by Luke Raven (@ravenluke)
Finality is a funny, bittersweet thing. While it can bring closure it can also leave us sad something is over and longing for more especially if it’s a stable institution in our world. There’s no shortage of metaphors and idioms that one can use to describe finality, but they can be hollow. If we can look at finality objectively then we realize it comes in two different ways. First, it can come when we least expect or want it to. Maybe it’s due to us holding onto something we cherish too long or a grandiose event happens and it’s taken away from me. Finality doesn’t care. The second way is when we’re ready to say goodbye. We take a step back, look at our surroundings, and can tell ourselves we are happy with our accomplishments. We can move forward once we’ve had that internal discussion. This doesn’t make it easier to say goodbye.
Tony Sly began training with Impact Pro Wrestling twelve years ago this month with Iowa staples like AJ Smooth and Matty Star among others. He started wrestling later than most and didn’t possess what some would call the ideal physique which may have caused a lack of confident. He wasn’t getting many opportunities maybe because he wasn’t a high-flyer who flipped around the ring and took unneeded risks. In 2005, he received a match in Delta, Iowa, against Johnny Fitness who was an established fan favorite and top talent for IPW. The monthly shows were conducted in a small gym in front of upwards to 300 diehard fans. This is where Tony Sly began to establish himself to the IPW faithful. Since then, and without waiver, Sly has stayed true to who is was and is: The Intellectual Punk.
[I’m] simply embracing who I am and have been for many years.
Like most of us his personal life experiences have influenced him inside the squared circle and out. Tony is an incredibly intelligent person who competed in speech competitions in high school and college where he would earn his Master’s Degree in Public Policy all while listening to his favorite punk bands like Bad Religion. This is who he is. No gimmicks needed. “I have learned how to set myself apart and succeed on my terms,” Sly says. Don’t confuse authenticity with stagnation, however, because people evolve and improve. Evolution has been more than a key, but a necessity to his success in the ring. Whether it has been bringing new levels of intensity to the ring or evolving his technique in the ring, something is always in motion. In 2012, Sly brought more of himself to his already existing “Punk Rock Icon” that would become who we all know today. This was, as Tony puts it, “simply embracing who I am and have been for many years.”
I am going to do whatever I can to buck conventional wisdom one last time
On Saturday, October 29th, the Intellectual Punk is in a Triple Threat match for the IPW title for what may be his last match. Never planning to wrestle after turning 40-years-old, Sly knows that his position is an uncommon one having recently tweeted that he is planning on hanging up his boots after this Saturday, but plans to do leave as champion; “Wrestlers my age don’t win Heavyweight Titles. Wrestlers like myself who have had such a long standing and adverse relationship with fans don’t win the title to the cheers of fans in their last match. I am going to do whatever I can to buck conventional wisdom one last time.”
He is legitimately fueled by the cheers and adoration of the fans
One of the men he will be facing is the dangerous and brutal, Big Picture. “The Big Picture is probably the most deceptively strong and athletic wrestler in IPW,” Tony stated. The man walking in as champion is arguably the most popular fan favorite in the history of IPW, James Jeffries. “He is legitimately fueled by the cheers and adoration of the fans. This, along with his athleticism and pure wrestling talent has propelled him to multiple IPW Heavyweight titles,” Sly says. All three men are looking to end the night as champion. For The Big Picture, he’s looking to assert his dominance on IPW. For Jeffries, continued success and growth are motivation. For Sly, it’s one last opportunity to prove to everyone that he can be successful doing things his way.
I’ll be determined that no one shall dissuade on my way
Doing things his own way is clearly important to “The Intellectual Punk” Tony Sly. Whether it’s starting wrestling later than most, being himself more and more over the years, winning titles, headlining shows, or even going out on his own terms. The Intellectual Punk has and will continue to live life to his own personal rhythm. The furious bass line that has delivered success at every stop inside the ring is coming to its last beat. But before those reverberations are distant echo in your ear, come and hear it explode one last time. “Walk Away” by Bad Religion might best sum up Tony Sly’s career finale: “He shrugged when I asked him about it/ He said, “Young man pay heed, you listen well to what I say/ Now there comes a time for a man to walk away”/ Walk away, I’ll be a parade/ And I’ll be determined that no one shall dissuade on my way.”