For seven years, Brad Fox was part of the rat race. He did the 9-to-5 thing, working as a stock broker in St. Louis. The money was fine, but it wasn't what the Pittsfield native wanted to do.
About eight months ago, he traded his suit and tie for pro wrestling gear. He's let his hair grow and sports a long beard. A 6-foot-8, 255-pound brawler, Fox is an imposing figure in the ring. And his character, Jake Dirden, is starting to gain some momentum.
He's in a contest to land a spot on Impact Wrestling, which shows its matches on Thursdays on SpikeTV. In early April, Fox will leave for Japan. He's planning to spend three months in that pro wrestling hotbed to learn more about the art of his new profession.
While all that sounds great, what do Mom and Dad have to say about it?
"They're really supportive, but they don't understand much about it," Fox said of his parents, Karen and Roger. "It's tough for them to grasp it."
Unlike other professional athletes from the area who have gone on to achieve some riches in their professions, Fox is hardly getting rich off of his decision to become a pro wrestler. While Quincy's Luke Guthrie gets to tee it up in tournaments with Tiger Woods and Jack Cornell shared a locker room with a group of Super Bowl champions as a member of the Baltimore Ravens, Fox doesn't get to run out on WWE's Monday Night Raw and mix it up with John Cena and Co.
He's beating the bushes in the St. Louis area.
"It's tough," said Fox, a 2005 Culver-Stockton College graduate who played basketball at the Canton, Mo., school. "The money is tough. You have to be willing to do a whole lot for not very much at all or have set up a plan to allow to do it. It's tough to get a lot of bookings."
Fox practices his craft in sparsely populated high school gyms, recreation centers, fairgrounds and other places far off the beaten path. When Fox isn't training at St. Louis-based Dynamo Pro Wrestling, he spends a lot of time wrestling in the Metro East area of St. Louis. He makes trips to Kansas City for TV tapings of matches and even goes as far as Iowa to get some work in.
It's not a glamorous life by any means, but Fox wouldn't trade what he's doing right now for anything.
"Every town you go to is fun," he said.
Jake Dirden, Fox's ring persona, has a specific plan in mind when he steps into the squared circle.
"I try to slowly, methodically beat the heck out of people," Fox said. "And I try to have fun while I'm doing it."
His finishing move, which is done before he tries to pin his opponent, is a choke slam, which he has dubbed the "The Cure."
Dirden, Fox said, is both loved and hated by fans that watch him wrestling.
"A lot of people hate him, and a lot of people like him," Fox said. "That's fine as long as people are making some noise."
Fox is hoping enough people make some noise for him in an online contest that Impact Wrestling is holding. Impact is trying to find some good talent on the independent circuits and has launched "TNA Gut Check." Fox has his own profile on the page, which includes a YouTube video with some of his highlights, at www.tnagutcheck.com.
Although he looks like he could be cast in "Sons of Anarchy" in his publicity photos, Fox looks more like Hillbilly Jim in the ring. Fox said people often compare his look and style to former wrestling star Bruiser Brody.
Whether he goes anywhere in the Impact Wrestling contest or not, Fox, 29, will continue to pursue his dream. And if he never winds up butting heads with Cena in the WWE, that's fine with him.
"There are a lot of great places out there," he said. "There's a great independent circuit around (St. Louis) that has great shows."