Who was your favorite WCW wrestler
"Who doesn't want to understand ..."
Alex Wright was Germany's best known wrestling export. When he was 19, the man from Nuremberg joined the WCW and established himself as a full professional and a good technician. But after years of hard work, in 2003 he decided to return to Germany and open a wrestling school.
During a training session, SPOX met the 34-year-old and talked to him about his school, his career and the still dubious reputation of his sport.
SPOX: Mr. Wright, during training you mentioned the different styles of wrestling several times: American, Mexican, European, Japanese. What are these styles?
Alex Wright: There are a number of small things in which throws and grips differ. We Europeans used to put a lot of emphasis on chain wrestling, i.e. the flowing merging of one grip or move into the next. Japanese and Mexicans are great technicians and high flyers. Americans, on the other hand, are often power wrestlers.
SPOX: It is hard to imagine that in the past all these styles were strictly separated.
Wright: But logical, because you only grew up with your compatriots. When wrestling was still small, there was no lively exchange, everyone just knew their style. The more international wrestling became and the better known you were as a wrestler, the more opportunities you got to learn something from the others.
SPOX: You learned from your father Steve, who was himself a very successful and well-known wrestler. What style did he teach you?
Wright: Mostly the European. But my father fought for New Japan for years, which at that time in Asia was almost the same as the WWF in the USA. He has also been to Mexico, Canada, and the United States frequently. We started with one direction and then expanded it. There is no other way, otherwise you will become totally banana as a beginner.
SPOX: Bret Hart's father, Stu, trained a number of wrestlers in his Calgary basement. Did your father only take care of you?
Wright: Yes, that is actually also common. Because as a father you not only pass on your knowledge and teach your son a few moves, you inherit practically all of your style, which is unique to every wrestler. Technically, what I teach my students is actually all that you need to know. But I keep the style that I adopted from my father to myself.
SPOX: Your talent was shown at an early age. You were discovered by the WCW at Schreinemakers in 1993, when you were not even 18 years old!
Wright: That was, so to speak, the temporary high point of public interest. I had my first fight when I was 16 and was the youngest professional in Europe. Hence the media attention. Schreinemakers then did a show about wrestling and I was invited, along with Sting and Johnny B. Badd, who were the top people at WCW at the time. The tour manager was there too, and I was invited to stop by the Germany tour that was currently underway.
SPOX: But not as part of the show, right?
Wright: I just wanted to go there and see it. But my father said right away, "Boy, take your wrestling gear with you. You never know what can happen there!" And indeed someone got injured and I was asked if I wanted to step in.
SPOX: With someone by the surname Wright, they apparently knew what they were getting into.
Wright: Of course, my father was very well known in the industry, he was in the ring with Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair, among others. He was also a 16-time world champion of the CWA, the largest European league. Plus multiple European champion and tag team champion. That was before the big TV presence, of course, but my father was already known to the experts.
SPOX: How was your first experience at WCW?
Wright: The fight was obviously quite good, because afterwards I was asked if I wanted to do the rest of the Germany tour. In the end, Eric Bischoff, the head of WCW, and Ric Flair, who was the booker at the time, came to me and said: "We like you. Don't you feel like coming to the USA? We'll give you a professional contract." I had to make up my mind within a week. Well, when I was 18 I took the plunge.
SPOX: Usually a wrestler makes it onto the big stage much later.
Wright: That's true. In WWE, you usually don't peak until you're in your mid-thirties. So I could still take part if I wanted to (laughs).
SPOX: Were there any inquiries as to whether you would like to continue after you retired in 2003?
Wright: Yes, but at some point in life you come to a point where you have to make a decision. If I had extended my engagement in the USA, I would probably have stayed there forever. But my whole family is here. Also my wife's family, who I've been with since I was 17. Family has always been the most important thing to me and my dream was to really promote wrestling in Europe. It's big business in the US, but not here.
SPOX: But hasn't the interest here in Germany decreased in the last few years?
Wright: On the contrary, wrestling is on the rise again. There are now a lot of small wrestling leagues in Europe. My school is doing very well too, and then the movie "The Wrestler" with Mickey Rourke was shown in theaters recently.
SPOX: That doesn't cast a positive light on the business.
Wright: Surely that was a bad example. Numerous clichés are used, the main character makes a lot of wrong decisions. On the other hand, I can give you a few examples of wrestlers who have led completely different lives. Nonetheless, bad publicity is also publicity.
SPOX: What else can help?
Wright: That the WWE starts touring Europe very often again. TNA, the other big league, was there too. Last year I opened my own little league, in which the first event was sold out within a short time. In this way I can do my part to ensure that the upward trend continues.
SPOX: When you have met people in private: What was the reaction like when you told them about your job?
Wright: I've only ever seen positive reactions. Because it's extraordinary. Of course, it always depends on how you come across as a person. So there may be colleagues who have had different experiences.
SPOX: How big is the difference in perception between Germany and the USA?
Wright: Huge: Up to 30 million people watch every live TV event over there. When you cross the street, it is as if Boris Becker is crossing the street.
SPOX: In your time you met almost all of the big names in WCW in the ring, such as Bret Hart and Ric Flair. Who do you particularly like to remember?
Wright: I used to prefer to watch my father, that's for sure. From the ones I got up close and personal, I liked Ric Flair, Arn Anderson, or Stone Cold Steve Austin. They were all people a few years older than me. So I could look up to them. Just like Hulk Hogan. I've never been a big fan of his technology, but he was a great role model when it comes to entertainment.
SPOX: If you had to pick one of your fights, what was the highlight of your career?
Wright: Difficult to commit to one. My first fight when I was 16, back then for the CWA, was a great moment. Same as a tag team fight with my dad when I was 17. And of course my title fights, if it was against Flair or Anderson. With 3,000 fights, it's really hard to pick one out.
SPOX: As a seasoned expert, how do you view wrestling matches? Is the technology more important to you or the entertainment factor?
Wright: The whole package. Of course, I watch a match differently than the average viewer. I pay attention to every little thing, including how safely a wrestler works.
SPOX: Also on obvious agreements in the ring?
Wright: Well, you don't have to look at it explicitly, you see something like that automatically. But actually that rarely happens. It's like this: In wrestling there are a thousand different ways to go on for every situation. If you have attended a reputable school, you know how to behave at certain moments. Normally it shouldn't be a problem to let a fight go on without consultation.
SPOX: Bret Hart, on the other hand, thinks he was one of the few real professionals. He didn't leave a good hair especially on Flair and Hogan.
Wright: The problem is that it's an ego sport. There are only a limited number of high-value contracts. I've always been fortunate that, just considering my young age, I've always earned very decent earnings. In this respect, the sport gave me a lot and I didn't have to get involved in the "backstage politics". That's how I learned from my father.
SPOX: Hart apparently saw it differently.
Wright: There are also people who are on a high after winning a few titles and feel that they are the best. There is friction when Flair, Hart and Hogan all work for WCW. Of course Hart is a great technician, but Flair is just as good for me. Hogan, on the other hand, is an incredibly charismatic guy, you have to see that too.
SPOX: So you don't like what Hart is saying?
Wright: I just don't think it's right to blame colleagues. Or to put the sport itself in a bad light. What shoud that? This can also ruin a lot for the fan and take away the fun of our sport.
SPOX: You have repeatedly used the term "sport" in connection with wrestling. But many people still don't perceive it as a sport.
Wright: For me, sport is a term that can be defined in different ways. If you don't want to understand it, you can't explain it. These people just have to stand in the ring to see what you have to bring with you, what technology is behind it and how hard you have to work. Wrestling is high-performance sport and entertainment at the same time, and you have to stay on the ball all the time. I've had a lot of people here who have done other martial arts. And they break down in the ring because they are flat. And I want to make one thing clear: I don't like the term "show" at all.
SPOX: Why not?
Wright: It's not like we're not meeting. If I do an elbow drop, the opponent feels it very well. Incorrect breathing technique leaves him completely breathless and worse. Of course, we don't want to break our bones on purpose. But my counterpart is my competitor, and of course he should feel that too.
SPOX editor in the ring: Wrestling in self-experiment
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