Prichard: The Doctor of Talent
by Michael Dworkis
Dr. Tom Prichard can admit that he has “been there, done that.”
A ring veteran of over 20 years, Dr. Tom Prichard has been through every territory and promotion there is. Encountering various individuals in different promotions, he has seen the best and the worst individuals to step into a ring. At the start of his career, Dr. Tom observed the actions of others like most rookies should do, learning the “dos” and “don’ts” of the business. Progressing to the southern areas, he became a big name by having the right attitude and the necessary skills to fit the mold of a great superstar. Becoming a champion virtually everywhere he went, Dr. Tom became the role model for those who wanted to see success in the sports-entertainment industry.
I knew since I was young that this is what I wanted to do. I had no illusions of glitz and glamour, I knew it was something I would have to drive town to town for. It was hard, but that what this business demands. Hard work, heart and the desire to put the work in.”
His first match took place on October 20, 1979. Since then, Tom was aboard the train of success. In the early 80s Tom would mainly be involved in tag team competition in various southern regional promotions. His stardom continued to rise as he went to the USWA, and was their champion six times in two years. It was in Smoky Mountain Wrestling, where he won eight tag team championships with Stan Lane and later on with Jimmy Del Ray as the Heavenly Bodies, managed by Jim Cornette. The Heavenly Bodies made their way to WWE where they defended the SWM tag titles as well. In 1996, with Chris Candido, Prichard claimed the World Tag Team Championship in WWE.
Tom made his transition to working in talent development after he finished his tenure with Chris Candido in the mid-90s. His brother Bruce was involved with WWE as well as a backstage official. Bruce accompanied Tom to a school where he was asked to help train a few rookies. Bruce Prichard saw how Tom worked with the students, and how he detailed every instruction to near-perfection.
“Bruce told Vince what I did, and then WWE asked me if I’d be interested in training three newcomers. They were: Mark Henry, Achim Albrecht (a bodybuilder who competed as Brakus), and Dwayne Johnson who we know as The Rock, was working under the name Flex Kavana at the time. We set up a ring and went to work.”
Officials at WWE was impressed by Dr. Tom’s amazing work with these individuals, and from then on, they asked him to be the man to scout and train new talent. An advantage that a lot of newcomers have is the fact that Dr. Tom enjoys teaching them the reality of being in the business.
“This is the real deal, it’s not a fairy tale story of all bright lights and glitz and glamour. It is just like anything else, everyone tries to succeed, but not everyone does. It’s not fair if you don’t make it, but the business isn’t fair, and if you don’t believe me, try going to Hollywood.”
As a Developmental Talent Manager of WWE, the knowledge of the business and what appeals to various crowds plays an essential role in the successful advancement of the WWE product. This position is no easy task, as on a daily basis, Dr. Tom goes through enormous amounts of mail containing resumes, photos and videos of men and women who want to be WWE Superstars. Additionally, he travels to different independent promotions to scout out aspiring trainees, and determines who has the right skills or filter out those who do not have the heart or passion for the business.
“It has to come naturally to you.” Prichard says. “You can’t just wake up and say you’re going to compete. It has to feel right, because if it doesn’t, then you should consider something else. As with any business or sport, you have to be realistic, you have to work harder than the next guy. You can’t come in, do it half-assed and think you’ll be successful. Kurt Angle – he got up at 4 a.m. to work out. He didn’t do it for a week – he did it for years. He prepared himself the right way and won the gold medal at the Olympics. The same thing goes in this business. You have to get into it, and have a gut instinct that tells you if this feels right to you, and you really know you’ll stick with it. You have to understand you will get knocked around a lot, physically and mentally.”
A key thing that Tom looks for is what he calls the “It factor.” He describes this “It” as something intangible, and most of the time something that is not always seen at first. In addition, part of the “It” factor is why people would want to pay to see you.
“A lot of times it's that spark, that attitude, passion, or desire. They can walk into a room and say, “he has something.” You feel ‘It’.”
Dr. Tom had exactly that when he made his pursuit into the business. He even describes how he developed the “It” factor that made him a huge success.
“I think once I felt comfortable being in the ring, I changed my style from face (fan favorite) to heel. It was more comfortable for me. But the man who had the confidence in me, and saw “It” in me was Jim Cornette, who gave me the opportunity to be in a tag team with Stan Lane. As a singles wrestler I had moderate success, and when I moved to a tag team, I had the most successful time in my career. We knew that we were going into the ring and we were getting the reaction we looked for. Jimmy had the “It” factor and he made me see mine. Jim knew how to take my personality and make it work as a character. I felt more comfortable being myself.”
As a talent manager he now looks at others and is able to figure out what “It” is that makes these guys attractive to fans all over. A perfect example is John Cena.
“When Cena was doing dark matches with us, he was one of the guys who just walked into the locker room, and at the time, he was an unknown commodity. But when he walked around, his presence was known. He didn’t make any scene in the locker room, but he was noticed. We said “He’s got something.” We couldn’t put our finger on what it was back then, but we knew there was something there. Then, one day we all saw “It.”
Dr. Tom looks for more than what is on the outside. He can see if someone has heart, talent, responsibility, dedication and respect for what it takes to become a WWE Superstar. In August’s issue of Raw magazine, Dr. Tom Prichard will tell his story of how he found his path to stardom, and discusses in detail what skills are essential in order to become a star in today’s fast-paced environment of sports entertainment.