PORT RICHMOND — While some Staten Islanders spend their nights on an industrial stretch of Richmond Terrace loading up trucks or dropping off trash, others get body slammed, suplexed and clotheslined.
The Warriors of Wrestling Training Facility, on Van Street, has been teaching the art of taking a “bump” and other moves to students who want to learn how to become a professional wrestler.
Wannabe wrestlers learn how to run into ropes, take a fall without getting hurt too much, and throw a realistic-looking fake punch at the Port Richmond gym.
“We show them the very basic of it, down to the core,” said James Riley, 21, a teacher at the school.
Aside from the school, Warriors of Wrestling also operates a wrestling promotion, which hosts shows all over the borough, New Jersey and Brooklyn.
The school acts as sort of a minor-league for the promotion, said owner Joe Bellini, and promotes students up when they’re ready and a spot frees up.
“Guys get old, guys stop wrestling, guys get hurt," he said. "You always want to have a group of guys that you know, know what they’re doing and train the right way, replace them.”
Bellini said it takes students a varying amount of time to get good enough to fight in front of a crowd. Before they do, students help set-up and break down the ring at shows and referee to learn the ropes.
“Everybody’s different,” he said. “You could be six months, you could be a year, it depends on how much you put in. If you come in once a month, it’s going to be a while before you’re on shows.”
For Peter Alaimo, 21, of Westerleigh, a student at the facility for 2 months, the school was an opportunity to live out his childhood dream of becoming a wrestler.
Many people tell Alaimo they want to try wrestling, but he said it takes a lot of dedication to learn correctly.
“You have to be serious,” he said. “There’s a lot of people who say they want to wrestle but they don’t have the dedication to really get in the ring, get all their ring time in.”
Others said people are usually surprised by how much wrestling actually hurts, even though they think it’s completely fake.
Riley, who also wrestles under the name “Rude Boy Riley,” said that even though the fights are pre-determined and the punches are — usually — soft, the pain can be very real.
“It’s pretty rough,” he said. “It’s fake but it hurts.”
Riley, who also wrestles under the alias “Rude Boy Riley,” likened falling to being hit by a car at 12 mph, and Alaimo said running into the ropes is like being hit in the back with steel cables.
Sometimes moves can go wrong and other injuries can happen. Bellini said he can’t turn his head all the way because of years in the ring, and Riley said a move he does constantly — a swinging neck break — hurts him every time.
“For some reason, every time I do it I knock the wind out of myself,” he said. “But it looks real pretty and it gets a good reaction so I’m not going to stop.”
But for others, the sacrifices they make for the sport aren’t just in the ring.
Jake Gomez, 26, who also teaches at the facility, said that during his nearly six years in the ring, he’s lost a fiancé, girlfriends, friends and more.
“I was engaged, that’s long done. Friends, girlfriends, birthdays, weddings — you sacrifice all these things to make shows,” he said. “Your big break’s always right around the corner, so you never want give up any opportunities.”
But for Gomez, who works as an elementary school teacher during the day, said it has all been worth it in the end.
“Every time I go through the curtain, every time I’m out in front of the crowd, this is me living my dream," he said.