A Troy student is spending her fall semester enrolled in wrestling school at Reality of Wrestling (ROW) in Texas.
Angela Arnold, a senior communication major from Gilbertown, began her journey on June 3, attending ROW’s fantasy camp with World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) Hall of Fame wrestler Booker T. She continued in the ROW beginner’s training and hopes to move to the advanced training as well.
Arnold’s interest in wrestling began while watching a Sean Michaels and Chris Jericho match with her family, as a 10-year-old.
“I was like, ‘Oh my God!’ ” she said. “ ‘This is great! I love this! I’ve got to keep watching this! This is what I’m going to do!’
“From that day until this very day, 10 years straight, I’ve never missed an episode of ‘Monday Night Raw.’ I’ve never missed an episode of ‘Raw’ or ‘Smackdown.’ ”
Although her family thought wrestling was just a childhood fantasy, her aspirations never faded.
Even in high school and college, she worked wrestling into every presentation and essay.
According to Pamela Arnold, her mother, Angela told her church she wanted to be a wrestler.
During the spring semester of 2017, Angela Arnold decided it was time to take wrestling seriously. During a two-hour phone call with her mother, she laid out her plan.
She would try wrestling for the summer, beginning with the fantasy camp weekend. She did, however, tell her mother that she would stay enrolled at Troy for the fall semester.
Her mother said she wanted Arnold to get her education, but she would support her wherever she decided to go.
“You only get a couple tries, or maybe even one shot, at whatever it is you want to do, and so that’s what she wanted to do,” her mom said. “I just want to help her pursue her goal of being a wrestler.”
“I had just a blast,” Arnold said, recalling the fantasy camp. “And I was just like, ‘You know what? This is what I want to do.’ I started training that Monday, and I’ve been hooked ever since. And I don’t regret my decision.”
A few weeks ago, Arnold decided to continue her classes online through the fall semester to allow herself to keep training in Texas. She said she will return for the spring semester of 2018, but as soon as she finishes school, will go back for more.
While at the ROW facility, the trainees must pay their dues before they can practice each day, according to Arnold.
“When we first arrive, we don’t just get straight into the ring,” she said. “We have to do chores. We come in, and we clean up. We make sure the bathrooms and everything are clean. We have to sweep the rings before we get in them.”
After cleaning and doing chores, she begins her warmups, practices moves and holds she has learned. When the trainers feel she and her classmates are ready, they begin to teach new techniques as well.
At 5-foot-3 and 112 pounds, Arnold said many people told her she would be crushed by other wrestlers or she needed to be bigger to wrestle.
“As much as I hate to admit it, they were right,” she said. “You do need to be a little bigger, but not that much.”
Steve De Marco, a producer at ROW, pointed out several other wrestlers of small stature, such as AJ Lee, Sasha Banks and Alexa Bliss, who have had great success, and seemed confident in Arnold’s ability to create a persona far bigger than herself.
Arnold further explained that, with dedication in her training in the gym and in her diet, she gained muscle just as strong and heavy as many of the other female wrestlers.
The gym is not the only place that requires dedication, however. Despite misconceptions, the ring is not padded, and the ropes around it are simply wires covered in tape.
“Trust me,” Arnold said. “It is not easy to hit those ropes. They leave scars on you. The ropes are hard. The ring is hard. There’s nothing but 4x4s under there, and a little, small, thin canvas on top, just for show.”
Recently, Arnold competed in the Diamonds Battle Royal, part of ROW Summer Champions.
“It was my first match,” Arnold said. “Leading up to it, I was so nervous, but we have amazing trainers and they walk you through everything.”
Although her nerves were on edge, Arnold said, she had a great time and was widely encouraged by her trainers and Booker T.
“Oh man, she’s doing fantastic,” said Blake Jones, a senior trainer at ROW. “She’s a very quick learner, as well as extremely coachable.”
Each of these are great qualities, he explained. Having them together, however, allows Arnold to quickly adjust to tweaks and corrections from the trainers.
“She’s both,” he said. “She’s like a little android. It’s scary.”
Arnold said she wants to continue learning and move into the advanced classes, where she can participate in practice matches and learn even more skills. She eventually wants to audition for shows such as “WWE Raw” and “Friday Night Smackdown.”
“I have the drive, and I know I have the determination, so I plan on working just 10 times harder,” she said.
“I see her going as far as she desires to go, straight to the top if she wants,” Jones said. “She’s going to be great one day as long as she keeps going.”
Arnold described Gilbertown as a small town where she rarely sees dreams being chased.
“There’s more to life than just getting up every day and going to school and then going to work and then just coming home and just watching TV,” she said. “There has to be more out there, and I want a part of that.”
Arnold said she grew up with parents who did all they could to provide the best life for her and her sister, and she said would like to return that favor to them.
“I want to be able to get to a point in my life where if my mom wants something, I can give her my debit card,” she said.
She said she wants to be an inspiration, and to show others that it is OK to be different and to chase one’s dreams.
Although she has a long journey ahead of her to reach that point, Arnold said she never wants to be satisfied with where she is, so that she can continue pushing herself.