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The Body By D Fitness Center in Yorktown seems unassuming from the front, featuring everything one might expect from a bodybuilding gym: free weights, advertisements for protein supplements and an abundance of in-shape gym-goers.
Beyond the traditional gym atmosphere in the main weightlifting room lies an unexpected item: A wrestling ring complete with turnbuckles and ropes – similar to what one might see when flipping through their TV late at night.
This wrestling ring, known as the "dinosaur ring" to those around the gym, is home to Body By D's newest fitness program, Primetime Wrestling Alliance.
Primetime Wrestling Alliance, which has operated out of Body By D since early May, is part of the larger Southside Pro Wrestling organization that looks to promote and teach professional wrestling along the Peninsula.
D'Shawn Wright, the owner of Body By D and a self-described wrestling fan, decided to purchase the school portion of SPW from its original Virginia Beach location after hosting wrestling events at the gym.
"Instinctively I knew it had growth potential, and we had the space for it here. It was a no-brainer," he said. "The opportunity to relive a childhood dream is something I couldn't pass up."
The same has proven true for the students of Primetime Wrestling Alliance.
With the wrestling program still in its infancy, Body By D does not draw many students to its classes yet. Four students are currently enrolled in the beginner program, which introduces aspiring wrestlers to basic techniques, safety measures and wrestling drills.
Two of the beginner program students are a 35-year-old Yorktown man Joseph Howe III, whose stage name is "Roc," and an 8-year-old Chesapeake boy Shawn Brooks, who goes by "Deuce" in the ring.
The two aspiring wrestlers are taught by Toano native Brittany Cole, the reigning SPW women's champion who is also known as "The Dark Princess." Having watched wrestling throughout her childhood, Cole decided to pursue a life as a professional wrestler as a senior in high school instead of attending veterinary technical school.
While the life of a professional wrestler might not have the glamour of money or other more traditional professions, Cole said her passion for wrestling has sustained her through the highs and lows of her career.
For those involved with the Primetime Wrestling Alliance, a deep passion for wrestling is often the driving motivator for participating in the sport.
"I've loved professional wrestling since I was a kid," said Howe, who briefly trained to be a professional wrestler in his early 20s before returning to finish his training almost 13 years later. "It's something I continued to enjoy watching through adulthood."
However, loving wrestling is not the only reason one might sign up for professional wrestling classes.
For Katherine Brooks, mother of 8-year-old "Deuce," safety was a major factor in signing her son up for professional wrestling classes.
A lover of wrestling with aspirations of headlining Wrestlemania 50, "Deuce" and friends began backyard wrestling more than a year ago. Concerned for her son's safety, Brooks signed her son up for professional wrestling classes in the hopes he would be able to use safe and proper techniques when wrestling unsupervised.
"If I was worried about his safety here, he would not be in the ring," Brooks said. "Doing this where he is taught how to land, how to fall and that things are not exactly as you see on TV, it's a lot safer than them watching on TV, going out in the backyard and trying it because way too many kids get hurt that way."
Learning proper wrestling techniques does not come cheap.
The Primetime Wrestling Alliance beginner package comes out to $899.99 in total, including a $299.99 down payment and six monthly payments of $100. The advanced package is more expensive, running participants $1,399.99 in total with a $349.99 down payment and $175 monthly payments. The total cost of each package covers one full year of training at the gym.
Brian Morrison, an advanced wrestling student who goes by "Mad Max" in the ring, is well aware of the costs associated with wrestling. In addition to paying the annual fees, he also makes a two-hour drive to and from Virginia Beach three times a week to attend classes.
"If you really want to do it that badly, you find a way to make it happen," Morrison said. "For me, it is totally worth it."
Brooks agreed, saying the costs associated with wrestling are no more expensive than other clubs or activities for children around "Deuce's" age. Moreover, Brooks said her son is developing more than just wrestling skills by going to wrestling classes.
"He's learning respect for himself and for others, focus and determination that he wouldn't get elsewhere," Brooks said. "It's not really a huge expense for a year. In six months they can learn enough that it takes care of getting them off the streets, putting them in something positive and teaches them focus and respect."
To learn more about Primetime Wrestling Alliance, click here.