After the Cruiserweight Classic in 2016 I was simply told, "Thank you. We will let you know if any other opportunities come up in the near future." I've heard this time and again throughout my career in wrestling. I believe that in life, no one is truly owed anything, and I am not one to get my hopes up or my heart set on accomplishments that are not in my control. That said, being eliminated in the second round of WWE's historic tournament was in as many ways a wake up call as it was a major accomplishment.
Back in 2004, after spending a year on the ring crew and helping to clean up after live events at CZW, my brother Rory and I were invited to the wrestling school an hour away in Deptford, NJ. The hour is made up of mostly traffic to anyone local doing the math between there and Northeast Philly. He was given a piece of paper with a waiver on it the week prior and we put both our names on it and had our Mom sign it. Our friend Pugsley drove us to the school in his pickup truck and we started training together that summer.
Zandig, CZW Owner/Deathmatch Icon, would run class here and there, Jon Dahmer being the head trainer at the time with DJ Hyde assisting. I remember Zandig took us outside and very bluntly told us we probably wouldn't "make it." He was simply being honest having seen so many people come thorough the school thinking they could just jump into a pro wrestling ring and live out whatever fantasy they had in mind. I've seen it many times myself. Whatever you want to pursue in life you have to be all in. And you have to want to be all in. You could never be let down if so.
Whenever an opportunity falls through I always remember that according to the boss we weren't supposed to make it. This is why I never get my hopes up. I love every aspect of what I do and as long as I get to share it in some way I am fulfilled.
A few weeks after the end of the Cruiserweight classic I got a last minute text message to be at RAW for a Cruiserweight appearance. I cancelled family plans, a common theme in this line of work if you let it become one, and it was game time. This went on for weeks without a contract or the promise of being signed to one. People have expressed to me that without a guarantee they would be worried. The truth is I had been living my life without guarantees since I turned 10 and we upped and moved one summer with my Grandparents into the city. It was reinforced when I started training in pro wrestling. It was reinforced every time I got an opportunity to perform in the ring whether it was training or in front of paying customers. Nothing in life is guaranteed.
When the decision to begin 205 Live was made, within days the Cruiserweight division was sitting in a meeting with the show's creators and directors. We were all told it was to become a touring brand with an identity of its own and everyone I knew was excited about the prospect. Then came the growing pains.
Growing pains are a necessary process in life. It's not truly a negative. It simply refers to the stress of tackling problems and creating new ones and they exist in anything that experiences growth or change. The roster has changed, the format was different, and everything we were doing was being "thrown into the deep end." I saw a lot of the same fear of uncertainty arise over the last year that I saw in others throughout my career. The stress of growing pains can toll heavy on a group but it tolls heavier on the individual. At the end of the day you are only accountable for your own actions and not for the ideals of others.
It has been over one year and 205 Live is still WWE's newest brand. It operates independently and coherently with the RAW brand, which is considered an anchor of WWE's programming. And now we are being granted another opportunity in the form of our first independent live touring events this January. Only one year into the development of an entire cast of performers will we be getting a chance to interact and perform intimately under the 205 Live banner.
I think back to all the opportunities I have been so lucky to have been a part of during my career doing what I love: Trying out at CZW, debuting in 2005, Winning championships there, touring the independents for promotions like CHIKARA, EVOLVE, and PWG, traveling abroad and learning all over the world, sharing it with my friends and my brother in particular, earning a tryout with WWE and not being called back until the Cruiserweight Classic a year later, earning a spot on 205 Live and eventually becoming a contracted member of a professional wrestling federation turned entertainment conglomerate that I had watched and studied my entire childhood.
Respect isn't given, it is earned. Opportunities aren't given, they are earned. Failure is normal. Change is normal. As long as you are able to find true enjoyment and fulfillment then the rest just becomes part of the process.
The next part of that process takes place January 20th in Lowell, MA and January 21st in Poughkeepsie, NY. Tickets and event information is below. Everyone on the 205 Live roster is extremely excited to be a part of this very personal milestone in the WWE.