Inside the ring, professional wrestling is all about the drama of men and women triumphing over adversity. But the tireless tale of suffering and redemption isn't just woven into the fabric of in-ring storytelling; it's the stuff of real-life trials that shape and form grapplers behind the curtain. Few performers embody this fact better than Gregory Iron. Iron was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at birth but turned any semblance of disadvantage and disability into victory and inspiration when he fulfilled his dream to become a professional wrestler in 2006. Last year, Iron joined the ranks of wrestling's elite when he was ranked at #386 in Pro Wrestling Illustrated's "PWI 500." He regularly works as a tag team with former WWE stars Zach Gowen and competes at indy shows throughout the Midwest and beyond. Gregory recently spoke with WrestlingINC.com regarding his showmanship, in-ring physicality and his uncanny relationship with fans and admirers.
Gregory, you've worked with Zach Gowen as a tag team called "The Handicapped Heroes" for a while now. Of course, most folks remember Zach as WWE's first and only one-legged superstar. How did your camaraderie come about and how did you develop a style that allows each of you to compliment one another's respective strengths and differences.
Zach and I actually met in 2006 on a show in Ohio, Cleveland All Pro Wrestling. Zach was about three years removed from WWE TV, and I was about 4 matches deep into my career. Zach was the guy that made me believe that I could wrestle with cerebral palsy. Being in the same locker room with him, I wanted to pick his brain. I wanted advice to help me understand how you make wrestling with a disability work.
Back then, Zach had a lot of drug issues. To be honest, he was kind of d**k-ish. He wasn't really of much help. I never really held it against him, but I was definitely disappointed to find out what my hero acted like.
Fast forward to 2010, and Zach was fresh out of WWE rehab. We were booked in West Virginia to team for the first time. We clicked. A year later, he was listening to a podcast I did, and heard how much I had inspired me. It moved him, and he reached out and called me to apologize for the first time we met. It takes a big man to do that.
Before you know it, we struck up a strong bond, and got the itch to reinvent ourselves as a tag team. Through teaming and traveling together, though I was nervous being around a guy I wanted to emulate so much, I warmed up to him, and I discovered we had similar senses of humor. I think being able to share life experiences and laughter really made us closer, and I think our friendship shows on camera and in the ring.
As far as your physique, you're certainly no slouch compared to the average dude on the street but when you're in the ring, you're squaring off against competitors who have noticeable advantages in size and strength. What's your strategy to meeting the challenge when you're locking up with the big guys?
I have to be quicker, and more importantly, I have to be smarter. I think in the gym, the ring, and in life, having one good arm makes you think a little bit more creative. You find different ways to do certain things that most people take for granted. When I'm in the ring, I know my strengths, and I utilize them to the best of my ability.
Anybody who follows you on social media knows that you're not afraid to speak your mind even if your opinion draws some sharp criticism. In fact, you can be downright scrappy with fans from time to time. There was a video circulating online a while back that showed a fan shouting insults at you while you were backstage at a show. You seem like a decent enough guy, Gregory. What's with all the heat?
There is no heat! I love the fans that understand what I'm doing, and support me and what I believe in. But for every one great fan, there are ten more fans that think they know everything. They think that they know me or the wrestling business because they know a couple of insider terms. They think that they can guess what's going to happen next. I like to keep people guessing. Like any good magician, as wrestlers and performers, the only thing we have left out those rare moments where we can suspend peoples' disbelief. Most wrestlers forget that. Just when you think you know me—I want you to see what I do and go, "Is this guy for real? Is it an act?" Well... is it?
How did the Emmy Award-winning documentary "An Iron Will" come about? What was it like to have your story shared with such a broad range of people, including people who weren't in your typical fan base?
I had been striking up a friendship with Chris Van Vliet, a local news reporter in Cleveland. He's a great dude, and he loves pro wrestling. My story was something he was drawn to, and I think he could see that my story transcends pro wrestling. It appeals to any man, woman or child that has ever had a dream. To be able to appeal to so many different people from all walks of life is really surreal.
In which promotions and regions are you most active these days? What's the best way for people to check out your work if they can't make it to a live event?
I'm working regularly for Absolute Intense Wrestling in Cleveland, SMASH Wrestling in Canada, 2CW and Empire State Wrestling in New York, Clash Wrestling in Michigan, and AAW in Chicago. I'm staying busy. You can find me on Facebook, Twitter and my soon-to-be launched site, www.Gregory-Iron.com.