Culture

The Spinning Lariat: Go west, young man

Mike Bradley

Every week in The Spinning Lariat, Trent Zuberi educates you on the latest in non-WWE professional wrestling in America.

In the past, this article has primarily covered the artistic side of professional wrestling, strictly from a major company point of view. It has looked at the stories, art form, and production of marquee names that grace televisions across the globe and given an insight to the creative aspect of the sport. Recently, I had a thought when it came to how I wanted to approach a special edition of this article. I spent months writing about these established stars and how they perform and perfect their craft day in and day out, but what about the other side of that coin? What about the first steps of that journey and the players involved in those initial stages?

I am an avid follower of the independent wrestling scene, well-versed and well-traveled on the fan side of things. Many of my favorite independent stars of yesteryear now grace covers of magazines on newsstands nationwide, when just mere months ago I saw them amongst a few hundred people in smaller venues vying for an opportunity. I started to think about the rookies just breaking into the sport. What was the mindset? What were the dreams and aspirations that made them go forth and set upon this wild adventure? What essentially drives a person to jump into the sport of professional wrestling, and once they are in, what fuels the desire to fight an uphill battle? I began to think about the many independent wrestlers I have met over the years and what their stories could be because, let’s face it, wrestlers have the best stories. Then it hit me. There was no one better to speak to than a guy I have essentially known since the second his first steps toward entering the business were taken. A man that had a goal, saw his opening, took it, and began his journey. In the ring his name is Malcom West, but to his friends he is better known as Mike Bradley.

Mike is a very interesting individual. He’s the type of guy that gets your attention the second he walks into a room. It doesn’t hurt that he towers in at 6+ feet, (formerly) flowing braids, and a voice that breaks a few sound barriers.  But above everything, the man explodes with charisma. The second you start talking to him he’s got you hooked, and is just one of those people that has that “it” factor that draws people to them. It’s almost natural that he be in the entertainment industry, as he has a style that knows how to take control of a public environment. I liked Mike from the start, and when he told me he was throwing his hat into the business I became one of his biggest supporters. Like many performers today he was hooked at an early age watching the likes of Hulk Hogan, Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels. As I got to know him more, I learned of this humble NOLA boy with true hardworking blue-collar roots that knew the value of paying your dues when it came to success. He knew and still reminds himself daily of the hardships that are bound to hit him every single day he is in the business, but it doesn’t throw him off at all. He stays focused.

As he began his training I was along for the ride, and Mike was sure to keep me in the loop on his progress. I got first looks at his upcoming ring gear, his character development, his progress, et cetera, so it was pretty cool to be on that side of things. Like a true artist, he always had ideas. I’d hear about nicknames, catchphrases, moves, and styles that he wanted to eventually incorporate. While some would say he was moving too fast in everything aside from the actual wrestling aspect, from an artistic point of view he was on step one of creating a brand. He made his break working as head of security for Billy Corgan’s Resistance Pro Wrestling while he trained simultaneously with Chicago wrestling mainstay Tony Scarpone. Through that initial stage he began taking steps to getting into the ring as a competitor. Hearing stories of training and paying his dues during that time were always interesting. It was so humbling to hear about the amount of work he did for little to no reward and/or guarantee of a chance, but on the flipside, he was on his way and making steps closer and closer to achieving his dream. He finally got to live the first part of that dream when he made his in-ring debut facing Diablo Jones in a losing effort. But loss or not, the journey officially began and that was what this was all leading up to.

Creativity is a very important component for any entertainer. The constant mindset of creating, establishing and storytelling is essential for any role player to succeed, especially as a professional wrestler. Physical capability is extremely important, but the creative process is one of the biggest components of success in this industry. As I’ve discussed in the past, this sport is an art. It’s a story being told with live-action combat with the intention of hooking a viewer along for the entire ride. As a fan you see several instances of amazing technicians that have no idea how to tell a story or market themselves. But hey, that happens. Not everyone is a storyteller. However, those that are have that little extra that carries them further. This is where I feel Mike fits in and it’s what will be his biggest strength. He thought about his character and the stories he would tell from the beginning and stayed the course on furthering not only the physical aspect of the job, but also the branding aspect. It’s very interesting to see how a guy on the first step of many already has his mind moving for ways to get him to steps 2, 3, 4 and so on.

The sky is the limit for Mike. Our friendship aside, I see a great future for him just purely based on how I have learned about the passion and drive he has for the business and wanting to create something special. He stays humble, keeps his mouth shut, opens his ears and absorbs everything around him like a sponge. That along with his keep sense for art through this sport will yield the success coming to him. As a wrestling fan there is nothing more fun sometimes than to brag to your fellow wrestling fans about how you saw and supported a certain big name performer before they actually hit the big time. Needless to say, I eagerly await that moment with Mike.

Follow Mike on social media! @malcomwestMB on Twitter and Instagram and Malcom West M.B. on Facebook

Questions, comments, feedback about the article? Connect with me on Twitter @vanillajoke