Tracing the lineage of a professional wrestler is kind of like tracing a family tree. It is interesting to see who taught them and who these people are connected to in the wrestling business.
For Francisco Ciatso, it was “Exotic” Adrian Street, one of the most flamboyant, yet toughest wrestlers of his era who trained and mentored him. Adrian might have pranced around the ring while wearing makeup and having his hair in ponytails, but he could dish out the punishment to his opponent and put butts in the seats at any venue.
In the late ’90s, Francisco learned everything there is to know about the profession at Adrian’s wrestling school called Skullkrushers, once located in Gulf Breeze, Florida. The main thing that Francisco took from the Exotic One was this.
“Whoever you are in front of the crowd or in front of the camera, portray that 24/7. It helps with the believability factor, “Ciatso said. “When you go home with your significant other, you can be who you are when you are not in the ring, but in wrestling portray your character.”
The 37-year-old wrestler who is nearly a 20 year veteran of the sport has not only taken his teacher’s advice, but Francisco is open to learning from whoever he can. Bill DeMott, Tom Prichard, and Dave Taylor have been very influential in shaping Francisco as a wrestler as well.
“I am able to take a little bit from everyone I work with,” Ciatso said. “Now I try to pass that knowledge down to the new guys and girls coming up.”
Besides his consistent wrestling and workout schedule, Francisco is a trainer three days out of the week for the World Wrestling Network training center in Largo, Florida.
It is there that wrestlers are trained and depending on their experience, they will work in such promotions as American Combat Wrestling Proving Ground, American Combat, Shine, Full Impact Pro, Evolve, and eventually, they can make their way to NXT.
Of course, the ultimate goal for any student at the WWN training center would be to wrestle with WWE. With more athletes wanting to work for the largest wrestling company in the world than there are fewer positions to do so, it can be challenging. Once wrestlers can get connected with the WWN, there is always hope.
“We focus on conditioning, footwork, safety, characterization, longevity, and social media,” Ciatso said. “Because we are in a working relationship with WWE, and they have a certain way of doing things, we do things their way. We are preparing our talent for the next level.”
As one could imagine, when a wrestler has been in the ring as much as Francisco has, you can bet that he has faced some of the sport’s top talent. Stepping in the ring with the likes of Tommy Rich, Tracy Smothers, Jake Roberts, Demolition, and the Rock and Roll Express have benefited him greatly. The term, “less is more,” is what he has learned from these in-ring legends. A message he preaches to his students.
“Nowadays, the wrestlers want to get their stuff in and they really don’t care about the substance of the match. Everyone seems to care about the style and it’s a high-risk style of wrestling.” Ciatso said. “In the territory days when the boys were wrestling seven times a week, they had to take care of their bodies. Back then they had to learn how to work around certain things and today it’s a lost art.”
Aside from his passion and dedication to wrestling and the WWN, Francisco along with friend and director Paul Stewart, have finished their work on a documentary. “Journeyman” is a story that follows Francisco and his wife and wrestler Stormy Lee, across the southeastern region of the United States for nearly eight months after a devastating hardship they suffered.
Two years ago, the couple moved from their home in Largo, Florida to Nashville, Tennessee to help run a wrestling school, and shortly after their arrival, the entire business deal fell apart. With no money coming in and bankruptcy looming in their future, the opportunity for the movie idea came Francisco’s way.
After hundreds of hours of shooting and editing footage, the film is now complete and it has received high praise from fellow filmmakers and wrestlers as well. Paul and Francisco hope to have the documentary hit theaters nationwide sometime later this year or they hope it’s picked up by a streaming outlet such as Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime.
“It’s not a wrestling story, we just happen to be wrestlers. It’s a story for anybody that is in a struggle and is going through some hard times,” Ciatso said. “Whatever it is that you’re going through, everyone should be able to identify with something within this film.”
There is no doubt that Francisco has listened to his original trainer Adrian Street. It is not difficult for him to portray his character, because professional wrestling has encompassed every area of his life. It is what he does, it is what he passes on, and it is what he loves.
“It’s my goal to leave the business better than the way I found it. If I can do that, even if I just do it with one person, then I did my job,” Ciatso said. “That’s the most important aspect of my career right now.”