When I’m not writing or doing art or making music or creating websites, I teach. As of this posting, my dayjob is as an afterschool learning guide with a program in Flint, MI. I love my job; I just wish I could do it full-time so I wouldn’t have to keep searching for a full-time job (and BTW if you know of anyone at any companies that need a graphic designer, please be so kind as to introduce me to them).
I’ve had the pleasure of meeting, working with, and helping develop the lives of some pretty amazing children, some of which have survived obstacles and conditions I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.
One of these kids is Mondo. He was a 6th grader when I worked with him, but now he is doing his thing in high school, and preparing for life afterwards. He has a dream of becoming a professional wrestler, maybe even being a WWE Superstar. When I met him, I used that knowledge as a way to build a rapport with him and help plant some seeds in his character development. I went out of my way to help him nurture his dream, showing him that it is not as far-fetched a goal as maybe some people have told him. I hate it when people try to crush dreams. Instead of telling somebody “It can’t be done….at least not by you,” why don’t you be constructive and help the person find a way it CAN be done?
So that’s the main gist of what I try to do when I work with youth. I try to pinpoint their true gifts, skills and passions, and encourage them to focus those into a skillset and goal they can use to guide their lives by. And once they know what direction they want to go in, I point them to resources they can use to prepare for it as early as possible. Sometimes I wish someone had done that for me when I was younger. Sometimes I think that if I had been better prepared for what awaited me on the business-side of creativity, I wouldn’t be struggling to get my ideas off of the ground now.

So this post is an open letter to one Armando Ortiz (remember the name, people), a young high school football player with squared circle dreams. If you, and everyone like you, truly want to succeed in Sports Entertainment, you have to stand out. You have to be unique, and you have to come to the table with the skills that the others at your level are still looking to develop.There are some things you can do right now to prepare you for that time in the future. The wise thing to do is to take advantage of them. Make this list a checklist of things you need to get involved in to ensure your success as a pro wrestler.

1. Start by reading the autobiographies of other wrestlers. You’ll have a good idea of what’s waiting for you once you get a good idea of what they went through to get where they are at. I recommend “Have A Nice Day” by Mick Foley, and both of Chris Jericho’s books “A Lions’ Tale” and “Undisputed: How to become WWE Champion in 1001 easy steps.” Bret Hart’s “Hitman: my real life in the cartoon world of wrestling’ is considered the best. Others you might like: “Bobby the Brain: Wrestling’s Bad Boy Tells All” and “Chair Shots and Other Obstacles: Winning Life’s Wrestling Matches” by Bobby Heenan, “Inside Out” by original Four Horsemen member Ole Anderson, and “Listen, you pencil neck geeks” by WWE Legend Classy Freddy Blassie. All of these books give wonderful insight into the world of pro wrestling, and it would serve you right to learn about them.

2. Speaking in front of a crowd and getting them to react to you is a crucial part of the success of a sports entertainer. You have to be able to move a crowd with your mouth as well as your moves. Join the debate team at your school. Join an improv comedy troop (like these guys and these guys and these guys Go to your old teachers and ask if you can talk about school with their current students. Take every opportunity to speak in front of a crowd. This is every bit as important as being able to perform in the ring, so start developing those skills right now.

3. Learn how to act. The lion’s share of being a pro wrestler is playing a role and being in character. Wrestling at the WWE level is all scripted, and once you join, most likely they will create a character for you and your future in the company will depend on how well you play your part. Take acting classes. The Bower theater in Flint offers them. Get involved in a school play, if your school offers it. See if there are any plays going on around you (google them) and audition.

4. Stay active. Mondo, I know you used to play football, and that’s great, but don’t stop thee. Wrestling is a grueling, physical grind that can wear your body down, and many sports entertainers have suffered debilitating injuries or gotten addicted to painkillers because of it. Take care of your body now, even though you might not like it. Eat healthier food and stay away from the junk. Get involved in another sport (maybe join your school’s wrestling team?). Take a martial arts class, not just for the technique, but also for the stretching, focus and meditation that you learn. Take dance classes and learn yoga. Dance and ballet show you how to move and be light on your feet (and you get to feel up lots of girls wearing stockings & leotards – added bonus). Yoga stretches the body and keeps your body in good shape. Diamond Dallas Paige and Chris Jericho do yoga on a regular, and they are still in great shape.

5. Study the great wrestlers of the last 30 years and try to figure out what made them special. Why was Bruno Sammartino given the championship so many times? How did Superstar Billy Graham influence almost every wrestler that came after him? Why are the Freebirds so important to the business? Why did Triple H want to emulate Harley Race so much? Why is King Jerry Lawler’s feud with Andy Kaufman such a big deal? You need to understand at a deep level what works in the business and why. Become a Pro Wrestling historian. If this is going to be your life, you need to understand every aspect of it.

6. Get to know a few wrestlers personally. Find the facebook, myspace and twitter accounts of current and former wrestlers and join their networks. Talk to them. Pick their brains, find out what makes them go and what makes them successful. You’d be surprised at how approachable some of these guys are. And the WWE encourages you to follow their superstars on Twitter and FB. So do it.

7. Learn how to network and win people over. This is the toughest lesson to learn, because this is more about your character as a person than about your skills as a performer. But it is crucial to understand. Succeeding in pro wrestling, and practically any other field, involves politics and competing with your coworkers to get to the next level. Being able to win people over to support you is extremely important if you want to get ahead, because often your fate will be in the hands of someone else who may or may not care about how well you perform. Look at Triple H. yeah, he is considered by many to be a great wrestler, but that wasn’t what got him to where he is today. What got him to the level he is at now is a shrewd understanding of lockerroom politics. When he came, he found out which guys in the lockerroom had the most power (Shawn Michaels, Scott Hall and Kevin Nash) and immediately made friends with them. He spent his hangout time with them talking about the business and how he can advance in it. After that, he got close to the boss’s daughter, Stephanie McMahon, and used that leverage to build a relationship with Vince himself. Now, I hope you don’t go about things exactly like Triple H did, because I think most of the stuff Trips did in that regard is slimy and underhanded (but it worked), but being able to win friends and influence people is something you need to learn. So go check out the book “How To Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie. You need that in your life.

8. Get serious about finding a wrestling school. There are a lot of them out there, and many of them are reputed, so don’t put all of your eggs in the FCW basket. FCW is attractive because they are a direct pipeline to the WWE, but keep in mind that FCW is extremely selective in who they pick to train, specifically BECAUSE they are a direct pipeline into the WWE. There are guys in there that are former stars of TNA and Ring Of Honor that still haven’t been called up to the WWE roster. There are guys in there who are the children of wrestling legends that haven’t been called up to the WWE roster. But there are other schools out there where you can get your training and some big name endorsements. The Dudley Boyz run a wrestling school. Ohio Valley Wrestling is tied in directly to TNA, and is where John Cena and Randy Orton got their starts. Ring Of Honor is the #3 promotion in the country (and rising fast), and is its own wrestling school. Do your research, ask lots of questions (ask about scholarships, tuition, financial aid, the enrollment process, room and board, and stuff like that) and make an informed, calculated decision on where you’ll be spending your time and money.

9. And finally, you need to learn about managing money. A good pro wrestler can make a lot of money in the business, but it means nothing if you blow through it and are broke by the time you retire and have to keep wrestling just to make ends meet. Look at Ric Flair. He should have hung it up years ago, but he keeps going because he needs the money. And everyone knows he needs the money, so they take advantage of him. You don’t want to be that guy. Read “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” by Robert Kiyosaki. Find some financial management classes to take. Read the business section of the newspaper and some issues of Forbes, Fortune and Money magazines. Call up a financial advisor or a CPA in your area and talk with him for a minute about what’s out there. If you get an extra 50 bucks, buy a US Savings Bond instead of that pair of new shoes. If you get an extra ten bucks, put five of it in a bank account and forget about it. Learn how to do taxes (It’s not as hard as it appears). These are skills that will help you live well off of your gift, and be able to retire from it when you want.

If you take the time to get involved in some way, shape or form with these nine steps, you will be better preparing yourself for success as a pro wrestler. The habits you form now will determine your success in the future, so you want to direct those habits specifically at the skills and attitude you need to succeed in the world of pro wrestling. You can do it. I have faith in you. Get to it, and I’ll see you on Raw someday.

BTW, The Weekend Heroes interlude is over. let me know if you want more backup stories about these guys. Chapter 3 of the SEIZURE 2 action webcomic officially starts next week, and art for chapter 4 is almost finished.