Over the past several years, Marek Brave has been mostly associated with being the head trainer of the Black and Brave Wrestling Academy in Iowa that’s ran by himself and Seth Rollins. Although he’s found success as a trainer, Marek did have a decade-plus run in professional wrestling and shared the ring with the likes of Cesaro, Ricochet, Samoa Joe, Alex Shelley, CM Punk, Daniel Bryan and many others that were storming the independent scene in the early 2000s.
Marek Brave is a former AAW Heavyweight Champion and AAW is currently owned by Danny Daniels who trained Marek. While speaking with Brave, he told me about working with Seth Rollins, the-then Tyler Black in AAW and their storyline feud within the promotion. Marek shared that there was once upon a time when he was considered to have a leg up on Rollins potential-wise and jokingly mentioned that had that followed all the way through, maybe their wrestling school would be called the [Marek] Brave and [Tyler] Black Wrestling Academy opposed to the other way around.
“My persona and my character and my standing within the company [AAW] just grew from there and so did Tyler, so did Seth and we actually ended up really, at the time in a very heated rivalry with each other in storyline and kinda outside of storyline a little bit too just because we always wanted to one-up each other and be the one to have the better matches and so on and so forth and people will laugh when they watch this but Danny Daniels always said I was better than him until I had my neck injury so, maybe it’d be called the Brave and Black Wrestling Academy,” Brave laughed. “But we had an awesome feud for the AAW Heavyweight Title after he had turned on me as my tag team partner and I think that’s kind of a running theme with him I think.”
One of the students to graduate from the Academy is former NWA World Television Champion Zicky Dice. Zicky is still a part of the National Wrestling Alliance and has spoken highly of Brave and Rollins’ training in past interviews. Marek shared that he’s proud of Zicky and how far he has come. There did come a time when the two almost came to blows and that occurred during a practice session when Zicky was “goofing around” just a bit too much for Marek’s liking.
“From day one [Zicky was who he is]. He was in a pretty successful band and still is before arriving, so he always kind of had that stage presence about him and he was always quite the entertainer. Sometimes to a fault. I remember — he might get mad at me for telling this story but he’ll get over it. I remember, coming to the end of his class, there was one day where just — I don’t know if he was in a mood or he wasn’t feeling it or whatnot but we were having practice matches that day and he just decided to goof off during his entire practice match and he didn’t take it seriously and he didn’t try hard and he thought it was funny and a couple of his classmates thought it was funny but I didn’t think it was very funny. I might’ve been having a bad day too and I pulled him aside — actually I didn’t even pull him aside. I just called him out in front of everybody and told him he was being lazy, he was being a fool and if he continued to act that way, he’d never have a future in professional wrestling but then he made a full-on career of being a fool so I was wrong on that,” Brave smirked. “And he got mad and he yelled at me and you know, as a head coach, I’m not gonna take any signs of disrespect from anyone so I yelled back at him and then eventually it got heated so much that I kicked him out of class but on his way out, he decided to do a little chirping so I followed him outside and I was like, ‘You need to get out of here’ and he pushed me and I pushed him back and we came very close to getting into a fist fight right outside the doors of our training facility at the time. Thankfully that didn’t happen and cooler heads prevailed and he called to apologize later in the evening and everything was cool after that and he ended up graduating and he stuck around for a little while and then went off and did his own thing and he’s achieved some pretty good success and I’m very proud of him.
We talk all the time. That’s so far, that’s so long ago. That’s completely water under the bridge. We’re cool now. He’ll text me and call me for advice, basically once a week and we keep in touch and he’s doing great things and I’m very, very proud of him.”
Another Black and Brave graduate that Marek is proud of is Benjamin Carter who’s been regularly featured in Game Changer Wrestling, Beyond Wrestling, Black Label Pro and recently did some work on AEW Dark. In this year of wrestling that has been plagued by the COVID-19 pandemic, Carter found a way to get himself noticed and standout. His performances have apparently gotten him the attention of “a few places” that are pursuing his talents right now, according to his trainer Marek Brave.
Brave mentioned how he and Seth Rollins are consistently impressed by what Carter does in the ring and while he can not say too much, he knows there are big things in store for Carter.
“Oh yeah, absolutely. Ben has always been just a natural in the ring. Just his movements, his timing, his pacing, his ability to turn on the jets in a split second and you know, accelerate and decelerate and just… it’s really impressive. When Seth and I were coming up, we were like the high-flyers of the Midwest region and sometimes I’ll see Ben at training or even just kind of messing around in the ring before training and he just pulls off a sequence of things that blows my mind. I don’t even understand how he’s able to do it and I’ll look over at Seth and I’ll be like, ‘Man we thought we were the high-flyers coming up. We couldn’t do 25 percent of what this guy can do’ so, he certainly has a bright future. I think he’s got a couple different avenues and a couple different places that are kind of pursuing his talents right now. So I’m not gonna give anything away. I talked to him this morning and it seems like there’s some very big things in the works for him. Again, I couldn’t be more proud and I’m excited to see where he goes. He’s still so young, he’s 22-years old. He’s had an incredible journey. He’s a British citizen. He’s actually from Jersey on the Channel Islands which is a chain of islands in between England and France, which is a territory of England so he has a very thick British accent but we always joke with him that he’s French, not British since the islands are closer to France. He gets real mad about that.”
On top of his duties as the head trainer of the Black and Brave Academy, Marek Brave is also the booker and owner of the SCW Pro promotion in Iowa. Their last show was in March and like many independent promotions, the COVID-19 pandemic prevented them from running another show again until the Summer or past that point.
Marek spoke about how difficult it has been to navigate the pandemic to eventually find the right time to run again. He added that there was a show planned prior to the forthcoming September 19th date but Iowa suffered a Derecho land hurricane which ruined the venue that SCW Pro was supposed to run at.
“It’s certainly been a process. We did take, gosh… our last event before the pandemic was like March 7th and that was when things were like — news [was] kind of trickling out about how dangerous this could be. We had a show scheduled for the 14th but I made the decision to cancel that one and see kind of where we were going. Unfortunately, as we know now, things didn’t really get better so we didn’t have an event for two-to-three months before the weather warmed up enough for us to get something going outside. Again, with very different restrictions, social distancing, mandatory masks. We’ve basically had to ban our wrestlers from high-fiving the fans on the way out which sucks to do but it is for the benefit of everyone involved, the health and safety of the fans and the performers alike. We’ve had to do a whole bunch of different things but, it’s certainly been a task and then the thing with these outdoor shows is that you’re not just battling Coronavirus or the pandemic, but you’re also battling weather because you could have this outdoor show scheduled and you got people driving in or flying in from all over the country and then all of a sudden, the day happens and it’s raining and you can’t have an event and then now you’ve lost X amount of dollars due to transportation and flights and different things and unfortunately, you can’t have an event when it’s pouring down rain so, we’ve had a lot of issues. We had a — I’m not sure if you’ve heard of it but there essentially was what they call a land hurricane in Iowa. I’ve lived here since 1997, I’ve never seen anything like it but it’s called Derecho or something like that but we had over 100 mile per hour winds coming through the Midwest. There was trees, giant trees just blowing all over all the streets, all the roads, all the highways, there were turned semis. It was pretty devastating and unfortunately, that happened on a Monday. We had an event scheduled for that Saturday, an outdoor event but the venue sustained a whole bunch of damage. They didn’t have power, they didn’t have internet. We weren’t able to have our event and we had to postpone that one too so we had all this other stuff going on with the pandemic then we had mother nature kind of giving us the middle finger too and it’s just been a crazy year for pro wrestling but we’re pivoting to some online content pretty soon, brand new content so people all over the world can enjoy some matches from the Black and Brave graduates. We’re working on some cinematic-style matches, much like WWE has been doing and Matt Hardy kind of made famous with his stuff. So we’re working on doing some of that stuff as well. I have a great team of editors and camera people and all different types of stuff that are willing to help out. So we’re trying what we can to stay alive and give that content to the fans, and that’s what you have to do in 2020. If you’re trying to survive, trying to make it through and hopefully we come out on the back end of this alright. You gotta be willing to be a problem-solver. Like I said, pivot to different avenues of content creation and that’s what we’re trying to do so, we’ll see where it goes.”
In 2017, Marek Brave formally announced his retirement from pro wrestling via a detailed statement on social media. Marek’s injuries tallied up over the years and the injury that forced him to step away was neck-related. He detailed the surgical process and said there were complications during the surgery, specifically when the surgeons tried to insert a screw in the middle of his vertebrae. Due to complications, Marek has had to go without that middle screw and even when he works out now, there are still those flashes of pain in his neck when the workout gets intense.
I asked Marek if he would ever consider returning to the ring, having seen the advancements in technology and medicine over the years and while he did compete in 2019 in a match that did not require him to take any bumps, Marek is not interested in getting back in the ring if that means he can not give those in attendance the performance that they paid for.
“On the 14th of September last year, I was in a six-man tag team match. If you go back and watch it, you’ll realize I didn’t take any bumps or anything like that. I was kind of the one dishing out most of the punishment so I did it in a safe manner. So I was able to kind of get that one last hurrah as a babyface where the crowd gave me a standing ovation. We were in a really large venue with a whole lot of people there… but it was an awesome opportunity to — and again, that was a moment where I was like, ‘This may never happen again’ so I took a step back once again, I soaked it all in and realized how special of a moment it was and I do miss performing all the time. All my life I’ve been a performer. Even before getting into professional wrestling, I was in theater growing up in middle school and high school. I played sports, high school football and that’s really big in our area so in a way that was performing as well. Since being involved in professional wrestling, I’ve done television, I’ve done movies. I’ve been a part of WWE productions on RAW and SmackDown and a WrestleMania which was super cool. So like my whole life I’ve been a performer so now, I’m not so much of a performer. Now, I’m behind the scenes and I’m giving other people ideas and I’m writing promos for somebody else if they need help with that, and I’m coming up with storylines and ideas for feuds and matches that have nothing to do with me other than the fact that I promote them. But yeah, there’s definitely a part of me that misses performing, but unfortunately it’s just too dangerous for me at this moment.
When I had my fusion, it was a C5 through C7, so that covers two vertebrae. They put a screw in the top, they put a screw in the bottom and then when they went to put a screw in the middle to make it a nice strong plate on my spine, I was hooked up to all these neural sensors and whatnot, since I was passed out and I wouldn’t be able to tell them what hurt and what didn’t. But every time they would go to put the third screw in, it would separate my vertebrae just a little too much and it actually caused my entire body to seize on the operating table so after trying that a handful of times, they just realized it wasn’t possible so they had to leave that third screw out. So I have a top screw and a bottom screw but I don’t have a middle screw, which means all the pressure from the strong part at the top and the strong part at the bottom goes to the middle where there is no screw. It was dispersed to the middle so that actually makes it quite weak in the middle so I wouldn’t really be cleared to bump again. I wouldn’t be cleared. I’m not even — I’m cleared to lift again, but with restrictions to where if I ever feel like a little bit of pain in the neck or discomfort in the neck, I’m supposed to stop immediately and unfortunately, every time I go to lift, I do get the pain in my neck and I have to stop what I’m doing so, I can’t really stay in the physical shape I need to be to be a performer at the level I would expect from myself, and I wouldn’t be able to go in the ring and do these epic, 30 minute, one-on-one, main event-style matches and these big blow off feuds that I’m so used to doing and that people would expect of me. So, at this point, it doesn’t feel like it’s something that I’ll be able to come back to in my future. I’m not gonna sit here and say I never will. I’m not gonna sit here and say I’m retired for the rest of my life because there’s always an opportunity, within the right storyline. As long as it’s safe and we can kind of structure it safely, there’s always an opportunity for something like that but as of right now, I would say it’s pretty unlikely.”
Marek Brave and Seth Rollins are currently training students out their school along with Matt Mayday and everything involving the Black and Brave Wrestling Academy can be found on their Twitter and Instagram pages.