On June 27th, 2011, a 220-pound, straight edge, tattooed superhero named CM Punk changed my life forever. I know, that sentence could have easily been the beginning of a disturbing confession, but such is the reality: CM Punk changed my life. On a dreary Monday night in the middle of the summer, he sat cross-legged on national television as he verbally ripped apart the company he worked for. He was brash, cocky, uninhibited, and absolutely mesmerizing. I sat in wonderment as Punk unleashed his tirade on World Wrestling Entertainment, criticizing the corrupt corporate structure and obvious preferential treatment towards talentless meatheads over hard-working and talented performers. As the weeks went by, I watched as his goal came into focus: leave the WWE with their world championship in tow.
On July 17th, 2011, in front of tens of thousands of passionate Chicago fans, CM Punk won the WWE Championship, waved goodbye to CEO Vince McMahon, and fled the arena. My rational mind was careful to assure me that everything I had just witnessed was planned, that CM Punk was always designed to win, and that the 30 minute battle he participated in with John Cena to achieve victory was little more than a carefully orchestrated performance between athlete/actor hybrids focused more on theatrics than on actually harming the opponent or winning the match.Yet the rush of elation flooding me when Punk hit his signature maneuver, the GTS, and pinned Cena’s shoulders to the mat for a precious three seconds was anything but fake. And that rush of elation has carried over to every wrestling show I’ve watched since. It inspired me to do what many people thought absurd for someone my age: ring announce for a professional wrestling company. Every month, I sat in a dingy locker room with graffiti plastering its peeling walls, hands trembling, mind racing. A heavy metal refrain filled the Buffalo Rose Bar. That was my cue. I walked down the entrance ramp, relishing in the energy of hundreds of fans eager to watch their favorite Colorado wrestlers square off in the 20×20 ring. I carefully stepped into the ring, placed the microphone near my lips, and delivered my pre-show hype-builder in my best booming voice. I ring-announced almost every match for each 3-hour show. It was stressful, intense, and terrifying. And I loved every second of it.
In the winter of 2014, I quit New Era Pro Wrestling. It was a decision I had hoped never to have to make, but I was presented with no choice. One of the many outlandish characters that peppered the landscape of New Era was named Duelie Trailer. Duelie’s character was a sexist Southerner who would come out to the ring accompanied by a fairly attractive young woman named Vikki, pick up a microphone, and command her to “know [her] place and shine [his] shoes”, along with many other hackneyed insults too disgusting for this essay. It was an offensive way to get Duelie hated, which was designed to inspire people to pay to watch him finally get what’s coming to him. That never came. He did this for months, painting me, the company, and the entire industry of pro-wrestling in a terrible light. But worse than that, it ate at my morals. My conscience would not allow me to support a company that was so readily willing to degrade and demean half of the population of the world just to get a little “heat” (fan disapproval) on one of their wrestlers. I had to choose between the business that I loved and the morals that I’ve held fast to my entire life. In the end, I couldn’t stand by as New Era Pro Wrestling made one of my greatest passions look like a cheap, offensive, and lowest-common-denominator-aimed excuse for entertainment. I channeled my inner CM Punk and walked away. And I’ve never looked back.