By Thomas Gerbasi for F4WOnline.com
It may be the biggest spoiler alert in all of professional wrestling. If Logan Black wears a hat on Monday morning, he probably had a rough weekend in the ring.
Then again, the folks that see Black with that hat on know him as Mr. Jake or Jake Gomez, middle school teacher, so they have the back of “The American Nightmare.” And thankfully for the Brooklyn teacher, it’s been that way from the start.
“When I first started out, it’s like anybody starting out with any job,” he said. “It can get scary and everybody’s walking on eggshells to make sure everything’s all right. So I played it real cool. But when I first started, I was doing a lot of hardcore matches, a lot of huge blow offs where everybody was getting color. And this was six or so years ago, before they really calmed a lot of that stuff down, especially in the independents. So I’d come in and I’d have a couple scars on my forehead, but to the credit of the people I work with and the principals, they’re actually pretty lax on dress code, so whenever I would come in with that, I’d have a hat on. So there are little ways to skirt around it or be less noticeable when it comes to that stuff.”
He can’t hide the limping that comes along with the back and knee injuries that are par for the course in the wrestling world, but his students, colleagues and school administrators don’t shy away from the realities of his “other” job. In fact, they embrace it.
“A bunch of the teachers at the school have known me a long time and they’ve come to shows that I’ve done that are local and they’ve worn my t-shirts around the school,” he said. “The dean at the school, whenever we have new kids come in, he’ll tell them I’m a wrestler, so they can’t be messing around. And then during their free time, they (the students) watch my matches and I’ll get hazed by them a little bit afterwards. So they’re very aware of it and they get a kick out of it too.”
Monday morning will likely be a limp around the school day for Black, as he will be wrestling both Friday and Saturday for the New York-based Warriors of Wrestling promotion. On Friday in Brooklyn, it’s a singles match against the Brooklyn Brawler, then on Saturday, it’s off to Staten Island for another night in the ring on a card that will feature former WWE stars Mr. Hughes, Adam Rose and El Torito.
It’s easy enough to describe it as a Jekyll and Hyde existence, and he would agree to an extent, but he also sees some similarities between teaching and wrestling.
“As a teacher, you have to be able to read a classroom, just like as a wrestler you have to be able to read a crowd,” he said. “So understanding how to manage things and also having the ability to switch gears so quickly in terms of a character, and my character specifically, is something any teacher is gonna need to use. But other than that, it’s a complete 180 from sitting down with kids and doing math problems to trying to gouge eyes out.”
He laughs, and it’s clear that when it comes to the squared circle, he’s a lifer. At 29, he’s been doing this for a decade, and since he began training at 19, the goal is the same as it is for anyone who puts on the boots -- to make it to the big show. So any time he gets the chance to talk with the stars who come through the WOW promotion, he takes it, and he advises his ring students -- who he works with at WOW’s training facility -- to do the same.
“That’s the thing I personally make sure I do, and I encourage the younger guys to do it as well,” he said. “If you’re in there with a name, or even a name is there, ask him, ‘Hey, can you watch my match and give me any pointers?’ I wrestled Rhyno earlier this year, and he was so good in terms of every little aspect. He was excellent in terms of just understanding not only how to explain things, but to show me a better way to do things. And whenever I hear any kind of feedback, it’s one of the things I’m going to continue to drill that week in practice and even more weeks further, and I push it along to everybody else so that I’m teaching them that same thing so it’s reinforced in me. And I’ll do the same myself while watching students’ matches.”
And when Black is not in the ring, practicing or grading school work and preparing for the next day of classes, he’s watching wrestling.
“I’m watching everything -- old, new -- and I like to say that you need to be a sponge in order to anywhere in professional wrestling,” he said. “And there is no correct way to do anything in pro wrestling because what works for one guy doesn’t work for another. The wrong way is when somebody gets hurt, but there is no right way, so I don’t go in there saying, ‘No, this is the only way to do things; you have to do it this way.’ My only way is, protect yourself, protect your opponent and develop what you’re developing. Everybody learns differently and that’s something I use in the classroom as well. You need to work towards the strengths of everybody that you’re in the ring or in a classroom with. You have to be able to modify what you’re doing so that it’s effective for everybody. If you don’t do that, then you end up with people who aren’t going to get it as well as everybody else.”
Given everything going on in his professional life, Black has found that he has little time for a personal one. It’s the sacrifice one makes in this business, and he’s come to accept that to chase after the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, he can’t live what some would call a “normal” life.
“Where could I begin,” he says with a chuckle when asked the sacrifices he’s made to compete in pro wrestling. “Beyond the general health stuff -- my knees are a mess, my back is kind of a mess, but that’s the way it’s going to be with any athlete. But girlfriends, friends, I lost a fiancée, everything like that. I’ve missed all types of family functions. I actually missed a wedding this past weekend and I’m kind of out of the loop with the general world and it’s one of those things where only other wrestlers can understand. And I guess it’s why I understand why so many wrestlers will date within the business because it’s people who understand that lifestyle, that nomadic lifestyle of finding out two days in advance that I need to be four states over this weekend, so it’s time to pack up and go. It’s really hard to have anything traditional with anybody in your life -- friends, family, spouses -- when it comes to independent wrestling, and professional wrestling in general, because it thrives on chaos. You need to be able to get up and go at any point.”
He isn’t complaining though. He knows it’s part of the gig, and when the last school bell rings for the weeks, he’s not Jake Gomez anymore. He’s “The American Nightmare,” Logan Black.
“That’s how I’ve modeled my life,” he said. “I’m living minute to minute. I’m waiting on other people to give me a heads up on what day this booking is or where I’m going for this or where there’s a seminar where I can up my game and make some contacts. I’ve modeled my life around it. And that’s where teaching really comes in handy, because I’m out of work at three o’clock on Friday. Anywhere I need to go, I can make that work. I’m very lucky and very privileged with every opportunity I’ve had and it only makes me want more opportunities to still make the most of everything that I’ve got.”
And bottom line, when his music hits and the curtain opens for him to make that walk, it’s all worth it.
“I think that’s what keeps a lot of guys in wrestling way longer than they physically should be -- it’s that feeling,” Black said. “And if anybody can explain it to you, I would love for them to explain it to me as well. (Laughs) It’s a level of euphoria that you really can’t explain. I can only speak for myself when I say that when it comes to being that kid in the crowd, I never forget that. I never forget paying money to go to the Elk’s Lodge in Queens to go see ECW shows and getting beer spilled on me at 10 years old and the guys in front of me and in back of me are swinging at each other over me, my brother and my mother. I never forget that and these are fond memories and they only made me love wrestling that much more. I wrote essays in elementary school about doing this, so the dream certainly isn’t over for me.”
So it’s cool for his students to write the same essays?
“I’m okay with it as long as they’re not trying moves on each other.”