January 5, 2006
Masters: 'I'm not just a body'
By GREG OLIVER - Producer, SLAM! Wrestling
"I'm not just a body." Said by Viscera it's a laugh. Said by "The Masterpiece" Chris Masters, however, and it's a call for more respect. And given that he's in the main event this Sunday at New Year's Revolution, perhaps it's called for.
In conversation with SLAM! Wrestling early in the morning from the west coast on Thursday, Masters bounced between cocky confidence befitting his character on Monday Night Raw, and the young 22-year-old wrestler learning on the job that he is.
The "I'm not just a body" line came partway through the interview, when the comparison was made between "The Narcissist" Lex Luger of the early 1990s and "The Masterpiece" of 2005.
Masters (real name Chris Mordetzsky) can understand the fans seeing the similarities, but that doesn't mean he has to like it -- or settle for Lex Luger's level.
"I was never a big fan of his," admitted Masters. "[The fans] see a white guy posing, stuff like that, they're identifying me to him, comparing me to him. Let's give him a little credit, I'm not saying he was unsuccessful. He did do something in the business, but I don't think anybody looks back at Lex Luger as one of the all-time greats. I don't think they can pick out a match of his that would really stand out."
He has come to terms with it. "At first I took offense to [the comparison], but I mean, whatever. It's up to me to basically break that comparison and show people that I'm the real deal. I grew up loving professional wrestling just like all them did. I'm not just a body. I'm a guy passionate about what I'm doing. I want to go out there and I don't want to be known as a body guy; I want to be known as a guy who performed and who wasn't -- I know I'm wrestling in a title match, but didn't just have everything handed to me, you know what I mean? For the opportunities that are given to me, I'm going to make the most of them and do my best to show everybody that I belong in that spot."
It's a sincere plea from the expert of the Master Lock; The Masterpiece is the most insincere of characters.
At the outset of the talk, he was still waking up (though he bragged he'd already worked out three times!) and still in character.
Masterpiece, is it an honor to be main eventing a pay-per-view at such a young age? "Honored? It was just a matter of time. I told everybody it would be a perpetual ride to the top. I can't say that I'm surprised. It definitely feels good to be in the match. But honored? I had it coming to me. I don't know if honored is the right word."
If he was a betting man, he'd be putting money on himself for the match. "I think my chances are good. I mean, not even one year into the business and I'm main eventing a pay-per-view with the WWE title. If you look at the cast of characters we have in there, you're got Kurt Angle, who's broken his neck before; you've got Shawn Michaels who's broken his back before; I don't think there's any question that I can take Carlito with the snap of my fingers. I guess Kane is one to worry about. He's a big dude. ... Cena, everybody, they're sick of seeing him as WWE champ, so I'm going to do all the fans in WWE a favour and I'm going to take that belt off of him so they can actually be entertained."
Masters' remark on Cena does not seem all that far off the mark. At times, the fans seem to be turning on the rapper/wrestler. Of course, Masters has the solution. "They're sick and tired of him. What they want -- they don't necessarily know it, they unconsciously want The Masterpiece Chris Masters for WWE champion. I think that's really where it started. A couple of months ago they started realizing that. They don't necessarily know it yet, but they just feel the urge, they feel the temptation to boo him because they want to see the belt on me."
Before one goes off on Masters for being a rookie egomaniac, consider his primary trainer behind-the-scenes on Raw -- "The Enforcer" Arn Anderson.
Believe it or not, Masters can praise someone other than himself. "[Anderson has] been a mentor inside the ring as well as outside the ring. They kind of stuck me with him right from the start. He's just done wonders for me. He's very good at communicating, he's very good at helping me understand. I definitely attribute a lot of my success to him helping me out, helping me grow in my short stint here.
"I respect the hell out of him," he continued. "I watched the Four Horsemen wrestle too growing up. It's pretty cool. When it first happened that I was working with Arn Anderson, I had it in my head, 'Wow, Arn Anderson! One of the Four Horsemen!'"
In fact, sharing a roster with stars from his youth like Shawn Michaels and Ric Flair is downright surreal for Masters. "You always have those moments when you reminisce about history. I'll still look back at a lot of the guys I work with and think back to classic moments or promos or whatever."
He is also honest about the need to improve in all aspects of his wrestling skills. "I would say everything. I mean the Masterpiece is perfect and all. You never stop learning in this business. That's what I learned pretty much from the start. ... I'm still keeping my entire mind open and, day by day, just get better at everything I can possibly can get at. I think a lot was just getting comfortable initially. I'm more comfortable all around with every aspect of wrestling, more confident in my ability, and just getting better and better. It takes time."
At just 22 years of age, Masters has lots of time ahead. But just a short while ago, he was a young Californian with a dream of wrestling. After discovering that the Ultimate Pro Wrestling (UPW) school was only 30 minutes away from home, he enrolled at the age of 17. Masters came back at 19 in March 2002, and by September 2003, he had a WWE deal. The alumni from the school aren't a bad lot: John Cena, Jon Heidenreich, Victoria, Simon Dean, Frankie Kazarian, Brian "Spanky" Kendrick.
Masters is appreciative of what UPW and its head honcho Rick Bassman contributed to his life. "Not a bad thing to say about Rick Bassman. He did a lot of good for me. A lot of guys have come out of there, a lot of top guys at this point. By far, the best guy to come out of there, myself, Chris Masters. He's got this chump, named John Cena, who came out of there too."
One of the best experiences he's had so far in the WWE was a trip to Afghanistan to entertain American troops. Masters just wishes it wasn't so last minute for him. "It was a good moral booster for the troops. It was a long trip. It was like 16 hours to go there. I wasn't told until the day of that I was supposed to go, so it kind of surprised me. I had to fill in actually for somebody. I think I didn't realize how much it would mean to them. Once I got over there, they were so fired up to see us. It just broke them out of their everyday, repetitive activity. They were all fans. I don't think that I've ever signed so many autographs or taken so many pictures."
Even for a veteran wrestler, packing at the last-minute trip for a trip to an unknown country would be hard. "I was running around like a chicken with its head cut off trying to find clothes to wear, getting stuff for the trip on the last day," Masters said. "They were trying to tell me to dress warm, but then we got there -- it was cold at nighttime, I guess. But I ended up buying way too much stuff because they told me 'You need this, you need that, you need this.' I didn't even end up using half of it."
For next year's trip -- like next year's matches -- Chris Masters will be that much better prepared.
Greg Oliver founded SLAM! Wrestling with John Powell way back in
1996, and has been writing about pro wrestling since 1985. His recently-published book, The Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame: The Tag Teams (with Steven Johnson) is the second in a series, following The Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame: The Canadians. Order them both from the SLAM! Wrestling Store. He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.