Sharing a Dram With Wrestling's Drama King
August 19, 2020 –––––– Ted Simmons
In liquor and in life, Matt Rehwoldt is all about balance. “To me, balance is key to just everything you do, whether it's fitness, whether it's work,” he says, sipping a glass of bourbon at The Shanty, New York Distilling Co.'s adjoining cocktail bar. “I try to be balanced in everything I can because I think that's where peace lies and understanding lies. While passion might lie in the extremes, so does trouble.”
For a guy with multiple pursuits, and personas, it's an appropriate mantra. World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) fans know Rehwoldt better as Aiden English, aka The Drama King, antagonistic wrestler turned sharp-dressed announcer.* The whisky world is getting to know the bearded Chicagoan via his YouTube channel and social media accounts that combine his passions, aptly titled Wrestling With Whiskey.
*[In April 2020, Rehwoldt was released by WWE amid pandemic-related layoffs.]
“I thought the only reason I would ever have any success was because of the wrestling stuff,” he says. But in the years since starting Wrestling With Whiskey, Rehwoldt has seen his knowledge and fan base expand. “It's the first thing I've been truly interested in actively pursuing outside of wrestling since I was 18. It's fun to have something I actually want to delve into and do homework on.”
And part of the work for Rehwoldt is maintaining balance. Whisky tasting never got in the way of his WWE duties, which often required traveling to arena shows across the country (he has a special foam-lined Pelican case for taking his tasting to-go). Nor does it deter his commitment to the fitness required for the extreme physical demands of professional wrestling. He frequently advises his followers with the catchphrase “Earn Your Bourbon,” encouraging others with instructional workout videos. “I never imagined incorporating fitness into my bourbon hobby, but I actually am kind of proud of it,” he says. “One of the main reasons I started it was to promote the idea of responsible appreciation and enjoyment, because drinking is not just about drinking. It's about enjoying.”
Developing His Palate...With Diet Coke
Rehwoldt definitely enjoys whisky, primarily bourbon and rye, and discussing it, though that wasn't always the case. While his dad was a scotch drinker, it wasn't until seeing characters on “Mad Men” sip whisky neat that he thought about developing a taste for it. He started with a bottle of Knob Creek Single Barrel and a can of Diet Coke, sipping then chasing. “And I would do that every other night,” he says. “Until I didn't need the chaser. Then, eventually, I was sipping whisky neat and then I started trying different things.”
From there, Rehwoldt began honing his tasting skills, reading whisky books, and studying maturation and distillation. About six to eight months later, he launched Wrestling With Whiskey in 2017. “I'm so used to trying to have a social media brand and presence, I was like, ‘Well if I'm really getting into this hobby, let's delve into it in that platform as well,'” he says.
Rehwoldt has been ramping up his whisky activity ever since, especially when he transitioned to color commentary for WWE's cruiserweight show “205 Live” in 2019, lessening his time on the road. “I'm home a bit more often so now I can do Wrestling With Whiskey with a little bit more regularity and a little bit more attention,” he says. That has included a move to subscription content platform Patreon, the creation of Earn Your Bourbon merchandise, and live events in Chicago.
As Rehwoldt's online work becomes more robust, it's clear he loves sharing the joy of whiskey with his viewers, and even his fellow WWE stars (“Sheamus, he loves Irish whiskey,” he says of Stephen Farrelly). Much like learning and practicing a new in-ring maneuver, Rehwoldt is pushing himself and his repertoire of spirits outside the ring. “As much as I love bourbon and American whiskey and I think that will always be my heart, I want to be a well-rounded spirits persona.” As always, it comes back to balance.
Who: Matt Rehwoldt, aka WWE's Aiden English
Instagram handles: @WrestlingWithWhiskey; @DramaKingMatt
Favorite Styles: Bourbon and rye
Home bar fixtures: Knob Creek Single Barrel, Evan Williams Bottled in Bond, Eagle Rare
Sleeper Shopping Cities: Sioux Falls, S.D.; Hartford, Conn.
How he drinks: “There are some things that benefit from water, but I don't care if it's 150 proof. I want to know what it's like as it is.”