Long drives are a huge part of pro wrestling. Whenever I run my seminars across the globe, a lot of young wrestlers ask me “what can I do to get my name out there?” My answer is always the same; get in your car and start driving. That’s one of the biggest ways to get your name out there and get noticed. If you truly want to become successful and make a living in this business, it’s imperative to travel. Opportunities rarely come to you, you have to get out there and grab the bull by the horns. How else will people know who you are and what you are all about? There’s a certain ceiling that you will hit if you stay complacent and stick to wrestling in the area you started. You most certainly will continue to wrestle guys at your level or below and in any profession, it is a must to work with individuals at a higher skill level than yourself, so that you can raise your status in your profession. In pro wrestling, raising that status means that more people are aware of your existence and from there it’s a domino effect. If you have the skills and more people are noticing you, it is inevitable that you will broaden your network. Broadening that network leadings to countless possibilities. Networking is a simple task, you cultivate relationships that soon grow from just a few to resembling branches on a tree, blossoming everywhere you go. And to grow your network early in your career, what’s easier than getting in your car and hitting the road.
Personally, that’s just what I did. I started wrestling professionally in 2001 and I wouldn’t even consider myself a “pro” back then. I was just some skinny kid who was copying what he saw on TV. At the time, I had little to no knowledge of the business that would soon provide me a life that I never expected it would. Part of that was due to where I started. The school I trained at had no real trainers and no real credentials. Virginia was never a hotbed for talent or a bustling independent scene, such as New York or New Jersey. But, try telling an 18 year old pro wrestling fanatic that. All I knew was that these guys at the wrestling school I went to were real life wrestlers! They wrestled in a real life ring and I sure as hell didn’t. I soon realized that no one there really had much knowledge when students would be teaching the classes. But, thankfully, I learned quick and was a natural at getting the movements and motions down. Part of that was due to the fact that ever since I was a young child, all I did was watch and study pro wrestling. So, when I would learn a move in class, I had a mental image of how it looked on TV and I did all I could to emulate that.
Virginia is where I lived and in turn, that’s where I broke in to wrestling. Sure, I could have packed up and moved to elsewhere in the country to get the best training possible, but at 18, that never crossed my mind. As far as I was concerned, life didn’t exist outside of my hometown. Plus, I had just graduated high school and was expected to go to college soon after. I started my freshman year of college in the fall of 2000 at George Mason University and had my first match in September of that year. At 18 , freshly out of high school, life was really going to start now. And boy did it ever a couple of years later as I started to really travel and make a name for myself in pro wrestling. I had a slow first year in wrestling. 2001 provided me maybe 20 matches, which may be a little above average for most in their first year of wrestling. I predominately stuck to shows in my home state of Virginia and at times ventured out to the North Carolina independent scene. Suffice to say, this wasn’t enough for me. I wanted more. As 2002 and my second year of wrestling approached, I hit the road and started doing shows all over the Northeast and soon enough, I was so busy with shows in the Northeast, that I rarely ever wrestled in my home state of Virginia or the North Carolina scene I was a part of when I first started wrestling.
Things were going great and I really carried on the momentum into 2003. I had two solid years of networking in pro wrestling under my belt and had made a few solid relationships. Plus, the Internet always helps. I wanted to venture out to bigger and better things. I bought a bunch of blank VHS tapes, copied over some highlights and my best match and sent them out to every promotion on the Eastern seaboard. Few bit, most didn’t. But, I took advantage of every opportunity that came my way. At that point in time, long road trips were just another part of the strange double life I was leading. Going to class and being a quiet, mild mannered college student during the day and on the weekends, becoming Sonjay Dutt, an up and coming pro wrestler. Long road trips can either be extremely fun or unbearable. It all has to do with the company. I made a lot of long road trips by myself as well and as much as many hate them, I didn’t mind them. Being alone was never a problem to me and at times, there’s nothing better than you and your music, cruising down the highway. Then, there’s some road trips that you never forget. Road trips that provide you with stories you will repeat for years. And don’t think road trips end when you sign that big contract and are on TV. They never end as long as you are a pro wrestler. There was one particular road trip in June of 2003 that I will never forget. The cast of characters included, myself, my then girlfriend (now wife), Ruckus, Ruckus’ cousin Anton, and a fellow by the name of Blood (yes, you read that right, Blood). The destination: Clarksville, Indiana. Time to destination: 11 hours. Let the games begin…