We had the opportunity to interview Jarek and being fans of his work over the independent circuit, we knew we had to secure an interview with him after he participated in a recent WWE tryout, even going so far as to make it to the official WWE YouTube channel on a video where he was showcasing his magic skills.
Here is the interview:
Hey Jarek, we are glad to have you with us today. How old were you when you first started watching wrestling? What were a couple of your favorite memories or moments?
I was 8 years old when I was playing soccer in my neighbor’s backyard on a chilly Michigan day. Our other friend was wearing a bright orange ski mask, when my buddy, Corey said, “Oh you look like Rey Mysterio!” I asked who that was, they told me about wrestling – and that night Nitro and RAW were on, I turned on WCW and the first pro wrestling thing I ever saw, as an 8-year-old kid, was Diamond Dallas Page powerbombing Booker T off the stage through a table. I flipped over to Monday Night Raw, and the main event was The Rock vs. Triple H in a steel cage match for the WWF Championship. I “wasn’t allowed” to watch wrestling because of DX, but I would watch it anyway and tape RAW from the VCR every Monday, in case my parents came in to say goodnight, I could change the channel and not miss anything – OR keep the VHS tape in case anything insane happened and I wanted to show my friends – like when The Big Show chokeslammed The Undertaker through the ring.
When did you decide professional wrestling was for you? What motivated you to take the big leap?
I would wrestle pillows and stuffed wrestling dolls in my basement on futon mattresses for a few years, emulating every move from the Create a Wrestler move-set in the video games, moved on to wrestling my friends in the basement with chairs in the corners. I would film everything with my parents’ camcorder and eventually started wrestling a different group of friends on my sister’s trampoline in the backyard – eventually we got two trampolines in the backyard side-by-side. I was still filming us and I learned how to be a decent video editor by editing music videos of our backyard wrestling. It wasn’t until I was about 13 or 15 that I told myself and others it was what I wanted to do when I got older. Deciding I wanted to be a pro wrestler was not a big leap for me as far as decision-making goes. It was the biggest part of my life since I was 8 years old so it never seemed anything out of the ordinary to want to actively pursue it, it was normal.
Who inspires you and why?
The older I get, I have to keep myself inspired, by myself, I guess. The people that you look up to when you’re a kid are role models, and as you get older everyone either becomes your peer or younger than you (as far as celebrity role models). When I was a kid, I got heavy into self-help and learning how to interact with people. I drew majority of my inspiration from David DeAngelo, Neil Strauss, Sean Stephenson, Dale Carnegie, Napoleon Hill – and in the wrestling world, Stone Cold Steve Austin, Shawn Michaels, The Rock, Chris Jericho – that whole Attitude and Ruthless Aggression Era. I was always inspired by the people that can capture and hold the attention of others, and I went out of my way to learn how to get good at communicating with people.
How would you describe your wrestling style, for those unfamiliar with your fantastic work?
Trevin Adams, of Evolve Wrestling, will say on commentary that my style is: Hybrid Escapology. I’m a legitimate illusionist, hypnotist, and escape artist. I do things in the ring that can look magical. I have the flagpole elbow drop, which looks like I’m levitating. My Sleeping Beauty Punch, some call it a Hypnotic Knockout, looks like I knock my opponent into a hypnotic trance and lay them to sleep – when really, I don’t want them falling to the canvas and getting knocked back into consciousness. You may often see coins come out from my opponents’ ears or folded up cards coming out of their mouths. Sometimes I’ll hit ’em with the Magic Chokeslam, where I don’t even touch them – often getting confused as a Star Wars Force Chokeslam…. but no, it’s the Magic Chokeslam. Hybrid Escapology because I can adapt to most people’s style – it’s a part of being able to communicate, learn, and understand people very quickly. So, whether I fight fire with fire, or with water, I can keep up with their game and be two steps ahead because of it, or I can have a healthy contrast and the yin and yang can make something really interesting to watch.
What was one of the most challenging or wildest in-ring experiences you’ve had?
I once wrestled Chris Dickinson. Another time, I took a Vertebreaker – and my opponent went to his back instead of his butt, I went to speak for help, but only hot air came out of my mouth. I wasn’t able to speak for a hot second there.
You had a tryout with WWE. While you may not be able to speak on everything, can you give our readers an idea of what you were expected to do and what the experience was like?
The experience was great, I was very much mentally and physically prepared. It’s no secret what they put the attendees through, the coaches even tell us that on the last day: anyone of us could use the internet to find out the drills verbatim. They want everyone that is there to be in the best shape they can possibly be. My trainer is Brian Kendrick, and Brian has put me through plenty of mentally and physically demanding and challenging days. For the readers, we started with every attendee standing in front of the coaches, staff, a camera, and other attendees to give a 60-second promo – I tied a magic trick into my promo. There are a lot of Hindu squats, a lot of push-ups, crunches, set-go’s, burpees, Brookside shuffles, rolling, hitting the ropes. How strong are your lungs? Can you finish the way you started? Can you do it all with a smile?
How was the tryout compared to your training and work on the indie scene?
Again, Brian Kendrick is my trainer. WWE wanted Brian to come be a full-time coach down at the Performance Center, Brian wanted to keep wrestling and loves living in Venice, California, with his wife. Brian trains his students nearly verbatim the way WWE wants things, I would say. I believe WWE changes up each tryout a little bit, to some capacity – see what works best, experiment on a different order and perhaps modify certain drills slightly. WWE had the attendees using between 3 and 6 rings at once, 4 people per ring, more often than not – and about 40 attendees. There have been days training under Brian where there are only 3 students, and for 3 hours straight he would push our lungs and minds into an autopilot-zombie mode. “If you end up getting a tryout, are you going to quit? We’re about to find out.” I sent Brian a long Thank You text, after the first day for preparing us as well as he has and does.
You were on WWE’s official YouTube channel performing one of your signature magic tricks. Can you explain how that came about? We imagine that was a surreal experience for you!
The coaches and staff knew, going in, that there was a skilled magician coming in for the tryout. My buddy, Ryan Katz, is a producer at NXT and he was behind the camera both for that magic trick, as well as filming a lot of almost behind-the-scenes, perhaps B-Roll footage from the tryout. Ryan loves magic as much as he loves wrestling, maybe more. It was Ryan who set up the whole thing, “Tomorrow we should film you doing some magic to the attendees!” We filmed that to, and for, the attendees – and the next day during the tryout, Coach Brookside said that he wanted to see the trick I showed Katz… so the word was getting around to the coaches. The coolest/most surreal thing about the whole experience is just seeing, “Jarek 1:20,” anywhere on WWE.com. That was a name I came up with when I was 11 years old and kept it throughout the backyard trampoline days, so to see an 11-year-old’s wrestling name make it anywhere with the WWE logo on it is an awesome piece of the puzzle.
Check the video out:
What got you interested in magic and illusions?
The concept that it made me feel dumb. The concept of me thinking that the person showing me the trick was really smart. I wanted that feeling, the feeling of, “I know something that you don’t.” In a way, it is the exact same thing as pro wrestling – I’ll just leave it at that, I’m certain you can come up with all the parallel ways that pro wrestling and magic have duplicate layers to them.
You are friends with 205 Live Superstar Drew Gulak. Can you tell us any interesting stories you two have shared?
Drew Gulak was the first to conceptualize me pulling a coin out from someone’s ear, during a match. The best thing about Drew is that he’ll try to bring out the best in people, in and out of the ring, which is the greatest gift you can give to anyone. I was backstage at SmackDown, a few weeks ago, when they were in Los Angeles. Drew says to me, “Go show magic to Shelton Benjamin, right now.” So I did, which lead to showing magic to a handful of other people there. Drew will introduce me to people. Incredible human being, straight shooter though, he will always ask you, “Why?” and then play Devil’s Advocate to make you think about why you are or aren’t doing something.
Which Superstars in WWE do you want to lock up with?
It would be incredible to do something against, or alongside with, Brian Kendrick – I have footage from training days, for whatever it’s worth. If I tie up my hair right, it looks much like Brian’s. We each have unique and different things that no one else really does – the way he implements the turnbuckles and uses the ring as a weapon. There’s surely something very real and legitimate that, at least I, could sink my teeth into. Another answer to the question is: everyone. Because they can all teach me something.
We would like to thank Jarek for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer some questions for us.
Have you ever seen Jarek compete before? Are you interested in his character?
Let us know in the comments below or over on our Facebook page or Twitter account. Additionally, you can find me on Twitter at @SOSNH1995. We also want to remind you that we have a Newsletter you can sign up to. This will allow us to send you the best news in one place via an email. We also have the Wrestling Rumors app that we encourage you all to download to get updates faster than they release on our various pages. It is available for Android and iOS devices. UPDATE COMING SOON!