Word of Honor is an occasional series of first-person feature articles written by ROH talent.
By Eli Isom
Every year on Mother’s Day I am reminded of the greatest loss I ever suffered.
Although I feel pain on this day, I also feel joy because I am reminded of the woman who helped mold me into who I am, showed me how to be humble and kind, and instilled my love for pro wrestling.
That woman is my mother, Lisa Marie Isom. She was killed in a car accident four and a half years ago, but I know she is watching over me as I live my dream of being a pro wrestler.
Growing up in the small town of Rensselaer, Ind., I was always a mama’s boy. It’s hard for me to remember a time when I wasn’t glued to my mom’s hip when I was young. She was a very kind and lighthearted person, but she also could be a real handful. As I think about that now, I can say I take after her in that regard.
Since I was always with my mom, we would watch TV together on a regular basis. We never watched anything in particular; we’d just flip through the channels to find something that would pique our interest.
One day when I was kindergarten age, she was flipping through the channels and stopped on a wrestling show. She watched for a few seconds before continuing her search, but I urged her to go back.
“You really wanna watch that?” she asked.
“Yeah, but what is it?” I replied.
She told me it was pro wrestling, where really big guys fight while wearing cool outfits. She told me how she would watch Hulk Hogan and Macho Man, among others, with her mom when she was a little girl. After she explained everything and I watched some of the matches, I was instantly hooked.
From that day on, my mother and I bonded over this wild and crazy world that is pro wrestling.
Her and I watched wrestling together every week. My dad didn’t really like it and my sisters weren’t big fans of it either, so they would go to their rooms while my mom and I would yell, jump, and be totally taken aback by what we were seeing.
I remember one time when my mom got so mad about her favorite wrestler losing a match that she got up, turned the TV off and left the room. I wasn’t happy because I wanted to keep watching, but she had decided that there would be no more wrestling for the rest of the night.
While I had great times watching wrestling with my mom, I really wanted to know if any kids at my school liked it. Unfortunately, none did.
The kids I knew were into football, baseball and basketball. They told me those sports were cool but wrestling was dumb. I would always get so mad because the thing I enjoyed the most would get mocked and made fun of and I couldn’t understand why.
I went to my mom because I was so frustrated and didn’t know how I should handle it. Being the great mom she was, she had very simple but effective advice.
“Don’t worry about what other people think of you,” she said. “If you like it, it shouldn’t matter what other people say, so don’t let them get to you.”
I don’t think that was necessarily the response I wanted at the time, but it’s some of the best advice I have ever received. My mom encouraged me to be myself and not worry about others’ perceptions of me.
To this day, those words motivate me to be the best version of myself that I can be.
Fast-forward to high school, and my love for wrestling was still as strong as it was when I first began watching. By this time, my mom had taken me to a few shows and we would still tune in every week to watch our favorites.
My friends still weren’t sold on the whole concept of wrestling, but I didn’t care. As long as my mom was around I didn’t need anyone else to think it was cool. After high school, however, things started to change.
In 2015 I completely fell out of love with wrestling. I didn’t watch it. I didn’t think about it. I just didn’t have any interest in it. My mom would ask me to watch with her, but I just didn’t want to. She eventually left me alone about it and we both just moved on from wrestling.
That also was a really rough year for me personally. I was fresh out of high school and I didn’t have any idea what I was going to do with my life. I was working as a pizza delivery driver and had become very complacent with where I was at.
I remember coming home one night crying because I just didn’t know what to do. My mom came in and asked what was wrong and I told her I was afraid that what I was doing was all I had to offer the world.
“Am I just going to do this and be miserable the rest of my life?” I asked.
She quickly squashed any doubt I had in myself.
“You’re not going to think like that while I’m around,” she said. “When you were born I knew you were going to be great. I knew you were going to do great things. It doesn’t matter how long it takes, but just know that you have so much to give and it’s going to be OK.”
I figured she was just saying that to make me feel better, but then I looked at her and knew that she meant every word she had just said with every bit of her being. From then on I knew I could do great things, but I still had no clue how I would do it, when I would do it, or even what I would be great at.
Until the following year.
In 2016 I saw a video about the ROH Dojo, and the man promoting it on the video was none other than “The Franchise” himself, Jay Lethal. After watching the video I decided that I wanted to get back into wrestling and actually become a pro wrestler.
I told my mom about it and she was very excited, so much so that she wanted to move with me to Bristol, Pa., where the dojo was located. While I appreciated her enthusiasm, I had to constantly remind her that it probably wouldn’t be the best idea.
That whole year I saved up all the money I could so I would have enough to pay for schooling, but I honestly wasn’t sure if it was a good decision.
I had a life in Indiana. Friends. Family. I was even in a serious relationship. Why would I risk everything for something that wasn’t guaranteed?
I was afraid of failing, and time was running out for me to make a decision. It was about a month until the next beginners’ class started and I still didn’t know what I was going to do.
My mom told me that she would support me no matter what, but I knew deep down she wanted me to take the chance. Before I had the opportunity to tell her that I was going to do it, my mom was taken away from me.
She died on Dec. 8, 2016 and was laid to rest a week later. I was devastated.
The woman who made me who I am and was my biggest supporter was gone and I didn’t even get to tell her goodbye. She meant so much to me even though sometimes I didn’t show it as much as I should have.
My head and heart were filled with so many different emotions: anger, regret, sadness. What I wasn’t feeling, however, was hopelessness.
I knew my mom loved me and wouldn’t want me to give up. That’s why within one month of her passing, I left everything behind in pursuit of becoming a professional wrestler.
I was urged to wait by my family and friends, but I knew it was now or never. I had to take the risk at the moment because you never know what will happen.
So I packed up and headed to Pennsylvania, and as I look back it’s easily the greatest decision I ever made.
I’m now an ROH star living out my dream, and it’s all in memory of my loving mother. Without her there is no Eli Isom, and without her I never would have found my calling.
I never got the chance to properly thank her and I never will while I’m still living on this earth, but from the bottom of my heart, Mom, thank you. I promise to keep striving to be the best and continuing to make you proud. (It’s in tribute to my mom that I call my finisher The Promise.)
For those reading this who are fortunate enough to still have their mothers with them, show your mother some love, and not just on Mother’s Day. Let her know she is one of a kind and never take her for granted.
Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers out there. And to my mom, who is watching over me, I miss you and I love you.
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