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Cross warming up for WWE with heavyweight title bout

By Celia Kazumi Downes /

LAST UPDATED: 3:26 a.m. HST, Jun 26, 2011

A product of the "cold, dreary" Midwest, Matt Cross hopes his return to Hawaii this week results not only in some quality beach time, but also in Action Zone Wrestling's heavyweight title.

But even if he doesn't succeed against "Mr. Athletic" Jeff Cobb at Anniversary Annihilation 6 on Monday, Cross can at least bask in the warm island summer and add yet another performance to his constantly growing wrestling resume.

Since 2001, the Cleveland native has competed the world over, from Japan to Austria to Egypt. Recently he appeared on World Wrestling Entertainment's "Tough Enough" reality series (under his real name, Matt Capiccioni), which pits contestants against each other to find WWE's next rising star.

"It's no secret that my goal is to work for the WWE," he said. "I believe I'm one of the most well-rounded, entertaining individuals in the game today."

Like most pro wrestlers, Cross was an active kid. He became a gymnast at age 10, wrapping up his career with a gold-medal performance at the AAU Junior Olympics in 1999. As gymnastics came to a close, an introduction to Extreme Championship Wrestling rekindled his interest in pro wrestling and opened the door to a whole new type of athleticism.

"I figured with my extensive background in gymnastics, I stood a good shot of adding something to the wrestling business," Cross said.

After a decade of honing his technique, Cross is confident he will make Cobb work hard to retain the heavyweight title. Cross said he brings "a really unique style and set of moves" to the ring that are clearly inspired by his time as a competitive gymnast.

"I've won over a dozen titles in my career thus far and would be honored to carry the banner for AZW," he said. "Let's be honest — I'm a kid from cold, dreary Cleveland, Ohio. With one win … I could score myself a ticket back to Hawaii to defend the championship. I'll be approaching this match, and this opportunity, more focused than ever before."

And while pro wrestling may be "the best of times and the worst of times" in terms of time commitment and injury risk, Cross said it has also allowed him to meet "incredible people" across the world.

"I wouldn't trade my experience for anything," he said.

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