INTERVIEW: PB Smooth reflects on For The Culture, talks rise of Black talents, Gargano/LeRae

PB Smooth chatted with Andrew Thompson about the rise of Black talents in wrestling, being trained by Johnny Gargano & Candice LeRae and more

Photo Courtesy: SP Media Graphics

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HWP05K5uXtc[/embedyt]

 

For the past several years, the New York native PB Smooth has been finding himself in the ring on the independent scene. Coming out of the AIW (Absolute Intense Wrestling) academy in Ohio to becoming a regular for the promotion and being spotlighted at the last two GCW For The Culture shows, Smooth is set on establishing his name as one of the rising talents on the independents.

Like many in wrestling, the COVID-19 pandemic put a hold on PB Smooth’s return to the ring. At the start of the pandemic, he missed out on WrestleMania 36 weekend and did not return to the ring until September of 2020. He was a part of this year’s week of shows during WrestleMania week and while speaking to PB Smooth, he detailed the vibe and atmosphere that he got from being around his colleagues for the week/weekend of events.

Oh it was amazing and the venue was big enough that distancing wasn’t a problem for anybody so they were allowed to get a lot more people than normal in there in a situation like this which was cool. I got to work with Jon Davis who’s a legend in his own right. I got to learn a lot from him, we got to bang, that was fun. I had fun with Faye Jackson’s show… me and Lord Crewe had a good one at Unsanctioned Pro. Unfortunately, a lot of guys got injured doing a lot of strings of shows and whatnot but overall, it was like a good vibe. People were there to enjoy themselves. I can remember times when I would play basketball, like we’d lose in our NCAA tournament, whatever and I’d be at the bar drinking, watching guys on TV like the Final Four and whatnot and I would get upset. I wanna be that guy. I wanna be the one that people are enjoying themselves watching and it’s kind of cool because of Mania weekend with us being wrestlers and people coming to see us, it’s that vibe, that feeling that I always wanted so, it was a great time, and Tampa’s a beautiful place, you know? I rented a little Mercedes. So I had some fun.

Over the past year, an abundance of Black talents in professional wrestling have risen to the forefront. The likes of Trish Adora, AJ Gray, Lee Moriarty and many others have taken center stage.

PB Smooth gave his take on why it has taken a long period of time for Black wrestlers to get spotlighted the way they are now. He feels it is because Black talents are no longer being brought in to fit a certain quota and there are multiple individuals out there who have layers to their respective on-screen characters and personalities.

So the thing is a lot of Black wrestlers in my opinion, based on what I’ve seen, we weren’t getting booked places because there was — I don’t wanna use the word ‘quota’ but there was like — wrestling’s almost like a casting role. You have to fit a certain — someone they want to show, right? And for so long it seemed like the only role for a Black wrestler is to be the angry Black man. Especially for me being a 6’9 big dude, you know what I’m saying? So what For The Culture did was it showed everybody that there were different personas. We do different things. Like we all don’t have to fit one specific mold, and that’s why I love guys like Suge [D] and [Isaiah] Swerve and Rich Swann because they would do things differently. They didn’t come out on some hood sh*t, you know what I’m saying? Like some may listen to R&B music and they’ll be vibing doing what they do, and when you watch For The Culture, you see different characters on there. You see personas. You see that we’re all individuals even though we’re African-American and I feel like in the beginning, independent wrestling did a very poor job of recognizing that we’re all different. So, that definitely put a spotlight in that aspect and this last one specifically was great for me because I’ve never seen that many Black fans at a wrestling show. Especially growing up where after I turned 16, all my friends thought, ‘Oh wrestling’s corny, it’s fake’ and they only care about basketball, Love & Hip Hop or some sh*t. It was cool being in an environment where I’m seeing people who look like me who are enjoying the same thing I am so it was really great for me in that aspect.

While conversing about the growth of the independent scene, PB Smooth agreed with the idea that a weekly program for independent wrestlers where they can have storylines and character development would be a solid product.

I mean that’d be cool. I feel like… IWA Mid-South would do something like that, because I know they used to run weekly and I believe OVW runs weekly. I’m not completely sure. There’s a few but overall, that is something that could shift the balance I think and especially for guys that are starting out and need more access to TV time and stuff like that. I think that would be beneficial. I don’t see anything wrong with that. It might be hard to draw money in terms of at the gate sometimes, but I think it’d be cool.

NXT North American Champion Johnny Gargano and one-half of the NXT Women’s Tag Team Champions Candice LeRae trained PB Smooth. Gargano and LeRae were once the head trainers at the AIW academy and while being under their learning tree, Smooth grew to like the dynamic between LeRae and Gargano.

He stated that Gargano is one of the nicest people and is very understanding and so is LeRae, but if Candice feels something is being done wrong, she will not hesitate to let you know about it.

Candice [LeRae] doesn’t play. It’s so funny because if Johnny [Gargano] watches a match, he’ll be like, ‘Good, good. I would’ve done this, this and this’ and I’m like, ‘Damn, alright, I could’ve worked on that’ because coming from like a college sports background, I’m used to coaches being in my face or whatever so I can take constructive criticism. It doesn’t bother me. But Johnny’s just such a nice dude that he’ll tell you, but he’ll never be up on you about it.

And Candice will cheer you on too but if something’s sh*t, she’ll tell you that too. But I’m okay with that. It’s the perfect balance, you know?

Standing at 6’9 and having a college basketball background, PB Smooth stands out visually in the ring. While there are an abundance of TV programs out there that he would like to be a part of, he would rather those places actually want him there opposed to consistently throwing himself at said companies.

It’s tough because when I first came in the game, whole eyes was just set strictly on WWE. But as the growth of professional wrestling progresses and whatnot, I’m learning about these new TV companies. I didn’t know about Ring of Honor, I didn’t know about IMPACT and whatnot and that’s because I was a casual wrestling fan. I wasn’t like a core independent guy before I started. So it’s more of a situation where I wanna wrestle full-time for a TV company, but my goal is to make them want me so then I have a choice as opposed to, ‘I specifically wanna go to this place,’ you know what I’m saying? Because I feel I’m not putting myself in a box that I’ll be like crushed if this doesn’t happen. My main goal right now is just to focus on getting better, being in the moment and building my brand organically so when that time comes, I’ll be able to make a good decision in terms of what choice I wanna make with PB Smooth going forward.

PB Smooth wrapped up a stretch of matches for AIW in late April. To keep up with all things regarding his in-ring career, he has an official website which has links to his YouTube channel and merchandise. He can be found on Twitter @PrettyBoySm00th and on Instagram @pb_smooth.

The full interview can be heard on the Andrew Thompson Interviews YouTube channel or via the player at the top of this article.

About Andrew Thompson 1719 Articles
A Maryland native and graduate of Norfolk State University, Andrew Thompson has been covering wrestling since 2017.