RUTHERFORD, N.J.– Things have come full circle for professional wrestler and physical therapist Christopher Ford of Rutherford.
Ford gives young wrestling hopefuls the same advice he received when he was starting out: Always have a backup plan.
"It’s finite," Ford said of the wrestling business. "I chased my dream responsibly."
He simultaneously studied physical therapy at Kean University while pursuing a professional wrestling career.
"I would go to class during the day, go to the gym at night, and on weekends I would drive or fly to shows," said Ford, who worked for World Wrestling Entertainment and World Championship Wrestling as Devon Storm and Crowbar. "I would be doing my homework in the locker room or hotel rooms. It was non-stop."
Ford opened his own physical therapy practice Raising the Bar – a nod to his ring name – in 2012.
"I’ve been able to do this with a great staff, work hand in hand with my wife Dina [a registered dietician], and build a business."
He tore both of his ACLs when he was younger and rehabbed them "conservatively" without surgery.
"I call them blessings in disguise," Ford said. "That’s what turned me on to the field."
He credits Bill DeMott, whom he met while working out at Strong and Shapely Gym in East Rutherford and Paramus native Jim Powers (real name James Manley), for encouraging him to get an education.
"You can reach for the stars, but you should have something to fall back upon," Ford said. "There's no excuse why you can’t do both. I took one of the most difficult majors you could take and wrestled professionally."
As a 17-year-old Rutherford High School junior, he trained with former World Wrestling Entertainment superstar "Iron" Mike Sharp.
Ford paid for his schooling with the money he made working as a busboy at the Landmark banquet hall the previous summer.
He won WCW's Cruiserweight, Hardcore, and Tag Team titles and competed in WWE's very first Light Heavyweight Tournament.
Ford, a 42-year-old father of two, still wrestles locally from time to time – not because he has to, he says, but because he wants to. He's even wrestled one of his patients – Adam Payne (real name: Adam Kerr) of Lodi – twice.
Inside the locker room, he shares his experiences.
"Some of the guys get it, some it goes in one ear and out the other and you hope for the best," Ford said. "I don’t push my beliefs, but I'm very blessed that I was able to experience going to the big time. I saw the entire country and places around the world I otherwise wouldn’t have been able to see.
"But I also have this other career that I equally love as much."