On a recent Sunday morning, students at Grindhouse Pro Wrestling Academy ran laps around the ring, and took turns falling, jumping and grappling with each other. They’ve spent countless hours on such training drills — grinding away in pursuit of their craft.
Owned by Anthony Borcherding, Grindhouse is a professional wrestling school in Jeffersonville that’s been training aspiring wrestlers for a little over a year. Grindhouse will host its first student show, “Rise,” at The Arena on Saturday, June 17 at 7 p.m.
Eric Matlock, Grindhouse’s head trainer, has spent the better part of his days this past year training new talent at the school, in addition to pursuing a degree in video production at Jefferson Community and Technical College. The 36-year-old began his wrestling career in the lucha libre style of wrestling in 1997 in California.
“Lucha libre is very different from strong style, that’s different from professional ‘wrastling,’ or Southern-style wrestling. It’s all different,” Matlock said. “So, I’ve cherry picked the things that I like and that I think work for me, and then I try to teach my students that here.”
Ultimately, Matlock said it is the escapism that he likes most about professional wrestling.
“I was kind of an introvert as a kid, I was kind of shy,” Matlock said. “Being a professional wrestler allows me to do and say things I normally wouldn’t do in my ordinary life.”
Matlock’s name in the ring is Rudy Switchblade, and he’s wrestled for some of the top organizations in the world including the WWE, Ohio Valley Wrestling,and New Japan, as well as many other independent organizations throughout the United States and Mexico.
Matlock moved to Louisville in 2007 when the OVW was still under the WWE banner. However, when the WWE split with the OVW, he ended up staying in the area. It’s the perfect home base, he said, particularly given pro wrestling still allows him the opportunity to travel and meet new people.
Wrestling has given Matlock — “a poor kid from a poor family” — the ability “to travel the world.”
As the head trainer at Grindhouse, Matlock believes in hard work, and finding a way to motivate students is one of his priorities. One incentive to train hard is the upcoming show.
“We found that when we gave them a goal, all of a sudden we found that we had more students,” Matlock said.
Owner Anthony Borcherding, also known as 2 Tuff Tony, said his wrestling career began by accident: Some friends began training with The Moondogs, a professional wrestling stable for the WWF, and he ended up tagging along for fun. Eventually, he was invited into the ring, as the group thought he had untapped natural talent.
In 2015, Borcherding purchased The Arena in Jeffersonville for the purpose of starting a wrestling academy and ultimately putting on shows. The facility is fully equipped with a ring, speaker system and bell.
The primary goal of his academy: to facilitate a unique bonding experience.
“The guys in the ring, they’ve probably never met but they all love the same thing,” Borcherding said. “That is the definition of wrestling right there. To me that’s all brothers around the ring.”
Most people in the wrestling world grew up watching the pros, re-enacting the moves of some of the biggest superstars.
One of Matlock’s students, Eric Booher, was one such kid. Wrestling was a dream come true for him, said Booher, who started watching wrestling with his father at a young age. In fact, two of his first words were “elbow drop.”
At the upcoming show, Booher will feature his newest ring persona, a pizza boy-type character called Danny DiGiorno.
“I always found myself to be kind of a funny guy,” Booher said. “Everybody wants to be a tough guy, everybody wants to be the guy that beats everybody up. I just want to be the guy out there having a good time, making people laugh.”
Saturday night’s show will be Booher’s second; his premier was at his son’s 5th birthday party.
“I wanted to do something special for him, so I came out to The Arena and started training,” Booher said. “We had his birthday party here and completely surprised him. I came out as the main event wrestler for the evening. I had to tell him that I wasn’t going to be here and then completely surprised him. He was scared for me at first but overall he enjoyed it.”
“The chancellor of crust, the Sultan of sauce, the proprietor of pepperoni, the king of cheese, the Crown Prince of Pizza,” Booher said.
Another student, Cameron Forsyth, participated in his first day at Grindhouse Pro Wrestling Academy just last week, fulfilling a lifelong dream.
“I wanted to get into the professional wrestling world since I was about 7 years old,” Forsyth said.
For his ring persona, Forsyth said he is planning on using a clown bodyguard-type character that he played in haunted tours at Waverly Hills Sanatorium. It’s an angry bodyguard, ex-military type of character.
Forsyth said he enjoys the science of wrestling, the back and forth struggles and the big characterization of professional wrestlers and storylines.
The public is invited to watch those storylines come to life at Saturday’s show.
Grindhouse Pro Wrestling Academy presents “Rise” on Saturday, June 17. Doors open at 6 p.m. and the show starts at 7 p.m. Tickets cost $10. Grindhouse will host its second show on Saturday, July 29. The Arena is located at 1416 Spring St. in Jeffersonville, Ind.
Classes at Grindhouse Pro Wrestling Academy are on Sunday, Monday and Thursday from 10 a.m. to noon and costs $20 per class or $40 for the week.
Correction: The original version of this story listed the incorrect day of the show; it’s Saturday, June 17.