Ring of Honor’s Chuck Taylor moved from his hometown of Murray, Ky., to Philadelphia back in 2011 for professional reasons.
Taylor — real name: Dustin Howard — found it much easier to land wrestling bookings in the wrestling hub of Philadelphia than in Kentucky, where independent wrestling has become scarce.
But over the last six years, Taylor’s relationship with Philadelphia has become more than strictly professional. He now has a genuine love for the city.
That did not happen overnight, as it took some time for Taylor to adjust to Philly, especially coming from a town, Murray, that was awarded the 2012 “Friendliest Small Town in America” by Rand McNally and USA Today.
Although Philly is the City of Brotherly Love, it isn’t quite as friendly as the small town in Kentucky in which Taylor grew up.
“Once you get past that, you kind of realize it’s a hard-nose town,” Taylor said of Philadelphia. “There are good people here. It’s tough to get past their rough exterior at first, but once you get here, it’s a great town. I really love it here, actually.”
During his time here, Taylor has become much more than just a transplant. He has essentially earned his stripes as a true Philadelphian.
Taylor knows that despite what national sports broadcasts would tell you, there are more options for cheesesteaks here than just Pat’s or Geno’s.
“I used to live across the street from Jim’s Steaks (the one on South Street), man. I think everyone knows Jim’s is better than Pat’s or Geno’s,” Taylor said.
Taylor, who now lives in Northern Liberties, instantly picked up on Philadelphia’s unique way of saying water ice, which comes out more like “wooder ice.”
But his favorite part of our vernacular is the word jawn.
“That’s the big one. That’s my favorite,” Taylor said. “I love jawn.”
Taylor had the same reaction a lot of others have had when they first encounter the word: “’What? What the hell are you saying? That’s not a word.’”
But over the years, Taylor has become so comfortable with jawn that he is trying to inject it into professional wrestling, mostly out of the sheer enjoyment of seeing the confused looks he would get.
“The wrestling equivalent of jawn is, I guess, gimmick. We say gimmick a lot. Like, ‘Let me get that gimmick over there.’ It’s kind of a catch-all for everything,” Taylor said.
Taylor has even become a fan of Philadelphia’s sports teams, especially the 76ers. Growing up in Kentucky, Taylor was always a big basketball fan. He attended Murray State University, where he watched future Sixer Isaiah Canaan.
Beyond basketball, Taylor loves watching a rebuilding process. There is no more notable process in sports at the moment then that of the Sixers, and Taylor trusts it.
“It was fun to watch a team that knew they weren’t supposed to be good play their hearts out,” Taylor said. “It was kind of like Major League. … They wanted them to lose, but they were like, ‘You know what? Screw it. We’re going to play our hardest.’”
“It was just fun to watch and now with [Ben] Simmons and [Markelle] Fultz and [Joel] Embiid, I think they’re going to do really well this year and I’m excited to watch it,” he added.
Taylor can identify with being an underdog as, like the Sixers, he has gone through a process of his own within professional wrestling.
His process, however, lasted about 15 years, as that is the amount of time it took for him to finally land a spot with Ring of Honor earlier this year.
“I can’t decide if I’m like the least talented guy to make it as far as I have or the most talented guy to not make it any further,” Taylor said. “I’m somewhere in that middle part.
“I’ve been wrestling for 15 years, and this year is probably the best year I’ve had, so I can totally get behind a good underdog,” he added.
Taylor is scheduled to appear at the 2300 Arena for Ring of Honor’s Philadelphia Excellence event Friday at 7:30 p.m.
His appearance will be more than just another business outing. Because of his love for the city he now calls home, it will mean a whole lot more.