Before the stars of wrestling hit it big, they're learning the ropes to varying degrees of success. Some you've seen well before you even realized, as they claw their way to a big break. Whether it be extra work, or getting crushed on cable TV, everyone has a different path. Now, they'll tell you about it.
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Gangrel arrived on the WWF scene in 1998 as the blood-drinking vampire, emerging from flames. But that wasn't actually his first experience there.
Then known by his real name of David Heath, a young Gangrel actually appeared on WWF programming way back in 1988, and WCW in 1989 for several matches as an enhancement talent. The names the young Heath would face are legends of the wrestling business -- Big Bossman, The Iron Sheik, The Midnight Express and Abdullah The Butcher
"As I got handcuffed to the pole and Big Bossman beat me with a nightstick, I thought 'is this the lowest point in my life or the highest point of my life?' I had a lot of mixed emotions. Slick pulled me aside and said 'I don't know what it is, but there's a lot of magic in you. You're going to be wrestling 20-30 years from now and you're gonna be going just fine. Just don't quit this, stick with it.' I don't know if it were those words that he told me that kept driving me, or he saw something that I didn't know that he thought I had, but it's 30 years later, and I'm blessed to be where I am. I wrestled (Bossman) and tagged with him many times (ten years later)," Gangrel told Fightful.com in an exclusive interview.
Just a couple of months after his run-in with Bossman, he'd be in WCW against Abdullah the Butcher.
"I was pulling a fast one on them back then, because there was no internet to stooge you off. I was working for WWF, Georgia Championship Wrestling, Florida Championship Wrestling, went to Calgary, came back and did TVs, then went to Japan under a mask. I worked more then breaking in than I did later on. It was awesome," said Gangrel.
Returning to WWF in 1994, Gangrel appeared as The Black Phantom -- an enhancement talent under a hood. Many don't realize Heath was under the mask, let alone with WWF for a year and a half at that point. He'd work matches you can see on the WWE Network against The Smoking Gunns, Earthquake, Typhoon, British Bulldog, Aldo Montoya and more.
"They flew me into all the TVs and did all the house shows. I was never under contract. They were telling me to lose weight, grow my hair. I had fangs bonded in permanently and they were like 'you gotta get rid of the fangs.' So I lost weight, grew my hair, got rid of the fangs, and when they gave me a contract in 98 they said 'Hey can you do the vampire thing? We're gonna cut your hair and put a shirt on you.' I did everything they wanted except cutting the hair," Gangrel laughed.
Eventually, Gangrel was signed and had a two year run with the company in 1998. He would go on to lead the Brood, and helped launch the careers of Edge, Christian and the Hardy Boyz in the WWF.
You can see our full interview with Gangrel above. He appears courtesy of our friends at Title Match Wrestling.
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