Oneida High School graduate-turned professional wrestler Brute VanSlyke returns to the area in November to bring his own brutish brawn to the mat at the Kallet Civic Center, as he takes on "The Man" Kevin Graham during the Kallet's first-ever CNY Slam Jam on Saturday, Nov. 5.
Independent professional wrestler Brute VanSlyke -- better known to his fellow Oneida High School class of 2004 grads as Mike VanSlyke -- returns to Oneida for a match at the Kallet Civic Center on Nov. 5. (Photo courtesy of Brute VanSlyke)
Here's his story, related to me by Brute himself:
Oneida High School class of 2004 graduate Mike VanSlyke -- now known to professional wrestling fans as the massive Brute VanSlyke -- recalled it was a chance switching of the television channels that led to his discovery of wrestling back when he was just a tyke. VanSlyke said he was 5 years old when one day he was channel surfing and landed on a wrestling match featuring Andre the Giant.
He was mesmerized, and a lifelong passion was born.
“I saw Andre the Giant and stopped changing the channel,” he remembered. “Ever since then I have been a fan of everything about wrestling -- the sport, the lights, and the entertainment of it all.”
On his 6th birthday, VanSlyke received several wrestler action figures, with Andre the Giant becoming his favorite.
He wrestled at Oneida High School, and one day a few years after graduation he saw a commercial for Squared Circle Wrestling in Syracuse, also known as 2CW. VanSlyke was intrigued by the possibility of training to become a professional wrestler, so he visited the location to find an old abandoned warehouse turned into a training facility. He signed up for their program and began a journey that has most recently taken him to the Land of the Rising Sun as an independent professional wrestler.
2CW trained him well with their intense and rigorous sessions … he started out at 396 pounds in 2009 and by the time of his first match 10 months later he was down to 280 pounds. VanSlyke enjoys the physical demands that wrestling puts on him, as he makes sure he is properly trained to withstand the hits and falls in the ring.
“If you don’t have a strong love and passion for wrestling, you won’t make it,” he said.
VanSlyke debuted as a professional wrestler on Feb. 19, 2010, and has traveled across the state and to Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island to face fellow independent wrestlers in the ring. His official stats list him as 6 foot 5 inches tall and weighing in at 346 pounds. Trademark moves he uses to subdue his opponents include the Deep Double Underhook Suplex, Military Press Body Slam, T-Bone Suplex, Bicycle Kick, Power Bomb, Two-Handed Choke Bomb, and Pop Up Headbutt.
His recent titles include GSW Heavyweight Champion from June 14, 2014 to April 11, 2015; the GSW 2014 AggroCup Tournament on May 17, 2014; 2CW Tag Team Champion with Kevin Graham from Nov. 23, 2013 to April 19, 2014; and WXW C-4 Elite Tag Team Champion also with Graham from Nov. 2, 2013 to May 31, 2014. VanSlyke was even selected as the GSW Most Hated Wrestler for 2013.
He is just recently returned from wrestling for the summer in Japan, where he had the chance to meet his idol Stan Hanson, one of their biggest wrestling draws ever. VanSlyke explained he was seen by a Japanese wrestler at one of his own events, and invited to go overseas for a couple months.
“It was great wrestling in Japan … it was always my main goal,” VanSlyke said. “They are more about athleticism and less about the soap opera, just like I am, and they really have an insane level of competition.”
In addition to his summer spent wrestling in Japan, he also counts as career highlights wrestling in “dark” matches for TNA -- matches that take place before the televised portion of the events take place. He said he has had the chance to wrestle many great opponents, and appreciates the opportunity to work with those wrestling talents.
At this point in his career, VanSlyke still works a full-time job to support himself, and moved to Rochester to pursue a larger job market. He settled in at Staples, where he found bosses who are accepting of his wrestling schedule -- which often entails going away on weekends.
“They are willing to work with me,” VanSlyke complimented. “They understand what I am trying to do.”
Although he appreciates the support of his Staples bosses and co-workers, VanSlyke hopes to someday soon be able to make a full-time career out of his wrestling, and leave the 9-to-5 world behind, he intimated.
His dad Edward VanSlyke still lives in Oneida, as does his mom Marjorie. While his dad has been supportive of his wrestling career, VanSlyke said his mom and her boyfriend Jim Farnam have gone above and beyond -- especially in helping finance his trip to Japan.
“She has always been there for me, since my very first match when she said afterwards that she knew that was what I’m supposed to do,” he recalled.
As of now, VanSlyke doesn’t have an action figure of his own, although he does own a specially-made stuffed plush “wrestling buddy” in his own image. No matter where VanSlyke ends up in the future, he promises he will always has his hometown at heart.
“Even though I’ve moved to Rochester, I am still an Oneida native,” VanSlyke said. “Whenever I am announced in the ring, it’s always that I am from Oneida, NY and nothing is going to change that.”
There's even more local excitement at the Kallet, as Oneida's own guitarist Roy Coston will perform the National Anthem and entertain during intermission. The event also features former WWE / ECW superstar Tommy "The Innovator of Violence" Dreamer, a six-man tag match as the The Fellowship battles Northern Fury, and the 20-man battle royal.
CNY Slam Jam is Saturday, Nov. 5, with doors opening at 6:30 p.m. followed by the event at 7 p.m. The event is presented by SCW, Happy2Assist, and The Kallet Civic Center. Tickets are $12 for adults, $8 for children 12 and younger, with free for lap seats for kids under 2. VIP Tickets are $25 and include a meet and greet with the wrestlers and front row seats ... other tickets are general admission.