We all have dreams in life. Some dream of becoming an astronaut and exploring the galaxy beyond our planet. Others may dream of being a teacher and molding the next generation of young minds. For Michael Balzano, who also goes by his ring name Vinny Balzano, his dream lies between the ropes of the squared circle.
I sat down with Mr. Balzano, a wrestler in the Indy promotion of New Wave Pro, to talk about getting started in wrestling, the intensity of the business and the hardships of following your dreams in Sports Entertainment.
HOW DID YOU GET STARTED IN WRESTLING? WHAT GOT YOU INTERESTED EXACTLY?
I got interested in it because I looked up to Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock as a kid, as I got older I watched more of Jeff Hardy and “RVD”. I didn’t have a clue how to get stared in the wrestling business, until a friend of my mom’s came over to visit and he was on the Indy circuit. Then I contacted him by emailed and then him and I started talking and I started to train the next week.
YOUR LISTED WEIGHT IS 170 POUNDS, ARE YOU ONE OF THE SAMLLER GUYS IN THE PROMOTION YOU’RE WRESTLING IN? WHAT IS THAT LIKE WHEN YOU’RE MATCHED UP AGAINST GUYS THAT WRESTLE WITH PURE STRENGTH?
Yes I am pretty much the smallest guy.
HOW DO YOU DEAL WITH GUYS THAT ARE BIGGER THEN YOU? HOW DO YOU HAVE TO CHANGE YOUR GAME PLAN FOR A MACH FOR BIGGER OPPONENTS, THAN THOSE THAT ARE YOUR SIZE?
I have to use my speed and my wit and my arsenal of unique and high flying moves.
WITH YOUR HIGHFLYING MOVES ARE YOU AT MORE OF A RISK OF BEING INJURED? WHAT STEPS DO YOU TAKE TO PREVENT INJURY BEFORE AND DURING A MATCH?
Yes I am at more of a risk with my high flying moves in the ring and out. Before the show I try and get in the ring and check out the ropes to make sure they are tight enough and that everything is secure. I always pray before I go out into a match and I always make sure I stretch, I’m loose and ready.
DURING A MATCH, YOUR OPPONENT’S SAFETY IS YOUR RESPONSIBILTY. WHAT IS THAT RESPONSIBILITY LIKE? HAVE YOU OR SOMEONE YOU WRESTLED EVER HAVE ANY CLOSE CALLS DURING A MATCH?
Yes my first priority is my opponent’s safety, it is big deal. I am holding someone father, brother, or son in my hands as does he. No matter what you will always get bruised and banged up in a match.
HOW EXACTLY DID YOU GET INVOLVED WITH INDY WRESTLING PROMOTION? WAS IT HARD TO FIND OUT? HOW MANY HAVE YOU WRESTLED FOR SINCE YOU STARTED?
Yes it was very hard to fine one when I first started out I didn’t know that they were out there. I have now wrestled for 7 different companies and I have found out that a lot of them may not draw more than 30 people, but now wrestling with New Wave Pro in Terre Haute, Indiana. We draw anywhere from 200 to 300 hundred people and we run 3 shows a month.
WHAT IS IT LIKE AT 21 YEARS OLD TO WRESTLE IN FRONT OF 200-300 PEOPLE A SHOW? HOW DID YOU FIND NWP?
It’s really mind blowing considering that when first started out we were lucky to get 50 people a show with the other companies I wrestled for. After training and traveling from Indiana to Illinois, and I gone as far as Tennessee to train and do shows. Then the company I was working for shut down. I had a year that I took off from wrestling altogether. Then out of the blue a man by the name of Mykie Guess contacted me on Facebook asking me if I was interested in coming to train for him. At that time he was working with another company, then he made the decision to leave that company and stared NWP. I went with him because of his many years in the business and his talent in promoting and his great business mind.
AT THE START OF THE INTERVIEW YOU MENTIONED EMAILING A FRIEND OF THE FAMILY, AND THEN THE NEXT WEEK GETTING THROWN INTO TRAINING. WHAT WAS THAT LIKE GOING FROM IT ON TV TO ACUALLY GOING TO TRAINING TO DO WRESTLING? WHAT IS TRAINING FOR WRESTLING LIKE?
I was really excite but at the same time I nervous because I didn’t know what to expect. It is a lot of hard work and dedication a lot of traveling no pay for a long while.
IS TRAINING AS HARD AND CHALLENGING AS WRESTLERS IN THE PAST HAVE SAID? WHAT KIND OF SACRIFICES DID YOU HAVE TO MAKE IN ORDER TO GO THROUGH TRAINING AND HOW LONG WAS TRAINING?
Yes it is! First of all you are never done training and learning in this business, I have lost 3 girlfriends, and a lot of opportunities to do things that my friends were doing because I had to stay focused on training.
PROBING INTO YOUR PERSONAL LIFE A BIT MORE, WHAT WAS IT LIKE TO SACRIFICE GIRLFRIENDS AND OPPORTUNITIES TO DO THINGS WITH FRIENDS? DID YOU EVER WONDER IF IT WAS WORTH IT? WHAT DROVE YOU TO STICK WITH WRESTLING THROUGH ALL THESE SACRIFICES?
I knew that this is what I WANTED TO DO! Wrestling isn’t one of those things that waits around for you. I saw my opportunity and I took it, even though I missed out on doing stuff with my family and friends. I knew I had to keep my eye on the ball. As far as girlfriends go, that was a tough one to lose them but I had to keep my focus.
For those that are interested I cannot stress this enough THIS IS A HARD BUSINESS TO GET INTO! It depends on you yourself. It can take anywhere from a year to two years just for training. You need to have been trained not only on the moves, but also you must understand the psychology of what you are doing in a match.
HOW LONG DID YOU TRAIN BEFORE YOU HAD YOUR FIRST MATCH? WHAT CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT THE PSYCHOLOGY OF WRESTLING AND WHAT YOU ARE DOING?
it was a year for me before my first match. Understanding the psychology of wrestling is being able to work through different story lines and also be able to compete and market yourself.
IN WRESTLING YOU HEAR THE TERM “TELL A STORY” DURING A MATCH. WHAT EXACTLY DOES THAT MEAN? HOW DO YOU TELL A STORY DURING A MATCH?
We tell a story with are bodies and actions and reactions. We have 10 minutes from the time we go out of the curtain till we go back through that curtain to tell our story to our fans.
YOU MENTIONED YOU WRESTLE THREE DAYS A MONTH. DO YOU HAVE TO TRAVEL A LOT TO MAKE THOSE THREE SHOWS A MONTH? WHAT DO YOU DO IN YOUR SPARE TIME WHEN YOU’RE NOT WRESTLING?
Right now I am not traveling because all my show have been with NWP, but a lot of guys travel a long way for nothing, $5 and a hand shake if they’re lucky, and sometimes they can be traveling 3 to 5 hours one way. I work and I work out and conditioning.
WHAT DO SMALLER WRESTLING PROMOTIONS LOOK FOR? WHAT HAVE YOU BEEN ASKED TO DO FOR YOUR CURRENT PROMOTION NWP?
They are looking for guys with talent and that can draw a crowd. The thing they have asked me to do is to grow out my hair, tan, and shave my arm pits.
FOR YOU IS THE ULTIMATE DREAM THE WWE AT SOME POINT IN YOUR LIFE?
Right now I am focused on the independent circuit. If the opportunity comes along for the WWE /TNA, I would absolutely take it!
HAS ANYONE EVER EXPLAINED TO YOU HOW YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO GO FROM INDEPENDENT CIRCUITS TO THE WWE? WHAT IS EXACTLY THE PROCESS OF GETTING THE WWE’S ATTENTION AND SHOWING YOU BELONG ON ONE OF THEIR ROSTERS?
No one has ever actually explained that process to me, but I have trained with guys from the WWE, ECW, and TNA and WCW, and they have all told me I have Potential.
DO YOU THINK IN THE NEAR FUTURE, SAY THE NEXT 3-5 YEARS, YOU COULD SEE YOURSELF AUDITIONING FOR WWE AND TRAINING IN FTW OR NXT?
If I keep going at this rate, in 10 years I could see myself doing something with WWE/TNA/ROH.
HAVE YOU DEALT WITH ANY BACKSTAGE POLITICS, OR SHADY PROMOTERS IN YOUR TIME IN WRESTLING? HOW DO YOU AS A WRESTLER DEAL WITH SOMETHING LIKE THAT AND STAY POSITIVE?
Yes I have had to deal with the politics. I think ever wrestler has to deal with that. And as far as shady promoters. I have met a few of them, but I still have to stay professional and do my show because my fans are out there waiting to see me and that is the most important thing in this business is my FANS.
AT ONE POINT YOU TOOK A BREAK FROM WRESTLING. WHAT CONVINCED YOU TO TAKE THAT BREAK?
I took a break from wrestling because I thought I wasn’t getting anywhere I was actually done and then someone contacted me and I got back into it and it’s been good ever since.
WHAT DID YOU MEAN BY NOT GETTING ANYWHERE? WHERE YOU STUCK IN THE MID-CARD OR LOWER CARD? DID YOU FEEL THE PROMOTION WASN’T USING YOU CORRECTLY?
No nothing like that I just thought I wasn’t getting better.
WHAT WAS THAT LIKE? WHAT DID YOU IMPROVE ON BEFORE COMING BACK TO WRESTLING?
Well to be honest I was basically done I didn’t want to do it anymore and then when I came back I jumped back into it and got better instantly.
IS THERE A REASON YOU DIDN’T WANT TO DO IT ANYMORE? WHAT GOT YOU FRUSTRATED?
I think I was just burnt out a little bit and I just thought I wasn’t going anywhere.
IF YOUNG KIDS WANT TO GROW UP AND BECOME WRESTLERS, AND WRESTLE IN INDY PROMOTIONS, WHAT EXACTLY DO THEY NEED TO BE PREPARED FOR EMOTIONALLY AND PHYSICALLY?
For a young kid to try to get into wrestling it’s almost impossible it’s very hard business to get into I can’t tell you that enough.
WHAT WAS THE HARDEST PART OF TRYING TO GET INTO WRESTLING?
Trying to find somewhere to train and then trying to find somewhere to wrestle that was good.
FOR MOST WRESTLERS, IT’S A DREAM TO WRESTLE IN THE MAIN EVENT AT WRESTLEMANIA. WHAT WOULD IT MEAN TO YOU TO JUST BE ON THE MATCH CARD FOR A WWE EVENT?
My dream was to have one match at WrestleMania and I wanted it to be the Money in the Bank Ladder Match.