What I Learned From Wrestling: Putting Yourself Over

He's not choking me. I'm just fat and blown up.

I just watched the MTV Video Music Awards and I’m shocked and appalled at what passes for good music nowadays. Granted, you are about as likely to find actual “music” on MTV as you would be of seeing me sit down to a nice, healthy, delicious salad. Translation: You have a better chance of seeing Jesus as what used to be defined as “videos” on MTV anymore. When a chubby British chick goes on stage with nothing but a piano and exceptionally long fingernails and it is by far the best performance of the show, it speaks to the larger problem that the music industry is in a state of absolute shit right now.

I watched the VMA’s mostly to make fun of them. However, I can also claim “market research” since my post-spandex wearing life involves me drinking copious quantities of Jagerbombs and dancing on top of bars singing “Jessie’s Girl”. Part of me worries that this column is going to come off like I am some out-of-touch old fuck on 60 minutes talking about how much better things were “back in my day”.

Fuck it, my day WAS better and I won’t apologize for it. Ask yourself this – who of the “new” generation is going to be culturally relevant in the future? Who is going to define music? Who is going to endure? Who is going to change the industry? I look at bands like Pearl Jam who just celebrated the 20th anniversary of the release of “Ten”, or the Foo Fighters that have endured for over 15 years. The fact that Britney Spears was the “Michael Jackson” lifetime achievement winner this year should pretty much tell you everything you need to know about the direction that things are going in the music industry. The actual “art” of musicianship has been lost. It’s been replaced by meat-suits, weird hats, and train wrecks like Lady Gaga who while talented, have to rely on a gimmick or character to get over with the crowd.

In short – showmanship has replaced musicianship. The proof is in the performances of the top “musicians” in the industry at one of the largest events in the business. Don’t get me wrong: There have always been shitty bands that got by on fancy stage shows and hype. KISS still performs, for Christ’s sake. Hell, at least they didn’t lip sync or auto-tune.

Perhaps there is a similar parallel in the wrestling business where the “sports entertainer” has replaced the “wrestler”.

I was attracted to being a professional wrestler because it combined athleticism with showmanship. I was always loud and obnoxious growing up, and saw it as a great way to essentially “amp” myself up into a character.

The BIGGEST similarity between music and wrestling: It’s often not the most talented performer who is getting the push.

I used to get a lot of heat in the locker room for perhaps playing my character “too well”. There aren’t a lot of wrestlers who think like businessmen. There aren’t a lot of workers working towards PhD’s. It’s probably why Lanny Poffo was branded a “Genius” or “Dean Douglas” had to play up the fact that he ACTUALLY IN REAL LIFE OMG graduated from college! Most indy wrestlers or aspiring musicians never get out of the respective armory or dive bar not for lack of talent, but for lack of marketing. I’ll boil it down to one simple life lesson that has made me both successful as well as hated throughout my life.

If you are not willing or able to put yourself over sometimes, don’t expect anyone else to.

Don’t get me wrong, there is an art form to doing it that I continue to try to master. The successful worker has to simultaneously put themselves over while remaining humble and gracious for the opportunities that they are creating for themselves. That is another prime component: CREATING FOR THEMSELVES. Guys like Chris Jericho or CM Punk – even Steve Austin or The Rock at the beginning of the “attitude” era – they were all mid-card or up and coming performers who never really caught on until they said fuck it and started embracing a bit more of whom they were into their characters. In essence, they got themselves over. It’s hard not to draw the “hey that looks kind of familiar” between what is happening with CM Punk as what happened back at the dawn of Austin 3:16.

My hope is that seeing a small glimpse back into the “good ol’ days” where busting ass and working harder than everyone else delivers some success. On that note, I want to say congrats to my friend Sterling James Keenan aka new WWE Superstar Corey Graves. I will never forget taking a green SJK down to a shitty dive show in West Virginia to get him on because he was 17 and too young to legally wrestle in PA. I made the kid drive me, being the grizzled 3-year ring veteran that I was. Sometimes you can just talk to someone, work with them a bit and know that they aren’t going to be satisfied with mediocrity. That’s what I got from him. He wouldn’t be wrestling in the same place 5 years later, because that would be a failure of what he considered his dream.

Now admittedly, I haven’t figured out this whole music thing. I know I’m good at it, and Walk of Shame is pretty successful. I started SSS Promotions because I want to expand on what I’m good at – selling. I’m also self-aware enough to realize that it’s just as much hype as it is talent, and being smart enough to surround myself with great musicians to make me look better. It’s just like wrestling – if you are stuck working Mark Henry every night, you are only going to look so good. A wise poet of the wrestling business coined the term “Self-high five” to underscore the importance of looking out for #1. Hulk Hogan, when the locker room and industry hated him for making millions while others struggled said, “Everyone cuts their own deal, brother.”

So haters – don’t hate people who are cutting better deals than you. You might be more talented, you might be better. However, you are also a lot more stupid if you think that ANY of that matters anymore in the entertainment business.

The Heat-Seeking Missile,

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About Spiffy Sean Styles

354th ranked wrestler in the world according to Pro Wrestling Illustrated. Old School WU and Lethal mainstay. Currently the lead singer and manager for popular national Jager Band "Walk of Shame" (http://jagermusic.com)

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