From some random online dictionary I Googled:
Unique – definition 1: existing as the only one or as the sole example; single;solitary in type or characteristics: a unique copy of an ancient manuscript.
having no like or equal; unparalleled; incomparable: Bach was unique in his handling of counterpoint.
I haven’t been in wrestling for very long but I’ve been watching for as long as I can remember, and anyone who’s watched enough of it knows that being unique is by far one of the most important traits any wannabe big star strives to have. In critical reviews and analyses of shows/wrestlers the word “generic” is known as possibly one of the worst things you can be labelled as. And by extension “unique” is definitely something that is taken as a compliment. If you’re unique, people take notice for whatever reasons (and believe me, not everything unique is good *cough* Shockmaster) and making the right people take notice is the key to success in any business. So as a fledgling wrestler as part of what I affectionately call the Fight Factory Next Generation, reading all about being unique and stand out got me thinking. What do each of us bring to the table? How do each of us stand out from the crowd? Who is unique and who is generic? After careful consideration, I’ve decided that nobody is generic.
Yes I’m about to spout the typical pre-school circle time statement that everyone is unique. But, like the majority of things you learn in the first six years of your life, that statement is pretty important. We ourselves are all unique in our own ways and we know how and why. But that’s the tricky thing about being a wrestler – you have to convince the crowd that you are unique and get that across to them. For example, I’m a 20-year-old wrestler wannabe that also writes novels and screenplays that sometimes likes to skip dinner and order desert at the start of a meal. Do the crowd know that? Do they care about that? Well I’m sure there’s at least one of them that does but that’s beside the point. One thing our trainers are always stressing the importance of is to make yourself stand out. I distinctively remember on my first day the NLW’s Jamie Coleman gave everyone a talk on the importance of standing out where he said – and I’m paraphrasing here – “get yourself a gimmick that you think will work. I don’t care if you cover yourself in blue paint if you make it work”. A gimmick is one way to make yourself stand out. Charisma and exceptional mic work is another. And of course there’s always the good old fashioned athleticism. If anyone has all three of those down, as well as the vast number of other possibilities then they’re pretty much set.
But in wrestling, what is unique? Most men our age are expected to look respectable and have clean cut short hair. So therefore long hair is unique. But at the same time long hair can also be generic because there are a lot of long-haired generic guys out there. Tough Enough’s Jeremiah Riggs buried most of the FCW guys being long-haired and generic, afraid to try and stand out (he also cites this as the reason he clippered his head after his failed try-out there). Tattoos are unique as well but then again a lot of wrestlers have them so you could say that wrestlers without tattoos are also unique. Things go in and out of style in cycles just like any entertainment business so one day something will be stand-out but then eventually there will be so many stand-outs that the one person that doesn’t try to stand out is ironically the one that does. With gear, I remember someone saying that everyone goes for the red and black colour scheme and everyone goes for fire motifs. In terms of entrance music, isn’t it always hard rock or heavy metal unless there’s an exceptionally different gimmick? So that gets me thinking even more on what each of us Next Gen guys (and girls) bring to the table and how each of us are unique.
For some, uniqueness is right there in front of them and easy to have. The Anj and “Dangerous” Dave Forde are attractions in their own right without even having to do anything. Watching either of them walking down the entrance ramp will earn them a place in most people’s memory. They already look distinctive without even having to touch themselves up. Others have to put a little more work in – the Rough Stuff boys aren’t as distinctive looking (though Paul’s eyebrows and Bull’s uncanny resemblance to Randy Orton are notable) though they themselves are memorable thanks to their strong characters and impeccable ring work. The girls have it easy – they’re a minority in a male-dominated sport – but each girl I’ve seen manages to stand out from all the other pretty ladies whether it’s Katey and her hair flipping-splits combo or Lucy and her bubbly and energetic personality. And of course special mention has to go out to a certain little guy in white trunks that I wrestled in my debut. Fun fact: Phil was following him around for about half an hour on the day of the show trying to get him to change his name because he didn’t think “Shadow” would work. The rest of the guys backstage had a bit of a giggle and you can see our referee corpsing magnificently when he enters the ring but then again at the same time, he got “Shadow” chants at the next show when that gimmick got dropped. Other people backstage talked about how much they liked how he had tried to stand out. Hell, half the people I show my match to are fans of the whole Shadow thing now. At the end of the day, it got people talking and importantly, it got him a few fans.
When it comes to making myself stand out, I had my work cut out for me. I’m not freakishly tall or freakishly muscular so I didn’t have the benefit of the freak factor. I have mutant facial hair that grows itself back in the space of three days so there was my first head start. I noticed there were a lot of brown haired guys at the gym so I decided to bleach my hair, though the date of the show got pushed back a couple of months so the effect was kind of lost by the time I did debut. For the rest of my look, I actually didn’t cop on to the Zack Ryder comparisons until I was already in the ring and I heard people going “come on, Zack Ryder”. Funnily enough I’ve pretty much looked the same since the age of 15 and I’ve had the exact character you see in the ring saved on about three different Smackdown vs Raw games before I even knew who Zack Ryder was. I already had all the stuff available in my closet somewhere so I just threw my look together – I had a jacket that I liked the look of but I hardly ever wore it so I decided to use it as my ring jacket, the bandana has always been lucky so why not? The dog tags I wear normally so again no-brainer. Now with the character itself, there was actually a lot of re-tooling done after I started training. I actually had it in my head that I was going to be a heel. I liked The Miz, Cody Rhodes, heel AJ Styles and loads of others that I thought I could emulate perfectly. I decided I would start out as a heel. Then I actually tried it – believe me it’s tougher than it looks. I began to wonder whether or not it was really for me. Then I noticed something with the rest of the guys there. Everyone wanted to be heels. These days nobody really wants to be a face. It’s either a heel or an anti-hero and you’ll find classic babyfaces tend to be in short supply. I decided “screw it, I want to be a face” and low-and-behold, there was something salvageable in me. I hear a lot of people hate having to work as faces and do so grudgingly but personally I love it. Just like with being a heel, there’s an art to being a good face and I enjoy finding new ways to grow and improve.
When I decided to be a face it was time for me to sit down and watch tapes. To me, the best babyfaces are the ones that look like they’re having a lot of fun in the ring. I decided I’d make my matches fun by finding moves that I liked the look of that I’d be able to pull off (so no handspring springboard moonsault splash, though if Jordan is willing to teach me…). That Stratusphere was probably one of my favourite moves to watch when I was younger and I’d always been able to do a decent handstand and nobody else did it so there was another move in my arsenal. Truth be told it’s gotten me a lot of stick from the trainers but that gets counterbalanced by the memory of Kev McDermott shouting out “no way” when I first did it and Sammy shaking my hand as I was climbing out of the ring. A certain NLW Champion was visibly impressed with a video I showed him of myself doing it. When it comes to working the crowd, we’re advised against resorting to “come on, Bray” and clapping too much (it really hurts the hands, a little known industry casualty) so I got struck by a wild idea one night in a club. In the clubs where I come from, it’s customary for the DJ to shout out “oggy-oggy-oggy” and the crowd to shout back “Oi-Oi-Oi”. One night the DJ goofed and shouted out “Oi-Oi-Oi” and Bobby’s catch phrase was born. When it comes to entrance music, Be Yourself has been my favourite song forever so there was never any other choice – though I was briefly tempted by a catchy little track titled Android Porn.
This blog certainly turned into quite the ramble didn’t it? I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to talk that much on the importance of being unique. But at the same time, being unique is almost exactly the same as wrestling skills themselves – some have them right away while others will have to work harder to get there. But right now I can proudly say that each of our Fight Factory Next Generation guys are unique in their own way and each of them brings their own factor to the table and without each of them we wouldn’t be complete. Hopefully the generation after us can realise this and make themselves into attractions too. Thank you for reading my opinions again for no good reason ;)