Chandler Dabbs has made a name for himself locally as a wrestler, but he will be seen in a pivotal scene in the major film release “Stand Your Ground,” which is playing Friday-Jan. 23 at the Wynnsong 16 theater in Albany. (Special photo)
ALBANY — This weekend is shaping up to be about the biggest ever in Chandler Dabbs’ 30 years — or so — of life.
A former “stereotypical fat kid who sat on the couch eating dip, drinking soda and watching wrestling four nights a week,” Dabbs will celebrate two potentially life-altering events in his chosen career paths when he welcomes local moviegoers to the premiere of his first major film — “Stand Your Ground” — at Wynnsong 16 Cinemas here Friday and Saturday and then joins the wrestling superstars of TNA for a match at the Albany Civic Center on Sunday.
That the two major events would coincide has served to make this weekend Chandler Dabbs/Dab Savage Days in the wrestler/actor’s hometown.
“Yeah, this is a pretty big deal,” said Dabbs, who started wrestling professionally “sixish” years ago and stumbled into acting less than two. “I’ve loved wrestling since I was a kid, and to have an opportunity to be in a match with the second-largest wrestling company in the world, alongside guys who were heroes of mine, in my hometown … well, this is like a fairy tale.
“And the movie is just one of those unbelievable things that seems made up. You couldn’t write a better story.”
Dabbs became friends with a group that had ties to Atlanta’s bustling film industry, and since wrestling had taught him a great deal about self-promotion, he asked to be added to an email list when extras were being sought for films shot around the state capital.
“I got this email about a film that was being shot in Atlanta actually about two years ago, so I sent a request in to be an extra,” Dabbs said. “I got a reply in, like, 20 minutes from the director saying I would be perfect for the part of a prisoner who is in a pivotal scene in the movie.
“Now I didn’t even have any photos of myself, no head shots or anything, and the picture I sent in with my email request to be an extra was a selfie. To get that response on the first thing I ever submitted, well, I figured this was going to be easy. Two hundred submissions later, I realize it’s not.”
Dabbs, who has generated a large local following wrestling as “Dab Savage,” said he got the opportunity to wrestle in Sunday’s “Road to Lockdown” show at the Civic Center by “basically stalking” officials with Nashville-based TNA.
“I saw on TV that TNA was doing a show in Albany, so I got on the Internet and found their corporate office,” he said. “I’d finished third in their online TNA Gut Check contest — No. 1 in the U.S. — so I figured that gave me something to bring to the table. I put together an email with some photos telling them who I was, and I told them my following in the community would be a plus for the show here.
“I sent that email and started calling their offices — basically stalking them — and about five days later I finally heard back from them. They were super nice, and after we talked a while they said they’d add me to the card. I don’t know who I’ll be wrestling yet, but, man this is like the biggest thing I’ve ever done in the business. I did get to work as Jake “The Snake” Roberts’ tag-team partner at a show in Rome a little while ago, so that’s helped me prepare somewhat for performing at this level.”
The card for Sunday’s lineup has not yet been set, but TNA superstars like Olympic champion Kurt Angle, heavyweight champion Magnus, and household wrestling names like Mr. Anderson, Bully Ray and James “The Cowboy” Storm are expected to be among the performers.
As for Dabbs, he’s been working out like a madman to prepare for his moment in the wrestling spotlight.
“Man, I’m so anxious to get to the gym, I’ve been getting up at 4 a.m.,” he said. “I’ve been focusing on my diet, working out, going to spinning classes,” he said. “I’ve lost about 15 pounds. And — in wrestling, this is important — I’ve been tanning. I didn’t want to go into the ring against one of my boyhood heroes and have a ‘muffin top’ sticking over the top of my trunks. And, if I did, it was going to be a tan muffin top.
“I’m not trying to blow my own horn, but on the smaller wrestling circuit I’ve kind of been the big fish in a small pond around here. This is a complete 180. Now I’m at the bottom of the totem pole. I’m feeling a little like I did when I was that 6-year-old kid sitting in the stands with my foam finger and Sting T-shirt, in awe of those wrestlers. To have a chance to be in a program with some of them is beyond a dream come true.”
When Dabbs got the call from Atlanta to come up for the filming of “Stand Your Ground,” which is based on the book “Georgia Justice,” he was told to prepare to play “a jerk, a muscled-up prisoner who welcomes the main character (played by Drew Matthews) to prison in a pivotal shower scene.”
“It’s PG, it’s PG,” Dabbs, whose IMDb mention lists him as “Muscular Inmate,” laughs as eyebrows are raised at the revelation. “I have to beat up another prisoner in front of the main character to let him know what he’s in for. I don’t have a particular line of dialog per se during the scene, but while I’m beating the guy up I say a lot of the things you’d hear me say in the wrestling ring.”
A shower scene, hmmm?
“Yeah, when they sent me the script, it specifically said to bring ‘tighty whiteys’ to the shoot,” Dabbs laughed. “Not to be too personal, but I don’t wear tighty whiteys. But we do have these little briefs that we wear under our wrestling tights that are very skimpy, and I figured that’s what they were really looking for. So we get ready to do the scene and I walk out in front of all these motorcycle gang-looking guys with a pair of brief briefs. There was a minute or so of awkward silence.
“Thankfully, the filmmakers had brought along extra underwear just in case.”
Dabbs and Matthews are scheduled to be at the Wynnsong 16 Friday and Saturday to sign autographs and take photos with local moviegoers. Dabbs most likely will have to miss Sunday’s run because of the wrestling commitment, but Matthews is expected to be back. The theater has scheduled a full run through the week.
With such a significant weekend unfolding in his hometown, Dabbs said he’s counting on Southwest Georgians to help him make it even more memorable. He’s asked if his friends will show up en masse to support him.
“They’d better,” he said. “If they don’t, they’re not going to remain my friends.”
“Stand Your Ground” is scheduled for showings at the Wynnsong 16 at noon, 2:40 p.m., 5:20 p.m., 8 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. Friday-Jan. 23.