Some would say the key to success in pro wrestling is not to ask, but to apologize later.
Then again, some who have employed that strategy are now rotating tires for a living.
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Glen Cove native Curt Hawkins is only 27, but has already seen aggressive approaches lead to career positives and peril. And he’s made his peace with his profession’s finicky nature.
Hawkins and Merrick native Zack Ryder enjoyed a meteoric rise, going from training at Deer Park’s New York Wrestling Connection in 2003 to starring as doppelgängers for WWE Hall of Famer Edge in 2007.
Both subsequently struggled to find main event status on their own. Ryder started a YouTube series, “The Z! True Long Island Story,” early last year, became a fan darling and eventually earned the company’s backing. Hawkins started an animated series, “MidCard Mafia,” with tag team partner Tyler Reks late last year in an attempt to garner some similar attention. Just a few episodes in, the show was over thanks to not-too-pleased WWE management, and the released episodes were scrubbed from the Web.
“It was within the same mold at Zack,” Hawkins, who now lives in Queens, said of the project. “You can’t just duplicate it. That’s not going to work. We brainstormed a different idea. Tyler is very talented with computer animation. I kind of wrote and edited it. We just crossed the line a little bit too much. In a way it worked because we were at the bottom of the totem pole. Even if we brought in a negative light, we brought a light, to some degree.”
Hawkins and Ryder won't struggle for attention when they return to Nassau Coliseum Monday night for the RAW Supershow. Hawkins said both will have about 30 family members and friends in the audience.
“Don’t get me wrong, Madison Square Garden is legendary,” said Hawkins, a 2003 Glen Cove High School graduate. “But Zack and I grew up at the Coliseum. We were there more often than not, that’s where we won the tag team championship [in 2008]. It’s the best place to be.”
While the Coliseum may be the best place, the NYWC Sportatorium in Deer Park still holds a special place in Hawkins’ heart. It was enough of a draw for him to commute between Western New England University and LI as a college freshman to train and compete for pro wrestling, even though he was on the college amateur wrestling team at the time and the head coach knew nothing of his extracurricular activities.
It was at NYWC that Hawkins paid his dues, including one memorable pummeling from NYWC founder and former ECW World Champion Mikey Whipwreck in a street fight.
“He hit me so hard with a piece of a table,” Hawkins said, later adding, “Back at the college cafeteria I was showing off this giant welt I had on my back like it was a battle scar.”
By his sophomore year he had told his college coach his amateur wrestling career was over, revealing his pro dreams in the process. Hawkins said the coach pretty much laughed at him, a reaction that wasn’t foreign to the wrestler.
“A lot of people outgrow wrestling. In high school, that may not be the cool thing to be doing,” Hawkins said. “Some guys who made fun of me now want tickets to the show.”
Hawkins hopes something will happen on Long Island where he will be able to make his “presence felt.” Regardless, he’s hopeful that RAW’s permanent move to three hours next month will give him more chances to shine. And he’s clear that any career missteps haven’t come close to dampening his spirit.
“I’m literally chomping at the bit to prove myself,” Hawkins said. “I don’t think you should be part of the roster if you’re not looking to be the last guy. You want to be the last guy they see in the ring. I say bring it on. I want to get a chance to hit home runs and knock it out of the park.”