Randy “Macho Man” Savage.
Stone Cold Steve Austin.
These professional wrestlers had bulging muscles, could swiftly body slam their opponents, and let’s not forget they were some good trash talkers.
Sure, Bleacher Report said they were the top 5 greatest professional wrestlers of all time, but that was six years ago. It’s 2017, and one UNCG graduate is shaking things up.
21-year-old “The Revolutionary” Darius Lockhart is an independent professional wrestler from North Carolina. Lockhart is a big advocate for representation in professional wrestling, and now that he’s graduated, he says the handcuffs are off.
“Growing up and watching professional wrestling, there wasn’t a lot of guys on that TV screen that looked like me. Now, I want to think of myself as someone I’d look up to if I was 12 again,” explains Lockhart.
It all started in middle school for Lockhart, when the kids at his church convinced him to turn on his TV and try watching a professional wrestling match. He tuned into a match between wrestlers Matt Hardy and MVP, and it was like a switch was flipped. Lockhart was fired up. From that point on, he started watching pro wrestlers on TV weekly, constantly collecting research on iconic names and moves in the ring. He found inspiration among brothers, and professional wrestlers, Matt and Jeff Hardy in their 2008 documentary, WWE: Twist of Fate.
“Everyone in middle school thought it was a phase. I was the lame kid for awhile,” says Lockhart.
It certainly wasn’t a phase, and once junior year of high school arrived for him, Lockhart decided to give wrestling at his school a shot. It quickly proved to be unglamorous, restrictive, and what he already knew for certain, that it wasn’t the same thing he saw on TV.
“I didn’t have that competitive element that high school athletes need. I was an entertainer, at heart. I didn’t care about losing, I wanted to put on a show,” he expresses.
Opportunity came when Lockhart had to complete his senior project for high school. In November 2012, he started training as an amateur professional wrestler in Charlotte, and noticed what happened to his focus on school. Things improved. He felt this sense of being ahead of the game, finally doing what he loved, and in doing so he did much better in the classroom.
What comes after high school graduation is different for a lot of people, but for Lockhart it meant two things. It meant moving into his new home on UNCG’s campus, and on the same day, it would be his first big public match in Charlotte. Professional wrestling trainer George South was holding a show for a summer youth group, and there would be about 200 kids in attendance. Lockhart was to go up against Cedric Alexander, a name that may sound familiar since he’s now signed to WWE as a professional wrestler. Everything was going according to plan, when South and his team ran into a problem — there was no ring for the wrestlers to put on their show.
“George South is one of my mentors, I really respect him. He’s crafty and old-school,” says Lockhart, laughing.
What he was referring to was South’s solution to not having a ring. The trainer impaled the grassy area where the ring was supposed to be set up with four large poles. He strung pennant streamers, the same type you see at car dealerships, around to create a makeshift ring. The event turned out to be a huge success.
Lockhart’s next big break came in April of his freshman year at UNCG, when CWF Mid-Atlantic Wrestling, based in North Carolina, invited him to participate in one of their shows. The organization has a big history, and are a member of the Pro Wrestling International network.
Not every moment in the ring made Lockhart feel golden, and speeding through his college career, he was desperate for headspace. He suffered severe injuries in one spring match, leaving him with several stitches in his chin, a black eye, minor concussion, and sprained wrist. Lockhart described what he felt was a fall from grace, having just now gained momentum and attention. Walking around bandaged, he knew it was time to get away from the drama NC wrestling was bringing him.
Lockhart’s next stop: Manchester, U.K. After only telling his close friends and family, Lockhart joined UNCG’s study abroad program in Britain, a big step in helping find himself in the ring. And British wrestling turned out to be the motivational medicine he needed.
“The British wrestling scene was technical, rigorous, classic, and a grind. Man, those guys… those guys are hungry over there,” he describes.
Lockhart returned to the States ready, and now with school out of the way he plans to get his career off the ground nationally and internationally. When asked if he could pick one place in the world to wrestle in, he picked Japan.
“Japan is a super crazy hotbed for wrestling. They still have the pageantry, which is a big part of professional wrestling, but it’s also how much more they highlight their athleticism too,” says Lockhart.
And The Revolutionary wants to make sure that if a kid shows the slightest interest in wrestling, or in anything for that matter, they should pursue it without hesitation.
“I would tell them, ‘Take what you see in yourself that you love, and amplify it 10x. There’s a niche for everything, and no matter what you do, there’s an audience for it’. Run with it, until it resonates.”
Follow “The Revolutionary” Darius Lockhart on Instagram @dariuslockhart for updates, appearances and events.