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Personal Branding By A Professional Wrestler

| August 6, 2009 | 23 Comments

Hulk-Hogan-015The Best Business Lessons I Learned Came From Men In Spandex:

Growing up, I always wanted to be a professional wrestler. I know a lot of kids say that when they are little but eventually they grow out of it – but not me. The summer before my senior year of college (Univ. of Maryland – College Park), I figured I would stop thinking about it and just do it. A training school opened up in my town so I signed up – and the rest is history. At 5’5” and 155 pounds (I once weighed 165 lbs.), pro wrestling wasn’t exactly what people thought was the best occupation for me to pursue. Rightfully so on the exterior but anyone that has ever stepped in a wrestling for a real match, has nothing but 100% focus, determination and heart invested. When I decided to go through with pro wrestling, it was my passion and motivation took me there. After all, when you work out for hours a day, shave your chest (and arm pits), fake tan, squeeze into a pair of spandex trunks, with your body covered in baby oil to fight a guy who outweighs you by a good hundred pounds – all by choice – you have to be dedicated! Eight wonderful years I spent weekends driving up and down the Mid-Atlantic area wrestling as “The Thrill From Israel” Buster Maccabi, having the time of my life every second. And despite what I learned at college and the “real world” about business, nothing was more valuable than what I learned in the ring.

The lessons I learned helped shape and mold me into a much more confident, secure and creative entrepreneur which ultimately led me to start my internet magazine, two years ago. has featured over 450 interviews with a different artist, musician, and visionary from all over the globe – a different one every 48 hours in only two and a half years.  Along with running columns on Food, Style, Tech and Reviews we reach search out to feature the most talented people in the world. So how do sweaty behemoths in spandex who want to kick the crap out of you teach you anything about business – let alone one that deals with artists? Well, let’s just say there’s more to pro wrestling than you think…

Lesson #1Always make them remember you: My first year wrestling I became good friends with a veteran named Bruce. Bruce was the ultimate “heal” (bad guy); always yelling at the fans, cheating, taking cheap shots, you name it. In most matches, the “baby face” (good guy) would destroy him. Kicks, punches, throws, everything but in the end Bruce would take a cheap shot to win. When I asked him about his “style” he told me, “Buster, whether I win or lose, I always make them want to come back. You have ten minutes in a match, and if I only get two minutes to shine, I’m going to make it count.”

Think about this next time you are at a networking event. How are you going to stand out over the hundred or so other people that want to be remembered as well? I always make sure to speak to as many people as possible and always make sure my business card is the one that doesn’t end up stuck in their pocket at the cleaners.

Lesson #2Always make and an entrance: It’s no secret that professional wrestling is entertainment. I mean, if it was a real fight I wouldn’t wear skin tight pleather (leather/spandex combo) pants with silver lining. I also know that the fans have come to see a show and they make up their minds the minute they see you pop out that curtain. You can either mosey on out with no enthusiasm, look scared, lost and confused or you can burst out of the entrance with enough energy to light up Manhattan. That’s what I did.  I needed the crowd on my side and needed their support throughout the match. So, when my music hit (which was usually a fast paced and popular song I knew the fans would recognize) I came out screaming, hair spiked, dressed like no other wrestler and high fived every fan I could reach. I printed a new shirt to wear every match and would hand it to a kid after I was done. And of course I would always sign autographs and pose for pictures. Always, always, always make an entrance.

In the business world to be successful you need to draw people in to make your claim. You want them to get the message that you are here to make something happen and you will always come through. That happens the minute you walk through the door. People want to see the answers in you right away. Confidence is key and if you don’t show you have confidence, who will want to work with you.

Lesson #3The ass you kick going up, is the ass you kiss coming down: This was a saying we used a lot which basically meant watch what you say or do because karma is a bitch – to put it bluntly. In pro wrestling your opponent works with you not so much against you. To pull off a great match, you both have to be on the same page and communicate (another lesson). For example, one night you might be the one “going over” (the term we use for winning) which meant your opponent was allowing you to do that. Even though your hand was raised at the end of the match, it was a dual victory if you did your job right.

It’s key to remember this because if you don’t appreciate your opponent when they are helping you look good, they will remember that when it’s your time to take the beating. Another way to put it is basically not breaking bridges. You should always have to appreciate what is being given to you or an opportunity you are allowed. Don’t ever take anyone for granted because you may need their help one day.

Lesson #4: Know your role: This is a crucial lesson I learned in wrestling that not everyone fully grasped. Pro wrestling is like a TV show – you have producers, directors, even writers and of course stars! But not everyone can be a real “star” – everyone has their own role and in order to pull off a great show, everyone must perform their role. Wrestlers know when you will win or lose and it’s nothing personal – it’s just what has to work best for that night. Whether you like it or not, not everyone will have the “glory” that night and in eight years I was on both ends many times. I beat guys that could knock me out with a flick of their wrist and lost to guys that couldn’t bench their pet cat’s weight – each time with a smile. I did this because I knew my role. I was a paid performer who was there to do a job and do it well. Wining and losing, titles, championships, all that stuff was just a part of the work (a term we used for doing a match).

So how does accepting your fate in the ring transfer over to the business world? It comes down to simply knowing your position in the company. Even when you’re CEO, you need to know your boundaries. I have a fantastic collection of people that keep up and running and we each know our areas of expertise. I will never tell my programmer how to code or my editor what reads right. We all share our ideas openly but at the end of the day we all trust each other in our roles to do the work.

Lesson #5: Always know you’re the underdog: It’s been well documented that I do not fit the mold of a stereotypical pro wrestler. In high school when it went by weight, I fit. In the world of pro wrestling when it’s basically which combination will draw a better crowd, I could be paired with someone my size or someone who eats my weight in burgers. Needless to say I was an underdog. However, in the world of pro wrestling anything is possible. But always knowing that I was (and still am) an underdog is what kept me upping my game constantly. Plus, it allowed me to stand out more because the “bigger” guys people knew what they brought to the table. With me, it was always a surprise!

Underdogs are everywhere in the business world and I will always bank on a hungry underdog versus anyone who has been handed them a position (those are everywhere as well). Underdogs are always the people that working harder than everyone else and when they reach their goals, they are always the ones that appreciate it that much more. In turn, underdogs are more likely to have a supportive team that will work for them when they reach their goals because they know what it was like to be in the underdog’s shoes.

If the past eight years I learned a lot about myself, business and how to balance both – all thanks to my decision to follow my dreams. It comes to down to passion and drive to be successful and pro wrestling taught me that. Plus, if any meeting doesn’t go my way a nice steel chair to the head usually does the trick.

As a professional wrester Richie Frieman has won dozens of team championships as part of Xtreme Pandemonium.  Richie also writes children’s books.

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Category: Personal Branding, Startup Advice

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  • Jared O'Toole

    I like the 1st point. Always make them remember you. Everyone ges bombarded every day with emails, websites, tweets, all kinds of things. You have to find a way to stick out. Just because you got someone to your site doesnt mean they will remember it. Your message has to stick out from the other 100 sites they visited that week.

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  • Michael Frieman

    Personal Branding by an individual who learned at an early age what most adults don't learn in life. An entrepreneur who has taken knocks early in life, whether in the ring or starting-up businesses, has the determination to persevere. My respect, and love.

    Proud Papa

  • MattWilsontv

    Michael thanks for taking the time to drop a comment on your son's post! Great to see a parent supporting an unconventional path….

  • ruthdube

    Hi Richie, I loved your article although I never did think of you as the underdog! You'll always be top dog in Don's and my mind!! Kisses to everyone! Ruth

  • Gayle Becker

    Who would have thought that a wrestler and a CEO would use the same strategy and skills to be successful…makes a lot of sense. No doubt Richie Frieman is going to be successful as a CEO…and a good sense of humor isn't such a bad thing either.

  • Jared O'Toole

    It just shows that you have to never stop learning in life. Whatever you are doing you can learn and apply those skills to future things you get into.

  • MattWilsontv

    It also shows you have to be personable as a leader!

  • b1v2

    I am so with you on #3. In my short career, I think that is something I have really come to understand. Not that I do a lot of ass-kicking or kissing on the way up (I am still working on the “way up” part), but it even more important not to rely on it too much. The jist: just treat everyone with the same common courtesy and respect and don't over-rely on the kissing and kicking (as always, moderation is key!).

  • mark

    How can I work the pile driver into my managerial style? I will have to work on this one.

  • bobbysmith

    The other role that Richie learned along the way was how to be a wonderful husband and father. His daughter's eyes light up each and every time he enters the room just like the children's eyes lit up each and every time he entered the ring. He is one of the most thoughtful and creative people that I have had the privilege to know. He was one of the first people to reach out and lend his extraordinary artistic talents to develop the logo for my cancer foundation. Thank you Richie.
    Bobby Smith
    Executive V.P
    Susan Cohan Colon Cancer foundation

  • neilrubin

    Great, inspiring story Richie. I think you have the makings of an outstanding presentation to high school students and young adults on how to succeed. This makes management both fun and interesting. I'm going to recommend this piece to others.

  • KarmaKelly

    You are so right! Karma is a bitch. I wish more people would remember that!

  • Jared O'Toole

    I agree! This is the kind of things so many young adults need to hear. Great stuff!

  • Brett James

    I never thought about the parallels between the business world and professional wrestling, but your article rings true–nice job!

  • Mike K

    Richie, you continue to amaze me how you incorporate your incredible God given talents into success stories, literally! Keep up the great work!

  • cnvleugels

    Great article, Richie with so many truths! Personal branding is something that a lot of people have a hard time with, yet it is such an important ingredient to success. I think it must have been those early talent shows in elementary school which helped to blossom your pro wrestling career!

  • MP

    Good article. I think Lesson #4 touches on something that is a very big problem in the business world. People at all levels do not know their roles. You have upper-level managers in “the weeds” because they don't trust their employees to get the job done. You have staff-level employees only focused on making a name for themselves. Neither are working as a team, and neither will succeed.

  • MattWilsontv

    MP, I think it's all about culture! You have to know your role on the team. Companies can latch on to their superstars, but everyone has to be operating in congruency to support the business system.

    Startups can come together as a small team and work together towards a common goal, but in big corporations everyone is clawing at each other, looking to be the superstar just to get their measly promotion.

  • MattWilsontv

    MP, I think it's all about culture! You have to know your role on the team. Companies can latch on to their superstars, but everyone has to be operating in congruency to support the business system.

    Startups can come together as a small team and work together towards a common goal, but in big corporations everyone is clawing at each other, looking to be the superstar just to get their measly promotion.

  • MattWilsontv

    MP, I think it's all about culture! You have to know your role on the team. Companies can latch on to their superstars, but everyone has to be operating in congruency to support the business system.

    Startups can come together as a small team and work together towards a common goal, but in big corporations everyone is clawing at each other, looking to be the superstar just to get their measly promotion.

  • fredsel

    ang galing mo hulk hogon