Ring of Honor is Cheeseburger in Paradise.
Literally and figuratively.
Cheeseburger, the wrestler, is a big hit with the Ring of Honor fans, and the inspiring grappler continues to deliver, making the most of his opportunities.
The opportunities stem from that connection with those fans. They are emotionally invested in the 5-8, 130-pound underdog.
He’s no ham-n-egger. He’s ‘Grade A’ Cheeseburger.
Professional wrestling is an acumen where fans are the measuring stick. A wrestler can be very talented in the ring, but if fans do not react (boo, chant, cheer), then he or she will not be successful.
The job of every pro wrestler is to produce a quality match, tell a good story in the squared circle (or five-sided configuration), but no matter how good the match, if he or she can not elicit crowd response, it will be very difficult to achieve success, let alone attain and maintain a spot on a high level.
Hulk Hogan, not the greatest wrestler but one of the best at using his charisma to capture the audience’s attention. Steve Williams, a good wrestler, but it took the creation of Stone Cold Steve Austin 3:16 to win fans at a premier level. Rocky Maivia. Not so good. The Rock. Oh so good.
You never know what gimmick will stick with fans. Mankind’s Sock-O. Santino’s Cobra. Hacksaw’s 2x4. The crowd also loves chanting in unison. So a catchy catchphrase even better: “Yes” “What?” “Do You Smell...” “Get The Tables.”
For Cheeseburger, it’s “Cheeseburger.”
“When I first started training at the Ring of Honor dojo and because I was small, [wrestler] Rhett Titus -- when he first saw me -- his first reaction to me was, ‘Oh that kid’s so small, he needs to eat some cheeseburgers,’ and that became my nickname. People backstage at Ring of Honor knew me by that name.
“Eventually I had a [ROH] TV segment with Charlie Haas in January 2013, and during the middle of the promo, he called me Cheeseburger, and the crowd started chanting it. So when I got to the back, people were saying to run with it, and it became like a cult phenomenon.”
Fans birthed Cheeseburger, and they took to him like proud parents.
“I actually hated it at first,” he admitted, “but now I love it because it got me so many opportunities. It’s kind of an unexpected Blessing in a way. It’s stuff you never expect. We have a guy in my crew who got the nickname The Outlaw, which started as a joke between friends, and now it’s his gimmick, and he’s running with it, and it’s gotten him a lot of opportunities. You never know what gimmick is gonna work, and what opportunities can arise from things that start so small.”
Cheeseburger is small in stature, but he has the heart of a lion in the ring.
And fans like that, embracing the character, the persona and the person.
He said: “Cheeseburger is an underdog. He’s a guy who will sand up to any challenge. He doesn’t give up. He is the quintessential good guy.”
“It started very organically,” he said. “It was from a random comment from Charlie Haas. It wasn’t like he’s going to say the name Cheeseburger, and you’re going to do this gimmick, and we’ll gonna build up that. He just made the comment, and the crowd responded to it. So because of that, the crowd feels very much a part of the creation of Cheeseburger. They feel they have something invested in me because they helped create me.”
Parents Sam and Barbara actually created him. Cheeseburger grew up Brandel in Trenton, N.J. He attended Trenton Catholic Academy in Hamilton, N.J. He played some basketball in school but nothing serious. Prior, he took karate, but again it was not his passion.
“When I was 17, my junior year of high school, I thought about what I wanted to do for the rest of my life,” he said. “I had been a pro wrestling fan for so long, and I found out there were two wrestling schools near me. So I thought let me give it a try.”
He contacted the Ring of Honor Wrestling Academy in Bristol, Pa.
“They invited me to check out the school,” he recalled. “I met Delirious and Daizee Haze.”
Delirious and Haze are the two head trainers at the school.
He continued: “I signed up for the next class they had in October 2010, and the rest is pretty much history.”
Cheeseburger learned his craft mostly from Delirious and Haze, but he also attended seminars, taking something from each.
“Dr. Tom Prichard, Lance Storm, Les Thatcher, Mike Quackenbush,” he said. “I’ve gotten around a little bit, and I think I have a good grasp of various styles, besides what I learned at the [ROH] dojo. Anything I can learn I try to integrate into my style.”
Prichard said: “I do remember Cheeseburger. He had a very unique name, and I asked him how he got it. Had a great attitude and some talent. He struck me as one of those never quit, never say die kinda guys.”
As for the business side of his wrestling studies, Cheeseburger incorporated an open mind with his journey.
“You can’t set unrealistic goals for yourself,” he said. “If you get into wrestling and your first goal is to want to be world champion, then you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. What helped me was setting really small goals and trying to accomplish those -- like to have my first match and then have my first match on a Ring of Honor show and then have my first match on TV and then my first match on pay-per-view. For someone starting, those are goals that aren’t unrealistic. You can accomplish those in a reasonable time, and you won’t be setting yourself up for too much disappointment.”
He watched pro wrestling as a youth with his dad, Sam.
“My dad was a big fan of pro wrestling, and that kind of rubbed off on me as a kid,” he said.
Brandel became a big fan of Stone Cold Steve Austin, HBK Shawn Michaels and The Rock.
“As I got older, I started learning about Japanese wrestling,” he said. “I became a huge fan of the Japanese style of wrestling. I watched guys like [Jushin Thunder] Liger, Ultimo Dragon, Great Hase.”
When Ring of Honor presents Global Wars on Sunday, May 8 on pay-per-view, Cheeseburger will be making his ROH pay-per-view debut in a tag match, teaming with the legendary Liger.
“This is a dream come true for me,” he said, “Liger is an inspiration, an idol and a mentor to me. I’m really happy and really excited to tag with him on my Ring of Honor pay-per-view debut.”
Prior, Cheeseburger teamed with Liger in Japan.
“I wrestled in Japan with a bunch of Ring of Honor stars for the Tokyo Dome show on January 4 and New Japan Pro Wrestling’s New Year Dash Show at the Korakuen Hall on January 5.”
Putting it into perspective.
“That was a dream come true,” he added. “Going to Japan to wrestle was a main goal for me the last year, year and a half. Getting there and wrestling in the Tokyo Dome was like my own personal WrestleMania.”
At ROH’s Global Wars on May 8, Cheeseburger and Liger will face a very formidable, talented and respected tag team The Addiction (Christopher Daniels and Kazarian). Daniels realizes ROH fans are likely siding with Liger and especially Cheeseburger.
Daniels said via email: “I think the reason the fans have taken to Cheeseburger the way they have is because they can recognize heart when they see it, and nothing exemplifies heart like a 5-foot-8, 130-pound man willing to get into a wrestling ring against some of the biggest and best pro wrestling has to offer.
“Cheeseburger knows that he goes into almost every match he wrestles with an extreme physical disadvantage, and he still walks the aisle with insane enthusiasm. The fans see that, and the New Japan contingent, wrestlers and fans alike, see it as well. It’s one of the reasons why he’s become as popular as he has in Japan, and why someone like Jushin Liger has agreed to tag with Cheeseburger against us at Global Wars. Frankie and I realize that we’ll have to almost beat Cheeseburger into a coma to keep him down.
“We’ll see how far heart gets him.”
Cheeseburger said: “I’m extremely excited and a little bit nervous because it’s such a big stage, but I’m looking forward to wrestling them and learning from them and trying to improve. Daniels and Kaz are two of the best that we have in Ring of Honor.”
Ring of Honor’s Global Wars pay-per-view is 8 p.m. EST on Sunday, May 8 from the Frontier Fieldhouse in Chicago Ridge, Ill.
Joe Koff, Chief Operating Officer of Ring of Honor, said: “Cheeseburger is a phenomenon.
“Brandon Tartikoff, who used to be the head of NBC, who died at a very young age, made a comment about television hits. What’s a hit in television? He said, ‘All television hits are flukes.’ That goes for the movie industry. That goes for anything, because you never know. Things that are successful, and things that happen that really take off are really flukes. Because if you could pre-plan it, then everything would be successful.
“I’m not going to say Cheeseburger is a fluke, but Cheeseburger is that kind of a personality. The fans just love him, and the reason why they love him is because I believe they can sense his inner-soul. He is such a good person. His intentions are so pure, and his love for this business...He’s so authentic. How do you not like this guy? He comes in at 130, 140 pounds, but he’s got the heart of a lion, and he wrestles with the tenacity of a champion.
“That’s why he is what he is, and that’s what the people see in him. You can’t create that. That’s born...It’s him selling that. It’s not his name, and it’s not his shirt, because I can tell you everyone’s got a name and everyone’s got a shirt. Nobody cheers everybody when they walk into the ring, but the minute this guy’s music comes on, the minute they see him, they start chanting, ‘Cheeseburger.’ That’s authentic. That’s real.”
Koff did reveal Cheeseburger is his second favorite Cheeseburger, because Koff’s son, Zach, works for Shake Shack, which has a few locations in South Florida including Miami off Dixie Highway near the University of Miami and Boca Raton off Glades Road near Florida Atlantic University.
“My son would be very upset and so would his management team if I didn’t say the Shack Cheeseburger is my favorite Cheeseburger,” Koff noted, “but Cheeseburger the wrestler is my second favorite.”
Cheeseburger, the wrestler, is No.1 in his family’s eyes. “My dad [Sam] and my mom [Barbara] are really happy and really proud of me. Every time I’m having a match or doing something, they’re telling all their friends. They’re really excited and happy I’m doing well.”
Cheeseburger not only wrestles but he attends Mercer County Community College in West Windsor, N.J., majoring in digital film (TV production, video editing, etc.).
“I wanted to have something to back me up, just in case something happens. That college is flexible enough to allow me to continue to do my studies while continuing to travel with Ring of Honor and various other wrestling companies.”
Cheeseburger noted his favorite place to grab a cheeseburger is In-N-Out Burger.
“It kind of sucks because it’s only on the West Coast, but every time I’m out there I always make sure that’s my Plan A. Before I leave [the West Coast], I have to get an In-N-Out Burger.”
ROH on TV
Ring of Honor is on Comet TV at midnight Wednesdays.
In South Florida, Ring of Honor is midnight Saturdays on WPEC Ch.12, based in West Palm Beach.
ROH on FITE TV
FITE TV offers Ring of Honor’s Global Wars on Sunday, May 8.
- Wrestling Camp in Charlotte
During Fan Fest in Charlotte, N.C., there will be a four-day wrestling camp from Aug. 4-7 with standout wrestling legends and trainers including WWE Hall of Famer Jerry Brisco, Nigel McGuinness, Dr. Tom Prichard, Rip Rogers, Lance Storm and Les Thatcher.
NWALegends.com for info.
- Pro Wrestling On The Web
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