OVW’s “Breakout” – pro wrestling’s first ever combine on June 1 – offers a full ride to pro wrestling’s first ever degree program.
By Michael Melchor, Executive Editor
One of the biggest stories in pro wrestling happened in New York on Saturday, April 6 at approximately 8:00 AM.
Earlier that week it had been announced that Ohio Valley Wrestling was in the final stages of gaining state accreditation to open a trade school for processional wrestling. Not only can a degree in professional wrestling finally be obtained, but financial aid and scholarships would be available for it as well.
At WrestleCon, OVW Owner Al Snow and Gilbert Corsey, Vice-President of Broadcasting for OVW’s parent company Gladiator Sports Network, announced the first ever pro wrestling combine.
— OVW Wrestling (@ovwrestling) April 6, 2019
In an exclusive interview with The Gorilla Position, Snow explained how the ideas first started taking shape. “I had that idea for a couple years,” Snow said. “I went to the Kentucky Boxing and Wrestling Commission with the idea to institute a set of standards in regards to professional wrestling. I wanted a standard that we ourselves, as professional wrestling, have let slip away. We’re trying to set standards in terms of people being in proper physical and athletic condition to perform properly and safely. That’s the key – safely.”
Snow elaborated on how the combine was designed. “Let’s say a guy comes in and says, ‘I want to be in WWE – what do I need to do?’ Well, let’s take professional baseball as an example because my business partner, Chad Miller, was a baseball scout and really helped put this all together. They have a scale of one to ten and a checklist of ten items they evaluate the baseball player on based on those scores. It’s simple athletic things – the bench press, running the 40 [yard dash]. One of them is public speaking, which is an important part these days – if you have a great player but they can’t speak publicly, it’s not going to be a marketable product for the baseball team. So they literally have a scale and breaking it down by the total score.”
According to the Al Snow Wrestling Academy website, the “Snow Scale” to be used at the combine implements the following metrics:
|Vertical Jump||23″||18″||Jump Mat|
|Pull Ups||10||5||Body Weight/Standard Grip|
|20 Yard Shuttle||5.1 sec||5.6 sec||Laser Timed|
|% Body Fat||11%||11%||InBody Scanner|
|Bench Press||12x||10x||(Male 225/Female 105)|
|Squat||12x||10x||(Male 225/Female 135)|
|30 sec Promo||Must be interesting
|Must be interesting and charismatic||Submitted in Combine Application|
|In the Ring||Must be prepared to complete
a two minute blowup drill
|Must be prepared to complete
a two minute blowup drill
|Experienced Wrestler 2 Min. Match
Inexperienced Wrestler 2 Min. Blowup Drill
“There are quantifiable levels to your scores based upon your performance,” Snow continued. “With ours, let’s say you bench press 225. The higher the number of reps, the higher your score. Why that’s important is, you need a certain amount of physical strength to safely pick up another human being and move them around. That’s why we want to judge that. We’ll have you run a shuttle run because you need to have explosive speed along with endurance. In wrestling, you explode and move fast but then you have to slow down and yet keep that same endurance throughout.”
Several things separate the OVW Combine from any number of regular wrestling tryouts. This is not a “tryout camp” where prospects are tested to see what value they may be to a single company. The combine is a complete examination of physical, mental and emotional well-being as it pertains to being a professional wrestler anywhere.
In addition, it is an unprecedented opportunity to earn a degree in the sport and receive a full ride for those at the top of the heap.
“The opportunity is a half a million dollar investment that were going to make in these athletes,” Snow said. “We’re going to take the 15 highest-scooting athletes and we’re going to offer them all two-year, full-ride scholarships along with room and board facilities and a job placement program so they can work part-time while they’re here and pay their bills and survive while they go to the school. And we’re willing to do that because we really believe in what we’re doing.”
In addition to being Vice-President of Broadcasting for OVW’s parent company Gladiator Sports Network, Gilbert Corsey has also been involved with wrestling for almost 10 years. Eight of those years have been with Ohio Valley Wrestling, primarily as their main play-by-play commentator.
Corsey explained how the trade school, set to open in September, is an extension of what Ohio Valley Wrestling had already been doing for years.
“We’re already teaching people how to time out a show, how to direct a live show, how to shoot live sports, how to produce segments, how to write storylines that arc over months of even a year, how to write episodic television,” Corsey said. “So we wanted to take the skills and things we do week to week that OVW’s been doing for 20 years and really drill that down into a curriculum. We started meeting at the end of 2018 and started building a 60 credit-hour program that’s designed to take place over eight quarters – two years. And when you leave, you really have the skills – everything you need – to go forward and work in sports entertainment whether that be with WWE, Impact or anywhere.”
According to a press release about the school, the 2-year course includes classroom work and labs on various subjects including exercise science, nutrition, broadcast production, computer science, marketing, business and fiscal management in addition to in-ring physical training. As an accredited school, those classes will be taught by those who already work in those fields.
The accreditation process under the state of Kentucky opens the possibilities for those who have wanted to be in the professional wrestling business in any capacity. Those with the ability and desire can be fully taught and trained in all aspects of the field and be eligible for grants, scholarships and federal financial aid while doing so.
Snow said that this kind of formalized training in all areas of the sport has been long overdue.
“I’ve always wanted to teach every aspect of it,” Snow said. “Tommy Dreamer and I had this conversation recently – we were both very fortunate because we both got to learn a lot of those aspects from a lot of really great people. Not everybody is going to get that kind of thing. But if they are taught that right out of the gate – not just backstage things but personal things like financial management, social media management and things like that, they can help protect themselves in the later part of their career. I wish there had been a formalized way of doing this when i first started wrestling. I would have been years ahead of the curve.”
Corsey points out that, with the growth of professional wrestling as a whole, opportunities are abound for not just in-ring performers but anyone who has wanted to be a part of the business.
“I think for a very long time – and still to this day – anybody could call themselves a wrestling trainer and sometimes take advantage of young people and leave them with little-to-no skills or ability to get a functional job in sports entertainment,” Corsey said. “There are so many jobs out there right now, whether it be WWE – who has the biggest roster they’ve ever had. Impact is still a worldwide promotion that airs in 120 countries. AEW is really hot right now. Championship Wrestling From Hollywood has diversified their brand and are syndicated in many markets, like Championship Wrestling From Arizona. You have MLW on beIN Sports, the list really goes on and on. There are jobs out there to be had.”
Citing the recent acquisitions by WWE of former OVW referee Chris Sharpe and James “Paradyse” Long – a former OVW wrestler who now works as a head of one of WWE’s production facilities with NXT – Corsey stresses that the school and the combine exists not just for the benefit of OVW, but for the business as a whole.
“We know that we are teaching tangible skills,” Corsey said. “What OVW is – we believe it, it isn’t a tagline – we are the Harvard of professional wrestling. We have the most elite training. I think that, as wrestling expands and more of these jobs crop up, there’s got to be a hub. We are that hub. Every professional company in the world needs to look at OVW when they are looking for talent because they know that the best minds in the business train them here. It goes beyond the people that just want to be in-ring performers and competitors. You’re going to know how to fully market, manage and run your own promotion with the skills that we teach out of OVW. The state is recognizing [professional wrestling] as a learned trade, and that has never happened. Any state or government agency has never recognized the skills taught in the ring and behind the scenes as a skilled trade. The goal isn’t for these people to stay in OVW forever – the goal is for them to get signed to a national promotion and to go get a job. So we’re really investing in professional wrestling.”
That investment takes full shape on June 1 at the OVW Combine. Athletes from all walks are invited to be evaluated, with the top 15 prospects being given full tuition to wrestling’s first ever trade school and state-accredited degree program.
“What a huge opportunity is that,” said Corsey. “They’re going to take the top 15 in this combine and not only give them this incredible state-of-the-art training but cover their tuition and their housing. We’re going to train them for free. We are putting the next generation of superstars into the sports entertainment industry and we’re training them for free.”
Snow said that the combine and the school are the culmination of a legacy and a dream he has had for the future of pro wrestling.
“It’s everything I’ve devoted myself to. I think it’s an incredible opportunity for everyone involved in every way that you can imagine and it’s a way for me to leave some kind of legacy in the business. I’ve always felt my legacy isn’t going to be what I’ve achieved in my career as much as what I’ve given to the other young men and women who have wanted to pursue careers in professional wrestling.“
More information about the Combine – inlusing how to register – can be found at aswa.live
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