Long before I worked in the corporate office of America’s largest local broadcast company and helped manage websites for 200+ television stations, I wrote and edited professional wrestling shows, built websites for promotions and performers, and yes, even got beat up occasionally (see below).
I don’t talk about it much, because it feels like a lifetime ago. While most college students spent the weekends partying on campus, I drove my Toyota Corolla across Texas to work in wrestling in whatever capacity I could. I wrote, edited, produced, marketed, promoted, and performed in dozens of shows over 4 years. The experience may have been very different from what I do now, but the lessons I learned and skills I picked up helped lay the foundation for success in jobs that followed.
Over the years, you’ve probably heard stories linking wrestling to downfalls, disasters, and death. I’m here to tell you a different story.
When I got my first journalism job producing the overnight news in Shreveport, Louisiana, I was used to long days and tough hours – sometimes sitting in booking meetings or editing Professional Championship Wrestling shows for UPN 21 in Dallas through the overnight hours until the sun came up.
When I needed to separate myself from all the other news producers at a station, I could fall back on the creativity I heard and learned from mentors like Richard Hill, Richard Hunter, and Randy Blakely.
When I got my first News Director job in Abilene, Texas, I already had lessons in managing teams thanks to leaders like Scott Thompson, Todd Hecht, and Mike Bussey.
When I had to negotiate the contract of a reporter or anchor, it was 5x easier than trying to negotiate the ending of a match with a 300-pound wrestler.
When I had to speak to large groups or address our company’s board of directors, I could fall back on talking in front of a rodeo-arena crowd in Ardmore, Oklahoma while ducking clumps of mud (at least I hope that’s what that was) being thrown at my head.
When I had to manage a particularly difficult situation, I knew I’d get through it. It couldn’t be more stressful than Paul Heyman sending a letter to my parent’s house threatening to sue me.
When we needed to go above and beyond to win coverage of a big story or major event, I could fall back on what wrestling taught me about emotion. From creating memorable characters to moving audiences to laughter or tears to giving them surprises they’d least expect, I could quickly come up with ideas.
When our newsrooms failed or didn’t meet goals, I was well aware of what that felt like and how to bounce back. I already had plenty of experience falling short.
And when I had the opportunity to go to Nexstar Media Group’s corporate office in a digital content role, everything came full circle. That’s how I broke into wrestling – making websites for wrestlers and promotions as a 17-year-old kid who just wanted to get his foot in the door.
The examples above: that’s the short list. There are countless other lessons. Every day was an opportunity to learn.
At the end of March, I was inducted into the Southern Wrestling Hall of Fame as part of an independent show during WrestleMania weekend in North Texas. The whole thing felt a little surreal. But instead of focusing on whether or not I was worthy or belonged, I looked at it as an opportunity to publicly say thank you to pro wrestling.
The weekend ended up being a full-circle moment. A couple days after being inducted into the hall of fame, I had the opportunity to use my current role and position with Nexstar Media Group to cover WrestleMania for our local news websites. When I first got started in professional wrestling making websites for anyone who would let me, I couldn’t have imagined that opportunity.
I’m forever in debt to people who guided me along the way and to the business that paved me a path to success.
Stories from WrestleMania weekend: