At right, local wrestling hero Chandler Dabbs is better know in the ring as good guy Dab Savage.
ALBANY — Chandler Dabbs takes more than his share of verbal abuse when people ask him what he does for a living.
“When I say, ‘I’m a professional wrestler,’ yeah, I’ll get this look or someone will laugh or crack a joke about it,” Dabbs, who at 29 is making a name for himself across the South as wrestling good guy Dab Savage, said during a conversation at his Baker Avenue home. “But being a wrestler is probably my biggest dream right now.
“I was fascinated by wrestling as a child, loved it still as a teenager, and I’ve always wanted to pursue it as a career.”
Dabbs/Savage wrestles three to four shows a week at venues in Georgia, Alabama, Florida or Tennessee. But he’s especially excited that twice now he’s performed for big-and-getting-bigger home crowds at Albany’s State Theatre as he and fellow Westover High School graduate Sean Hatcher, part of the theater’s new three-man ownership partnership, have found an audience for Showtime Wrestling.
“Wrestling at the State has gone very well, better than we originally expected,” Dabbs said. “It’s an intimate venue, perfect for wrestling, and the crowds have been great. I think it really has a chance to grow because there’s nothing like it around here.
“It’s great for me, being from Albany, because the kids here seem to really love what we’re doing. It’s pretty awesome getting to feel like Justin Beiber for a little while.”
When Hatcher and partners Lane Rosen and Chris Hayes decided to join forces in an effort to revitalize the State, Hatcher dreamed up the concept of Showtime Wrestling. He immediately went to Dabbs, a longtime friend with whom he shared a passion for the most popular sports entertainment vehicle in the country.
“Dab has a lot of experience promoting wrestling matches, so he was a key part of what we were doing,” Hatcher said. “He knew a lot of guys just like himself who are doing what they do for the love of the sport. It was his shot at being a star here.
“The kids here look at (the local) characters just like they do the ones on TV. That’s probably the best thing about our wrestling shows here: It’s so kid-friendly, but it’s something parents are enjoying, too.”
Hatcher had to sell his partners on the concept.
“I always try to be open-minded, but I had visions of some hokey, backyard wrestling set-up with garden hoses for ring ropes,” Rosen said. “But I found out this is a fully professional product. Anyone who doubts it, any skeptics, I’d like to suggest you let one of these guys throw you off the top ring rope. You’d see what kind of athletes they are.”
Savage, who lost the Showtime championship belt to former friend Bam Stone at the last State event, will get a shot at revenge Saturday when Showtime returns to the State. The main event will feature the “Good Friends, Better Enemies” Savage/Stone rematch for the title.
“I beat him all over the ring the last time we wrestled at the State, but in the end he ended up throwing me into a ring post, and while I was dazed he rolled me up and got a one, two three,” Savage said. “We’re going to settle this once and for all Saturday.”
RUMBLE AT THE STATE
WHAT: Pro wrestling
WHEN: 7 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: State Theater, 313 Pine Ave.
The Savage/Stone showdown is one of five matches on the card for Saturday’s Showtime event. Tickets are $5 for kids and $8 for adults.
“We didn’t know how the community would react to the wrestling shows, but the first crowd was great and the second even better,” Hayes said. “It’s getting to the point where we’re going to have to consider selling reserved ringside seats.”
The match will be big in more ways than one for Dabbs/Savage, who has turned his wrestling stint into a budding acting career. Contacted by an insider with ties to Atlanta’s budding film industry, he landed roles in independent films “A Cry for Justice” and “Realm of Souls.” He’s also in a crowd scene in the huge hit film “Identity Thief.”
“Yeah, for my 8 seconds of fame, I’m in a scene in the bar dancing,” Dabbs laughed while discussing the “Identity Thief” appearance. “But because of the work I’ve gotten, I was one of 10 finalists (out of 100) for a role in the new ‘Anchorman’ sequel that’s filming now in Atlanta. I kept making the cut until it got down to the final 10, but I didn’t get the part.
“I don’t know where it will go, but it’s a pretty big — and unexpected — thing that’s come out of my wrestling career.”
Dabbs also had an opportunity to try out for TNA Wrestling, an organization second only to Vince McMahon’s massive WWE in national popularity. He bombed so badly, though, he seriously considered giving up on his dream.
“I had ripped my rotator cuff in a match and was out for eight months,” he said. “I got the offer before I was back in any kind of ring shape, but there was no way I wasn’t going to give it a shot. I flopped majorly.
“But I’ve been given another chance, and that’s pretty exciting for me.”
Dabbs/Savage is part of TNA’s “Gut Check Challenge,” which will land a fan favorite a TV tryout match. Savage fans can log onto impactwrestling.com/gutcheckchallenge and go to Bracket 6 to vote for their local hero. Voting will be conducted April 24-26.
Information is also available at www.Facebook.com/dabsavage or on Twitter at @DABSAVAGE.
So what does Dabbs say to all those who would give him grief about his chosen profession?
“Man, I’m not getting any younger, so I don’t really worry about what folks might say about what I’m doing,” he said. “I don’t know if I’ll ever get the big chance that I’m hoping for, but I don’t want to be 60 and look back with regret because I didn’t try.”