The Wrestling Club: How One Teacher Is Changing Young Lives Through Professional Wrestling

When the bell rang, she had to hold back tears. For Sasha Banks, this was something that she never thought would happen yet, somehow, she knew it would happen. It was Brooklyn. It was NXT Takeover. It was the main event (or, at least, one of them). She was standing across the ring from one of her best friends and fellow 4 Horsewomen – Bayley. The two had wrestled before (countless times, actually) but this time was different. This was their chance. This was their moment. This was their night to leave it all in the ring and get the world talking.

And that’s exactly what they did.

Sasha Banks and Bayley put on the match of their lives and, not the least of which, the match of the night. The two women were given the opportunity to really show what women’s wrestling was all about and they took it to the highest level. Sasha Banks, for all her faux bravado in the ring, was terrified. She knew she was the best. She knew she had what it takes to become a legend. She knew that the world was hers for the taking; the tricky part was proving it all to everybody else.

In the match, Banks repeatedly kicked Bayley in the corner, screaming at her that she didn’t belong here. But it was all a show. And, in truth, she was just repeating what the world had constantly told her for most of her life.

“You’re a loser!” she screamed at her opponent. “You’re pathetic. You’ll never, ever, ever…”

For a long time, that’s how she felt. She felt like a loser. Like a little girl with a big dream that she’d never actually accomplish. She’ll never actually win. She’ll never, ever, ever...

Except, she did.

And at NXT Takeover: Brooklyn, she showed the world exactly who she was and what she was capable of. She proved that dreams come true; that success comes to those who work for it. And she served as an inspiration to countless fans around the world.

Victor Taylor Perry was one of those people.

Perry was 8 years old when he first discovered pro wrestling.

As a smalltown boy from Thomasville, Georgia, there weren’t too many live pro wrestling events to attend as a kid, so he didn’t discover the sport that way. He and his brother, just like most of us, first discovered pro wrestling while flipping through the channels on their television.

But, unlike many of us, because of his age, it wasn’t Hulk Hogan that first captured the young man’s attention. It wasn’t the Ultimate Warrior or The Undertaker or Stone Cold Steve Austin, either. It wasn’t even an episode of Raw or Smackdown.

“I think it was Velocity,” laughed Perry. “It was a tag team match with Paul London and Brian Kendrick.”

Okay, so, it was an unusual start to his love affair with pro wrestling, but that’s the great thing about wrestling – it doesn’t matter who or what is on the screen. When you’re hooked, you’re hooked. And Perry was hooked.

“I just thought they were superheroes,” he stated. “And it just grew from there. I found out wrestling came on Mondays and I started watching. I quickly became enamored with Victoria. I think it’s because she has my mother’s name, and I’m named after her. So I was just in love with her.”

That love expanded past the WWE Divas division and began to include all of WWE.

Perry would remain a fan for much of his childhood but, as he got older and began high school, his interest waned. There was so much more to care about; girls, music, grades, college, girls, etc.

After high school, Perry began pursuing his dream of being a musician.

“Music is like, a huge part of my identity,” Perry revealed. “I worked for Sony Music for a while; I was a college rep and did internships over at Sony, so I lived in New York City for a while. Mind you, I’m from a small town, so coming to the big city, I was like ‘I’ve gotta live here.’ It just…felt different. So fast forward a couple years later. I graduated from college but didn’t get a job within in the music industry. And I was kind of depressed about it. But then, music stuff started taking shape and I started creating my own content.”

His ‘own content’ has led to his music being downloaded by millions of people on Spotify and other platforms. But that’s right now. Back then, he wasn’t sure what he was going to do. But he knew that he wanted to do it in The Big Apple.

“I remember getting into it with my mom,” he remembered. “She was like, ‘I didn’t send you to school to stay here [in Georgia]. You have so much potential, so promise me you’ll go make something of yourself.’”

So, he promised her. But that was the easy part. The hard part was actually living up to that promise. Not knowing what else to do, he sat down at his computer and did the only thing he could think of.

“I just went online and Googled ‘Quickest Job That You Can Get in New York City,’” he laughed. “Teaching came up, and I found this charter school. I vividly remember it. It was February of 2017. So I applied on Saturday and that Monday, I heard from them. They were like ‘We like your resume, we’d love to have you come up here. Are you able to come up this week?’”

Naturally, he said yes.

“I flew out there that same week and got the job and literally a week later, I moved out and moved to New York,” he said.

It’s the definition of carving your own path. And Victor Perry’s path led him right into the heart of the big city.

Previously, when he was doing his internship in NYC, he stayed with a family who offered their house on AirBnB. Naturally, when he returned to the Big Apple, he asked if he could stay with them until he got his feet under him.

“They’re like my second family,” Perry said. “So when I was like, ‘Hey, I don’t have a place to stay but I’m coming to the city,’ they were like, ‘Of course you can stay with us!’”

Not too long after that, Perry found his own place. It was just another example of things clicking into place.

“I’m very religious,” Perry offered. “And so, I believe God ordered all of my steps and he was just waiting for me to take them. From the interview, to getting the job, to making the move, to find a place to live – it was easy. It wasn’t overwhelming like some of the stories that I’ve heard from people.”

With all of the obligatory living arrangements out of the way, Perry was finally able to focus on the task at hand; namely, being the absolute best teacher he could possibly be.

“Honestly, I didn’t have much experience going in,” he said. “I didn’t have any expectations, either. But anything I do, I try to be the very best that I can be. So I went into this space just knowing that I wanted to be the best teacher I could be. I was at this first school for about four years and really honed my craft teaching, and understanding children and understanding families and communication. I think those first four years were like a training ground for me to develop my own teacher identity.”

It was a job that, quite literally, changed his life. He continued working at the school for four years, and then in 2020, he took a job with KIPP AMP Middle School, in Brooklyn.

“I believe everything that I accomplished in those first four years at the other school really helped me be the teacher that I’ve always wanted to be in this new school that I’m at now,” he said.

And what a teacher he is. Perry just started his third year at his current school and he’s investing in the lives of his kiddos in a way that has taken Twitter by storm.

And it’s all because of wrestling.

Perry fell out of wrestling for quite a while, but then the pandemic hit and everybody started developing new hobbies to distract themselves from the depressing state of the world at that time. For Perry, it was a time that he rediscovered his passion for the thing he loved as a boy.

“We had nothing to do,” Perry said. “Like, the whole world stopped. So, I happened to put on SummerSlam 2020 and I saw a lot of the names that my brother had kept mentioning to me over the years, like Sasha Banks, Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins…it started to make sense to me, like, ‘Okay yeah – this is incredible.’”

And just like that, Perry became a fan again.

“From that moment on, I fell back in love with it,” he said. “I think even more now than I did when I was a kid.”

Naturally, with most teachers, their interests sometimes bleed into the classroom. Good teachers will use their interests and their experiences as tools to engage with their students. Perry’s students knew he was passionate about music, but he kind of kept his love for wrestling on the DL.

“I didn’t talk much about wrestling to them,” Perry revealed. “But there was one day in September or early October. The kids were working independently and I just happened to check my phone and I saw that Survivor Series was coming to Brooklyn, and Bianca Belair was having a meet and greet. And I didn’t really say it super loud, it was kind of under my breath, but I said ‘I’m gonna go meet Bianca there.’ And a student was like, ‘What’d you say Mr. Perry?’ And  I was like, ‘Nothing, go back to work.’ But he said ‘No, I like Bianca Belair too!’”

And that moment, just that brief moment with an eavesdropping student, changed everything.

“I was like, ‘Get out of here – you don’t watch wrestling!” Perry said. ‘And he said ‘Yes I do!’ So, I called his mom and asked her if she’d mind if I took him to meet Bianca Belair and she was just like, ‘Sure!’”

And it’s that example, that relationship with his student, that would set the tone for what was to come. Immediately upon finding out that his student liked wrestling, his next thought was to go above and beyond to help give that kiddo a memory.

And what a memory it turned out to be.

“I went to Barclays [for Survivor Series] and had the time of life,” Perry beamed. “And then the next morning, which was a Monday, I stood in line with the kid and we met Bianca. And while we were there, there was a raffle for tickets to Monday Night Raw.”

As you can probably guess, they won the tickets.

“I got to take him to his first Raw,” Perry said. “It was his first Raw and mine and we had the time of our lives. It was just so much fun. And the next day at school, he was just bragging to all his peers, saying ‘I got to hang out with Mr. Perry! We went to Raw. We met Bianca Belair. We saw Seth Rollins.’ All kinds of cool things. And the other kids were like ‘Oh, I wish you could have invited me.’ And I was like ‘Wait, ya’ll watch wrestling?’ And some of them did and some of them didn’t, but I was like ‘Okay, what if I start a wrestling club, where we just meet during lunch and recess and we watch wrestling and talk about our favorite matches and things like that?’”

The kids thought it was a great idea and, with that, something truly special was born.

Victor Perry started The Wrestling Club last November. At first, it was just designed as a place for his students to come together, watch a few matches, and maybe talk about them. But, over the years, thanks to Perry’s passion and dedication, it became an oasis for fans of all ages to come and actually feel seen and heard.

“After that initial conversation, only like 5 kids joined,” Perry said. “Those were the coolest 5. But after a while, it just got popular. Other kids started hearing about it and they started watching it and, before I knew it, by January or February of that year, we had like 25 kids in the club. And that’s really how it started in those winter months.”

This club could very easily have just been an excuse to watch a few matches during recess and move on with his day, but Perry wanted this to be something more for his kids. He wanted them to learn, he wanted them to grow, and he wanted them to realize what those of us who are also fans already know: Professional wrestling is one of the greatest forms of art that has ever been created.

And if that sounds hyperbolic, it’s only because you haven’t seen Daniel Bryan win the World Heavyweight Championship, or you haven’t seen three women main event WrestleMania, or you haven’t seen Kofi Kingston finally, finally, become champion after years in the business. These stories are just as important, just as impactful, just as educational as anything you could find in a book. Perry knew that, and he wanted to share those stories with his students.

“Outside of watching the matches, I equate it to ELA (English and Language Arts),” Perry said. “I teach reading and writing and so, just like how we’re reading books, we’re reading about characters and their problems and what lessons they learn. It’s the same thing with wrestling. It’s just, they’re wrestling instead of talking it out. Their actions are the movements in the ring and the way their characters are thinking and how they’re going about chasing whatever their dream is, whether it’s being a champion or just being number one. Oftentimes, we correlate the two and I help kids look at character work. It’s like, ‘Okay, what are the characteristics of Bianca Belair? Alright, now what are the characteristics of Bud in our book Bud Not Buddy?’ It’s helping them to figure it out for themselves.’”

And, really, isn’t that a genius move? Pro wrestling is one of the oldest forms of storytelling, next to burlesque and jazz music. Truth be told, more schools should be utilizing the decades of stories that exist in that realm. Obviously that’s wishful thinking because for every beautiful, harrowing, inspiring pro wrestling story, there’s one about Triple H f*cking a mannequin.

Pro wrestling will never be as mainstream as most of us want it to be, but that’s okay. Because as long as there are people like Perry around, these stories will continue to be told.

“We look at storylines a lot,” Perry said. “We really studied the Bianca and Becky Lynch storyline of redemption and how that applies to their lives. You know? Like, obstacles are gonna come when you’re at your very peak. And it’s not about that moment that takes you out of your peak; it’s about how you respond. So we really studied how Bianca’s character underwent that change of persistence and determination to not let that one moment of 26 seconds deter her from getting what is rightfully hers. And we watched that storyline develop from SummerSlam all the way up to WrestleMania. It was a big moment; for them and for me.”

“For them and for me.” That line pretty much sums up this entire endeavor. The Wrestling Club was born…kind of on accident. It was born on a whim. But it has turned into something that has captured the attention of the Internet Wrestling Community. It’s also captured the attention of countless wrestlers.

Just last week, AEW Tag Team Champions Keith Lee and Isaiah ‘Swerve’ Strickland visited The Wrestling Club. A few months prior to that, Sasha Banks stopped by. Cody Rhodes and others have donated to a fund designed to send The Wrestling Club to WrestleMania next year. All of these wrestlers, and so many other people, want to be a part of this movement, not because it looks good in terms of public relations, but because they believe in what Victor Perry is doing inside of that classroom.

“It meant more than I could ever express in words,” Perry said of Sasha visiting his classroom. “The kids especially [were excited]. The girls dyed their hair.”

Perry said Sasha coming to The Wrestling Club happened somewhat organically. Perry had posted a clip of his class watching Banks’ match against Bayley at Hell in a Cell.

Banks saw the video, Re-Tweeted it, and said she wanted to visit Perry’s class.

“I had no idea that was going to happen,” he said. “Like, what are the chances that one of the biggest superstars in the world would come to your classroom? But she made it happen. We talked and we set up meetings and went over the logistics and she came and it was such a wonderful moment for everyone because, I think, it solidified for my kids that this is real. Like, these superheroes are here and they walk among us and are accessible. And to see her in a space where my students are learning bout life and learning how to become better as individuals – to see someone like that in their own space; I think it really opened up their eyes to go after their own dreams. To dare to dream. So I thank her for being that role model for my kids, for them to see that the people they look up to are right here. They’re not too far out of reach and they prove that you can attain whatever dreams you wish, whatever dreams you seek.”

Recently, Perry says, he and his class have been able to see an incredible amount of representation in professional wrestling. Perry’s school is one that is “predominately black,” with about 97% black students and another 3% Hispanic. Years ago, his students wouldn’t have had as many wrestlers to look up to; not in the ways that really matter. But nowadays, both AEW and WWE are featuring incredible superstars that his kids can look up to and see a part of themselves.

“That’s everything,” Perry said. “I oftentimes wish that there was a Sasha Banks or Carmelo Hayes or Bianca Belair or Big E or Bobby Lashley when I was a kid. I definitely think maybe I would’ve stuck with wrestling more, or maybe even would have tried to get a job in wrestling. Maybe I wouldn’t have made as many mistakes that you make as a kid. So I think it’s important that there is representation because it helps them realize that, ‘Hey, maybe I can be this too. Maybe there’s room for me.’ And I applaud WWE and AEW for giving platforms to people of color, to be represented in a positive way. Because children are watching and it makes a difference in their lives.”

It was an especially exciting moment for Perry because Sasha Banks is one of his favorite wrestlers. Her match against Bayley at NXT Takeover: Brooklyn is one of his favorite matches.

“That match with Sasha and Bayley was about proving yourself,” he said. “I’m from a small town and nothing’s ever been easy; nothing’s ever been handed to me. So when I watch that match with two women who are going up against a male dominated sport, and they’re having to challenge the notion that women aren’t ‘divas,’ women aren’t things to be objectified, that they are equal and that they can outperform the men; I really relate to it. And when I see two brilliant women tearing down a whole mentality and rebuilding it to the point that there’s a revolution for women and sports, I love that. Because my life is kind of similar; coming from a small town and living in a big city, working in a field where there’s not a lot of black male educators. And to be making something of myself and not being a statistic, but being a positive role model for children; I really relate to that.”

Perry maintains that it’s people like Sasha Banks, Naomi, Carmelo Hayes, Swerve Strickland, Keith Lee, and others that are showing his kids that they can follow their dreams and achieve anything they want. But what he may not know is that, however much his kiddos look up to these WWE and AEW superstars, chances are…they look up to him even more.

Here’s a secret that maybe even Perry himself doesn’t know. This whole thing; it’s not about the wrestling. This Haven that Victor Perry has created, this island, this wrestling club…it’s not about the wrestling. It never was. It wasn’t about the wrestling a year ago when a student overheard him talking about Bianca Belair and it’s not about the wrestling now, not really. For the kid a year ago, it wasn’t about going to meet a WWE Superstar. It was about hanging out with Mr. Perry. It was about being able to talk about something you love with a person that you look up to.

That’s what it is now, too. And yeah, it’s cool that these kiddos can watch amazing matches during their recess and lunch breaks. And yeah, it’s fun to be able to show off your action figures to your friends. But for these kids, it’s about so much more than that. It’s about having a grownup – somebody they trust, somebody they love – telling them that it’s okay to like something that’s a little weird. It’s about having a mentor instill in them every. single. day. that just like Bianca or Sasha or Big E did, they, too, can live their dreams if they fight hard enough for them. It’s about having a grownup look at them, with love in his eyes, and see them; not only for who they are, but for who they one day will become.

To these kids, these wrestling fans, these dreamers, it’s not about the wrestling; it’s just about hanging out with Mr. Perry.

“This whole thing has just opened my eyes to a void that so many of us have felt but never named,” Perry said. “I never got a chance to have a safe space to share my love of wrestling in school. School is probably one of the biggest formative parts of our lives as people. We spend so much time in school. And people share their stories with me about how ‘I didn’t have this growing up’, or ‘I was bullied’, or ‘I was made fun of.’ I’ve even had wrestlers reach out to me and tell me that they’ve had teachers who told them that they weren’t gonna be anything or that wrestling was stupid. And it just all brought it to light for me. Like, wow – I have this place now, in this community, where I’m providing a Haven; not just for my kids but for anyone who’s ever loved wrestling. Because they can at least imagine themselves in that classroom, enjoying the one thing that makes them happy.”

As the bell rang right after she heard the referee’s hand slap the mat for the third time, she breathed a sigh of relief. Sasha Banks lost the match but, in doing so, she gained the thing she’s been working towards for years: Respect. She and Bayley put on a match that, for years to come, would be called one of the greatest professional wrestling matches of all times. The two would go on to have many, many more matches throughout their careers. They would win titles from each other and with each other, but this time, this match, will always be the most memorable, simply because this was the moment that the world took notice.

And for Sasha Banks, that’s all she wanted. For much of her life, the world told her ‘No, you can’t do this. You’re a loser. You will never, ever, ever…

But she did. And she did it for herself, and for any other little boy or girl who were sitting in the audience or at home watching the match who maybe felt like they weren’t good enough. She did it for the little boy who wants to be a pro wrestler. She did it for the little girl who wants to go to Hollywood. And, unknowingly, she did it for a handful of students sitting inside of a classroom in Brooklyn. They call themselves The Wrestling Club. And their lives are being changed by a teacher from Georgia who they call Mr. Perry.

To donate to The Wrestling Club’s Road to WrestleMania GoFundMe, visit this link.

To listen to Victor Taylor Perry’s music, visit his Spotify.

Follow Nick at @WesternRebel

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