Songs From The Squared Circle Featuring Effy

Featuring Effy | By John Silva

From dazzling mic skills and high-quality gear to legendary feuds and annoying smarks, Songs From The Squared Circle explores the similarities between the kindred subcultures of music and pro wrestling…

EFFY is an absolute treasure. He’s exciting to watch in the ring, he can cut a promo like nobody’s business, and his online presence is next level. What fans might not know is that he comes from a musical background. Playing in bands since he was a teenager and even working in the music industry for a while, he knows what it’s like to drive for hours to get to a show and hope you can hawk enough merch to make it to the next one.

Additionally, the Tallahassee, Florida-based “Weapon of Sass Destruction” is making a real difference in the wrestling business: His presence as an openly gay man in the scene helps many queer fans feel safer enjoying an artform that has historically been steeped in homophobia.

EFFY is entertaining, but he’s so much more than just an entertainer.

What are your top three favorite bands? 

I’m gonna say Gorillaz, because it’s expansive and it’s weird, and it’s [Damon Albarn] just finding out his own mind. I’m gonna say Bowie, because that was super weird. And I’m gonna say—I’m between Prince and Elton John, and I’m leaving it at that.

What’s your go-to song for getting hyped for a match? 

I don’t listen to anything before the match, but most of the time, I have my entrance song set as “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” by Elton John. I feel like that song sets the tone for the room. Everybody’s coming out to these entrance songs that are really heavy and crazy, and that song just sort of slows into this punk rock attitude of “You don’t own me. I’m controlling my own art.” The tempo’s slower, and the mood is really set.

So, that’s what sets me for the match, this sort of gazing punk ballad about Andy Warhol trying to control Elton John, and using it in your own mission to fight the corporate entities that try to control wrestling.

Is there any music you’ve discovered because of wrestling? 

Of course! You look at wrestling music, and even learning that someone like Jim Johnston—who did all of these major musical themes for all the WWE Superstars throughout the day, your Stone Colds and all these big superstars—he’s sort of this genius composer who’s been able to fit across all genres and thematics and all types of instruments. I think he’s a musical genius who’s hidden in this world of wrestling, ‘cause he’s had so many songs.

But then, [also], you get to learn a lot of music from everybody you’re around. Wrestlers are artist people: they love music, they’re always sharing music, and you sort of get stuck in the car with people, so there’s plenty of room for discovery in there. I’m sure there’s plenty of bands that, systemically, I never would have in my life without wrestling.

Which wrestler, past or present, has your favorite entrance music. 

As far as just the just the music, one of my favorites of all time is Christian. When he broke up with Edge, he started in this faction—I think with Lance Storm and a few people—but he came out to this song that was this huge, operatic, like, “Christian, you’re on your own,” hallelujah-glory voices. I think it’s the most fitting, wonderful theme song I’ve ever heard.

Why do you think there’s a stigma associated with pro wrestling? 

I think it’s because it’s easy to look in and say, “This is violent art,” but if people really paid attention, Shakespeare and plays and other forms of art and TV—there’s violence everywhere, because it’s a representation of what’s going on in the world. So, when you have this conflict and you’re putting it live in front of someone—it’s easy to look away from a gun scene in a movie, but the people who are here in front of [a wrestling match] are just cheering on this violence and wanting to see more, and it’s right in front of your face. So, I think it gets classed in this sort of second-class art section and is thought of as trashy or blue-collar. But if you look at it, it’s really intense method acting, serious character development, crazy physical ability and stunts, and everything is happening live and on the fly.

I mean, even the Cirque du Soleil people get to practice a couple hundred times before they actually have to do the performance. A lot of times, we’re meeting this person for the first time and having an improvisational dance where we hurt each other. Sometimes it’s great, and sometimes it’s not, but you’re figuring it out on the fly, and the artistry of that and the acting ability of that is something that I think people should look a little deeper at before throwing it off as a second-class artform.

It seems like a lot of punk rock wrestling promotions are popping up lately, FEST Wrestling being a big one, but also Freelance Wrestling in Chicago, F1rst Wrestling in Minnesota, and Bizzaro Lucha in Indianapolis. Why do you think punk culture and wrestling culture are embracing each other so much lately?

We’re both outsiders—and obviously, it’s become a little more punk rock in the scene with guys in the Bullet Club and with overseas names making a bigger punk stamp on what wrestling is in the United States. The same people are sort of drawn to it. They see the same sort of DIY ethic of, we just drive to the shows, we do this on our own, we’re not making a ton of money, we’re out here hustling. When you can see that with one another and have that same environment you would have at a punk show, instead of treating it like, “Hey, at wrestling shows, you’re supposed to be a redneck, and you’re supposed to be rowdy and say bad stuff,” going, “Hold up. We can not do that. We can all party here. We can do the same thing we would do at a punk show, but we’re just enjoying a different form of visual entertainment.” I think they found that the variety is both exciting and fun. I think there’s facets to what [we both] do that’s so similar that it makes sense that we’re drawn to each other.

And I’ve gotta speak on my own experience real quick, because I’ve worked for a lot of bands. I come from music. I’ve played music my whole life. So, wrestling, to me, is like a first home next to music. I remember going on tour with these crazy punk bands and being in the carload and going to these shows and showing up at the venue and not knowing what to expect. It’s so similar that it gives you flashbacks. I see a lot of guys who were in music or who were in bands who kind of flock over and start working in wrestling, and it’s fun to see that they already have the idea of, “Here’s how this runs, business-wise, here’s how we actually put a show on, here’s how we get a venue together to make this happen.” Whereas, if you’re only thinking about it from a wrestling perspective, you might not get that far.

So, you’ve been in the punk scene even longer than you’ve been in the wrestling scene? 

So long! I’ve been playing in bands since I was, like, 16, and did it all through high school, through college, after that time period. I even worked for Hootie And The Blowfish for a while, which is crazy. So, I’ve sort of seen all sides of music where—you know, you work for Hootie, and they do $20,000 in merch in a night, and you work for a punk band, and it’s like, “All right, we gotta split $200 bucks. Let’s make sure we get our gas done first then see what we’ve got for food.” So, in wrestling, you see both of those too. There’s some nights where it’s, like, super awesome, “Baby, let’s do this. Let’s wrestle forever!” Then, there’s some nights where it’s like, “Oh my gosh. I’m covered; I got food for the night, and my gas is paid for, but I’m coming home a little emptyhanded here.” So, I get déjà vu with that sort of music thing a lot.

You have a match coming up with A Matter of Pride Wrestling. I also read an article recently about drag queens who are wrestling. Has the queer community embraced wrestling in recent years? 

The embrace has come from LGBTQ people feeling more comfortable at these shows. I work in the American South a ton, so I’m around a lot of these rednecks, a lot of these backwoods, more far-right conservative people who back their hate up with Bibles. They’re at the shows, and you end up, over time, seeing them change their stance. I’ve seen people come up to me and say, “Hey, I feel more comfortable being at this show. You’re a queer person, you’ve got your boyfriend. We felt like it was OK, and if we showed up here, we would be safe, because at least we know you’re here.”

So, seeing that little bit of shift, where in major metropolitan areas it might have been happening longer, but especially in the South, the amount of—and I say this only in a positive light—weirdo, queer, crazy LGBT people who show up to the shows now, it’s so awesome, because not only is it bringing more people to wrestling, it’s making wrestling safer for everybody to show up to. We, [the wrestlers], are obviously going to fight each other, but you’re safe here. You’re not gonna be treated as a second-class person here. You’re gonna be accepted with open arms here. So, they’ve sort of found this merge where it’s like, “Hey, here’s another safe space for us where we can celebrate art and weirdness and craziness and costumes and songs and dance and not have to worry about being treated like we’re different, because everybody here is different.” It’s wrestling! It’s so weird!

So, your presence in these communities makes queer people feel like it’s safer for them to show up and be there. It’s validating for them. 

Yeah, for sure! If you look at wrestling historically, it’s been very racist, very homophobic. The stigma around wrestling from the ’80s and ’90s is not good, because it was a lot of hateful stuff that was, I guess, “cooler” in society to do then. But now, it’s like, we’re showing up, and especially a lot of these party promotions that aren’t steeped in a certain tradition, that aren’t stuck in this old way, they’re coming out and saying, “No, this will not be tolerated here at all. We’ll kick you out if you try. Homophobic stuff, hate speech, dogging on somebody for who they are—we won’t have it here.” So, to turn that around and give a whole new face to wrestling has made queer people feel a lot better about being a part of it.

And that’s even happening in some of the more rural communities? 

Oh, for sure! I’ll go work in Augusta, Georgia, and I see total weirdos coming and being awesome people, showing up, who two or three years ago, we would not have seen out there. I woulda known my audience and said, “You know what? Tonight, I guess I’m a heel,” but I can come in and the reaction is very different when these people are allowed to come in and feel safe and can attend the show and spend money and enjoy themselves, even in these tiny little pockets.

That’s gotta be so cool to be able to be a part of that and to make a difference down there. 

Oh yeah, it’s crazy to watch it over time. The thing with the gay stuff too, I look at drag queens in a very similar way I look at wrestlers. We’re performing, we’re coming out to songs, there’s pageantry, there’s costumes, there’s shade, there’s feuds, we’re portraying characters, there’s so many parallels there that drag queens have found that they’re very good performers when it comes to wrestling. They’re still a little marginalized about what people’s opinions are on that sort of thing, but we’re making a bigger statement.

And I’ll tell you, there’s a lot of shows going on in New York coming up, with Wrestlemania around the corner, and I’m seeing a lot of press. I’m already having the conversations where it’s like, “Hey, this network is gonna come talk to us here. These people are gonna come talk to us here, and it’s about the A Matter Of Pride LGBTQ show!” Because it’s such a different thing; it’s such a different vibe, and it’s gaining attention because it’s standing out and it’s providing fun. There’s not the work of a long, Southern wrestling show, where you’re sitting through nine or 10 matches. It’s all exciting: it’s drag, it’s cabaret, it’s wrestling, it’s skits, it’s a wild adventure of a night.

You do these really funny videos called “EFFY and the Agent.” In some of those videos, there’s a reoccurring theme of you pushing back on your agent wanting you to have certain sponsors. Is that series inspired by that DIY ethic and pushing against corporate America?

Yeah, it’s sort of being able to ride that fine line. You see punk bands taking sponsorships with stuff now—it’s not a new thing, but there’s an ethos to what sponsorships are cool and OK to take and what money and corporate energy is allowed to be a part of your band, and wrestling’s the same way. David Starr had a video that Ring of Honor made him take down, because he was talking about Israeli-Jewish politics and talking about how he’s the guy who’s not corporate, he’s not gonna be signed to your deal, he’s an out-there guy. I share a lot of that same ideology, where there’s a lot of people in wrestling, just like music, who are trying to control what gets out and what gets popular, what is allowed to be said, and there’s us out on the fringes saying, “No, we can do what we want.” The character—the “third kayfabe” of “EFFY and the Agent”—is this idea that I’m over here overthinking everything. So, when I’m thinking about sponsorships or I’m thinking about money coming in, I’m trying to really get that thought out of, like, what’s acceptable for us to have, what’s gonna be OK, and sharing that with the audience.

What is [your dog/agent] Cranberry’s favorite band? 

Real talk: Cranberry’s favorite band is Limp Bizkit. And Cranberry tries to get me booked as my agent now, because Cranberry says I’ll never be as cool as Fred Durst at Woodstock ’99. So, she just plays “Break Stuff” all the time and tries to get me hyped up so I can live up to her legendary status as a Fred Durst fan.

Follow EFFY on Twitter and Instagram, @killEFFY

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