Where Are They Now?: Spike Dudley

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  1. Where Are They Now?: Spike Dudley


    Spike Dudley’s in-ring career consistently saw the pint-sized competitor overcome the odds, toppling opponents twice his size. It’s quite representative of the uphill climb the undersized Matt Hyson had to weather to reach the top of sports-entertainment. (CLASSIC PHOTOS | CURRENT PHOTOS | VIDEO PLAYLIST)

    Hyson grew up in Providence, R.I., watching WWE every Saturday morning and going to shows at Boston Garden. “I just fell in love with it,” he told WWE.com. The man who would find success as Spike Dudley described Bob Backlund as his earliest hero.

    “He’d just won the title, he was the all-American boy and an amazing scientific wrestler,” Hyson said. “He captured my imagination.”

    Like many children, Hyson grew up dreaming of someday stepping into the squared circle. However, as he grew older, he realized his size might work against him.

    “I was a buck forty, a buck fifty, [sports-entertainment] never seemed to be a possibility,” he admitted. “I thought my chances were slim.”

    After graduating from college, Hyson entered a much different environment from the ring: the classroom. Movie buffs recognize him as the crimson-covered combatant from "Beyond the Mat," quoting Shakespeare after a brutal bout. The film portrayed him as a teacher-turned-grappler, which wasn’t exactly the case.

    “I was a third grade teacher’s aide,” Hyson explained. “More or less a glorified babysitter. It became a day job to support my wrestling habit.”

    That habit began soon after his graduation. Hyson packed up and left Rhode Island, settling in San Francisco, Calif., around 1992. There, he saw a commercial that altered the course of his career.

    “I was watching Saturday morning wrestling when a commercial came on, asking ‘Do you want to be a pro wrestler?’ ” he recalled. Hyson quickly jotted down the training center’s information, making a hasty decision to start working toward his dream.

    “I didn’t have any friends, I didn’t know anyone [in San Francisco], I had no social life,” Hyson remembered. “So I said ‘What the hell? I’ll give it a shot.’ ”

    The advertisement was for what would become the APW wrestling school, also featured in "Beyond The Mat." Though he thought someone of his stature would be best used as a referee or manager, Hyson’s ability in the ring convinced his trainers otherwise.

    “I managed to hang with the big guys and excel,” he said. “They just threw me in there. I guess I did well and after a few months, the head trainer said ‘We’re going to make a wrestler out of you.’ ”

    Hyson competed as himself on the California independent scene for several years, taking on much larger opponents. The “David vs. Goliath” aspect quickly became his hook in an industry that was short on small competitors.

    He assembled a highlight reel of his best work and sent it off to every major promotion in the United States and Japan, hoping to catch on somewhere. While WWE or WCW didn’t come calling, the outlaws of sports-entertainment did.

    Tazz, head of ECW’s House of Hardcore training school, saw something in Hyson’s reel and asked Hyson if he was willing to head back east and join ECW. Hyson’s answer was a resounding yes.

    “I packed up into a little Toyota Tercel and drove cross country in less than 48 hours,” he said.

    After settling down in Long Island, N.Y., in 1996, Hyson began studying his craft at the House of Hardcore. It wasn’t before long that he was stepping through the curtain into the famed ECW Arena in Philadelphia as the character that defined his career, Spike Dudley.

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