A carnival of characters, each with a story to tell

There are painted warriors and hitmen, tattooed tough guys and brawling body builders.

Some are fat, some are skinny, some are chiseled and even more are somewhere in between.

Super heroes and villains, dastardly heels and bravado-brimming babyfaces, they are comedians and clowns, aerial acrobats and grounded grapplers.

It is a band of brief-clad brothers striving to please an audience, follow a passion and earn a living.

From curtain jerkers and jobbers to champions and main eventers, they make up a cavalcade of characters not often seen at your everyday job, though most of them hold one down.

They are all gathered on a Sunday afternoon in Glendale ready to put on a show. Littered throughout a makeshift second-story locker room at the Glendale Studios, professional wrestlers of all shapes, sizes, colors and backgrounds are practicing holds, going over spots and preparing for their time to shine.

At a July taping of "NWA Championship Wrestling from Hollywood," much like the diverse gathering of performers there is a gamut of goings-on throughout the second story where some are prepping for promos, others are going over the last details of their matches and still some are relaxing as if it is just another day at the office.

It is an odd scene, but one they're used to, for the most part, though many of them are seemingly very different, not just at first glance, but in who they are and where they've come from.

But on this afternoon they've all come together in one place and the question begs: Just who are these people that call themselves professional wrestlers?

Long ago in Chicago

"Scrap Iron" Adam Pearce and Colt "Boom Boom" Cabana have both come from the same place.

It's a Sunday afternoon in Glendale, but on Saturday night in Kansas City, Pearce and Cabana were the main event, this time seeing Pearce get the better of his rival and bringing to a start his fifth NWA world title reign.

"I'm used to it by now," Pearce, 34, said of the mind-spinning travel. "But that doesn't make it suck any less."

Before Saturday night's title tilt, both Cabana and Pearce were in Chicago. But that was long ago, when two Illinois high school football players began their journeys to the crazy world of professional wrestling.

Pearce's dream was to play college football, but the highly-touted offensive tackle never got the chance, as he was stricken with Acute Muscular Compartment Syndrome in both of his lower legs. It forced surgery and the end of his days on the gridiron. But a career in pro wrestling awaited, one that's seen him trot the glob for a variety of promotions.

Meanwhile, Cabana, who played football at a rival high school, was a defensive end who was given his shot in the college football ranks. Alas, the only job he ever wanted was that of a professional wrestler.

"Always," Cabana, 32, said. "It's the only thing I wanted to do. ... I just had the mindset that that's what I wanted to do."

Now, it's what both do, making a living on the independent scene of professional wrestling, often traveling far from their native Illinois, but seemingly never too far from being two football players who traveled similar paths to get to the same place.

"It's been fulfilling on a number of levels," Pearce said. "Me and Colt go back to when we were teenagers in Chicago."

Now, in the wrestling world they're fierce rivals, traveling the country currently with the NWA strap on the line during a best-of-seven series entitled "Seven Levels of Hate" that's seen them spill blood and sweat in "I quit," "first blood," and "dog collar" matches to name a few.

"We're touring it around, almost like a band or a circus," said Cabana, who leads the series, 3-2, and will look to close it out when the two meet again on Sept. 30 in a Texas death match in Oregon.

On this particular day, though, Pearce didn't fly in straight from Kansas City, he stopped by his home in San Diego, if for only a few hours, to see his wife and two kids.

"That's the most important thing to me," said Pearce of being a family man. "I'm a passionate guy. For the business, but in life also."

But through the grind of main-event matches in towns big and small and all the forsaken travel, Pearce and Cabana share the same passion and ability to turn it on when they emerge from the curtain and hit the ring.

"There's something about me that I can flip a switch and grab that legitimate reaction," Pearce said. "I've been very lucky that I've been able to use that and make a living doing it for 17 years."

And fortunately for the aspiring offensive lineman who became a world wrestling champion, along the way he found a worth adversary who just happened to be a lifelong friend.

"It's crazy to think about," Cabana said of his history with Pearce.

Said Pearce: "It's a beautiful thing. When you find a camaraderie and a chemistry with a performer and it resonates with people, [you] ride that wave."

From scrubs to tights ... and back

When James Morgan broke his collarbone, he knew it right away.

Not because of his 13 years in the business of wrestling, but because of his other job as a registered nurse.

"The bad thing about being in the medical world, as soon as it happened, I knew what happened," Morgan said.

Even worse was that the injury wreaked havoc on both jobs. But Morgan still appeared on weekly broadcasts as a color commentator, as the affable 29-year-old has seemingly found his niche as a wrestling heel.

"It's fun," Morgan said of being a bad guy. "You get to say things you normally wouldn't, but are thinking."

Morgan works three to four days a week as a nurse, turning in 12-hour shifts, but he readily admits that nothing gets him going like his time in front of a live, wrestling crowd.

"Love it, I look forward to it," Morgan said of performing. "It's something I look forward to all the time."

Thus, like those he shares a locker room with, he's hoping to find the bright lights of the pro wrestling big time that is World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) or Total Nonstop Action (TNA) Impact Wrestling.

"If the opportunity presented itself, I would [move on]," Morgan said. "I always know nursing will be there, wrestling won't."

For now, though, he's happy going from one wardrobe to the next.

"Part of the time, I'm wearing my pajamas to work," Morgan said. "Part of the time, I'm wearing my tights."

The Sky's the limit

These are busy times for the 29-year-old Scorpio Sky. Embroiled in a feud with rival Willie Mack over the NWA TV title, he also recently got his shot with TNA under the moniker of Mason Andrews.

"It's been pretty crazy, actually," Sky said. "Flying back and forth."

But it's a dream Sky will keep on chasing. He's not the biggest, but he boasts an aerial style complemented with stiff strikes and kicks reminiscent of the mixed-martial-arts world.

"I'm a huge MMA fan," Sky said. "I think it works nowadays. It just adds a more realistic element to the match."

Like most in the business, Sky is simply trying to make a name, climb the ladder and stand out in the eyes of promoters and fans alike with a style all his own.

"I realized I'm never gonna be Hulk Hogan," Sky said. "I'm 5-10, 190 pounds, slim, trim, I'm built like a fighter, why not portray that. It makes it more believable."

The Sleezy Angels Fan

His trademark thick mustache hanging below a pair of old-school aviator sunglasses, sporting a T-shirt with the motto "Legalize Sleeze" emblazoned across it, Joey Ryan almost oozes into the ring.

He's met with a quip from a woman in the front row who bellows, "Shave your mustache."

To which he retorts without hesitation, "I'll shave mine if you shave yours."

Fast forward a few hours and Ryan, 32, has symbolically showered all the sleaze off him as he makes his way into an adjacent room to greet fans and sit down for an interview, but not before he's found ESPN on the TV and a pivotal game between the Texas Rangers and his beloved Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. The Temple City High graduate could just as easily talk for hours on end about the Halos' pitching rotation, their bullpen travails and who they should go after at the trade deadline as he could the state of the business that earns him a living.

But these days, Ryan just may be hitting his stride with a prominent role in NWA Hollywood and an ongoing opportunity with TNA. Alas, Ryan's a realist whose goals of reaching the pinnacle of WWE or TNA have been dialed down.

"My goals in wrestling have changed," Ryan said. "What I do now is roll with the punches. Now I just let everything slide.

"It's just like any other industry, you get your highs and lows. Hopefully your positives outweigh your negatives."

It's often said in wrestling that the most successful are those who simply portray themselves with the volume dialed way up. Ryan is a contradiction to that, having conjured up his sleazy persona that's somewhere in the neighborhood of a creepy Magnum PI.

"That's not me at all," Ryan said. "It's really just a character I came up with and committed to."

He's committed to the wrestling business, as well, and all the good and bad that comes with it. He's embraced the reality of it all, growing a fan base by doggedly using social media and coming to an understanding that he has to make a living whether he's touring the independents or one day earning his shot in the big time.

"I feel like being an independent contractor and being on the independent scene for 12 years, you have to build your fan base and keep them informed. I'm on [Twitter] a lot. It's definitely helped my success, I feel very thankful," Ryan says. "You have to embrace the fans."

The Fannypack Mafia

"These guys are gonna take over the tag team world by storm," color commentator Stu Stone boasts as Ray Rosas and "Pretty" Peter Avalon make their way to the ring, their waists covered not with title belts, but with fannypacks. "These people love these guys."

For the 26-year-old Rosas and the 23-year-old Avalon, the odd combination of over-the-top mannerisms, a couple of fannypacks and high-flying skills have turned the young heels into burgeoning faces.

"We're just doing the same thing," Rosas said. "Now, [the fans are] just into it."

Rosas and Avalon are very much into making a future for themselves in an industry they've always wanted to be a part of.

"[We're] holding down a couple jobs to pay for our addiction of wrestling," Rosas said.

Rosas has been buoyed by a supportive family, while Avalon is just the opposite.

"My folks still hate it," Avalon says.

The young, burgeoning tag team loves it though, and is doing its best to improve and grow, no matter the obstacles, which are many for any aspiring grappler, much less the likes of Avalon and Rosas, who are far on the lighter side of 200 pounds.

"I think we do have to work harder cause we're smaller," Rosas said.

Still, they keep on working, remaining humble in a business in which learning and being respectful to those who've come before you are paramount.

"Compared to a year ago, I'm leaps and bounds better," Rosas said. "It's all about getting to higher places and working with better people and that's how you get better."

On this day, Rosas and Avalon are pretty dang good, overwhelming the Glendale Studios crowd with a riveting match against Ryan and Johnny Goodnight that would've stole the show had it not been rivaled by stellar showdowns between Shaun Ricker and Ryan Taylor and a TV title tilt between Sky and Willie Mack.

"They're digging it," said Avalon of the fans' support. "We'll see where we can take it."

Having a fun time

Sex appeal isn't in abundance at NWA Hollywood, as women's matches have been absent for a while. But Shelly Martinez more than makes up for the lack of sex appeal all by herself.

While she easily and nicely fills out a dress, mesmerizing eyes, a soft smile and a bit of an alternative appeal have aided the raven-haired beauty in a veteran career that's seen her work for both the WWE and TNA. It is the realm of NWA Hollywood and other independent organizations that she gladly calls home, though.

"I just prefer the feel of the independent scene. It's kind of like a punk rock-type of feel. That's where I fit in best. I'm happiest with what I'm doing now," says Martinez, often known as "Funtime" Shelly. "It helped me re-fall in love with wrestling again."

An aspiring actress, as well, Martinez has carved a niche for herself in a veteran career that's spanned a dozen years.

"It's my gig that pays the bills," she says. "It's kind of all I know."

She knows it well, too, and the people within it. Thus, in the crazy world that is wrestling, she's well aware that when you find the people that are the right kind of crazy, you stay around them, which is just what she's doing.

"Wrestling is a hard business," she says. "So when you find the right people you stick with them."

It's an arduous task for any performer to predict where they'll be working from one month to the next, much less one year to the other. But for those who have found their passion in and around the squared circle, they know they'll always be within the world of pro wrestling.

"For sure, whether I like it or not," Martinez says.

The Rick

When the wrestling world — and a good deal of the mainstream — was abuzz with wrestling fever in the late 1990s, Shaun Ricker was a drum major who became a cross-country runner with a body far removed from the 230-pound frame that greets fans that he refers to as "dummies" here and now.

He always had aspirations of being a pro wrestler, though.

"I wanted to be Steve Austin, I wanted to be the Rock," he says. "I was always the guy who liked the main guy."

He wanted to be the Rock so much that he even created a Rock-esque alter ego called "The Rick," who could always get a good laugh from his close buddies who were equally enamored with wrestling.

"I don't think I ever seriously believed it would be a career," said Ricker, admitting his goals early were mild. "I just [wanted] to go and maybe they'll let me in the ring and get on the top rope and jump off."

Ricker's now climbed to the top rope many times and he keeps climbing and climbing as he's a rising commodity in NWA Hollywood that seems poised for larger endeavors.

Ricker hasn't reached star status just yet, though, and currently makes ends meet moonlighting as a waiter at a swanky Southern California cafe. But it's not about to hold him back from reaching the next level. After all "The Rick" just couldn't let that happen.

"I feel like I've really caught on to something. I feel like my work in the ring and on the mic has never been better," he says. "I'm on my way up. I definitely have some opportunities coming up.

"It's time to grab the brass ring."


And still there are more, up and comers such as Nick Madrid, Johnny Yuma and Taylor. There are oddities like the Manimal, Pinky and Terex. Some will make it, most will not and yet they'll continue to take risks that far outweigh the rewards.

As much as they're very much the everyman, pro wrestlers are also very much a different breed. They are a carnival of characters that, at least for one day, brought their one-of-a-kind show to Glendale hoping to dazzle the fans, feed themselves and their families and track down their dreams.

Says Martinez: "To be a wrestler is just another world."

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