How easy is it to break into the wrestling business?

How easy is it to break into the wrestling business?

By Dave Bradshaw


Just how easy is it to break into the pro wrestling business? The typical answer that you’ll hear to a question like this, at least from long-time pros, will vary wildly from person to person. In truth, the most common answer will often be something akin to “how long is a piece of string?”. While this might be somewhat of a reasonable response, especially as the answer can indeed vary widely from person to person, it’s far from being actionable intel of any kind. But fear not, as that’s what this blog intends to provide; actionable intel on breaking into the wrestling industry.


So, let’s first begin with an answer to the most complex of questions in this regard and attempt to work backwards from there.


Question: How long exactly is a piece of string?


Answer: It’s as long as you decide to cut it.


The same is very much true of breaking into the pro wrestling industry.


By this point, you might be wondering why I, of all people, might be well placed to have an opinion on the matter. This is not only a fair question to ask but also one of the very lessons you’ll learn from our teachers and mentors in Wrestling Masterclass; how qualified is the person you’re hearing or learning from? With that in mind, I’ll spend just a few sentences giving you an overview, before promptly returning to assist with your very own journey into professional wrestling mastery.


My name is Dave Bradshaw and pro wrestling has been my full-time income for some time now. I have worked in the industry as a commentator, journalist, researcher (and even assistant booker on several occasions) for well over 15 years. Oh, and like many of you, I have never taken a proper bump, let alone been a pro wrestler. I have commentated for multiple major companies, including being the English commentator for the global television versions of New-Japan and AAA, which aired in 34 countries worldwide. I’ve also been fortunate enough to do play-by-play for many European promotions, both past and present, including WCPW and wXw. And I’ve had the honour of calling matches featuring Cody Rhodes, Kurt Angle, Rey Mysterio, Will Ospreay, Gunther, plus many more.


I also currently supplement my commentary work being a wrestling magazine writer and researcher for YouTube wrestling videos. Oh, and likely more relevant to this article, I was also the person tasked with researching thousands of pages of books and articles, along with conducting countless interviews with wrestling insiders and experts (a handful of which you can listen to yourself as part of the course) to create Wrestling Masterclass module scripts  – read out by So Cal Val and Laurie Blake, the courses hosts.


In short, I’ve both walked the path that many of you surely want to tread, and I’ve also now interviewed so many other, way more qualified, veterans on the subject at hand. Hopefully, this will put your mind at rest that I at least know enough about it to be able to provide some useful guidance here.


Now, let’s get back to deciding how long our fictional piece of string should be and exactly how to cut it. By ‘string’, I of course mean your own version of success when breaking into pro wrestling.


In Module 1 of Wrestling Masterclass, we spend a fair amount of time helping our students to really decide on exactly what ‘cutting the string’ looks like to them personally. Different people have different perceptions of what ‘breaking into pro wrestling’ means. For some, simply getting in a wrestling ring is enough. For others, it’s appearing on their first live show or receiving their first paid gig. For a decent sized handful, it might be making their first overseas booking. For a few, success may only count when they finally appear at WrestleMania itself! Irrespective of what you deem it to look like, there are a few commonalities that virtually all who take their first steps into the industry will encounter.  Many of these steps will also hold powerful influence over just how ‘easy’ the chosen version of ‘breaking in’ then becomes.


What separates wrestling from other physical ‘sports’ (if we can call it that for the sake of this article) is just how dependent the trajectory to success will ultimately be on other people’s approval. Take an Olympic 100-metre sprinter for example. It really makes little difference if his coach, the fans or even the entire Olympic committee like his attitude or not. If he is the fastest man on the planet, he’s going to the Olympics and will presumably win gold, irrespective of the opinion of anybody else. Wrestling is the exact opposite – much to the detriment of those who don’t learn how to ‘play the game’. Triple H was clearly onto something, right?


As Wrestling Masterclass takes most people a solid 15 - 25 hours to get through completely, it leaves this article with a problem. That being, we simply can’t list all of the countless hidden tips and tricks which our Wrestling Masterclass mentors have shared in order to make your journey into pro wrestling as smooth as it possibly can be. This is even more true because the Wrestling Masterclass video course itself has at least two entire modules centred around this very topic with, ‘Breaking In The Right Way’ (Module 10), and ‘Becoming A Success’ (Module 11). But fear not, dear reader! There are a few things that can be shared in this article that will certainly help you on your way towards success in your chosen endeavour. That word, ‘endeavour’, means something very different in pro wrestling circles than it did only a year or two ago, huh What follows are my top five elements, which intend to aid in making the process as smooth as possible. 


5. Setting the right expectations early


What you expect to get out of something often has a direct correlation to exactly how you feel about it when you receive it. You see, how easy (or hard) breaking into the wrestling business is for someone often has a lot to do with the expectations they set initially themselves. Guess what? If you expect to have a light travel schedule, ignore good wrestling etiquette and veterans’ feedback, and make wrestling your full-time living before you’ve even learned the basics of how the industry works, then - in the words of Wade Barrett - I’m afraid I have some bad news. You almost certainly won’t be main eventing WrestleMania three years from now, however confident you are in your abilities. On the contrary, I think you’re going to find breaking into the wrestling business more challenging than you first assumed.


However, if you’re willing to learn and ‘do the work’, explore how to be of service and value to others around you, and are realistic about how quickly you can increase the percentage of your income that comes from pro wrestling, I have a different prognosis: you’re probably going to find breaking into the wrestling business far more enjoyable.


Note that I chose to say ‘enjoyable’, and not either ‘hard’ or ‘easy’. This was by design. Hard and easy are largely subjective concepts – at least in regard to chasing your dreams. To those with patience and gratitude, each step along the journey brings a sense of joy and fulfilment, even when the money hasn’t started rolling in yet – I know that was true for me. For the less patient… well, we’ll come to you shortly. Either way, setting the right expectations early is the very essence of ‘cutting the string’ to the correct size for you.


So, how long exactly is that piece of string? That really is down to your desire, imagination and commitment when deciding.


4. Learning Wrestling Etiquette


Luckily for you, wrestling etiquette is far easier now than at any other time in the industry's history. The internet is awash with stories of wrestlers who were buried (the industry term for having their careers crushed) simply because they forgot to shake the right hand or got changed in the wrong locker room. Even those who didn’t totally get run off for committing one of many invisible faux pas were made to have their lives turned into a living hell of backstage (and occasionally on-screen) bullying for weeks, months and sometimes even years. And all because they simply misunderstood wrestling’s secret code of honour.


Thankfully, most of these archaic traditions are now lost in the past, with wrestling’s previous bullying behaviour no longer widely accepted. The widely reported old school practice of keeping some backstage ‘enforcers’ around to ‘humble’ (break down) the new guys and girls appears to finally be a thing of the past, and many of the ‘personalities’ associated with such behaviour have been moved on, which is surely for the best. However, none of this means that the practice of careers being stunted by a simple backstage misstep is truly over. If anything, it may have just gone more underground.


Now, before you get too freaked out at that thought, here’s a hard truth; wrestling is really no different from any other industry in that regard. Yes, it’s true that sometimes the person who gets that coveted office job simply has a blow-away CV and more experience than anyone else who interviewed for it. But this often isn’t the case. Mostly it comes down to a shortlist of favourites and those favourites have frequently conducted themselves in a way that just gelled better with the interviewers. This is a form of etiquette, albeit an unspoken one.


However, getting that all-important work promotion is even harder. You’re now up against all the other favourites from all the other past job interviews. To even get this far, you’ve all had to understand the importance of this unspoken etiquette, and this is where the process takes a sudden turn. You see, it’s often at this stage in the process where any prior ‘misunderstandings’ or ‘personal differences’ will be discussed internally, when eliminating candidates from the promotion process. In short, your career gets temporarily buried because of a lack of understanding of office politics – many of which are based around etiquette. Take this as an example – fictional, I promise.


Frank, who has worked in the office for 20 years (and who you’ve never introduced yourself to), comes and gives you some advice on how to load the photocopying machine correctly. You subsequently ignore this advice completely, only to jam the machine beyond the point of repair for everyone else in the office. Great work! Now, how do you think Frank will review you, if asked, during your promotional consideration process?


“A solid little worker but just doesn’t listen to feedback and it causes issues for their co-workers as a result. Perhaps a little arrogant”.


Wrestling is really no different. However, in some ways it’s actually slightly easier because of wrestling etiquette. Yes, that’s right!


You see, while our fictitious office job no doubt has an employee handbook, here’s a few of the rules that I bet it won’t contain.

1)    Frank is a veteran. Go up, shake his hand, and introduce yourself to him.

2)    If possible, even if it’s during your lunch break, watch how Frank loads the photocopier and take notes.

3)    Ask Frank if he wouldn’t mind watching how you load the photocopier and get feedback.

4)    Offer to drive Frank next time there’s a work trip you both have to make, so you can spend time around him and hope that some of his photocopying wisdom slowly trickles down onto you.


If that was in the company handbook (and assuming you’d read it), Frank would know that you weren’t arrogant, knew that you listened to advice well and, most likely, you also wouldn’t have blocked the photocopying machine. In fact, Frank would have been singing your praises and that promotion might now already be yours. Thanks Frank!


Although no pro wrestling promotion has such a handbook (at least written down, anyway), the essence of wrestling etiquette remains as relevant today as it did for the century before it. Yes, Wrestling Masterclass will teach you a great many details about the intricacies of this somewhat arcane knowledge, but for those of you who chose to go it alone (Godspeed to you), remember the rule of the two commons - common sense and common courtesy. They almost always prevail in the end.


3. Understanding the importance of travel


It’s not a coincidence that this point comes directly after Frank and my fictional employee handbook example. If you think about it for any period of time, it probably won’t come as nasurprise to you just how important travel is as part of the pro wrestling business. As Kevin Nash likes to quote; “the only thing that’s real (about wrestling) is the money and the miles”. In fact, it’s fair to say that for many people, wrestling is at least ninety-five percent travel. Yes, let me say that again – 95%! Think about it, the average wrestler might travel anywhere between two to ten hours to make a show and appear in the ring for no more than thirty minutes. This is even worse when they have overseas bookings. Think of Wrestling Masterclass seminar mentor Will Ospreay, whose new AEW contract means that he literally flies back and forth across the Atlantic at least once a week!


Now that we’ve established just how important travel is in the pro wrestling industry, it should be crystal clear just how important it can be in turbo charging (or derailing) your own wrestling career. Firstly, do you have a driver’s licence? If so, do you have a roadworthy car? If you answered yes to both of these questions, congratulations – your chances of success in pro wrestling (at least in the early stages) have increased exponentially.


You see, the easiest way to get some form of work in pro wrestling is from promoters. Guess what promoters often never have enough of? Willing and dependable drivers. If you’re one of them, your value to a promoter has multiplied - and that, my friends, is going to make your journey of breaking into the wrestling business that little bit easier – as long as you don’t hate driving, that is!


For those who don’t drive, fear not. There are many assets that you can have as a non-driver that will increase your value. In the old days, being a good navigator was one of them. You ruined that, didn’t you, SatNav! However, being a good passenger has great value. Are you funny, engaging, and enjoyable to be around? If so, you’ll have people wanting to car share with you often. Do you feel overly comfortable farting and belching in front of peoplem you barely know on a five-hour drive? Guess what? You might not be other people’s ideal road buddy. Do you get travel sick? Can you easily sleep in an upright position? One of those can be a pro, the other is certainly a con. I’ll leave you to work out which is which.


2. Patience versus persistence


I told you earlier that  I would have something to say about the impatient among you (I made you wait for it, because I’m hilarious). Anyway, here is what I want to say on the subject, in the form of two statements that I believe to both be true.


1)    Patience is a virtue

2)    There can be too much of a good thing


Now, does anyone see the potential contradiction in those two belief systems? For those who can’t, please allow me to spell it out: Can too much patience actually become a bad thing? What a conundrum!


Much like our piece of string analogy from earlier, much of what follows has as much to do with personal preference as it does with a series of hard and fast rules. However, there are absolutely some elements to be aware of before deciding upon your chosen preference. Allow me to explain, with a brief detour. When I was tasked with compiling the vast numbers of interviews I conducted with industry experts for Wrestling Masterclass (only some of which have been released thus far) into modules or chapters, I had a problem; what should the first module be about? After all, Wrestling Masterclass attracts, and is designed for, people who want to do a multitude of different roles within the industry. From pro wrestler to promoter, booker to referee, commentator to YouTuber, ring announcer to writer or journalist, ringside manager to podcaster, the intention behind Wrestling Masterclass was to create an online course that was effective for a person who wanted to succeed in any one of those roles - or even more than one in some cases. Based on the feedback we’ve received from our students, I’m very proud to say that I think we’ve achieved it. That’s all very nice Dave, but what’s your point?


Ah, yes – my point! My point was that in working out how to start Wrestling Masterclass, we needed to determine what all of these roles had in common from a career trajectory perspective. I knew that understanding wrestling history was an important foundation for all students, so that became Wrestling Masterclass Module 2 – Wrestling History. I also knew that a deep understanding of wrestling psychology was absolutely crucial, and thus Wrestling Masterclass Module 3 – Wrestling Psychology was born. Yet, I was still unsure about module 1. Then I experienced what was best described as a eureka moment!


From all of the interviews I’d conducted for Wrestling Masterclass, as well as all of the car journeys I’d spent with hundreds of wrestlers during my 15 years on the ‘inside’, there was one common factor: almost all of them had a very clear set of goals when they started. Oh, and the most successful ones regularly checked in with their progress towards these goals, making adjustments where needed and always looking for opportunities to move closer to them with each passing week, month or year.


Those who have enrolled will tell you that Wrestling Masterclass does extensive work in Module 1 in helping you decide on these goals, shows you a winning strategy that induces the best results for many in achieving them, along with providing lots of handy tips and tricks (some of them deeply psychological) to aid in making the process as effective and enjoyable as possible. However, regardless of whether you purchase Wrestling Masterclass or not, there’s a simple equation that you must understand for any of it to be truly life changing (or at least career changing) and that is… patience versus persistence.


Being patient will certainly help you to manage your own expectations, not to mention stopping you from bugging everyone around you with constant questions about why you’re not in the main event yet, or why you’re not booking the entire promotion after a just a few weeks on ring crew. Conversely, there is a fine line between patience and general inaction. Fortune favours the bold and all that. Or, is it the brave? Either way, the point remains the same – getting the balance right between not pushing too hard and hardly pushing at all is a narrow and difficult tightrope for anyone to walk; least of all for those who wish to break into the pro wrestling business.


1. Quid Pro Quo


And finally, we reach the last point on our list. Some will disagree with this and that’s fine. If you’re blessed with the charisma of The Rock, the aerial ability of Will Ospreay and the wrestling mind of Raven, you’re likely to get booked on shows regardless of whether you offered to arrive early and help set up the ring – well, as long as you have at least half-decent wrestling etiquette, that is. However, if you’re not that guy or girl (and don’t worry, most of us aren’t) then a bit of Quid Pro Quo might go a long way. For those unfamiliar with the concept, let me hand over to my pal, Mr Wiki Pedia: Quid Pro Quo - Something that is given in return for something else or accepted as a reciprocal part of an exchange.


So, what exactly should that ‘something’ be that you’re exchanging? It’s a great question and one that unsurprisingly depends very much on what the person receiving your ‘something’ actually requires. Interestingly, this has been one of the main bits of feedback we’ve received from actual wrestlers who have taken the Wrestling Masterclass course, especially as it relates to Module 5 – Becoming A Promoter, and Module 6 – Being A Booker. These were initially areas of Wrestling Masterclass that those who wanted to be full-time pro wrestlers initially had very little interest in. However, by being almost forced to consume and thus understand these roles in new detail, those wrestlers who took these modules had at least two major advantages. Firstly, by understanding exactly what a promoter has to go through to run a live show, not only did they have a newfound empathy for them (the promoter module might be the densest of the entire Wrestling Masterclass course) but they also knew far better how to become a tangible asset to them. After all, the main aim of any person who truly wishes to advance in their career as quickly as possible is to become an irreplicable asset to their employer, right?


Secondly, by now understanding the rules, challenges and most effective structures in booking a great storyline (Module 6 – Being A Booker) these wrestlers now had a far better idea of how to get their own creative ideas across in a way that benefited the entire show or promotion, and thus were now more likely to succeed in booking some, if not all, of their own storyline. After all, the main aim of any wrestler who truly wishes to advance their career as quickly as possible, is to be in charge of their own creative, right? OK, maybe that one isn’t such a direct fit, especially as there are still some great bookers out there. However, having an enhanced level of input over what you actually do on each show will certainly make the journey of being a wrestler more creatively rewarding.


But what if you, like well over half of the people who enrol in Wrestling Masterclass, don’t want to be a wrestler?


Luckily, the exact same rules apply. By getting a far deeper understanding of ‘the business behind the business’ of each role in pro wrestling, you’ll be far better placed to help others - others whose help you’ll ultimately need yourself! That, my friends, is Quid Pro Quo.


Just like our example of the difference between a career in pro wrestling versus that of an Olympic sprinter, the journey you wish to embark upon is truly a team sport. In fact, it’s one, if not the only, team sport where even your opponent is your teammate! When wrestling is at its very best, every single person on a show or in a promotion is working together to achieve the same end goal – giving the audience the best and most entertaining product possible. Seeing as wrestling thrives most with this level of all-encompassing cooperation, surely it makes sense to foster it early on?


Ask not what pro wrestling can do for you, ask what you can do for pro wrestling! Or, just start small and ask the person who you’re hoping to gain something from if there’s something you might be able to do for them in return.


Just like the pro wrestlers doing modules in Wrestling Masterclass that they weren’t originally interested in, you’ll be amazed at what you’ll learn when you immerse yourself in another area of the business – even for a very short time. “What could I possibly learn from putting event posters up in local shops?”, is the cry of many wrestling trainees the world over. Well, seeing as they asked, here’s something they will no doubt learn from it: how the average man and woman in the street - let’s call them Bob and Sally - really feel about wrestling and why! Yes Dave, great, but is that even important?


Well, put it this way: if pro wrestling has a boom period then there will be more shows, more money, and more job opportunities. That means your chances of getting work in the business will improve - so that’s pretty important, isn’t it? Wrestling boom periods only happen when casual fans like Bob and Sally take an interest in the industry, or at least allow their kids to do so. If you can better understand why they are currently disinterested or apprehensive about pro wrestling, you might find it’s some of the most valuable insight you’ll ever receive. Listen to them enough and eventually you’ll become adept at making compelling counterarguments. Make enough compelling counterarguments to enough people like them and… you’ll become an active participant in the next boom period yourself!


Of course, none of that happens if you won’t go postering in your local town, all because you don’t see what’s in it for you. Quid – Pro – Quo.


You won’t be surprised to hear me say that this is only a fraction of the information you’ll find in Wrestling Masterclass and its 11 modules, 70 video lessons, 10+ hours of additional podcasts, and downloadable worksheets. But regardless of if you decide to join us and sign up or not – or even if you already have and are reading this anyway – the five points covered here may well become as important for you to understand and employ as they were for the thousands of successful people who broke into the pro wrestling business before you. How hard or easy is that process going to be for you personally? Well, that’s kind of like asking how long a piece of string is. But one thing is for sure: breaking into pro wrestling will be one of the most exciting, challenging, creative and unique experiences you ever encounter – no matter which way you cut it. 




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