Being at this year’s Spectacular as “The Machine” got me thinking about where I was just a year ago. At last year’s event I was geeked out just to get an invite. I showed up with homemade Rice Krispie treats and beer and marveled at the fact that I was actually there amongst people I was a fan of, so I thought it would be fun to reflect back on how I got here.
I remember the moment I became a legit Schmoedown fan. I watched Screenjunkies regularly so when I heard Dan Murrell would be competing I had to check it out. I was a huge fan of movie trivia and the rivalry that built up between Murrell and John Campea was so entertaining! After that match I continued watching, discovering and falling in love with competitors like Brianne Chandler and teams like the Missfits and Team Action.
I started making silly fan art for the Schmoedown. When one day Kristian messaged me asking to use some of my designs in their teeshop, I lost it. I started to play along and do reaction videos. As my allegiances lied with heel teams, I was prone to talking smack in my reactions and online with the likes of competitors like John Rocha and Mike Kalinowski, which has lovingly continued to this day (sunglasses and bread emojis).
I finally got to meet everyone at a Schmoedown panel at LA comic con. Folks like Jay Washington, Andrew Ghai and Brianne already knew who I was as they were very cool about interacting with fans on social media. But when it came to Rocha or Harloff I just smiled and said thanks and was far too shy to say “hey, I’m the one who did those designs you liked.” When I ultimately posted the pics I took, and talked about my art, Rocha and Kristian sweetly scolded me on why I didn’t say who I was.
Kristian posted in the Facebook group that he’d be inviting reactors to come watch the Schmoedown Spectacular 2 in studio! I didn’t really consider myself a real reactor, just someone who played along and recorded it on their phone, so I replied with a sad face. Seconds later I got a message from Kristian inviting me and a friend to come!! I screamed out loud and with my first LA friend Raul Rodriquez by my side, I was headed to The Spectacular!
I remember walking in with my self-designed Team Action tank top on and my treats and just stood back watching the buzz of the room. Raul and I were in the corner geeking out about seeing our favorite competitors. Roxy Striar complimented my Rice Krispies, Emma interviewed me for the pre show and I couldn’t stop grinning like a moron. We found a spot inside the studio next to Late to the Party and the Franco’s who were so nice to talk to and got exactly what I was feeling.
As the first match began, Raul and I whipped out our dry erase boards and were ready to play along live! I remember getting some looks for that. Not sure if they were “you’re so cool” looks or “man you’re lame” looks, but for positivity’s sake I’ll go with the former. In between matches I got to chat with competitors. Mark Reilly was wearing my Kal design and seemed so happy to meet me, what was happening??
It was so exciting to see firsthand what went into creating the show. Everyone was so kind and fun. I was honored to have the experience. About a month later I was asked about competing and then I died, the funeral was beautiful. Soon after my year of Schmoedowning began. I’d be a heel managed by Jay Washington! The day before my first match I’d just seen Black Panther so I was already feeling overwhelmed with emotion and seeing so many strong black female characters had me wanting to express that as I went forward. I could only come up that one day just to drive back home that night. My brothers came with me for moral support. I decided against all the frills of a big entrance as I was already nervous enough without having to manage a whole elaborate look.
I wore a black panther shirt I’d made and a leather jacket I bought just days before because my bulldog Dixon ate the sleeve of the one I’d planned on wearing. The whole day I was incredibly nervous. Fun fact, “Run the Jewels” was NOT the song I wanted to walk out to. I said “Legend Has It” by Run the Jewels from the first Black Panther trailer. But alas It got lost in translation. Not gonna lie the change flustered and deflated me slightly but once I got out to the table the nerves just vanished, which never happens. After that first match, I was hooked and the “Rise of the Machine” was the mission.
While I didn’t have a year like some of my rookie counterparts, I feel like I’ve definitely made an impression. It’s still so surreal to think just last year I was shy and nerding out at a spectacular, to now being a persona and being asked to stand with champs at this year’s event. I’ve had some amazing experiences, overcome things I never thought I would or could, made awesome friends and continue to grow as a competitor. Starting the new year with a live event, I can only imagine what’s in store for the Machine. Thank you to Harloff and Ellis, all the fans, competitors and crew for making this a year and Schmoedown season to remember.