Most know of “The Man of Steel” as being the nickname for the superhero, Superman. But it’s also the name of the Bergen Beach native, professional wrestler Mike “Verna” Taverna. He’s had two passions growing up, baseball and professional wrestling. So, of course he took the professional wrestling route. Not only does Taverna wrestle in independent promotions all over the North East, but he also does union acting and assistant coaches the Kingsborough Community College baseball team.
In this Q & A, we get insight on how and why he took the professional wrestling route. We also find out what keeps him going and what he plans to do in his future.
KCC Wavewire: How long have you been wrestling?
Mike Taverna: I’ve been wrestling for the past five years. I’ve been training since 2011, so all together I’ve been doing it for about seven years.
Wavewire: What made you get into that?
Taverna: When I was a kid I had two things which I loved most which were baseball and wrestling. As a kid, you always play baseball and play as long as you need to and you never really realize that you can actually pursue wrestling because you don’t know that wrestling schools exist. So being that I loved wrestling as a kid when I was 18 I had the choice of playing college ball or pursue wrestling. For some reason I chose wrestling over baseball, it beats me up to this day but it all worked out.
Wavewire: How long did it take for you to start wrestling professionally?
Taverna: I started training in 2011, I didn’t have my first match until 2013, so it took me about two years of training before I even got in the ring to wrestle.
Wavewire: What was the process like?
Taverna: The process was very hard. People don’t realize that wrestling itself is entertainment but it hurts just as much as you can imagine. The process itself was a lot of cardio, a lot of lasting in the ring. A lot of matches are from eight minutes to an hour long, and eight minutes in the ring is like an eternity because it’s nonstop. You’re constantly going, you’re going down you’re getting up, you’re getting hit. Everything is a lot harder on your cardio system; the cardio part is very hard. The mat is not very soft so falling hurts a lot too. The ropes are hard, so that stuff stings. Everything is harder than you can ever imagine, that’s the best way I can explain it.
Wavewire: Were you on any kind of strict diet to keep you in shape?
Taverna: For sure. Before I even started wrestling one of my main goals was to make sure my body was at least presentable enough to get in the ring. The biggest thing about wrestling is you need to look like an athlete because of the athletics involved. So I did a lot of weight training early on when I was like 18-19 years old. I started with basic weight training body training diets but it was nothing too specific. Then once I started getting in the ring I realized that between the actual performance side of it and the physical aesthetics of it those were the big things. So I did a lot of low carb dieting, high protein, and in the gym itself was just a lot of high weight training. For the last two years, I added in strength and conditioning because the heavier you lift the stronger you’re going to be and the stronger you are the easier it is in the ring.
Wavewire: What was your workout routine then, and what is it now, has it changed?
Taverna: It’s definitely a lot more athletic based more than just bodybuilding. When I first started I wanted to look like a wrestler and everything was bodybuilding just for the sake of the look. Now that wrestling as a whole is a lot more of an athletic sport, it requires more of an athletic training. So I added the strength and conditioning, more Olympic lifts, a lot of jumps, all kinds of mobility stuff.
Taverna: Everything from The Backstreet Boys to ACDC.
Wavewire: What’s your motivation?
Taverna: My motivation is currently right now what I’m doing for a living and actually making money doing it is everything I ever wanted to do as a kid.
Wavewire: Who inspired you growing up?
Taverna: Obviously my family’s a big inspiration because they work hard to make sure that I have the opportunity to do things like this. But from a professional standpoint, The Rock. The Rock is definitely one of the biggest inspirations that I have because he was famous in wrestling, and he’s doing movies and now he’s one of the richest men in the world and one of the most successful men in the world. So being that I literally do what he’s doing right now it’s crazy to think that he wouldn’t be an inspiration.
Wavewire: If you can play any role in any type of movie what would it be?
Taverna: Well most of the movies I work in now I get cast as a mobster. Which was my favorite genre growing up as a kid all those mob movies like Goodfellas or The Sopranos. Now that I’m getting more and more into it I really want to do an action movie like The Rock.
Wavewire: What’s your ultimate goal?
Taverna: To make a living doing what I’m doing right now.