By Sammie Ann Wicks
To look at him, you’d never guess strongman Chandler Dabbs has a weakness—but talk to him for even five minutes and he’ll tell you what it is.
“It’s my dog, Eddie,” says Dabbs, bodybuilder and recent arrival to Tempe.
“He’s been with me 12 years—and where I go, he goes.” Dabbs says his constant companion isn’t going to win any canine beauty contests but is totally devoted to his human keeper—and that’s what matters.
“OK, so he’s half lab, half basset hound,” laughs Georgia-native Dabbs. “I don’t know how THAT happened, but I knew he was special the minute I met him.”
Dabbs, who came to Tempe only a few weeks ago to take a job at a Tempe insurance agency, says his career mobility initially made him wonder how Eddie could ever fit in with his lifestyle.
“My girlfriend at the time and I found him wandering, picked him up, and couldn’t figure out what had happened to him,” Dabbs remembers.
“We even tried for a while to find him a home, but eventually he just grew on me and became part of my life.
“He even hangs around when I work out.”
A lifelong fitness buff, Dabbs went on to develop his physique to the point that he began to consider not only full-fledged bodybuilding but professional wrestling as well.
“I had continued working in insurance but also worked at physical fitness for quite a while,” Dabbs explains. “At that time, I didn’t do what you call bodybuilding, but I worked out like a bodybuilder.
“Then as I got older and got in even better shape, I started talking to wrestlers and began to feel a growing passion for that.”
It was then that a few Facebook posts led to Dabbs’s entree to professional wrestling.
“At my peak fitness I had posted a few photos of myself, and pretty quickly I heard back from a guy asking me, ‘Are you a wrestler?’” says Dabbs.
“He said, ‘I’m actually a trainer, and I have a wrestling ring just 45 minutes away from you.’ I went over there, and that’s when my career in pro wrestling began.”
After starting training, Dabbs says his first gig wasn’t glamorous, but quickly led to better things.
“My first match was at a flea market, of all places,” Dabbs says. “’Course, I wanted to be on TV, like Wrestle Mania—but those things came later.”
Dabbs saw his career expand after he had several videos produced by a woman working in Las Vegas who had experience in runway shows.
“After the videos, everything took off—I started traveling all over, and began getting a following,” says Dabbs. “Eventually, I got to interface with groups involved with Hulk Hogan, and through that I got to wrestle with the second biggest wrestling organization in the country.”
Long-time hyper-physicality and his age eventually caused Dabbs to reevaluate his life goals.
“Wrestling is a really young man’s game—you peak—and I knew I had to get out while the getting was good,” the 35-year-old reflects. “So when I found out I was going to have to get a knee replacement, I began to think about what my next move should be, beyond the Spandex and baby oil.”
Serendipity again stepped in to help Dabbs determine what that move would be, and Tempe, Arizona, loomed large in the process.
“I came here purely on a whim,” Dabbs laughs. “I knew I wanted change, and as I was Googling, you know…’mid-thirties, single, no kids, opportunity, rising area,’ Tempe kept coming up.”
With Tempe beckoning, Dabbs applied for and was offered a job working with long-time local insurance broker and community leader Mary Contreras.
“I wanted to learn from somebody who’d been at it a long time, and I chose a true insurance veteran here to work with,” Dabbs explains.
After leaving pro wrestling, Dabbs got back into fitness, working as a trainer to help others meet their physical goals and challenges. It’s something he wants to continue doing in Tempe.
“I had people with big physical issues come to me—some of them would even call me late at night, all discouraged,” Dabbs says. “With proper techniques and encouragement, I frequently was able to get the issues resolved. And I loved that—loved the ethics of helping others with what I know.”
Dabbs says that, although his past career moves have been made after long deliberation, the sudden trek to Tempe from his Georgia hometown “just felt right.”
But Dabbs didn’t make the trip alone. “I packed up, threw Eddie (named in tribute to Pearl Jam vocalist-songwriter Eddie Vedder, a Dabbs’ favorite) in the front seat, and 34 hours later, I was here without any problems,” Dabbs says, adding however: “Except that I didn’t know how big Texas was, and didn’t know I’d run out of gas trying to get across it.”
Dabbs is hopeful Tempe will offer him a niche for his skills and goals.
“I was very determined as a child, and that taught me to be a risk-taker,” he declares, “which is why my decision to come here so quickly came easily.
“I’ve made an unbreakable commitment to myself in everything I’ve ever done in life, and contributing to my new community is one of them.”