What I’ve Learned Working for GCW as a Production Assistant


By Hogan Torah

 

Barry Sweeny, Polly DelMar, Hogan Torah, and Josh Shibata,

Of all the cool gigs that I’ve had fall into my lap in L.A. working as a production assistant for GCW for the last 3 years has been the coolest. Being a production assistant means picking up what’s needed for the show before the show. When the doors open, I hand out wristbands. After the line slows down, I go in and stand next to the owner of GCW so he can use my WiFi and I can watch the show. It’s fun.

Game Changer Wrestling is one of the top independent wrestling promotions in the U.S. Last year GCW put on shows in 12 states and 7 countries. Every show is broadcast live on trillertv.com with Triller+.

Working backstage has been an enlightening experience. After 40 years of being a fan I thought I knew how wrestling worked. I’ve watched countless wrestling documentaries and shoot interviews. When I was allowed behind the curtain, I learned the only thing watching pro wrestling for 40 years makes me an expert on is watching pro wrestling.


Masha Slamovitch, Ally Catch, and Effy. Photo by Front Row Rayco

Wrestling as a job

Almost everyone involved in pro wrestling is trained as a wrestler. The referees, the announcers, and even the cameraman have been trained by a wrestling school. If you want to be involved in wrestling in any capacity, you need to be trained. And it ain’t cheap.

I got in because I was friends with the ring announcer Emil Jay. I was asked to come back because I was respectful, did whatever I was asked, and Brett liked me. The people working ancillary jobs like me are usually wrestling trainees.

Wrestlers are rare breed. They’ve invested thousands of dollars and spent years training to be a wrestler. A job where the only the top 1% will earn enough make a living. 

A smart wrestler has multiple income streams beyond getting paid to wrestle. There’s merchandise, YouTube videos, Twitch streaming, Cameo, Only Fans, meet and greets, selling their used gear to fans, and more. Matt Cardona is the Gary V of wrestling. He’s on Instagram claiming to make a grand every show selling merch and so can you. I believe Cardona.

To fans it looks like wrestlers only work a few times a week for 10 minutes. They don’t see the traveling involved.

At the last show I had to pick up Ruckas an hour before the show from LAX because his connecting flight was delayed. When he got in my car, he told me than he had been in transit for the last 14 hours.

He flew to L.A. to be at the arena for 4 hours, wrestle for 10 minutes, go back to his hotel, and try to get a few hours of sleep. Tomorrow he needs to be back at LAX by 5 am to fly back to the east coast where he’s wrestling tomorrow.

The party atmosphere in GCW’s locker room is a grossly exaggerated. Wrestlers drink a few Bud Lights and pass around a joint after they wrestle. That’s not a party. I know what partying looks like, nobody in back is partying. Anyone who says the GCW locker room is toxic must have walked in right after Jimmy Lloyd took a dump.

Wrestling is their job. Their shift just ended. They’re about to get back on a plane and spend the next day in transit. They’re with their friends they don’t see often.

Let them relax and don’t be so judgy.


Dashawn, Jordan Castle, Bret Lauderdale

What makes GCW successful

It’s something different. The wrestlers aren’t your typical wrestlers. The matches don’t look like the matches you’d see anywhere else. GCW doesn’t take itself too seriously. As a result, people have fun. There are many moving parts. Yes, it’s the wrestling, but the man in charge has an incredible eye for finding talent that people pay money to see. 

Brett is the owner of GCW. He’s not big on fashion but he wears a lot of hats. He’s a scout, booking agent, travel agent, talent relations, booker, timekeeper, creative, audio engineer, coordinator, and probably more. He runs every show. Most promoters in his situation would enlist help. Brett does it all himself.

Why did GCW succeed where others failed? What did GCW do different? I could have interviewed Brett, but I knew I’d be told whatever narrative Brett wanted people to believe. I had to find the truth myself.

Brett uses my phone as a hot spot during the show. I stand next to him while he works the sound board so I can use my phone while he’s tethered. After a year of observing everything, I finally figured it out what’s different about GCW.

Brett leaves the wrestling to the wrestlers.

There’s a job in wrestling called road agent. Their job is to work with the wrestlers to plan the match. Including who wins, how competitive the match should be, what moves they want to see. Brett wears a lot of hats, except Road Agent.

He’s a control freak with the running of the show, but the show itself it the product of the wrestlers.

Brett tells wrestlers how much time they have. Sometimes he’ll tell them who should win. Other than that, he leaves it up to the wrestlers to have the best match they can in the time they’re given. I’ve seen Brett tell a wrestler to do something in the ring once.

“Use this in your match,” he said as he handed Gage a pizza cutter.

The week before Nick Gage wrestled Chris Jerico on AEW Dynamite. Instead of breaking for commercials AEW would split screen the ads. As luck would have it a Dominoes ad came on timed perfectly to Gage dragging a pizza cutter across Jerico’s bloody forehead in one of the most unintentionally hilarious moments in wrestling history.

Screen capture from AEW Dynamite

“Yeah, I’ll fucking use this on that motherfucker. No problem,” said Gage.

The Dominoes thing made national news. Brett made sure to capitalize on it.

Brett just wants to throw epic shows that people remember. When the audience loses their shit, it makes him smile. He’s not on camera as an authority figure.  He didn’t buy a promotion to be rich, he wanted to make a living doing what he enjoys.

Some people think Brett’s a dick. He’s not a dick, he’s busy. If you want something from him, ask after the show. If you’re wanting something from him and giving nothing in return the answer is probably no.

What people do when no one’s looking is how I judge character. Brett has a big heart and wants everyone at his shows to have a good time. He’s a solid dude and I have nothing but respect for him. I’m proud to be affiliated with GCW. We’re one of the good guys.


Jimmy Lloyd, Joey Janela, Emil Jay, Scott Effinger, Hogan Torah

My Job

My first show Brett asked me to go with Doo Doo Head because someone was sitting in front row seats that weren’t theirs. This dude was sprawled out acting like he owned the place. Doo Doo was nice to him and asking politely but this guy no sold him.

“I’ll get up at the end of this match.” the guy said unbothered, “Move, you’re in my way.”

“Where’s he supposed to be sitting?” I asked Doo Doo.

“Nowhere. He got in for free because he was supposed to help but didn’t.”

This guy got in for free, sits down like he owns the place, and is disrespecting Doo Doo Head? Fuck this guy. I stepped in front of him and bent down to his face.

“GET UP!” I yelled while throwing my thumb over my shoulder.

His demeanor went from fuck off to yes sir as he jumped to his feet while apologizing.

“GET OUT!” I yelled pointing at the exit.

“Woah dude, chill. It’s cool. I’ll handle this. Take a walk,” said Doo Doo Head.

“Whoops. Sorry. My bad,” I said calmly as I walked away. Shit. I may have just screwed up.

“It’s okay but you didn’t need to do all that,” Doo Doo told me later. “That was funny though. He started moving real quick.” 

I don’t know if that incident was the reason I was invited back, but fuck that guy.


The first time I went to go buy steel chairs at Home Depot I bought the wrong ones. I didn’t see the 11 dollar chairs. All I saw was the 14 dollar chairs. Close enough.

The wrestlers didn’t know they were the wrong chairs. Normally the chairs buckled when they hit each other over the head with them. These bounced. No give, full impact. One of the wrestlers was choked slammed into 4 set up chairs. They were supposed to fall through the chairs.

Wham!

They didn’t budge. I felt terrible.


I get sent to the store by everyone because I have a car. One time Joey Janela hands me this list of things to buy. The razor blades gave away that he was planning on bleeding that night. The other stuff on the list seemed completely random.

That night Joey Janela’s forehead was busted open. Except for the Marlboro Lights everything on the list was used by him to enhance the blood. The blood that you see is real, but it has help.

“Aye bro. I need you to get me two black bandannas. Those ones they fuckin sell in liquor stores,” said Nick Gage.

“Sure. You got it,” I said. Had to go to 3 different liquor stores till I found one ghetto enough to sell bandanas. I had no idea why he needed them until he came out with his new tag partner, Maki Itoh.

It’s little contributions like that to wrestling that makes it all worthwhile. The bandana allowed Maki Itoh to be gangster enough to be Nick Gage’s partner. I don’t know if I’m allowed to say this, but Nick Gage is a smart dude.

 

Hogan Torah, Scott Effinger, Willy Mack,

Wrestlers are always hungry after shows. Dining options are limited by the time we get out of there at 1am. They like to somewhere you can sit down.

If they’ve never been to L.A. The answer is In-N-Out.

“Goddamn it’s taken 15 minutes and all I ordered was a burger. Did they wait to kill the fucking cow till I ordered?” Tony Deppen pondered out loud.

I wish I took a picture every wrestler after their first bite of In-N-Out. The look of disappointment and confusion wondering what the big deal is supposed to be. Gotta try it once. 


I was giving Emil Jay, Ciclope, and Miedo Xtremo known as the tag team Los Macizos a ride back to their hotel, but they wanted to stop for food first. They looked bummed when we told them we were going to get burgers.

“Okay. Burger is fine.” Said Miedo Xtremo seriously. “But I want the best. The best burger in all of Los Angeles.”

“No problem.”

I took them to Fatburger. My confidence level was high they were going to like it.

We all got burgers except for Ciclope who ordered 2 chicken sandwiches. I should have told him he only needed one because they’re huge but I didn’t know how to say that in Spanish. There was no way anyone could eat 2 of them but somehow he did.

As we walked back to my car, Miedo Xtremo patted me on the shoulder and said, “You did good kid,” even though I’m old enough to be his dad.

Then Ciclope barfed. I wasn’t surprised. Eating two of those things is inhuman.


Joey Janela, Hogan Torah

I was giving Joey Janela a ride back to LAX after taking him to get his backpack from Rob Shit’s loft.

“You want some joints?” asked Joey.

“Uh, sure,” I said a little confused because Joey doesn’t smoke weed.

“People are always trying to push weed on me. If I tell them I don’t want it, they’ll slip it my bag. I’m about to fly to Japan and they’ll throw me in jail for the rest of the year if I have weed on me. I need to double check everywhere. You heard what happened to Effy?”

“Oh yeah that’s some bullshit. 8k fine for one gummy inside the U.S. is insane.”

“Here’s one,” Joey said as he handed me a joint, “Here’s another. Two more. I really hope that’s all of them.”

One of the joints was decent stuff. The others were mids, but free weed is always the best kind.


After being defeated by Homicide in a retirement match, masked luchador Villano IV is still in the ring and asks to be given the mic.

“Mmmmmm, mmmm mm, mfhm…” Villano vocalized under his mask taking deep gasps of air between unintelligible sentence fragments. You couldn’t hear a word he was saying. Not that it mattered because he was mumbling in Spanish.

Out of the corner of my eye I see Brett getting antsy because he’s over the allotted time. The show is run on a tight schedule. If wrestlers go over their time, they need to cut it from another match. Best way not to get invited back to GCW is going over your time. Villano 

“Mmm hmmm mmm. Mmmm mmfm mmf…” Villano exclaimed through his mask, breathing just as hard 2 minutes later.

Watching Brett’s poker face crumble and his emotions come up to the surface was more entertaining than the trainwreck happening in the ring.

Villiano puts the mic down. Brett takes a deep breath and sits down. But gets right back up when he sees Villano bring a Hispanic fan into the ring to translate for him.

“Mmmm mm mmmmmm mmmm mm mfm,” Villano says and gives the mic to the fan to translate.

“I don’t understand?” Says the fan.

“Mmmm mm, mmmmmm mmmm, mm mfm,” Villano says slower.

“Sorry, I don’t speak Spanish…”

“Enough!” Brett yelled and turned to me, “Go tell Homicide to do a run in and get him out of there! Now!”

I haul ass to the back and find Homicide unlacing his boots right behind the curtain.

“Yo Homicide, you gotta do a run and get Villano out of the ring right now!”

Homicide picks his head up and shoots me a look.

In the heat of the moment, I forgot who he was, in relation to who I was, in regard to what I just ordered him to do, considering who I just told him to do it to. Not to mention the tone I just used to do it.

The look he shot me reminded me of all these things at once. I fucked up.

“Right. Sorry,” I said walking away backwards as Homicide continued to glare at me.

“Is he going?” Brett asked when I got back.

“Haha. No. It didn’t go well.”

“mmm mmm mmmm mmmm mmm hmph…” Said Villano to the crowd.

The new fan translated, “And to my nieces and nephews…”


Nick Wayne and Bandito

I don’t do it for the money, and I’m not paid for my time. There are benefits to being affiliated with GCW that aren’t tangible.

Writers seem think that their audience will find them. I don’t autofill in Google because my audience found me, I found them. Wrestling fans are the same demographic as my target audience. There are millions of young wrestling fans on Twitter.

I want wrestling fans to be Hogan Torah fans.

They see me interacting with wrestlers and the wrestlers interacting back. Who is this guy followed by all these wrestlers? Why does everyone respect this guy? How did he get a job with GCW? It sparks curiosity. They find my writing and start reading.

Being a wrestling fan and interacting with wrestling Twitter is self promotion. It makes a lot more sense promoting myself in wrestling than writing Twitter. I don’t need to meet more writers, I need readers.

There’s another guy who’s in the same boat I’m in. Let’s call him RKM. RKM sells weed. He doesn’t own a dispensary. He sponsors wrestling events and wrestling influencers like my friend Dashawn.

Wrestling fans are also RKM’s target audience. The majority of wrestling fans smoke weed. He’s at every show with a bag of goodies. Fans know this. Why stop at the dispensary before the show when RKM has good products and no 33% tax? What he invests in wrestling all comes back to him and then some.


There’s more but I’ve gone over my time.

This is my advice to wrestling fans. It’s okay to be a fan. You can have an opinion but when wrestling makes you mad, enjoy it. The goal of wrestling is to tell a story. A good story involves swerves. Don’t get upset because the story isn’t playing out the way you thought. Just enjoy the show.

Unless you’ve been in the ring, you don’t know. That includes me. I work in wrestling, but I’ve never been in the ring. That makes me a fan and that’s okay.

If you think you can put on a better show than what’s out there, go for it. The first step is wrestling school. You get one life. Spend it doing something you enjoy. If you’re not happy, make the changes to need to make to be happy. Go out. Do things. Live the life you always fantasized about. Working in wrestling was my dream. I made it happen. 

Perception is nine tenths of reality. If you can convince people you’re the best, you become the best.

Long live GCW.


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