Like Spiderman, Captain America and the Hulk, Southern Illinois fitness manager Tyler Hatton also has a secret identity.
When he isn’t whipping customers into shape at his day job, you can find him whipping his opponents with back-breaking pile drivers, leg drops and signature submission moves in the world of professional wrestling.
“Heath” Hatton was one of 16 wrestlers who showcased their skills to a crowd of more than 200 fans at Pro Wrestling Collision’s debut event Saturday at the Student Center. Hatton defeated opponents in multiple wrestling matches to become Pro Wrestling Collision’s first-ever Heavyweight Champion.
The 27-year-old Southern Illinois native has wrestled for three years. He said his first wrestling attempt was supposed to be a joke for his friends to enjoy, but he was hooked after
Hatton said he fell in love with wrestling partly because of the entertainment and athleticism.
“It’s so challenging,” he said. “I’ve done (mixed martial arts) stuff, I have done boxing, I have done basketball and I have played college
baseball, and this is the most demanding thing I have ever done.”
He said he gets tired and sometimes hurt during an event, but everything goes away as soon as he walks through the curtain, sees the lights and hears the fans — until the next day.
“The day after a show, it’s hard to get out of bed, and it’s hard to walk,” Hatton said. “It takes such a toll on your back and arms, so there are days when I don’t even know if I’m going to get out of bed.”
Despite the toll on Hatton’s body after a match, he said he continues to wrestle because of his fans. Hatton also performs one particular move he said female fans can’t get enough of.
“I take off my shirt,” he said. “When I do that, they go nuts. There is nothing that I do that is spectacular, sex appeal I guess.”
Pro Wrestling is entertainment for the fans, but Hatton’s 5-year-old daughter said she finds herself sometimes concerned for her father.
“Sometimes she’ll ask my wife, ‘Is daddy hurt?’” he said. “A funny story is one time she came to the back and saw the guy I was going to wrestle and she freaked out.”
Hatton’s debut with the Pro Wrestling Collision was also the company’s debut.
Wrestling fans Chris Hagstrom and Adam Testa were employees in charge of the day-to- day business of a local wrestling company with dreams to branch out on their own, until they saw an opportunity.
“We had been influential in the other company in the day-to-day things, but we didn’t own what we were doing,” Testa said. “We were doing it for someone else.”
Testa said they wanted to do things their way but continue to live their dreams of working in the professional wrestling business.
Hagstrom, the founder of Pro Wrestling Collision, said he has been in the wrestling business since 2004 when he started in promotions. A former SIU student, Hagstrom
said he saw his grades start to slip and that was when he decided to take on the wrestling business full-time.
He said he began to ring announce in 2006 and worked his way up to producing in 2011.
Hagstrom said there is never a normal day when it comes to owning your own company.
“There is so much that goes into preparation when talking to talent, booking the venues and producing the shows,” he said.
When there is a lot of pressure on him to accomplish a day’s work and things get hectic,
Hagstrom credits his employee team for the help to carry the pressures and .
“I have a fantastic team behind me,” he said. “They have been able to take a lot of the burden thatIusedtohavetodoallbymyselfoffmesoI can focus on owning and on the bigger picture.”
The wrestling business can sometimes get crazy, Hagstrom said, but he couldn’t imagine doing anything else.
“I wouldn’t change it for the world,” he said. “It’s hectic. It’s crazy. People always need me, but I honestly wouldn’t do this if I didn’t love it.”
Like Hatton, both Testa and Hagstrom used wrestling to achieve their dreams despite the naysayers.
Now Testa and Hagstrom pay Hatton so he can do what he loves and perform in front of crazed wrestling fans.
Hatton said he has been told he wasn’t good enough, big enough, fast enough or tall enough for his entire career — but he still achieved his dream. He said he has accomplished everything he wanted to, and his next job once wrestling is over will be to make sure his daughter does the same.
Photo Story done by Sarah Gardner