Watch/Learn at America’s Academy of Professional Wrestling
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The trademarked smack down may only come to town once in a while, but what if I said you can find this entertainment here, every weekend? And better yet, what if I told you the same place you can watch pro wrestlers in action you can also learn how to become one? This is where George de la Isla, founder and trainer at America's Academy of Professional Wrestling, enters the Austin sports arena.
"The only difference between us and the WWE is money. The characters are great, and the story writers, but money is what makes the biggest difference."
Nestled next to the intersection of North Lamar and Airport Boulevard, George opened the facility in 1990 after a 10-year teaching stint in California. Fourteen years beforehand, George was a pro wrestler himself.
"I was never a champion, never somebody that [won] belts," he modestly states. "But I always had a job working with the big leagues." Pulling from his experience, George's teaching style is old school and revolves around the celebration of power and entertainment while understanding the psychology and skill of pro wrestling.
Many people accuse the sport of being staged, but the only things theatrical are the story lines and characters. Learning the sport means to master composure; wrestlers must control the velocity of their punches, kicks, and strikes. They're educated on how and which way to break falls so as not to get injured. Using props such as chairs and pipes are part of the learning process too, so wrestlers can use them without actually breaking a back.
"We're trained to create those illusions," says Gerald Olvera, a pro wrestler of seven years who trains at the facility. George, on the other hand, is not as mild when it comes to the subject.
"The four-letter word that I hate starts with an F and ends with an A-K-E. How can you say that? The falls, the tumbles, the slams – they're real! The only control they have is the velocity." After he says this, he turns to Carol Consla, his managing partner, and exclaims, "Carly, if you want to see it, here! Carol, hit her in the face!" (They laughed it off, but I was a little intrigued )
Besides velocity, there is one other aspect they control: their character persona. Having different body sizes and movements, each wrestler must find their rhythm to find their act. Olvera has used the same gimmick for years, and has this advice for beginners trying to find their own:
"Once you get your basics down and become a skilled wrestler you can decide how he looks, how he moves. You pick the character once you see how he works in the ring."
The gimmick he works is part of an ongoing story line America's Academy of Professional Wrestling has run for years. Elaborated on every week, it's an epic saga between father and son. Colvera plays Kaleolani, a "heel" (bad guy) father to a "baby face" (good guy) Victorious Mansour. In the story, father and son have become estranged and competitive as they age, giving the crowd much to have fun with, but also much to think about.
"Life is there," George says of the plot. "It goes to a point where we express a nature of differences; what is child abuse and what isn't? It's not good when fathers start to demean their sons, and the crowd gets a reaction out of that because they know it's wrong."
Containing humor, depth, and action, it's basically a live-action FOX show. George helps his students develop their personas, giving them guidance on everything from their costume to the way they walk and talk. Traveling frequently for work, Olvera has seen the difference this dual training can make firsthand.
"I didn't believe it 'til I saw it," he states. "You see wrestlers come out of facilities who just train and they aren't the same as ours; they aren't as skilled because with our guys, everything comes together."
George's track record speaks for the method itself – every person he's trained has been hired as a professional wrestler, including former WWE stars Paul London and Russell "Psycho" Simpson. Recruiters regularly attend the weekly shows, and his students have gone to places like Japan, Mexico, and the Netherlands to wrestle.
Currently, there are 25 trainees enrolled at the Academy, and George encourages new ones with a warm smile but stern words of what's to come: "They're gonna spit it out of their mouth, they're gonna sleep on it, and they're gonna smell it!"
Then, as his voice softens and hands raise, the reason for his teaching success is clear in his next words: "With a solid foundation, they can make and climb the biggest skyscraper they want."
America's Academy of Professional Wrestling, 6901 Shirley. Classes are held Tuesdays and Thursdays at 7pm and Saturdays at 1, though the gym is open any day of the week for students who want additional practice. Shows run every Saturday at 8:30pm. Tickets are sold at the door ($10 for adults, $7 for children).