Old-School Grappler Timothy Thatcher Refuses to Deviate From His Stripped-Down Style

NXT’s Timothy Thatcher believes strongly in the bare-bones style of wrestling that sets him apart from his colleagues.

Timothy Thatcher’s vision of pro wrestling is clear and precise.

Wrestling comes in many forms, but Thatcher’s presentation is rooted in struggle and persistence. Once the bell rings, he wants to project his singular desire for victory, reverberating the pain of every punch and kick across viewers’ screens and into their consciousness.

“This isn’t a performance,” Thatcher says. “It’s fighting with your soul.”

Not everyone believes in his stripped-down vision of the artform. WWE is overflowing with larger-than-life superstars and sets full of glitz and glamour, so naturally there are doubts regarding Thatcher’s philosophy. He has heard more than once that more charisma is necessary to become a pro wrestling star. Thatcher does not object to the advice, but in his case, it does not apply. His objective in pro wrestling is not stardom.

When in need of a jolt of inspiration, the 37-year-old Timothy Moura—don’t let the nod to Les Thatcher go unnoticed—turns to music. One particular lyric that resonates is from a Swedish punk rock band, The Refused, that reads, “I would rather be forgotten than remembered for giving in.”

Thatcher has no intentions of giving up, or giving in, on his straightforward-yet-compelling presentation of pro wrestling, which is ready to reach another new height this Wednesday during his NXT “Fight Pit” match against Tommaso Ciampa.

“The Fight Pit is a prime chance for me to show how I believe pro wrestling can be done,” Thatcher says. “I’m very grateful at NXT, they let me be me. And this match is more about the struggle than it is the performance aspect, and Ciampa is definitely the right opponent to bring that out. Our first go [at TakeOver: WarGames] was quite rough, and now we get to follow that up.”

There is a clear-cut narrative on display in the Thatcher-Ciampa bout, one that revolves entirely around the fight. This is not a send-off, with one of the performers moving onto the bright lights of the main roster, like it was when Thatcher met Matt Riddle in the Fight Pit this spring, but rather a chance for Thatcher to introduce himself as a legitimate player across from Ciampa, an NXT cornerstone. This also represents an opportunity to prove he is the type of talent who can draw eyes on his match, whether that means casual viewers or those normally tuned into AEW Dynamite on TNT on Wednesday nights.

All while wearing boots and trunks.

“There have been times when I asked myself if I was making the right decision, or if I’d picked a path that was too selfish and doomed to fail,” Thatcher says. “At the end of the day, pro wrestling is always about what you believe in and how you think it should be. If you’re not behind it, it’s never going to work. And this is me.”

A journalism major in college, Thatcher has always possessed the gift of storytelling. The journalist turned pro wrestler broke into the business 16 years ago after writing a piece about Supreme Pro Wrestling in California. Even then, Thatcher held a long respect for the industry, dating back to afternoons as a child when his grandmother turned it on for him. Before the story ran, his publication folded. But he kept attending the shows and asked whether he could ever contribute.

“I became a referee,” Thatcher says. “It was a new adventure. Since I wanted to be properly trained for the job, I took all the wrestling classes.”

Thatcher’s biggest flaw as a referee was the promise he showed during his eight-month training program. So he acquiesced when (Big Ugly) JD Bishop informed him that his first match was forthcoming.

“I was picking it up too quickly,” Thatcher says. “So I was asked to wrestle, and that’s how I got my start.”

Out of respect to those who came before him, as well as those that believed in him, Thatcher put on a performance that earned him a return match.

“One thing led to another, and it grew bigger and bigger,” Thatcher says. “I never thought I’d be in WWE. I never thought I’d wrestle for EVOLVE or wrestle in Germany. But as the adventure continues, that’s the way it’s been. And I made the decision that, if I was going to uproot my life to do this, I would do it the way I believed it needed to be done.”

Thatcher refuses to play the role of pro wrestler, instead determined to become one that embodies the virtues of the fighting spirit.

“I have to stick to my guns,” Thatcher says. “For me, this has to be authentic. I need to do this the way I think it should be.”

Thatcher’s passion for the craft and resolute belief in his submission-based style are the identifiable constants in his career. His style is distinct, learned from endless, ongoing training and a strict discipline from lessons learned watching men like Terry Rudge, Marty Jones, Fit Finlay, William Regal, Yuki Ishikawa and Daisuke Ikea.

“I want to pay homage to the people that don’t get the respect they deserve,” Thatcher says. “If I can pay a little homage to them, I’ll consider this all a success. And the Fight Pit is a wonderful opportunity to do that because it lets me be in my element.”

The sizzle of Thatcher’s performance on Wednesday night will not be found in the pre-match promo or his entrance to the ring. For Thatcher, the fight is the show. In a world of sports entertainment, he is poised to deliver an altogether different commodity through proper submission grappling, with no wasted moments, devoid of all unnecessary spectacle.

Thatcher’s message is one of struggle, persistence and a devotion to the art form, all battle-tested elements that will be on display when he enters the Fight Pit—and beyond.

“I still don’t have any aspirations for fame,” Thatcher says. “I’m not looking to main-event WrestleMania. I’m looking to get my point across.”

Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.