Being a socially anxious introvert who’s hesitant to approach people for fear of inconveniencing them is one of the worst personality traits a journalist can have.
But when WWE stars invade your CrossFit gym, those reclusive tendencies become a boon (Well, kind of. More on that later).
WWE was in Kansas City, Mo., over Labor Day weekend for a live show, and naturally the brawlers sought a convenient place to get in a workout beforehand. Because Anthony Madonia, the owner of my gym, apparently has friends in high places, Brave Enough CrossFit in North Kansas City, Mo., became the go-to place for the likes of John Cena, Seth Rollins, Cesaro and Darren Young.
Knowing my appreciation for the grappling game (and that a who’s who of dream interviews would be throwing weight around), Madonia told me to change my weekend plans to be at the gym and help out.
Saturday arrives, I get to the gym about 20 minutes before the wrestlers are supposed to show up, giving me the chance to chat with one of our coaches, Ben Marselus, and his son, Levi. Then in walks John Cena.
He was as respectful and professional as everybody professes. He introduced himself, signed a waiver, took in the facility, complete with a pro shop, locker rooms, showers and towel service, then got to work.
A short time later, Rollins, Cesaro, Young and WWE Live Events Director Kosha Irby rolled in. I was busy chatting with a couple Brave Enough regulars, so I didn’t get the chance to introduce myself (check that off the ‘inadvertently avoiding social anxiety’ list!). And in the roughly two hours they spent at Brave Enough, I avoided approaching them, partially because I had no intention of interrupting their workouts just to introduce myself. But mostly because I wanted to respect their time and space.
With the amount of traveling involved in the WWE schedule, and the never-ending throngs of fans asking for autographs and photos at the most inopportune times, having an hour or so of moderate solitude to focus has to be key in maintaining at least some form of sanity on the road. And I’m not one to stand in the way of sanity (the NXT faction or the mental state).
From a distance (and between transcribing interviews and writing stories for this very website), though, just seeing the intensity and focus in their workouts was impressive. Despite being a member of a CrossFit gym with incredibly talented, strong and capable athletes, those guys are all the definition of “fitness goals.”
From Cena’s weightlifting to Rollins and Cesaro cranking out dumbbell snatches with ease to Young and Irby doing sled pushes with weights that I would venture to guess totaled at least twice my body weight (if not more).
Even with a couple regular Brave Enough members doing their own workout at the same time as the WWE Superstars, everybody respected everybody else’s space. Everybody cleaned up the area of the gym they used and returned the equipment where they found it.
Sure, it sounds like a small thing. And, really, it is. So don’t ask me why noticing that these mega-athletes respected the gym stuck with me. They didn’t have to load the dumbbells back on the rack. They didn’t have to push the Rogue boxes back into the exact spot where they found them. But they did. Respect is a simple thing, but it goes a long way.
And as they wound down their workouts and prepared to head to the venue, Marselus, who opened the gym for the crew, told them I’m a “big fan” and didn’t want to bother them by introducing myself or asking for a quick photo.
Then I had a nice, quick chat with Young about writing for SLAM! Wrestling, relating to each others’ introvert tendencies and general small talk about the show later that night. He was so nice, in fact (and insanely humble) that he made sure I got the photo opp with Cesaro. My only complaint is that in his humbleness, I wasn’t able to get a picture with him as well.
And Irby was gracious enough to give his contact information in case I wanted to attend the show that night. I told them I wasn’t sure I’d be able to find people to go, but for “free-99,” as Young pointed out, it would be ridiculous to pass up the opportunity.
Before I locked up the gym for the day, Rollins brought up grabbing a photo with him (because, let’s face it, I wasn’t going to inconvenience him by asking when they were on their way out!) and Cesaro volunteered to “be the photographer.” Rollins also asked if Irby had already mentioned giving me tickets for the show. Class acts all around.
So, all in all, that was a pretty successful day for someone scratching and clawing her way through the muddy waters and questionable ethics of this thing they call “professional wrestling journalism.” (And I knew I couldn’t do any interviews without the approval of the hardworking WWE PR team.)
What also stuck out was that they were all more than willing to take photos with Levi, Marselus’ son. (When I talked to Marselus the next day, he said Levi woke up with a smile on his face. All from a few simple photos. What’s better than that?)
Oh, and those tickets from Irby? Fifth row floor seats. Respect goes a long way.