A wrestler's tale: 'Trust me, it hurts'

As Darren Aronofsky's , starring Mickey Rourke, has poignantly reminded viewers, the life of a wrestler off the ring is hardly a dreamlike one. "Brimstone", a professional wrestler from New York, gave us his account.


Photo: Holden Leeds.

As Darren Aronofsky's ‘The Wrestler', starring Mickey Rourke, has poignantly reminded viewers, the life of a wrestler off the ring is hardly a dreamlike one. "Brimstone", a professional wrestler from New York, gave us his account. 

For many, the world of wrestling is all about glamour, thrills and glory. In the US, wrestlers are revered by adoring crowds as true stars. Yet, behind the glitter lies a more sombre reality, portrayed in newspapers' "in brief" sections. Not long ago, the renowned wrestler "Test" Martin was found dead in his home, aged 33, apparently victim of an overdose. Under pressure and often injured, most wrestlers are destined for a miserable twilight in their later days - that is when they don't simply die prematurely.

'I'm not a genetic monster'

“Brimstone” is an independent professional wrestler in New York.

I had always been a fan of pro wrestling. I love the theatrics of it, and the physicality of it. I was personally inspired by legends such as the Undertaker, Shawn Michaels & the Ultimate Warrior.

My first love was actually music. I was covering a wrestling convention in 1996 for a local paper when the Iron Sheik told me I looked like I could be a wrestler, that I should train. Bret Hart actually pulled me aside and told me that if I was serious about getting into the business, he'd help me out and try pointing me in the right direction.

I said to myself, "Hell Yeah!" This is Bret Hart! Not long after, I saw an ad for a wrestling school opening in Queens, New York. Bret looked into the school and suggested that I move forward with them.

The rest is history.

I didn't expect training to be as hard as it was. But did I get used to it? Absolutely. You can't survive in this industry if you're not strong and you're not really into it. A lot of people "think" they're into it, but there's a 95 percent dropout rate. Most people drop out after the first week, if not after the first day.

It's not an easy lifestyle. The guys in the WWE are on the road something like 320 days a year, and it wears down the body. The TNA wrestlers aren't on the road as much, but they film three shows in one day. This can take a serious toll on ones body.

You face different levels of pressure. There's the pressure of putting people in seats. If you don't put rear-ends in seats, chances are they're not going to continue to book you. There's pressure where you feel your body needs to be in perfect shape and condition while still keeping your gimmick on point. This is before even stepping foot in the squared circle! Meanwhile, there is always the pressure of having only "one take" to pull off telling a story to an audience in a 5-10 minute match.

It's a different kind of pressure than you face at a 9-to-5 but it's stuff that can physically kill you. A lot of the boys today think they need to be a genetic monster to make it in the WWE, TNA or to make it in wrestling. It's sad to see people who were friends get involved with things they should steer clear of. We recently lost Andrew "Test" Martin who passed away at 33 potentially due to substance abuse. It kills me.

I'm not a genetic monster. When I train wrestlers, they have to be clean. If I knew any of my students were on the juice, I'd beat the crap out of them. I don't tolerate drugs. I don't tolerate alcohol. I don't even condone smoking. For me, that's just not part of the business. I personally hate how people come down on wrestling; like wrestlers are the only ones doing this, when it's not the case. It goes on in baseball, in football, in soccer. People just focus on us because of the way we look and what we portray.

I don't feel the same pressures that many other guys do simply because I'm quite content doing my own thing. "Brimstone" is my business. I've branded my name, I've branded my look, I've branded my character. I've made an empire out of branding myself! I have numerous television deals in progress, I've got the BrimWEAR clothing line coming out, trading cards, a comic book, my autobiography, numerous film productions and that is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. In the grand scheme of things, I'm paving my own path.

As in any form of entertainment, there's a lot of backstabbing. There are a lot of people who are very jealous of success and try to talk down myself and my accomplishments. It's childish and I never let it get to me. Really, the most pressure I have nowadays is, "what am I going to wear on the red carpet."

People say wrestling is not real, but trust me it hurts. If I fall on you, it's going to hurt no matter how much you protect yourself. I just did two matches in one night. The first one was a very simple match, I only took two hits and yet somehow, I hurt myself. I have no idea what happened, but at the end of the match my whole right hand had blown up.

Down the road, here's what we have to look forward to: arthritis, aches, pains. I support a lot of charities, because I believe in giving back, however I'm a really big supporter of the Arthritis Foundation because it's near and dear to my heart. Years later, you can get stuck with pains you never thought you'd have.

And since we're all independent contractors, most guys don't even have health insurance. We're not even considered athletes, we're entertainers, except you can't get into an entertainment union like AFTRA or SAG unless you get a role in a film.

We have a group called Wrestlers Rescue, a foundation formed by Dawn Marie to help wrestlers when the curtain comes down. We have to support the guys who have given so much to the business, and so much to the fans, and now they're stuck with all the aches and pains. These guys are legends, guys who were larger than life, and now some of them can barely move.

I love wrestling. I love everything it's given me and everything that's come out of it. I'm looking forward to my son having a future in this business, he's 7 and he's just phenomenal. Once he's big enough and old enough to make that decision, if he'll fit into my boots. I'm hanging them up and he'll take over my name."