You don’t have much in common with anyone you’ve met this morning. A stockbroker from New York. A machinist from Ohio. A retired analyst from Louisiana. A philosophy professor from California. And you. Not much in common—just one thing, in fact. You all grew up watching wrestling, dreaming of one day stepping into the ring yourself.
Then your life happened, and even though you didn’t end up slamming Andre the Giant in front of 100,000 screaming fans or putting on a Meltzer-certified five-star classic with Randy Savage, you never lost your love for that All-American collision of theater and combat.
And that’s why you’re all in a small but professional studio in a generic industrial space off Patrick Lane this morning. You are at the latest class in Fantasy Slam Wrestling, the kind of only-in-Vegas attraction the town needs to keep its edge these days.
Led by trainers Sinn Bodhi and D’Lo Brown, assisted by a rotating lineup of wrestling legends including Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat, Chavo Guerrero, Gangrel and Jake “The Snake” Roberts, Fantasy Slam, over three days of intense but entirely safe training action, will, in Bodhi’s words, let fans “live out their fantasy” by stepping into the ring with the stars they grew up idolizing.
After spending time learning from the real deal, you’ll appreciate everything about wrestling that much more.
That’s a deep bench of wrestling know-how. Bodhi wrestled in the WWE as Kizarny and, in recent years, has been the mastermind behind Freakshow Wrestling, a grappling/burlesque/music/comedy mashup that happens at the Fremont Country Club. Brown rose to prominence in the WWE as a member of the Nation of Domination, the same faction that was instrumental in the career of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Both men have continued competing since leaving WWE and, more importantly, have a passion for teaching that is easily apparent.
The first couple days of camp have a mix of action. Participants spend their first two hours covering the basics of wrestling: how to safely but convincingly move around the ring, attack their opponent and take a few shots. After a catered lunch, things settle down as the participants learn the art of a discipline as challenging intellectually and emotionally as landing a 450 frog splash is physically: cutting a promo.
For those not familiar with pro wrestling’s carny-inflected jargon, a promo is a combination of a monologue and a rant with one overriding purpose: to get fans to show up at whatever it is you are promoting. Like the wrestlers themselves, promos run the gamut from inarticulate intensity and everyman heroics to religious homilies and a well-timed five words. Imagine it as everything you would say to your boss if your job depended on getting thousands of people to pay money to see you and your boss finally settle your differences.
“You’ve watched it and read the dirt sheets, you think you know everything. But it all changes once you go between those ropes.” – Alex “KOOLAID” Ansel, comedian
But a good promo isn’t just complaining about how you’ve been mistreated or threatening to wreak your vengeance. In a minute or less, you must tell the audience who you are and what you’re going to do in a way that makes them care. Like everything else in life, it’s walking a fine line: too crazy, and the audience laughs, too calm, they snore. And a good promo must fit the character; what’s pitch perfect for a conniving rule-breaker would be nonsensical coming from a quiet enforcer type. Angry? Smug? Comic? They can all work, and they can all bomb. So coming up with a viable promo might be more difficult than learning how to correctly hit a flat back bump. With Bodhi and Brown’s help, though, it happens.
The second day follows the same pattern, with more advanced material covered. And the third day is when the fantasy, so to speak, becomes reality, as the participants meet, train with, and ultimately square off against the visiting legend.
Fantasy Slam is part of the growing business of delivering packaged experiences to adults with expendable income. There might be a fantasy camp for everything. Baseball? Rock and roll? Cosmonaut training? Burlesque? If you have the time and the money, you can spend a few days learning it from the best.
What’s the potential for wrestling fantasy camp? Jake “The Snake,” who needs no introduction to wrestling fans, says it in a few words.
“This is the smartest frigging idea of all time.” Coming from him, that’s high praise, and it’s hard to argue the point.
For their trouble, the fans get a few things: insight into the very real hard work that goes into every match, road stories from the trainers and legends and a DVD with their promos and match.
Even if they don’t get the chance to apply what they’ve learned in a ring, the Fantasy Slam experience will help participants appreciate wrestling even more. You’ve felt the emotional rise as the good guy turns the tables on the villain after being pummeled relentlessly; hearing Roberts explain the art of “the comeback” (“It’s an explosion, not a pop gun”) makes you want to see it done right. After spending time learning from the real deal, you’ll appreciate everything about wrestling that much more.
“Anyone can do this, regardless of your background. We make it very safe, very comfortable.” – Sinn Bodhi, trainer
And it’s hard to imagine a time, whatever your career, when a little advice on how to speak more directly and get a stronger emotional response won’t be helpful. So, beyond the DVD and the memories, there are real takeaways here.
That might be why past participants rave about their Fantasy Slam experience.
“It was a dream come true,” says Paul, a truck driver and musician. “Just hearing the stories was worth it.”
Comedian Alex “KOOLAID” Ansel, who is currently the opening act for Roberts’ stand-up tour, is also grateful for the experience. “It was eye-opening, it gave me a deeper appreciation. Because you’ve watched it and read the dirt sheets, you think you know everything. But it all changes once you go between those ropes. It’s helped me understand Jake a little better—it’s a little taste of what he’s lived for forty years. You’re able to dip your toe into the wrestling world. And it’s fun.”
For those worried that they aren’t in good enough physical shape to endure the rigors of an encounter with the likes of Jake “The Snake,” Bodhi is reassuring.
“Anyone can do this, regardless of your background,” he says. “We make it very safe, very comfortable.”
So even if you missed your chance at a career in the ring, at Fantasy Slam Wrestling, for a few days, you can live your dream.
Fantasy camps are currently scheduled in May and June. For more info: fantasyslamprowrestling.com/pro-wrestling-fantasy-camp/