“I’ve waited all my life to get out of the trenches
I’m ready to fight for what I believe you can steal from me
I won’t take this
Gonna fill these trenches and stand up.”
Those lyrics are a snippet from Pop Evil’s “Trenches” — the entrance music of professional wrestler and Reno native Ryan Chaump and in a way, his response to the everyday person that calls his profession “fake.”
That f-word isn’t in Chaump’s vocabulary. Those four letters are enough to get a rise out of him.
“I’ve gotten to a point where I respect your opinion and I understand you don’t like wrestling, but you don’t have to use that word,” Chaump said.
When most see pictures of Chaump in his wrestling gear — boots, knee pads, wrist tape and trunks — he is confused for a mixed martial arts fighter, before drawing eye rolls when he tells them he’s actually a pro wrestler of the likes seen on World Wrestling Entertainment.
To each their own, but Chaump goes as far as asking a random person at Starbucks if he’d rather watch Ultimate Fighting Championship or WWE. The guy answers UFC.
Chaump gets it, but he’ll stand up for wrestling anyway. After all, there’s nothing fake about the pain he absorbs from a paper-thin, vinyl wrestling mat.
The 21-year-old recalled driving back to Reno after wrestling in California. Chaump’s tailbone stung so much from his wrestling match that he winced in pain after every twist of the steering wheel.
There’s a laundry list of misconceptions about wrestling: wrestlers cycle a copious amounts of anabolic steroids, they’re actors, they don’t actually hit each other and they learn how to fall. It’s the last two that irk Chaump the most, but are also the easiest to debunk.
Indeed, wrestlers are taught how to land on the wrestling mat, which they call a “bump” — out of safety, of course.
“I remember when I took my first bump, everyone said ‘tuck your chin and remember to breathe — it doesn’t hurt at all,’” Chaump said. “I did it and I didn’t tuck my chin and I didn’t breathe and it hurt. It knocked the wind out of me. It’s like, ‘how do I get used to this?’”
By now, bumps have become second nature for Chaump. It’s not strange for Chaump to take such a massive bump that he sees stars after getting his bell rung. That’s just from a normal bump, Chaump has yet to take the patented wrestling chair shot yet.
“The chairs are not thin,” Chaump said. “The chairs on not fake. We rent the chairs and literally just fold them and hit each other.”
The day after a match, Chaump often lays in bed more often than not. His elbows, knees and neck are especially sore.
However, that pain is an afterthought during the match. The adrenaline of wrestling in front of a live crowd is more than enough to mask it.
Chaump has been wrestling since graduating from Robert McQueen High School in 2011. He’s trekked up and down California, from Yuba City to Hollywood, doing shows for independent wrestling organizations. The crowds have ranged from a dozen people in a bingo hall to 500 inside a casino ballroom.
In the wrestling world, Chaump goes by Flyin Ryan McQueen. His character has evolved from baseball player to his current clean-cut “good” guy persona.
No different from his wrestling peers, body shaving, spray tanning and oiling his body (though, Chaump now prefers to spray water on himself instead) are part of his pre-match routine. For his wrestling gear, Chaump has ditched baseball pants for skin-tight trunks.
“I was so self-conscious because my ass was falling out — it’s like underwear,” Chaump said. “At first, every time I did a move, I’d yank on them so my butt cheeks wouldn’t pop out.”
At 5-foot-10 and 185 pounds (he bills himself at a modest 200 pounds), Chaump emulates many of his own favorite wrestlers such as Chris Jericho, Shawn Michaels, Ricochet, Seth Rollins and Adrian Neville with his wrestling style.
He’s gone from idolizing wrestlers on TV like the Hardy Boyz (Jeff and Matt Hardy) to being on the same show as Matt in a Las Vegas-based promotion dubbed Future Stars of Wrestling.
Chaump’s asking price per match is $75 and he makes a little extra on the side selling merchandise of his wrestling character. His supplements his dream to reach the WWE by studying business management at the University of Nevada, Reno. However, pursuing a degree is his second option.
Chaump is dead set on making a career out of professional wrestling, whether it’s in WWE, high-profile independent companies like Ring of Honor, or even wrestling in Japan or Mexico.
Just last week, Chaump submitted his resume for WWE Tough Enough, a reality TV show where aspiring wrestlers compete for a WWE contract.
Chaump is abiding by the advice personally given to him by WWE Hall of Famer “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan at a show: right time, right place.
Just don’t tell him that wrestling is fake.
“For the people who think it’s fake and stupid, I’d say respect it a little more,” Chaump said. “Just watching something outside of WWE. Go on YouTube and search ‘independent wrestling.’ There’s so much more to wrestling than what’s on WWE.”
Eric Uribe can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @Uribe_Eric.