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  August 11, 2001



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Wrestling industry needs strong training ground


By BRET HART -- SLAM! Wrestling
 The most commonly asked question about wrestling used to be, "Is it real?"

 Running a close second was, "How can I get into pro wrestling?" which now takes the top spot.

 Those fans who love wrestling so much they want to make a career out of it have always asked me -- and I suppose every other successful wrestler -- for advice on the best way to get into the biz.

 I used to tell them to first get a good background in amateur wrestling and then seek out a pro wrestling group close to home, learn the ropes and then try out for the big leagues. I remember suggesting to Owen that he hone his skills elsewhere before wrestling in our dad's territory and for a long time he worked under a mask.

 Most of the local organizations I was familiar with went out of business during the first wave of the WWF's expansion in the '80s.

 New groups were hesitant to start up. Some tried and failed. Others became places where wrestlers had to have day jobs to support their families and I give them credit for holding onto their dream, often wrestling on small weekend shows in front of hardly any people in falling down rings for little or no pay.

 The demise of most of the regional wrestling territories left the WWF with a tiny feeder system from which to glean talent for a promotion that had grown to depend, not so much on TV ratings as is the case today but on the gate from running three teams on nearly 1,000 house shows per year. Who was going to work all these shows? There was less and less skilled talent and, for a while, the prospect of finding any was so dismal there was talk in the dressing room of how the future of the entire business could be in jeopardy.

 In many ways, this shortage contributed to the increase in glitz and pyro used to distract fans from a talent pool lacking in technical skills, capable of little artistic interpretation and with only the sketchiest idea of how to tell a story in the ring.

 Don't get me wrong, there are a handful of gifted workers who've done an amazing job carrying a billion-dollar business. It will be interesting to see where we are when the dust settles, which may be starting to happen right now.

 New regional promotions are springing up and many have training facilities.

 It's a hopeful sign.

 But word to the wise: When dealing with any new wrestling school, be careful of getting scammed. Talk with others who've been through the program before paying any money.

 Good luck to all of you hopefuls. Hulk Hogan's old mantra of "train hard, say your prayers and take your vitamins ..." rings true because you're about to find out pro wrestling is a lot more real than you ever imagined.

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