Mid-States Wrestling invades the Relics Event Center Saturday night, so I went to Harrison, Ark. to see “Space Cowboy” Jason Jones’ group in its final week of preparation.
Jones has been in the pro wrestling business for 22 years. This particular afternoon, he was working with performers taking part in Saturday’s “Rising Star Battle Royal,” a 10-man, over-the-top-rope elimination match in which the last man in the ring wins.
“Some of these guys have trained upwards of two years, and they’re going out on the independent circuit right now and they are getting some of their first matches,” Jones said. “But this is going to be their first match in their hometown of Springfield, Missouri.”
Jones has eight guys from Springfield in his gym, a former warehouse space with two full-size rings. With just a fan and an open door to keep cool, the Space Cowboy says his performers have no trouble breaking a sweat to get in shape during hot Arkansas summers.
Mid-States’ rising stars make the drive after work to train for Saturday’s showcase. They are not the main event, but they all earned their spots on the card.
Michael Snyder lives in Springfield with his wife and children. Pro wrestling has been in his blood since he saw Hulk Hogan slam Andre the Giant at WrestleMania III, one of the most famous matches of all time. Snyder, a full-time AT&T employee, says he always dreamed of being a pro wrestler, but only recently made the commitment.
“About a year ago, I decided, ‘Let’s go ahead and do it while we’ve still got a little bit of a body left,'” he said.
Snyder is one of the older Mid-States “rising stars,” but all 10 men do the same drills and take the same bumps in training.
“The biggest surprise to me has been, at the age of 35, how much I enjoy being thrown around and beat up for a couple hours every week,” said Springfield’s James Legault, an affable, beefy ring worker who wrestles in character as “Jimmy Fiasco.”
Saturday is the first time Jimmy Fiasco will perforn in Springfield.
“Jimmy Fiasco is me, cranked up to 11. I took everything about myself I love and I threw away everything I didn’t like and I just crank it up,” Legault said. “I go in that ring and I party, I have a good time, I beat people up, I get beat up, and I love every second of it.”
Jones trains men and women of all shapes and sizes, but they all share a love of pro wrestling, most from a very young age.
“When I was a kid, they were my superheroes,” Springfield’s Chase Thompson said. “Now I’ve got the chance. I get to be that superhero.”
Thompson, 28, decided two years ago to chase his dream. The Missouri State alum spends his days at the T-Mobile Call Center in Springfield, and says he has spent many mornings aching from a tough night before in the ring.
Getting reactions from live crowd is nothing new for Thompson. He acted in theatre productions growing up, and in college, he suited up for five years as mascot Boomer the Bear.
The wrestling business is more than scoop slams and suplexes. Jones challenges every trainee to promote each event and sell as many tickets as possible. Dedication outside the ring can be rewarded with better opportunities inside the ropes.
Saturday’s battle royal is no WrestleMania moment, but it is the first highlight, the payoff for two years of work in and out of the gym.
“I get to do what I’ve wanted to do, what I’ve been working on, busting my butt for,” Thompson said, perched on the top turnbuckle. “I just want to make Springfield proud.”
Jones says a big debut event like Saturday’s battle royal makes him feel like a father watching his son’s first Little League game.
“Win, lose or draw, I know how much work they’ve put in to get to that point,” Jones said. “It’s the thank you and the handshake that they give me when they get backstage: ‘Thank you for getting me to this point. Thank you for helping me fulfill my dream.’ That means a lot.”
For Snyder, Saturday’s show represents a check mark on his bucket list.
“One day I’ll look back and my life and say, ‘I did it.'”
WWE Hall of Famer “Cowboy” Bob Orton will accept a lifetime achievement award from Jones at Saturday’s Mid-States Wrestling show in Springfield. Tickets are $15. Click here for more information.