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Mik Drake refuses to be like any other independent wrestler

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Mik Drake is like any other independent pro wrestler. Until he isn’t anymore.

Sure, one dose of a typical weekend schedule puts him right in line with all the other wrestlers chasing a dream and doing whatever it takes to get there, and as he recites it, it’s clear that he’s had more than a few of those weekends over the last 11-plus years.

Drake recalls a recent trip that saw him taking a bus from New York to Philadelphia, getting picked up and brought to someone’s house in order to drive four hours to a show, driving three hours after the show, then two more to his parents’ house, before taking the bus back to NYC in time for another show on Sunday.

“It’s nuts that anybody would willingly put themselves through something like that,” he laughs. “But there’s value long-term in getting to the ring. To me, that’s part of the process.”

So he does it. Anywhere at any time. And as any wrestler will tell you, the degree of difficulty is high, but Drake amps that up with his day job as a lawyer.

“The reality is, you find a way to pull it off,” he said. “And there are times where I feel like I’m gonna fall flat on my face because I’m exhausted, and I just keep chugging along. I’ve been at this for 12 years in August and I said when I do this, there’s no half-assing it, there’s no halfway. It’s all or nothing.

“So for me, it’s always been, hey, I’ve got to put in 10-11 hours in the office today,” Drake continues. “That means I’ve got to get up at four in the morning if I want to hit the gym. I’ve got to have my meals packed, I’ve got to get to the office, I’ve got to do my work at the office, slip out before I go to court, hit the cardio, get back to the office, then cryotherapy or whatever other painful thing I’ve gotta do to keep my body going. Because at the end of the day, if you want to do this, you find a way. It’s not so different from people who become doctors. Anybody who has something they really, really want to do, they find a way to do it and they get it done. Excuses be damned.”

Years of schooling will make you a doctor, though. In independent pro wrestling, there are no guarantees and no straight path to the big show, whether that’s WWE, NJPW, or whatever promotion someone sets their sights on. It’s a mixture of talent, looks, charisma, timing, and luck, and if you don’t have all of those attributes firing at once, it could be all for naught. But Drake and his peers keep chugging along, because they all believe they will be that one. And that takes a special kind of determination.

“There are a lot of people who want to be wrestlers, but there are very few who really want to be wrestlers, who are obsessed with it,” he said. “If someone told Michael Jordan he was obsessed with being the best basketball player on Earth, he’d say, ‘You're damn right I am.’ And that’s how I’m wired. I don’t want to be good; I want to be great, like all-time great. People think I’m crazy, but if you want to be the top one percent in anything, whatever it is, you’ve got to be a little nuts.”

At 6-foot-3, Drake could have been a ballplayer, and he loves his hoops, but at 18, it was wrestling that got him.

“I had to go for a tryout,” he said of his ring origins. “Actually, I had to pay them to go for a tryout. (Laughs) And the guy there said, ‘You know pal, I think I can make a wrestler out of you.’ I was an 18-year-old kid, I didn’t know any better.”

But that was the spark and the start. And since then, Drake has been learning and honing his craft. He estimates that he’s been in over a thousand matches, and he’s had a couple WWE tryouts, leaving good impressions with the promotion. But the work is still the thing, which means plenty of nights with little sleep following matches in high school gyms.

“There’s still a ton of value in that,” he said. “Eight minutes is eight minutes is eight minutes, whether it’s in front of six people or six hundred. You’re trying to get those reps in, learning your positioning in the ring and learning the awareness of where you are at all times in the ring. That all comes with reps. (Former basketball star and current ESPN analyst) Jalen Rose said, ‘To be successful in THE league, sometimes you gotta be successful in A league first. To me, that applies to indie wrestling too.”

Drake knows it’s an uphill climb, but that’s part of the allure of the whole process. And in those high school gyms, he’s not trying to outdo his opponent; he’s shooting higher than that when he steps between the ropes.

“I’m very competitive, and in my head, I’m not just competing with the other guys in the indies,” he said. “I’m competing with John Cena, Roman Reigns, Dean Ambrose, and all those guys. Because I want to be better than them.”

Is he there yet? Drake admits that he’s still a work in progress

“I’ll be the first to tell you I’ve got a million things to improve on, but I’m confident in what I do well and what I’ve prepared to do well, and I’ll put that up against anybody,” he said. “Every time I wrestle, to this day, I will wrestle, I will finish, I may be satisfied with the match for all of 30 seconds, and then I say I could have done X better, and I will watch the tape every single night and pick it apart. All those little things add up and when you can bring it all together, then people are going to take notice.”

Twelve years is a long time to do anything, especially something as taxing on your body, mind, and finances as pro wrestling. And Drake knows this.

“The light at the end of the tunnel is very hard to see until you’re right at the exit of the tunnel,” he laughs.

But he’s not about to stop now, and the dream is as strong as it was when he was 18. But what if it doesn’t happen for him? What if all this work and sacrifice doesn’t give him what he’s wanted? That’s the worst case scenario, and one he knows is a possibility.

“A lot of athletes and entrepreneurs will say this: you do everything you can to put yourself in a position to win,” he said. “And if you don’t at that point, it’s not on you. My mindset when I started this was that if I do everything humanly possible, there will be no regrets, and if after 15-20 years it never works out, I’ll be able to look myself in the mirror, and I’ll live my life and be fine with that.”

Mik Drake isn’t like any other independent pro wrestler. He refuses to be.

“Little kids have dreams,” he smiles. “I’ve got goals and I’ve got work to do.”