Adrenaline and catharsis wrapped into one, new organization rounds out Fargo's pro wrestling scene
Below Zero Wrestling is the newest in Fargo to promote professional wrestling shows.
FARGO — For Drew Ross, professional wrestling is an outlet for an alter ego that’s been roaming around his brain since he was a kid.
Having the chance to live out "Rock Solid Ross" in public is cathartic.
“This is just a way for me to represent it to the masses and keep my sanity,” Ross says.
Taylor Schatz loves to be in the wrestling ring because he can be physical and entertain people at the same time.
Schatz, who wrestles as "Jake Taylor," says there's an adrenaline rush from pulling off a finishing move and hearing the crowd go wild.
“That feeling … there’s nothing like it,” he says.
Ross and Schatz are among a handful of pro wrestlers calling Fargo-Moorhead home.
They’re associated with Below Zero Wrestling, the newest local pro wrestling organization started almost a year ago by longtime fans Nick Stokke and Zach Werre.
Below Zero joins Timebomb Pro Wrestling, operating for just over three years, in feeding the appetites of fans who turn out to devour the mix of athleticism and theatrics.
“I like to be radical. I like to skate on that sheer edge of radicality,” Ross quips as he prepares to bench press at Metroflex Gym, where he trains.
Both organizations hold most of their shows at the Sanctuary Events Center in downtown Fargo.
Below Zero bills itself as family-friendly entertainment for all ages and even held a toy drive to benefit Santa Village before Christmas, promoted by Ross, Schatz and a few others.
“It was easy to get those guys on board,” Stokke said.
Timebomb, operated by Eric Morrison, has a more hardcore reputation.
Most of his shows are for fans 21 and older, and alcohol is served. The wrestlers can get bloody when they’re hit with chairs and other objects.
Timebomb’s last show in October called "Violence is Forever" brought in a wrestler from Japan and drew nearly 400 people.
“I’ve always tried to push the limit on what Fargo wrestling could be,” Morrison says.
A fun side gig
Most pro wrestlers come to the ring with a background in sports, weight training or martial arts.
Ross, 32, started amateur wrestling at age 3, and as a high school student, he became the first wrestler in Fergus Falls, Minnesota, to have an undefeated season.
He went 39-0 and was the State Class AA Champion at 189 lbs in 2008.
North Dakota State University recruited him to wrestle, which he did through his junior year.
But while training to go heavyweight, he injured his back and had to call it quits.
“Now I'm a pro wrestler, so go figure. I guess time heals all wounds,” he says with a laugh.
Schatz, 36, was on the football team in high school in Linton, North Dakota, and played on its nine-man state champion team.
Years later, while watching pro wrestling on television, he thought, “I can do that.”
He sought formal training with Pat Tanaka, of Fargo, formerly with World Wrestling Entertainment and other organizations. Ross trained at a Twin Cities pro wrestling school.
“The first thing you're going to learn is how to land, or you will never survive,” Ross says.
Schatz says, at minimum, prospective pro wrestlers should train six months to a year before getting in front of a television audience, or any live audience, for that matter.
A small percentage of the pros make wrestling a full-time job filled with travel to small locales, modest pay and repeated matches that give their bodies little chance to recover.
For Ross and Schatz, it’s a fun side gig.
Ross is a mental health practitioner through Lakeland Mental Health and coaches weight training at Moorhead High School.
As someone diagnosed with depression, anxiety and Attention Deficit Disorder, he says he wrestles with his own emotions but takes an approach of being an “advocate for joy.”
“I've found a way to persevere, so it's my calling to spread it to others,” Ross says.
Schatz is a trainer at Elite Kickboxing and teaches taekwondo at Northwest Martial Arts. He also works for Nocturnal Resources, a sister company of Jade Presents that provides event production for tours and concerts.
Real or not?
Ross and Schatz mostly stick to pro wrestling shows in the Fargo area but will travel to the Twin Cities, as well.
“About twice a month is ideally what I like to do. … Just enough so I can afford the chiropractor,” Ross says with a laugh.
The two also have in common their background in theater — a big plus for performing in front of crowds.
Schatz earned a degree in Fine Arts and Theater Arts at NDSU with an emphasis in performance.
He describes his character in the ring as his own personality turned up to 11.
“I just keep the kindness down and amplify the aggression a little bit. So, you won't see me smile, that's for sure,” Schatz says.
Ross was involved in theater as a kid and has never been afraid to be flamboyant.
“I’ve always been highly theatrical and over the top, unfortunately for my parents and everyone else with ears,” he jokes.
At shows, he mostly wears his trademark purple and green tank top and briefs, but he occasionally dons leggings.
“Hope I'm not revealing too much behind the curtain, but I've gotten some nice cheetah prints,” he says.
As for the question of what’s real and what’s “fake” in pro wrestling, it’s important to keep some mystery in the air.
“Do you really want to know how everything works, or do you just want to enjoy the meal? I think most people just want to enjoy the meal,” Schatz says.
But wrestlers can't "fake"gravity, a chop, or jumping and landing hard, either, says Ross, and the chance for serious injury is always there.
“If you don't feel like you got beat up the next day, chances are you didn't give the audience enough,” he says.
Audiences can check out the athleticism and antics of pro wrestlers at upcoming shows in the new year.
Below Zero hosts WinterSlam on Sunday, Jan. 23, at the Sanctuary, featuring former WWE star Erick Redbeard, Impact Wrestling stars Madman Fulton & Ace Austin, and Below Zero wrestlers.
Timebomb holds Here to Stay on Thursday, Feb. 24, at the Sanctuary, featuring Timebomb Pro Champion Dominic Garrini, Kevin Ku, Arik Cannon and former WWE Superstar Ariya Daivari.