sounds like something out of a drama.

costumed characters enter to the applause and cheers of the audience.
They pose, outstretching arms and pausing for the reaction of the
crowd to settle. Then they turn to one another and begin the scene,
battling over betrayal, or money or status.

Coach Josh Gerry, wrestling is its own form of theater.

a Sunday afternoon, Gerry invites professional wrestling fans from
all over the state and beyond for a day-long workshop inside the AML
Pro Wrestling Training Center in Winston-Salem. Rather than teaching
them moves or how to pile-drive their opponent, the class focuses on
the character and story-building that goes on behind-the-scenes in
the wrestling world.

rows of chairs face the ring inside the back room of the center, full
of people watching as Gerry begins speaking. He hops up onto the
outside of the ring, sitting down and facing everyone. His back leans
against the blue ropes that outline the edges and addresses the small

Gerry, who has been involved with wrestling both inside and outside the ring for around 20 years, talks to the group. (photo by Savi Ettinger)

class begins to go around, discussing what got each of them into pro
wrestling. As people list off the first performer whose rise they
followed, what they’ve done within the sport or what matches they
saw, Gerry nods.

moments you described,” he says, “they made you feel something.”

himself has been involved with wrestling both inside and outside the
ring for around 20 years, with experience in everything from
commentary to taking on opponents. He explains that the class in
creative writing is another way for him to be involved with a step he
sees as vital to the sport.

three most important things in professional wrestling,” he explains
to the class, “are character, story and emotion. All of that other
stuff is just filler.”

the way a wrestler acts as they walk out to the moment they hit the
mat, they must embody roles throughout the entire event. He stands
up, stepping into the ring and striking a pose with his arms out to
either side of him. Even in a simple outfit of a tee shirt and
shorts, Gerry illustrates how athlete becomes actor from the second
the audience sees them. The match becomes a conflict in a story; the
moves become plot devices. Gerry mentions this is what drew him to
the sport in the first place.

I was in high school,” he says. “I was a theater geek, but I also
played football.”

explains that watching wrestling around that age, he realized it
combined the athleticism and the drama he loved from both. The
element of improv based off of audience reactions, however, is what
sets it apart from other forms of live entertainment to Gerry.

what you like, what you want,” he instructs the group, “but keep
the fans in mind.”

class falls silent as they begin to prep for workshop. They each
scramble to write in their notepads, bullet pointing out ideas as
they each create their own character, complete with their own

mentions that the August afternoon is the second creative writing
session he has held here. The first focused primarily on the creative
writing process as a whole, and how to recognize inspiration and
generate full ideas. One class member and wrestling fan, Rachel
Green, felt it natural to continue learning more.

attended the first class in April,” she says. “So I wanted to do
the follow-up.”

it comes time to share, Rachel Green holds her hand slightly up,
volunteering to share next. From the back row, she explains her
imaginary wrestler, creating a whole persona out of different tropes
and ideas.

a former Italian supermodel, possessed by a demon, made to wrestle,”
she explains.

character, while a hodgepodge of wild thoughts, fit in with the cast.
Among them, a mathematician magician, a fallen angel split between
the sides of good and evil, and stereotypical dad complete with
jorts. Another classmate raises their hand to share and add his
character to the wacky assortment. He describes a principal of a
school who wrestles, named Simon Apple. Coach Gerry grins, jumping
off from his seat on the ring and walking up.

points to his elbow, laughing, ready to help take the character

“I can see him,” he says, “with the tweed jacket, the ones with the patches.”

For more information on the AML Pro Wrestling Training Center and Coach Josh Gerry, visit their website or find their page on Facebook.

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