Professional wrestling has carved out a spot for Chris Michaels. Some might call it luck, some might say it’s chance, some might say it’s because of hard work, but he might just call it his destiny. The 44-year-old wrestler from Franklin, Kentucky, has been in and around the sport almost his entire life. The path that he’s traveling on today was laid out for him a long time ago, back to when he was just a young boy.
“When I was growing up, wrestling was a pastime for me and my mother. We used to watch the old Memphis wrestling with Jerry Lawler, Bill Dundee, and all those guys, from the Jarrett promotions every Saturday morning,” Chris Michaels explained. “My mother would take me to the matches if they ever came close within driving distance to where we lived, and I got hooked on it that way.”
Chris was a typical kid while growing up. He was athletic and he liked to play baseball. When he was a teenager, he taught himself how to play the drums, and then he had aspirations of wanting to be a rock star. When he was 16, a new girl from out of town moved to his school, and that changed everything for Chris.
“She told me that her father was a former wrestler who was planning to open up a school,” Michaels said. “I told her that I wanted to talk to her dad.”
Chris didn’t delay, and he quickly met his new friend’s father, who eventually became his new trainer. His name was Bill Crockett, who wrestled professionally in the ’60s and ’70s. Chris talked to his mother and she was behind her son all the way. She helped Chris come up with the $1000.00 down payment to get the training classes started. The rest of the money could be made in payments. His mother had to sign a waiver for him since he was still a minor, just in case he got hurt.
“We trained on Wednesdays and Sundays, and they ended up giving me a key. I could go up there and fiddle around anytime I wanted to,” Michaels mentioned. “Some of the other trainees would come in and I would get in there and work out with them. Sometimes, some veteran wrestlers would come by so they could knock off some ring rust.”
One of the guys who came by to use the facility was Tracy Smothers. By this time, it was around 1990. Tracy had already been wrestling professionally for about seven years, and Chris was just getting started. The two men struck up a friendship.
“He obviously thought that I was a talented kid and that I might go somewhere in this business. We swapped numbers, and he told me to call him anytime,” Michaels replied. “If it wasn’t for Tracy taking me under his wing, I wouldn’t have gotten to do some of the things I have done, or gotten the knowledge I needed for the wrestling business.”
For Chris, being able to work with Tracy was like having a personal mentor. Not everybody in the wrestling business has the opportunity of meeting someone with the knowledge that Tracy has picked up through the years. Some might call it being in the right place at the right time, or it could just be the sport of wrestling taking care of Chris Michaels.
“Tracy didn’t just teach me moves inside the ring. He taught me how to be smart on the road,” Michaels explained. “I learned how to handle promoters as far as naming my price and how to ask for rental cars and hotel rooms if I felt like I needed them.”
Chris was eager to make a name for himself and that’s what he set out to do. The young man from Kentucky wrestled throughout the south and got connected with wrestling promotions such as USWA, Smokey Mountain Wrestling, WCW, and Music City Wrestling. While in those promotions he learned everything he could from everyone he met.
In 1999, almost 10 years after meeting Tracy Smothers, the two wrestlers would actually have the opportunity to work alongside each other for the next four years. It was during this time they spent time working for OVW and the WWE.
“I don’t know if I would have been able to pick up everything I would need to know about the business without Tracy helping me,” Michaels said. “During 1999 and 2002, we made a ton of money because we stayed so busy and he made sure that I was taken care of.”
In a business where individuals seem to be fighting for the top spot in the main event, Tracy taught Chris the importance of helping others. He didn’t do it just by telling him, he did it by showing him. Chris probably would have figured things out about the wrestling business eventually, but having a seasoned veteran like Tracy help put Chris on a successful path.
“I have patterned my career after his in the way that he has always been willing to help others,” Michaels replied. “I respect just about everything about Tracy. He has always been willing to help guys get better and help guys get bookings.”
It has been more than 25 years since Chris has made his debut in professional wrestling and throughout the years, there have been two things that have been consistent. One is his passion for the sport, and the other is his friendship with Tracy Smothers. Today, the two wrestlers occasionally work together from time to time in select towns in both Kentucky and Tennessee.
You can find Chris almost every Friday night at the New South Arena in Franklin, Kentucky. Once again, fate might be responsible for this convenient opportunity, and that’s because the wrestling venue is just blocks away from where he lives.
“It’s great because it’s within walking distance,” said Michaels. “If there is ever a time I can’t find a babysitter, I just take the kids to the matches.”
Through the years, Chris has learned how to live and survive working in a business that not everyone can adapt to. There have been ups and downs throughout his career, but in the good times and the bad times, wrestling has been a consistent component in his life.
“Despite the letdowns and stuff, I have got to do a lot of things in the wrestling business that I am very proud of and was honored that I got to do,” Michaels explained. “I owe about all of my success in wrestling to Tracy. I was just a country boy from a small town.”
Favorite wrestler: Ric Flair
Career highlight: It’s hard to pick just one.
Favorite band: Kiss
Favorite sports team: Dallas Cowboys
Hobbies: Spending time with the family.
Dog person or cat person: Dog person.
A state that you’ve never been to Connecticut
Favorite food: Grilled chicken
The movie I’ve seen multiple times: The Rocky movies.
Favorite actor: Sylvester Stallone
Favorite color: Red
My dream match would be against Kurt Angle
A book I’ve read: The Gene Simons autobiography, “Kiss and Makeup.”
Favorite Dessert: Strawberry cheesecake ice cream.