There are so many people out there who are dream stealers,” says Alex Abrahantes. “I’m living proof that — and this is a quote I came up with in SkillsUSA — ‘if you dream, you can achieve, if you believe.’ ” If that sounds a little doubtful, don’t tell Abrahantes. It’s probably not a good idea to question someone who knows how to get in touch with Stone Cold Steve Austin.
As a child, “I always said that I was going to become a pro wrestler and work for the WWE [World Wrestling Entertainment],” the 26-year-old remembers. “Everybody said, ‘You’re too small, you’ll never make it,’ but I was determined.”
Little did Abrahantes know, however, that his path to wrestling would be partly paved by SkillsUSA. After seeing his older sister Grisel thrive in the organization, Abrahantes decided he wanted a piece of the action, too. “I thought, ‘When I go to high school, I want to join this, because it seems very, very cool,’ ” he says.
Like most things, Abrahantes pursued SkillsUSA with the wild ferocity of a suplex administered from the top rope.
He particularly embraced the leadership training SkillsUSA offered. During his sophomore year at Somerset County Vo-Tech in Bridgewater, N.J., he attended his first national conference as his chapter’s parliamentarian. There he decided to run for national office.
Not everyone thought he could do it —what else was new? “I don’t know if people took me seriously enough,” he reflects, “but I remember them saying, ‘Are you sure you don’t want to run for state office? National office is just so difficult.’ ”
The doubts, however, merely strengthened Abrahantes’ resolve, and in 1995, he found himself at the Awards Ceremony as the new national officers were announced. “Suddenly my entire state just rose and flipped out, and I knew I’d won,” he says.
“At that point, I honestly realized that in life, as long as you just believe in yourself and work hard, you can achieve anything. To this day, I’ve never experienced such a great feeling.”
That’s saying a lot, considering what Abrahantes has accomplished since. After an “amazing year” as national high school parliamentarian, he entered the communications program at Penn State University. Inspired by his successes in SkillsUSA, he was more eager than ever to pin that long-elusive dream of professional wrestling.
Abrahantes began working with a local trainer and promoter and threw himself (literally and figuratively) into the ring.
“It was more like an underground type of wrestling, called ‘backyard wrestling,’ ” he says. “It wasn’t like going to a professional school.”
The training, however, led to his first match in front of a live audience. “I didn’t know what to expect,” he adds. “They had put me in a mask, and I went out there and the crowd was just insane. I felt that rush and I knew that this was for me.”
Abrahantes was so adrenalized, in fact, that it wasn’t until the next day that he realized he’d separated his shoulder during the match. A small price to pay, he thought, for the first step toward a dream come true.
For the next step, Abrahantes says he “basically spent my life savings” and enrolled in the “Harvard” of wrestling institutions: the Hart Brothers’ School of Wrestling in Calgary, Alberta. The Harts helped him create his wrestling alter ego, “‘Too Phat’ Yutzak Arafat.”
“I had a lot of fun with it,” he laughs. “I was just a comedic bad guy. I would antagonize the crowd.” While still in college, Abrahantes took “Too Phat” on the independent circuit, loving every body-slamming minute of it.
Yet, after getting a taste of the business side of wrestling, he wondered if he could do a better than the promoters he worked for. “I created the Penn State Pro Wrestling Club, and I had the university fund the entire promotion,” he says. “I started to write, book, promote, everything.”
Abrahantes had proven so much to himself, as well as those who ever doubted him. But something was missing: the WWE. He came across a WWE job posting for a “creative writer’s assistant,” and “it was like the heavens opened up.”
His résumé commanded attention, and a telephone interview landed him face time at WWE headquarters in Stamford, Conn.
“I had to interview with five or six different sets of people,” he reflects on the grueling process. “And finally, they called me up and said, ‘You’re going to be doing an interview with Stephanie McMahon [daughter of WWE owner Vince McMahon] tomorrow.’ ”
Some would’ve crumbled under the pressure. But Abrahantes already stood on a solid foundation.
“In SkillsUSA,” he says, “I was dealing with successful business people, and SkillsUSA would teach us how to handle ourselves professionally in those types of environments.” Abrahantes did more than just handle his interview, he took control of it. He got the job.
The next year was filled with “pinch-me-I-must-be-dreaming” moments. “I was flying in Vince McMahon’s Leer jet.
I was going around in limos with the writing team. I’ll never forget my first ‘RAW’ [the WWE’s weekly national broadcast]. At the end of the night, they have a meeting in Vince’s office. To my right was Stone Cold Steve Austin, to his right was The Undertaker, to his right was Triple H and in front of me was Vince McMahon. It was so surreal.”
While maintaining close ties to the organization, Abrahantes has since left the WWE to wrestle with a new opponent: acting. Co-creator of BIGBreakNY.com, a website that facilitates relationships between aspiring performers and industry insiders, he’s networked and landed TV roles on “Third Watch,” “Law and Order” and “The Sopranos.” He performed in a comedic segment with The Rock on “WWE Monday Night RAW.”
He’s even getting into TV production. Teaming up with a personal success coach and New York producer, Abrahantes is pitching a new reality-based program. He feels confident it will be picked up for development soon.
Abrahantes is a living example of how the SkillsUSA curriculum covers all walks of life. “I wish more schools would offer the things SkillsUSA taught me,” he says.
And his advice to other SkillsUSA students? “Take advantage of every leadership opportunity SkillsUSA offers. And if you have a dream, you have to pursue it no matter what; you have to follow your heart. There’s no reason why I can achieve my dreams and someone else can’t. Anybody can do it.”