That was the title of the email. Short, simple, just one word. Uh oh. I just knew this wasn’t going to be good. Like when the phone rings too late at night and you don’t want to answer it because you know it’s never good news. My heart started beating really, really fast. “Oh dear God I’m afraid to open it,” I thought to myself. I stared at the screen for 5 solid minutes. Finally I clicked the email message and read the bad news from the casting agency.
“I’m sorry to say the client has decided to only use the girl. I know you’re disappointed. I’ll try to make it up to you.”
The client? World Wrestling Entertainment.
Another few moments passed. I really don’t know how long I sat there staring at my computer screen, honestly. I took a deep breath, walked upstairs and told my wife, “Well, you’ll never believe it. They’re not using me tomorrow.” She could see the disappointment in my face. Nothing “life or death”, but real disappointment. She felt badly for me, she tried to lift my spirits, but I was pretty down in the dumps.
It was Sunday, November 30th, 2008 at around 5pm. That entire weekend had been like a dream up until that point. I found out late Friday that the WWE was booking me for “something” that coming Monday afternoon. I wasn’t sure what I would be doing but I really didn’t care. The WWE was in Washington DC for Monday Night Raw and I was to be at the Verizon Center at 4pm to prep for the shoot. I was given special instructions and directions to coordinate my arrival. I was going to be working with a member of the creative team, another actress, and a WWE superstar. That’s all the information I was given. I started to speculate about what I would be doing. It’s all I could think about. I actually started to get nervous! Would I be filming a commercial? Would I being filming a backstage promo? Would I actually be in the ring Monday night during the live broadcast? Would I be sitting in the crowd and then get pulled into the ring by Beth Phoenix like I was the next Rosa Mendes?! Hmmm… probably not, but at the very least maybe I would get to meet The Glamazon backstage (I hadn’t met her up to that point).
I kept laughing at the initial email I received from the casting agency a few days before, “We’ve sent your headshot to the client. They seem interested. I’ll let you know soon. By the way, have you heard of the WWE before?” Umm… maybe once or twice. In Twitter-speak, #DEAD. That’s like asking Michael Jackson, “Hey, have you ever considered plastic surgery?” (Question – are jokes about dead people in bad taste? I say no.) When I got the official notification that Friday it provided all the details the agency knew up to that point. The client was still finalizing wardrobe, etc. but as long as I brought a few changes of clothes and was there at 4pm, we would have plenty of time to work out the details. I really couldn’t believe it…I was actually going to work with the WWE, a dream come true!
That weekend my wife and I drove to Pennsylvania to celebrate Thanksgiving with my family. Every year we also go to a big Thanksgiving party at a friend’s house, which is a nice chance to catch up with people we just don’t see very often. I wasn’t going to mention the good news. I wanted it to be a surprise so when people tuned in Monday night they would be surprised to see me standing in the middle of the ring. Can you imagine? That would have been epic. Of course then I realized, “Wait a minute. That’s impossible because none of my friends back home watch the WWE, so why would they be tuning in?!” So throughout the night I shared the good news. In truth I was so excited I probably couldn’t have gone 30 minutes and not said a word, I was practically bursting inside (plus my good friends Merlot and Cabernet were there and once we start hanging out who the hell knows what I’ll say). At one point I said to my friend Murph, “Man, I’m a little nervous, what if I trip or make a fool of myself?” Murph looked at me, put his glass down, grabbed me by my shoulders, and told me something I will never forget the rest of my life, “Forget that Buck. You walk into that ring like you own it!”
“Forget that Buck. You walk into that ring like you own it!” What amazing advice. In this case Murph was telling me not to be nervous, to just go for it, to strut in the ring like a smaller version of Mr. Vincent Kennedy McMahon. But couldn’t that message apply to all aspects of life? I have kept that thought in my mind ever since. Whether it’s starting a new job, going for an audition, or taking on a new challenge, I may fall down (and I do…a lot), but I always get back up. I don’t let myself be intimidated. I keep pushing forward. Gotta tip my cap to Murph for that one. (In fairness, we have known each other since we were 8 and that’s probably the only smart thing he has ever said to me…usually our conversation starts with “So, what do you think? 6 or 12?” and goes downhill from there.)
Upon hearing the news my friends were very excited for me. They know I love pro wrestling, and they also know I have been a marginal actor for the past 8 years so this was a nice break for me. Even though acting is just a hobby of mine they know I have dedicated a lot of time to this. Fortunately I’ve had some success over the years, landing lead roles in local independent films and television shows, as well as some national work. I filmed HBO’s “The Wire” (being on a major soundstage was cool, although I spent that night in the ER after a basketball injury, so that day is bitter sweet. Plus I got cut from the final edit of that episode… fantastic!) I shot an episode of “The Maury Povich Show” in NYC which was fun, except I kept asking for free Lion King tickets, and I’m not sure that endeared me to the producers (couldn’t they tell I was just joking?!) It’s kind of cool to be on the IMDB website, which I have bookmarked and check out 372 times a day. I also think it’s funny that I’ve been killed 5 times on camera (and let me tell you, when you are “shot” point blank range it is IMPOSSIBLE not to flinch.) However, I’ve gone on many, many auditions and never gotten a callback. I’ve bombed so bad the director had to grab a can opener and head underground. I’ve been an extra in scenes where my biggest challenge was to not fall asleep during filming. I’ve been cast in a film only to have the part later taken away because I wasn’t the “right fit” (OUCH!). It’s been a bumpy ride at times but also a great learning experience. Plus I’ve met some nice people along the way. So no complaints. Still, this booking was different…much different…because of whom the client was.
On the way back to Virginia that Sunday I just kept rolling everything around in my head. What was WWE going to have me do?? The anticipation was killing me. I started making a mental checklist of what I needed to do before I headed to the Verizon Center the next day. I needed to let my boss know that I would be leaving work early. I needed to pack a variety of clothing to be ready for any wardrobe that would be needed. Then I decided to swing into Best Buy to buy a new digital camera in case I got the chance to meet Beth backstage (we actually needed a new camera anyway, our other camera was so old Fred Flintstone used the same one on TV). When we got home I ran downstairs and checked my email to see if my agent had any additional information for me. That’s when I saw the email. “CHANGE”. Just disbelief and sadness. What a punch to the gut. Now almost 2 years later I can laugh about it, I can even joke about it, how I was all set to finally climb into a WWE ring. But that Monday night during Raw I watched the entire show like someone watching Jason and Freddie hack up a bunch of co-eds, eyes closed with my hands over my face. I swear to God, if Beth filmed a spot with this actress I would have immediately given myself a Glam Slam through the television.
It turns out that I was being considered for a WWEShop.com holiday commercial. The commercial aired during Raw and featured the actress sitting on a couch with “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan. They were talking about all the new WWE holiday gifts available (Diva snow globes, anyone?) and urging you to check out the website. It was a nice spot. The actress was stunning actually (I don’t know what that has to do with the price of eggs, but I found it… interesting) and if there is any silver lining to NOT getting the job it is that I didn’t have to spend a few hours with “Hacksaw” as he walked around in those fake sweatpants-tights-shorts that he wore the last few years in the ring. HOOOOOOOOOO!!! In the end it was a missed opportunity to film with the WWE and that still sucks. But since then I have continued to audition and occasionally I get to work on some interesting projects.
(Two embarrassing footnotes – first of all I had several friends angry with me because they watched the entire Raw that Monday night, wondering where I was. Oops. Secondly, I returned the new camera that same day and the clerk at Best Buy was a little confused since he sold it to me only 2 hours earlier. I hadn’t even opened the box yet. Even though we needed the camera I had to get it out of my house… like Bilbo’s magic ring, I could tell it was going to cause more harm than good.)
I thought about writing this column after Mia Yim’s recent guest appearance on Diva Dirt LIVE several weeks ago. As you know Mia is an up-and-comer on the indie scene and recently had a tryout with TNA. On the show Mia discussed her match vs. Taylor Wilde, and although it went well, TNA told her they currently don’t have an open spot for her. She admitted she was disappointed but what I loved was her positive attitude and motivation to continue to improve and get better in the ring. As she mentioned in the interview, you never know when TNA might come calling again in the future and that there will always be other opportunities. She closed by saying that nobody was going to stop her from doing what she loves to do. (By the way, if you missed Mia’s appearance on Diva Dirt LIVE, I suggest you go back and listen to the interview, she was a great guest!)
Mia’s positive attitude is already paying dividends. This past weekend Mia stepped in the ring with former WWE Women’s Champion Mickie James as part of a MCW show (I really wish I could have gone, the show was only about 45 minutes from my house… grrrr.) Even though Mia was beaten by Mickie, it was a great learning experience and it marked the end of her successful rookie year in the industry. It was just announced that Mia will be honored in Pro Wrestling Illustrated’s ‘One to Watch’ column in the November 2010 issue, and on Diva Dirt LIVE, Mia said she will be working the next set of SHIMMER shows in September (Mia will wrestle on the pre-show, SPARKLE on September 11 and 12). Mia is well on her way to bigger and better things!
One of the reasons I love Diva Dirt is because we cover the entire landscape of women’s professional wrestling. I know a lot about the WWE, a little about TNA, and zero about the Indies. Well, actually, that used to be the case because DD does such a good job covering the independents that I am gaining a real appreciation for the amount of talent that is out there. The misconception that all the talent works for WWE and TNA is horribly incorrect. Judging by our recent coverage of ROH, CHIKARA, SHIMMER, EVOLVE, and Wrestlicious, the indie scene is full of talented women that seem to possess a great work ethic and desire to improve. Women like Sara Del Rey, Daizee Haze, MsChif, and Mercedes Martinez seem to be big favorites amongst the fans.
I find it interesting to see how wrestlers who are let go by major promotions, stars such as Awesome Kong, travel the country and integrate into the indie scene. Kong and former TNA Knockout Raisha Saeed reunited recently at the ECW Arena in Philadelphia where they were beaten Sara Del Rey & Daizee Haze. At a recent ROH show, Awesome Kong made another appearance and this time defeated Sara Del Rey. The longest reigning champion in all of women’s wrestling, WSU World Champion Mercedes Martinez, who recently surpassed her 500th day as champion, made her 28th World Title defense, defeating Tina San Antonio at a recent EVOLVE show. It was then announced Amazing (Awesome) Kong will be her next challenger. Kong’s presence is great for the indie scene because it sells tickets but also allows these indie workers to learn from a girl with big time experience. As mentioned earlier Mickie James is also booking indie shows (like the one vs. Mia Yim) and Japanese legend Manami Toyota will make her American debut this September. An indie scene that features so many up-and-coming stars, as well as solid veterans, gives fans of women’s wrestling really exciting choices and variety in who they cheer for.
I applaud Mia Yim for her fighting spirit, for her ability to charge ahead and pursue her dream. To me that is a wonderful quality in someone and it deserves a great deal of respect. I always say that “people are their own worst enemies”. Self-doubt and lack of motivation are often times the major influences that hold people back from taking on new challenges or reaching new successes. It is important to keep pushing, to maintain a PMA (“Positive Mental Attitude”, a phrase Beth uses a lot during her rehab process… God, I miss her). Whatever challenges you face in your own lives, take heart in Mia’s story, lace up your boots, and make sure you “walk in that ring like you own it.”
Thanks Murph. Cheers!
— Mr. Glamazon
PS – I did have a tryout scheduled with KYDA pro wrestling in Manassas, VA a few years ago. I was going to audition to be a ring announcer! They had an opening and I figured since I have been imitating Howard Finkel for the past 25 years I was qualified to handle the job. They asked me to come in and meet everybody, and then to go to some of their shows to see how it all fit together. Major problem – the shows were really far from my house and I didn’t feel like driving 4 hours to bumble-fart West Virginia just to announce a few matches (I never could have worked for Stampede Wrestling in Calgary). Oh well, maybe someday I’ll get to finally step into the ring. PMA!!
PPS – If you have a question about the Divas, Knockouts, the indies, or anything else (TV, music, movies, whatever)…send me an email at ‘[email protected]’ and I will include it in my mailbag next week! Let’s have some fun with this, so be creative!
PPPS – Check me out on Twitter @dlb19338. By the way, “TalkinWrasslin” is lucky follower #100. If that person is interested in a signed King Kong Bundy LJN action figure, send me an email and I’ll make it happen. Oh, and the figure is signed by me and is missing a lot of paint, but other than that it is a great collectible.