When the clock struck midnight to bring in 2011, I was a different person than I am today. Sure, we grow each year, but the transformation I've experienced in the last 12 months has been unreal.
On January 1, 2011, I was a walking zombie working the overnight shift, grouchy due to sleep deprivation most of the time, and nearly 260 pounds. I was a has-been (or never-was, depending on who you ask) wrestler who wrote about my wrestling memories, among many reasons, to preserve them as they became less vivid each time they crossed my mind. Of course, I always hoped to find my way back into wrestling, but my wrestling career had been deceased for more than eight years.
I had been invited to be a part of Metro Pro Wrestling since its first show, but my work schedule wouldn't allow it. Once I left my job to start my own business (which tanked so quickly I could write a How-NOT-To book about it), I was finally able to join Metro as the Vice Commissioner.
I've worked for countless promotions and haven't liked the way most of them have operated. Many of them didn't do good business. Some were dishonest, some didn't respect the fans, others had poor locker room morale, and others just plain sucked.
When I came to Metro in March, I fell in love with the promotion quickly. The locker room was full of hungry young talent like Jeremy Wyatt, Tyler Cook, and Heroes for Hire, and veterans whose love and passion for the business was infectious like Pete Madden and Derek Stone. The TV program was great in both creative and production.
I kept thinking how I wished I could have worked for a promotion like Metro during my in-ring days. I was so infatuated with the promotion that soon I was no longer content just being an on-air personality. For years, I thought there was no chance of an in-ring return, but I finally decided it was time to find out for myself whether I still had any gas left in the tank.
Losing 45 pounds was easier than I expected. With most of the extra weight gone, it was time to step into the ring and knock off the rust. I started training at the Harley Race Wrestling Academy a couple times a week to get comfortable once again.
If I was going to return, I was going to make it count. Now the commissioner, I set my sights on Michael Strider, the most beloved wrestler in the Central States region, and started a war with him that resurrected my in-ring persona, "All That" Matt Murphy.
As the Murphy/Strider war was reaching its boiling point, I also made a surprise return to Arkansas for Traditional Championship Wrestling, defeating "Golden Boy" Greg Anthony for the TCW Junior Heavyweight Title in my first match before losing it back to him two weeks later.
I could list many accomplishments that I'm proud of, but my three proudest wrestling accomplishments happened this year. The first was seeing my wrestling-fanatic son's reaction to seeing his dad in the ring live for the first time. The second was my childhood hero, Ricky "the Dragon" Steamboat, passionately praising my tag team match with my old partner Steve Fender vs. our old enemies Trevor Murdoch and Bull Schmitt on a WLW show in Eldon. And the third was my feud with Strider in Metro Pro.
Though I've had many great matches as I've had with Trevor Murdoch, Bull Schmitt, Wade Chism, and others, the heel run in Metro Pro was the most fun I've ever had in the business.
When I think of a great heel, I don't think of someone who grabs a microphone and insults local sports teams. I don't think of a wrestler who takes the crowd's breath away with flashy moves (they should be going "boo" not "ooh"). I think of someone who the audience hates with such ferocity that they'll buy a ticket to see him get his comeuppance. To be a top heel requires nuclear heat--true hatred--and that's what I set out to achieve. While a wrestling show needs all varieties of characters, I'm a firm believer that buyrate is more important than workrate. Dean Malenko was 100 times the wrestler Hulk Hogan was, but Hogan drew 100 times the paying customers that Malenko drew (probably more). Did I have a 5-star match, or even a 4-star match? No. But I had true heat, and being hated never felt so good.
2011 ended with a bang, literally. Michael Strider ended our war with the Strider Spiral followed by a sick chair shot, which blasted me on top of the head hard enough to leave a half-dollar-sized bruise on my spine. I was sore as hell for a couple weeks, but any questions I had as to whether my neck could withstand the rigors of pro wrestling were answered when I healed just fine.
I'm having too much fun to quit wrestling now. 2012 is a new year; I've got some big plans in Metro Pro Wrestling and Traditional Championship Wrestling. And if the Mayans are wrong, maybe I'll still be going in 2013.
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