Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Questions: Cameron Matthews (Part 1 of 3)

Last month, Cameron Matthews of Wrestler4Hire suggested (for the second time) that we do an interview. Never having done such a thing before, I wrote out some questions and sent them to him. I intended them as a discussion point, but being the guy he is, Cameron actually just went ahead and answered them all.

Cam went above and beyond

I shouldn't be surprised. He seems like a good guy. The extent of our relationship is me following Wrestler4Hire on Twitter and sending Wrestler4Hire some notes about my customer experience. It's not like we’re buddies, but based on my limited interactions with him, Cameron comes across as approachable, authentic and down-to-earth. As a customer, I've found him to be very responsive to me when I've had issues. It might take a second, but I always feel like he cares and wants to do the right thing. As a blogger, I've found him to be very appreciative of the coverage, liking and re-tweeting my promotional tweets.

I've had nothing but positive
interactions with Cam

It's more like a survey than a traditional interview, but I thought it worked fine. I asked about four topics that interested me:

  1. Starting out
  2. Being a wrestler for hire
  3. Wrestler4Hire
  4. Talent/Recruiting

There's a ton here, so I'm posting these weekly over the next three weeks. As my first time asking questions and not knowing a ton about Cameron outside of watching videos, I feel like I did the logical thing and started with the basics. Let's jump in ...

(1) Starting Out

Q1. When did you start wrestling? What made you want to be a professional wrestler? Who were some of your favorites when you were a kid? Was there anyone you aspired to be?

I started wrestling amateur (folk style) at age 12 in Junior High. I was never trying to do anything with it at the time, except build on a potential career as a pro wrestler. I think that's common now-a-days, but back in the late 90's, the two were more separated.

The only person that'd teach me pro at age 14 was Lon DuMont, who had just opened up a wrestling school an hour north of where I lived in Maine. I can't place my finger on the exact thing that made me want to be a pro wrestler, but I knew from age 11 that I was definitely going to be a pro wrestler. No doubt about it. I was definitely attracted to the athleticism and theatrical aspect of it. That fit my personality well.

The first wrestlers I remember were Hulk Hogan & Macho Man Randy Savage. I joke that I've been watching wrestling since I came out of the womb. Flying off couches with elbow drops and ax handle smashes since I was a toddler. As I grew up, I was like every other wrestling fan, I liked Stone Cold Steve Austin. I must've had a dozen of his shirts. My absolute childhood favorite was the only famous guy from my home state: Scott Taylor aka Scotty 2 Hotty (except this was before he was more than a jobber). I actually wrestled him back in 2007 or so about 20 minutes from where I grew up. 
We share a love for the Macho Man ...

... and Stone Cold Steve Austin.

Scott Taylor got
Cameron's attention.

Q2. It seems like pro wrestling would be an extremely challenging business at the start. How was your experience? What advice would you give to someone starting out?

Well, I am constantly giving advice to my friends who still wrestle and are attempting the climb to the top. I learned a lot of stuff that I spent thousands of hours and thousands of dollars to know. I was lucky enough that some successful wrestlers would even share this knowledge with me for free, out of them wanting me to succeed. So, I always try to pass on what I've picked up to the people who seem to genuinely want to be successful...and I'm still always interested in learning new philosophy, new technique, new opinion, whatever it may be.

I think the biggest advice I'd give to someone looking to start out would be: if you aren't trying to be on top then save your body. Or at least learn to avoid taking back bumps as often as possible. I'm still young, but the years of abuse on my body from all the slams and falls have become a nuisance to my overall well-being. I'm hoping my body heals itself since I've stopped wrestling every weekend. As well, the recent developments regarding brain trauma have me worried about the long-term effects of these minor car accident-esque impacts that wrestlers take multiple times per match. 
The pain and punishment on a
wrestler's hot body is real.
So be in it to win it or don't play.

Q3. Who are some of your favorite wrestlers to wrestle? What makes a good opponent? I won't ask you to specifically name guys you haven't enjoyed wrestling (unless you want to), but I will ask, what makes a bad opponent?

Paul Hudson will always be one of my favorite opponents. I also have a few friends including Jonny Firestorm who I enjoy spending time wrestling. I think it comes down to our wanting the other person to look good and for us to want to put on a hell of a show. We are constantly looking for ways for the other person to beat us up. I think that makes the best opponent...as far as pro wrestling.

As for additional underground wrestling opponents, I'd say Ty Alexander, Alex Oliver, Austin Cooper, Ethan Andrews, Zach Reno, Coupe (Thunder's Arena), Big Sexy (from Thunder's Arena), STL (Thunder's Arena). Those guys make matches fun and action-packed. I'm not so much a fan of chit-chatting. I like to "whistle while you work." Let's get down to business and the trash talk will flow. Those guys are all good at that...then after the match we hug and laugh and high five each other. Those guys are genuinely fun.

I think the only person that I'd claim is a bad opponent would be Eli Black. That guy wouldn't stop talking about how in a real-fight he wouldn't lose. But this was in-between rounds of filming. Not just to me, but to other guys he was wrestling. I'm cool with things being said on camera, but if you are gonna talk like a tough guy in between takes then I find you annoying. I mean, c'mon - he's 130-pounds. 
Cameron's not exactly being nice to his "favorite". 

I'm not surprised that Ty Alexander is genuinely fun.

I enjoyed their chemistry, so I'm happy
Cam liked Big Sexy, too.

Q4. How did you transition from the indie wrestling scene to more 'underground' wrestling? Besides the obvious, like an audience, what are the biggest differences between working for a traditional pro wrestling group and a wrestling video producer? What's the big selling point of working for an 'underground' producer? What's the biggest drawback?

Doing videos fell into my lap. I started getting requests for custom videos once I turned 18. Indy wrestling is full of guys with huge egos. Worried about who wins and who loses. Who is the champion and blah blah blah. I think everyone knows by now that pro wrestling is fake. We don't have to cry and have ego trips about who wins a fake fight. With underground wrestling, there are far less egos. Everyone is there for the same reason. I try to make my shoots fun and highly productive. It's more like a frat house (minus most of the juvenile bullying) than a legitimate place of business. We spend most of the day hanging out watching loads of great matches be filmed. The wrestlers are open to ideas and (mostly) willing to do what is asked of them. Pro wrestling has an abundance of guys who believe their own hype. Most the guys on the indy level are doing it for "love of the game," so things are more personal than business. With the underground wrestling, we understand we are all equals and in it for the same reason. Win-loss records don't matter. Nor does it matter who gets to be champion.

The number one concern from most of the models/wrestlers that I speak with about doing underground wrestling is the uneasiness of being associated with an adult/gay product. It's not even often that I come across that concern though. Nearly everyone I speak to about working with me is polite and open to the idea...or at least polite in declining. However, you still have some people with that narrow mindset. The other issue is that it's hard to perform with no live audience. That immediate reaction and feedback drives a lot of wrestlers to be more intense. 
There's more camaraderie in underground.

So that's Day One. Here are my observations from this section.

(1) I found this chance to ask questions fascinating and illuminating, because Cameron is living the experiences I write for my characters. For example, Cody and Ryan started training in pro wrestling at age 14. Xaq is a wrestler for hire. Whether it's The Cave, Route 69, or CLAW, many of my characters are doing exactly what he's talking about.

(2) "... biggest advice I'd give to someone looking to start out would be: if you aren't trying to be on top then save your body."

This hit home. Wrestlers at all levels deserve our utmost respect, regardless of whether they're our favorites or not. Like a guy or don't like a guy, just think about what he's putting on the line and at least be respectful. I know that the risk > reward for me, so I appreciate that the math is different for them.

(3) "Paul Hudson, Jonny Firestorm, Ty Alexander, Alex Oliver, Austin Cooper, Ethan Andrews, Zach Reno, Coupe (Thunder's Arena), Big Sexy (from Thunder's Arena), STL (Thunder's Arena)."

An interesting list. Since I'm a fan of seven of these guys and the other three I'm simply not familiar with (Paul Hudson, Coupe, STL), I'm very happy to read that they're fun to work with. I like reading good things about people I like.

(4) "It's not even often that I come across that concern [being associated with adult/gay product] though."

This pleases me. I'm happy it's an infrequent issue.

(5) "The other issue is that it's hard to perform with no live audience. That immediate reaction and feedback drives a lot of wrestlers to be more intense."

Wow, extremely eye-opening. I never thought of this, but I suddenly get it. It makes me realize why some videos might seem flat or slow and why some wrestlers might seem disinterested. Of course performing without that instant feedback would be harder. Now, it doesn't change the product, but it makes me more empathetic.

That's it for part one. Next week, I'll share Cameron's thoughts on being a wrestler for hire and owning Wrestler4Hire.

Alex

14 comments:

  1. Great first part of the interview! Can't wait for the rest. I'm a sucker for interviews; with the right participant, they can be so raw, uncut and inviting. Gets you to see someone in a completely new light. And since it was Cameron's idea, and a way to maybe broaden his audience, I'm sure he put real time, thought and energy into his answers.
    Bravo!

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    1. Thanks. I wasn't sure how well I'd do with questions, but I knew Cameron would give thoughtful and interesting answers.

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    2. Go easy on yourself. Cameron obviously has faith in your questions, that's why he pursued you to do the interview!!

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    3. Oh yeah, I'm good now. I wasn't confident when he asked, but I'm happy with the results.

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  2. Excellent article from a classy guy. I've had dealings with this young man and have nothing but high praises for what he has accomplished in the wrestling world.

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    1. Appreciate you commenting. And I agree. My interactions with Cameron have been great.

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  3. The feedback about how the lack of a live audience changes the dynamic was extremely insightful. I can't help but think back to your one match, Bat vs Riddler part 2, with the live Cave audience, and how much material there was to mine there in the interactions of the wrestlers with the live audience, even the match as a whole with the audience. Here's hoping you can write more of those! :)

    And apart from a great fiction writer, you are quite a good journalist too; your editorializing is on point

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    1. Thanks! I have done a couple of stories with audiences, but you're right in that they do create opportunities.

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  4. This looks like its going to be a very enlightening interview. Great set of questions and the answers answered them and gave even more.

    One thing that caught my attention was the Lon Dumont giving him a chance at age 14. I have to say that this is what male teens need these days. For society to stop over protecting them and allowing them to do things like this. Lots of great people that are willing to mentor. Kudos to him.

    I really liked his point in regards on how guys behave at the different levels of wrestling. I bet it has all to do with competition and ambition. The higher you want to go the more challenging it is I assume so you have an ego battle. In the underground scene I would think its the way he describes it.
    But when he talks about the audience I'm very curious. Because I would think that some guys would prefer the no audience setting because they might be new to wrestling or don't have much experience. Maybe some guys wouldn't feel comfortable having unknowns watching them. Now of course, if its other wrestlers, its another thing completely. Like a previous commenter, that concept that you had in the Bat vs Mr Riddle 2 was pure awesomeness that some producers should think off.
    Matches with no audience I thin can workout very good. For me, having just the two guys make me feel like the match is made for me. It feels very personal. Its my private match, my emotions in which the audience does not have a say and I LOVE THAT. But its when the guys are into each other. Eagle vs Kid Dynamite and Beast vs Kid Dynamite come to mind. Great performances and great chemistry. That's what all wrestlers should strive for. Its not easy off course, but I think in a no audience setting its essential that the two guys work on their chemistry and to just let go and have fun at it.

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    1. Thanks.

      I think the point on the lack of audience is about its impact on the performers, not the viewer. No audience definitely works for the viewer, as it gives us a more intimate look and better audio than a usual indie show. However, at an indie show, fans will scream and cheer or chant boring or gasp at a great spot. Wrestlers can both feed off their energy and understand what's really working in the moment and adjust.

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  5. Glad to get a peek at my favorite wrestler's thoughts and experiences.

    It really is nice to find out most underground wrestlers don't freak out about being associated with a product mainly aimed at gay men.

    Huh, so Eli is an asshole off camera too. Its not just a character he plays.

    Like others, I never thought about the lack of a live audience being a problem for wrestlers. I don't like it, but for wrestlers it's instant feedback. Without it, they have to wait for the match to be released and reactions to start rolling out. Depending on the company, that could take months.

    Looking forward to parts 2 and 3, Alex!

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    1. Happy you enjoyed it.

      You're the first one to comment on the specific wrestlers he named. I thought that would get more attention.

      The audience thing Is still mind-altering for me. I get how a lot of pro guys feed of a crowd's energy, so if you take that energy away, it'll have an impact.

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    2. I would argue that underground professional wrestling is actually much more difficult than show wrestling. On shows the noise and 'heat' from the audience is the perfect cover for verbal communication. Many don't even bother to mask their lips when speaking. I'm sure we've all seen show matches where you've seen and even heard one worker calls a spot to the other. As a ref, I was often called upon during matches to deliver a message from one worker to the other.

      Underground wrestling does not allow for mid-match plot-planning. Some pros find the transition disconcerting and difficult. You've taken away one of their tools. Some even try to call spots either out of habit or thinking that their voices are inaudible or undetected. That's seldom the case.

      The pros who adapt best to underground action are almost invariably those with lots of experience in the ring, and more particularly, experience on the mats as amateurs. Amateur and pro wrestling are world apart for sure, but amateur wrestling
      can greatly enhance and inform a pro career. For instance, Cameron, Jonny Firestorm and Paul Hudson all have extensive amateur experience, and it shows in their work. It sharpens your instincts, improves balance and flexibility and literally makes you think on your feet. The mechanics of pro wrestling, on a show or underground, relies on quick thinking and clever improvisation.


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    3. Thanks for the comment. Interesting perspective. I think both are difficult in their own way. The speed, need for bigger moves and innovation, audience expectations, and working live with no ability to stop, all make pro seem incredibly challenging.

      I agree that amateur wrestling can help. I think anything that gives you experience working with another guy, using your body like that, can help improve your instincts.

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