Waking up and deciding he would be a professional wrestler has worked out well for Griff Garrison, 24.
So much so that he went from recreating WWE wrestling matches on the trampoline in Winston-Salem to stealing the third rope from the AEW wrestling ring at sold-out Coliseums.
Garrison, half of All-Elite Wrestling’s tag team “Varsity Blonds”, said he grew up as a wrestling fan and was “one of those kids who never really got it. grown up”. He said he remembered watching the games on TV and going to events with his mom and dad.
“I think the reason wrestling in my hometown is so special to me is that whenever there was a wrestling event or wrestling show at the Colosseum my dad and I would always go,” he said. he declared. “There’s a restaurant across the street called Stamey’s. We always went there first and ate hot dogs and then walked across the street. We were going inside and I would be so excited to see the setup and the show unfold. It would be one of the best nights of the year for me. To be able to come back, retrace my steps and fight in the Colosseum, and not just be a fan, that’s pretty cool for me.
Idolizing WWE Superstars like John Cena and Edge, Garrison and his best friend Marcus Kross decided to step into the ring on their own. Garrison played football in high school and was never an amateur wrestler, although Kross did and is a professional wrestler as well.
“We were just wrestling on the trampoline. We would come home and wrestle on the trampoline after workouts for hours, ”he said. “We woke up one morning and said to ourselves ‘let’s see how to do this for real.’ We looked for pro wrestling schools near us, not really that optimistic, but we found a lot.”
This research led them to Fire Star Pro Wrestling in Greensboro where they would train under LaBron Kozone for the next several years, including while Garrison completed his undergraduate studies at Guilford College. In fact, Garrison credits training as the kick-off to his wrestling career.
“I would literally wake up, get up, go to college, come back, pack my bags, and work out for five, six or seven hours. It was a daily thing for me, ”Garrison said. “He’s (Kozone) a great guy, a great coach and he knows what he’s talking about. It was great to be able to go there and learn the basics. He’s the kind of coach he is. He’s the kind of guy who preaches the fundamentals over and over again until you understand them. Then you can go to all these shows across the country, wrestle with guys, and you learn more. “
After graduating from Guilford College in 2020, with a double major in education and history, Garrison sought a teaching position as COVID-19 disrupted many games and shows across the country. He was preparing for a job as a teacher and football coach at Grimsley High School when he got the call he had trained his whole life for.
“It was wild. It was kind of an emotional roller coaster. All of a sudden I got a call saying we need you in Jacksonville. I did a few test matches and guess they liked what they saw. They kept bringing me back. Last July my partner Brian Pillman and I signed full-time contracts.
Garrison said the journey to get to this point has been crazy and filled with peaks and valleys.
“I was a college student but I could train and wrestle and do what I love to do. I think it was a high point in my life. A few years later I was at the beach doing backflips and broke my foot, my heel bone. Then I found out that I had a tumor in my heel bone and needed to remove it. It was in 2018 and it was a valley, ”Garrison explained. “After that I hit another high and we were playing games all over the place six months later. They were talking about signing us to Ring of Honor, another wrestling promotion, then COVID hit and they weren’t going to do shows or sign anyone anymore. It was another valley. Then I was looking for that teaching job and got the call and went to AEW and now I’m here. So now we are riding another peak. There have been ups and downs for a long time.
One thing is for sure, Garrison wouldn’t want to cross valleys or climb the peaks without the person he started this journey with, Marcus Kross.
“I moved into his neighborhood when I was probably in college and met him soon after. We both had trampolines; we (the neighborhood kids) were all hanging out together and fighting each other. Sounds bad but that’s what we would do. We would all get on the trampoline and recreate matches and we love it. It was our favorite thing, ”Garrison said. “Not many people get to see their really good friend after high school. So being able to keep him in my life after high school and travel with him and do stuff with your best friend is a blessing.
He’s excited to build that same bond with his new team partner, Brian Pillman Jr. as part of Varsity Blonds. While Garrison says it takes time for team partners to form a bond and a strong connection, he feels like he did just that with Pillman.
“We got closer. We have conversations about politics, wrestling and everything. I like having discussions with him and getting closer to him about things. We’re getting there for sure if we’re not already. To be able to do what we’ve been doing in such a short time as a team, I think it’s impressive and we can only go up from here.
This connection will be useful for the last game the duo will face. Garrison is excited to return to the Triad for the Greensboro AEW event on Wednesday, December 22 at 7 p.m. ET. There he will face one of the biggest singles matches of his career when he faces Malakai Black but he is not worried.
“He’s tough and he’s been doing this for so long. Fans love him. Facing him in my hometown will be by far the most difficult challenge I have ever faced. I am 100 percent ready, ”he said. “I think the crowds in Greensboro got me. They will get loud. They will become electric. I have already said it ; I think the Triad has the most passionate wrestling fans in the world, so being the hometown boy is a plus for me. For starters, I am 100 percent confident and focused. He’s going to bring the fight and I’m ready for that too.
While Garrison may have idolized WWE stars, he quickly becomes one himself in the AEW arena.
All-Elite Wrestling is a Florida professional wrestling league “offering an alternative to traditional wrestling, with a roster of world-class talent who injects a new spirit, freshness and energy into the industry.” “AEW: Dynamite” airs Wednesday from 8 pm to 10 pm on TNT and “AEW: Rampage” airs Friday on TNT from 10 pm to 11 pm Starting in 2022, TBS will begin broadcasting “AEW: Dynamite”.
“The atmosphere at AEW is just a fun, welcoming place. Everyone is just friendly. They all want to make AEW a success and I think that’s what makes it beautiful, ”he said. “When you have all these minds and all these people working together to achieve a goal, it’s beautiful to watch. It’s the best place to work and it’s the best place for wrestling in the world. I will say it until the day I die. Being able to be a part of it is a dream come true.
AEW will be back in the state in January. Tickets and more information are available at www.AEWTIX.com.