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Shelton Benjamin Talks About Tribute to the Troops 2006

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Shelton Benjamin Talks About Tribute to the Troops 2006

Shelton Benjamin

© 2006 World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
On Christmas night the WWE will be telecasting their fourth annual Tribute to the Troops Show. The 2006 edition was recorded in Iraq. A few days prior to the telecast, I interviewed Edge and Shelton Benjamin about the show and other issues that you requested in response to my newsletter request for questions. This was Shelton's third experience with the special. He has wrestled in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

Eric: Was participation in the Tribute to the Troops show voluntary?

Shelton: It is totally voluntary. The WWE has a list and they ask whoever they want to come. It’s on you whether or not you want to go. It’s completely voluntary.

Eric: When you guys are out there, what type of accommodations do you stay at?

Shelton: The accommodations start at the end our last television taping stateside. We immediately go and load onto a cargo plane. We are in the cargo bay. There are no first class seats. Literally as the flight goes on we end up sleeping on the cargo. Once we got there, obviously it was not the Ritz. I thought they were good accommodations we stayed in. It was a palace that was turned into a hotel. It obviously doesn’t have all the luxuries but it had a real bed. It was a twin bunk bed and everything was heated and air conditioned. It was 100 times better than the first trip. I went there the first year [2003] when everything going in Iraq was still kind of fresh and the accommodations were army cots and sleeping bags. This year we still got sleeping bags but everything was top of the line for what the army could provide. There was nothing to complain about. Everyone slept in a big room. They had 3 or 4 big rooms that had eight beds in a room. It was fun, it was like a slumber party.

Eric: Last year you were in Afghanistan. Did you notice any difference in the troops in the two places?

Shelton: Honestly, I really didn’t see a difference between the troops. At least to me, it seemed that the Iraqi troops were a little bit more relaxed than the Afghani troops. That’s just my opinion, I’m not saying that is how it was but that was how I perceived it. In both cases, when they met us they were happy to see us. It was like these people really appreciated that we came out to see them. At the WWE, we pride ourselves on the fact that we will go where the typical athlete or superstar wouldn’t be caught dead in. When we went to Afghanistan, we went straight to the front lines to see the soldiers. In one camp we stayed in, the soldiers were constantly firing cannons into the mountains because insurgents were out taking pop shots into the camp. That was one of the camps we stayed in. The soldiers were pretty awesome. On every trip I have been on, they have been nothing but happy to see us. It is heart warming how they make you feel welcome.

Eric: Moving off of the Tribute to the Troops, the biggest question I always get from people is how do I become a wrestler. I know that you have an amateur wrestling background and I was wondering what you would recommend kids of high school age do if they want to become a WWE star?

Shelton: My first and foremost recommendation is to have a very good back-up plan. If you think about it, there are less WWE wrestlers than there are NFL players or NBA players. It really is a shot in the dark. We have guys that come from all different avenues. I’ll be the first to say it and I’ll admit it every time, I won a lottery ticket. I was a college wrestler, they saw me, they liked me and they offered me a contract. You have people that are in the independent circuit for ten-plus years and they don’t even get so much as a tryout. I got lucky. I would say with the wrestling business that it is big muscles and work out but look at Mick Foley. He doesn’t have a body and he doesn’t have looks. Look at Dusty Rhodes, he doesn’t have a body but they both had something. It is not my place to say who can make it or how to make it because people who I would never have expected to make it in the wrestling business or any kind of physical sport have made great strides in professional wrestling. For kids my suggestions are: 1 – If you are going to learn it, learn it from someone who is good at it, not from a local yahoo who went to a couple of classes and decided to get a promoters license opened his own school and is just going to rob you. The other thing is to have a back-up plan. Get an education first. You’re going to need something to fall back on. Even if you do make it, one wrong move (makes snapping sound) and you’ve got to hang it up. So always have a back-up plan.

Eric: My final question for you is with college wrestling programs closing every year what do you think can be done to save college wrestling or do you think it is in too much trouble?

Shelton: Honestly, I think that college wrestling is in a lot of trouble because unless you have a family member in the sport you probably wouldn’t even think about it. Every year more programs are being dropped. As a whole, the sport is going to have to come up with some type of marketing strategy, not just for college, but for wrestling as a whole to try and bring it into the average American’s home. The average person watching an amateur wrestling match probably doesn’t know what is going on. They just see two guys in spandex rolling around. It is probably not entertaining because they don’t recognize the little stuff that is going on. Then there are other things like UFC going on where they are throwing punches and all that stuff. People are like am I going to watch college wrestling or would I rather watch the guys trying to kill each other. I would probably watch the guys trying to kill each other. I think that college and amateur wrestling really need to put some marketing strategy in place.

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