Drew Cordeiro chuckles at the suggestion that there's any similarity between what he does for a living and the Barnum and Bailey existence enjoyed by WWE czar Vince McMahon.
At 29, Cordeiro looks the part of a professional wrestling promoter -- his flowing dark hair drawn neatly into a ponytail -- overseeing the independent outfit Beyond Wrestling that has gone from a social-media-driven promotion to one of Rhode Island's most popular sports entertainment companies.
Despite his company's success, Cordeiro isn't brash enough to put himself in the same arena as McMahon, WWE's principal owner, top executive and audacious showman extraordinaire.
But perhaps the chuckle that escapes when his name is mentioned in the same breath as McMahon's indicates that Cordeiro is flattered -- if even mildly -- by the notion.
Cordeiro first learned the ropes of running a successful wrestling business as a kid in Providence when he was staging backyard shows behind his house or in nearby school yards. The key lesson? Give the people what they want.
That's when Beyond Wrestling goes, well ... beyond wrestling and a new business model comes into plain view: Give people what they want to see and feed them damn good food while you're doing it.
"I've never been to a wrestling show where they're serving up homemade pulled pork and chicken cacciatore, and you just walk up and get a plate and it's right there," wrestler JT Dunn says. "Then you turn around and you see body slams and suplexes. It's a surreal thing."
At Beyond Wrestling, it's all part of the show and all part of Cordeiro's master plan of being more than just your run-of-the-mill wrestling promoter.
Sure, he works with a roster of independent talent that performs live shows inside the ballroom of an eclectic Providence music hall and runs a popular YouTube channel promoting Beyond Wrestling's unique brand of sports entertainment.
But Cordeiro is also a full-fledged foodie. He operates a wrestling-themed food truck specializing in gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches while also running live events serves up a full slate of home-cooked concessions, the likes of which have never been seen at any other pro wrestling venue.
"It's like if you go to some old Italian person's house and they sit you down and you're like, ‘Nah, nah, I've got to go,' and they just keep feeding you," Cordeiro says, speaking from obvious experience.
"That's basically the Beyond Wrestling experience."
Welcome to Drew Cordeiro's world.
Drew Cordeiro doesn't know how to relax. He will admit that much.
Between overseeing Beyond Wrestling -- an organization started to give wrestlers a stage free from the politics of other outfits -- and keeping his Championship Melt food truck moving around Rhode Island's biggest city, Cordeiro works part-time as a roadside assistance dispatcher. If it sounds like an overloaded lifestyle, it is.
Cordeiro is a self-admitted workaholic. But when it comes to promoting an independent wrestling organization that harkens back to when anywhere from 15 to 20 of his friends would put on shows in his backyard, any talk of how many hours Cordeiro logs each week quickly disappears.
Again, he realizes this isn't normal. But then again, what food-loving, wrestling show-running boss with a degree in integrated marketing from Boston's Emerson College is? Cordeiro will tell you this isn't what he had planned. It wasn't as if a light bulb illuminated back when Cordeiro was running those backyard shows suggesting that there was a future in all of this.
Cordeiro planned to go into advertising after college. But after he tore his anterior cruciate ligament and suffered a partial tear to both his medial cruciate ligament and his posterior cruciate ligament from being thrown over the top rope in a backyard wrestling show, something clicked.
While he wasn't overly athletic, Cordeiro made up his mind. One way or another, he would work in pro wrestling. Cordeiro's dream came together in bits. Some would come when he was perusing the message boards of other backyard wrestling leagues. More would come when Cordeiro and his buddies would go on tour, performing five wrestling shows in eight days in three different states.
Other aspects of making Beyond Wrestling a reality would come when Cordeiro studied the business models of other wrestling organizations -- including WWE -- piecing together a vision of what worked, what didn't work and what missed opportunities his company could potentially pounce on.
Cordeiro gained valuable insight and experience interning for Kaiju Big Battel, a performance troupe that blended aspects of pro wrestling with Japanese Godzilla-themed movie battles. He took on a more traditional internship with Chikara, which operates conventional wrestling shows while still maintaining enough off-beat antics to keep things interesting.
The more Cordeiro worked, the more his mind continued to churn and the more that Beyond Wrestling started to take shape. But like with the majority of independent wrestling organizations, Cordeiro's company would have to start small.
After leaving Bridgewater, Mass., Beyond Wrestling moved into Providence's Fete Music, providing the kind of environment that small-time wrestling shows are accustomed to. The premise was simple. Cordeiro would allow his wrestlers to script their own matches, keeping them free of the creative limitations other wrestling promotions wanted to pin on them.
If they wanted to wrestle for 30 minutes rather than eight, so be it. If they wanted to concoct some bizarre ending that had never been seen before, that was fine, too. But as far as financial gain was concerned, Cordeiro couldn't make any promises -- not to his wrestlers and not to the fans that would eventually make their way out to live shows to check out Beyond Wrestling's fledgling product.
In the beginning, the shows resembled a scene straight out of Fight Club, where the only onlookers were the wrestlers involved in that night's show. As much as the company was about opening doors to bigger promotions to its wrestlers, Cordeiro believed his shows could attract a crowd.
Again, he promised nothing.
"We knew we weren't going to be able to present the best wrestling because we didn't have access to the best wrestlers," Cordeiro says.
The start was lean. Because the product was far from perfect, Beyond Wrestling began as a breeding ground. Cordeiro offered his performers the opportunity to wrestle against other professionally trained entertainers, putting the footage of the organization's YouTube channel.
The online video channel -- which has more than 18,000 subscribers -- allowed Cordeiro to keep his organization's action from being pirated by anyone with a cellphone camera. It also provides the wrestlers exposure to bigger wrestling promotions looking for talent, offering up video footage of matches, some of which have been viewed online more than 200,000 times.
While none of Beyond Wrestling's performers have reached the WWE stage, some have earned tryouts with McMahon's company. Still, in Providence, Beyond Wrestling, one of two area independent wrestling promotions, has continued to gain popularity.
The average show draws about 250 spectators, but goes well beyond the realm of average when it comes to the wresting itself. Cordeiro's cards can offer as many as 20 matches -- twice that of an ordinary show -- providing fans with the kind of faced-paced and unpredictable action that Cordeiro dreamed before he launched his promotion.
For Dunn, who has performed as a pro wrestler for eight years, including the past four with Beyond Wrestling, working for the company at first was a bit offsetting. The fact he was wrestling in a studio for the sole purpose of recording matches of YouTube without the benefit of an audience went against everything he had grown up with in his career.
But once he got into the ring, he experienced a different vibe, making him believe that over time, the promotion could grow into something special. Four years later, he sees a much different product.
"It's unreal the emotions that the fans give forth at Beyond Wrestling," Dunn says. "They're so dedicated to the cause probably as much as the wrestlers are. The wrestlers want Beyond to succeed because it gives them an out -- a form -- to do what they love to do.
"For the fans, they want to see the best professional wrestling possible."
Ask Cordeiro to characterize the crowds that pay to see Beyond Wrestling live shows and he drops the term 'smart marks' -- trying like anything to avoid the negative connotation that often accompanies the tag. Like any promoter in his line of work, Cordeiro knows it is his job to understand his audience while putting on a pro wrestling show that is often more scripted than anything. But Cordeiro doesn't candy-coat his product, either, making it out to be exactly what it is. After all, when fans come to one of his shows, they know what they're getting even before they set foot inside.
Smart marks, indeed.
"They have a better understanding of what happens behind the scenes as far as wrestling than your average wrestling fan," Cordeiro says. "They know it's fake -- you don't need to throw it in their face and they're still going to appreciate the art form."
Not to mention the food.
A pro wrestling show may seem like a strange place to discover fine dining.
But ever since Cordeiro was a kid staging wrestling shows behind his house, his mother, Karen (aka Mama Cordeiro) has provided the kind of food that people don't soon forget. The tradition has continued to be a staple at Beyond Wrestling concessions. Karen's recipes are used for the three different kinds of calzones, homemade macaroni and cheese, lasagna, sausage and peppers, and meatballs -- plus eight homemade desserts -- that make up the concessions stand menu at live events.
Mama Cordeiro's culinary creations have become so much part of the landscape at the shows that Dunn says the running joke around the locker room is that fans come for the food and stay for the wrestling.
"It's that good," Dunn says of Karen Cordeiro's recipes.
Food has always been a big part of Cordeiro's family. So when he started Beyond Wrestling, he made certain that food played an integral role in the environment. What started with Karen's recipes inside the venue poured out into the parking lot, where the Championship Melt food truck can be found, offering up a roster full of grilled cheese creations.
Championship Melt, created by Tom Zannini in 2011, created a link between the founder's love of wrestling and gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches. With a menu that includes things as basic as The Hall of Famer (American and cheddar cheeses) to the Piledriver (cheddar, beef and bean chili and Fritos) and the Smoking Gun (cheddar, pulled pork, barbeque sauce and onion rings), the food truck became a fixture at Beyond Wrestling shows, linking two customer bases that may otherwise never come into contact.
"It's definitely a different clientele," Cordeiro says.
When Zannini decided he wanted out of the food truck business, Cordeiro stepped in. Not only did he use the truck to enhance the level of food he already offered at his wrestling shows, but used the truck's visibility around Providence to promote his upcoming live performances.
Championship Melt, which has active social media accounts on both Facebook and Twitter, has become a mainstay in Providence's ever-changing food scene. In addition to opening for business outside of Beyond Wrestling live events, the truck and its unique twists on an American classic maintain a busy schedule -- one that will eventually grow to between 20-25 appearances around Providence per month.
As much as he loves food and pro wrestling, Cordeiro, who took over ownership of Championship Melt in September 2014, never envisioned his two love interests coming together like they have. The food truck is now the biggest promoter of Beyond Wrestling while the wrestling promotion's live events drum up the biggest profits the grilled cheese producer's see each month.
The unlikely marriage of good eats and solid pro wrestling has made the Beyond Wrestling's unique environment a hit. And behind it all is Cordeiro, who doesn't see taking a break any time soon, devoting his life to a wrestling locker room and fan base that keep him going.
"I'm a workaholic -- no question," Cordeiro says. "But I kind of like it. It's by design."
Indeed it is -- as if any professional wrestling showman worth a damn would have it any other way.