Paying his dues
He got stuck selling shutter shades…
by Josh Ray
Former Owner and Editor of Missouri Wrestling Revival
Not pictured: Brandon Aarons.
Three years ago, when my time as an active Missouri Wrestling Revival member was coming to an end, I received an e-mail from a wrestling fan. A college student, he wanted to get some firsthand knowledge of what happened behind the scenes. He wanted to get involved.
Feeling generous, I offered to take him under my wing and show him a little of what I knew. Maybe I was feeling extremely benevolent, but if I recall correctly I just remembered two other people you may have heard of: Brian Kelley and Kari Williams. Both had contacted me in similar fashion years earlier, wanting to pitch in. I like to think they have made some great contributions since that time. Maybe this guy would be just like them. Then again, maybe Kari and Brian set the standard pretty damn high.
At the time, I was highly involved in High Voltage Wrestling Midwest (HVW) and knew I could introduce him to how a small show was run comfortably from there. I told him to meet me at the next HVW show, gave a good description of what I looked like (ridiculously good looking with washboard abs) and let it simmer. I received emails like this all the time, and didn’t really put too much stock in the possibility of him actually showing up.
When he contacted me a day or two before the show to confirm that things were set, my attitude changed. He seemed more dedicated than most, and we talked a bit about shadowing me backstage. There wouldn’t be much work for him, but the key was to get a better feel for how a show worked and how he should behave. I contacted Kari and Brian, letting them know we’d have some help. I then briefly sketched out some points to make with him on the day of the event. I wanted to show him how to introduce himself to everyone, stay out of the way, be respectful, and only believe 25 percent of what my buddies “TNT” Keny G or Magic Man had to say. I felt great about the show and felt confident I could teach the young guy a thing or two.
That really great feeling turned to nausea the night before the show. And vomiting. I can’t forget the vomiting. I caught some sort of stomach virus, and it was wreaking havoc on my body. Early the next morning I made the call to Kari and Brian, telling them there was a pretty good chance I wouldn’t be able to make the show. With popsicle in hand (I couldn’t hold anything else down in my weak stomach), I reminded them that the new guy would be there and to try to keep him busy. I knew both Kari and Brian would be entirely to busy to have him following them around, but I knew they’d be nice to him and find him something to do. I then followed up with a call to the young man, giving him an update.
That was the last I heard from him.
When I hadn’t received a followup email or phone call from him, I called Brian and Kari to make sure he even showed up to the HVW show in the first place. The guy was so respectful leading up to the event, so I hoped he hadn’t forgotten to extend his hand for a handshake and a “Thank you.” It all made sense after talking with my colleagues at MWR.
Brian didn’t remember much about the guy. He had been so busy that all he had time for was quick introductions and an explanation of Brian’s duties at the show, taking pictures, conducting interviews, and such. Kari remembered him more vividly than Brian, but was also busy taking notes for the event and getting quotes from those in attendance and the talent at the show.
“I couldn’t think of much for him to do for me,” she said.
I felt bad about him not being able to work behind the scenes a bit, but Kari, Brian, and I had all put in a lot of work to get to where we were. It took a long time for MWR to get respect, and at that stage we were still given some dirty looks. Matt Murphy once told me in one of my highly-valued conversations with him, “You act like a mark and you get treated like a mark.” Kari, Brian, and I had worked hard to build a rapport with the local scene and it showed. This guy was showing up for day one. On day one for me, I paid to get into shows to cover them.
I was curious, though, about whether he had done any work at all. Kari confirmed that she had in fact found something for him to do to be useful.
“We had him sit at the gimmick table, selling Brandon Aarons’ shutter shades.”
And with those words, the investigation received illumination. Selling Brandon Aarons’ shutter shades was probably a far cry from what this guy thought he’d be doing at the show. We had run another person away from the glamorous lifestyle of independent pro wrestling. I don’t think it ever crossed the kid’s mind that he was paying his dues. Most people don’t think they have to.
You can read more from Josh Ray on this site, or check out his blog projects Real Men, Real Dads (well established) and Shadow of the Nerd (just started).