Getting the chance to experience “Rock Solid Ross” in public is cathartic.
“It’s just a way for me to represent it to the masses and to keep my sanity,” says Ross.
Taylor Schatz enjoys being in the wrestling ring because he can be physical and entertain people at the same time.
Schatz, who wrestles as “Jake Taylor,” says there’s an adrenaline rush after landing a final blow and hearing the crowd go wild.
“This feeling… there is no such thing,” he said.
Ross and Schatz are among a handful of professional wrestlers who call Fargo-Moorhead home.
They are associated with Below Zero Wrestling, the new local professional wrestling organization formed almost a year ago by longtime fans Nick Stokke and Zach Werre.
Drew Ross, who wrestles as “Rock Solid Ross” for the Under Zero wrestling, poses at the Metroflex Gym in Fargo, where he trains. Chris Flynn / The Forum
Below Zero joins Timebomb Pro Wrestling, operating for just over three years, to feed the appetite of fans who end up devouring the mix of athleticism and drama.
“I like to be radical. I like to skate on the verge of radicalism, ”says Ross as he prepares for the bench press at Metroflex Gym, where he trains.
Both organizations host most of their shows at the Sanctuary Events Center in downtown Fargo.
Below Zero bills itself as family fun for all ages and even hosted a pre-Christmas Santa’s Village benefit toy drive, promoted by Ross, Schatz and a few others.
“It was easy to have these guys on board,” Stokke said.
Timebomb, operated by Eric Morrison, has a more hardcore reputation. Most of its shows are aimed at fans 21 and over, and alcohol is served. Wrestlers can bleed when struck by chairs and other objects.
Timebomb’s last show in October, titled “Violence is Forever,” brought in a wrestler from Japan and drew nearly 400 people.
“I’ve always tried to push the boundaries of what the Fargo fight could be,” says Morrison.
A fun concert
Professional wrestlers perform at a Timebomb Pro Wrestling show. Contribution / Jess Torres
Most professional wrestlers come to the ring with training in sports, bodybuilding, or martial arts.
Ross, 32, started amateur wrestling at the age of 3, and as a high school student he became the first wrestler in Fergus Falls, Minnesota, to have an unbeaten season. He went 39-0 and was the state’s Class AA champion at 189 lbs in 2008.
North Dakota State University recruited him to wrestle, which he did in his freshman year. But while training to become a heavyweight, he injured his back and had to stop.
“Now I’m a professional wrestler, so go for it. I guess time heals all wounds, ”he laughs.
Schatz, 36, was on the Linton, North Dakota high school football team and played on his team of nine state champions.
Years later, while watching pro wrestling on TV, he thought to himself, “I can do this.”
He sought formal training with Pat Tanaka, of Fargo, formerly with World Wrestling Entertainment and other organizations. Ross trained at a professional wrestling school in Twin Cities.
Taylor Schatz and Pat Tanaka demonstrate during a workout at Northwest Martial Arts Academy in Fargo. David Samson / The Forum
“The first thing you’re going to learn is how to land, or you’ll never survive,” says Ross.
Schatz says that at a minimum, future professional wrestlers should train for six months to a year before appearing in front of a TV audience, or any other live audience, for that matter.
A small percentage of the pros make wrestling a full-time job filled with trips to small places, modest salaries, and repeated matches that leave their bodies little chance to recover.
For Ross and Schatz, it’s a fun gig.
Ross is a mental health practitioner at Lakeland Mental Health and strength training coach at Moorhead High School.
As someone diagnosed with depression, anxiety, and attention deficit disorder, he says he struggles with his own emotions but takes an approach of being an “advocate of joy.”
“I found a way to persevere, so it’s my calling to pass it on to others,” says Ross.
Schatz is a trainer at Elite Kickboxing and teaches taekwondo at Northwest Martial Arts. He also works for Nocturnal Resources, a sister company of Jade Presents which provides event production for tours and concerts.
A theatrical background
Drew Ross, who wrestles as “Rock Solid Ross” for Below Zero Wrestling, poses at the Metroflex Gym in Fargo, where he trains. Chris Flynn / The Forum
Ross and Schatz are mostly sticking to professional wrestling shows in the Fargo area, but will be heading to the Twin Cities as well.
“About twice a month, ideally that’s what I like to do. … Just enough for me to afford the chiropractor, ”Ross laughs.
The two also have their theater experience in common – a big plus for performing in front of crowds.
Schatz graduated in Fine and Performing Arts from NDSU with a focus on performance.
He describes his character in the ring as being his own personality at 11.
“I just keep the cuteness and amplify the aggression a bit. So you won’t see me smile, that’s for sure, ”says Schatz.
Ross was involved in acting as a child and was never afraid to be flamboyant.
“I’ve always been very theatrical and over the top, unfortunately for my parents and anyone with ears,” he jokes.
During shows, he mainly wears his tank top and his purple and green briefs, but he sometimes puts on leggings.
“I hope I don’t reveal too much behind the curtain, but I have some nice cheetah prints,” he says.
As for the question of what is true and what is “wrong” in professional wrestling, it is important to keep a little mystery in the air.
“Do you really want to know how everything works or do you just want to enjoy the meal? I think most people just want to enjoy the meal, ”says Schatz.
But wrestlers also can’t “fake” gravity, chop or jump and land hard, Ross says, and the risk of serious injury is always there.
“If you don’t feel like you get beaten up the next day, chances are you haven’t given enough to the audience,” he says.
Taylor Schatz trains with Pat Tanaka at Northwest Martial Arts Academy in Fargo. David Samson / The Forum
Audiences can experience the athleticism and antics of professional wrestlers at upcoming New Year’s shows.
Below Zero hosts WinterSlam on Sunday January 23 at the Sanctuary, with former WWE star Erick Redbeard, Impact Wrestling stars Madman Fulton & Ace Austin and wrestlers from Below Zero.
Timebomb is hosting Here to Stay on Thursday, February 24 at Sanctuary, with Timebomb Pro Champion Dominic Garrini, Kevin Ku, Arik Cannon and former WWE Superstar Ariya Daivari.