In 2014, Michael Cammett was only an aspiring high school senior at North Arlington High School, when he wanted to pursue his dream of becoming a professional wrestler.
Ever since he was younger, Cammett would envision himself as becoming the next Shawn Michaels.
“Watching him as I was growing up, he was always a role model to me,” Cammett said in an interview that year. “The whole electric format of wrestling really intrigued me.”
So Cammett would practice moves with his friends, moves he learned while watching the Worldwide Wrestling Entertainment stars like Michaels.
“I was jumping and diving off my dresser, breaking beds and walls in my house,” Cammett said.
To prevent Cammett from destroying any more furniture in their home, Michael’s father gave him a birthday present that year.
“I had been looking for a wrestling school for a long time,” Cammett said in that 2014 interview. “This was the best birthday present ever. I was happy that I got accepted. My father knew that this was something I wanted to do for a long time, but my friends were asking, ‘Are you really going to do this?’ But I was serious about it.”
Cammett knew that there was a big difference between high school athletics and pro wrestling.
“I know that it’s entertainment,” Cammett said. “I always have to keep that in mind. But I’m always going to perform like it’s real and we’re putting on a show. It’s athletic entertainment, but it’s definitely a different transition from football.”
At the time, Cammett’s idea sounded like nothing more than a pipe dream. He was an undersized football player and member of the North Arlington track and field team.
But Cammett didn’t let his physical stature (5-foot-8 and 175 pounds) get in the way of a dream. He attended classes with famed local wrestler Kevin Knight of Nutley, who formed the Independent Wrestling Foundation more than 20 years ago.
“He applied to the wrestling school,” Knight recalled. “When you apply, you have to write a paragraph about why he wanted to become a wrestler. Even though he was only 17, I think I knew what he could become. He had that athletic background to help him. He was so mature for a kid his age. He was an overachiever.”
Unfortunately, Cammett’s overachieving young life came to an end last Sunday, when he tragically drowned in an innertube rafting accident on the Delaware River near the New York/New Jersey border. Cammett was only 24 years old.
Although Cammett was removed from his career as a pro wrestler for the last three years, he was remembered by his teacher and friend, who will be organizing a charity wrestling show for the annual Nutley Relay For Life program in August.
“He was our fastest trainee ever,” Knight said of Cammett. “It was unbelievable to watch. His size was never a hinderance. He was so polished. I honestly didn’t notice that he didn’t have the height that others had.”
Knight said that Cammett instantly became a beloved superstar in his organization. He had the nickname of “Golden Boy,” in particular because of Cammett’s long-flowing blond hair.
“He was in the top three that we ever had,” Knight said, putting Cammett in a class with fellow IWF wrestlers Darren Young, who made it all the way to the WWE and Roman Zachary. “He’s right there with those guys. Mike was great. We did events every other Saturday and Mike was always on those shows. He was so popular with the fans.”
Cammett was also a regular at the private birthday parties and charity shows that the IWF held.
“He was also the head coach of our youth training program,” Knight said. “He was so reliable. He really became a good wrestler and took on more and more with us. It’s just an incredible tragedy.”
Anthony Marck, who coached Cammett in football at North Arlington High School, was obviously distraught about Cammett’s passing.
“I’m devastated,” Marck said. “When I got the call, I couldn’t believe it. As a football player, he put his heart and soul into workouts. He always wanted to be the best Michael Cammett he could be. He always demonstrated great composure and he worked incredibly hard. I’d say he was an elite teammate. He was at his best when bringing your best was required.”
Much like he did in the ring, Cammett didn’t hesitate at all when it came to football, according to his coach.
“I don’t think he ever looked at it as being undersized,” Marck said. “He played multiple positions for us. He played running back, linebacker, the defensive line, even quarterback. He was like our Swiss Army knife. He had a great big heart and great big smile.”
Colin Clifford was one of Cammett’s closest friends from preschool days.
“He was like my brother growing up,” said Clifford, a teammate of Cammett’s during his football playing days at NA. “We were close, but Mike was everyone’s best friend. If you didn’t see him or hang out with him for a month, you could pick things back up with Mike without missing a beat. He treated everyone the same way. He made sure to keep you in his life.”
That was evidenced last Thursday when hundreds of mourners lined their way totally around the Ippolito-Stellato Funeral Home in Lyndhurst in a torrential rainstorm.
“He was a great athlete,” Clifford said. “He gave it his all on the field and in the ring. He did everything 110 percent. He was one of the captains of the track team.”
Clifford was one of the youngsters that would wrestle with Cammett on a regular basis in his basement.
“He’s the one who got me into wrestling,” Clifford said. “And he was a natural in the ring. I was so proud and happy for him that he was living out his dream. I was also kind of jealous. We would go to Smackdown events and Monday Night Raw together.”
Clifford was having a tough time coming to grips with Cammett’s passing.
“I keep saying that you can’t make sense of something that doesn’t make sense,” Clifford said. “He was such a good friend. He could do anything if he put his mind to it. He was the best and such a good kid. This is such a tragedy.”
Marck said that he will always remember Cammett one way.
“I will remember him as a champion,” Marck said. “He was a kind soul. It’s a tremendous loss for the entire North Arlington community. It’s just difficult to process.”
Knight said that his IWF organization will honor Cammett Aug. 21 with a posthumous induction into the IWF Hall of Fame at the Nutley Relay for Life event that day.
“We’re also going to dedicate this year’s event to Mike,” Knight said. “I’ll always remember how reliable of a guy and how good of a wrestler he became. He morphed right into it and took on more and more responsibility.”
When Knight closed the doors on his facility in Nutley three years ago, Cammett then focused his life on the next step. He went to Rutgers-Newark to earn his degree in physical therapy and was nearing the end of the school’s doctorate program in physical therapy. The overachiever cut off his golden hair and donned a white jacket instead of high boots and a vest. He was on his way to becoming Dr. Michael Cammett, which would have been another instance of his incredible ability to do whatever he wanted if he put his mind to it. Unfortunately, the Delaware River put an end to those dreams. A tragedy like the one that took place is the only way Michael Cammett could ever be stopped.
Cammett was the only child of Michael and Judy Cammett. If anyone cares to make a donation in honor of Cammett, they may do so with either Hayden’s Heart INC, 118 Bathurst Ave, North Arlington NJ 07031 or to Special Olympics New Jersey (the Polar Bear Plunge), 1 Eunice Kennedy Shriver Way, Lawrenceville NJ 08648.
In 2014, Michael Cammett posed for this head shot as a senior on the North Arlington High School football team. He also threw the javelin for the outdoor track team in the spring. Photo by Jim Hague
That same year, Cammett became “The Golden Boy,” a popular professional wrestler with the Independent Wrestling Federation and almost instantly became a highly regarded star in the industry. Photo courtesy of Kevin Knight.
With the IWF, Cammett participated in a host of shows and appearances and was extremely popular with the younger audiences like at birthday parties held at the IWF headquarters in Nutley. Photo courtesy of Kevin Knight.
Learn more about the writer ...
Jim Hague | Observer Sports Writer
Sports Writer Jim Hague was with The Observer for 20+ years — and his name is one of the most recognizable in all of sports journalism. The St. Peter’s Prep and Marquette alum kicked off his journalism career post Marquette at the Daily Record, where he remained until 1985. Following shorts stints at two other newspapers, in September 1986, he joined the now-closed Hudson Dispatch, where he remained until 1991, when its doors were finally shut.
It was during his tenure at The Dispatch that Hague’s name and reputation as one of country’s hardest-working sports reporters grew. He won several New Jersey Press Association and North Jersey Press Club Awards in that timeframe.
In 1991, he became a columnist for The Hudson Reporter chain of newspapers — and he remains with them to this day.
In addition to his work at The Observer and The Hudson Reporter, Hague is also an Associated Press stringer, where he covers Seton Hall University men’s basketball, New York Red Bulls soccer and occasionally, New Jersey Devils hockey.
He’s also doing work at The Morristown Daily Record, the very newspaper where his journalism career began.
During his career, he also worked for Dorf Feature Services, which provided material for the Star-Ledger. While there, he covered the New York Knicks and the New Jersey Nets.
Hague is also known for his announcing work — and he’s done PA work for Rutgers Newark and NJIT.
Hague is the author of the book “Braddock: The Rise of the Cinderella Man.”