Variety keeps life exciting. When it’s raining it’s usually only a matter of time before the sun shines again and vise versa. Life is always going to throw you a curveball, and a changeup, and a slider, and a fastball. One has to make your mind, body and soul as thickly woven and dense as a catcher’s mitt, to absorb the brutal endless onslaught of uncertainty. I guess I’m being a little over-the top philosophical in the sense that luck (or an occurrence) in this situation is grandly exaggerated. Things will get better. Things will get worse.
Thursday started off as any other morning would. 3 parts oatmeal, 1 part protein powder, 1 part peanut butter and a dusting of cinnamon. I’m not exactly sure what constitutes a ‘part’ or if most meals make up 4-5 of these so called parts. I suppose when you never measure things regarding to food, portion consistency can be thrown out the door. Damn good breakfast though, and eggs of course. And coffee. And toast. Ketchup. I like eating in the morning, as well as in general. Okay, 6am, on the road for Tennessee. A Thursday night shot in Morrisville, about an hour and a half outside Knoxville. Thunderous, belligerent showers make the roads uneasy causing us to be behind for the start of the show. Ericules Wrestling Promotions, had to make a good second impression… ahem. Arriving late I missed my match and luckily got booked in the main event to tag with the local baby face “Menace” a large, black, masked wrestler who is quite talented. Upon talking to Menace I was shocked to learn he was 45 years old. He is unbelievable shape for his age and I pray to various gods and deities every day that I age as well as he has. Sitting in a desolate corner in the cramped dressing room a weathered pair of gentlemen slowly put on kneepads and lace their boots. Ricky Morton and Robert Gibson are known to legions of fans as the ‘Rock-n-Roll express’, former NWA world tag team champions in WCW. Things always work full circle in wrestling it seems. Here I am, getting my start, a young and hungry (relatively) injury free supple young lad. The same dressing room as a broken beat and scarred duo of men, living paycheck-to-paycheck continuing their passion, their love of the squared circle. I have the upmost respect for these guys, I can relate and learn so much from these pioneers of the sport.
Menace and I worked a match vs. Tony Kozina and Davey Richards, and tore the house down, Ericules was pleased. Although a man with a giant capital ‘E’ shaved into his chest, pink makeup, pink wig, arm covers and pom pom’s hanging from his trunks, he may have just been overall pleased for reasons beyond our control. He offered for us to crash at his house, which we graciously accepted. Upon arrival it was apparent he lived in a house with his wife and children and younger brother, a family man. Just shows how far of a spectrum a wrestling gimmick can help one to get away from their normal life, a weekly escape from reality, drug free.
I wake up trying to swallow. My throat is swollen and my nose is plugged. Sick, great. Luckily just on the right side of my face, my glands are swollen, so if I stick to drinking fluids on the left side of my mouth I should be okay. No such luck. We begin our drive to Dayton, Ohio, which should be about 5 hours. Tony suggests a shortcut, which takes us through ‘Deliverance’ back roads Tennessee, and eventually gets us to Ohio. Traffic and gridlock makes the potential to be late for the start of the next show. I grow increasingly nervous at the thought of missing my Ring of Honor debut.
Ring of Honor is the premier wrestling company in the United states, and by that I mean ‘wrestling’ company. WWE and TNA on a grand scale are much more elaborate and mainstream; however it’s all a movie. Grand larger than life characters, storylines and production values have taken what the sport was built off of and sent it spinning in a whole new direction. It’s not about the wrestling anymore, there is barely any wrestling on their shows. Ring of Honor was built off competition and hard working wrestlers providing standout matches for a loyal, cult like fan base, Much like ECW was in the late 90’s. Needless to say, I am grateful, excited and nervous for the opportunity to wrestle here and fulfill one of my major goals for getting into the sport in the first place.
‘Jump around’ by House of Pain erupts on the stereo and a smirk graces my face. I take a final gulp of water, crack my neck and enter through the hanging black curtain alongside Tony Kozina, my tag team partner. I have never tagged alongside Tony before, yet at this moment, my mentality had to be that were a well oiled tandem machine bred for the destruction of everything, possibly sent back through time? I hadn’t decided yet, but we were badass. Seas of faces mesh into one and the sound of the crowd dims, as they clearly have no idea who I am. “Who the fuck is this guy” is literally the first thing I hear. Enter the Bravado brothers, two brothers who look so nervous and shaky that the wind will send them fluttering from branch to pavement like a leaf. Our victims. “Put your working boots on” Tony says to me, staring me in the eyes. I knew he meant this is where it counts. We work a decent match and I go over on one of the brothers after an elbow smash in the corner followed up with a running Yakuza kick. He kicks out right into an ankle lock. The crowd that didn’t know my name are now clapping for me and cheering us on. “Jump around” ensues and I bust out my flawless ‘running man’ dance move, much to Tony’s disapproval. We did it. We entertained.
Saturday arrived quickly and it was time for my second chance to impress in the ROH setting. Chicago ridge Illinois, one of the companies more successful places to run. I walk in expecting another shot on the pre-show, I am notified by an agent that I have been bumped up to the main show. I must have done something right the night before. 6 man mayhem, Kyle O’reilly vs. Silas Young vs. ‘Sugarfoot’ Alex Payne vs. Rasche Brown vs. Sal Rinauro vs. Grizzly Redwood. I’ve never set foot in front of a crowd so large, demanding and rowdy. I’ve dreamed about it though. After 10 minutes of high risk dives, timely false finishes and sheer dominance by Rasche Brown, I make my exit clutching my neck and selling to the crowd, absolutely the biggest rush and most fun I have ever had came from performing that night. I came back through the curtain confident in knowing I did what I had to do. I didn’t rush or get flustered. I hit all the spots I needed to hit, I wasn’t selfish in thinking I needed to get this move in or do that cool thing, All I did was sell well and make everyone else look as good as possible. I’ll get my chance to shine I needed to solidify that opportunity first. Feeling’ great.
After changing, I begin watching the remainder of the show from the backstage monitor. I look beside me and there is an older, battered and gray man sitting beside me. He is worn, yet has a youthful abundance to him and an aura that is spreading like disease from across the room. Bret ‘Hitman’ Hart was one of my all time heroes’ growing up. His matches I have studied endlessly, from his work in Stampede to his legendary run in WWF. He looks to me, and his eyes study my face with an unrecognizing yet dignified approach to knowing I’m about to pick his brain for everything it’s worth. I introduce myself and shake his hand. He needs no introduction. For the next 25 minutes I ask him every possible question I can think of while my mind is racing to continue the conversation and prevent any possible awkward silence. I want to tell him that the first time I saw him win with the sharpshooter I grabbed a pair of pants and practiced recreating the move until I had it down. Or while watching his match with Davey boy Smith at Wembley stadium I re-created the entire spectacle vs. a pillow. I was Bret. I decide to ask him about working heel instead, smart move. Stories from his past engulf my ears and invade my imagination. Many of which come strait from his autobiography, but hearing them in person relays such an authentic feel. He explains his departure into the United States for the first time. A customs agent inquires the reasoning for his entry, in his best impersonation of his father, the legendary Stu Hart, “He’s American, let him in” a scratchy, bitter voice suiting of Stu. It was time for Bret’s in ring appearance and the classic guitar rift hits the speakers and 1200 some odd fans lose their minds, as well as my self, (my mind losing being much more subtle). I felt 10 years old again, hearing Bret’s music running around the house flickering light switches on and off in excitement. He thanks the fans of Chicago and the fans of ROH for supporting such an expanding company. He walks to the back area, and seemingly disappears from the building as quickly as I had noticed him sitting beside me. I wanted to thank him, but I missed my chance, for the time being. His saddened, knowledgeable eyes smothered in wrinkles of wisdom make me think about the wrestling business as a long-term endeavor, in both the positive and negative lights.
The drive home was tiring. Stopping at a gas station, Tony and I bear witness to a beautiful site as a lady drives away from the gas station minus removing the gas nozzle from her tank. Notable sites and sounds from the road are what make the long, painstaking drives worthwhile.
A ONE ACT PLAY
TONY: Mmm Mmm, I got me some fried chicken gizzards.
KYLE: FCG? That’s disgusting Tony.
TONY: My momma used to make the sweet delicious geeezards all the time, I’m praising Jesus Christmas every time I find these gems at a gas station.
KYLE uneasily eyes the fried contorted pieces of black meat emerging from a greasy cardboard container.
TONY: Here, try one; they got a nice crunch to em.
TONY reaches the container towards KYLE as he reluctantly accepts the foreign American delicacy. KYLE bites a small corner off the chunk of gizzard, face of disgust and an exaggerated chew of a rubbery substance.
KYLE: What is a gizzard anyway, that red wobbly thing that hangs from a Turkey’s neck?
TONY: These are Chicken gizzards.
KYLE: I think it’s called a wattle.
As TONY enters car, KYLE turns to garbage can (stage left) and spits the remaining gizzard into the trash and continues a fake chew, entering car.
KYLE: Mmm gizzards.
TONY: I know, right.
END OF ACT I
Enter Monday morning. Davey and I return to Absolute martial arts for an ass kicking Muay Thai/ Jiu-Jitsu session. After a strenuous kickboxing session I am my usual soaked-in-sweat self beginning Jiu-Jitsu. We practice a seatbelt maneuver that brings the attacker locked into your guard, which leads to one getting a double under hook, into various submission attempts. We begin a rolling session. I hold my own as per usual and avoid any scenario of getting tapped out. Three 2-minute rounds changing opponents every time. I finally get to one of the pro-fighters of the gym. We begin and my inexperience and eagerness to attack gets me suckered into a triangle choke attempt, which I avoid. He’s slick and sly however, altering to an arm bar attempt which I roll out of into a standing position I lose grip of my anchor and I am caught in the most pain excruciating moment in recent memory. “TAP” I yell to no avail, “FUCK, LET GO!” at least that’s what I remember of it. What seemed like an eternity was probably more like 1 second (one-one thousand). I run clutching my arm headfirst into the cage and storm off the matt, elbow dangling in a gruesome fashion. Hyperextension of the elbow, for obvious reasons is a serious injury, and I’m pretty freaked out at this point. This relates to my opening paragraph, as to when things are going well, all it takes is one instant, in the final round of a workout to slip up and get caught in a trap. I’m not angry, just disappointed in myself. I think of when I tore my knee, the pain and the result, no wrestling for 4 months. Being optimistic had never been so difficult.
Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation. RICE. I guess all I’ve been consistent with is ice. I’m too stubborn to take any time off. As it stands now, the elbow is severely bruised and full range of motion is still incapable. However I am fully confident it is not a serious injury. The progress it has made the last 2 days alone has comforted me greatly. A couple beers while losing my hearing at the Motorhead concert also helped me deal with the situation. 5 days later, full range of motion is there and I have begun weight-bearing exercises again. The only pain is when I walk elbow first into a doorframe, which shockingly happens so frequent it’s mind blowing. Wrestling tomorrow night again in Chicago (Saturday the 29). C’est la vie.
This post has gotten longer than hoped, I feel sorry for anyone who has taken the time to read this anti-climatic piece of work. It hasn’t really gone anywhere and been preachy with a lesson. I guess I learned from this situation, (don’t stand up in an arm bar). But as far as teaching others from my mistakes, I would recommend keeping nose to the wind and always pushing forward. Things happen for a reason, bad or good, however who even determines what bad or good is. I guess that is a perceived value to be decided by one’s upbringing and morals. Until next time, keep living, laughing and loving. K
Filed under: training
The smell of sweat and leather invades the air. A musty, muggy heat causes an instant perspiration, creating a slick layer of sweat on my brow. I’m nervous, but excited. The setting is empty of any human presence, aside from a man wearing an all black gi, sitting on a bench cracking his knuckles. I take a deep breath and muster up every ounce of confidence I have. “Kyle?” he asks, shaking my hand. “Welcome to absolute.”
I wasn’t sure what to expect out of my initial tryout session at absolute martial arts. Mixed martial arts is the fastest growing sport in the world and that being said it’s no surprise that Keith runs mandatory tryout sessions for proper placement in his gym. I can only imagine the types of people watching an Ultimate Fighting Championship card and get the sudden desire to punch and kick and run around playing pretend fighter. It is never as easy as one expects. I remove my shoes and walk onto the vast mat surrounded with sporadic pieces of cage. Thick, dense heavy bags hang from chains with a taunting aura amongst them. I scan the walls, wondering if they could reminisce the pain and blood that had surely been shed in their glory. A post with thick rope wrapped around it for demolishing the nerve endings in your shins, lies in predatorial wait for prey to attempt kicking it. Championship belts hang from the wall legitimizing Keith’s ability.
We begin by shadowboxing, he counts out combos and I throw each punch with precision and an exhilarated breath. “tsh tsh” can be the only way to describe the proper sound of breathing during combat. Breathing upon exertion causes the abdominals to constrict protecting one’s self from a counter attack whilst on the offensive. We move on to hand pads, boxing combos, jab, cross, hook, cross, uppercut, body hook, cross. Easy. Carry on to a heavy bag, black to hide the bloodstains? Using my right leg, low kick, middle kick, high kick and again with the left leg. Easy. Bring on the Thai pads. Muay Thai is a deadly art that essentially uses 8 points of attack, fists, elbows, knees and shins/feet. Jab, cross, hook, cross, left elbow, right uppercut, left knee, right knee, left high kick, breathing heavy. “Again!” Jab, cross, hook, right elbow, left uppercut, right knee, left knee, right low kick, middle and high kick. Difficult. Sweat beads down my body like dew on grass of an April morn… and then someone sprays the grass with a garden hose while it’s raining. Lots of sweat. Three more 3-minute rounds pass and the final “beep beep” of the timer sounds like an angel whispering sweet nothings in my ear.. What? I didn’t just type that. It sounded like a dump truck driving over a bunch of steaks, rare. Needless to say I was relived the Muay Thai portion was over.
Brazilian Jiu-jitsu is like a game of human chess. It makes no difference who is stronger or bigger, it matters who is smarter and more patient. Jiu-jitsu bouts have been known to last for hours when the famous Gracie family first developed the sport in Brazil. Timing and leverage is key while methodically constricting your opponent into submission by isolating a joint or artery causing your opponent to ‘tap’ or give up. A precise yet blood- thirsty approach is a necessity. Keith’s 3rd degree black belt advertises his superior diplomatic approach to this selected discipline. He explains a few things to me, which I essentially already know. Guard, half guard and mount positions, as well as some very basic submissions, kimura, guillotine choke and an arm bar. He then beckons to my attack and the challenge has been set. We begin to roll, which in Jiu-jitsu is basically full contact sparring. For two strait rounds, Keith shatters my self-esteem and makes me his bitch. The most dominating position I was able to gain was a half guard, which I was actually quite proud of, I attempted a sweep to gain a mount position, he easily countered my attack, took my back and tapped me out to a rear naked choke. Now one has to understand, Keith doesn’t fit the stereotype of your typical mixed martial artist. He doesn’t have cauliflower ears, tattoos, or even muscles for that matter. He looks like a total geek. A very humbling experience regardless, and this Brazilian Jiu-jitsu ace is a fighting machine, bred for excellence.
Everything is sore. My shins are beat/beet red with the skin on my knees and toes sanded down to a thin transparent layer. My forearms tremble and my fingers ache. Everything is sore, but I feel fucking fantastic. My shirt clenches to my body, soaked in sweat and I stand up, proud of myself for giving everything I had. We bow to each other and I shake Keith’s hand thanking him for the opportunity to test my gameness.
“You may want to stretch when you get home and practice what you learned during today’s” He begins.
“Isn’t there a training tonight?” I cut him off questioning.
He eyes me up and down and nods approvingly. A smile emerged on his face showing the first hint of emotion that he has displayed thus far.
“Yes, you are welcome to join tonight’s sessions.”
I had proven myself, I’m a worthy contender and trainee in his gym. I went for an intense 30-minute tryout session and I initiated my return for later in the same day. I begin to wonder how many souls Keith demolishes in those trial sessions to weed out people who have no business belonging there. Davey and I return an hour and half later for Kickboxing class and Brazilian Jiu-jitsu class. Each class runs 45 minutes in length and is significantly more intense than the initial session. I roll with several dedicated patrons and hold my own, not getting tapped once and tap out two others with a triangle choke and a front guillotine. Feeling great!
Returning to Absolute 3 times a week at the very least is shredding me into a training machine. I go not to become an MMA fighter but more so to improve my ability in a professional wrestling atmosphere. A successful pro wrestler should be well rounded in my opinion. How can you be a pro if you cant amateur wrestle at the very least? Rhetorical question. My kicks are more precise and my stamina is heightening greatly. Strikes are more lethal, yet in turn that makes them safer. To protect my opponent will be easier attributed with strength and conditioning in peak form. MMA is on the rise and the route that professional wrestling is taking is geared towards that mentality. If you watch RAW Monday nights and see someone’s head being stomped in, changing the channel to an MMA program a simple jab could knock somebody out. I just feel that to add more realism and effect to the sport, wrestling could use more MMA influence than less. However, everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion.
Jab, cross, hook, cross, elbow, knee, low kick, high kick and cross is getting easier every week.
Sweat it out. K.
Filed under: road trippin'
The long desolate highway remained a constant challenge waiting to be conquered. My eyelids grow heavier as the highway winds with each turn to be succeeded by another. The sounds of drums, yelling and heavy electric guitar rifts designed to keep the mind alert serve as a peaceful lullaby. Serenading my mind towards relaxation, slumber and a roadside catastrophe. Suddenly the thumping of the manmade road grooves jolt my conscious to the frontlines and it is as if I’ve slept for hours. “A few more minutes” I tell myself, passing a sign that claims the next rest stop is 12 miles away. Then I can break.
The United States is a fascinating country. We crossed six of the fifty on our quest to Missouri. When I say we, I refer to Brandon Marino and myself. Although ‘tired Kyle’s’ alter ego could be considered a separate personality. Out of the six, Montana takes first prize of being the most beautiful of all. A mountainous and green with timber laced stretch of road greeted the weary travelers. The night sky was alive with intergalactic explosive activity, poof. One can truly appreciate the dark of night, away from society and civilization’s light pollution. Along with the seemingly everlasting stars, the familiar face of moonlight provided a longing and sense of home. I could hardly take my eyes off the temptress that is her glow. Like many cultures and ancient civilizations I begin to ponder it’s existence as well as my own. A sip from my lukewarm energy drink brings me back to reality and mind on the mission. The morning brings an unimaginable and exaggerated glow of a golden red sunrise. Canyons and ridges engulf the horizon which when paired with the rising sun, give way to some beautiful scenery. I take more pictures of cloud formations than I can count. While driving that’s quite the skill. I begin thinking of cowboys, shootouts and saloons with the swinging wooden doors. I finish my energy drink.
The baron stretches of highway begin to lengthen between gas stations and rest stops. Only in America can such ridiculous names for gas stations like ‘Kum n’ Go’ be tolerated. Also, only in America can you walk into a gas station at 7:20 am and see an array of ninja stars and bowing knives for sale in a display case next to ‘fresh’ fried chicken and corndogs, beside a rack of ‘proud Vietnam veteran’ hats. At least the gas is relatively inexpensive. When asking a lady about Jim’s Grill, when considering breakfast options later that day, she claimed it was “good, but it’s spendy.” Spendy refers to something having a higher than usual monetary value. Expensive, One spends a lot, ect. Or so I concluded. My omelet cost less than ten American dollars. At least the gas isn’t spendy.
Wyoming sucks. That state brought nothing but grief. Getting pulled over by highway patrol for being ten miles over the speed limit and being 28 hours below the sleep limit left little room for arguing or explanation. Yes sir, no sir, three bags full sir. I hear you talking about a court date and issuing me a bond and having a BC drivers license making me susceptible for capital punishment, but its mostly in one ear out the other. I remember giving him $95 and then he picked up some highway debris consisting of wires and breakers. “You guys wouldn’t happen to be electricians, huh?” I mustered a fake laugh that had even me convinced. I lost my speeding ticket virginity in Wyoming. It also took us a solid 20 minutes to figure out how to close my trunk. I’ve closed my trunk many times and the trunks on other vehicles many times, it’s pretty self-explanatory. Despite our sleep-deprived state of mind, we ended up coming up with various hypotheses as to why we couldn’t shut the trunk. Bags in way? No. What if we hold the release button? No. Is there something obstructing it? No. The release switch should be on? No. Just fucking slam it? Yes. Get me out of this state now!
South Dakota was a sight for sore eyes. The state is home to the famed Mt. Rushmore, a presidential memorial commemorating the nations heroes. Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt and Lincoln. I half expected to see another carved mountain behind it representing the secret government pulling the strings of the four famed faces. But overall it was quite impressive. I enjoyed the old black and white photos of the creating process, back in the 20’s men hanging from scaffolding chiseling away for their pride, god and country. Man can do amazing things in the name of patriotism and honour. Honor. Being a fake American now I have to get used to forgetting about ‘u’. I guess that’s why it’s a nation of independence.
Stopping in Sioux Falls for the first time since the epic quest began, a night’s sleep was required for maintaining sanity and mental efficiency. Motel 6 promised to jot $5 off the standard $50 fee that the other motels demanded. Being wrestlers on the road, pinching every penny is a must. Tip well when service is quick, polite and efficient, but save your money. That is lesson one of being a successful professional wrestler. The room was decent, felt great to shower, regardless of flooding the bathroom, and experimenting with skype was awesome. The next morning was introduced with the faint, familiar Mexican accent “Room service.” I responded with a rather obnoxious “No!” Then I realized where I was and that it was the final leg to St. Louis. Another ten hours would be easy. Bison Bacon burgers and a salad bar for breakfast, and before long the gateway to the west was visible. The famous arch of St. Louis, a new home, life and beginning. I miss Vancouver.
Driving halfway across the continent is somewhat of a challenge as much as it is an adventure. What adventure isn’t challenging isn’t really worth doing. For some getting out of bed in the morning is a challenge. Going to a crappy job that you hate, asking your boss how they’re doing. Wondering where your next meal is going to come from. I’d imagine anyone in these situations wouldn’t consider such a predicament to be adventurous. The world is a challenging place and it can beat you down. I feel very fortunate that I’ve been able to do something like this. To get out and follow one’s dreams is easier said than done. I’ve always pictured myself helping others and using what I’ve accomplished to bring hope back into people’s lives. However you can’t help anyone until you’ve helped yourself. Keep your chin tucked in and you wont get knocked out, keep it up and you’ll feel the wrath of the world. I choose to keep mine somewhere in between. Watch out world. K