Aaron Nelson broke into the pro wrestling business in June 2001, about a month after his 18th birthday. He was trained by legendary past pros and eventually landed in a small regional territory near his home in Vancouver, Wash.
"I always was interested in wrestling, more on a local level," said Nelson, now 26 and living in Las Vegas.
He was part of Portland Championship Wrestling ( PCW ) in 2004, a long way from the highprofile glitz and glamour of World Wrestling Entertainment ( WWE ) or Total Nonstop Action ( TNA ) Wrestling, which nowand also back in 2004shares the prime-time spotlight of U.S.-based pro wrestling companies.
Nelson was Cameron Star in the ring, a Hawaiian-themed wrestler, in tribute to his mother's heritage. He was just an average wrestler for a small-time promotion, maybe performing in front of a few hundred fans.
But then in 2006 Star came out, incorporating a gay aspect with the Hawaiian flavor. It was art imitating life, truly.
"That's when I really came into my own as a wrestler," he said. "Sure, it was scary coming out [ as a wrestler, ] even though I personally had been out since my 16th birthday, on May 20, 1999.
"But being out as a pro wrestler was a whole different thing.
"I tried to do it subtly at first [ because ] , yeah, I was really nervous about the role and the fact that there were a lot of peoplefrom promoters to other wrestlerstelling me that there wasn't going to be room for a gay [ good-guy ] wrestler. But the crowd was really receptive to my character." Nelson's alter ego was not a flamboyant character, but rather, "just part of me."
Nelson admitted that several other wrestlers did not want to face him once he came out, "for whatever personal reasons [ they had, ] he said. But after a while, the other wrestlers saw how popular Cameron Star had becomeand they knew facing him could do nothing but help hem, too.
"Their attitudes changed; they were more receptive to get into the ring with me," Nelson said.
In 2007, Star turned into a bad guy, which was a first in his career. "I was more nervous about being the heel than playing the gay gimmick," Nelson said.
Star retired from the ring last April, and has spent the past year writing his memoirs. He just released No Forwarding Address: The Cameron Star Project, which offers Nelson's take on a businessand his personal lifefilled with drugs, sexuality, diabetes and the struggle to gain notoriety. The book is available at Lulu, Inc. ( www.lulu.com ) .
Nelson, who is single, is donating a portion of all book sales to children with diabetes. "I had so much fun writing this book," he said. "The real reason I wrote it is, I want to inspire others, especially gay athletes. I know it was a rough road for me, so hopefully I'll help inspire others."
Here's more about Aaron Nelson, aka, Cameron Star:
He spent a week training at the Funking Conservatory Wrestling School in Florida, run by Dory Funk, Jr. He also was trained by "Playboy" Buddy Rose and Col. DeBeers. "They taught me so much about the psychology of the business," Star said.
The highlight of his wrestling career was in 2008-09, running California Grand Prix Wrestling in the Santa Cruz, Calif., area. "That's when I really came into my own as far as booking, promoting, and more. I loved that," he said.
Star does not plan to return to the ring for a few years, and then as a commentator, booker, trainer or referee.
Regrets? "No; not really," he said. "I stuck to all of my goals … maybe that I spent the first few years in wrestling trying to cover up the fact that I'm gay. That's it in retrospect."
Being gay: "No one knew I was gay when I broke into the business. I made a conscious decision to cover up [ my sexuality ] . Not because I was ashamed of who I was, but I just wanted to be treated the same; I didn't want to be treated better or worse because of [ my sexuality ] . I wanted to have success, or fail, based on my effort and ability, not on my sexuality."
Do it again? Yes, but, "I would have come out a little earlier once I got into the business."
Final quote: "I had so much fun with the gimmick; I just wish I had started it sooner. I grew as a person along with the character. When I started wrestling, I was just a shy kid, and I think that came across in the ring. But then when I started to incorporate [ being gay ] into the Cameron Star persona, I grew as a person. That showed in and out of the ring."