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Training Under the Tree of Woe

Posted by flairwhoooooo on August 13, 2018

By Jay King

Photos by Brian Kelley

Kevin Sullivan the Task Master.  Kahagas the Tokyo Monster. Two of the top heels in the wrestling world.  Recently they taught a seminar in conjunction with Southern Illinois Championship Wrestling (SICW).  I debated whether or not to attend, being a referee I didn’t know how much would be applicable to me, but any doubt I had was quickly gone.


Let me start by saving I was disappointed by one thing – the attendance.  Only 6 people were there – 3 wrestlers that have been working a few years, 2 that essentially had no training, and me.  I thought every wrestler within driving distance would have paid $25 to learn from these two legends.


The seminar started with Kevin and Kahagas getting to know the attendees: experience, goals, etc.  They discussed character development with each individual person. Should they be a heel or a face. How should they approach the ring and interact with the crowd.  What kind of gear should they wear. Of course, name is important. One person was using a generic name. Previously he wrestled under a name that grabbed your attention.  I think he’s switching back.


One person described a little movement he used to add to his character.  Kevin explained that it might work for an adult show, but for a family friendly show people might get upset and not come back to future shows.  That’s a way to potentially loose bookings. The little details can make a world of difference.


Psychology was discussed throughout the seminar, but it most evident when it was time to get in the ring and work matches.  Being the only referee, I was in the ring with everyone and got to see things from a different perspective as Kevin and Kahagas gave suggestions. Attendees were shown how to tweek individual moves to make them look more effective and more visible to the audience. They were shown how to combine different moves to make them flow better.  It was fascinating to listen to these two. It was like attending a master’s class


The most important thing Kevin and Kahagas stressed throughout the seminar was story telling.  It is the story that really catches the audience’s attention. Sure, high spots are fun to watch, but after a while they just blend together.  It is the story that keeps the fans coming back for more. It’s the stories that a wrestler is involved with that with make or break his career.


At the end of the seminar, Herb Simmons, the promoter for SICW, asked one of the attendees, PT Beckham, if he could stay and work a match at the show later that night.  He did a great job and, as a result, has future bookings lined up. You never know what opportunities you could get by simply attending a seminar.


From a referee’s point of view, I didn’t learn specific things to do as a referee, but I did get a better understanding of everything that goes in to putting a match together.  It’s important that the referee understands what is going throughout the match. At one point, Kevin said a match is not a two-way dance, it’s a three-way dance and the referee can make or break a match. So no matter what you do, don’t bury the referee.


Later at the show, I had the privilege of working a match:  Ricky Crus versus Kahagas with Kevin Sullivan in his corner.  Before we went to the ring Kevin said, “You remember when I said don’t bury the referee?  Well, that’s because I save that for my match.” Needless to say, Kevin did everything a heel could do to cheat behind my back (important point: don’t cheat in front of the referee!).  And in the end Ricky, Keith Smith Sr., and I all took spikes to the head. Afterwards, I asked Kevin for suggestions and told him my wife said I am the worse referee because I don’t see things in the ring and I get knocked out all the time (both that occurred during our match – remember spike to the head).  Kevin, with a smile, said “That’s what makes you a good referee.”


This was one of my best days in the wrestling business.  I highly recommend if you ever have the opportunity to train with either of these men, don’t pass it up.  You won’t be disappointed.

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