by Josh Reitze
I stand in the midst of the scripture of our current popular culture, some of you might know them as comics, and among a vast array of movie iconography and nerd ephemera. Her headquarters, located in Westminster CO, was the host of our inaugural interview series with the stars f Rocky Mountain Pro Wrestling. As I stood amongst the glass cases housing toys and statues of what made up much of my own childhood, I could not help but find myself entranced by a reminder of the Godzilla movies I grew up watching, the Star Wars toys I lost in my front yard and the memories of Michael Keaton’s “I’m Batman” permanently seared into my subconscious. Here stood a place that while growing up seemed impossible, but now, is a staple of most American towns and cities. This is where I would meet with current CHARGED Champion, Curtis Cole, to talk growing up as a nerd, watching golden age WWF, his training an ascension in Rock Mountain Pro and his recent appearance on Monday Night Raw, and an encounter with Braun Strowman he’ll never forget.
In 2008, Marvel released the original Iron Man to a huge box office and a fever pitch fan base, teased with the prospect of an Avengers movie one day. 5 movies later, Superhero’s had officially shattered the glass ceiling and moved into the public consciousness where they would dominate, still, 4 years later. But the success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe did not simply arrive in the right time at the right place. Fandom over the previous two decades had grown exponentially, since 1989’s ‘Batman’, but what took 19 years, seemed like a lifetime for Curtis Cole.
“when I was a kid, I thought I was the only kid who knew who Green Lantern was” Cole explained about his childhood, growing in the 80’s and watching golden age WWF. Cole grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania watching wrestler with his mother. He gleamed with pride when speaking about his childhood room, filled with comics, toys and posters. Drawing comparisons between his favorite sport and his nerdy love of superhero’s he said, “[you] get to create stories that are just over the top…it’s like watching superhero’s”. This comparison would be made many times over throughout the years, but rings especially loud for Curtis Cole. If you haven’t noticed, Cole has a lot of tattoos; many of which represent his favorite hero’s throughout the years. Marvel, DC, Cole subscribes to it all, “I got all these before the movies came out…I look like a fanboy” Cole couldn’t help but admit. But what “more serious adults” tend to look away from, Cole embraces, and has a rabid and young fan base at shows supporting him. He described a euphoric feeling while wrestling; “you can see kids in the audience, when I would land a move, they were throwing their hands up and holding my shirt up”. No doubt Cole is a big hit among young fans, but also fellow nerds and geeks, as he does not shy away from mentioning video games in his promos, a more mature but still youthful pastime. “when I do promos…it’s not a cheap crack to get kids to like me…you go to my house; I have a giant video game setup. I just wish people would feel comfortable about that stuff”. Cole is at home in his own skin, something children and adults could learn to be more of. He expressed growing up, he was a loner, “when I was in High School, I used to get made fun of for playing Pokémon on my Gameboy”. Something today, where little criticism can be found. But for Cole, it’s not about the past; and what some still see today as children’s pastime, Cole sees as our new folklore, “these are our modern day stories of fantastic things that people do…like Greek stories”. The Herculean strength, the speed of Hermes and the endurance of Odysseus, are all cornerstones of superhero’s and pro wrestling for Cole.
Getting back to pro wrestling, I asked Cole about what drew him to wrestling so much. As expected, his answer drew from his love of human tales in comics. When originally posed, Cole pointed out sacrifices made in the Marvel story, ‘House of M’; and the internal struggles of DC’s, ‘Identity Crisis’. Both stories involve its characters with internal, emotional struggles between personal desires, responsibility, loss and redemption. In ‘House of M’, hero’s must be faced with a reality they’ve always wanted, and the struggle of turning it down. In ‘Identity Crisis’, DC heroes’ loved ones are targeted, demanding the heroes address the fact that they’re actions, while noble, leave those close to them in grave danger. This sense of guilt, pride and internal turmoil led Cole to talk about one of his favorite matches, WrestleMania 7’s match between Randy Savage and The Ultimate Warrior. “the story they told…there were people crying, it’s embarrassing for me to watch”; but he’s not alone, Randy Savage and Miss Elizabeth’s reunion at the end of that match is a frequent nominee in top ten lists involving wrestling stories. The story between “The Macho Man” and Miss Elizabeth is one of the best chronicled on television. “The Cream of the Crop” and “wrestling’s first lady” is a tale old as time; Savage abandoning his love for glory he thought he wanted and later reunited with his true destiny is the kind of story Cole dreams of telling. As a big Rocky fan, Cole grew up watching underdogs overcome the odds. In his matches, he’s not different, an underdog who embraces his origins and fights to represent those like himself.
What would shock people most, is how long Cole’s been wrestling. 1 year and 2 months. IN that short time, Cole has come a long way. After retaining his CHARGED Championship in this week’s episode, you’d look at him and assume he’s a veteran, but he’s not. “looking back on my matches, I move really slow, and my strikes were horrible” Cole reminisced about his early days in the squared circle. Curtis Cole, as well as much of the roster at Rocky Mountain Pro, got their start at RMP’s own school, Mercury Pro Wrestling Academy run by Matt Yaden. “after training with [Matt] Yaden, I feel like I’ve come a long way” he explained when talking about the school. But he’s not looking back, exclaiming he has much to learn and still progressing, but that his start at Mercury was the best decision he could have made, “I shopped around, checked out 2 different places before I found Mercury Pro. But when I did, that was it. I was in” he explained about his entry into the school. Cole is now looking forward to a Ring of Honor tryout, “god willing”, he said about it, clearly nervous but confident in his ability. But always loyal, “I never want to misrepresent RMP or Mercury Academy” Cole promised.
In an experience he would not forget, Cole had the opportunity to appear on Monday Night Raw alongside Tyler Stinson. He described it as “[the] most unreal experience…just meeting all those guys and how nice everyone was…I thought they would big league us”. Cole was involved in the now famous, Strowman squash matches; earning himself three stitches for the memories. Cole explained the surreal experience meeting superstars who have so much history, as a wrestling fan, built in and attempting to not be star-struck. While on the topic of RAW, I asked him about his opinions of the recent Women’s resurgence in WWE, and what that means for an industry as a whole.
Cole said, “the matches were based on their bodies, and it sucks cause none of the men’s matches are”, explaining the women’s matches since the departure of what made the division a success in the late 90’s/early 2000’s. He expressed a great deal of respect for the women of not only WWE but Rocky Mountain Pro, “I love what we’re doing, we trust them to put on a good show. And they do!”. Cole further double downed, stating “Mickie James and Nikita was one of the best matches we’ve had regardless of gender”.
As a final question, I asked Cole what he had in store for us next? He expressed a desire to hone his craft and continue his progression in Rocky Mountain Pro. Interestingly, he explained “to me now, cool stuff is working a headlock and making the audience believe it”. A testament to Cole’s dedication to making every move count in the ring. AN underdog to most, Cole looks to change their mind.
CHARGED Champion Curtis Cole is a unique man. Through embracing his childlike sensibilities and adult aspirations, Cole has become one of the most beloved wrestlers in Rocky Mountain Pro Wrestling. While he still has a long road ahead of him, he not only looks forward but looks to his past for inspiration.