When SlamWrestling.net first spoke to Danny Flamingo for his part in The Iron Claw, he explained what people see when he enters the ring for Wildkat Sports Wrestling. “Danny Flamingo is the next best thing to sliced bread,” he said with a laugh. “You can write it down because it is definitely a beautiful thing.”

No doubt the Louisiana-born Flamingo (real name Devin Imbraguglio) is enjoying some fame for his portrayal as one of The Fabulous Freebirds, Buddy Roberts, but he was a fan first.

There were the UWF shows Saint Bernard Civic Center, and then, taking a break, coming back at the beginning of the Monday Night Wars. “I heard Hulk Hogan had turned into a bad guy and I didn’t believe it and I turned on [WCW] Monday Nitro and sure enough, Hulk Hogan was a bad guy,” he said.

That got him thinking a little about becoming a wrestler himself. “I was like, ‘OK, I think I would like to do that.’ but there was never anything in my bubble where I lived that I could go to train and been a better part of 15 years since UWF had ran in my area.”

But a new group was coming around for the Jefferson Parish resident: Wildkat Sports. He asked a friend about the promotion, who dismissed it: “Oh man, they don’t know what they’re doing. They’re garbage.”

But after the show, Imbraguglio asked around and got a business card, and it all worked out: “Wildkat Sports ended up being my home.”

Flamingo recalled the first time he started his training. “I came in cold, cold, cold. And when I say cold, I hadn’t been in the gym in years,” he said, “and I thought I had four months to prepare and the website information was not updated and I really only had three days to prepare and I was not ready. My first day training, I cried and I puked, and probably for the first year of my training of my career… I can’t say first year, that’s not right. So probably the first eight months I questioned whether or not I really wanted to do this.”

In a 2022 interview with SlamWrestling.net, J. Spade (Michael Thompson), who trained with Flamingo, recalled, with admiration, his determination:

The only other classmate to stick with it was Danny Flamingo, and Thompson recalled how unprepared Flamingo was. For one, Flamingo thought school was starting a week later than it was, but he jumped in anyway. At one point, Thompson said that his colleague was “gasping for air, and you could just see tears flowing out of his eyes. And for me it’s my first time meeting this dude, and he’s kind of giving me a look. Not an angry look, but almost a look of disgust.” But he didn’t quit, and Flamingo and Thompson’s “Wildcard” J. Spade character have fought early and often, after their 14-month-long training session was up.

Danny Flamingo in 2014. Photo by 4CornerPhotography

Danny Flamingo in 2014. Photo by 4CornerPhotography

When Imbraguglio’s trainer, Luke Hawx, told the student he was ready for his first real match, the future Flamingo said, “Man, thank you very much.” He knew to show respect. “I didn’t even know who I was wrestling. I just knew that I was gonna wrestle a match. And as [Hawx] looked at me, he says, ‘You think you’re ready?’ I said, ‘I have enough faith in you coaching me, and the fact that I’m paying you for what we’re doing. If you think I’m ready, I feel ready. But I’m not gonna look at you and tell you that, you know? I’m not gonna be cocky. I’m not gonna be disrespectful. I’m not gonna look at you and say, “Yeah, I think I’m ready.” I’m gonna tell you right now you have confidence in me. I’m telling you; I won’t let you down,’ and I went out there and I wrestled my first match.”

That was January 2014. “It was at a small theater in Mississippi. I don’t even remember the name of the town or the company that I was wrestling. It was someone that booked Wildkat talent.” As for how the match went, Flamingo remembered this exchange with one of his coaches. “He says, ‘All you were doing was thinking about the next spot.’ And I said, ‘Well, yeah, of course, I gotta, you know? I’m paying attention to the match,’” Flamingo recalled. “He says, ‘No, no, you misunderstand.’ He says, ‘What were you not doing in your match that you did in every training match leading up until this point?’ And I kind of sat there and I’m going through everything in my head, and right as I was saying it, he says, ‘You didn’t talk.’ And I said, ‘No, I didn’t.” I had one comment for somebody that told me I look like Bret Hart and I don’t even know what I said, and I didn’t speak to nobody the rest of the match.”

How far has Flamingo come?

He now runs the training for Wildkat Sports and imparts wisdom to anyone who wants to run the ropes in the squared circle. “I tell everybody that wants to become a professional wrestler, especially in the independent team, we don’t do this for the money,” he said. “We absolutely, positively do it for the love of what we’re doing. It really is a craft.”

Pro wrestling is not for the weak at heart.

“I’m going to say the same thing that everybody else tells you when they train for professional wrestling and saying this a million times is in hopes that somebody that hears it and wants to become a professional wrestler takes it seriously,” Flamingo explained. “We’re always hurt. You know, people want to talk about how it’s scripted and it’s this and it’s that, and all of these things may be true. However, most people that want to criticize our sport, could not last 120 seconds in any kind of workout that we would do. So, it’s not only a physical battle when you start training for professional wrestling; it is a mental battle as well and people really don’t understand that. That’s why I say it’s very psychological; it’s very intimate. I mean, it’s serious what we do.”

Psychology matters in matches. “I was a heel to start with. Any of my coaches, if they looked at the phone or anything like that, even if it was Luke Hawx, it didn’t matter to me. I was in the ring. I was working so I would yell at him, ‘Get off that damn phone.’ You’re supposed to be watching a match, and I turn around and go back to work in a match, whether the baby face cut me off or whatever we were doing, but I incorporated it in.”

He also remembered a time he was part of the WildKat crew brought in for a WWE event and this exchange took place. “There was one time that Charlotte Flair was watching my match and she looked down on her phone and I yelled across the ring. I’m like, ‘Hey!’ I was like, ‘You’re a legend. I need you to watch!’’’ He laughed at the memory. “I went in on her and immediately all the guys stopped what they were doing, turned around looked at me.”

Despite all his work, the recently turned 40-year-old Flamingo is a family man who works a regular job on the side. How does he manage to strike a balance between both worlds? “I say this, it’s not usually a good thing, but I’ve had several jobs at one time,” he said. “At my peak with professional wrestling, I was working four jobs. So, I waited tables at one restaurant, and then down the street, I managed another restaurant and then I have my grass [landscaping] business, and then simultaneously with that, I was training for wrestling and then still being able to fit my family in.”

It is not so crazy these days. “But the balance between the family and the home life… the help is really the understanding of my wife,” he said.

Flamingo really put over his wife for where he is now. “She is very, very understanding as to where she allows for wrestling to come before her. We always say it’s a big thing with all our students that come in. It’s like, ‘Hey, you know, wrestling is gonna be your mistress. You’re gonna miss birthday parties, you’re gonna miss Christmas, you’re gonna miss things if you wanna be a professional wrestler.’”

He speaks from experience, missing Thanksgiving dinner with his family for WrestleCade in Salem. “It was an amazing experience, but I’m not going to lie. I was a little bummed out. I didn’t get to go hang out with my kids, but my family was willing to make that sacrifice. And it’s the same thing with anything else. I’ve missed birthday parties. My wife is very good about scheduling our kid’s birthday parties when I’m home. But again, it’s a sacrifice that if you’re married, everyone in your house makes that sacrifice. It’s not just you.”

Danny Flamingo in 2018.

Danny Flamingo in 2018.

Nowadays, Flamingo is getting his flowers with Wildkat Sports and being in the critically acclaimed film, The Iron Claw. He’s also going to be wrestling on Saturday, January 13, as part of the Kayfabe Fest Meet and Greet wrestling show at the Neshoba County Coliseum in Philadelphia, MS. He will face Chuck Devine for the Wildkat Sports Revolution championship, which Flamingo currently holds.

But as for what the future holds, Flamingo is philosophical. “I want to continue on wrestling as long as I can. I feel that’s another good thing about my character is even after I’ve retired [from] in-ring competition, I have so much to offer to WildKat Sports and in professional wrestling in general,” he said. “That’s because of WildKat Sports, whether it’s behind the camera, or in front of the camera. I mean, I very much enjoy coaching at the school. And then again, I feel I’d be a really good commentator and/or manager. It just depends on after I decide to retire from in-ring competition, where am I gonna go after that? But I definitely plan on being around WildKat Sports until I’m dead and buried.”