In the midst of the downfall of college football legend Joe Paterno, it is easy to believe that there are no heroes anymore. So the ascendance of the story of independent wrestler Gregory Iron to national prominence couldn't have come at a better time.
The reason virtually every wrestling website is talking about "The Handicapped Hero", not to mention mainstream outlets like SI.com, is his latest YouTube video where he lobbies for a spot in January's WWE Royal Rumble. I don't know that Gregory Iron is ready for the PPV stage, but he at least deserves a chance to prove it.
There is no doubt that Iron, who was diagnosed with spastic cerebral palsy as an infant, is an inspiration. He was called as much this past summer, in another now famous YouTube video, by indy star Colt Cabana as well as one of Cabana's best friends, WWE Superstar CM Punk.
Iron has virtually no use of his right arm, not to mention that he doesn't appear to be much bigger than my soon-to-be nine-year-old daughter. The fact that he is living his dream to be a pro wrestler, even if it is mostly in bars and ballrooms, is mind boggling. But to be part of what many consider the most exciting match of the year in the biggest wrestling company in the world is, as of now, a stretch.
There were 40 wrestlers in the 2011 Royal Rumble, and one could argue that it should be easy to create one open spot for Gregory Iron. After all, Hornswoggle was a Rumble participant this year as were at least three wrestlers who likely will not be competing in 2012: Booker T (possibly doing commentary), Chris Masters, and Vladimir Kozlov (both of whom are no longer with WWE). But there are, including those who are injured, taking time off, and Spanish ring announcer/punching bag Ricardo Rodriguez, more than 50 men on the Raw and SmackDown rosters alone, not to mention those who wrestle on NXT.
That means almost 60 wrestlers have demonstrated they are good enough to be under contract to WWE. Gregory Iron has not proven that yet.
SI.com's Dan Greene writes that Iron had a previous shot with the WWE:
In 2010 he worked a pair of tryout camps in front of WWE officials in Kentucky, hoping to land a developmental deal. At the first he over-rehearsed his speaking and screwed up some drills, but at the second a trainer said he was the hardest-working guy there. The head of WWE talent relations even told him he could be a good fit if they brought back the cruiserweight division, or maybe as the underdog buddy of a guy like John Cena. Yet the cruiserweight revival remains a rumor. Cena's still a solo act.
There is, or should have been, one giant red flag for Iron if that's what he was told by the Executive Vice President for Talent Relations, John Laurinaitis. Most everyone understands that the cruiserweight division, thankfully, is dead. Chris Jericho wrote that the cruiserweight belt meant about as much as "a belt from J.C. Penney."
The silver bullet for the division was fired by Rey Mysterio, who is roughly the same size as Gregory Iron, when Rey won the World Heavyweight Championship several years ago. If Iron did try to make it now, he would just as likely be in the ring with the three-times-his weight Big Show as with his newfound admirer Punk.
Having Punk in his corner, however, might make a difference if Iron received another WWE tryout. Punk may have his detractors, but he is also one of WWE's most popular personalities right now. It may not translate into stroke with the front office, but it certainly shouldn't hurt Iron's chances.
I would love to see Gregory Iron continue to fulfill his dreams, but if he wants to be in the Royal Rumble, he should earn it like everyone else. I hope Vince McMahon gives him another tryout. After all, he can't be any worse than those guys that put me to sleep on this week's NXT.
Even if he doesn't make it to the Rumble, Gregory Iron says he won't quit, and let's hope he doesn't. Watching him compete despite physical issues that will never go away makes some of us wonder why we complain sometimes about our lot in life.