School of Hard Bumps: Tyson Dux
As I waited for the cab to pick me up after my two and a half-hour look inside Tyson Dux’s (real name Tyson Moody) wrestling school in Southern London, I was trying to answer one question: how with my meagre budget, busy grad school schedule, and genetic impatience could I possibly become a student at the aptly-named Wrestling Factory. I mean, I knew full well the answer was a resounding no for me personally, but I also was definitely feeling the pull several of Dux’s students had to feel inside them, prompting them to sign up in the first place. As I write this, I thought back to that night, trying to piece together what specifically was so empowering and magnetic about that environment¸ and why the attached thirty-minute interview with London’s own “Wrestling Machine” managed to suck me into his world and make me want to join his dojo, dissertation be damned. Three primary reasons came to mind.
First, it has a quaint romanticism about it that I found appealing. Seemingly consisting of nothing more than a wrestling ring and a few pieces of gym equipment shoved inside a garage, it was quite full of charm and attitude, functionality trumping visual aesthetics. To explain what I mean, about halfway through his training session, Dux told his students to take a breather and allowed me to set foot in the ring. After fumbling with the ropes, trying to remember how wrestlers entered the ring despite seeing it countless times each week on TV, I found myself seated on the top turnbuckle. Taking in the surroundings, I quickly found myself transported away from the Wrestling Factory and was now inside Madison Square Garden, with a prone opponent lying on the mat below. There’s a reason why another name for the ring mat is the canvas, because works of art are created on it. Simply sitting on the turnbuckle had made my brain run wild with imagination, I can only speculate what dreams Dux’s students have when taking their bumps and practicing matches. All a wrestling school needs is a good environment and a sturdy, solid, ring. The visual aesthetics, differing for each one, can be found in a respective trainee’s mind.
Second were the students themselves. Wrestling fans are a unique breed, but those willing to put in the money, the hours, and the training to become actual performers are another unto themselves. I was able to hit it off with several of the trainees due to our shared fandom of the squared circle, but it was still clear I was an outsider. A more than welcome one, but an outsider none the less. One of the students was wearing a Cody Rhodes American Nightmare (his father was the legendary American Dream Dusty Rhodes) Tshirt, similar to one I own. I complimented him on his shirt, which he politely said thank you but immediately turned his attention back to his usual compatriots. He was hear to learn and be with his friends. I was just some new guy watching the class. I bore witness to hard bumps, fluid wrestling maneuvers, bantering, polite insults back and forth, inside jokes that went over my head, and Simpsons references. Simpsons references that I recognized and were funny. I haven’t seen a new episode of that once classic show in over a decade, so the fact I was getting the humor spoke volumes to me that these were my kind of people, not just being wrestling fans.
Finally, and arguably the main reason for me falling in love with this warehouse on Exeter Road, and that was Tyson Dux himself. Main eventer, sensi, and friend are the roles the Miramichi, New Brunswick native clearly plays for his students and performs all three exceptionally well. By main eventer, he serves as a one-man marketing team for the school. Known across the North American independent wrestling scene for the past decade or so, Dux uses the contacts he’s gleaned over that time to promote the Factory along with his trainees. Part of the Toronto, Ontario-based SMASH Wrestling promotion and its’ former Heavyweight Champion, Dux brings students along on road trips outside London to get first-hand experience of life on the Canadian indies.
By sensi, he is the wise mentor, sort of like Splinter from the Ninja Turtles, only if he swore more. Not only is he teaching them how to take bumps and how to wrestle on the fly, he also is able to individualize his methods from one trainee to another. A perfect example of this occurred near the end of class. He paired his students off and told each group to put together a four-minute match, which they would perform after I conducted my interview with Tyson. I specifically remember that following either the first or second match we saw, he pulled the two trainees to the side of the ring for a chat. First, he gave them group feedback, just a general overview of what worked and what didn’t. He then told the smaller of the two to “watch Shawn Michaels. That’s your homework for the week. Watch everything you can find of Michaels from his days with the Rockers (tag team he had with Marty Jeanetty), to the early days of the Heartbreak Kid, to his matches with the undertaker. In particular, watch the way he sells as the babyface in peril. You’re a leaner, more athletic guy, so that’s the move set you should be emulating” He turned to the taller student and told him “You’re the big guy in there. Your overall work is good, I just want to see a few moves that emphasize your size. Throw in a big boot or a bear hug in between spots. Also, come up with a heel submission move. Go home and watch some Japanese wrestling….” The entire time this conversation was going on, not only were the two performers listening with rapt attention, but so was every other student in earshot. It was clear that Tyson’s word carried tremendous weight with his class, and that they treasured every morsel of advice the former “Ontario Cyborg” was offering.
By friend, he acknowledges his students as colleagues and good people, and at least in the school setting, outside of being very serious when it comes to following his instructions and being safe in the ring, acts like one of the boys. During one of the other 4-minute matches, a trainee was emphasizing heel or bad guy mannerisms, loudly insulting his opponent just within earshot of the imaginary crowd. In mock sarcasm, Tyson, without taking his eyes from the ring, began espousing how said student was clearly doing this to get under his skin, and jokingly threatened to send in a third student to make it a handicap match. Through out many of these performances, Tyson, along with his students, was participating in similar banter to what I noticed his class doing amongst themselves earlier. It reminded me a lot of relationships I had with certain undergrad professors back in Alberta, who integrated themselves via their teaching methods with their students, leading to this creation of a peer-to-peer learning environment. Dux’s entire teaching presentation of one-third main eventer, one third sensi, one-third friend got across to me one very clear message: his school is a machine where every member, both teacher and trainee, is a cog, gears that must mesh and work in harmony for both parties to succeed. And given what I saw last week, it looks like Tyson Dux and the students of his Wrestling Factory work together seamlessly as one.