Kerry Morton tries his best to keep his two worlds separate, though they compliment each other rather well.
On one hand, the 20-year-old is a third-generation wrestler, learning the family business, after training under his father, Ricky Morton, of The Rock ‘n’ Roll Express.
On the other, he’s on the cheer squad at King University, a marketing major in his sophomore year, with a special interest in social media, on a scholarship at the Bristol, Tennessee school.
Don’t make him choose.
“I’ve been in many sports in my life, and I think cheerleading is the toughest sport ever,” Morton told SlamWrestling.net backstage at the Georgia Public Broadcasting center in Atlanta, where the NWA was shooting four days of television, December 3-6. “There’s so much training, there’s so much teamwork, there’s so much precise precision that you have to hit. And if you don’t, you’re a failure; you failed.”
Does that sound familiar, or what?
“That sounds like wrestling,” admitted the 5-foot-11 Morton. The trust that needs to exist in wrestling is paramount for those who do the heavy lifting on cheers squads. “You’ve got to think, these girls, they trust us guys to lift them in the air, to catch them by their feet and hold them about six feet above ground. That’s a crazy thing to think about. And it’s just usually sometimes the girl and myself, and she trusts me. And that’s something, I have to have that dependable trust — it’s very similar to wrestling.”
The other key word is “balance” since Morton is trying to find that balance; with his schoolwork, his cheerleading, his wrestling.
His number one cheerleader, though, is his father. Ricky Morton is more than happy to talk about Kerry Morton, one of his eight kids.
“I didn’t know if he told you this or not, he didn’t want to play football because he didn’t want to hurt his shoulders and knees, because he wanted to wrestle,” said Ricky Morton, getting back to an earlier question. “Going back to what you asked me before, when did I think he wanted be a wrestler? Every time, every day of his life. See, he was thinking ahead of himself. They asked him to try out for cheerleading and, damn, he had a four-year scholarship. Yeah, I love to go watch him. It’s different from where I’m at. At first, when he told me that, I kind of thought about it, but then after I got to watching him and he’s like my other kids, you know how other kids are playing music, or build and construction — it’s just gotta be perfect. If it’s not perfect, it’s not accepted.”
Paul Morton, the father of Ricky, was briefly a pro wrestler until settling into a role as a referee and promoter.
“My dad got in it because of his father, and then I’m getting in it because of my father,” said Kerry. “That’s a big deal in the wrestling world as a third generation wrestler, because you know it, and I know it, and all the boys in the back know it — you’re only going to get what you put into this business and if I’m not whole 100%, then I’m going to be a laughingstock. And that’s not what Kerry Morton is all about. Kerry Morton is about making waves. And that’s why he’s in the NWA right now, making a wave for himself.”
The way Ricky sees it, Kerry’s training started when he was on the road with his father. “The most important thing about our business is not training him, understanding what it is. It’s not going to the ring doing a bunch of spots,” said Ricky, who runs School of Morton, a wrestling training center. He brought up Chase Owens as one of his prized pupils, who had “that look in his eyes” where Ricky knew he’d succeed. He sees the same in Kerry. They get it, how the business works. “Chase understood it, and my son understood it. Him and Chase Owens could have a main-event match anywhere in the country, but we couldn’t do it because Kerry wasn’t but eight years old!”
Instead of entering the ring when he was young, Kerry Morton took to the stage. At age 13 , he got his Equity card, proof that he was a professional actor. Community theater grew into something bigger. For a time, he toured nationally in a production of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, where he portrayed Rocky.
“I always loved the theater world, especially musical theater,” said Kerry, whose mother, Andrea, is a country singer. “My father and my mom, they always thought I would progress in wrestling, too. So this was just a kind of a stepping stone to get ahead of the game when I did finally step into wrestling.”
Wrestling was always the plan. “I love professional wrestling. It is obviously in my blood. It’s something I don’t ever take for granted, either. I’m proud to be a Morton.”
At the NWA tapings, Kerry Morton got to shine both individually and tagging with his 65-year-old father. He also got to be a part of the NWA World Junior Heavyweight title tournament, with most of the matches airing on the new NWA USA YouTube show (debuting Jan. 8, 2022, at noon ET). “I know I have a little spotlight because of my father but also I’m starting to earn a spotlight for myself,” admitted the younger Morton, recalling the decision to finally pursue wrestling.
“When I finally came to him in February 2020, and said, ‘Dad, this is what I want to do as my job, full time,’ he laughed at me at first and said, ‘This is not for you, son. You’re in the acting world. You’ve been in this business your whole life, but are you sure you want to dive deep into this?’ And I said, ‘Yeah, I do.'”
The COVID-19 pandemic came along just after Kerry’s contract in theater ended, in February 2020. There was forced time together, as Kerry lives with his father in Bristol.
The legacy of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Express opened a lot of doors, admitted Kerry. “It was such an awesome moment when my dad announced I was going to start wrestling and making my career wrestling. And I got booked up for eight months, right then; it was overnight, just kind of crazy. I got all these emails about bookings and very humbling opportunity. I know there’s a lot of starving artists out there that deserve the spotlight that I’m in as well, and would just fight just as hard for that. So it was awesome. And then the pandemic hit, and everything shut down. So it was back to Day One for me.”
Fast-forward to early 2022, and the Mortons are out there on the circuit, fitting in shows around Kerry’s commitment to school.
Kerry uses the nickname “Future Legend” and knows he has to earn it. He listens to the veterans (Kevin Sullivan once said to Kerry, “I watched you in that ring tonight, and I thought I was watching your dad back in ’86. It was incredible.”), to his peers, and even asks a reporter to critique his answers.
“I’m my own self, I know that. I’m not my father, I’m not going to try to be like my father as other generational superstars will, just take on what their dad did, and their old gimmick, and try to pick that up. That’s not me. I’m the Future Legend. I created something for myself. And I’m learning from my dad, don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to be an asshole or come off as cocky or anything,” Kerry clarified. “I realize what’s in front of me, and I am going to take it step by step and day by day.”
TOP PHOTO: Kerry Morton and Ricky Morton. Facebook photo