"I hate the F-word," Nick Cvjetkovich says. "I hate the word 'fake.' It's a ridiculous, inaccurate, insulting word."
"I hate the F-word," Nick Cvjetkovich says. "I hate the word 'fake.' It's a ridiculous, inaccurate, insulting word." Andrea Kellaway
If you don't know KiZarny, you don't watch enough SmackDown. The Friday-night broadcast is one of World Wrestling Entertainment's most popular programs. But you would have to be a very dedicated fan to have seen KiZarny fight; he had only one televised "SmackDown" — his debut fight on Jan. 2. By the end of March, WWE announced they had to "release" him.
KiZarny is Nick Cvjetkovich, a self-described "long-haired hippie, tattooed dude from Canada." In fact, he was sitting in a tattoo parlor when his boss called to give him the bad news.
The WWE released him for a combination of factors, Cvjetkovich says. Part of it was the by-now familiar story of budget cuts: WWE has reported a 47 percent drop in profits during the first quarter of this year.
But Cvjetkovich says the writers who script the story lines couldn't decide whether KiZarny was good or evil. And there's no room for ambiguity in wrestling story lines, he says.
"The art of wrestling is to entertain, tell the story of good and evil," Cvjetkovich says. "It's an athletic competition; it's a real-life, full-contact movie."
Though the back stories and characters in wrestling are fiction, the physical side of the business is real. Cvjetkovich bristles at the suggestion that it's not. "I hate the F-word," he says. "I hate the word 'fake.' It's a ridiculous, inaccurate, insulting word."
"There's nothing forgiving about landing on a concrete floor or getting waffled by a 300-pound man's fist," he says.
But professional wrestlers don't stop for pain. "We're really circus animals," Cvjetkovich says. "We're bred to perform and we're bred to keep on going, hurt or otherwise, because if we don't, we get easily replaced." There's no big money for most wrestlers, he adds, and no off season. So there's no taking time off to heal.
"It's a lot closer to the movie The Wrestler," he says. "A lot of the guys, even the guys on TV that you see, a lot of them are scraping by. It's real-life money situations for everybody."
Until his debut as KiZarny, Cvjetkovich had spent his entire wrestling career as a villain. On the freelance circuit, he developed signature moves like the "hell-bow" and "Tallulah Belle," which built on a move created by wrestler Jake the Snake Roberts.
He worked hard at being bad. But when WWE hired him, he was cast as a good guy. But KiZarny –- and Cvjetkovich — are too weird for that, he says. In his debut match, the commentators used one word to describe KiZarny: "bizarre."
Cvjetkovich is a little more descriptive. He calls KiZarny "a creepy, colorful, playful, deranged, birthday clown, carnival freak, masochist, sideshow monster. Something out of a really colorful nightmare."
He says the persona was based on his life. "This wasn't a character I was saddled with — this is me, I'm a legit sideshow circus freak, a legit old-school wrestler that has slept in his car more nights than his bed."
Cvjetkovich relishes these carnival-like traits and says they come naturally to him. While he's lost his role as KiZarny, Cvjetkovich will keep the persona alive — though under a different name. He's returning to the freelance circuit under his old name, Sinn Bodhi. He'll be an unmistakable villain and intends to fight his way back to the SmackDown ring.
In one recent WWE story line, the good guy lost his fortune in the economic downturn. Cvjetkovich says the hero was forced to work for the bad guy, doing shady things against his will so he could feed his family.
"It was a really good idea," Cvjetkovich says, "because it really does portray what's going on in society."
"Maybe some kids that are too 'cool' to watch the news somehow get — a surreal dose, but a dose nonetheless, — of what's going on in the real world. The biggest heroes can fall due to a crappy economy."