Big Game Leroy carries his passion for video games to the ring, and he recently spoke to Daily DDT about how his loves for wrestling and gaming mix.
While plenty of wrestlers love video games, few bring it with them into the ring like Big Game Leroy. The 23-year-old Brooklynite started training at only 17, but it was the sight of him playing Nintendo Switch during a wrestling match that woke much of the wrestling fandom up to what he was doing.
Going on six years of in-ring experience, Big Game Leroy has continued to make his mark on the independent wrestling scene and even got the opportunity to compete for AEW just a few months back. We recently had the chance to speak to him about his passions for gaming and wrestling, and both loves came to Leroy when he was young.
“I’ve been a wrestling fan ever since I was a little kid. I know, super cliché. I would say my earliest memories of wrestling would be Attitude Era Raw cutting promos in the ring,” Leroy said. “As I became a little bit more sentient, I think I can really place that early SmackDown on UPN was really like me growing up with wrestling. Rey Mysterio, Matt Hardy, Edge, Kurt Angle, Eddie [Guerrero]. I think that was really my era of growing up on wrestling.”
“By the time I was 10/11/12ish, I kinda felt like I really wanted to be a wrestler. I loved it,” he continued. “I started training when I was 17, right after I graduated high school, at the House of Glory Wrestling School run by Amazing Red and Brian XL. Once I started doing that, I realized I sucked, but I realized I loved the physical aspect of it and I couldn’t wait to do more and to try to get better. I was hooked.”
“I grew up on Nintendo, man. I think my first system ever was a Game Boy Color, and then after that it was an N64,” Leroy said. “I’m a Nintendo and PlayStation head. I’ve always grown up on both systems primarily. I have a PS4 at home. I give a lot of time to that as well. Growing up, Nintendo was always my favorite, but I would also always get a PlayStation system at some point just so I could play more mainstream AAA type of games, and Sony has a lot of my love and respect because they also have that mindset of crafting good games.”
Nintendo Switch along for the ride
Big Game Leroy continued to train and improve, but eventually ran into an obstacle most wrestlers face early in their careers. What makes you stand out from the rest? Describing himself early on as “very bare bones,” Leroy eventually tapped into another passion of his and started to blend it with his wrestling.
“I am not the first video game wrestler. I’m probably like the sixth or seventh at this point, but I thought to myself lemme try to be genuine and genuinely passionate about these interests that I have, and at the very least people will go ‘okay, he’s not the first video game wrestling guy, but at least he’s super into it and he’s super passionate about it, so we have no choice but to kind of see what he’s up to.'”
“I was always trying to incorporate more video gaming aspects of that into my work,” Leroy continued. “I’m a huge video game fan. I don’t think that’s a secret to anybody. It’s been that way for quite some time, and I’ve always been a colorful personality. It’s really me, and I just dial it up to 100, as the cliché goes.”
Eventually, that love of video games went so far that Big Game Leroy would bring his Nintendo Switch along for the ride even during the match. While the incorporation of gaming into his character made sense, I had to ask how he got the idea to have the Switch with him during a match.
“I think the first time I ever wrestled with the Switch I was going up to CZW Dojo Wars. This was in like December of 2018, I wanna say. I was wrestling a girl for the first time, and I try to be a good guy and I had no idea of how to beat this smaller girl in a wrestling match without looking like a jerk, you know? So I’m sitting here thinking,” he continued. “What if I’m such an idiot of myself that I just decide to wrestle part of the match with my Nintendo Switch?”
“I always bring my Nintendo Switch on the road for these long car rides, so I figured to myself, let me wrestle this girl with my Switch. I’m sure it’ll get a laugh, and it’ll help me stand out,” Leroy said. “And it got a decent reaction in front of like 25 people, as it usually goes, and I was just like ‘okay, maybe there’s something here.’ I think it was about a few months later until I tried it out again in Pennsylvania at PPW in this battle royal, and it got a good reaction there. Then I thought to myself, ‘okay, there’s money here. There’s something here that people really like.’”
As a Nintendo Switch owner myself, seeing the console along for the ride in the ring is simultaneously exciting and terrifying. With every moment I worry about the console being damaged, and I asked Big Game Leroy about the abuse his own Nintendo Switch has endured.
“My Switch has been through literally everything. It has been swatted out of my hands. It has been knocked to the ring. It has been stomped on. It has been kicked,” he said. “I remember at the first Evolve show I ever worked, it went flying into the front row after Sean Maluta knocked it out of my hands, which was pretty scary. I thought that would be the moment where it would break. Thankfully, it landed right in this lady’s lap and she was kind enough to not steal it. So that was pretty great.”
“There’s been some wear and tear for sure, my Switch has seen some better days because this is still my original Switch that I bought three years ago. I’ve replaced my Joy Cons a few times, which have Joy Con drift, and then also just period needing to replace them,” Leroy continued. “But the Switch itself has been always intact, and it has run perfectly fine for me. I dock it at home, and that’s what I play most of the time at home.”
Considering everything it had been through, I suggested Big Game Leroy get his own Nintendo Switch commercial showcasing the durability of the system.
“Absolutely. I mean, Nintendo has always made amazing products over the years. I think that you can’t beat Nintendo. Between like GameCube and Game Boy being pretty much indestructible. People talk about Nokia phones, but Nintendo really knows how to make hardware.”
Of course, as interesting as it is to see a Nintendo Switch being carried in the ring, there’s also the burning question: what is he playing?
“It varies, but I will say the safest bet if anybody ever wants to guess is Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. I’m a big Super Smash Bros. fan. I have been since like the first game on the N64, and Smash Ultimate is a game that I’m very good at. It’s a game I’ve put a lot of hours into, so it’s almost like muscle memory to play Smash Ultimate, and that’s why it’s easiest for me to go into a wrestling match,” Leroy continued. “I actually have a few of my characters in Elite Smash, so I’m pretty proud of that. That’s part of the reason why I feel like I’m pretty good.”
“Depending on who I’m facing, sometimes I’ll change it up. When Pokémon came out late last year, I was into Pokémon Shield and I was playing a ton of that. That one is a lot easier to play in the ring because it’s turn based and it’s a lot slower,” Leroy continued. “I think my last wrestling date at CZW right before things really got shut down, I think I was playing some Animal Crossing and I think that was pretty fun setting up my island. I thought it was a fun contrast. I’m wrestling in the ring, and then at the same time I’m watering some plants on my island.”
For anyone who’s ever played Super Smash Bros., whether it be the original, Melee, Brawl, 3DS, or Ultimate, the thing that separates everyone is which character they choose to play as. For me, it’s usually Little Mac or Incineroar, but Leroy’s choices lean a bit more traditional.
“My main is easily Ness. I also pick a lot of Mario, Donkey Kong, Inkling, and I would say I’ve been playing a lot of Joker recently because I got into Persona during quarantine, and that’s been a lot of fun,” he said.
Wrestling meets Street Fighter
Back in November of 2019, Big Game Leroy took his in-ring gaming shenanigans to a whole other level at House of Glory’s No Limit. Leroy was up against industry veteran Low Ki, who has over two decades of experience and has held championship gold in MLW, FCW, NJPW, PWG, Impact Wrestling, ROH, and even won the second season of WWE NXT.
It was a huge opportunity for Big Game Leroy, but it became something even more special when he took the risk of challenging Low Ki to a game of Street Fighter during the match. Shockingly, the veteran accepted.
“It was amazing. I mean, Low Ki is probably the baddest dude in all of wrestling because of who he is, his reputation, and just the fact that he’s so intimidating at his size. I had a genuine fear for my life,” Leroy said. “He could have easily just decided to destroy me, and instead I tried to approach his gaming side, and I think it was so cool that a guy like him, I could get him to play along, very literally.”
“That’s the kind of stuff that I love to do in wrestling, because I think everybody in wrestling is a video game fan. I think everybody’s aware of video games. Nerd culture kind of blends together in such a beautiful way, especially in this day and age. And I think that wrestling and video games, I think people understood it once the titantron went on [and] they saw Street Fighter,” he said.
“Once they saw him with the Switch in his hand, it was just music from there. It was beautiful. I think that is wrestling,” Leroy continued. “That’s a moment that I think that for the people in the audience and the people that watched it, the clips online, it’ll last forever. That’s the kind of stuff I want to do is make people just go ‘oh my gosh, this guy just played Street Fighter in a wrestling match.’ And to this day, I can say that I beat Low Ki…in Street Fighter.”
AEW Dark during the pandemic
Of course, like so many others, nothing lately has really been normal for Big Game Leroy. With the ongoing global pandemic, wrestling and the world have had to adjust, and Leroy has seen that first hand starting at home.
“It’s been tough. I think that New York got hit really, really hard early on, and I think that this sense of like ‘wow, we’re trapped indoors’—New York City, we’re very social. We’re very outgoing. We don’t really stay home. We’re kind of running around a lot, so being told that you have to stay home is very, very tough,” he said. “I think a lot of us really struggled emotionally and mentally. It was a tough adjustment.”
For quite a while, the majority of the independent wrestling scene ground to a halt. However, a few select companies like WWE, Impact Wrestling, and AEW continued to film and broadcast their weekly shows.
Producing wrestling during a pandemic is a new challenge, but Big Game Leroy got to compete on AEW Dark alongside fellow independent wrestler EJ Lewis and see the precautions All Elite Wrestling are taking during this time up close. I asked him how that opportunity came to be and what the experience was like.
“So, we were helping Private Party and working with them on these Being The Elite skits that were getting a lot of traction, and at that time we had decided to contact their talent pool and stuff, and we decided to make the trip and take a risk to go down to Florida,” he said. “Thankfully, they liked us and they understood our work and they were happy and appreciative of what we did for those skits, and then we just got the opportunity. It was a little bit of luck, which comes with some of these things.”
“We had our opportunity to team up together, me and EJ Lewis against Santana and Ortiz, who are Bronx dudes, they’ve been in HOG for a million years. We’ve trained with them a few times. So thankfully it was some guys that we knew. They did not take it easy on us, but it was nice to be in the ring with some familiar foes,” Big Game Leroy said.
“The first thing I wanna say is precautionary wise, I thought they did an amazing job, and I’m not just saying that,” he began. “I have no reason to say that. I don’t have a contract with them, but I think they’ve done a really good job. The hotel that we stayed at was such a bubble of like ‘hey, please stay in the hotel as much as you can, if you go out wear a mask.’ Even walking through the hotel, everybody is wearing their masks.”
“The arena, the same thing. There’s a shuttle that’ll take you straight from the hotel to the arena. No contact with any random people or whatever,” Leroy continued. “They do full on COVID tests at the hotel before you go to the venue to make sure everybody is safe, then they do a temperature check once you get to the venue to make sure you’re also not feeling sick or having any symptoms.”
“I was really happy with all the precautions they took, because it seemed like they were doing everything that they could possibly do to keep everybody safe. And they did that for us, for me and EJ, who were essentially local talent,” he said. “[We were] new guys who they don’t necessarily have to treat [like this] and take care of, and yet they took care of us in such a way that they made us feel a part of that company, and I think stuff like that is really awesome. And if other companies want to run, I think they need to take notes.”
“I thought all of it was well done, especially because everything we’re doing in life, not just in wrestling, we’re figuring it out on the fly. And I think that it’s really incredible that they figured it out on the fly,” Leroy continued. “Not to say they got it perfect, obviously, but they really figured it out and they really made it work. As far as I know, they’ve kept everybody safe. Anybody who they thought was sick or who might’ve been sick they told to stay home, and they waited for quarantine. They did everything as by the book as they could.”
“Literally, it’s a life or death thing. Not to sound too dramatic, but it very much is, and I think it’s awesome that people have that type of seriousness for these issues and these things, because I love wrestling with all my heart, but I don’t think anybody should die for wrestling in that way.”
MV Young’s Outdoor PolyAm Cult Party
Another unique opportunity recently presented itself, as Big Game Leroy got the chance to be a part of MV Young’s Outdoor PolyAm Cult Party. The backyard event with extremely limited attendance streamed live on Twitch, and Leroy talked about how much enjoyed that unique experience.
“That was a lot of fun. I’m gonna sound a little weird, but I’ve always been jealous of some of my older friends in wrestling who, before they started officially training, they would do backyard shows,” he said. “They would just wrestle in someone’s backyard with barely a ring and maybe a mattress or something, and to an extent I was kinda always jealous of that because I thought that was an experience that you needed to have as a pro wrestler. To wrestle in front of ten people at some park or a beach or someone’s backyard.”
“This ring, this environment, it was awesome. It was a lot of fun. It was an experience, and I think that it forced me to be really creative because you’re wrestling in someone’s backyard,” Big Game Leroy continued. “If you get hit a little too hard, you might go flying into someone’s beer. You might go flying out of the ring because the ring is that small, and there’s no bottom rope. It’s almost like a deathmatch on the low, and it was a lot of fun. I also got to wrestle Pinkie Sanchez, a guy who’s just insane in the best way possible in the ring, and a lot of fun to wrestle.”
Continuing to blend wrestling and gaming in the future
As the ongoing global pandemic continues to affect everything in our lives, independent wrestling has also had to adapt. Big Game Leroy talked about his hopes of continuing to blend wrestling and video games in the future, and his optimism about where indie wrestling is headed from here.
“Especially now, with crowds being limited in terms of indie wrestling shows that can have crowds, I was thinking there’s more cinematic opportunities, and now we could legitimately have a video gamey type wrestling match with a health bar, or something that looks straight out of [WWF] No Mercy. I have so many ideas, and I’m just waiting for the right opportunity and the right time,” he said.
“I think there’s a lot of fun ways to entertain people. My mentality of wrestling is if people are enjoying it and it’s entertaining, and it still makes you feel things, whether it be good, bad, or whatever, if you can feel an emotion and you’re going on this roller coaster, I think it works for wrestling. I think it’s art.”
“I’m always trying to come out with new content and finding different ways to entertain people through my social media platforms,” Leroy continued. “I’m excited, though. I feel good. I feel like things are starting to slowly kind of get a little bit better in the wrestling scene. I think that, especially with the negativity and a lot of the craziness happening early on, I think that a lot of people were really concerned about the direction of wrestling, but I feel very optimistic now. I feel very hopeful that things will get better because of that stuff. We can only go up, and I like the direction of wrestling right now.”
“I think there’s gonna be ups and downs. I think that indie wrestling was on an up for a while, because like every other year we were seeing all these amazing matchups,” he said. “We were getting spoiled by these awesome WrestleMania weekends, and now we’re kind of on a down. And it’s okay, because we’re gonna come right back up. We’re gonna climb our way back up. It might take a year. It might take two years, but I’m really hopeful that once we get that new peak it’s gonna blow the water off of what we ever had before.”