WWE's Cruiserweight Classic will pit 32 of the top cruiserweight wrestlers from around the world against each other in a 10-week tournament to determine who is the best wrestler less than 205 pounds.
After qualifying for the tournament at an EVOLVE event May 7, Philadelphia's Drew Gulak, 29, will be one of those 32.
The tournament represents his biggest professional wrestling endeavor to date, as it will be an opportunity for him to perform in front of potentially millions of fans via the WWE Network and in front of the powers-that-be in WWE.
However, as he sat next to his younger brother Rory, 26, in the newsroom of Philadelphia Media Network recently, Drew Gulak looked unfazed by it all. He even acknowledged as much.
Drew's experiences on the independent wrestling circuit won't allow him to be overcome with emotion.
"I have to treat it like that, just for my own sanity," he said.
"We're so beaten down from being independent wrestlers for so long that if something comes along, it's just business as usual and that's how it should work," he added. "It's very cool, though. Don't get me wrong. It probably won't hit me until I probably see everything in the media and how it comes out."
Since they were teenagers, Drew and Rory have traveled to multiple parts of the world living out their dreams of becoming pro wrestlers. Their journey has had its ups and its downs, but through it all, their brotherly bond has endured.
From wrestling around the house as children to the mats of Northeast High School to independent wrestling events all around the world, the Gulaks have come a long way. But if the WWE Cruiserweight Classic is any indication, their journey is far from over.
Wrestling is in their blood, the blood they've spilled on canvases across the globe, and it is the blood that they share.
Pro wrestling is often described as a brotherhood, where men and women trust each other with their bodies, their lives even, to perform the art for the masses. Only those in the brotherhood can truly understand what goes into being a pro wrestler.
However, that brotherhood runs much deeper for Drew and Rory Gulak, who hail from North Wales, Montgomery County. With no other siblings, they spent a lot of time around each other, which meant trouble for the household.
Long before they began wrestling professionally, they wrestled each other.
Drew, the older of the two, got the upper hand a number of times, including pushing Rory down the steps in sleeping bags and cardboard boxes. As you could imagine, the results were not pretty.
"I wanted it to slide," Drew said of pushing Rory down the steps in a box. "In my head, it was more fun, but it would tip over usually."
Although Rory was younger, he got his licks in, too, including one time when he threw Drew through a 70-inch TV screen. It did not end there.
"We were having a deck put into our house when we were really little and [Rory] threw a big piece of concrete at my head and busted me open," Drew Gulak said. "I remember blood coming down my whole body."
Entering the Combat Zone
Drew Gulak's sixth-grade biology teacher was a big pro wrestling fan, and among the many things on his desk was a photo of King Kong Bundy.
Being a wrestling fan himself, Drew noticed the photo and eventually developed a kinship with the teacher that resulted in the teacher taking Drew to wrestling events.
However, these were not ordinary wrestling shows. These were Combat Zone Wrestling shows, which has featured some of the most violent wrestling in history.
That did not deter Drew, as his fandom only grew.
"I remember taking [a piece of] a table and getting the guys to sign it and sneaking it into my backpack to take to school the next day," Drew said.
By the time Drew was 14, their mother, not knowing just how violent CZW could get, recommended that he take Rory, who was only 11 at the time, to the shows. Rory eventually began tagging along and fit in all too well with the extreme atmosphere of CZW, as he became known as the child fan with the foul mouth.
"One time I was cursing and this one guy turned around and said, 'Shut up, potty mouth! What are you like, five? Aren't you supposed to be home watching the Power Rangers?' " Rory said.
Rory's antics were not just verbal. He once mooned wrestler Nick Gage.
Rory became so much of a fan that he began dressing up as his favorite wrestler, "Sick" Nick Mondo. He eventually became so known for his attire that other fans began calling him Rory Mondo or Little Mondo.
"Rory was a legendary super fan," Drew said.
Rory still remembers fondly the day the real Mondo brought him into the ring and hoisted him on his shoulders after a match.
In time, the Gulaks ingratiated themselves into the fabric of CZW so much that they helped break down the ring after shows. Then-CZW owner John Zandig rewarded them by giving them free tickets to the next event.
"Not even a year later, we were asked to come down and try out at the [CZW] school, so he went down with a friend, scoped it out, and came back with a waiver for [Rory]," Drew said.
Both Drew and Rory trained at CZW's school and trained alongside WWE's Cesaro when CZW's school temporarily merged with CHIKARA's school, The Wrestle Factory.
Rory needed a waiver because at that time, he was only 14, making him not old enough to have a pro match in Philadelphia, which meant all Rory could do was train until he was 18.
Drew, being 17 at this point, did not have to worry about this. By the time he was done training, he would be of legal age to have a match.
In the meantime, Drew helped sell tickets to the events. He did so at school by setting up shop in the cafeteria.
When it came time for him to make his pro debut, Drew said he sat in the cafeteria for the better part of three days so that he could sell tickets to the event. He even gained permission to do so from his teachers.
On April 16, 2005, Drew made his debut at an independent event at Northeast High School. That it took away from the amount of time he could dedicate to Northeast wrestling drew the ire of his coaches.
"But my heart wasn't in the amateur wrestling as much as the pro wrestling," Drew said
Two months after his 18th birthday, Rory made his debut in a match against Drew.
"He threw a chair at my head in his first match ever," Drew said.
"I slapped him in the face for real because I felt in the moment," Rory said.
With some experience under their belts, they became CZW mainstays.
In the span of a decade, Drew has evolved from a no-name wrestler to a known commodity on the independent circuit.
Because of that, he typically has little trouble finding a booking. On the off chance he has a free weekend, he opts to rests his body.
"I need to savor that time," Drew said. "If you hustle hard, you can make a decent amount on the indies even just for a weekend. You can come away with a grand just in a day.
"That's great for someone who is not signed to a contract or working for a company as an independent worker, but that's chump change in the grand scheme of things," he added. "I'm not dwelling on that now. As long as I'm getting by."
Still, Drew Gulak wants more, which is why he was at the WWE Performance Center last year for a tryout. That did not pay immediate dividends, as it took a while before he received the offer to participate in the cruiserweight tournament.
Rory Gulak has seen quite the evolution as well. After years of being known for violent matches that took a toll on his body, he coaches for Beat the Streets Philly, the most successful youth amateur wrestling program in Philadelphia. Along with being a coach, he is the assistant program director.
When he does wrestle, he is not jumping through tables or being hit over the head with light tubes. In fact he is the polar opposite.
After spending most of their childhood wrestling each other, Rory and Drew have finally teamed to form The Amazing Gulaks -- classic mat-based wrestlers of yesteryear who perform a lot of amateur holds and use double-team moves that are a homage to their grandfather, who was once a trapeze artist.
"I just went from doing barbed wire cages and killing myself to now I get to say 'amazing,' " Rory said. "It's quite nice on my body."