There is nothing like performing in front of a crowd. The fun moments and the thrills I experienced in wrestling, even at the independent or NXT scale, are unforgettable. There really is nothing like having the full attention of an entire arena teeming with enthusiastic people. That time in the spotlight- even if lasts just a moment, even if it’s just a taste- is unlike anything else in the known universe.
And that’s really what it’s all about: being the center of attention. The whole thing is a bit selfish. (I know, accusing professional wrestlers of being “selfish” is a stretch…) But it IS selfish. It is selfish and self-centered. As a performer, of course, yes, you want to give the fans the emotional response they paid for and make them happy and give them something to talk about at work or school the next day… but, there is also an undeniable feeling of, “Hey. This is all about me. I’m cool. Wow, that kid is wearing my t-shirt. I’m the best guy ever!”
If I were to fly in a spaceship, with astronauts, and I got to go on a little tour of outer space and see it all (stars, planets, comets, alien bug people, etc) up close, it would be really cool. Like, really, really cool. It would be an amazing experience. Are you kidding me? A private tour of outer space? That would truly be a one of a kind opportunity. But…it still wouldn’t be the same as having people clap for me.
“Oh, you went to outer space? That’s cool. But…that kid is wearing my t-shirt. I’m the best guy ever!”
See what I mean? It’s kind of pathetic. We’re hooked on that attention, that approval from fans in the crowd. We thrive on it. We know we’re good at something, and we want everyone to watch us do it. Performers are selfish, self-centered egomaniacs. You can’t get around it. It’s not even necessarily a bad thing. It’s just how it is.
This need for attention is really the backbone of why I relocated to Los Angeles. Although it is not always my favorite place to live, LA is a city where performers can…well, perform. There is nowhere else like it. There is nowhere else that a guy like me could say, “Hey, you know what? I want to write, shoot, and direct a web series. And I want to do it with John Morrison, and I want to do it today,” and then it actually happens.
No, seriously. You can do it. We did it. Here’s proof:
The year or so I’ve lived in LA has been filled with opportunities to satisfy my undeniable and unquenchable urge to perform. I am lucky enough to join the comedy team “Flying Chuck” on stage regularly. Flying Chuck is a wildly talented crew of comedians and actors, all of whom are also rabid wrestling fans. The Flying Chuck crew (Brett Guenell, Andy St. Clair, Sam Richardson, Brian Hunt, Marc Warzecha, Josh Callahan, Morrison and I) performs regularly at Second City Hollywood, and welcomes a different guest host each show. The hosts, as you might imagine, are notable figures from the professional wrestling world. Recent past hosts include Gangrel, Cryme Tyme, Brad Maddox, Rocky Romero, NXT’s Judas Devlin and Bronson, and most recently (and most frequently), a guy I know really well, WWE Superstar Dolph Ziggler.
Imagine this: Your nerves are going insane. You’re shaking. The excited, sweaty, mind-emptying thrill of knowing you’re “up next” has completely taken over your entire being. You walk out there. The lights are blinding, but you can tell the place is sold-out. Nice. You stand there, smiling and soaking in the applause. Then it hits you: this is not a wrestling ring, and this is not an arena. This is a stage, and it’s in a comedy club. But it isn’t just any stage, and this isn’t just any comedy club. This is an institution, one which is famous for grooming mega comedy stars. People like Belushi. People like Chris Farley. Tim Meadows. Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Stephen Colbert, Steve Carell…the list goes on and on and on for decades. And you’re on that stage. Wow. I mean…wow.
I get to do this. I get to perform on this stage. And it’s awesome. I get to do this with people who set the bar in comedy, people who make a living writing, directing, and acting in major film and stage productions (this is where I’m typing this and thinking, “Holy sh&$- I really get to perform WITH these guys?” and I remind MYSELF how awesome it is, even while I’m typing ABOUT how awesome it is). I get to do this with someone I befriended while wrestling in NXT, John Morrison. And sometimes I even get to do this with someone I befriended way before that, back when was a little baby, my older brother Dolph.
Even as I type it, I can’t really believe it. I’m so happy and I’m so grateful. I get to walk out there, out on that massively special stage, and I get to make people laugh. I recall once seeing a twenty-something girl in the third row laugh so hard that she ejected a wad of boogers from her nose. Whoever you are, poor twenty-something girl, and I’m sorry to call you out here, watching you shoot huge snots out of your nose was such a rush. From the bottom of my heart, I thank you for that. I thank you because your involuntary reaction was a reminder, albeit a gruesome one, of the power we hold as performers: we have the power to make you laugh so hard that you shoot gross slimy sh$% out of your nostrils. (If you’re reading this, Booger Girl, don’t be embarrassed: the theatre is kind of dark- I’m sure no one else noticed. Your Booger Secret is safe.)
I hope the wrestling fans who come to our live shows, or who watch this new web series [http://youtu.be/EO9Spjf4PNA] appreciate the talents we have outside of a wrestling ring. I hope you realize that we live to perform for you. Even if it’s in a slightly different medium (not sports entertainment, but ENTERTAINMENT entertainment) we do truly live to perform for you and to make you happy. I’m not just saying that. It’s a fact. Yes, there is the whole rush/thrill/endorphins thing, and the need for attention, and the power-hungry egos who will stop at nothing to be in the spotlight and all that, yes, yes, yes, of course, of course…but it all comes back to YOU. It’s all for you. I hope you realize that there exists in the spectrum of human experience a palpable feeling of utter joy- one which is unmatched by anything in this world- and that this particular brand of joy comes from making a girl in the third row shoot a stream of snots out of her nose.
What do you think? Comment below with your thoughts, opinions, feedback and anything else that was raised.
About Ryan: Ryan Nemeth is former WWE NXT Superstar “Briley Pierce.” He is the author of the humorous novel I Can Make-Out with Any Girl Here (available on Amazon.com) and writes for PWMania.com. Follow him on Twitter @HotYoungBriley.