Written by Steve Menchinger
It’s not too often that an opportunity comes into someone’s life in which they have an chance to make a name for themselves in the world of professional sports. The movie “Invincible “staring Mark Wahlberg is a true story of Vince Papale and prime example of someone who had that once-in-a-lifetime chance. Papale who was a middle school teacher and pro football fan was invited to an open tryout for the Philadelphia Eagles football team in 1976. In storybook fashion, Eagle’s coach Dick Vermeil observed his tryout and hired Papale onto the Philadelphia roster because of his speed (40 yard dash in 4.5 seconds) and his allure to the blue collar fans of South Philadelphia.
Albeit a microcosm of the NFL opportunity and stardom that Papale was given, the RPW Qualification Series is no less intriguing as anyone who wanted to try out, including women wrestlers, were invited to compete to become a pro athlete. Wrestlers from around the U.S. and the world showed up to one of four regional qualifiers this past fall and battled hard for a chance to earn a free trip to San Jose, CA and the opportunity to challenge a previous RPW athlete from Season One for their spot on a pro team roster.
The four qualifiers, including Western (San Jose, CA), Northern (Mt. Vernon, IA), Eastern (Philadelphia, PA), and Southern (Tulsa, OK) regions were chosen specifically to offer as many opportunities as possible for someone who wanted such a chance to make a team. By-and-large, each qualifier featured wrestlers primarily from that region since it was obviously easier for athletes to travel somewhere closer to home. However, several competitors exercised the option to travel to other qualifiers due to their schedule or because they simply wanted a second chance to make a team. The Southern regional in Tulsa for instance, featured seven athletes who wanted to try out for a second time. Four of the seven consequently became champs of that region and advanced to the Super Challenge.
But the grueling climb onto an RPW team doesn’t stop with the regional qualifiers. Each athlete who won their regional (7 weight classes and 4 qualifiers – 28 champions) must now face off on January 7th against one wrestler (in their weight class) from Season One who didn’t advance in the first round of competition. These 28 Season One athletes will essentially be defending their team roster spots from this second group, the challengers, who are the champions of the aforementioned regional qualifiers. So, in total, 56 of some of the scrappiest if not the hungriest wrestlers in the U.S. will face off, getting only one chance on January 7th to secure their spot on RPW Season Two in this pro vs. amateur Super Challenge.
In addition to regional champions getting a shot, RPW may also introduce some regional runners-up and national team members to the Super Challenge as several of Season One wrestlers have retired from wrestling. Star athletes such as World Champion Dennis Hall, Olympic bronze medalist Garrett Lowney, and Olympian Jim Gruenwald who wrestled in Season One are continuing in their respective careers off-the-mat which will consequently free up other roster spots. These openings could be filled with either the runners-up from the regional qualifiers or other wrestlers who RPW league executives may deem good for the league. Runner-up candidates such as NCAA DI champ Joe Dubuque, would be a marketable asset to an east coast team. Likewise, the scrappy 3x DIII National Champ Duane Bastress who would add excitement to any team. Others top athletes such as national team members and past Olympians like Mike and Bill Zadick or Jamill Kelly may also be eligible to fill the additional spots to be determined by mid December.
So in just over a month, the climax to the pre-season of RPW Season Two will culminate on January 7th at the Super Challenge. As in many of the regional qualifiers, it will be interesting to see how many new faces will come forward and help shape the image of RPW’s second season. There is certainly some great talent on the line and when January 7th arrives, the question will be, “who is the most Invincible “for the opportunity to make a name for themselves in the new world of real professional wrestling?
For more information the movie “Invincible “and the story of Vince Papale, visit: http://www.chasingthefrog.com/reelfaces/invincible.php