Introducing Mr. Nightclub

When many people hear “professional wrestling,” they start to crop up images of famous wrestlers such as Hulk Hogan or The Rock. They may think of flashy costumes, bright lights and theatrical soliloquies. They might even giggle.

But pro wrestling is more than its stereotypes to senior Mike Miskowiak. It’s a job.

Much to the surprise of many people, Miskowiak has worked as a professional wrestler while going to school full-time at UW-Eau Claire. However, Miskowiak said those who know him best are quick to see his connection to professional wrestling makes sense.

The sport combines athletic prowess and showmanship, he said, which is not always as easy to do, as some people may believe.

“It’s more legitimate than what people think,” he said.

There are about five independent federations near the Eau Claire area, he said. Miskowiak wrestles in these independent federations, which have the same set up as matches on TV, but on a smaller scale. The matches Miskowiak participates in often are held in places such as small auditoriums, county fairs, festivals and even bars.

Miskowiak wrestled in high school, but didn’t consider working professionally in the sport until college when he saw a local independent federation match. He got involved gradually, going to training camps and slowly getting involved in matches.

The bad guy
When Miskowiak decided to get into professional wrestling, part of the job was to develop a persona to take on while working at matches. While pro wrestling does involve a lot of athleticism, Miskowiak said, it also involves a great deal of showmanship.

“A lot of (pro wrestling) is getting (the audience) to either love you or hate you,” he said. “In most cases, I’m the bad guy.”

And being the bad guy means getting used to angry fans.

“I had trash thrown at me by a bleacher full of fans once,” Miskowiak said.

Miskowiak doesn’t shy away from being disliked; he feeds off of it, breaking out in a mischievous grin when he describes winking at girls in the audience and watching their boyfriends’ faces get red.

“Charisma is definitely one of his biggest strengths,” said fellow wrestler T.J. Shimek, who wrestles under the name, “Malice.”

While Miskowiak works to be a good college student in his classes, his alter ego, “Mike ‘Mr. Nightclub’ Rollins,” is all about the rowdy college party scene, with an act that typically involves hitting on fans’ girlfriends, picking on audience members’ looks and bragging about drinking adventures.

“It’s sort of a funny character in a way. He just does stupid stuff to get the crowd angry,” Shimek said.

Audience participation, good or bad, is a big part of the show, Miskowiak said. The most difficult shows are the ones without feedback, he said.

For example, he once wrestled at a show in Bloomer where the crowd didn’t cheer, boo or make any noise at all.

“I don’t know if they enjoyed it or not,” he said.

When people first learn that Miskowiak is involved with pro wrestling, one of the first questions is usually about his wrestling name.

“Mr. Nightclub” is meant to play off his act, which includes wearing hot pants and playing a lot of the same music Eau Claire students might hear at Water Street dance bars. The last name he uses when he wrestles came from a friend who commented that Miskowiak looked similar to rock icon Henry Rollins.

Miskowiak said he likes the persona he’s developed because it helps him stand out from other wrestlers. Many wrestlers play up tough-guy personas, using heavy metal music during their introductions.

“They say the best characters are an extension of yourself,” he said. “This is just the alter ego coming out.”

Rough and tumble
Many people think that pro wrestling is fake, and the wrestlers aren’t really working through difficult moves, Miskowiak said. While there are parts of a match that are for show, such as the characters’ personas, the wrestlers do go through very athletic moves, just like in a traditional wrestling match, he said.

These athletic moves, such as acrobatic flips, require training to do safely.

Before a person considers trying professional wrestling, they should first attend a training class to learn the basics of professional wrestling, such as learning how to fall correctly.

“If you fall on your neck, you’re done,” he said.

Staying in shape is one of the more time consuming aspects of the job, Shimek said.

“Lifting weights and trying to stay in shape takes time,” he said.

Even if a wrestler stays in shape and trains, injuries are a part of the job, Miskowiak said.

His injuries have included a broken kneecap and a cut that left a small scar above his right eyebrow.

But even injuries can’t get in the way of completing a match unless something very serious happens, he said.

“You can’t just scream in pain and ask for a doctor,” he said. “In wrestling, the show must go on. People come to see a show.”

Hitting the books
While Miskowiak is only known to hundreds of wrestling fans as “Mr. Nightclub,” most people at Eau Claire only know him as Mike – the guy in their class or in the halls.

Miskowiak has worked to balance his schoolwork and job as a wrestler for years.

While the pressures of a college student’s schedule are all too real for people currently in school, they can be difficult to explain to a professional wrestling promoter.

Building a rapport with promoters so they understood his situation took time, Miskowiak said.

“I’ve had to give up bookings because I’ve had major deadlines that have come up,” he said.

The advertising major will be graduating Dec. 17. But first, he has to finish a few more major projects and write a few more papers. And that means no more wrestling until after graduation.

“It’s really stressful now,” he said. “In previous semesters I could have the frame of mind that ‘I can drop this class.’ I can’t do that now.”

The future of “Mr. Nightclub”
Miskowiak isn’t sure if he will continue to wrestle after he graduates. If he does continue to wrestle, the future of his character, “Mr. Nightclub” is fairly solid, he said.

The character probably will live on for at least a few more years if he stays in the business, he said.

However, Miskowiak said his main priority now is his future career out of the ring – in advertising.

“Really, I’m just trying to get my foot in the door,” he said. “But if I’m able to juggle a career with wrestling, then yes, I’ll be sticking with it.”