BY MIKE KERWICK
He is holding a VHS tape, all cued up. It is 10 years old, one of Tommy Fierro’s treasures.
"This is probably the thing I’m most proud of," Fierro says.
He slides the tape into a VCR. The blue screen on the television in his Woodland Park living room vanishes, replaced by the image of a parking lot. Police are herding a 7-foot-tall wrestler into a squad car.
One of the officers is wearing a blue shirt and a silver badge. He points to the door of the car.
"Close that!" he screams. "Close that!"
Fierro rewinds it, watches it again. He could watch this forever. That’s because he is the officer in the blue shirt.
"Even though it was only 30 seconds," said Fierro, 31, "I was still in ‘Wrestlemania.’ Sting can’t say that."
These days he is haunted by a different opportunity, an opportunity he passed on not once, but twice. Fierro had two chances to play a bit part in "The Wrestler," the Mickey Rourke movie that will chase a pair of Oscars next Sunday.
First chance: Afa Anoi’a, the wrestling legend who trained Rourke for the role, called Fierro. He wanted to see if Fierro would be interested in playing a manager in the film.
"It was supposed to be a Friday," Fierro said. "It wound up turning into a Friday and a Saturday."
Fierro is a bartender. He couldn’t afford to give up two days of paychecks and tips for a spot in a low-budget movie.
Second chance: Evan Ginzburg, an associate producer on the film, was looking for an announcer. He knew Fierro from the independent wrestling scene.
The timing was terrible. Fierro was busy pulling together a wrestling convention, the type of autograph-driven event that usually attracts past-their-prime wrestlers like Rourke’s Randy "The Ram" Robinson.
"In ‘The Wrestler,’ you see Mickey Rourke at these tiny venues," Ginzburg said. "That is exactly what indie wrestling is, for the most part. Tommy is trying to climb that mountain."
It was a portal that opened to Fierro years ago, when his grandfather introduced him to the world of sports entertainment. For two hours on Saturday mornings, Fierro would sit with his grandfather and absorb every move, every character, every chair shot.
By high school, Fierro was co-hosting a college radio show, writing a wrestling newsletter and organizing local wrestling conventions.
"He’s been at it since he was a teenager," Ginzburg said. "He lives and breathes this. I would think if anybody has the ability of doing this, it would be somebody like Tommy."
Emboldened by his early successes, seduced by the allure of the wrestling ring, the Passaic Valley High School alum skipped college. He dove deeper into promoting. Fierro spent two summers running a regular wrestling show in Wildwood.
"He’s the only one that got me out of retirement," said Anoi’a, who wrestled under the stage name Afa the Wild Samoan.
As the Internet boomed, Fierro began writing columns for various wrestling sites, questioning some televised storylines and proposing others. He is convinced his ideas are good enough for live TV.
Fierro sent one letter to World Wrestling Entertainment. He said that Stephanie McMahon, an executive vice president with the company (and WWE owner Vince McMahon’s daughter), wrote him back, requesting a writing sample.
Fierro didn’t get the job. He does not know why the company rejected him, but suspects it has something to do with that missing college degree.
"I thought that by now he would have had an opportunity or had a job with them by this point in his life," said Judas Young, a local independent wrestler.
Anoi’a, a member of the WWE Hall of Fame, said he would recommend Fierro for a job with the company if Fierro asked.
"Usually my recommendation is really good," Anoi’a said. "But for one person I recommended, they have 10 others from other directions."
In some ways, Fierro is the opposite of Rourke’s character in "The Wrestler." Both cling to dreams, but Fierro hasn’t touched his yet.
"If you have talent," said Fierro’s friend Danny Gimondo, "it might not be today, it might not be tomorrow, but someone’s going to buy it at some point."
He has 2 1/2 semesters left at Berkeley College. He runs a weekly wrestling podcast called "Who’s Slamming Who."
When he graduates, he will piece together another application to send to WWE. The next time opportunity comes calling, he doesn’t want to miss it.