NEW YORK - Two years ago, Saieve Al Sabah worked in tech support troubleshooting tank-less water heaters. Peter Rosado still teaches middle school math. And Joey Ace is a personal trainer at a midtown gym.
Brii Combination Wrestling owner and promoter, and IT professional by day, Anthony Cole brought all three of these men along with 30 other wrestlers, managers and support staff to a basement gymnasium with buckling wood floors in a 75-year-old Catholic school in the Bronx to help him put on his independent wrestling company's 26th show.
"We are that college level, WWE training ground," Anthony said.
"It's brutal man," Joey said. "My neck hurts, my back hurts, my knees. You know, once you hit your 30s, you're like oooh."
Now 31 years old, Joey started training as a professional wrestler a decade ago.
"TV's the goal," he said.
To get signed to a televised wrestling show, Joey must hone his craft, cultivate a following and develop his character.
"There's the edge. I'm like [over here]," Joey said, gesturing with his hands to cross as far over an imaginary line of political correctness as he could reach.
A villain in the ring, Joey admitted his wrestling person resembles nothing of the man he is and has always been outside of it. "Yeah, I'm a mama's boy in real life," he said.
"I'm not a character," Saieve said. "I genuinely am who I am."
While Saieve also uses a stage name, he wrestles as himself---on this Friday night in the Bronx, then Saturday in Jersey and Sunday in Orlando.
"I probably won't sleep until Monday at around noon when I get home," he said.
And Saieve's maintained that scheduled near every weekend for the last two years since he quit his job and started wrestling full-time.
"It hurts," he said, "but it's all part of doing the work. I know what I signed up for."
"This is where you start your career or even find a new avenue to continue building a new branch of your career," Rosado said.
BCW's head of talent relations and match commentator, Rosado compared the months-long, pre-show building of storylines and pairing of wrestlers to the lesson planning he performs in his classroom.
"I believe this is a platform for me to make the world a better place," Saieve said.
Before anyone wrestles anyone, a doctor who was assisted by a couple of EMTs performed pre-match physicals. Wrestlers collected their night's pay after their matches.
"I'm going to do good," Saieve said, "I'm not going to do a hot dog and a handshake."
Those with belts flaunted them.
"Ask me what I have in the bag?" Joey said. "What I got in the bag is most prestigious independent wrestling championship of all time."
And on this night, all of these conversations and interviews happened in a basement cafeteria for children, then serving as a dressing room for -- some very large -- adult professional wrestlers
"Man," Joey said. "These people, I love them."
"It doesn't matter if you're black, you're white, you're gay, you're straight, you're religious. It doesn't matter," Saieve said. "You can come here and entertain and just have a good time."
While not all wrestle in every one of the New York City-based, three-year-old BCW's shows, all performers appeared to know one another.
"This is a lifestyle like any other," Saieve said.
All referenced the camaraderie and trust necessary to execute moves that place all parties at risk of, at times, very serious injuries. Even with two more shows in two other states still remaining in the weekend, Saieve hung around after he finished his match to watch the night's other 10 fights.
"There's a lot of guys I love in there wrestling too," he said. "I want to support them."
We left before the main event, on pace to start late, but hopefully not so late the state athletic commission had to intervene and end the evening early.
"We had the crowd engaged for a moment in time," Saieve said of his fight.
This show cost around $5,000 to put on, a sum BCW won't always make back. This is all a part of the organization's five-year plan to become profitable and establish an international brand built on the hard work of wrestlers hustling to their matches from day jobs to chase a chance at a full-time position on a televised show, as many of them have pursued for years and plan to continue pursuing for as long as it takes to get there.
"Until the wheels fall off, man," Joey said. "Until the wheels fall off."