Fairfield native turned pro wrestler shows wannabe the ropes
The intimidating 7-foot-tall, 330-pound frame of professional wrestler and Fairfield native Matt Morgan filled the television screen Wednesday as he prepared an un-athletic Texas police officer to fight in a TNA (Total Non-stop Action) wrestling event as part of a new television series that premiered recently on the CMT cable network.
Morgan was featured in the premiere episode of "CMT Made," which has as its premise that it's never too late to chase a dream. Created by the producers of the Emmy Award-winning MTV show "Made," the eight-episode series follows adults, rather than teens, through their challenges and accomplishments as they work to transform their lives with the help of a coach.
Morgan, a 1995 graduate of Fairfield High School, former TNA world tag team champion and the Beast in the last installment of the "American Gladiator" show, coached Chris Guerra, a 28-year-old police officer from Victoria, Texas, introducing him to the harsh realities of pro wrestling, inside the ring and out.
"It was difficult taking a person who has never played a sport and who is not athletic and trying to form him into, or at least give off the illusion, that he is some sort of athlete. He's very charismatic and witty and he makes fun of himself for being fat, so instead of turning him into a very serious pro wrestler, I thought we'd go the opposite route. We'd go with a comedic character," said Morgan, who downplayed Guerra's lack of athleticism and focused on his showmanship.
"I showed him enough tools to not get his head taken off, and he'd safely come out of a match," Morgan said.
Guerra, who suffered some injuries in training, said Morgan taught him how to fall correctly. "Attack the mat with your back," Morgan told Guerra during the episode. Guerra also learned to "talk trash," as many wrestlers do with their opponents.
The trash talking Morgan does starts even before he opens his mouth. It's inferred in the name he uses in the ring: "The Blueprint" Matt Morgan. "God created the perfect athlete. I am the blue print," said Morgan, who is not as arrogant as his comment would suggest.
"Humble doesn't sell tickets in pro wrestling," said Morgan, who described himself as "beyond competitive." Guerra called him a "gentle giant." "At first he was very intense. He wanted me to understand pro wrestling is not all fun and games. He was hard on me, much harder than the show showed, but he was fair, and he really wanted me to succeed," said Guerra, who went on the show to honor the memory his friend Stefan Boldt, with whom he watched wrestling regularly. Boldt died in 2008. The choice of Morgan to coach Guerra was inspired. Morgan knows all about chasing a dream. His quest to become a professional wrestler began as a boy growing up in Fairfield, where many of his family and friends still live today.
"We've been best friends since we were 5 years old. We grew up watching wrestling," said John Taxiltarides, of Fairfield, owner of Beachside Deli and Pizza. "He's very driven to succeed. I don't think he's ever failed at anything he has ever done. He was always trying to get better at school, at basketball, and then wrestling," Taxilarides said. "I've been a fan since I was 6 years old. Some kids watch cartoons. Me and my friends watched wrestling," Morgan said. "It was not a traditional sport. It wasn't like you could go to Wakeman Boys Club and say I want to work on becoming a pro wrestler at the age of nine. You can't just show up at the Cardinal Shehan Center in Bridgeport and tell them `I want to be a pro-wrestler,' " Morgan said. Keeping his ultimate goal in mind, Morgan said he engaged in more traditional sports, winning a full scholarship to play Division I basketball at Monmouth University. He graduated from Chaminade University in Hawaii and had NBA try-outs with the Indiana Pacers and the Toronto Raptors before his Connecticut connections led him to World Wrestling Entertainment. Morgan appeared on MTV Tough Enough II and despite dropping out because of injury, the WWE signed him to a three-year contract. Then he signed with TNA, where he appears every at 9 p.m. Thursday nights on the Spike TV network. His own injury, which is mentioned on the "CMT Made" episode, has sidelined Morgan for more than a month. He has two more weeks of recuperation before he can compete in the ring again.
Morgan said he misses Fairfield. He plans to return in the fall for a friend's wedding and actually hopes some day to coach one of the Fairfield high school basketball teams after his pro wrestling career ends.