The main event between Cameron Cole and Will Allday had only begun and the action had already spilled out of the ring last weekend. The two combatants continued to brawl at ringside before going over the guardrail and into the crowd itself. Fans cheered as Allday chased the villain through the aisle of chairs before another brawl started in front of a merchandise booth.
Each third Friday of the month, a certain kind of weekend warriors showcase their talents as a part of Texoma Pro Wrestling, an independent wrestling promotion in Sherman. Events like Friday night’s show on the indie scene can serve as the start of a career and potentially launch an up-and-coming star into the national spotlight.
“This is basically where it all starts,” said Robert Langdon, owner of Texoma Pro Wrestling. “A lot of the guys come down here for our shows and we actually have a lot of our workers who have actually wrestled who are now in the WWE and AEW (All Elite Wrestling).”
For the past 13 years, Texoma Pro has put on shows in both Oklahoma and Texas. Over the years, the promotion has seen its fair share of recognized names in wrestling grace its squared circle. The promotion has been one of the starting points for current WWE stars Keith Lee, who hails from Wichita Falls, to the Viking Raiders, who currently hold one of the company’s tag-team titles.
“We are kind of the stepping stones,” Langdon said. “If it is set and done right, we can help these guys set goals and get them there.”
Langdon said he first got involved in the industry about 14 years ago while attending an independent show in Ardmore. After enjoying the show, Langdon attended several other weekly shows before talking to the organizer, who offered to sell the company. In that time, the promotion has been twice affiliated with the National Wrestling Alliance — one of the remaining promotions from the territories era of wrestling.
“For about six to nine months nobody knew that I actually owned the company,” he said.
While many wrestlers still aspire to wrestle for Vince McMahon in the WWE, Langdon said the industry is growing with other prospects and promotions. Aside from the WWE, other promotions include Ring of Honor, New Japan Wrestling, AEW have served as alternative promotions.
Bucking the trends in larger promotions, Langdon said he wanted to focus on the family-friendly side of the industry rather than the harder hardcore styles that rose to prominence in the 90s. Instead his promotion to return to the era when wrestling was about fun.
“You have good guys, you have bad guys and while the good guy doesn’t always win, there is always a moral and a story to it and our wrestling is always top notch,” he said.
Still, Langdon admitted that he does enjoy watching the WWE’s NXT brand, which serves as a developmental territory for many wrestlers on their way to the main roster. It is there that Langdon has seen many friends take the next step in their careers.
Among the wrestlers who performed as a part of Texoma Pro’s Christmas Show were Adam “Apoc” Asher and Jerome Daniels Griffey. Apoc’s night started as he came to the aid of Short Sleeve Sampson after he was attacked by three other wrestlers. The brawl would lead to a six-man tag match with Sampson, Apoc and Chandler Hopkins coming on top.
Meanwhile Griffey spent the night looking for a tag-team partner, only to be turned down by the Magnificent Malico. A distraction by Malico would later cost Griffey his shot at the tag-team titles and furthered a rivalry and future match between the two.
Asher has spent the better part of two decades in the squared circle. While he travelled extensively for the first five years, he began to settle down and focus on Texas promotions later in his career. Now, Asher spends the majority of his time wrestling outside of Texas, with Texoma Pro his only reserved date in the state.
“When I was young, I worked out, said my prayers and took my vitamins, not because it was what I was supposed to do, but because it was what Hulk Hogan told me to do,” he said.
Asher initially planned as a child to play football for the Denver Broncos. It was only when he got injured or retired that he would start a second career.
“Sadly, I am not 6’5” so the Denver Broncos didn’t happen,” he joked.
Now, Asher said most his bookings fall within an eight-hour radius from his home just outside of Denton.
“On any given weekend, you spend 20-30 hours in a car, wrestle two to three nights and make it home to work on Monday,” he said.
In that time, Asher has wrestled matches ranging from one in a field illuminated by headlights for an audience of four to a match with WWE Hall of Famer Shawn Michaels in front of 38,000 at the University of Tennessee.
During the interview, Asher mentioned a who’s who list of wrestlers he has worked with and met throughout his career. Just the day prior, Asher’s daughter asked when she would be able to see “Uncle A.J.” — referring to former WWE Champion A.J. Styles.
For Griffey, the decision to go into wrestling came after studying cosmology and astrophysics at college.
“I wanted to be an astronaut up until the 10th grade when I realized girls like athletes and not astronauts,” he said.
As a kid, Griffey said he liked many wrestlers, including those who worked martial arts into their style. Among his early favorites was Rick “The Model” Martel.
“He was conceited and cocky and it was considered socially acceptable,” he said. “Rick Martel has his own cologne called Arrogance and its fine.”
Of the two wrestlers, Griffey had the longer trip for Friday’s event. Unlike Asher, Griffey came from out of state and made the drive from Oklahoma City through a rain storm to attend.
Unlike Asher, Griffey said he dislikes the day-long road trips for shows, but said most wrestlers perform two to three times a week in addition to training four to five days a week. Still, he said he likes to set aside at least one weekend a month.
“Once you become a wrestler, I think I speak for a lot of us when I say it kind of takes over your life,” he said.
Both wrestlers said the industry is not the easiest work place and you have to be made for the work to make it long term. Despite the impression of wrestling as a scripted show, both said the blows and falls still take their toll.”
“It is not easy and it all hurts and there is a misnomer there,” Asher said. “When Vince McMahon sorta pulled back the curtain that this is entertainment, people associate that entertainment with choreographed dance. The foundation of that ring is metal, with three-inch two-by-sixes with a tiny bit of foam so we are not literally slapping our heads against wood. Then on top you have the canvas.”
As an example, Asher said he recently had to have a ring resized after it would no longer fit no a knuckle he broke about six months ago.
“I tell myself that I am going in and I may get hurt,” Griffey said. “I may get beat up, but that adrenaline; there is nothing like it.”
Asher compared his work to being a rock star — both put on a show to entertain the crowd. However, in his job, Asher said he can change the show mid-match if the crowd’s reaction isn’t what was expected.
“If the crowd is supposed to cheer me and boo Jerome and they do the exact opposite, we have the ability to change the perception of the crowd,” he said.