When Michael Murray was just three, he developed severe asthma. When he was 13, he was diagnosed with psoriasis. “The weird thing is, the asthma and the psoriasis swapped out,” he said. “I haven’t had an asthma attack and gone to the hospital since I was 12.”
Growing up with trouble breathing, followed by plaque psoriasis that “breaks out in chunks or big splotches,” doesn’t seem like a promising start for a professional wrestler. But Murray, who is 29, has been wrestling since he was 15. “Yes, this is my day job,” he said.
Murray wrestles under the name Dewey Murray, “The Big Mutha Trucka” (his weight: “A Full 18 Wheels”), and has performed all over the U.S., in Canada and Japan. He appears on the indie wrestling circuits. Indie circuits are similar to baseball’s minor leagues. Indie wrestlers compete to advance to the televised big leagues, such as World Wrestling Entertainment and Total Nonstop Action Wrestling.
“As you go along you build a reputation and you hope you get your big break,” he explained. “It’s basically what you see on TV, but at a lower level. The competition is fierce. Everyone wants to move up.”
Wrestling brings respect
“When my psoriasis first appeared, we didn’t know what it was,” Murray recalled. “No one in my family had ever had it. I had a good doctor, and he did research into it.”
He had some bad reactions to Stelara (ustekinumab) and Otezla (apremilast) and now uses the topical Clobex (Clobetasol propionate). “Sometimes I get clear,” he said, “but it’s never for more than two or two-and-a-half months.”
Before a match and before he works out, he oils his skin. He usually uses something with a cocoa butter base. He also trains with long sleeves on.
“I have flare-ups,” he said. “But I can use my trucker gimmick to control what a crowd sees. I can wear jeans. If my elbows are pretty bad, I can wrap bandanas around them. Plus, then I can sell souvenir bandanas at the merch table.”
Because of the appearance of his skin, some wrestlers “will steer clear away from you,” he said. “You have to explain yourself. It’s awkward.”
But most of the wrestlers he encounters are professionals who came to wrestle, not discriminate. “This profession is all about respect,” he said.
Murray’s family (his mother is deceased) has been supportive of his career choice. “My father and sister saw me in a meet at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey. My sister saw he was crying and asked him why, and he said he wished my mother could see me. My father wouldn’t have me give up what I’m doing for anything.”
Making psoriasis cool
Murray trained at the Kayfabe Dojo Wrestling school in his hometown of Rochester, New York, when he was a teenager. Now he’s a teacher. He’s not just teaching holds either.
“I teach a lot about trust and responsibility,” he said. “When I meet you, I have to trust you. I have to trust that you’re not going to drop me on my head, that you’re not going to paralyze me. I also teach them about responsibility. If I have to drive four hours for a match, you will be there. You’ll be on time. There are a lot of life lessons here.”
Life lessons can come in unexpected ways. “I was doing a show, and there were these two boys there with their mom,” Murray recalled. “One was 13 or 14, and the other was 8 or 9. They were in line for photos. I heard the younger boy say to his brother, ‘He has what I have!’ When they got to me, he said, ‘You have psoriasis. That’s really cool!’
“You have a kid with psoriasis that’s that age, a kid that’s terrified to be in a classroom with 20 or 30 other children,” he continued. “They see me going out in front of 500 people in jeans and a singlet, showing a lot [of skin], and I don’t care. That means something to that kid.”
As for his psoriasis, he said, “Everyone’s given a lemon at some point in life. You just make the best of it.”
Photo credit: Hrycych Photography
Driving Discovery, Creating Community
This year, we’re celebrating 50 years of driving efforts to cure psoriatic disease and improve the lives of those affected. See how far we’ve come with this timeline of NPF’s history. But there’s still plenty to do, and we can’t do it without you! Learn how you can help our advocacy team shape the laws and policies that affect people with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis – in your state and across the country. Help us raise funding to promote research into better treatments and a cure by joining Team NPF, where you can walk, run, cycle, play bingo or even create your own DIY event. Contact our Patient Navigation Center for free, personalized support for living a healthier life with psoriatic disease. And keep the National Psoriasis Foundation going strong by making a donation today! Together, we will find a cure.