I'm so amp'd to get home because I know Dana is waiting for me but today is just the opposite. I brought 'home' with me. Originally I had Monday off and was going to spend the whole day home with Dana to celebrate her birthday. Then, TNA called and asked if I could make it out to Orlando after all, and said that they would fly Dana in and pay for our hotel room because of the last minute changes. I thought that was extremely courteous of them. So, Dana came in Wednesday morning and we drove out to Daytona Beach. Btw, I now have a new "happy place." What's a happy place? Well, anytime I am in a stressful situation where I just about feel an anxiety attack coming (this has been occurring frequently lately), I close my eyes and take myself to a pleasant memory. Driving to Daytona Beach, with my beautiful wife next to me, the hot Florida sun beaming down on my skin, convertible top down and wind blowing in my hair is just about the happiest of places I can take myself. I remember peaking over at Dana as she napped with her head awkwardly leaned up against the door. My jet-lagged wife was out cold, despite the loud noise of blasting music and wind. Poor Dana, not being used to long red-eye flights and middle of the night connections, has probably found a new respect for Nick and I after this trip. I looked out at the open road and thought, "Right now, I am my happiest."

Today we spent most of our time taking it easy. We shopped a little, lounged by the pool for a minute (literally) and got a bite at a famous "Steak & Shake." Cary Siliken from ROH introduced me to this place and I still thank him for that periodically. Delicious yet affordable food. Dana and I have agreed that we need to make time for simple little trips like this. It makes such a difference. I finally got to discover Florida after four months of visiting - and got to do it with my favorite person in the world.

Anyhow, my brother and I have been extremely busy, coming off of probably the busiest month of our careers. The highlight of March of course was our pay per view debut at Destination X. The morning of the show was a scary one for me. Nick and I were in New Jersey as we had just wrestled for an Indy company named JAPW the night before. The days prior, we were on the road doing TNA house-shows so we had already completed 3 shows in 3 different states. We were both exhausted and at that point had only slept one night of proper sleep. My alarm went off after about 2 hrs of rest (we had an early flight to Orlando to catch), and as soon as I sat up I started freaking out. I looked around the room and everything was moving in fast forward. It was the most bizarre thing I'd ever seen. Then, I noticed all of my senses were enhanced. I could see and hear things more clear. I'd go to move my neck quick from left to right and could hear my muscles move and bones crack in my neck. The room started closing in. "What is happening to me?!" I thought. I looked at Nick and kayfabed him about what was going on - he didn't need to know his brother was going nuts. I hopped up from the bed to the sink and turned the water on. "WWWWHHHHOOOOOMMM!!" It sounded like a waterfall. I splashed my face repeatedly and started panicking. "I've got an Ultimate X Match tonight on live ppv, I'm not going to make it if I'm like this!" I then ripped open my backpack and found a few tablets of a natural vitamin called St John's Wart. My mom always told me that they helped calm your nerves. And like magic, I swallowed the pills and everything started slowing down. My senses were soon back to normal too. Maybe it was the "Placebo Effect?" We then raced to Newark airport, hopped on a plane to Orlando and went straight to the building. Why did this happen to me? Lack of sleep? Stress? I'm not sure exactly. My brain was cloudy all day but Nick really helped carry the work-load that night. I really don't know what we'd do without each other. There are days where Nick can't focus, so I'll work a little harder, or times when I'm so sore that I can hardly move, so he's there to take care of me. Sometimes he's nervous to talk so he'll have me do the promos. We're there for each other when it counts. This is why we are where we are. We're a team. The Ultimate X match turned out being even more than I expected. It was easily the biggest match of our careers. I'm also super psyched that they decided to use the four of us on the DVD cover. I'll look back years from now and remember that the morning of that day, I didn't even think I was going to make it to the show.

Ahh! This old man keeps bumping me. Really man? C'mon. And his wrist is owning this arm rest right now.

Also in March, Nick and I finished up with Dragon Gate. It was an emotional weekend for me personally for a few reasons. Obviously there was some controversy about this particular weekend (controversy that you aren't even aware of but it's now irrelevant) and we were wrapping up a 2 + year relationship with a company that I felt deeply about. Night 2 was especially fun as we wrestled two guys that I really respect: Mike Quackenbush and Jigsaw. We had a killer match with those dudes! I remember lying on my back and listening to the ref count to three for the last time in a Dragon Gate ring. 1......! This is it. All of those trips to Japan, we learned so much..... 2....! We really jelled as a team because of Dragon Gate.......3! And just like that, it was all over. Despite the sourness I felt because of everything that happened at the end of the run, I was proud. Proud of what we accomplished there, proud of what we learned and proud of the friendships we made because of Dragon Gate. It was an era in my career that I'll always cherish and look back on fondly.

While down in Phoenix we visited the ROH crew who drew a HUGE crowd. Adam Pearce, Dave Lagana, Jim Cornette and Cary Siliken were so excited to see us. They've got an awesome group of guys there. At one point, in his overly-excited, very animated way, El Generico screamed out, "It's a reunion!!!" The guys crowded around us and Bryan Danielson (who was also visiting). It was awesome to have the whole crew back together for a moment. It's hard to believe that a few months ago Nick and I were sharing a room with him and Jimmy Jacobs in Philadelphia after a set of ROH T.V tapings. I remember Jimmy getting on Bryan's case as we spoke about our futures in wrestling. All of us seemed uncertain but excited. "Bryan, if you don't call Shawn Michaels right now and tell him you'd like a job, I'm going to do it for you!" Bryan responded, "Jimmy, it's 3 am!" He yelled back, "So what! He won't mind!"

Okay, got about 2 hrs left on this plane. What's on the agenda? Pro Wrestling Guerrilla this weekend. The most fun place to work in the world. Period. I can't wait. And I've got a week off from any type of flying so that's something to be happy about!

The old man is now twitching in his sleep and elbowing me in the shoulder in the process. Is this guy for real?

Oh! Happy Easter! (sorry I'm late on that)!

Till next time.