Drew Gulak has wrestled in Northeast Philadelphia before.
In April of 2005 - two months before he graduated — Gulak made his professional debut at Northeast High School. Back then, he was just getting started.
“It was my first match, but I had trained for about a year before,” said Gulak, who starred on the Vikings’ wrestling team. “That was a fun place to start because it was my home.”
On Saturday night, Gulak returns to Northeast Philadelphia as part of House of Hardcore. The promotion will hold an all-star event at the Pennsylvania National Guard Armory, Southampton Road and Roosevelt Boulevard, where the Rhawnhurst native will meet Tony Nese and Petey Williams.
The match is part of a big card that includes Tommy Dreamer against Abyss in a Monster’s Ball match and former ECW legends the Dudley Boyz against former TNA stars Christopher Daniels and Frankie Kazarian.
“Tommy Dreamer asked me if I wanted to wrestle, he came to CZW for a few matches and he asked me if I’d be interested, and, of course, I was,” Gulak said. “CZW is great, but our home base is Voorhees (New Jersey) and even though it’s right over the bridge, it’s not Philly, so a lot of people don’t come over to see me.
“I’m excited because Tony Nese was in TNA, I watched him there, and Petey Williams was in TNA for a long time. They’re both very good wrestlers, so I’m looking forward to getting in the ring with them.”
Gulak has wrestled all over the United States and has done tours of Europe. And while he is a proud member of Combat Zone Wrestling, he isn’t your typical blood-and-guts star in the promotion known for wild brawls and bloody matches.
In fact, the crazy barbed wire and glass matches that CZW is known for is what drew Gulak to the promotion. But once he started training, he made a promise he wouldn’t take part in those dangerous matches.
“That’s not at all what I do, even though I love that kind of wrestling and it’s what made me start watching,” Gulak said. “But I don’t do that. I was actually the CZW heavyweight champion for a while, and I love CZW, but I’m more of a wrestler. It’s good because CZW has something for everyone.”
Gulak is one of the top independent (think not signed with WWE or TNA) wrestlers in the country. And because of that, not only does he get to wrestle high-profile matches, but he’s able to pass on that knowledge. He’s been teaching at the CZW Academy for years.
“I didn’t really think I was young to be doing it, but I guess so,” Gulak said. “I came in and learned. And then the more you wrestle, the more you learn. Then after I was doing it for a few years, I would go and work out with new wrestlers. It’s something I enjoy doing.”
Wrestling is something that Gulak does because he’s good at it and he loves it.
And while he’s quite successful, he has yet to make it his full-time career.
He admits he probably could do it if he constantly traveled around the country, but right now he’s content starring for CZW, working as a swimming instructor at the Northeast Racquet Club and spending time with his girlfriend, Liz Deitz.
“I love working as a swim instructor because I teach children, adults and adults with learning disabilities,” Gulak said. “All are very rewarding. I love when I take an adult who has never swam before and teach them. It’s incredible to see how great they feel after accomplishing that.”
Teaching kids swimming? That doesn’t sound like such a bad guy.
But believe it or not, the good-looking 27-year-old has been just that. It’s all part of pro wrestling.
“Wrestling is all about being a psychology,” Gulak said. “I studied behavioral science in college because I wanted to get better at reading people and doing either what they want if I’m a good guy or what they don’t want if I’m a bad guy. I like both.”
Still, he’ll probably be the conquering hero on Saturday.
And he’s looking forward to seeing a lot of friends in the crowd since he’s competing about 10 minutes north of his home in Rhawnhurst.
“I think this will be a different crowd than I’m usually wrestling in front of,” Gulak said. “I think there will be a lot of old ECW fans there because of Tommy Dreamer. And I think there will be a lot of people who just love wrestling. Hopefully, I get a bunch of friends out, family, and have fun.” ••
For tickets to the show, visit www.houseofhardcore.net