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It Wednesday, and you know what that means…

Welcome to AEW – All Encouragement Wednesdays! Every week, I’m going to share some thoughts with you through a professional wrestling lens that will hopefully give you a little encouragement and motivation for the rest of your week!

So let’s dive in!

I love a good wrestling faction. A group of guys or gals coming together for one common goal – what’s not to love about that? Beating people up with your best buds? Living the good life with your closest friends? We can all live vicariously through that.

I was lucky to be a wrestling fan to see the glory days of factions. I was watching live when Hulk Hogan betrayed his fans to join the NWO. I watched a year later when my all time favorite wrestler Shawn Michaels joined up with Triple H, Chyna, and “Ravishing” Rick Rude to form D-Generation X. As somewhat of a “wrestling historian” (aka a massive nerd) I’ve gone back to watch the 80’s and the gloriousness that was Ric Flair and the Four Horsemen. Even in the last few years, we’ve seen factions like The Bullet Club, The Elite, and the Undisputed Era rise and have tremendous runs.

Then there’s the Inner Circle

Formed on October 2, 2019 on the inaugural episode of AEW DYNAMITE, AEW World Champion Chris Jericho recruited four other men to have his back and become the dominating “heel” or bad guy faction in the newly formed wrestling promotion. Fast forward two years later, and the Inner Circle are still going strong, only now they’re a beloved good guys (you can only have a bad guy come out while fans sing his entrance theme for so long before you gotta make that guy and his friends good guys). What started as a group to help keep the AEW Title on Chris Jericho has morphed into some of the hottest acts in AEW, which I’m sure was the plan all along. 5 different wrestlers, personalities, and styles coming together to dominate.

Looking at those 5 personalities got me to thinking – there’s a wonderful parallel between that group and our own lives. Much like Chris Jericho, we need to surround ourselves with strong personalities in our own inner circles. These are the types of people we need in our closest group of friends.

So if you’ll go on this journey with me for the next few moments, I’m going to break down the 5 people you need your Inner Circle, and correlate them to the members of the Inner Circle.

1. Jake Hager – The Constant

In 2008, a young wrestler named Jack Swagger, the All-American American, debuted on at the time WWE’s third brand ECW. Swagger quickly rose up the ranks on the show, becoming it’s Champion in no time. Lots of people thought the young Swagger was going to be the next big thing in the WWE, and about a year and half after his debut he was trying to prove them right. Two nights after Wrestlemania 26 (Wrestlemania is the biggest night of the year for professional wrestling) Jack Swagger became the World Heavyweight Champion by, ironically, beating Chris Jericho for the title.

Unfortunately for Swagger, his title reign was pretty lame duck, and subsequently he began to fall down the ladder of importance. The problem with the WWE is you seemingly only get one shot and if you don’t succeed, you’re never given another. Swagger had all the tools to be a major player for WWE for years to come, and for whatever reason, was never given the chance to prove it. After floundering for years, on March 13, 2017, Jack Swagger was no more. Hager had asked for and was given his release from WWE. He was free to show the world what he had to offer.

Hager bounced around on the independent wrestling scene, showing up in various places. He also signed with Bellator MMA, where he still has an impressive MMA record of 3 wins, 0 loses, and 1 No Contest. But by 2019, Hager wasn’t really on the minds of most wrestling fans.

Fast forward to October 2, 2019. Jake Hager runs into the ring from the crowd and destroys Cody Rhodes, Dustin Rhodes, and the Young Bucks with the help of his Inner Circle brethren. His debut gets a huge reaction from the crowd. Hager is All-Elite

Since then, Hager has played the silent but deadly character. He doesn’t speak much, he doesn’t have to. When you’re 6’5 265 with his background, you let your actions do your talking. He stands behind Chris Jericho and while Jericho delivers his entertaining diatribes, Hager stares down the barrel of the hard camera and you know that’s a dude you don’t want to mess with. Out of all the Inner Circle members, Hager has been the one to stand behind Jericho no matter what.

The Constant in your life is just that – someone who is always there for you. They don’t have to be the flashiest person in your group. They don’t have to be the “helluva hang” or the most fun. What they are is that one person you know you can call anytime and they’re there. They may not have all the answers, or any answers, but they are always there to help you, to be there for you. They always have your back no matter what. These are the people you need to rely on the most. When times are tough, they will be the ones to get you through. They will help carry you and your burdens when you feel like they’re too much for you to carry on your own. Your constants are the rocks of your life.

2 & 3 – Santana and Ortiz – The Encourager and the Motivator

Mike Santana and Angel Ortiz became a tag team in 2012, known by the acronym EYFBO (or Entertain Your F*cking Balls Off. Which you have to admit is hella clever). They eventually were signed to Impact Wrestling in 2017, before making their arrival in AEW at All Out 2019.

Since debuting in AEW, Santana and Ortiz have become one of the best tag teams in a promotion where tag team wrestling is valued just as much, if not more so, than singles wrestling. Their street fight against Trent? (No really, that’s his name) and Chuck Taylor is considered one of the wildest, most entertaining matches in AEW DYNAMITE’s short history. It’s only a matter of time before these two are AEW Tag Team Champions. They have amazing chemistry in the ring, and legitimately Santana has become one of my favorite guys on the microphone. The dude is so authentic and genuine. These two have a massive future ahead of them. I honestly wouldn’t be shocked if one day we see Santana and Ortiz as tag champs, with the other members of the Inner Circle holding the singles titles for a little Horsemen throwback.

A lot of times, people think encouragement and motivation are the same thing. I disagree. While they are similar, they are very different. However, much like Santana and Ortiz, they are the perfect tag team.

The encouragers in your life are the people who tell you that you can do anything. They pump you up when you need it the most. They listen to your ideas, and they get excited because you’re excited. They are your cheerleaders, your biggest fans.

The motivators are the people who love your ideas, but challenge you to make them happen. They are the people in your life who, when things aren’t going the way you want, will ask you how you plan to change things and make them better. They’re your accountability people. They’re the people who will hold your feet to the fire when it comes to projects and deadlines. They are the “iron sharpens iron” part of your Inner Circle.

You need both. Only having one will build you up with no accountability. Only having the other will pressure you without cheering you on. You need both for balance. They are the perfect tag team, and to have them in your corner is a beautiful thing

4. Sammy Guevara – The Protégé

If I’m being honest, I didn’t know anything about the “Spanish god” until he started popping up on Being the Elite, and at first I couldn’t stand him (Author’s Note – which obviously was the plan. Sometimes it’s still real to me, damnit). I thought he was a crazy good athlete, but I couldn’t connect with him. He opened the first episode of Dynamite against Cody Rhodes, and that’s when I started to warm up to him. Later that night, he joined the Inner Circle. His being paired with Chris Jericho not only allowed for memorable memes

But also so Jericho could give this could the old “rub” as they call it in wrestling. By associating with Sammy, and everyone in the Inner Circle, Jericho made all of these guys a bigger deal. Now, I’d venture to say the Sammy Guevara is the hottest wrestler momentum wise in AEW today.

Over the last two years, AEW fans have literally watched Sammy grow up in front of their eyes. He went from Jericho’s protégé to being one of the foundations of the company. After needing a bigger star to help make him, he’s doing that for wrestlers now. His YouTube Vlog has become more and more popular, to the point AEW signed Alabama Luchador Fuego del Sol based on his popularity on the vlog and the groundswell support from the fans. On the first episode of AEW Rampage, Sammy got to walk to the ring and hand his best friend his AEW contract. It was a moment that would make even the most jaded wrestling fan shed a tear. No doubt Chris Jericho is beaming with pride over how much success Sammy has.

I think part of the meaning of life is leaving the world better than how you found it. Part of that is finding people that you can teach, mentor, breathe life into and see them do better than you. Whether that’s your children, coworkers, siblings, whoever. It’s part of our life’s work to instill in other people the morals and lessons we’ve learned along the way. When we find those people, we always be there for them and try to teach them all we can. May we all be so lucky to see our protégés find as much success as Jericho has seen Sammy have. Speaking of Jericho…

5. Chris Jericho – The Mentor

A picture of Chris Jericho with me and member of my Inner Circle

There’s an argument to be made that Chris Jericho is the greatest wrestler of all time. From 1990 until today, Jericho has not only been wrestling, but for most of that time has been a major player in any wrestling promotion he’s been in. There’s also an argument to be made that if Jericho hadn’t signed with AEW, they wouldn’t be the force they are today. He was the first big name to sign with the promotion, and carried the company on his back for the first several months as AEW tried to establish itself and find out who and what it is.

While Hager, Santana, Ortiz, and Sammy are all very talented and would have become major players in AEW regardless, when they aligned themselves with Chris Jericho, their stock immediately rose. Chris Jericho elevates anything and everything he touches. He’s not afraid to use his star power to help make new stars, new gimmicks, even a new promotion. He’s a top 10 greatest wrestler ever, he’s a entertainer, a rock star, even a cruise promoter. Jericho’s work ethic and giving nature are traits to admire and strive to have in your own life.

About 4 months after I got into stand-up, I met Byron Yeldell aka Spanky Brown. He became my “Unc” and I was his “Neff”. Every chance he could, he put me on his shows as a guest spot so I could showcase myself to comedy clubs and bookers. He helped me get work, and always went to bat for me. When he would come to Chattanooga, we’d have lunch and he’d teach me how to play the game of comedy, how to sell myself. Those lunches and his going to bat for me helped make me the comic I am today and opened so many doors. I wish he were still here just to see how far I’ve come.

I’ve been blessed over the years with amazing mentors. From uncles to pastors to teachers – people who thought enough of me to make me the man I am today.

We all need those people who we can go to for wisdom and discernment. Those people who will go out of their way to help you, to hopefully see you achieve greater success than they have had.

So there you have it – the 5 people you need in your Inner Circle – The Constant, The Encourager & The Motivator, The Protégé, and The Mentor.

Think of the people in your life who fits these five things. If you’re lucky to have them – reach out to them today and tell them how thankful you are to have them in your life.

Let’s dominate the rest of this week

Thanks for reading

Rooting for you

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