A decade can make all the difference in the world of a professional wrestler, Eddy Thorpe. The man who first cut his teeth as Karl Fredricks, began wrestling in 2015. In the modern era beginning your wrestling training and development at the age of 25 would be considered ‘old’.
But in the case of the Reno, Nevada native, it seemed to be the right time. His early training and development were partly at the hands of Katsuyori Shibata as part of NJPW LA Dojo.
Eddy Thorpe –
The New Found Sensation for The First Nations
The Rise of Karl Fredricks
Fredricks was a Young Lion, a talent considered a still emerging and learning their craft under the tutelage of a mentor who would guide them. But in that process, the training would be grueling.
They would often endure such great pain that it would be often too difficult to see the light while in the midst of their training and development.
Fredricks’ first documented match was as part of a six-man tag match for Supreme Pro Wrestling based out of Sacramento, California. The promotion was also where Adam Thornstowe would compete.
Thornstowe was known as one half of the tag team Reno SCUM that competed on the independent circuit but in TNA/IMPACT Wrestling as well. With more than a decade of experience behind him at that point, Thornstowe was credited as being one of Fredricks’ early trainers as well.
But Fredricks’ bookings in his first year were few and far between, which is often the case with new talent.
In his second year, his bookings more than quadrupled. With that came notable victories and capturing his first title as part of Pro-Championship Wrestling, capturing their PCW Inter-California title.
There was a demand for Fredricks, and it was evident in his growing exposure regardless of where he would compete. Over the next couple of years, Fredricks would wrestle around the same amount of matches annually.
But as 2019 came about, so did exponential professional growth happened for Karl Fredricks. That growth was no more evident than the time he would spend competing for New Japan Pro Wrestling.
Now prior to joining NJPW, he was interested in joining the WWE he would sit under the learning tree of Katsuyori Shibata. The time spent learning under Shibata only made Fredricks better.
Shibata knew that there was interest in Fredricks elsewhere, but immediately upon his arrival and participation, Shibata could see he was special. There were a number of different qualities about Fredricks that stood out right away that immediately endeared himself to ‘the wrestler’.
First thing I thought when I saw him was ‘this guy’s awesome’. He had no trouble with the drills at all. Every part of his body is like a spring. And he’s tall. He came with experience too.
When I asked him, ‘do you want to train with me in LA?’ he answered yes right away. He has a natural sense, so much potential. If he takes his chance, he’ll be on a rocket to the moon.
During his matches in the G1, I thought he was moving even faster than I expected him to. You have no choice but to respect the guy. He’s smart, too.
As much as The Wrestler shared that he saw something special in Fredricks, the future Eddy Thorpe shared what it meant to sit under the learning tree that was Katsuyori Shibata.
Under Shibata’s tuteledge, Karl Fredricks would win the 2019 Young Lions Cup. Few wrestlers have the opportunity to train under Shibata, let alone be asked to train with him either.
Fredricks didn’t just have the opportunity to train under him but conveyed how the training came from not only a leader and his mentor but would also act as a father figure as well.
It was an honor. It’s been an honor. Luckily he’s like our dad. That’s someone that’s always looking to improve us in our own specific ways.
A lot of it, too, was going back down to the basics of pro wrestling and then rolling into jiu-jitsu for the first time and then kickboxing and then back to natural wrestling in ways that I haven’t since I was (in) middle school.
The first several months were just that stuff. So the rewarding stuff came, obviously, from the pain and the physical condition because we got to a point—and I’m not there right now, I’ll tell you that.
I did not stay in that shape—but it got to a point where five hundred, seven hundred squats, things like that.
But with the growth and strides Fredricks was taking over the course of 2019, COVID brought it to a crushing halt. A worldwide pandemic hindered Fredricks like it did many other bookings and, in the process, growth.
When you couple this with shoulder injuries, while he received title opportunities and competed in various promotions, including Ring of Honor and All Elite Wrestling (on an episode of AEW Dark), once Fredricks’ contract expired in 2022 with New Japan Pro Wrestling, he chose not to re-sign.
But his departure from NJPW would see Karl Fredricks explore a new venture, and in doing so, he would have the support of his friend and former Young Lion, Clark Connors. Connors would share his glee for Fredricks.
He knew full well that this was an opportunity that had initially presented itself three years earlier before he joined the LA Dojo and accepted Shibata’s opportunity to train under him. Connors realized that it was Fredricks’ time to take advantage of the opportunity presented to him.
I’m so happy for him. I think I might be more happy for him than he’s happy for himself, even because he originally turned down a WWE contract to train at the dojo.
He was already ready to do that four years ago and Karl’s a little older than me, he’s like 32 right now or something, 31, 32, turning 33 maybe, and I’ve always been like, ‘It’s your time dude.
You gotta go there, you gotta make money, and they’re gonna use you and respect you’ because he’s a phenomenal wrestler, but he’s a phenomenal superstar, you know?
Which is what they look for over there in my opinion. I think he’s gonna do really great things quickly, so and then hopefully, just cozy up close with the bosses (has) a spot for me when I’m ready to rock (Connors laughed).
He was (the chosen one from the L.A. Dojo), and he’s the man, you know what I mean?…— we’re very honest with each other about what we need to fix, what we need to do, who we are as wrestlers and we’ve always said that the whole group obviously, Karl’s the superstar.
Eddy Thorpe –
Embracing The Pride of The First Nation
When Karl Fredricks joined the WWE’s NXT brand, he embraced his Native American heritage and did it under the name ‘Eddy Thorpe’.
While it wasn’t confirmed why he assumed the name change, it was speculated that he did so as an homage to former Olympic gold medalist Jim Thorpe. Jim Thorpe was the first Indigenous American athlete to win a Gold Medal at the Olympics.
Unlike Indigenous wrestlers in the past, Eddy Thorpe isn’t a caricature of those in the past. It is as important for him to be showcased as a proud Indigenous American that is always an alpha and a fierce lion as well.