It was a chance meeting someone at a local restaurant that brought to my attention there was a pro wrestling training school right next door. The Institute of Pro Wrestling resides in Shoppingtown Mall in DeWitt, N.Y. and is endorsed by none other than the legendary Killer Kowalski.
I had no expectation or idea what I was going to see when I went to visit and watch a few days later. I turned the corner and saw the big Sears sign and a group of five young guys waiting on the owner. They were here to shoot a commercial for the school to help get the word out and that was why I had come over. My first reaction was “There’s a wrestling school in there?” Soon after, owner and pro wrestler Derek Potocki showed up and in we went. It used to be a store but it is stripped down and the ceiling tiles are removed so the wrestlers don’t bang their heads on them although they have had a couple hit the sprinklers here and there. Derek is a bit arms-length at first but once he gets talking, he is knowledgeable and forthcoming. Turns out we both know many of the same people.
He chats about his own career and that he is almost at the 20 year mark, at that he plans on teaching at his school only for the most part. He has worked with Triple H, CM Punk, John Cena and the list goes on. Killer Kowalski in Malden, Massachusetts trained him in 1995. Triple H had just left as Terra Ryzing and then Paul Levesque and was now Hunter Hearst Helmsley in the WWF. He trained with Tensai (Matt Bloom) and comes from that generation of wrestlers.
Now he’s a pretty good size guy as we chat, 6’4 and he tends to glance at you from the side, so I’m thinking “Don’t slam me, dude”. He wrestles as Zaquary Springate III as I later learn via the internet and has a rather extensive IMDb listing of what he does as well. He is a vocalist and an actor aside from wrestling among other things. He has experience in all of the major companies in wrestling.
As we talk I watch his students tighten up the ring and flip the mat “for the good side” for the commercial shoot and he explains that there is usually another ring here but it is in storage for a promotion coming up in Binghamton. The ring is a leftover from WCW Powerplant and still bears its logo under the mat. Now, make no mistake; people think these rings are like a trampoline and let me tell you they are not. There is the ring cover, a blue maybe 2” hard mat, and thick wood under that. It stings.
The wrestlers all warm up and get in their gear and Derek gets them in a line to practice an assortment of moves; people fly, bits of character work is thrown in, the ropes spring and bodies are crunched into the mat. From my perspective, it hurts more than people think, especially when a guy misses and another lands on his head. One of them gets a nasty arm stinger that he eventually shakes off.
Interesting stuff is learned on Youtube as I see many of his matches as Springate III even seeing him take on Tony Atlas in a flag match (his persona is from England) and others with his manager Bombshell Billy whom I know and knew was involved with 2CW but did not know these things. Pretty cool.
Derek has been around with some of the biggest names in the world in the ring and on the road. One thing I notice as I did with Matt Morgan, Gail Kim, Chris Jericho, and Mickie James is that wrestlers are intense and definitely proud. They are also easy to talk to:
“I was on a show and Honky Tonk Man was on the show. He was going around to all the guys asking ‘Who trained you? You don’t know how to wrestle! Who trained you? He came to me and I said Killer Kowalski and he goes you know how to wrestle, I want to talk to you”
He laughs at the story but his point is valid; if you want everyone’s respect and their confidence in working with you, this training is what will get you that respect.
The cost to train is $1800 a year, which breaks down to $150 a month, and it is the place to go! You get trained the right way from the ground up and you will be ready to work when you leave. Walter ‘Killer’ Kowalski even wrote a letter to the school endorsing it and you don’t get better endorsements than that.
**Oh and the one and only AJ Styles is on for the 2CW Wrestling 100th show in Binghamton, NY on March 14th.
Interview with Derek Potocki aka Zaquary Springate III
Seeing the wrestlers you had there, do they have characters yet?
No characters yet, we work on the wrestling and as I see them in class I can match up a persona.
How many students do you have?
Eight right now.
You mentioned that you are the only school in the NE (or is it NY) endorsed by 'Killer' Kowalski, what is unique to his training?
Well just look at his success, HHH, Chyna, Big John Studd, Damian Sandow, Saturn and Krunos, Tensai, Kazarian, etc. His training was complete, not just how to work physically but how to work mentally. Ring generalship, conditioning, nutrition, and a reputation as being one of the most successful of all time. I could go on for hours about him.
If a student joins, when can they expect to start doing shows?
That depends on their learning ability. You have to remember, your body does not want to flip or fall without trying to break that fall. We have to retrain them mentally as well as physically; it really is a case-by-case basis.
Are your students pulled to do shows on other promotions?
They do shows all over the country.
What type of money can a wrestler just starting out professionally potentially and realistically make?
Not much these days, you had better get into it for the love of the business, and hope the money comes later. Can you be successful? Yes, but that is up to the person and the work they put in.
What are the chances of getting onto the say WWE or TNA?
I am realistic...not good but with ROH and other bigger Indies like 2cw being looked at constantly, a little better than in the last 10 years, things are looking up. There are also full time circuits in Mexico, Puerto Rico, Japan, Europe...etc
2CW has been growing exponentially on popularity and you often have more well known wrestlers do shows with you, you have AJ Styles coming, how do you go about getting these name stars to do your shows?
Either we know them from working with them, or we have a contact that does. If they have an agent we go through them, but usually we deal with the star.
Last one, what do you want people to know about the school, and how do they begin?
The Institute of Pro Wrestling is based on the fundamentals of Killer Kowalski. We teach from the basics up to Lucha, catch as catch can, Japanese strong style. When you leave this school you will be able to work anywhere in the world. You will know how to handle your money and your body in the very complex world of Pro Wrestling.