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Face of Defense: Marine Balances Duty, Professional Wrestling

By Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kenneth Trotter
Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni

IWAKUNI, Japan, May 10, 2012 – What do Randy Orton, the “Road Dogg” Jesse James and Chuck Palumbo all have in common? All three men were Marines and professional wrestlers sometime in their careers.

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Marine Corps Sgt. Gaylon Summers, left, grapples with Azteca at an outdoor wrestling match in Fukuoka, Japan, May 4, 2012. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Kenneth Trotter

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Marine Corps Sgt. Gaylon Summers, ground safety manager for Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 12, hopes to be counted among those who have handled the stress of being a Marine and professional wrestler.

Summers, a Dyersburg, Tenn., native, has the tall, massive physique many would expect of a professional wrestler.

“It’s always [been] something I’ve wanted to do,” Summers said. While stationed in Cherry Point, N.C., he said, he saw a television commercial for an independent wrestling show. He sought contacts and soon was in touch with other wrestlers and began wrestling with them.

Summers said he has been an avid professional wrestling fan since he was a child, watching the likes of Hulk Hogan, Randy “Macho Man” Savage. He was attracted to the spectacle and athleticism he saw on the screen, he said.

“I started watching it when I was 3 or 4 years old,” he said. “Memphis wrestling was really big in the ’80s and ’90s, and my grandfather was a big wrestling fan. Every Saturday morning, when I was staying with him, I would get up and watch that with him.”

Summers gradually spread his horizons to take in any wrestling programs he could.

“It got to the point where even if I wasn’t there, I was watching it,” he said. “I started watching World Championship Wrestling, the National Wrestling Alliance and World Wresting Entertainment.”

Summers has wrestled in various independent promotions in Japan and earned a tryout with New Japan Pro-Wrestling and made the cut to train at their dojo in coming months.

“I’m excited,” he said.

Summers credits the Marine Corps with instilling the type of discipline and confidence needed to consistently train as a wrestler.

“A lot of people think because it’s a scripted sport, it’s easy. It’s not,” he said. “It’s given me a lot of discipline to push through the training. As much as I love it, there are some mornings when I’m hurting from training.”

His Marine Corps background helps with handling the pressure, Summers said. “I’m still nervous,” he added, “but I don’t look at it as something I can’t do. I just know it’s going to be difficult.”

Summers juggles the responsibilities of being a Marine and a family man with a family who supports him.

“The first time I experienced it with him was when we watched it on TV,” his wife, Sarah, said. “At that point in time, he had never actually wrestled.” She thought her husband’s desire to wrestle was just a weekend hobby, she said.

“I didn’t know it would grow into what it has,” she added. “I thought it was going to be something he did for fun.”

Now that she’s seen her husband’s genuine love for wrestling, she lends her full support to his endeavors, trying to attend as many shows as possible.

Summers said hopes he can open more Marines’ eyes to professional wrestling by having wrestling promotions on the base.

“I believe a lot of Marines would be open to it, even ones who aren’t really into wrestling,” he said.

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