Boone native finds success in professional wrestling

Andy Heintz
Contributing writer
Boone native JJ Garrett recently made his AEW wrestling debut.

BOONE – Boone native J.J. Garrett first caught the wrestling bug after he watched football player turned wrestler Bill Goldberg go on his famous streak when he won more than 100 matches in a row.

“The first wrestling I remember watching was Goldberg Who’s Next on VHS,” Garrett said. “My dad’s brother brought it over when I was five years old. Ever since then I have been hooked.”

Garrett competed on the Boone High wrestling team before he began his journey into professional wrestling.

“I Googled a bunch of wrestling training places near me because even in that time it was pretty unheard of to find a training facility for professional wrestling anywhere nearby," he said. "Luckily, I found SXW in Grimes, Iowa, at the time. I trained for four months. I trained in a backyard in Grimes. It was fun.”

Garrett made his wrestling debut in 3XW in December 2012. He then started to make a name for himself on the independent wrestling circuit where he wrestled for several different companies, including IWA Mid-South, Beyond Wrestling, AAW Pro, DREAMWAVE, Freelance Wrestling, Pro Wrestling ZERO1 USA and Glory Pro.

He discussed the financial difficulties that come with competing on the indie scene as an up and coming wrestler.

“Younger guys are literally starving in the indies,” Garrett said. “I remember when I started wrestling. I had just moved out of my grandma’s house and I didn’t know how to manage money. I remember looking for quarters in my car seats. I was digging for quarters just so I could buy bread from Jimmy John’s. Wrestling does not pay very much at the beginning. It is tough, but the business doesn’t owe us anything. [It] eventually  gets better.”

He talked about how the advent of social media has made it easier for wrestlers competing on the independent circuits to make a name for themselves. He said this allows wrestlers more of chance to promote themselves. He added this was something he had taken advantage of.

Garrett said he started to come into his own as a wrestler in 2015 and 2016 when he embraced a new gimmick for himself.

“I was the King of Swag and it allowed me to act like a high school jerk,” Garrett said.

He said his gimmick was the version of himself from high school amplified by 10.

“That really helped me realize what my talents are,” Garrett said.

He made his debut in Game Changer Wrestling in the spring of 2019. It was at this promotion where he caught the eye of All Elite Wrestling President Tony Khan.

“Tony Khan had seen me wrestling in Game Changer Wrestling and he picked me out the crowd and gave me a shot,” Garrett said.

AEW features a mixture of young talent, former WWE stars and veterans from the indie scene. Garrett discussed what it’s been like sharing a locker room with wrestlers he used to watch on television like Chris Jericho, Sting, the Big Show Paul Wight and Jake the Snake Roberts.

“It’s real surreal feeling,” he said. “It still doesn’t feel like I’ve digested it all. But at the same time my goal when I got into this was to be one of the best wrestlers in the world and if I can be considered one of the best in the locker room that would be quite an accomplishment.”

Garrett discussed some of the ways AEW stands out from other wrestling promotions.

“They are very open,” he said. “They allow me to wrestle my kind of match. In the locker room they are very welcome and nice people.”

Garrett saidThe Rock, otherwise known as Dwayne Johnson, Rob Van Dam, A.J. Styles and the late Eddie Guerrero are four wrestlers who have influenced his own wrestling style. The Rock won the WWE World Championship on several occasions. He also won the intercontinental championship and tag team championship as one half of the beloved Rock and Sock connection with his tag team partner Mick Foley. Johnson, who is currently one of the highest paid actors in Hollywood, was just as famous for his skill on the microphone as he was for his in-ring work. Van Dam is probably the most well known wrestler to ever compete in the now-defunct Extreme Championship Wrestling and Styles was one of most beloved wrestlers on the independent circuit before making a huge splash in New Japan Pro Wrestling, Total Nonstop Action Impact Wrestling and the WWE. Guerrero was one of the most innovative, entertaining and beloved wrestlers in the WWE before his untimely death in 2015.

Garrett also talked about the effect COVID-19 has had on professional wrestling.

“At first it was really, really depressing because everything was closed down,” he said. “That was hard to adjust to. I tried to work out as much as possible, but I gained a little weight. Luckily, small bookings popped up helped some of us earn a little bit of money.”

He talked about the difficulties of wrestling in without any fans in the building.

“You can’t feed off the crowd,” Garrett said. “It’s not as fun. Wrestling is nothing without the fans.”

Garrett shared he has faith God has a plan for him as he continues his wrestling career.

AEW can be viewed every Wednesday at 7 p.m. on TNT.