Luke Gallows’ body says its 3 a.m. but the alarm clock blares, disagreeing, saying it’s really 9 a.m. Waking up slowly, he gains his bearings and remembers his to do list: make phone calls, send emails, pick up FedEx package and get locked in a steel cage with another 300-pound man. Is this a day gone horribly wrong? Nope, it’s just Wednesday.
For Gallows, a.k.a. Festus (real name Drew Hankinson), the cage match is nothing out of the ordinary. “I try [to wrestle] as much as I possibly can,” Gallows told SLAM! Wrestling. “I’m a full-time pro wrestler. I don’t do anything else. I just try to go, wrestle.” But it’s not just wrestling that Gallows does, he continually is trying to hone his craft. “I’m always looking for ways to advance myself and to get better,” Gallows said. “I haven’t peaked yet. I’m looking forward to showing off this unused potential to everybody.”
Currently on tour in Africa, he probably didn’t hear his shout-out by CM Punk on Monday Night Raw. In the U.S., his next big match will be Liberty Lottery on July 30th, where he will face Phil Brown, the current VCW champ, for the title in Hampton, VA for Vanguard Championship Wrestling. Gallows believes he’s still the champ and certainly has a claim to the title.
“I never lost the title when I went to WWE so it’s still technically mine,” Gallows said. “I’m going to face Phil Brown and clear this thing up.” While it’s unclear if this match is billed as a match for the undisputed champion, it certainly brings back memories of the first Muhammad Ali vs. Joe Frazer “Fight of the Century” in 1971.
But working on the independent circuit isn’t just about title matches. For Gallows, the indies give him a chance to diversify his skills while still traveling around the world. “It’s nice to go out and work with people with different styles,” Gallows said. “It’s great to go to different parts of the country with different expectations but especially to go to different countries.”
One of Gallows’ favorite countries to wrestle in is Japan because of how different the crowds are. Typically, Japanese crowds don’t root for a specific wrestler and only cheer when anybody does something very well. “In Japan I think they respect the sporting aspect of pro wrestling,” Gallows explained. “They’ll react to you for performing well and for doing things that impress them. It’s usually harder to get a reaction there than it is in the States.”
Japan isn’t the only place where crowds react differently. With all the different territories come different expectations from the crowds. “Fans in New York and New Jersey are more hardcore fans and people from the South grew up with ‘rasslin'” Gallows said. “They all want to see something different.”
In addition to adjusting to the different skills that other wrestlers bring to matches, Gallows has to prepare his body for all of the traveling he does to get to those matches. “You have to learn to adapt,” Gallows offered.” You have to learn to analyze each situation and perform for many different types of people at any time.”
In a given week, Gallows might start out wrestling in Alabama and a few days later he’s in the Republic of Congo in front of people who never have seen a wrestling match before.
“It’s a culture shock,” Gallows said. “I’m in a third world country where you have to stay in your hotel room at night because it’s not safe otherwise.” Just like knowing the other cultures, when abroad Gallows also has to locate gyms and places to eat. Even with all of these obstacles, Gallows always enjoys traveling. “I’m fortunate enough to go overseas,” Gallows said. “Not too many people get this opportunity.”
On days where Gallows isn’t wrestling, he doesn’t consider them days off. “I try to go in the gym the day after [a match], it helps heal the injuries,” Gallows said. “It also keeps you in shape, gives you that look and makes sure you’re still marketable.” If just allowing his body to heal wasn’t enough work on off days, Gallows sometimes is his own booking agent: lining up overseas dates, making sure his work visa is valid, talking to other wrestlers about matches and getting vaccinations and inoculations before the trips. “You’re managing yourself as an entity or a small business,” Gallows said. “It never ends; it’s all part of the whole package.”
Even if he hasn’t recovered from a previous injury, Gallows says he always tries to go out and have all of his matches. “Guys worth their salt have too much pride to simply take a day off,” Gallows said. “I feel that if you can stand and walk to the ring, you have to do that match. It might not be 100% of what you’ve got, but you need to go out there.”
Injured or 100 percent, tired or well rested, fan favorite or villain, it doesn’t matter to Gallows. Today he’s locked inside that steel cage in Africa, and in a few days he’ll be in Japan competing in a ladder match. Most spend their days avoiding physical punishment like that, but not Gallows. “This is a job like no other,” Gallows said. “And I love every day of it.”
Promoters looking to book Drew Hankinson can email [email protected].