EXCLUSIVE: Calvin Tankman discusses signing with MLW, his WWE tryout, wrestling during the pandemic

Recent MLW signee Calvin Tankman spoke with POST Wrestling's Andrew Thompson about signing with the organization, the demanding WWE tryout that he was a part of, experiencing racism in wrestling and the friendship[s] he has formed with AJ Gray and Sugar Dunkerton.

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After several months out of the ring, Calvin Tankman was able to compete in front of fans again at Game Changer Wrestling’s ‘The Wrld At GCW’ show on June 20th. Calvin was involved in a six-way scramble match and in the coming weeks and months, he has a number of dates lined up as multiple independent promotions are beginning to run shows during the pandemic.

I had the opportunity to chat with Calvin to speak about his career in wrestling, some of the positive and negative experiences he’s had in the business thus far, on top of gauging his thoughts about wrestling while there is no cure for Coronavirus currently. Firstly, speaking about the aforementioned GCW show, Calvin stated that the outside setting he and fellow performers wrestled in was a unique setting and he enjoyed it for the most part. On the topic of wrestling during the pandemic, he explained that he’s happy that wrestling is back but is not too pleased about the circumstances that wrestling is back under.

“It’s scary, but it’s one of those things that all you can do is take all the precautions you can and go about it. I know people that have worn their masks and everything and still got it so, it’s one of those things where I’m gonna do whatever I can to take care of myself, wear a mask everywhere. Every show that I’ve been to, as soon as I get there, they’re taking temperatures, making sure that we’re good so, I don’t necessarily… I’m happy that I’m getting back to wrestling but I hate the circumstances that we’re under. But I’m hoping things get better. I’m hoping we can get some type of normalcy at least by 2021.”

Continuing on the topic of Game Changer Wrestling, it was recently announced that ACH will be debuting for the promotion on the weekend of July 24th. It was nearly a full year ago that ACH, formerly known as “Jordan Myles” in WWE, departed from the sports-entertainment company after expressing his disappointment with the shirt that WWE created for him which ACH felt had a racial undertone to it.

Calvin Tankman has not had the opportunity to meet ACH in person yet but shared that he’s heard nothing but good things about him from the same circle of wrestlers that they’re connected by. When asked about ACH’s return to pro wrestling, Calvin stated that he’s in full support of ACH and also addressed those who may have negative thoughts or feelings towards the former AAW Heavyweight Champion.

“Basically, I’m with it. I don’t know about all the other stuff that happened after his release but you saw the t-shirt, and he had a legitimate point and if anything that we’ve learned since he left is like, racism is really out here and this stuff is really happening for people who aren’t experiencing it — that camp who doesn’t have our skin tone, to be able to experience it. So that’s the thing I tell a lot of my friends is like, if I’m at the grocery store and I experience racism — like some lady hits my door with her grocery cart and I say, ‘Hey, chill,’ and she tells me to go back to Africa or some off the wall stuff like that. That happened to me. Nobody else around me is gonna see that. You’re just now seeing it because of social media, because there’s a camera I can record [with] and I can catch you in that moment. So now is the point when people are starting to realize so like, we weren’t there in his shoes. We don’t know what happened, but what I do know is that-that shirt is uncalled for, it’s ridiculous and he had a right to say something. He had a right to be upset. So, that was a point where he should’ve had more support. There should’ve been more people there for him then. So, after that, I don’t really know what happened. I know he took a hiatus because it was getting to the point where he couldn’t deal with it mentally because of everything on Twitter, news sites currently being dragged into the drama and everything else so like, I don’t know him personally but, every account, basically people that I associate with, associate with him but I’ve never met him. So, every person that I’ve ever talked to about him has… has a glowing response about him. That he’s just a good dude, that he’s funny, he’s great to be around. That he’s got a good heart and that was before all this stuff happened. I knew all those things and I heard all those things about him and then, you see all those things he can do in the ring and without a doubt, he’s one of the most athletically-gifted talents in a wrestling ring or to be in a wrestling ring, period, and his in-ring work speaks for itself so, I hope that everything’s better for him and he’s in a better space mentally because he’s one of the most talented individuals I’ve ever seen.”

In December 2019, Tankman partook in a WWE tryout. Calvin described the tryout as a physically and mentally demanding one and to say that it was anything less than that would be an understatement according to him. Similar comments were recently made by Madison Rayne during her appearance on the Sitting Ringside with David Penzer podcast, during-which she stated that the WWE tryout was the hardest thing she’s had to do besides childbirth. Calvin detailed what occurred during the tryout and shared that William Regal told talents he does not believe he could do what they were asked to do during said tryouts.

“I was in there with a guy that was a bodyguard for Drake, with another female that I think she had an NCAA record in like 100 meter dash or 400 meter dash or something like that. She has an NCAA record. We had ‘Ill’ Will Brooks, championship-level Bellator fighter and these people are struggling with this workout. So, to say that it’s [trying]? That’s an understatement. When you have the elite of the elite and they are struggling then you know you’ve done something that’s challenging, and one of the first things William Regal said to us is that he’s never had to do any of this stuff for a job and he — basically, he wouldn’t have been able to do the things they ask you to do at the tryout. They really push you, whether it’s [an] unprompted promo, randomly that you didn’t know you have to do or from weightlifting to multiple sessions in the ring for hours at a time. We would have to be dressed and ready in the P.C., ready to go, dressed at 9 AM and we didn’t leave until after 6 PM, and we just had an hour break for lunch. Those three or four days, we were hustling and so like, by that third day, you’re hardly getting out of bed. It’s a struggle.”

In late June, Major League Wrestling made the announcement that Calvin Tankman signed with the organization. Calvin revealed that he signed with MLW back in May and had to keep quiet about it until it was officially announced. He said that his name was brought up within some other organizations but believes he didn’t have the “name value” yet but it was not too long before MLW reached out to him after coming across a video of his on social media.

“MLW kinda happened out of nowhere. So, I had the WWE stuff, and then I guess I had my name brought up with some other places but it was one of those things where I didn’t have the indie name value yet. I didn’t have the audience for someone to be able to say, ‘Alright, let me pick you up, put you on TV and you’re gonna already have a buzz following.’ At least that’s what I assumed. But it never materialized into anything serious there and then I got contacted by MLW. They said they’d come across one of my videos and they were really interested so from then on, we signed a contract back in May and it was just one of those things where I had to keep it hush-hush, until they were ready to announce it. That’s difficult to do. Like we were talking about [earlier], I’ve been a wrestling fan since I was three-years old so, to be able to say I was gonna live the dream and actually get to wrestle on TV, I kinda had to be quiet and not tell anyone for two-and-a-half months.”

Throughout his career, Calvin has had several experiences of racism in the sport but his experiences have come by way of fans who’ve attended shows that he works. In one of his first matches, Calvin worked the match as a heel and had a bit of a in-character back and forth with a fan in attendance and said fan responded to Calvin with a stereotypical and racist remark.

“One of my first matches, I had a fan tell me to go eat another bucket of fried chicken. Now I was a heel. I ain’t saying that’s cool but I’m saying I wasn’t antagonizing him, he was ignorant and the fact [is] he shouldn’t have said it. But it’s one of those things, that was literally one of my first three matches. So I was trying to be a heel and I was yelling at him and he said that back and it stopped me. It was one of those things where I was like, ‘Wait, he really just said that?’ It took me out of everything, and then I’ve had someone call me a monkey. These are fans too. These aren’t even workers.

It’s kinda like you’re being childish. You ain’t got nothing else to say to contribute to the conversation or you get caught being wrong or something. You can’t talk your way out of it so instead you just try and end the conversation by insulting the other person and trying to hurt them. In reality, you just make yourself look ignorant. That’s the thing that always comes to my mind. For you to do that type of thing, it’s just ignorant, but that goes for anywhere.”

Calvin is only 25-years old and is a father to his daughter. He spoke about some of the goals and aspirations he not only has in wrestling, but in life in general. He wants to set up generational wealth for his daughter and her children if she chooses to have her own. He also spoke about his plans to wrestle in Japan and eventually make it to Pro Wrestling Guerrilla in Southern California.

“Now that — it hasn’t happened yet but obviously, I know I’m gonna wrestle on TV soon. So, now that-that’s checked off the bucket list, the next thing is to wrestle in Japan. That’s one of my biggest things, and it’s funny you also mentioned PWG. I was talking to Lee Moriarty who I don’t care if he says it or not, he is or one of the best wrestlers in the United States, and we kind of had a little joke where we said, ‘We gotta bet to see who can get to PWG faster.’ So, definitely on my bucket list too. So, I’d love to. There’s a lot of places I’m willing to travel and visit that I haven’t had the chance to, but definitely would love to get out to the West coast but PWG specifically.”

Before wrapping up our chat, Calvin was asked about the friendships that he has formed with Sugar Dunkerton and AJ Gray. Over the past several years, the three men have competed on the same shows, traveled together and specifically speaking about Calvin and AJ, played video games together.

Calvin described Suge D as one of his mentors and remembers how helpful Suge was early on in his [Calvin’s] career. Calvin described he and AJ’s friendship as a brothers-type of relationship where they joke with one another and have a bit of back and forth trash-talk in an attempt to make the other laugh.

“Oh yeah, see the crazy thing about Suge, to me, Suge’s one of my O.G.’s when it comes to wrestling. He’s been doing this for a minute and I first saw Suge on social media when I was training and I followed him then and I saw his match with Lio Rush when Lio Rush had just started. He might’ve been a year in the business and that might’ve been [for] Atlanta Wrestling Entertainment. It was a really good match. I watched it on YouTube and then I started following Suge. So fast forward a year-and-a-half later, we have a show at IWA Mid-South. He kinda of talks to me for a while and helps me out and invites me out to eat. So that was my first actual meeting with Suge. Like actually getting to meet him and once I sat down and ate with him, the knowledge just came out of his mouth, the game that he spit at me just in a Waffle House, you know what I mean? We’re just chilling in a Waffle House with a couple of other dudes and listening to his stories and trying to learn. He’s helping me out, and Suge’s been there when he didn’t have to be. A promoter asked me to cut a promo and Suge just follows and he’s watching behind the cameraman and then he’ll be like, ‘Try this’ or, ‘Do this’ or, ‘This might help you.’ So Suge is someone that no matter what he’s doing or where he’s at, he’s always been kind to help me so I’ll always have love for him. AJ [Gray] is another one. I met him when I was like — my first road trip out of state actually, we went to Indianapolis to the now-defunct NOVA Pro in northern Virginia, then to New South [Pro Wrestling] in Alabama and I met AJ at New South in Alabama and we’ve been cool ever since then. So, AJ’s one of those dudes I’ll hop on XBOX and he’ll hop in my party to talk trash every once in a while. AJ’s wild so he’s always saying some awful wild stuff and just cracking me up.”

Calvin Tankman will be in action this weekend for Game Changer Wrestling and several more promotions in the coming weeks. All information about his forthcoming wrestling schedule can be kept up with via his social media, @CalvinTankman on both Twitter and Instagram.

Calvin has a Pro Wrestling Tees store at this link and the full interview with Calvin and myself can be heard via the video at the top of this article or on the Andrew Thompson Interviews YouTube channel.

About Andrew Thompson 4226 Articles
A Maryland native and graduate of Norfolk State University, Andrew Thompson has been covering wrestling since 2017.