One of my favorite wrestlers to watch is the WWE’s Vance Archer (Lance Hoyt). He’s a huge guy, amazing size, great charisma and good agility for somebody of his size. Now, you may ask, with the depth of the WWE roster, why do you choose Vance Archer as one of your favorites?
Well, to tell that story, I have to go back about 10 years or so. My mother and I discovered a local indy wrestling company called Professional Championship Wrestling (PCW) in Arlington, TX. It ran out of a gym in the most ghetto mall ever. You could watch entire matches where the guy never touched each other. You watched names like Action Jackson, Jeromy Sage and Redd Dogg (known better as Rodney Mack). Yes, there were some crappy moments, but at the end of the day, it was fun. I got to see some really intense feuds, some guys give everything and I got to see a wrestler by the name of “Shadow.”
Shadow was huge. He came out with a spooky Undertaker-like gimmick with Test’s pants. This guy had something that you can’t teach… presence. He would stare at some little kid and scare them during his entrance. When he walked out to the ring, you took notice. It’s no surprise his career took off. The story is well-documented. He did a dark match at TNA and they decided he looked like Kid Kash and made them a tag team. Thus was born the national career of Lance Hoyt.
Now, out of all the guys I used to watch, Lance Hoyt always has a special place in my wrestling heart (as do Rodney Mack and Jazz). That’s because I watched his career when he was up-and-coming. We got to see him from lowly guy sitting outside the ghetto mall to performing on national pay-per-views.
The world of MMA has those people and they all start somewhere. Before Rampage Jackson was starring in the A-Team, he fought at the International Sport Combat Federation in 1999. Forrest Griffin lost to Dan Severn in his first fight at Reality Superfighting in 2001. Anderson Silva lost at Meca World Vale Tudo in 2001. Here are a few places you can see the stars of tomorrow before they become the stars of today.
This is the original launching pad for a LOT of UFC’s current stars: Forrest Griffin, Rashad Evans, Michael Bisping, Kendall Grove, Nate Diaz. You get to watch a lot of shenanigans (urination, pranks gone wild and worse). There’s always that one explosive personality (Chris Leben, Junie Browning, Jamie Yeager, Bruce Leroy). Plus, you get to see some great fighting. The most emotional fight I’ve ever seen (Junie Browning vs. Efrain Escudero) took place on Ultimate Fighter. That was the night that I became part of Team Escudero for life. Not that everybody on Ultimate Fighter is a rookie, but you have a good place to watch these guys and get an emotional connection to them. Two of my three favorite fighters in MMA got their start in Ultimate Fighter (Escudero and Amir Sadollah).
Again these are the hungrier guys (and girls). Sarah Kaufman, Miesha Tate, Ryan Couture & Roxanne Modafferi (my inner geek’s soulmate) are a few names. Nothing is ever left behind. You have Billy Evangelista vs. Waachiim Spiritwolf, which was three rounds of the best fighting you will ever see. It right now is one of my favorites for fight of the year. You never know when one of these names might rise to the top.
I know. It is a killer economy out there. But there are local places all around us. For those who love wrestling, we don’t have to watch the WWE. We have local wrestling promotions. You don’t always have to see George Lopez perform; you can go see comedians perform at local comedy clubs. You don’t always have to see Sarah McLachlan live (though I recommend it very much, as I just saw her on Monday); you can go see somebody at a local bar. And while I can count on one hand the number of times UFC has been to Dallas, I found a local promotion that has MMA shows, North Texas Ultimate Fighting. Who knows if one of these starts might make it to the next level? Might I be watching the next Chuck Liddell or Randy Couture or Sara Kaufman?
But wait, I can’t drive to Arlington, TX. My solution is very simple. Go to www.sherdog.com and click on “Fights.” This won’t have everything, but it’s a nice place to start.
Let’s give of ourselves to invest in these new people as they are at the cusp of greatness.