In Recess

Laying Down The Law

Attorney Jay Rudinger metes out justice in the squared circle

Interview by Adam Faderewski

Jay Rudinger uses a Kendo stick on his opponent during a 
Lions Pride Sports bout

Drake Durden (Jay Rudinger) uses a Kendo stick on his opponent during a recent Lions Pride Sports bout. Photos courtesy of Jay Rudinger.

The lone star state has a wealth of professional wrestling history, including some of the biggest names to ever grace the World Wrestling Entertainment, or WWE, stage. Superstars such as the Von Erichs, Shawn Michaels, Stone Cold Steve Austin, and the Undertaker all proudly hail from Texas. Following in that tradition is College Station attorney Jay Rudinger, who at nearly 7 feet tall creates an intimidating presence in the ring and out of the ring as a bodyguard/enforcer and litigation partner at West, Webb, Albritton & Gentry in College Station. A lifelong wrestling fan, Rudinger didn’t require much convincing to enter the ring when a client suggested it to him. Since that day he hasn’t looked back. Ring the bell.

When did your interest in pro wrestling begin? When did you decide you wanted to step in the ring?
I have been a fan of wrestling since I was 6 or 7 years old. I didn’t have cable growing up, so I had to give friends a VHS tape and they would record the World Championship Wrestling and World Wrestling Federation shows for me to watch later. Wrestling was reality TV before we had mainstream reality TV, and following the storylines and characters each week made it like watching any other sitcom or show.

As far as my own wrestling career, it was something I never planned. It didn’t take a lot to get me in the ring, and it was so much fun, I never left.

Did you go to a wrestling school or were you trained in a different fashion?
I train at the Lions Den Training Facility, which is the wrestling school for Lions Pride Sports. The coach and promoter, Houston Carson, was a professional wrestler in Texas before being forced to retire because of a heart condition. He decided to stay in the profession and launched Lions Pride Sports in 2017. In 2018, he opened the school to begin training wrestlers in the Brazos Valley. During the pandemic, he took the school to an entirely new level by acquiring a building exclusively for wrestling, with two rings and all sorts of other amenities like a weight room, a film watching room, and a promo room. His wife, Kenzie Carson, also makes ring gear and merchandise for the wrestlers that come through Lions Pride Sports.

What is your gimmick? Would you consider yourself a face [good guy] or a heel [bad guy]?
My in-ring name is Drake Durden. I am about 7 feet tall in my wrestling boots, so my character is definitely a giant. Because of this, I would classify myself as a brawler much more than a technical wrestler. I began as a bodyguard for an established wrestler and we won the Lions Pride Sports Championship in early 2020. Ultimately we had a falling out, and I have begun working on my own in Lions Pride Sports shows.

I debuted in November 2019 as a heel by interfering in arguably the biggest match in the promotion’s history as Houston Carson came out of retirement to wrestle with his cousin, Cade Carson. I interfered on behalf of Cade and helped him win. We remained a team, culminating in winning the Lions Pride Sports Championship on February 29, 2020. We retained the title for 190 days before losing it on September 5, 2020, to Nobe Bryant. After the title loss, Cade turned on me and I turned face. Since then, I have been working as a singles wrestler.

Jay Rudinger shoulders the Lions Pride Sports championship 
belt in the courtroom.
Rudinger shoulders the Lions Pride Sports championship belt in the courtroom. Photos courtesy of Jay Rudinger.

Are there any wrestlers that inspired your character or that you model your in-ring style after?
My in-ring style definitely mimics many big guys from the past and current wrestling scene. My look was built around Kevin Nash/Diesel. From the singlet top to long pants, I wanted to make people think of Nash when they saw Durden.

I have also adapted my character and wrestling style after Braun Strowman, of World Wrestling Entertainment, and Lance Archer, from All Elite Wrestling. After college and in law school, I would attend local wrestling shows in the Houston area and Archer would work many of these events. He is a Texas guy raised in Hearne, so he was someone who many people could relate to and see as one of their own. As another big guy—Archer is 6-foot-8—I always envisioned I would be similar to him in the ring.

What are your signature moves and/or your finisher?
As a big wrestler, the power moves have become my bread and butter. I usually rely on two big moves to end a match: either a chokeslam or a big boot. In addition, I try to use a variety of slams, splashes, and tosses during the match. Again, as we tell a story in the ring for the fans, I get to play the role of Goliath, even if I am a face. My job is to overpower my opponent, and that move set works well in telling the story to the audience.

Do you get the chance to cut any in-ring promos?
In-ring promos are one of the favorite things I get to do. As a litigator, I was trained to be able to think on my feet and tell a story, and an in-ring promo is exactly that. I think the hardest thing I have found is trying to stay within the time limits given to me by the promoter!

Before, during, and after the match, we know as wrestlers that we are there to entertain. We do it through our moves in the ring, telling a story as we go through a match, and keeping the crowd members’ attention every step of the way. But one thing I love about independent wrestling as opposed to the television shows people watch is the chance to interact with the people attending the event. You get fans who are there to cheer the bad guy and heckle the good guy. You have fans who are going to heckle the bad guys. But in every instance, you have a chance to interact and make the show more enjoyable for everyone else. Much like a stand-up comedian who interacts with crowd members, we get to do the same.

What is your ultimate goal as a pro wrestler?
This question yields an ever-changing answer for me. Wrestling will always be more of a hobby than a profession, but it is something I take very seriously. The wrestling business doesn’t have the best reputation, and I do not want to tarnish it through my lack of preparedness, lack of skill, or lack of effort. That said, I don’t plan on leaving soon. I train as many evenings as I can, and I continue to work hard to be as good in the squared circle as I am in a courtroom, but I have responsibilities at West, Webb, Allbritton & Gentry and with my wife and two boys that take precedence over my wrestling career.

I have met some fantastic people, made some lifelong friends, and gotten to entertain thousands of people. I hope that, even when I cannot physically get in the ring and wrestle, I can be involved in some form or fashion with a microphone in my hand.

One of the best things that wrestling has done for me is let me show my 7-year-old and 9-year-old that you can do anything you want. Before this all started, I distinctly recall one of my sons saying that he didn’t think he could be a professional wrestler because “not just anyone can become a wrestler.” For me, standing in the ring and winking at them before a match, which I always do, has shown them that you can if you put your mind to it and go after it. Frankly, if that is all that comes from this endeavor, the bumps, bruises, and blood will have all been worth it. TBJ

To watch Rudinger compete in the ring as Durden, go to lionsprideproductions.com.

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