Kayfabe Arcade: The Creature Feature John Campbell
Posted on September 23, 2015
September 23, 2015 | by Kevin McElvaney
As has been discussed in earlier editions of this column, there are many parallels between independent wrestling and the DIY/punk/indie rock scenes. Not the least of these similarities is the work ethic and sacrifices made by many of the individuals, who are giving their full selves to their respective, chosen passions.
“The Creature Feature” John Campbell is a native of Harrison, Michigan. Growing up, he was a huge fan of both wrestling and music. He viewed each art form as an escape. “Pro wrestling and punk rock really saved my life,” he says. “With punk music, it was okay to be different, and it was okay to be unique. With wrestling, it was living vicariously through all these larger-than-life people doing these larger-than-life things.”
A self-described “overweight” kid, Campbell found special inspiration in independent wrestling, including legendary promotion ECW. He noticed that many of those performers didn’t fit the then-ubiquitous bodybuilder image of televised wrestling. “Hey, maybe I can do this,” he thought.
As he was finishing high school, he hatched plans to become a pro wrestler himself. Having an idea of the physical rigors he’d face inside the ring, he set a goal of getting into what’s called “ring shape.” He ultimately lost over 100 pounds while preparing to enter wrestling school. The experience left him with newfound self-esteem, because he’d set a lofty goal and worked hard to make it a reality. More importantly, he was ready to become a wrestler. “Wrestling was first and foremost,” he says. “A 9 to 5 job or going to college was completely secondary.”
Now a nine-year veteran of the midwestern independent scene, Campbell’s work ethic has served him well the whole way. His path parallels that of so many DIY bands, booking shows for a little gas money in order to gain exposure, make connections, and hopefully win over a few fans. The connection isn’t lost on him, as he describes a felt “kinship” between indie wrestlers and musicians. For one, there are many more more punks in wrestling locker rooms than there once were. Perhaps more significantly, the independent spirit runs through both scenes. “You have to do it for yourself,” he says, of both musicians and wrestlers. “And you have to make it happen.”
Although he’s grown to love many underground acts from punk and related genres, Campbell’s introduction to the culture came from an amusing place. He clearly remembers seeing the Sex Pistols on an old VH1 show, then picking up Never Mind the Bollocks not long after. It was his first punk album. Of course, his interest expanded from there. He soon discovered The Misfits, whose material complemented his deep enthusiasm horror movies. They quickly became his favorite band and, before too long, he was sporting a tattoo of the iconic “Fiend” face.
The influence of punk rock and the horror movie culture on Campbell is obvious when looking at his “gimmick” (slang for a wrestler’s character and/or attire), but it’s not likely you’ll run into him at too many concerts or horror conventions. When asked about the latter, he answers frankly: “I put literally every single extra little bit of money that I have that’s not going towards my bills to pro wrestling.
“A lot of my friends go to Motor City Nightmares [a Detroit horror convention], and they post all these cool pictures,” he continues. “I just kind of sit there eating my ramen noodles and crying, because I can’t afford to go.” He laughs while saying this, both because he’s got a good sense of humor and because he understands the higher purpose of the sacrifices he makes.
Of course, as with any wrestler, reaching the great heights of WWE would be an ideal situation. His goal, otherwise, is to keep active and happy on the independent circuit, perhaps working for some new and large indie promotions. Campbell’s definitely keeping busy already, wrestling primarily in and around Michigan. He’s very involved with Imperial Wrestling Entertainment, Michigan Wrestling Organization, and others. This year, he even checked an item off his bucket list by ranking #479 in Pro Wrestling Illustrated’s annual “PWI 500” list. He also still works a day job, as do most indie wrestlers and musicians. He quotes iconic wrestler Tracy Smothers, saying “You need a job to support your wrestling habit.”
Apart from his wrestling escapades, John Campbell is the host of a new YouTube show, The Creature’s Features, where he presents old horror films. You can check him out on Facebook and follow him on Twitter at @gjohncampbell.