Rock & Wrestling:The Chris Taylor Story

“That’s a feeling that makes you hungry, you feed off of it, you need it, its a drug.”

You’ve heard countless performers, regardless of the genre, speak about the adrenaline rush of a live audience, the thrill of the performance that keeps them on cloud nine for hours after the final curtain falls on their particular stage for that night.

Just last weekend, “Shattered,” a Pittsburgh rock band held their album release party at a civic association venue in Western, Pennsylvania where their latest offering, “Darker Days” made its official debut. In true rock star form, Chris Taylor, the band’s front man, had his foot perched on a speaker with microphone in hand as the musical group jammed for the crowd in attendance.

“Darker Days definitely lives up to its title, a lot of my song writing comes from past experiences. I had a bit of a rough upbringing so this was an outlet for me to unleash those demons, it was very rewarding even if it made me dig into some dark places,” Taylor said when he reflected on the album release.

When Chris Taylor isn’t perched on a speaker at a musical gig, it’s not uncommon for him to be perched on the top rope of a wrestling ring, as he’s nearly a 23-year veteran of the squared circle. Throughout his time inside the ring ropes, Taylor built a reputation as a well-rounded, versatile performer that was adaptable enough to fill the role required on any given night, often zigzagging around several states over the past two decades.

Playing in bands as far back as his middle school years, Taylor cites the similarities between the two entertainment ventures as a premium asset within each field.

“Honestly, it’s not very different at all. Not only do you have to have music people want to listen to, but your stage presence, charisma, and look have to grab people immediately. As important as the music is, the show is equally as important, being able to work the crowd for example, taking them through those peaks and valleys, bringing them on your journey, and giving them something that hopefully they want to see again,” said Taylor.

Taylor’s start in the pro wrestling business was very similar to when he started in bands at 14, he played jam sessions in garages or any space where the band mates could bring their equipment with only the aspirations of rock glory throughout his mind. His introduction to sports entertainment offered no glitz or glamour either. After he attended the King of The Ring pay-per-view at the Igloo, the former venue where the Penguins glided on the ice in the NHL, the teenage Taylor decided he wanted to be a professional wrestler after he saw the death-defying feats of Mick Foley and The Undertaker during the legendary cell match. Sports entertainment went from a family tradition around the television to a goal that the youngster was determined to accomplish.

Far away from the bright lights of pay-per-view that lured him onto the path of pro wrestling, Taylor began to learn the ropes just a few years later when he was only 16 and found himself inside of a dingy building with no heat or air conditioning. The no frills lessons on a dirt-stained canvas were a harsh reality check for the young man that had to finish his biology homework with mat burns on his elbows later that evening. The now-defunct NWA East organization offered its school and it was under those bare bones circumstances that Taylor got a valuable wrestling education that provided the foundation for the more than two decade career that he has today. Quinn Magnum, one of the most respected and tenured figures in the Pittsburgh area, 25-year pro Brandon K, longtime veteran Bigg, and independent standout of that era, Dirk Ciglar all had a hand in the grappling teachings that schooled Taylor on the mechanics of the mat.

“I think I had a great mixture of old school discipline, but they weren’t out to break anybody for the sake of it. However, they made you work for it, earn it, respect it,” commented Taylor.

Chris Taylor’s pro wrestling debut had an equal level of pomp and circumstance at the end of 2001 when he and fellow trainee, Lance Dayton, still at the age of 16, competed in the no-so-well known destination of Parkersburg, West Virginia in front of a capacity crowd of roughly 40 fans.

Thankfully for Taylor, much like his musical endeavors, his wrestling career began to ascend as well, becoming the previously mentioned staple of the Pittsburgh indy scene over the years. In stark contrast to the few dozen fans that witnessed his first match, a few hundred fans were in attendance for his most recent bout when he clashed with ECW legend, The Sandman for the Renegade Wrestling Alliance in West Newton, Pennsylvania just a few weeks ago.

“I mean, there are so many to count working with heroes of mine like Gangrel, Tommy Dreamer, and The Sandman were incredible. My feuds with Jack Pollock, Ryan Mitchell, Ryan Edmonds, The Rev, and Memphis Mofo are easily in there. Spending weeks with Rowdy Piper, Hacksaw, and Shane Douglas filming Pro Wrestlers vs. Zombies was literally not real life,” Taylor said of the vast highlights of his career.

While it can be a difficult balancing act to spend late nights in the studio to find the perfect melody or lyric on a Friday and then tumble to the canvas of a wrestling ring on a Saturday, Taylor has managed to juggle wrestling some of his idols at the same time that he elevated his music.

“In terms of Darker Days. I joined Shattered a little over five years ago so this album is actually the first we wrote and recorded together. I think organically we took our song writing into multiple different directions, some of it was even a bit experimental for us, but it turned out great. We are really excited for it.

In a true reflect of the qualities that each pursuit share, the musical business can brings with it the same ups and downs as the sports entertainment industry.

“It’s a lot of times a thankless form of entertainment to be in, much like wrestling. You’ll find yourself out there sometimes in front of very few, giving your heart and soul to your craft, and sometimes those moments can be frustrating, even deflating. But, then you have those shows that make everything worth it, especially when you play with national acts. Those are the best crowds, they are an audience that’s there to hear original music and are excited to hear original bands. Those shows make it all worth it,” Taylor commented.

Chris Taylor is slated for a rematch with the previously mentioned Hardcore Icon, The Sandman, this time in a tag team contest as the combination of Taylor and J-Rocc square off with the duo of “Big League” John McChesney and the brawler that made the Singapore cane famous long before it was common place in the industry. The contest is scheduled for the RWA organization this Saturday at their home base in West Newton, Pennsylvania.

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Until next week
-Jim LaMotta

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