Joey Ryan isn’t someone who got a major run in WWE, yet he has organically developed a fan following by fearlessly pushing boundaries to entertain. This coupled with his unwavering entrepreneurial spirit has made the lollipop sucker with the Selleck stash a must-see attraction at pro wrestling events around the world.
The 37-year-old has worked with a number of major promotions and can be seen on Lucha Underground as Officer Meehan. “It’s deeper than a backstage promo and wrestling match,” he said of the series. “That’s what’s different and cool about it. It has more of the feel of an HBO show than a traditional sporting event.”
Among the surprising figures to appear on Lucha Underground was Lorenzo Lamas, who has portrayed Councilman Delgado. Ryan believes the former Renegade star fits right in with the program being on El Rey Network.
“We’ve got Robert Rodriguez and Mark Burnett, and they are well connected in the Hollywood industry,” he said. “So I feel he may not be the only Hollywood type we will see there down the line.”
A new crop of viewers have been able to experience Lucha Underground thanks to its recent deal with Netflix. The first two seasons are available now. For Ryan, he and everyone associated with the show are still finding out the impact it’s having on bringing fresh eyes to the product.
“It’s only been a little while since it has been on Netflix,” Ryan said. “So it might be a bit too soon to know for sure what it mean for Lucha Underground. I didn’t start until season two. Most people are starting with season one on there. So I know the cast for that is getting recognized a little more. Netflix is a huge market to hit.”
Outside of Lucha Underground, Ryan competes regularly at independent shows like Ronin Pro Wrestling, a South Florida based company. At a recent show the grappler put one of his trademark lollipops in the mouth of an elderly fan with purple hair. The scene received a big ovation from the crowd and is just one of the ways Ryan gets fans talking on a nightly basis.
That and the “YouPorn Plex,” where he uses his lower extremities to “flip” opponents to the mat. Ryan matches have gone viral in past with the “King of Dong Style” showing up on SportsCenter, TMZ and even as a “Clip of the Week” on The Soup on E! Network. He has parlayed his success into other television credits.
“You can feel wrestling is hot right now,” Ryan said. “There is a big fan base for it. You will see some of these producers and executives go to these events. They see me, like the character and what I do. They ask me to be a part of their other projects like a Fuller House and like a GLOW. It’s really cool to have the opportunity.”
“…When you are wrestling in front of [actors], their minds are kind of blown. They get acting. They know acting. It’s a little bit mind-blowing to them that not only are you doing acting, but you are really doing your own stunts. And on a wrestling show you are doing it all in one take. There is no reshoot. Most actors when they see it are pretty into it.”
Ryan’s wife Laura is also pretty into pro wrestling because she is a fellow pro wrestler. The two were engaged in an actual inter-gender tag team match.
“It really was the only way for me to surprise her,” Ryan said of the one-of-a-kind proposal. “It had to be in front of anyone. Any other way, and she would have seen it coming….She understands my schedule and what I do, which is nice. She gets it and doesn’t get uptight about stuff.”
The colorful figure draws inspiration from a variety of places. One is of course patterning his look form the 1980s and Magnum P.I. Within wrestling, Ryan takes further elements from the likes of Rick Rude.
“I have gotten a real kick lately out of watching Andy Kaufman,” Ryan said. “He had a way of emotionally engage an audience just by his presence. I think that is something you can learn from and strive to do.”
Aside from his own accomplishments, Ryan is also proud of a regular in-ring partner Candice LeRae. Together they are known as the “World’s Cutest Tag Team.”
“It’s about time,” Ryan said of LeRae being on WWE’s radar. “To me, not gender specific, male or female she is one of the best wrestlers in the entire world. I think it was only a matter of time before WWE caught up to that.”
Every match and appearance brings another opportunity for Ryan to get a reaction from an audience. The veteran’s approach may not win over diehard traditionalists. However, he remains undeterred knowing he is staying true to himself and having fun on the job.
“It’s really hard to do when you are first starting because you want to do everything the right way,” Ryan said. “You want to come up properly in the business. I tell those coming up now not to be afraid to be themselves. I tell them not to be afraid to try new things because you never know what will catch on in wrestling.
“The most ridiculous things sometimes become the most over things. Then it becomes your shtick and your gimmick. Real creative people shut down their own ideas because they think it’s too out there. But really there isn’t much that is too out there when it comes to wrestling. I tell people to follow their gut instinct rather than model themselves after somebody that’s already there.”
Lucha Underground airs on Wednesdays 8/7c on El Rey Network.
Catch season one and two on Netflix.