This is such a great time of year for those of us who are very ‘sports-minded.’ The return of baseball, the NBA Playoffs, NFL Free Agency, and of course, the NFL Draft. So many fun and exciting ways for us to feel connected to our teams, players and our city.
All of these are great things, but did you know that there is a huge event about to kick off; an event with some significant ties to Cleveland? I’m talking about WWE’s answer to all sports championships combined, WrestleMania.
Right now, the eyes of those interested in sports entertainment look toward New Orleans, Louisiana, the site of WrestleMania 34 on Sunday, April 8th. While participants on “the grandest stage of them all,” come from all over the world, Cleveland, Ohio is well represented at the events. Many on the WWE roster trace their roots back to the 216.
Nick Nemeth- Ring Name Dolph Ziggler –
Nemeth is a Cleveland native and an alum of St. Edward’s High School as well as Kent State University. In addition to his professional career, Nemeth is a highly decorated amateur wrestler. While his ring persona is billed from Hollywood, Florida, Nick Nemeth is a proud Clevelander and a huge supporter of Cleveland sports.
Mike Mizanin- Ring Name The Miz –
Mizanin was born and raised in Parma, Ohio where he graduated from Normandy High School. He achieved some notoriety in reality television, before signing with the WWE in 2006. He has achieved success in and out of the WWE ring as he has starred in numerous WWE movie productions.
Johnny Gargano – AKA Johnny Wrestling-
Gargano is a genuine local success story. While attending Saint Edward’s High School, Gargano began training at Cleveland All-Pro Wrestling’s professional wrestling school. He started his career with CAPW and quickly rose through the ranks of international independent professional wrestling, winning championships on multiple continents. Gargano signed with the WWE in 2016 and also works as the head trainer for Absolute Intense Wrestling Academy, in Cleveland, Ohio. Gargano’s love of Cleveland sports and his hometown is nearly legendary in independent wrestling circles.
Raymond “Death” Rowe –
Ray Rowe is a native Clevelander who gained international wrestling fame and championships as a singles competitor and as one half of the world-renowned tag-team War Machine. Rowe signed with the WWE in January 2018 and is currently in training at the WWE Performance Center in Orland, Florida.
Ashley Mae Sebera – Ring Name Dana Brooke –
A former championship bodybuilder, Sebera was born and raised in Seven Hills, Ohio. She is also an alumnus of Kent State University. Sebera signed with the WWE in 2013 and made her television debut in 2014. She is a regular on the WWE’s flagship production Monday Night Raw.
In addition to these wrestlers, the WWE (and WrestleMania) holds a strong connection to Cleveland through local independent wrestling promotion, Absolute Intense Wrestling. AIW is well-known as a proving ground for professional wrestlers. As such, the company has helped to launch the careers of WWE talent such as, Seth Rollins, Daniel Bryan, Cesaro, AJ Styles, Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, Apollo Crews, Samoa Joe, Dean Ambrose, Shayna Baszler, Ruby Riott, Corey Graves, Curt Hawkins, Ember Moon and Candice LeRae.
So as the curtain lifts on the “grandest stage of them all” this Sunday, wrestling fans in Cleveland can be proud of this city’s contribution to the WWE and professional wrestling.
-An aside for anyone rolling their eyes and muttering something about wrestlers not being athletes and professional wrestling not being real, please visit AIW on April 20 and tell the in-ring performers that they are not athletes, or drop by my son’s doctor’s office and look at his neck x-rays after a training injury-about as real as it gets.-
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