[This piece is sponsored by LaCroix sparkling water and Taco Bell (Live Mas).]
I’ve known Taylor Gibson, AKA professional wrestler Effy Gibbes, the Weapon of Sass Destruction and the Golden Boy of Grab Ass, since around 2011. Both of us were attending the University of South Carolina when a group of mutual friends had gained a renewed interest in watching professional wrestling. We particularly enjoyed getting together once a week to watch Monday Night Raw with copious amounts of weed and swill beer. There also was plenty of living mas with Taco Bell’s bevy of delicious and reasonably priced meals.
At that time, both of us had been actively pursuing different types of performance art, mostly in small bars in Columbia. While Taylor wrote and performed music, I had only recently began writing and performing stand up comedy. (Taylor also went on to also try stand up for a brief time when he moved to Florida before deciding to start wrestling.) Since I had no performance background, my initial focus was on the writing aspect of comedy. My main concern at first was just to write jokes that were funny. It wasn’t long before I grew to realize the adrenaline rush I got from performing them well in front of a large crowd. With this new perspective, I began to admire how the professional wrestlers I watched were basically doing the same thing, only they were performing in front of massive crowds usually with very few days off. Both comics and professional wrestlers are driven by the same feelings of power and control felt from having an audience in the palm of your hand.
Of course, being a professional wrestler requires a vastly larger amount of balls, ego and preparation than getting on a stage to try and tell jokes. What I’ve come to also realize is both these types of performance are all about escapism. We both go onstage in order to attempt temporarily distracting an audience from their own realities by creating a new one. In a joke, comics often add fictional details to a real story to make it funnier than what actually happened. In wrestling, every match is based around a story of a hero (“face”) versus a villain (“heel”) in order to facilitate the audience’s engagement in the performance.
Through their art, performers themselves also seek to escape their own reality and temporarily live in a world they’ve created. One of the organizations Taylor works for, Destiny Christian Championship Wrestling, is sponsored by a church in Florida. When I asked Taylor why he decided to perform as a flamboyant and effeminate heel wrestler, his response was simple. “What easier way to piss them off?”
I’d like to add just a quick side note for those of you reading this who are still thinking, “Well wrestling is so obviously fake, therefore it cannot be good.” You know, when you think about it, wrestling is kinda like the Velveeta of entertainment: it’s not real, but it’s also not making any pretenses that it’s actually cheese. It’s accessible and recognizable, processed while simultaneously unrefined. Professional wrestling is not a sport. It is a show. It is a product. But in terms of entertainment it is a product rich in value and satisfying to our most basic instincts.
I believe Effy is a truly unique character in professional wrestling and I highly encourage you all to view his matches that are on YouTube and go see him when he performs near you. Now, please enjoy this interview I had with The Corporate Sponsored Champion and my good friend Effy Gibbes.
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A wrestler’s entrance into the ring is a crucial facet of performing. When you enter a wrestling ring or walk onto a stage as your character, what are you selling to an audience?
The entrance sets the standard for everything. If I’m supposed to be this bad, awful person that everyone boos, I have to set that tone right away. The music is the first thing that hits and needs to be the appetizer to the moment I appear. Lately, it’s been Gwen Stefani…I change all the time though. My body language and motion can do more than words, so I have to know exactly how I’m entering a ring and exiting a ring so it makes perfect sense to my personality. I actually copied a very feminine rope rollover that the Bella Twins used in WWE, and then to close off I fall to my knees to let the audience know “I should be worshipped in my glory.” I make sure to do as many provocative stretches while the other guy comes out just to keep the attention on my body.
I love the idea of your “Corporate Champion” character. You’ve added to your character in an interesting way that works with what you’ve already established. How did you develop your character’s persona?
There’s always been a group of guys that have fallen under a “feminine gimmick.” In some of the smaller feds, it’s always way too over the top with some fat asshole playing “Jimmy Gay” or “Tommy Twinkletoes” and it’s this butchered version of every queer stereotype and there’s no subtlety. I don’t want people to hate my character because he has queer characteristics, I’d much rather them be against the fact that I’m free to express my mortal pleasures and don’t box myself in.
Of course, I get the automatic assumption that it’s just a “gay gimmick” by nature. That’s why I added the corporate aspect. What’s worse than a guy that has everything handed to him by the corporations you support? You’re against his lifestyle, but the foods and brands and gas and daily purchases are going to making him richer and stronger. I was a PR major and I’ve always been protective of the image I put out as Effy. This next step was a no-brainer in standing out and becoming a true villain.
What does it feel like getting “heat” from audiences while playing a heel character?
I work a normal job during the week right now and I have to keep customers and employees happy and do the whole “proper communication” thing. By the end of the week, I’m ready to just throw middle fingers at everybody so that “heat” has become my therapy. I can push people to their edge and get them legitimately frustrated. I’m hoping a fan actually clocks me in the face soon. That’s the measure of success.
What have been some of your favorite reactions from fans or audience members? Have there been any particularly difficult audiences?
My first match ever, I did a gutwrench suplex* and held the opponent while asking “WHAT’S MY NAME?” A kid who must’ve been like 9 just yelled out “FAGGOT” in the most southern drawl and his parents like laughed and clapped for him. I also spit on a woman while wrestling in a buffet restaurant once because she wouldn’t stop talking shit about me. That went over well, I think.
Have you found any parallels in performing wrestling and performing stand-up comedy?
Tons. You know your bits that work. You know people will heckle. You may get 5 minutes one night and 20 the other night and you just have to bring it whether it’s a quick appearance or the main event. The better parallel though, for me, is drag and the whole drag queen community. The characters, the costumes, the pageantry and showmanship, the serious discussion about silly things. I’m a wrestling drag queen.
How would you describe your style of wrestling and how did you learn to find it? Are you still learning and finding new additions to your arsenal of sass destruction?
There are wrestlers who have been doing the same seven moves for 20 years and they brag about that. “Keep it simple, man.” Not into that. I try to do something new every time. This is a craft that grows with the participants. There’s always a new tweak to make something better. I try to stay aggressive in the ring, but I want my moves to match my walk, my personality, my femininity. Most of my new moves now come from watching way too much women’s wrestling, especially the Japanese women’s wrestling “Joshi” which is absolutely brutal. These adorable Japanese girls just murder each other in the ring.
Describe the creative process behind developing your story lines and matches with other wrestlers.
It’s really collaborative which I like. I’m super independent and it’s such a change to bounce ideas off a promoter and the other workers in the ring. Like a lot of performers or artists, I’m always filling up my notebook with scribbles of new ideas so I can go into situations with new things I want to try. Luckily, a lot of the wrestlers are super creative and that combination makes it exciting.
How much improvising is involved during your matches with your opponent and with the audience? What about while cutting a promo video?
So much. Some guys I work with like everything laid out, but once you start rolling it’s really hard for two or more people to remember everything exactly. The best is having a quick conversation about certain things you’d like to get to in the match and then just “working” aka calling it in the ring. There’s a lot of whispering and freestyle improv in the ring and that freedom is the best perk. It allows both of us to feel a crowd and see what would really set them off the most.
As far as audience interaction, usually there are a few people you know you can talk shit to more to make a point. I don’t want people to feel more uncomfortable than they already are. They came to be entertained you know? But just like comedy there are definitely hecklers. And I make their life a nightmare.
I prefer to just cut promos from the dome. The most recent I did was like 4 minutes freestyled, I think I stumbled on 2 or 3 words, but I’d rather it be natural than feel like I’m reading or trying to remember something. Way more natural for me that way.
In a relatively short time, you’ve been able to work with several different independent wrestling organizations throughout the Southeast US. Describe your experiences getting booked and moving around these groups and the attempt to move up and get noticed.
At first, you really just had to get someone to vouch for you to get in anywhere. Once they see that you can work and have a real personality, other guys start to notice and want to get you where they may work out of. When I’m in the ring, I’m an absolute jackass but I’m good at it. I stay completely professional behind the scenes and that makes a difference. I just keep sucking up to promoters and showing up on time and they keep booking me. I’m booked like 8 weeks out now. I’d prefer that be like 30 weeks out.
Describe your training process .Were there any difficulties you faced when you started learning how to wrestle?
I got sober and had extra cash flow and time. Met a guy at a wrestling show and he said he’d train me. I drove an hour and a half every Sunday for 10 months learning everything I could. He had a ring in a field in the middle of Florida. We’d wrestle until we couldn’t breathe anymore in that heat. I went and set up rings for shows I wasn’t on and then just kept weaseling my way in. The most difficult part is answering “Why?” to every motion in the match. That’s the Psychology of pro-wrestling. If I just did something to hurt his arm, why would I go for his leg? If he’s already down, why would I help him back up? Asking “why” while building a match is the best way to make sure you aren’t doing something dumb just to look cool. It is a fight after all and your goal is to win that fight by keeping your opponent down.
What have been the worst injuries you’ve suffered? What about injuries you have inflicted upon others?
My trachea almost collapsed once from a kick I decided to take full on. Couldn’t talk properly for like a week. Broke my pinky and now it healed back crooked. Got a bursar cyst on my elbow from a weird top rope fall. My favorite was in a match with a guy who kicked me on the top rope. I blacked out completely. Apparently, he gave me a sweet belly-to-belly suplex from the top rope right after and I woke up during the pin. Classic.
Who or what are your influences (wrestling and/or in general)?
Drag Queens, Circus Clowns, Dusty Rhodes, Rick Santorum’s Closet, Hook starring Robin Williams (for the costumes), World Star Hip Hop Videos.
What are some of your favorite wrestling matches?
Guerrero/Lesnar at No Way Out 2004, Magnum TA/Tully Blanchard “I quit match” Starcade ’85, RVD/Sabu ECW Stretcher Match, Nakamura/Okada NJPW G1 Climax Finals 2014, Highlight reels of the Young Bucks superkicking people in Pro Wrestling Guerrilla.
Can we end it with a motivational quote?
Criticism from the couch is even easier than camping in a Hilton.
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Follow Effy on social media for updates and consistent inspiration.