It’s nice to have Jewish community in wrestling

THERE’S a revolution happening in the world of professional wrestling, thanks to the historic National Wrestling Alliance.

The company, founded in 1948 — a familiar year to Jewish Telegraph readers — is owned by Billy Corgan, the lead singer of alt-rock band Smashing Pumpkins.

Before he took ownership of the company, it was a shadow of its former illustrious self.

One of the key figures of the NWA’s new roster, and a prominent face on the company’s show NWA Powerrr — screened only on YouTube every week — is Royce Isaacs.

Born in Meriden, Connecticut, but raised in Denver, Colorado, the 31-year-old is part of the faction known as Strictly Business, which is fronted by current world champion, Norfolk-born Nick Aldis, as well as having one of the show’s most popular storylines involving on-screen girlfriend May Valentine.

Royce has also collected the NWA World Tag Team titles with partner Tom Latimer (formerly known as Bram in Impact Wrestling).

He told me: “NWA has been a huge blessing for me. I love the crew we have there — everyone we have is on board and works really hard.

“It is more like a grassroots thing, where we’re all rowing in the same boat, trying to make this thing happen.

“We don’t have this huge office of billions of people who can all do different jobs.

“I can count the number of office workers we have on one hand and they’re all working their butts off, and all the wrestlers are full steam ahead.

“It’s been really cool to see the growth we’ve already had, and I feel like NWA Powerr is doing really good, as well as the internet pay-per-views which have all done better than the last.

“It’s good to try something different and to give the audience a different stimulus.

“If you find your own lane, and own niche, that’s more fulfilling as an artist and the audience appreciate that as well.”

The NWA weekly show, which averages around 250,000 views, is not filmed in a large arena, but the small GPB Studios in Atlanta, Georgia.

It provides the show with a more old-school feel, which has been attracting new and old viewers alike.

“It’s really cool to experience being in Strictly Business, but also having my own singles storyline going on on the side,” he explained.

“It reminds me of watching wrestling when I grew up watching the Attitude Era (then-WWF from 1997-2001) — just because someone is a tag-team specialist doesn’t mean they can’t have a singles match or a singles storyline.

“You have to give a spotlight to characters who aren’t the main guy or in the spotlight, otherwise how are you ever supposed to care about them or get behind them.

“This allows people to sink their teeth into Royce Isaacs from many different vantage points — it’s wrestling done right and it’s easily digestible.”

Another aspect of Royce that, although not seen on camera, he is more than happy to talk about is his Judaism.

He describes his upbringing as “interesting”.

Born to a Jewish mother and Catholic father, Royce’s parents were both “open-minded”, where he did bits of both religions, but leaned more to the Jewish-side overall. He was barmitzvah.

He said: “There was never any pressure on me from either parent to practise one or the other.

“They are both very accepting, cool people which helped me to get experience from both sides.

“As an adult, it’s helped to shape me.

“If I’m home for one of the holidays, I’ll practice with my mother, but it’s not like I’m still going to temple.

“It’s something that has shaped me, and I have a lot of pride in that side of me.

“There’s a surprising amount of Jewish wrestlers and auxiliary talent who I’m friends with and keep in touch with.

“It’s nice to have that community within wrestling.

“One of my best groups of friends, and one that I’m in a group chat with, we’re all Jewish — it wasn’t intentional or a conscious decision, it just ended up that way. The tribe sticks together!”

Royce has yet to go to Israel, and regrets not going on a Birthright trip to the Jewish state.

“There’s no good reason why I didn’t,” he said. “I had other stuff going on and real life was calling.

“The first few years after college, I was busy working and there’s the rest of your life to do it.

“I don’t know why I didn’t do it, but it’s something I’d like to do in the future.

“There have been a few really cool events in Israel over the past year or so, and it would be good to be a part of that.

“But I haven’t had the chance to visit the motherland yet.”

Royce’s sojourn into wrestling started when he was eight, watching on television.

He went to college, where he did amateur wrestling, but ended up getting “real jobs”.

Yet, he admits to having the “itch” to do it for many years.

He recalled: “When I was around 25, I went with a friend to an independent show.

“I didn’t think that indie wrestling was really a thing or an option — not in Colorado, anyway.

“As soon as the show was over, I talked to the promoter about training and started two days later.

“It went from an interest, and something I could tell my kids one day, to something that I needed to make my job.

“I dived in head first, trained as much as I could and as often as I could.

“I couldn’t do it and have a normal nine-to-five job, so had to find a way to piece together different jobs, like being an Uber driver and other odd jobs.

“My parents’ reaction was what I call a ‘tale of two cities’.

“I watched wrestling a lot with my dad as a kid, and he still is —and always will be — like ‘hell yeah, let’s make this happen’.

“My mom is a really big supporter and really into it now, but when I first started she would send me articles on wrestling about how someone died at 35 from brain trauma.

“It wasn’t subtle, but I know she cares and was worried that I’d throw away my brain cells on a path that wasn’t good for me.”

* Follow him on Twitter @RoyceIsaacs

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