A Tale of Two Jameses : A Look At James Morgan

Follow your bliss
-Joseph Campbell

“That’s it, bro. I think I’m done.”

James Morgan agonizes in the passenger seat of a red, broken down Honda Accord as these words crawl out of his mouth and into the ears of the driver, friend and colleague Angelo Trinidad. James is still clad in his signature black and red tights and singlet. Changing into his street clothes would prove too daunting as intense pain seared through his muscled shoulder and neck.

“You’re not done. You’re just saying that right now because you just broke your collarbone.”

It is nearing 1:00 A.M. Trinidad, both concerned and consoling, has his foot pressed to the floor, demanding all that his battered automobile has to give while racing to James’ hospital of choice some seventy-five miles away in Newport Beach. CA. Just a couple of hours earlier, Trinidad, a handsome, young Filipino with a sharp tan suit, a bald head, a single stud diamond in his left ear and a powerful voice, had been the ring announcer introducing the performers as they made their entrances into the arena for a live professional wrestling event in the off-the-beaten-path town of Newhall, CA for a company called Dungeon Championship Wrestling. James’ opponent for the evening was Tito Escondido, a young upstart trying to carve his niche in a business in which James has spent the past thirteen years. Despite Escondido’s inexperience, James was confident that his knowledge of the craft and the leadership role he would take in this dance-like exhibition, along with a safer, more methodical in-ring style (in stark contrast to others on the card eager to perform higher-risk, more acrobatic maneuvers) would lead the pair to a fun and entertaining match. James would be reminded, however, of a lesson he knows all too well from over a decade in this unique art form: sometimes accidents happen.

The final move sequence of the match would see Escondido, a muscular Latino with a thicker build than James, reverse out of James’ patented cross-face-chicken-wing submission hold, and hoist James across the top of his shoulders. Then, a moment of hesitation, as it appeared Escondido lost control of James’ body, before James’ right shoulder was driven in an awkward angle down into the canvas. James knew instantly that the crowd of fourteen people (six who had actually paid for admission) in the audience of the tiny VFW Hall in which the event was taking place has just seen him break his clavicle clean through.

“When I first got the text message from James that he’d gotten hurt, my first question was, ‘was it the jail or the wrestling?’” says Nancy Imrie. “When he said it was during a wrestling match, my first reaction was, ‘Oh, for God’s sake. Did you win?’”

Imrie is an RN supervisor who began working with James from the time he began his transition from a licensed vocational nurse (LVN) to a registered nurse (RN). From the outset, James proved to be an exceptional talent whose skillset led Imrie to hand pick him to follow her along at the many stops her line of work takes her, including the surgery center where she currently works and James fills in part-time.

“I don’t know where to begin. The guy is so wonderful,” Imrie gushes. “What struck me the most when I started working with him was that he was so much stronger than a new grad or a new nurse. I saw a star quality in him. He is so good with people. What impressed me the most is he would ask logical, very thought out questions which new nurses would be afraid to do. He’s never been afraid to put himself out there. He’s a strong personality and has been able to make good decisions. I told him, ‘you need to go back to school, because you’re going to shoot right up to the top. There are no limits to what you can do in this profession.”

At just under six-feet tall and barely breaking the two-hundred pound mark, James Morgan, the 28-year-old Riverside, CA red head carries himself like a giant, and indeed, in both worlds of the unique dual-reality in which he resides, he is. He sports a short cut, military style haircut the likes of which you imagine rendered at an old fashioned hole-in-the-wall barber shop; the kind with lamp on the outside spinning red, white, and blue. He is good looking in that All-American-apple-pie-high-school-quarterback kind of way that would breed typical hate and envy if it wasn’t for his inherent humility and charming kindness. He is clean cut (unless it is nearing a show date, at which time he allows a firey five-o’clock shadow to emerge for effect), and is always dressed appropriately for whatever the occasion calls for: on physical therapy days, it’s a neat, black, Under Armor athletic top and workout pants with an unassuming black baseball cap that almost seems out of place without a pair of fake glasses to protect the anonymity of his mild-mannered alter ego. Heading out to a baseball game? Then it’s the requisite fan uniform of blue jeans, bright blue Dodgers cap, and matching jersey. If it’s the day of a show, it’s business casual in a sharp pair of slacks, a wrinkle-free collared button up, and dress shoes, all employed to convey both the level of professionalism and regard with which he approaches the environment, and to contrast the two main costumes in which he finds himself most comfortable: wrestling tights or a nursing scrubs.

“I always tell people when they ask what I do for a living, ‘well, during the week I wear pajamas and on the weekends I wear underwear in public,” James says.

“I think nursing and professional wrestling have a lot of similarities. In wrestling, you are trying to elicit a response, to build a rapport with your audience. If your audience isn’t emotionally invested in you, you’re not going to get the response you want, which is either to get cheered or get booed depending on if you’re the hero or the villain. In nursing, it’s the same thing. You wanna build a rapport with your patients, and you are playing a character. It may be more of a genuine character than you would have in wrestling, but your character as a nurse is, ‘I’m here to help you,’ and the response you are trying to elicit from them is trust,” James explains. “Because if they don’t trust you they’re not going to be forthright with you. And if you’re doing an invasive procedure like an I.V., blood draw, anything that might be invasive or embarrassing, they’re not going to be willing to allow you to do that.”

“You’d be surprised. People come in to E.R., Urgent Care, or something like that, and they won’t tell you the truth of how they got there because it’s embarrassing, or it’s illegal, or they just don’t want to admit it to a total stranger, so if you can elicit that response from the character you’re playing as a nurse, it’s kind of the same. Except not as physical (you hope).”

To Be Continued in Part II

About the Author

The authority on wrestling and MMA in Southern California since 2001.