The path an athlete takes to become a pro wrestler is as unique as their fingerprint. The 36-year-old Sledge, also known as the “Metalhead Maniac” signed with Ring of Honor (ROH) in 2019 after a set of circumstances that one could conclude as fate, or as he so eloquently put it, “I was at the right place at the right time.” Sledge, who outside of the wrestling world goes by the name Brian Campbell took time out of his busy schedule and his Twitch channel to give SlamWrestling.net a rare interview and the first since ROH announced it was taking a hiatus during the first quarter of 2022.
The 6-foot-3, 246-pound Sledge has overcome his fare share of demons, yet he still doesn’t consider himself a role model. While imprisoned at a young age he decided that enough was enough and it was time to clean up his life. He quickly knew that it was up to him and only him to make that ultimate change.
“It all starts with the person. If you’re willing to make the change and you want to make those changes. Whether it’s in your job, whether you want that promotion, whether you want to lose weight, get sober, anything like that, it starts with you,” he said. “It all starts with number one. You’re the one who has to look at yourself in the mirror every day. When you wake up what’s the first thing you do? What do you when you walk into the bathroom? You look at yourself in the mirror. You have to look yourself in the mirror every day. So if you want to make those changes and you want to be able to look at yourself in the mirror better, that starts with you.”
Sledge promised himself to see a better version of himself in the mirror, he looked to his earlier passion of wrestling as a means to an end. From watching Bret Hart versus Mr. Perfect at SummerSlam 1991 to idolizing wrestlers like Gangrel, Sledge was ready to enter the world of professional wrestling.
“I went through some pretty bad trials when I was younger. I got incarcerated very young and so on and so forth. And when I got out, I didn’t know what to do. So I went down the MMA route, and then professional wrestling. I was going to go to a professional wrestling school in Hayward, California, and I was dating a girl at the time and I told her (about training to be a wrestler) and then she’s like, ‘What do you want to do with your life?’ and I was like, ‘I want to become professional wrestler.’ She literally laughed at me. She said, ‘You’ll never make any money in that. You need to get a job. You need to get a real job, a nine to five.’ So I just let the door close. But then the door opened again when I was around 24, 25. And I’m like, well, the door opened twice so I got to go through it, you know? So I went through it and here we are 10 years later rocking and rolling.”
With his initial training completed, Sledge found himself in the world of professional wrestling taking bookings from promoters all around the country. Sledge eventually found a mentor in the industry in Big Time Wrestling’s Kirk White, who died on December 24. “He really believed in me when nobody else would and really put me in with high-end people to really get me notoriety. So, he just passed like a couple of weeks ago and I’m still kind of dealing with it. He really helped me become who I am — so shout out to Kirk White and Big Time Wrestling. He had a huge connection with Impact and they did an Impact show and they asked me if I wanted to be on. I was originally supposed to wrestle Dave Crist from OVE at the time.”
Through Kirk’s encouragement, Sledge once again found himself at the right place at the right time in order to appear for Impact Wrestling and the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA). “They put me in there with Eli Drake — AKA LA Knight now — and we f*cking tore the house down. It was great … The NWA thing just kind of fell in my lap. Right place, right time. I think we were going to do extra work for WWE and we were just dropping by Championship Wrestling from Hollywood and we’re just hanging out. The guy I was driving with had a booking there so I was just there to hang out and watch the show, nothing big and then they came up and were like, ‘Hey, do you want to wrestle?’ And I was like, ‘Well, I’ve got my gear, let’s go!’ and then we had a banger five-, six-minute match. Those little opportunities of just showing up, you never know. Setting up a ring can go a long way. That’s how I got a job with Ring of Honor.”
Sledge recounted his initial experience with ROH as once again being at the right place at the right time in March of 2019. “I just showed up in Vegas. I circled Sam’s Town until I got the attention of somebody and they kept asking me, ‘What are you doing’? And I’m like, ‘I’m just here to help. Maybe set up, whatever you guys need. I’m just here.'” He met the right person, and was in the building, helping out.
After a full weekend of setting up rings and other general tasks, Sledge received the opportunity that would change his life. “I just busted my ass that weekend, just busting my ass in Vegas. And then, about a week later I got a text that said, ‘Hey, are you going to be in New York City?'” ROH wanted him at Madison Square Garden for the major ROH/New Japan Pro Wrestling show; little did he know that he was essentially there for a job interview. “I wasn’t there maybe more than five minutes. I got pulled into the office. They didn’t interrogate me but more asked me. ‘Okay, man, we’ve seen your stuff. We’ve seen your Impact stuff. We’ve seen this. We’ve seen that. Why are you not signed? Why should we sign you? Do you have like a dark past that we don’t know about? Like, what is up, why has no one scooped you up yet?’ I told them, ‘Hey, I’m a recovering addict. And, you know, I haven’t had the best reputation and so on and so forth, you know, I used to be a huge, you know, a**hole is the best way to put it.’ They said, ‘Well, we want to give you a trial in May.'”
After a successful tryout and a spot at the ROH dojo confirmed, Sledge needed to still provide for his family. “To put money in my pocket, I drove the ring trucks. I set up the events, guardrails around the ring. I did all the backstage stuff. I did it if you name it. I was the guy. So that’s what I was doing for them while I was training at the dojo on top of being on the road with Ring of Honor and then they signed [me]. Then I had my first official dark match with Ring of Honor in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, a month and a half before I got signed.”
As his deal went into effect March 1, 2020, Sledge was ready to take on the wrestling world and be a household name. However, fate had a different plan for him as COVID-19 changed everything as all in-person gatherings were cancelled. Six days later ROH announced that due to COVID-19 they would be taking a break. “I was still driving the ring truck so I was in Vegas with everybody freshly signed and we started getting word that they might be shutting down things and then bam, everything shuts down.”
After some personal bonding time with the ROH roster, Sledge drove himself and the ROH trucks back to Baltimore, Maryland. He then bought himself a ticket back home to California to pass the time until he got the call from ROH to return to work. “I sat at home and I took a mental break. I’ve been going hard for so long and like when the world stops it makes you realize that, ‘Hey, you gotta take a little bit of a mental break for yourself.’ So I took a mental break. I really did. I got my body right, I got my mind right, I got a lot of things right that I needed to get right.”
As weeks turned into months and as the sports world adjusted to empty arenas as the new normal, Sledge knew it was time to get back to work and start thinking about how he would debut in ROH. “I’m going to do vignettes. So the first one is to introduce me. I produced, I made, I cut, I did everything.” Once September of 2020 rolled through and with self-produced vignettes ready, it was time for Sledge to get back into the ring. “I officially did my first dark match, I want to say in September.” These tapings however were not like any previous set of TV tapings as they were under bubble with a strict set of health guidelines.
“Everybody’s on edge. You know, cause of the Commission. Baltimore (Maryland) has a sports commission and the Commission would come around to check to see if you were in your room. You’re literally locked in a hotel room for days.” Passing the time between shows was also difficult for the roster as the amenities in the hotel weren’t ideal. “The internet was really bad. The gaming guys brought their gaming systems to try to game and they couldn’t game because the WiFi was so bad. They’re trying to watch Netflix. No one could watch Netflix.” While the conditions were far from perfect, Sledge and others were grateful to be back at work. “Shout out to Ring of Honor though. They still flew us all in. They put us in hotels, they spent ridiculous amount of money on us just to be there, to produce a product.”
In the summer of 2021, Sledge found his groove and was put in a high-profile program with PCO. “I help set that up, ’cause I wanted to have a moment with PCO in a Battle Royal. When they said that you guys were going to be one of the last five in there … I told everybody, I want a moment with PCO. I want that moment. I want to get it in the booker’s mind for me and PCO to have a face-to-face and start beating the piss out of each other, and that’s what we got.”
As his program with PCO was reaching its climax and what felt like a lifetime of hard work was starting to pay off, everything changed on October 27, 2021, as Ring of Honor announced that it would be going on hiatus in the first quarter of 2022. Its last show was the Final Battle pay-per-view on December 11.
“I’ll be honest and I haven’t talked about this yet. You’re the first one I’ve talked to this about. I’ve turned down so many podcasts. I’ve turned down so many interviews. I didn’t feel like I wanted to talk about this to everybody … I was just getting momentum and knowing that it possibly could all be over it hit me pretty hard. It really did. And then Final Battle was really hard too.”
Even Sledge isn’t sure what the future holds for ROH and whether he will be at Supercard of Honor on April 2, 2022, in Dallas. “Technically right now, and I can publicly say this, there’s a lot of unknowns. I’m still under contract.”
While Sledge waits to see what his future in wrestling holds, he keeps himself busy on his Twitch Channel. “I’m huge into Twitch. You can find me on Monday, Wednesday, Fridays, 10:30 Pacific daylight time. I usually stream about six hours. So pop in when you guys can. I have a ridiculous set up with multiple cameras. I do a lot of different things that people don’t do on Twitch … I’ve got multiple camera angles. I’m doing stuff with my chat. We’re having a blast.”
Sledge had a moment of clear reflection and introspection when asked what he ultimately wanted his legacy in wrestling to be. “That anytime a promoter booked me, every time, people invested money, because when you sign the contract they’re investing that money in you. That’s not like, ‘Oh, that’s what you’re worth.’ No, they’re investing that money in you. And they’re expecting to make three times that money off of you — just remember that people, that I was worth every penny, if not more. And I went out there and I gave it my all and I helped the younger generation that are coming up the way that I believe the younger generation needs to be helped out. Now don’t get me wrong. I would love to win a world championship in a big promotion, ’cause if you’re not here to be world champion in a big promotion, then why are you here? But at the same time though, I would love to leave the legacy that he was worth every penny and we’ll bring him back any time.”
TOP PHOTO: Sledge is all business during his entrance. RING OF Honor/Mike Adams