It is a cloudless, bright Saturday morning in Pismo Beach and psychology sophomore Matt Reed is headed right to his car.
However, the Pismo Beach native is not going to the beach. Instead of going to the coast and soaking up the sun, Reed is driving two and a half hours to Fresno for his job.
For Reed, that side hustle is being a professional wrestling referee.
“[Movies and TV shows] can have CGI, they can do whatever they need to do to make it happen on screen,” Reed said. “With professional wrestling, you have superheroes and supervillains actually fighting in front of you 10 feet away. It’s literally a live action comic book playing out in front of you.”
“It’s literally a live action comic book playing out in front of you”
Originally working as a “stagehand” for other wrestling companies years ago, Reed said he eventually decided to train in order to become a referee.
As a wrestling referee, Reed said he has “the best seat in the house” watching matches in the year-and-a-half he has operated in that position. Having the best seat, however, requires a keen eye to make sure all the events in the ring go smoothly, ensuring timing and events within a match take place. While reluctant to break kayfabe — the term used for maintaining the suspension of disbelief in the staged world of pro wrestling — Reed explained why his role in the zebra-striped shirt matters in the grander scheme of things.
“We’re just there to make sure everything goes correctly,” Reed said on his role as a referee. “What the referee does is, he’s the communication between what the [wrestling] promoter wants and what the wrestlers are doing.”
While Reed’s role in “the business” has only recently begun, he said his passion for the pro wrestling world has existed for much longer.
Reed said his love for wrestling began in sixth grade when he saw the tail-end of a match between American professional wrestlers Rey Mysterio and the Undertaker. After getting hooked, Reed began researching wrestlers and watched as often as he could.
Diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome as a young child, Reed turned to wrestling as a kid in search of his outlet, according to his father Kent.
“[Pro wrestling] was something he was good at,” Kent said about his son’s love for pro wrestling. “He’ll tell you who wrestled in 1969. That’s what he caught on to. I call it his gift to assist his Asperger’s.”
“I call it his gift to assist his Asperger’s”
“I want to show that no matter what your circumstance is, you can achieve anything if you work hard enough,” Reed said. For him, this meant getting involved in pro wrestling.
This came after lifelong friend Jamie Christianson trained to be a wrestler himself at Vendetta Pro Wrestling in Santa Maria. Christianson, having known Reed since his infancy, was delighted to see him blossom while practicing wrestling.
“He started out as this super shy kid that reminded me of me, cause I’m a giant nerd,” Christianson said. “Watching him go from that to where he is now is super cool. It’s amazing.”
Kent now serves as an executive producer for Best of the West (BOTW) Wrestling and said his son “is definitely the motivating factor” in getting involved in the business of professional wrestling.
“The time with him is priceless — it’s irreplaceable,” Kent said. “It’s definitely built a strong bond with us. It’s something we can look forward to [and] do together. And because we’ve grown together, we definitely trust [each other] more backstage. I can count on him to get something done.”
While Reed said he is currently enjoying his time as a referee, his eventual goal is to become a wrestler himself.
Despite scheduling conflicts not giving him ample time to train, Reed said he is constantly brainstorming ideas — sometimes during class, he admitted. From coming up with personas for himself to jotting down potential moves he can use in the ring, Reed said he eventually hopes to put his notebook to good use as a wrestler.
“The good old Cal Poly schedule keeps preventing me from going to [wrestling] training,” Reed said. “But I’m trying to figure out a way where I can pull it off.”