By Mike Mooneyham
Oct. 21, 2007
Many aspiring young wrestlers would sell their souls for a shot at the big time. The chance to go to New York, sign a contract and appear in sold-out arenas and on national TV is an accomplishment the majority of wannabe grapplers will never experience.
Most performers who call themselves “pros” are relegated to appearing in high school gyms, armories and flea markets, working for gas money in front of a few dozen friends, family members and hardcore fans. The dream of making it to the bigs will remain just that – a dream.
For Ryan O’Reilly and Krissy Vaine, though, that dream became a reality when the pair recently was promoted from WWE’s developmental territories to the big show.
It should have been a time of joyous celebration for the couple, who are dating in real life, an affirmation that hard work and dedication to the craft can pay off in the end. It was their ticket to the big time, and all they needed to do was simply cash it in.
But something happened on the way to the show. They made the monumental decision that something was more important than the business.
Colleagues in the profession were stunned. After all, the two had worked so hard to get to this point, and to shuck it all now just didn’t make sense.
The fact that the two had been around the business for a while, though, contributed to their decision. They had seen the landscape and were aware of the obstacles ahead. It didn’t take a lot of research to realize that the road to stardom is littered with personal and professional casualties. Few relationships and marriages survive. And that not an indictment of the business – it’s simply just the nature of the beast.
The two faced the prospect of possibly beginning their WWE careers on separate brands. For a new couple planning a life together, that more often than not spells trouble. It wasn’t worth the risk for Ryan and Krissy. They didn’t want to become another statistic.
The two did a lot of soul searching before making the decision to forego a career in WWE.
“There wasn’t one single incident that made us come to the decision we did,” says Vaine, 26. “It was a lot of contributing factors and a lot of outside forces not even related to wrestling. And it was the hardest decision we have ever had to make in our lives. But we have strong faith that there is a great plan for us. We’ve been blessed so much in our 20-something years. We definitely want to give back. Hopefully our story will help someone else one day.”
Vaine, in particular, was looking at a bright future in WWE. The Greensboro, N.C., native was the oldest of three, a typical small-town, All-American girl with big dreams, always accomplishing what she set out to do.
A shapely, attractive blonde, she was a natural fit for WWE’s elite divas division, but it was her actual wrestling experience and ability that had her on a fast track. Having signed a developmental deal with WWE in January 2006, she had been expected to give the women’s division a big boost and already had debuted on Smackdown in a recent angle with Torrie Wilson.
“I was slated to go to Europe and be away for over two weeks,” she says. “I’ve been having some health issues within my family in North Carolina, and I was terrified to leave the country. I couldn’t imagine if something would have happened while I was gone. I decided that I couldn’t do that to myself or my family.”
She simply realized that there were things more important than professional wrestling.
“I always took my family for granted until I had to move away,” says Vaine, whose real name is Kristin Eubanks. “Then you begin to realize how important loved ones really are (when you are away). I’m a different girl now than I was a year and a half ago. I think Ryan brought out a big part of that for me, and just being away and tragedy taking place … you begin to re-evaluate your life when things start to pile up. My family wants us to be happy. They care a lot about Ryan because they have seen how much good he’s brought out in me and, of course, they want the best for their daughter.”
Vaine had worked for both the Deep South and Florida Championship Wrestling developmental promotions and previously had teamed with Amber O’Neal as Team Blondage on the independent circuit. She had looked forward to the day when she finally made it to the big dance, but when that day came, the timing just wasn’t right.
“I would’ve sold my soul, too,” she says. “I was lucky, though, and I was able to realize that while WWE may be a dream job, it won’t fill that void that I had been missing for so many years. I had never been in love, and my family and I weren’t close. I was selfish and lonely… Success to me now is not how much fame and fortune you have in your life, but it’s what you have in the end. When it’s all said and done, when I go, I’ll be able to say my life was filled with love and happiness. I don’t need a lot other than that.”
The 28-year-old O’Reilly echoed his girlfriend’s sentiments.
“I feel that every person has to make a choice rather it’s right or wrong in their life. People will always have opinions, people will always judge you, but it’s you who has to live with your decision, not anyone else. I mean who hasn’t been judged? Who hasn’t been insulted? Is there a chance that I might have that opportunity again? I feel I left on good terms, and I feel and speak very highly of WWE if anyone asks me. Hopefully that door will be there when it’s right.”
The 6-5, 250-pound O’Reilly signed with WWE in August 2005 and had worked for both the Deep South and Florida promotions. Trained by such veterans as Jody “The Assassin” Hamilton, Bill Demott and Norman Smiley, he had held the now-defunct Deep South heavyweight title on two occasions and boasted wins over the likes of William Regal, MVP and Matt Striker. He says he’ll never forget his time working in Deep South.
“Deep South was very tough, but it was such a great experience. I was fortunate enough to be part of it with Bill Demott and Papa Joe (Jody Hamilton). They were two great guys who I love and who took the time to put up with my crap.”
O’Reilly says he’s not sure which brand he would have landed in.
“I was never told what brand. I was used on all brands during my two months on the road and I was told different things. I highly doubt they were trying to split us up. WWE is a very high-class company from top to bottom. It was a privilege and an honor to be part of it.”
The two bristle at claims made by some Internet fans that there might have been more to the situation than meets the eye regarding their releases.
“They can think what they want,” says Vaine. “It took a lot of courage to stand up for what we believed in, and we may be the first in history with no real ‘reason.’ I’ve never been a follower … I’ve always paved my own way. Like we mentioned before, we’d like to give back. I want to share our story to help others. I think that is our path. I’m not sure how it’s going to happen, but that’s what I believe. Sometimes you get strength from a higher power because there is a different plan for you. That is what I believe happened to us.”
“You gotta love that woman!” adds O’Reilly.
But it wasn’t love at first sight when the two met a year ago while both were working for the Atlanta-based Deep South Wrestling.
“I couldn’t stand Ryan,” Vaine laughs. “I thought he was such a jerk. But I’ll never forget the first time I saw him. My heart fell into my stomach. I thought he was the most perfect thing I had ever seen. I know that sounds stupid, but it’s true. He had just had knee surgery and hobbled into Jody’s office on crutches. This was my first day in Georgia. We didn’t get together, though, until months later. He made me so mad one night when everyone was out that I wrote him off completely.”
“She didn’t like me because one night I had a few adult beverages in me and I told her that she was just going to have to trust me. She didn’t like that, but oh well, she’s great,” adds O’Reilly.
A storyline, however, forced the two to have to work together.
“He ended up not being as bad as I thought,” admits Vaine. “It’s funny, but the day I left Greensboro, my mom looked at me and said, ‘I think you are going to meet someone really special in Georgia.’ I was like, what, I’m not going to meet anyone. I’m going to work and become a superstar. But she was right.”
The two say they would like to stay involved in wrestling in some capacity.
O’Reilly, a native of Grand Rapids, Mich., is confident that things will work out for the two. Hard work pays off in the end, he says, and he knows that through bitter experience. His father left when he was born, and his mother raised him.
“I was raised poor and learned that anything I earned I really appreciated,,” says the Grand Rapids, Mich., native.
“We both love wrestling,” says Vaine. “We want to get married, and we are looking into different job opportunities We are working on our Web site (www.ryanandkrissy.com) and taking bookings. We’ll see where life takes us.”
– Old School Championship Wrestling will present Caged Carnage 2 on Oct. 28 at Weekend’s Pub, 428 Red Bank Road, Goose Creek. Four title matches will take place in a cage. Top bouts are Johnny Blaze vs. RuffHouse Matthews for the Universal title, and Josh Magnum vs. Mack Truck in an OSCW heavyweight title rematch. Bell time is 6 p.m. Tickets are $8 adults and $5 kids 12 and under. For more information, call 743-4800 or visit www.oscwonline.com.