Professional wrestling schools permeate the mat landscape, but a new facility in Tennessee promises to offer something a little different.
Dr. Tom Prichard, who has been training wrestlers for more years than he cares to remember, is particularly excited about the Next Level Wrestling School, which is scheduled to launch in January.
Former head trainer for WWE and an established performer in his own right, Prichard is lending his squared circle expertise in collaboration with Devin Driscoll, Next Level Training owner and a former WWE developmental talent.
The training that will be provided in conjunction with the wrestling school, says Driscoll, is the most specific professional wrestling workout regimen in the country and is something no other wrestling school is currently offering.
“They’re going to have the best professional training in the world,” Driscoll says of his innovative program.
Next Level Training, based in Knoxville, will be home to a 21,000-square-foot facility where hundreds of high school, collegiate and professional athletes have trained since its inception in 2006.
Along with two days a week of in-ring training with Prichard, the participants will receive a three-day-a-week, sport-specific workout regimen from Driscoll.
Wrestlers will be tested initially on their strength, agility, quickness and flexibility. They then will be trained based on their individual deficiencies. They also will have a registered dietitian, physical therapist and supplementation expert at their disposal.
“We’ll be doing a lot of injury prevention work and a lot of modern technology,” says Driscoll. “We do a lot of things that are cutting edge and never really been focused on in the world of professional wrestling.”
Other training methods include a hyperbaric chamber for recovery and metabolic testing.
All progress will be tracked though usage of a Bod Pod and monthly testing. Highlight tapes will be provided.
“They will get treated like a star even though they’re not one yet,” says Driscoll.
Driscoll also is working with a production company for a potential reality-based, wrestling-themed, episodic show. Cameras will follow the participants going through the process.
“This could possibly change wrestling in a lot of different ways,” says Driscoll.
A grand opening and open house will be held Jan. 3.
Prichard, 53, brother of TNA talent relations chief Bruce Prichard, boasts impeccable credentials.
The 30-year veteran, who has had a hand in training and developing talent for WWE for the past 16 years, was the first head coach for the WWE developmental system in Stamford, Conn., from 1996-2004. He returned as head coach for the now-defunct, Atlanta-based Deep South Wrestling and later in Tampa for Florida Championship Wrestling from 2007-12.
Prichard has trained and helped develop such stars as The Rock, Edge, Christian, Randy Orton, Sheamus and Wade Barrett.
Driscoll enlisted Prichard’s services shortly after Prichard was released from WWE earlier this year.
The two, however, had first crossed paths in 2004 when Driscoll, a college junior at the time, was interning for WWE at the company’s headquarters in Connecticut. Prichard was working as a WWE trainer.
Upon graduation, Driscoll retained Prichard’s services in Maynardville, Tenn., where Driscoll trained and worked independent shows in the area.
At that point, says Driscoll, Prichard suggested that he move to Louisville, Ky., and enroll in Ohio Valley Wrestling, WWE’s developmental system at the time.
When Prichard and WWE parted ways this May, the two discussed the new training program and possibly putting on a pilot for a network.
“I know everyone and their brother have tried to do reality shows, live events, a regular weekly TV show, and on and on But hopefully this will be different,” says Prichard.
“We are looking at people who want to go for their dreams and learn the art of professional wrestling ... interesting people who can be themselves on camera and are willing to learn how to perform and enjoy themselves at the same time.”
Prichard says Next Level Training will offer not only a great opportunity for aspiring wrestlers and those just wanting to get in better condition, but it also will present a personal challenge.
Earlier this year Prichard wrote a scathing blog on wrestling schools.
His commentary contained a cautionary note for those hoping to be the next wrestling superstar.
“Before you give your money to anyone, find out what they’ve done, where they’ve been and what connections they have. Also know and understand what your goal is. Be realistic and know the odds of becoming a superstar are not in your favor,” he wrote.
“The majority of wrestling schools out there are bogus rip-offs,” added Prichard. “If you hear something that sounds too good to be true, chances are it is. If someone tells you they can make you a TV star in one or two weeks, run.”
Prichard’s track record speaks for itself. But he says he sees a real possibility to do something special at Next Level.
“I guess it’s time for me to put up or shut up,” he says. “It’s really given me some incentive to either prove me wrong or prove me right. I’d rather be proven right.”
The wrestling business, he says, could use an influx of talented new athletes.
“WWE used to have a training program along with the developmental system. But they got rid of it. Here they’ll be able to train with Devin on one side, and on the wrestling side hopefully we can do it safely and as good as I can do it. Then we’ll have a graduation show at the end.”
There are no guarantees in the business, Prichard notes, but he’s confident the program will prove beneficial.
“Not everyone is looking to be a professional wrestler. Hopefully we’ll get a different kind of person — maybe an athlete that wants to continue something new. Hopefully they’ll get some good stuff out of it either way.”
“It’s a great facility. It’ll be run professionally, and you’ll have every opportunity,” he says. “Anything can be accomplished if you want to do it. This isn’t a fly-by-night wrestling school. It’s actually someone who cares about the guys and girls who want to do it.”
Prichard notes that he still has contacts in WWE and TNA. “Even though we parted ways, if you have talent, you have talent.”
Driscoll’s entree into the wrestling world has been a dream come true.
He vividly recalls telling his kindergarten teacher that he was going to be a professional wrestler when he grew up.
That was 25 years ago.
Driscoll, now 30, managed to achieve a modicum of success in the wrestling business. He worked the independent circuit for a couple of years before signing a developmental deal with WWE in 2006. He won the Ohio Valley Wrestling TV title later that year, but retired in 2007 to become a full-time personal assistant at a fitness center in Tennessee. Working occasional wrestling shows, he launched Next Level Wrestling in 2011.
All students must be 18 or over and have a complete sports physical. The school will run Mondays and Wednesdays from 7–9 p.m. for three months and consists of basic wrestling skills (no high-impact or high-risk movements). Class is limited to 20 students. No previous experience is necessary.
“It’s open to anyone,” says Prichard. “If they’d like to come in, we’d love to talk to them and tell them about the program.”
“Inevitably what you’re selling is a dream,” says Driscoll. “Shortsightedness is what kills wrestling schools. Sustainability and longevity are things that will keep it going years from now.”