Denton, Maryland may not ring a bell to the average person. The small town of less than 5,000 people doesn’t hold much name recognition or any attraction to those on the outside. But for Ken Rolands, Denton is home. “This is where I was for the first seven or so years of my life. This is like- early 2000’s, around this time- there was no wrestling in the area.” said Rolands, 20, about the area. “There still isn’t really any, but this is I guess where I became me so to speak. It’s just like any other small town, really. But I always had this idea that I was- I guess too big for it, if that makes sense?”
It was those years in Denton when Rolands realized wrestling was his dream. “I started training when I was 16 years old- so back in 2016. At first, it didn’t necessarily click right away for me and I took about a half of a year off. I definitely wasn’t then how I am now.” Rolands said. It took him until February 2018 to make his debut in the ring, and while the opportunities aren’t showing up in an abundance, he isn’t letting that deter him. ” I don’t have much history YET. Slowly but surely though, I’m definitely seizing opportunities more than someone my age would be.”
Rolands isn’t the only one on the independent scene, and is far from the only wrestling hopeful looking for an opportunity. Thousands of wrestlers have the same dream, and that can complicate things. Rolands says that finding bookings are one of the toughest things for someone on the indies. “It’s very seldom that someone will take a chance on someone new.” he said, “Every opportunity that I’ve gotten, I’ve gotten by selling myself. And selling them on me with my promos and my work ethic and my want to learn. If you don’t have a want to learn and pay dues, you’re not gonna get anywhere.”
However, there are positives to be found. For example, creative freedom. Many signed wrestlers don’t hold creative freedom over their own persona. This can cause frustrations, and those frustrations have become public in recent years. It eventually led to the creation of All Elite Wrestling, which airs Wednesday nights on TNT. The creative freedom is something Rolands enjoys.
“I’m just being myself, y’know? Um- that’s another thing too- with promos, my style is a little bit more “offensive” than others, I like to keep people on their toes when talking about the shows that I promote, like “Man, do these guys really hate each other? I need to go so I can see what happens.” I like real. I like reality.”
“That’s what I go for. And sometimes when you’re “signed” somewhere, you don’t get that full discretion of who you are. I’ve sat in the locker room with lots of vets and I was always told to never lose myself- more importantly my identity in this and- being independent has allowed me to do that. I like to do my own thing.”
So what got him into wrestling? His mother, he says, and the memories go back a ways. “I remember her recording [wrestling] over this Batman VHS tape- she recorded a SmackDown and brought it into my room the next day and I remember sitting in my room, wrestling my Bob The Builder pillow and MAN (sic), I wouldn’t stop watching that tape till it broke.”
However, he wasn’t always around the most supportive group. The dream of wrestling left him around the start of the 2010’s, and that seemed to be how the dominoes fell. “It felt like a pipe dream for awhile and for the longest time, like, I heard “Get a real job.” “You need to get more serious and think about what you really wanna pursue.””
However, Rolands never lost the love for wrestling, and it was a wrestling show that gave him the idea to potentially pursue wrestling again. “Fast forward to WrestleMania 31, when I saw Seth Rollins cash in his Money In The Bank contract and become WWE Champion. From there, that moment I told myself “That guy is from a small town. I’m from a small town.
That guy isn’t the biggest in size. Okay, I’m not the biggest in size. But he says he’s the best and some people agree, some people don’t but he says it regardless. I have the same mentality. I’m gonna be there one day and I’m gonna main event something that huge and I’m gonna be how these people that I consider heroes are.””
You might be asking what exactly sets Rolands apart from your local indy hopeful. What makes Rolands any different? Two words: work ethic. “They look different, sure. They talk different, sure. They act different, sure. But something that I think most lack is work ethic. If I want something, I’m gonna get it done.”
“Regardless of who thinks I should be in that position or not. I’ve watched guys who I looked up to go into matches like they were nothing- I think regardless of what the house looks like that night, you should go out and do your best in WHATEVER it is that you’re doing. Whether that be you being a ref, manager, wrestler- whatever- I never halfass anything. I’ve been in a bunch of battle royals and they’re probably my least favorite match but guess what, if you need me in a battle royal, I’ll be in a battle royal. You need me to ref, I’ll ref. I’ll do whatever.”
“That sets me apart. Because not everyone cares as much as I do. And that’s what’s gonna make me go far. I’ll probably never be the most technically sound wrestler ever but my work ethic is really gonna take me places.”
Photo Credit: John Tank Miller of LOZ
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