To kickstart 2018, LondonFuse published a feature on the newly opened Tyson Dux Wrestling Factory. An alumni of promotions such as WWE and ROH, Dux has spent the past year working with the new generation of young wrestlers.
From their beginnings in the dungeon-like atmosphere of the Ice House, to their first televised matches for Smash Wrestling, the original six of the Wrestling Factory have endured an entire year of bumps and aches in chasing their passion.
Training for professional wrestling can come as a harsh surprise for those not familiar with the reality of the physical stress of wrestling. Dux has had as many as 23 students at once, though he estimates at least 12 students have dropped out. For his six graduating students, there’s been pain and there’s been glory.
“It’s a lot of pain but a lot of hard work at the same time,” stated Jordan James, one of the original six students. “Pain comes with hard work, the two coincide together, and without pain… you don’t gain anything.”
The Original Six
James, along with the other five graduates – Jim Stryder, Violet Lee, Chris Mitchel, Alec Realm, and Kyle Bogart – began their training with Dux in October of 2017. Tucked away in the dimly lit corridors of the Ice House, the sounds of their bodyslams and back flips echoed through the building.
Freezing cold during the winter, the early days of the Tyson Dux Wrestling Factory is where only the strong could survive.
Dux estimates he currently has 17 students in training at his new Exeter Road location.
Jim Stryder, despite preferring to play the macho-bully bad guy during matches (and a ring name inspired by the slick tough guy characters from 1980’s films), encourages new students to stick with their training… not just physically, but mentally as well.
“Overcoming the fear of basically throwing yourself back,” Stryder said. “Fighting your instincts because you always want to catch yourself. You have to override that instinct and just trust yourself to land safely.”
Mastering the Technique
Each of the students has spent the last year practicing their own unique wrestling style and character.
For Stryder, the preferred method is striking and power. Alec Realm incorporates his previous knowledge of American Kenpo into his fast paced style and adds a touch of high flying. James describes his own method as being very technical but still likes the high spots and taking risks. And Kyle Bogart mixes striking and power moves with submission skills.
The mix of techniques and personalities can sometimes result in an awkward bout in the ring – sometimes two skilled wrestlers just don’t have chemistry together – but Bogart maintains that the six have what it takes to make it work.
“I believe that it’s on point every single time,” he added. “Sometimes we have little faulters, but if I were to choose one… I’d say Jim Stryder would be the best opponent against myself. We just click really well.”
Heels and Faces
When LondonFuse spoke with Smash Wrestling owner and star Sebastian Suave earlier in 2018, the topic was about the importance of creating a strong character and building an entertaining storyline in the ring. And keeping in character isn’t something Dux let’s slip under the radar – his students have to maintain kayfabe even during training bouts. Fan favourites (babyfaces) can’t resort to cheap shots and villains (heels) can’t be joyful.
“I’ve gotten a lot louder in the ring… my intensity has gone up,” Bogart added. “Before I’d smile all the time, and it was the hardest thing not to smile especially since you’re doing something you love.”
Bogart, who prefers playing a heel but believes he’s more natural at being a fan favourite. Stryder has played the role of both during his matches with Smash, most recently as a fan favourite in his television debut alongside teammates Jordan James and Alec Realm. And later on in the show, fellow Dux protégé Violet Lee made her own television debut against Xandra Bale.
Realm is the opposite of Bogart. Although more of a natural heel, Realm still enjoys the experience of being a fan favourite and would like to incorporate more of his music background into his character as well.
“I enjoy the challenge of being a babyface,” he stated. “I enjoy walking out and having nobody know who I am, whatsoever – no prior knowledge – and then by the time the match is over, they’re standing and applauding and they’re with me.”
As far as getting a standing ovation goes, Smash fans may remember Kolt Bowman (the seventh student in the Wrestling Factory) stealing the show when he proposed to his girlfriend postmatch during the preshow. It was a hectic start to his training – Dux was preparing his original students for their debut match back in April – but his fellow students made sure to take him under their wings.
“They’re all very, very good at what they do,” Bowman insisted. “Each person does stuff a little differently but it all works out. I’ve take something from each one of them helping me.”
Pain and Gain
Dux stresses the importance of calisthenics to his students – if someone can’t lift their own weight, how can they safely lift another human beings weight? The warm up sessions in itself can be exhausting, even before the match begins. Students perform a seemingly endless cycle of push-ups, squats, crunches, bicycle kicks and other exercises. By the time students are ready to hit the ropes for the first time, they’ll have to run back and forth until they can maintain proper footwork while doing so. The end result is often a bruised and bloodied back.
While all of the students can agree that training at the Wrestling Factory has improved their in-ring skills, it has also benefited their lives in other ways as well.
“From when I started until this point now,” Stryder began. “Every aspect of – not just my wrestling ability – but as a person… my work ethic, my physicality, my health in general has improved.”
With previous matches for Border Town Wrestling in Fort Erie, Superkick’d in Toronto, and Barrie Pro Wrestling to add to their list of accomplishments, the Original Six students are ready and eager for the future. London fans will have another opportunity to catch some of the Dux protégés in action when Smash Wrestling returns to the London Music Hall on December 2. Scheduled to appear on the card are Jim Stryder as he takes on fellow Londoner Cody Deaner, and Violet Lee in a triple threat match against Mike Rollins and Jody Threat.
It will be the first time Londoner’s get to watch the two new wrestlers since graduating.
“I’m confident in the six of them that they can perform on any level, with anybody, take direction very well, and do very well,” Dux said like a proud parent.
Business is Booming
With several students coming in from out of town to train at the school, the first year of business has been fantastic and Dux couldn’t be happier. Already featured on several media outlets such as CTV News, the school garnered even more attention when former WWE superstar Santino Marella revealed on Twitter that his daughter, Bianca Carelli, began training under Dux.
For anyone interested at trying their hands at professional wrestling, Dux is willing to give them their first class for free just to test the waters. But for those who think they’re in for an easy walk in the park – don’t bother. Dux warns anyone who believes wrestling is easy that they’re in for a rough surprise… and will most likely quit early in training.
Not usually a sentimental person, Dux recalled the very first match his students had back in April 2018 and being overcome with emotion.
“I was elated,” he recalled. “It was a proud moment for me, like a kid that graduates from university – parents feel pride and a sense of joy and a sense of accomplishment. Like my god, look what they’ve done.”
And look for what they’ll do in the future.