Drew Gulak on his hardcore introduction to wrestling, getting technical in the ring and the Cruiserweight Classic
Cruiserweight Classic entrant Drew Gulak has built himself up over the past decade as one of the premier technical wrestlers on the independent scene. That reputation is in stark contrast to his upbringing in the ring at Combat Zone Wrestling, an infamous hardcore promotion that featured madmen like Dean Ambrose in wildly brutal matches.
So how did the Philadelphia native go from idolizing hardcore warriors to a technical wrestling maven? WWE.com caught up with Gulak ahead of the CWC to find out.
WWE.COM: How did you first decide you wanted to become a wrestler?
GULAK: I think, like many people, I grew up watching it. I always wanted to do it, but never thought it was possible. I wasn’t pushed to do it by my parents. They pushed me to go to school, get a real job, be a doctor or something like that. But I always thought wrestling was awesome and looked like so much fun. It wasn’t until I met a teacher when I was 14, who started taking me to Combat Zone Wrestling shows and I got to [watch] up close, that I knew I could do it. I stuck with that promotion and started training at their school with my brother.
WWE.COM: CZW has a reputation as a brutal, deathmatch kind of place. Were you intimidated?
GULAK: Well, CZW was the first independent that I went to. The first show I saw was “Best of the Best,” which was a cruiserweight tournament showcasing the best high-flyers and all that. But what stood out to me the most were guys falling through tables, like 10 feet in front of me. I was like, “Oh my gosh, this is crazy!” I could run up and take a piece of the table home, and bring it to school. As a kid, that’s superhuman.
WWE.COM: Who were you training with at CZW’s school? Zandig?
GULAK: Zandig was one of my first trainers. On day one, he had us doing piledrivers, I swear. He wasn’t the only one, though. Jon Dahmer was one of the trainers. It was mostly him for the first six months, and then the school merged with the CHIKARA Wrestle Factory, and I started training with Mike Quackenbush, Chris Hero and Skayde.
WWE.COM: How did you separate yourself from the hardcore crowd?
GULAK: I think it was my training. My trainers would say, “Listen, don’t get into the hardcore stuff. Once you start down that path, it’s a hard one to come back from.” It’s a high-risk environment. Plus, my trainers were very gifted technical wrestlers, so that was the majority of what I was learning. And, I wrestled in high school, too. I actually debuted at my high school when I was 17. I was still on the wrestling team, so I wore my singlet.
WWE.COM: How did you become interested in technical wrestling?
GULAK: One time I came to training and Chris Hero was sitting on the bleachers by himself, watching DVDs of World of Sport, British wrestling from the ’60s and ’70s. Steve Grey was the very first guy I watched – him and Johnny Saint, “Rollerball” Marc Rocco. Once I started delving into that style, it connected with me. It was so different from what I was used to. It looked so intense and there were so many different rules, 2-out-of-3 falls, with pins, submissions and knockouts, which added to the drama of it. I wanted to learn how to exploit those kinds of things and make more things happen in the ring.
WWE.COM: You’ve described your style in the ring as “Catch Point.” What is that and how did it come to be?
GULAK: Myself and Chris Girard – who’s down in NXT – and Timothy Thatcher just ran into each other on the road. I realized that they had the same ideas that I did about wrestling. And we clicked in the ring as opponents. We brought the best out of each other. Catch Point, what it turned into, is that when we fight each other, we bring out the best in each other. That’s what Catch Point’s all about.
WWE.COM: When you first heard about the Cruiserweight Classic, what did you think?
GULAK: When WWE Network started and guys from the indies started getting hired, all these little changes started happening. I figured they would have to add content, so maybe there would be [something like CWC], rather than catch-weight bouts with all different styles. That happens in judo, boxing … there are weight classes. Why can’t wrestling have that? It’s about time. It’s historic. Especially for me. I grew up watching tournaments like this. It’s surreal to be a part of this.
WWE.COM: Is there anyone you’re looking forward to competing against?
GULAK: I’ve wrestled quite a few [of the participants], but I haven’t wrestled Noam Dar or Ho Ho Lun or Jack Gallagher. I’d love to get in there and wrestle them. I don’t have a favorite opponent; I never do. I’m just happy to be out there wrestling. The only person that I really look forward to wrestling is my little brother. I like beating him up like I did when we were little. Other than that, I’m lucky and excited to be a part of this.
WWE.COM: What are you hoping to get out of the Cruiserweight Classic?
GULAK: Now that [independent wrestling] is being brought out to WWE’s audience, I think people are going to be surprised. That’s what I look forward to doing: Showing [everyone] how different wrestling can be. And how different their expectations of me are from what I do in the ring. I’m going to do whatever it takes to win.