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'There are no shortcuts'

May 03, 2004|by BRIAN SHAPPELL

shappell@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN - Hagerstown native and resident Chad Smith spends most of his weekdays pumping up his clients as a trainer with Total Fitness Specialists or joking around with the staff and customers of Gold's Gym in the city's north end.

But on many weekends, Smith goes by the name Flex Fenom and grapples in the ring with other independent professional wrestlers.

For Smith, it's all about trying to be the best at what he does.

Smith, who trained at the Neil Superior Pro Wrestling Training Center in Hagerstown, has been working as a professional wrestler for about six years. Smith said he is gearing up for what usually is the busy season for independent professional wrestling organizations that will have him spending a lot of his weekends performing for Harrisburg, Pa.-area organizations, including the World Wide Wrestling Alliance.

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Smith's Flex Fenom character wrestles mostly as part of a tag team called FNA with Bobby Austin of Frederick, Md. Austin, who performs under the ring name Aidiean, also trained at the Hagerstown school.

"I'm really enjoying it right now," Smith said. "When the day comes when I'm not having fun, I'll put a timetable on it."

Smith's interest in professional wrestling began in the mid-1990s after going to a free event at the training center.

"I was like, that would be fun. That's something I could do," said Smith, a 1993 North Hagerstown High School graduate.

About a year later, Smith began training there. Two years later, Smith found himself with a high-profile debut, outside of school, with a match against former National Wrestling Alliance superstars The Rock 'N' Roll Express.

"I only got nervous once, that debut match," Smith said. "It doesn't get much better than that, though."

Smith said his biggest match came against southern wrestling legend and current World Wrestling Entertainment commentator Jerry "The King" Lawler in Frederick. Smith had to wrestle through severe pain as he suffered a torn pectoral muscle less than one month before that match.

"That's the nature of wrestling; you have to wrestle hurt," he said. "There was no way I was going to miss that."

Smith said wrestling when hurt, enduring hazing during early matches and making little money for the first couple of years are reasons why many leave the business without ever making it to a major organization like the WWE.

"A lot of guys are not willing to pay their dues," he said. "They want shortcuts. There are no shortcuts."

Smith said he does not have the goal of getting a WWE contract, though he said he would not pass up the opportunity. Instead, Smith said he just wants to improve at his craft and begin expanding his performance area to include wrestling hotbeds Japan and Mexico.

"I just want to be one of the best," he said. "Whether it's the best in the indies or WWE, I don't care."

More information about Smith's recent and upcoming appearances can be found at his Web site, f-n-a.tripod.com.

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