How can I earn a living being a professional wrestler?
Stock Reply: I promise that I’m going to give you an answer, and I know it’s rude, but I’m going to respond with a question of my own: what do you have to do at any job in order to make enough money at it to provide for yourself?
Advice Seeker: Show up?
Me: Yes. What else?
Advice Seeker: Actually do the work.
Me: Yes. And how long do you usually have to work to earn enough money to live off of?
Advice Seeker: Usually, at least, 8 hours a day, 5 days a week.
Me: Right. Do you think if you spent a minimum of 40 hours a week working to earn a living as a professional wrestler, that you would be able to?
Advice Seeker: Yes...but it’s hard…
Me: Yes. Yes, it is.
Stock Summarized Answer: You earn a living as a wrestler the same way you earn a living anywhere else: by clocking enough hours, by dedicating enough time and effort into it.
Really want to go for it? Save up just enough money to quit your day job and be able to just survive for one month.
During that month, spend a minimal 40 hours a week studying wrestling matches, studying wrestling marketing, studying wrestling interviews, producing wrestling matches, producing wrestling products, producing wrestling promos. Want to earn more? Easy: work overtime.
I.) Study wrestling matches - Start by compiling a list of your favorite wrestling matches of All-Time. Don’t limit yourself, list them all. Then, watch them once with the intention to strictly enjoy them as a fan. Ask yourself: what was so entertaining about that match? Watch it again, and try to answer that question. Write down all of your answers. Then ask yourself can I learn how to do that. If you think you can, Write down how you think you should be able to do that.
Rey Mysterio Jr. vs Eddie Guerrero
Halloween Havoc 1997
1. Pacing - PRACTICE moving fast when it’s time to move fast, PRACTICE moving slow when it’s time to move slow.
2. Creativity - PRACTICE coming up with new ways to do things, even if they don’t work (see FAQ 1: How So Creative).
3. Charisma - FIGURE OUT just what in the f*** charisma actually is - clearly define it - then figure out if it’s something I can actually learn through PRACTICE.
4. Crowd Reaction - Try to FIGURE OUT exactly the who, what, where, when and how of the crowd’s reaction. Booing? Who, what, where, when, why? Cheering? Who, what, where, when, why? Chanting...(You get the idea, right?)
5. Investment In The Outcome - FIGURE OUT exactly why you, or the crowd, give more that zero sh**s about who wins the match. Ask yourself: are there ways I can PRACTICE making myself the person that an audience member might give more than zero sh**s if I win or lose?
6. Moves - FIGURE OUT exactly how the moves are executed; watch in slow motion, break it down into steps, PRACTICE until it’s muscle memory, then, FIGURE OUT exactly when and why the moves moved you. PRACTICE executing maneuvers at very specific times for very specific reasons.
7. - ∞) Etc.
Once you have gone through all your favorite matches, do a Google search to the effect of “Greatest Professional Wrestling Matches All Time”, and start watching and studying Everyone-else’s favorite matches.
Write down the Bold Words on your phone or a piece of scrap-paper, as a cheat-sheet, and when it’s time to practice and perform, use it as a preparatory checklist. Integrate the lessons you want to learn, so they seem to become second-nature-easy.
II. ) Studying Wrestling Marketing - THINK about what wrestling merchandise you have bought throughout your life, and ask yourself the whos, whys, whens, how-muches, and from-wheres. LOOK at the top-selling merchandise of all time.
Ask yourself: can I create something like what I would have bought, as a fan?
PRACTICE learning graphic design or learning how to deal with graphic designers.
STUDY how products are marketed to you. Ask yourself: are there free or cheap ways I can get started marketing myself and my products?
STUDY the basic mathematics of profit. Example: A: how much do 8x10s cost to produce (if you don’t know, ask someone who does)? B: how much can I sell them for? B (asking price) - (subtracted by) A (production cost) = C: profit.
STUDY successful merchandise tables. Ask yourself: is there a reason it’s set up the way it is?
PRACTICE being genuinely friendly to, and grateful for, wrestling fans. (You could also practice being a hard-salesperson, that is to say: talking people into buying things that they don’t necessarily want, if you want to feel icky inside, that is. I don’t recommend it, but to each their own.)
STUDY other wrestler’s online sales-pitches and wrestlemerch stores. Ask yourself: how can I sell my products online?
III.) Study Wrestling Interviews - Ask yourself: are there any “promos” that defy the decay of time and are crystal clear in my mind? As with matches, study your favorites first, then, the consensus All-time greats, asking yourself the whos, whats, hows, wheres, whens, and whys.
Dusty Rhodes “Hard Times”
Mid-Atlantic Wrestling 1985
Framing: Ask yourself: where does Dusty stand? Why? How does he stand? Why? PRACTICE putting (or picturing) yourself in a camera shot, exactly where and how Dusty is standing.
Content: Ask yourself: what is the purpose, or story, of this interview? PRACTICE talking with a specific purpose in mind and breaking down emotionally-charged stories in a short time frame.
Cadence: Ask yourself: what does the rhythm of Dusty’s voice sound like? Why does he talk like that? Why does it resonate with me? PRACTICE talking in a specific rhythm.
Delivery: Ask yourself: how is his body language, his tone, his eye contact. PRACTICE using different postures, varying volumes and pitches, and focusing on when and how long you look directly at the camera and possible interviewer.
Wording: Ask yourself: what types of words is he using? Why? PRACTICE adjusting your choice of words to better fit the cadence, to be better understood, to drive home the point stronger, to make it shorter or stretch it out, etc.
*Ahem* Write down the Bold Words on your phone or a piece of scrap-paper, as a cheat-sheet, and when it’s time to practice and perform, use it as a preparatory checklist. Integrate the lessons you want to learn, so they seem to become second-nature-easy.
IV-a.) Produce Wrestling Matches (Quantity) - Ask yourself: could I be wrestling more often? How? Make a list of questions to ask yourself, to see if you may be able to practice your chosen craft at an accelerated rate.
Look for places to wrestle - Are there training schools near me? Can I show up to events earlier for extra ring time? Can I message more promoters asking for opportunities (even if it’s just the opportunity to help set up the ring - see Whatever It Takes: An Interview With Tony Givens)? Are there wrestlers from my area that I can contact and ask to ride to events with? Etc.
IV-b.) Produce Wrestling Matches (Quality) - Ask yourself: could I be improving quicker? How? Make a list of questions to ask yourself, to see if you may be able to make strides at your chosen craft at an accelerated rate.
Look for wrestlecoaches - Are there people around me that I can learn from? Am I in a position to ask them for advice? Are there people online that might be willing to take the time to answer my questions, offer me free advice? Would it hurt to ask matchmakers to put me in the ring with people I can learn from? Would it hurt to ask people who know more about wrestling to help me prepare for my matches? Etc.
Write down the lessons you learn, make them into cheat-sheets for next time.
If you can: be creative; find your own in-ring style. If you can’t: steal wisely and widely.
V.) Produce Wrestling Products - Notice what other wrestlers are selling. Ask yourself: can I afford to produce those products. Can I afford not to produce products? It may be beneficial to start with the cheapest/highest-profit items, but remember the adage: you have to spend money to make money. I have found it very true. Make a list of products to sell and questions about how you may go about producing them.
8x10s - Do I know any good photographers that would take pictures of me for cheap or free? Any graphic designers to make them look pretty? Am I competent enough to do it myself? How can I get the pictures printed for the best rate? Are there wrestlers that I am in a position to ask for advice about this on? How much is my likeness and autograph worth to a fan, at the current stage of my career?
T-shirts - Do I have anything that I believe I could print on a shirt that would inspire people to part with their hard earned money? Can I make the design myself? Graphic designers, if not? How much is my idea worth? How can I get shirts at the best price? Veterans I can ask?
Learn to keep a ledger, so you know exactly how much money you are making or losing. Learn the basic business concepts of Return On Investment, Gross Profit, and Net Profit.
If you can: be creative; find your own marketing-hook (reason why people should be buying Your-sh**, rather than Other-sh**). If you can’t: steal (marketing strategies/product styles) wisely and widely.
VI.) Produce Wrestling Interviews - Start doing promos for all of your matches. Check off your study lists. Start doing promos for matches you wish you were doing. Study. Watch them back. Ask wrestlefolk to watch them, ask for advice. Ask non-wrestlefolk to watch them, ask what they think. Ask yourself: would I want to watch me wrestle after I watched this interview? Would I want to watch this my itself just for its own inherent entertainment value? Put them up online. Pay attention to the feedback that you get, or don’t get. Ask yourself: how can I get more eyes on this? How can I get the eyes already paying attention to be more engaged? Compile lists (now that you should know how) of ideas. Experiment with those ideas. Check mark the ones that work. Strikethrough the ones that don’t.
If you can: be creative; find your own voice. If you can’t: steal wisely and widely.
Well, there you have a comprehensive list designed to make it foolproof, a comprehensive list for you to live your dream of making a living at your dream-job, or to realize that it’s not your path, and to move on. Which brings us to…
The in-depth answer: Honestly, this sh** ain’t for everybody. As strange as it may seem there’s a huge learning curve to being able to costume-combat in such a skillful way that it makes people lose themselves in a rich world of emotional investment that may stick with them for a lifetime of monetary investment. It takes a much bigger investment on your part: your time, relationships, financial stability, and your mental, physical, and emotional health. Let’s break those down into another list, shall we:
Time - It takes a lot of ring time, travel time, and study time to get good at this. Even more though: you’re investing years of your life. A lot of us, nowadays, start very young (I began training as a teenager), and will spend a huge chunk of our lives in cramped, sweaty locker rooms, cars, airports, planes, rings, required after-show bars. If you don’t think hanging out with other wrestlers for hours and hours, renting cars and sharing them with others who may keep a different schedule than you, dealing with airport traffic/security/delays/layovers/transfers/over priced food/anxiety-ridden lines/baggage claim/etc, cramped planes/middle-seats/limited-storage-space/etc, unforgiving, un-quality-consistent, sometimes flat-out-unsafe rings, and loud, sometimes-smokey, sometimes dangerous hangouts, all while you’re already beat up, sounds like it could be a helluvan adventure that you could enjoy the journey of, being a wrestler-for-a-living probably isn’t a good dream for you pursue.
Relationships - Would you rather be spending most of your life with your family rather than all the stuff from the first paragraph? Does the idea of dealing with people who are, and will treat you (often simultaneously) as: competition, road-family (with varying family dynamics; i.e. wrestlemom/dad/bro/sis), teammates, coaches, apprentices, potential money earners, weak links (potential money losers), bridges, roadblocks, etc., sound like too much? If you answered “yes” to either of the preceding questions: being a wrestler-for-a-living probably isn’t a good dream for you to pursue.
Financial Stability - Are you ready to haggle dollars over your health and precious moments of your finite life? Are you ready to get less than you agreed upon, and have to confront someone over it? Are you ready to invest a lot of money into ring gear, production equipment, paid-tryouts, little-money-in-exchange-for-an-opportunity gigs, road-expenses, training time, etc., without the guarantee that you will ever make that money back, let alone see a profit off it? Are you ready to scramble to try to fill your schedule, so you (and anyone else you may be responsible for), can fill your belly (bellies)? Are you ready to invest in merchandise that may not sell? Are you ready to sit at a merch-table, knowing that it’s your best chance of seeing a dining table, while large groups of people walk past it without buying a thing? Are you ready to earn big, at times, and lose big, at other times? If you answered “no” to any/all of the preceding questions: being a wrestler-for-a-living probably isn’t a good dream for you pursue.
Your Mental, Physical, and Emotional health - I saved the truly-worst for last.
Are you willing to put deep, long thought into matches, products, and promos, only to fail time after time? Are you willing to strain to understand the collective psychology of very different crowds from one night to the next, only to miss-read them time after time? Are you willing to pay close attention to the social-hierarchy and etiquette of very different locker rooms, only to accidently piss someone off by not grasping them perfectly, time after time?
Are you willing to receive the impact of a low-speed car crash, every time you hit the mat? Are you willing to experience bigger crashes for more spectacular maneuvers? Are you willing to have your internal organs slam against each other, over and over again? Are you willing to receive blows to the head, over and over again? Are you willing to work sick? Are you willing to sit for hours in cars and planes, while suffering from injuries comparable to car crashes? Are you willing to bleed? Are you willing to only get a few hours of sleep and be expected to have high energy levels? Are you willing to hit the gym, day in and day out, when you’re already in pain? Are you willing to risk being paralyzed? Are you willing to die for your dream? In wrestling it’s a very real possibility and it will serve you well to remember it.
Are you willing to live with regret? Are you willing to feel lonely, isolated, hated? Are you willing to feel the low end of the high that you achieve in the ring? Are you willing to deal with depression that comes with a concussion? Are you willing to deal with the sadness of rejection? Are you willing to deal with your own jealousy? Are you willing to deal with homesickness? Are you willing to deal with high stress opportunities? Are you willing to let yourself and others down? Are you willing to find it hard to be one way in the ring and another way out of it? Are you willing to deal with the relational consequences of finding it hard to “turn it off”? Are you willing to deal with getting old in a young-person’s field? Are you willing to deal with being personally responsible for destroying someone else's health, livelihood, life?
If you answered “yes” to every single one of the preceding questions: congratulations, you have the heart required for being a wrestler-for-a-living.
Best of luck in pursuing your dream, and, please, wish me the same, my kindreds, because we’re going to need it.
Let us make all that hard work, pain, and risk worth it by making moments, memories, and a difference, while we make a living, shall we?