It's well documented that there are pro wrestling fans all over the world and from all walks of life. This even includes public figures who aren't afraid to express their fandom. I'm talking about politicians, pro athletes, musicians and everything in between. I thought it would be fun to reach out for many of these public figures to talk about makes them devote followers of this unique form of entertainment. And in the process show that they are "One of Us."
Among those is singer and actor Skylar Astin, known for projects like Pitch Perfect. Astin can often be found at WWE live events, hanging out backstage, tweeting about what's going on and appearing on podcasts including the Comedians of Wrestling. After a recording session for episodes of Trolls: The Beat Goes On (Season five comes to Netflix on January 18), Astin took time out to talk about why he is a wrestling enthusiast and proud of it. You can also catch him on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend Friday nights on CW.
What was your first pro wrestling memory? Was it growing up?
"My biggest memory was going to SummerSlam 91. I was only five years old, but I had an older brother. So, he introduced me to at the time Macho Man, Hulk Hogan, Jake the Snake and all the guys in this golden era. I followed it pretty religiously through the "Attitude Era," which was at its height. Then it tapered off. It was only about four or five years ago and around WrestleMania 31 when [Seth] Rollins cashed in that I really got back into it. Now I watch everything. NXT, every Raw and SmackDown. It's embarrassing. During this time of year near the Royal Rumble I love watching old Rumbles. I think it's one of my favorite Pay-Per-Views. "
Was there one wrestler who got you hooked?
"I was just following my older brother, and everything he said was cool. He really liked Bret Hart. To rephrase the answer, my first answer to really being hooked was Shawn Michaels. I think it was because the barbershop incident scared me so much that I didn't understand why someone I liked did something bad. I wasn't one of those cool kids who rooted for the heels or the bad guys. There was something about Shawn Michaels that I just went on the journey with him. Through the boyhood dream, when he lost his smile, the screw job, DX, he was my guy. My screenname was based on him on AOL. He meant a lot. Looking back and to see what was happening behind the screw job, it's kind of funny that I was following who self-admittedly says he wasn't the greatest guy to work with."
Do you have a memory of the first time you met a wrestler? Tell me about that experience.
"I met Sgt. Slaughter at my friend's Gary Schneidkraut's Bar Mitzvah. It was one of those gigs for him that was a paid gig. But for us, it was more. I was living in kayfabe. I didn't understand why Sgt. Slaughter, who might have been working heel at the time would be at this kid's party. It makes no sense. It would be more believable if they got Hulk Hogan or someone else. It meant a lot, but I just remember he was a huge man. His handshape, you could fit 10 of my hands in his at the time. His voice was so gruff that I remember thinking, "Wow, this is a real man. This is a sergeant." But he wasn't a sergeant at all. He was a pro wrestler. That was definitely something."
You mention being a big fan of Shawn Michaels. You've been backstage at a number of WWE events. Have you ever met him? What is it like being back there and seeing your heroes walking around?
"WWE has been so gracious to me. I always get to go backstage and see everyone. They are obviously working and busy, but Stephanie McMahon is always a total sweetheart. I met Triple H through her. I've become friendly with a bunch of the guys. They are all so nice back there, but they are all doing their job. I try to stay out of there way. I've met a lot of people, but I have never met Shawn Michaels. He was at a SummerSlam when I was backstage, but he was doing one of those KFC spots where he was dressed as Colonel Sanders. I apparently went to the bathroom when he had just marched through catering and was making a big scene in a funny kind of way playing the Colonel for everyone. I missed it. I've been in close proximity, but never met him. I've seen "Stone Cold," but never introduced myself. I've seen Undertaker backstage. I've seen The Rock. I haven't gone straight up to them, but I'm a huge Rock guy. I have a lot of his merch. DX too I love. Who doesn't?"
On the set of Pitch Perfect, you had Lana there. What was that like?
"CJ is a dancer, so she was our associate choreographer. She was kind of a dance captain for the first Pitch Perfect and even had a cameo in the movie. She played one of the Barden Bellas I think. She was around the whole time because she had to keep us to task with the choreography. After we worked together, I heard she was training and in NXT with her now husband. I know a lot of the girls went to watch her. We actually got to know Miro (Rusev) a bit, who is amazing. We actually got invited to their wedding, but we couldn't go. We heard it was a blast."
That's got to be cool to see her go from that movie set and not in the business much to see her blossoming right now.
"She is really determined. Every time I run into her backstage, she is really clicking on all cylinders and is serious about wrestling. Not just about performing and being beside her husband. She really wants to prove herself in the women's division. She started late, but she is a pretty quick study."
What does your wife (Anna Kemp) think of your fandom?
"She respects it from afar. There are so many things like football games, baseball games that she will totally come with me to However, when it comes to wrestling, she is very happy to make other plans. Having said that she did for Valentine's Day last year, one of her many gifts was the coffee table book for WrestleMania that is currently in my man cave. So, she gets it."
Being a fan, were there ever talks of you collaborating in some form with WWE?
"My first Monday Night Raw I met Stephanie McMahon in person for the first time I pitched her a spot for the evening. I didn't even get it, so I humiliated myself most likely although she listened to my whole thing. I was going to mix it up with Samoa Joe. They have mentioned doing some stuff at a house show first. The good news is since I'm such a mark, I know how to book myself well. I know I'm going to get booed. I know nobody wants to see me promote my crappy movie because I don't want to see it when other actors do it. I know how to do it and not make it about myself and make it clever and not break kayfabe too much. When the time comes, oh my gosh. I know I'm going to take one bump, and I will make it count."