UNION — Union County Agricultural Fair patrons will have the opportunity to watch a former WWE and TNA Impact pro wrestler in action at this year’s fair.
Drew Hankinson — better known to wrestling fans as Luke “D.O.C.” Gallows — will appear at the Union County Agricultural Fair on Saturday, Oct. 19, as he will face TSW Heavyweight Champion Deon Johnson. Matches will begin at 5 p.m.
“I’m looking forward to becoming a big part of Trans-South Wrestling as the next heavyweight champion,” Gallows said Tuesday afternoon. “Deon Johnson will be a stepping stone for me as I continue to advance my career.”
Hankinson, 29, said he wanted to become a professional wrestler since he was eight years old.
“I saw Jake Roberts on WWF (now WWE) Superstars on Saturday morning,” Hankinson said, explaining that he was hooked once he saw Jake “The Snake” place a live snake on his opponent. “Once I saw all the characters, it became an obsession. I had to do it.”
Hankinson admitted that when he was 15, he paid to get his photo taken in the ring at an independent show, not to get the photo taken, but just to get in the ring to see what it felt like.
“I was a super duper big fan.”
The six-foot-nine, 300-plus-pound Hankinson is originally from Maryland, and he played offensive line for the Fairmont State University Falcons in Fairmont, W.Va.
“I had a deal with my dad that if I finished out my scholarship playing ball, he would pay for me to go to any wrestling school I wanted,” Hankinson said. “But I didn’t hold up my end of the bargain.”
At age 18, he began wrestling under a mask on the local independent wrestling circuit. His secret was safe until one fateful night when he had agreed to wrestle without his mask.
“I had my hair bleached blonde, my arms were shaved, and I had a Hulk Hogan tan,” Hankinson said.
The young wrestler/college football player was excited about his new look and wrestling persona when he stepped in the ring that night, but to his surprise, he looked down at the crowd to see a familiar — and unhappy — face.
“My coach was standing there with his arms folded and a really unhappy look on his face,” Hankinson said, explaining that he was asked to report to the coach’s office on Monday.
“He said, ‘You need to decide if you want to be the next Dusty Rhodes or if you want to contribute to my football team.’ He said I had a week to decide, but I wanted to be Dusty Rhodes. College football was something I liked to do; wrestling was something I loved.”
By his 21st birthday, Hankinson was in WWE as a “Kane imposter,” and he was able to work with wrestlers he had admired such as Shawn Michaels, Rey Mysterio, and The Undertaker.
“I’ve been really lucky,” he said. “I can remember one surreal moment — being 24 years old, walking down to the ring, and seeing The Undertaker standing there. When I watched wrestling as a teenager, he was my guy. I thought, ‘How cool is this!’”
Hankinson also wrestled in WWE as “Festus” before he became “Luke Gallows” — a member of C.M. Punk’s Straight Edge Society. He eventually went to TNA Impact Wrestling, where he was known as “D.O.C.” of “Aces and Eights” and was able to work with another wrestler he idolized — Sting.
“I was always happy when guys like that were happy with me in the ring,” Hankinson said. “I consider them the best.”
Hankinson has wrestled in 40 countries total, with his favorites including Japan and Australia. In fact, he heads back to Japan next month to compete.
“I’m excited about the path my career is taking,” he said. “I’m just now hitting my stride, and I think my prime will be in the next few years. I definitely plan to be back in a WWE ring again.”
Hankinson said there is one particular wrestler with whom he would love to get in the ring before his career is over — WWE’s Randy Orton.
“I watch him on TV, and I’m a big fan of his style,” Hankinson said. “He can control a crowd with his eyes. I don’t know if the comparison has ever been made, but he kind of reminds me of Jake Roberts. He doesn’t have to go 100 miles per hour to get a reaction.”
To keep up with the wrestling career of Luke “D.O.C.” Gallows, follow him on Twitter at @ImpactDOC.