I remember it like it was yesterday. Twenty years ago, April 23, 1999, I was pacing back and forth at my parents’ house in Climax, Michigan, the house where I grew up, the house where I fell in love with professional wrestling. I had just finished my Freshman year at Western Michigan University. Far more important than anything I felt I learned in a class from a book was what I knew was ahead the following day.
April 24, 1999, I stepped into a professional wrestling ring for the very first time, performing the duties of a ring announcer for Real American Wrestling in Bangor, Michigan. When I look back, it seems almost impossible that I have been lucky enough to be part of the professional wrestling industry for twenty years.
I’ve been reflecting a lot the last few days knowing the big 2-0 is Wednesday. I’ve thought about the bad. I’ve thought about the good. I’ve thought about the bitter. I’ve thought about sweet. I’ve thought about it all. No matter what successes anyone perceives I have or have not had in that time, I wanted to boil down 20 years of failures and successes, trials and errors into a few simple points. Maybe someone will find value in it. Maybe it’ll just make me feel validated summarizing a twenty year run in a relatively brief blog.
If I had to boil down the last twenty years into a few points I’ve learned from and I hope others may learn from as well, it might look something like this.
• Ears open, mouth shut! This is far from a Kevin Harvey original. This is something you hear from virtually anyone who teaches wrestling or is a veteran performer offering advice to younger generations. Why do I say this? I say this because a lot of times in hindsight, I know I would have just been better off to keep my mouth and/or keyboard shut. I know full well there are opportunities I gave up and others that passed me by because of this.
• It’s ok to admit that maybe the role you have played the longest or are most comfortable playing might not be the best role for you. It took me the better part of 20 years to realize that I feel I offer far more value behind curtains and cameras than in front of them. I spent the majority of my time in various announcing and hosting roles. Sure, I can do them. I was maybe even pretty ok at some of them. But after all that time, I got out of those comfort zones. I found something that reignited my passion for wrestling. And I like to think I found places and roles with the companies I work with and work for now that offer for more value to them, their talent and their fans.
• There may come a time in your years in wrestling when you have to come to terms with the fact that “the big time” might not be in your future. It’s on you to determine how you process that and how you deal with that. It is a hard pill to swallow. Even if you might not ever go there, it doesn’t mean your experience is nullified. It doesn’t mean all that work was for nothing.
Maybe, just maybe, it means all your experience, all your hardships and all your victories still can mean the world to you. And maybe they can mean the world to someone else too.
Maybe, just maybe, you can put all that energy you used to put into “making it” and the experience and perspective you have into helping others find their way there.
Twenty years later, I’m as happy as I’ve ever been, and that’s knowing that my time to “make it” is gone.
I don’t know that I would have wished for this 20 years ago. But today, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
April 24, 1999: I did this for me.
April 24, 2019: I do it for them.