Hooper turned wrestler

“Big Trouble” Ben Bishop, the wrestler, is an “Earth shakin,’ pillar quakin,’” larger than life performer who stands at “6’12”, 15% of a metric ton,” and has begun to make his name dispatching of ‘babyfaces’ and monster ‘heels’ alike. 

Ben Crenca, the man, is an “internal recruiter for a data intelligence company,” is close to that listed stature and, in many ways, mimics the character he portrays for a variety of independent professional wrestling companies over the east coast of the United States. With wide, enthusiastic eyes under a flow of dark blonde hair that would make a collegiate lacrosse player blush, the 6’10” Crenca is prone to speaking with his baseball-glove-sized hands. 

A Rhode Island product now residing in Columbia, Maryland with his wife, Dani, Crenca made a stop at a prep school in Massachusetts, and eventually landed a scholarship at the University of Vermont to play basketball. 

“Thank GOD I played basketball … if I didn’t, I don’t think half the people would have enjoyed talking to me. I don’t think I would have made any connections with anybody,” he chuckled, leaning back in his home office  chair. 

The conversations of hoops came up because Crenca and this reporter crossed paths around a decade ago at a UVM basketball camp, where the players on the school’s team were “coaches” for younger camp attendees. 

“I remember you, of course!” he says, as I tried to recreate the image of a string bean, 6’2” 12-year-old with sports goggles for him. 

Wrestling may have been Crenca’s first love and led to the birth of the “Leader of the Meatpop Express” 20-plus years later, but he looks back with a real fondness on his time spent at UVM, in Burlington, Vermont, and with his teammates and coaches. 

“Sometimes you take it (college) for granted. I’m not going to be the Billy Madison, don’t-ever-leave kind of person, because there is a time to get out, but I’d go back and punch myself in the face for wanting to get out so quickly,” Crenca continued. 

Playing for coaches Mike Lonergan and John Becker during the turn of the decade, Crenca was a part of two teams that made the NCAA Tournament, in both 2010 and 2012. He still holds his coaches in extremely high regard, even if “there were times I didn’t agree with either of them, and there were plenty of times I didn’t agree with either of them.” 

Beyond his coaches, he holds a place in his undoubtedly big heart for everyone he played with, too. Lauding all of his teammates, and eagerly naming 13 of them off the top of his head, as if he spends a lot of time thinking about the men he shared blood, sweat, and tears with. 

One of these teammates, Brendan Bald, is still very close to Crenca and finds himself in a creative outlet not dissimilar to his bruising counterpart. An “actor, writer, photographer, and recovering attorney” based in Nashville currently working on a film called the “Legend of Lake Hollow,” he was not surprised to see the character of “Big Trouble” born. 

“Ben’s always been an entertainer. So many examples. In college, he was well known for busting out HILARIOUS dance moves at house parties. And this is absolutely a habit that’s continued in post-college life. I’ve been to several weddings with Ben, and we always say a wedding isn’t a wedding until Ben’s shirt comes o ff at the reception,” Bald says, grinning. 

“I knew Ben was into WWE soon after meeting him freshman year,” Bald continues. “I was also a fan of professional wrestling so it was something we connected on right away. We’d watch Monday Night Raw in our dorm regularly. He would always talk about wanting to wrestle; and anyone who knew him KNEW he wanted to be a WWE Superstar.” 

And what sets his former big man apart in the ring, in Bald’s opinion? 

“His charm and charisma on the microphone. A lot of people have athleticism or physicality, but not a lot of people can riff on the mic in a way that captures the attention and interest of an audience completely,” he said. 

Taking things outside of the ring into serious account is something that’s also very important to “Big Trouble.” He’s a student of the game, in the purest sense of the word, and that joy comes through as clearly when he’s performing as when he’s sitting, talking about some of his heroes and his favorite parts of the job. 

“I’m very into the storytelling,” he says, which makes sense, given his affinity for “Memphis-Style” wrestling. Defined by more crowd work, more narratively structured matches, and fewer moves per minute than something like Mexico’s “Lucha Libre” style, he was introduced to the business itself by a Memphis-Style trainee and former WWE employee. 

In 2019, Crenca was approached by fellow Maryland resident James Ellsworth, who performed under that name in the WWE from around 2016-2018. Seeing Crenca’s frame in the audience, he walked up to him after the show and said that he wanted to start training him immediately. 

Working for Invictus Pro Wrestling (New Jersey/New York) primarily, now, “Big Trouble” is a “big, badass heel” who is in the middle of a program against a much smaller, “babyface” character; heel meaning the “villain” of the match, and the “face” being his heroic adversary. 

In terms of the character himself? He’s partially an ode to John Carpenter movies, partially an enlarged picture of some of Crenca’s own characteristics, part catchphrase machine, and 100% microphone gold. 

He weaves his catchphrases in and out of our conversation effortlessly (“the sun never sets on a cool guy,” “a guy who ain’t corporate but is all about the business”), and laments guys that always try to play the dark character: (“‘you don’t know where I came from, oh I’m so demented,’ dude shut up, you have a 9-5.”) 

Oh, and he does want to make note that while he is aware of the hockey player named Ben Bishop, “there was a TV star named Steve Austin too.” 

Part of the beauty in the storytelling, in his opinion, comes in not filling matches with move after move, thereby leaving space for those crowd reactions and audience interaction between the performers. 

“If you have the finale of a fireworks show, and the whole show is just nonstop fireworks over and over and over, okay, it’s cool for like two minutes but then all of a sudden you’re like ‘this is normal,’” he says. 

Building that tension between moves and sequences, so the audience has more moments to hang on, without necessarily doing the most extravagant moves, is key, he says. It’s when he starts talking about this part of the industry that the kid from Rhode Island who loves wrestling re-emerges. 

“John Cena always caught heat for his ‘five moves of doom,’ but he had the audience in the palm of his hand every time he was out there. He was at the top of the industry for what, 12 years?” he said. 

Between talks of Cena, (Chris) Jericho, The Rock, Kane, and The Undertaker, the conversation quickly devolved into a couple of overgrown man-children getting really excited about guys they’ve been watching on TV for years. And now, for Crenca professionally, studying guys like “Taker” is essential to his development as a performer. 

And to him, what he does to self-promote online, with his “Bishop’s Log” videos informing his followers and fans with what he’s doing and where he will be next, is just as important as what he does between the ropes. 

This online self-promotion can really pay off  sometimes, too. When Brandon Walker of Barstool Sports (host of a podcast called Rasslin,’,) was asked about what he would do if he didn’t work at Barstool, he said he would want to be a wrestling manager. 

Enter Big Trouble. When he reached out to Walker via Twitter, he got a reply fairly quickly, and a relationship was born soon after. From there, he’s been able to continue to make connections within that company, including a couple of trips to their headquarters in New York City. 

Speaking very highly of all the employees there, he says that they’re exactly who they appear to be on camera, and that’s why they’re so successful. From Dan “Big Cat” Katz (“what a guy!”) to Kate (“the sweetest person in the world.”), to Kevin “KFC” Clancy and his on-air compatriot, John Feitelberg (“love them, very cool guys!”). 

His interaction with Barstool’s founder, Dave Portnoy, is the most memorable, he says, with his introduction including rising out of a chair to greet the “5’10” Portnoy. Immediately getting a look like “who the fuck are you,” he says, he introduced himself and explained his role with Brandon Walker, which included a couple of outdoor shows with Invictus and a trip to Ohio Valley Wrestling. 

Laughing, Portnoy said in reply to Crenca, “I didn’t even know that was happening, uh, it’s nice to meet you,” with PFT Commenter, a Barstool staple, laughing in the background. 

Beyond Barstool and Invictus, his reach has touched All Elite Wrestling, WWE’s only true on-air competitor, at its peak. Performing on its “AEW Dark” segment, which airs on the company’s YouTube channel and in person, but not on television, Big Trouble took a loss to “Bear Bronson” in June of 2021. 

Bronson reaching out to him ahead of time eased some of the stress of being a part of taping 38 matches in one night. Being the first match has its benefits and drawbacks, he says, but some of the connections he was able to make, like Chris Jericho and Paul “Big Show” Wight, are invaluable. 

Connecting with the founder and owner of AEW, Tony Khan, he says, was also a great experience, and he loved the enthusiasm that Khan brings to the table every night. 

But the biggest thing, he says, at the end of the day, is about having fun. 

“Whenever it gets to the point where I’m like, ‘I don’t like doing this anymore…” 

He sort of tails off .

“Here’s the thing. I’ll say this, and not a lot of guys will say this because they’ll say ‘oh, this is my number one thing, I’ll live and die with wrestling,’ that’s not me.

“I don’t NEED wrestling. I’m not gonna bullshit people and say ‘I need this, this is all I love,’ it’s not. I have a great job, and I love my life. I don’t need it, but I want it. (to be signed)” 

“I will never be that 45-year-old indie guy who’s never made it, and never made it to any company, and is only a ‘30-miler,’ and sits there like a big vet in the locker room, like ‘I’m the shit even though I ain’t ever done shit,’ I’m never gonna be that guy,” he says. “Do I maybe wish I started when I was 25, so I’d be coming up on seven years in the business? Sure, but I can’t ever say that I didn’t try.” 

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