(Editor’s note: This is the second entry in a series that follows staff writer Dave Dyer’s training to become a professional wrestler.)

It’s late in the evening when I pull into the driveway of my Belfast home. Both my girlfriend and my daughter are asleep, so I attempt to limp my injured body quietly around my two dogs on the way to the bathroom for a shower. I remove my shirt to find various bruises across my arm and upper torso. The mark that stands out the most is a large red hand print on my chest.

Just another day in the school of hard knocks of professional wrestling.

I’ve just wrapped up another practice at the Limitless Dojo in Brewer, and on this particular day, we learned strikes. Pro wrestling may be predetermined, folks, but as my new hand print tattoo will tell you, many aspects of it are very real.

On this particular day, I allowed my fellow students — Jacob “The Drifter” Dawson and Ethan “Mac Daniels” McHatten  — to throw chops on me, a move made famous by legendary wrestler “The Nature Boy” Ric Flair. There’s nothing fake about the move. Your opponent openly slaps you across the chest. It hurts, and it leaves a mark. There is a proper way to throw it — across the meaty portion of an opponent’s chest, so as not to hit their neck or breast bone — and our trainers, Aiden Aggro and Alexander Lee, each showed us how to throw it.

I decided to take the abuse first, to get it out of the way. I got my revenge moments later on Dawson and McHatten, which helped take the sting out of my still-aching chest.

SMALL IMPROVEMENTS

I’m now three months into my training, and while I’ve got a long way to go to my first match, I’m beginning to notice the improvements in my work in the ring. Small improvements. In footwork. In moves. There’s been humbling moments as well. After a recent taping at the Dojo, one of the promotion’s routine wrestlers (whom I will refrain from naming for the sake of my personal safety), said that my front bump looked like “dog (excrement).”

Hey, any criticism is good criticism at this point.

But with each practice, with each drill, my confidence is growing. My biggest step may have been at my most recent practice. I successfully pulled off an up-and-over, which is when a wrestler leaps over an opponent in the corner with the help of the turnbuckle and top rope. Previously, I would use the bottom rope as a springboard to get over someone. Now, I can do it without the springboard. There’s still a small amount of athleticism left in this 33-year old dad bod.

BIRTH OF THE “BELFAST BULLDOG”

As wrestling fans, and even non-wrestling fans might know, having a character is huge. As I’ve developed in the ring, I’ve also developed what kind of character I want to represent.

When I first started my training, one of my fellow students, Dalton Hemingway, called me “The Big Cat.” It was an awesome name, but I wasn’t sure it totally fit. One, I’m not very big (well, height-wise, anyway). And while I love all animals, I’m not the biggest cat person in the world.

Lastly, chubby guys don’t look great in leopard print.

The actual realization of what I wanted to be for a wrestling character hit me like a lightning bolt, and all it took was looking at one of my pets.

Say hello to “The Belfast Bulldog” Dave Dyer.

A simple glance at my dog, Ruby — an old English bulldog — was all it took. It fit in so many ways. It fit my barrel-chested, non-leading man looks. I wanted to present an aggressive style with my moves in the ring. And it was a nod to wrestlers that inspired me as a kid, mostly the guys that came from Stampede Wrestling out of Calgary, Canada that helped the World Wrestling Federation become a global phenomenon in the 1980s and 1990s. Guys such as The British Bulldogs — Davey Boy Smith and Tom Billington — Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart, and of course, my childhood hero, Bret “The Hitman” Hart.

The character was set. Now, I just need some gear.

TIGHTS AREN’T CHEAP

As soon as I knew what kind of character I was going to be, I had an idea of the kind of look I wanted for my outfit.

Black and blue for the colors. Black boots. A black singlet top. Long, blue tights, with dog bones on the side and “Bulldog” written on the tights.

It was a doable idea. A pricey, but doable idea.

I went to highspots.com — a website that specializes in custom-made wrestling gear that many wrestlers buy from. I ordered patent leather black  boots, with a price tag of $225. Ouch. My singlet and long tights with the specific design I envisioned were ordered, for another $200.

Total investment, after tax and shipping? $458. I would like to immediately apologize to Brandi as she reads this, and I hope she does not lock me out of the house tonight.

Three months are down. I’ve got a character set. I’ve ordered my gear. And I inch closer with each practice toward that eventual first match.


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