The Ottumwa Courier

Local News

August 20, 2012

Area wrestlers square off in TNA Gut Check

OTTUMWA — Pat Kenney’s days in the professional wrestling ring are over, he says, but the man once known as Simon Diamond can still execute a perfect hip throw.

He was coaching seven focused, in-shape and hopeful fans on both wrestling technique and showmanship. The experience, part of TNA Impact Wrestling’s popular “Gut Check” program, allows amateurs who think they have the right stuff to go pro.

“They pay a fee and get, what, two hours for us to evaluate them,” Kenney said Saturday. “They’re wrestling for a chance to be on our Gut Check segment on our national television show — and earn a contract to wrestle in the TNA. The stakes are high.”

Now a producer for TNA, he started professional wrestling around 1991 and had to break down doors just to get someone to watch him. So this audition experience is almost unheard of, he said.

The last city this team of producers did a Gut Check in was embarrassing, he said — a debacle. These guys were better, but Kenney is looking for that undefinable gift that draws fans.

During one part of the training and evaluation, he shouted, “Don’t wow me with fancy dance moves. Wow me with a character!”

They started with drills which, despite the muscle definition on the participants, soon had most out of breath and covered in sweat.

During the promo recording part of the afternoon, Kenney told them “You have one minute to sell your character.”

One wrestler began ticking off, one by one, some of the exercises he does to get so ripped — and why no one else is worth watching.

Kenney and TNA official Brain Hebner told him that the public has no idea what those exercises are — and probably doesn’t care. The wrestler was on the right track, yet the promotional video was lacking something, Hebner said.

Wait, said Kenney. He went over and whispered a tip to the wrestler.

This time, still with a lot of energy, the wrestler dropped to the mat and began performing his grueling exercise routine, including pushups, while simultaneously staring into the camera to tell the TV audience why he’s the best.

It instantly lent an air of crazy energy that had been lacking just a minute earlier — and the fighter thanked Kenney, grateful for the tip from “Simon Diamond.”

If they do find someone they think has the right combination of qualities for the TNA — and it’s rare — Hebner said the next step could be TV. He and Kenney thought perhaps one of the ripped group in front of them might have a chance. Maybe.

“This is like an audition,” said Hebner, who is also a TNA referee. “And so is the next [step], on the Gut Check segment.”

If a wrestler does well on both, he said, then they’d be sent to TNA’s training school.

“No one is going to come out of [a regional search] as polished as we need them to be,” Hebner said.

In training, they learn more than just the moves. Because again, besides athleticism, there’s a show business side to televised wrestling. Producers say they are looking to present an image to the fans.

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