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ĎKillerí Instinct Former Kowalski student and pro wrestler ĎAlbertí -
a.k.a. Matt Bloom - looks a tad menacing. But turns out heís a softie inside.
- By ED SYMKUS - esymkus@cnc.com

When Matt Bloom reports to work, thereís a good chance that heíll either beat the tar out of someone or get dropped on his head on a cement floor, all the while yelling and roaring as loud as he can. This goes on, depending on his schedule, either four or five days a week. Such is the life of a professional wrestler. Yet with all of the stress this strange career choice can bring, Bloom, who wrestles under the name Albert and is one of the World Wrestling Federationís current mainstays, is more concerned with a whole different aspect of the business. " I have a girlfriend, and itís tough, very tough, to maintain a relationship, " he says. " Iím only home two or three days a week and I really miss her. " And now the huge, bald lug, who stands at 6-foot-7, weighs in at 350 pounds, has a chest that looks to be about 50 inches around and arms the size of most normal humansí legs - and letís not forget the foreboding ear, chin, nose and tongue piercings - actually starts to blush. " You know, " he says quietly, " youíre out on the road and you see these (women) and they really look nice, but you try to do the right thing. " There are a lot of wrestling groupies out there, even for a big ugly guy like me, " he adds, chuckling. " Itís amazing. I canít believe it. But Iíve been with my girlfriend for four years ... " He leaves the sentence hanging, knowing heís been good. Bloom, who was born and raised in Peabody and now lives in Salisbury (with his girlfriend, his bulldog and his collection of large snakes and iguanas) had to only travel as far as Boston on Monday when " WWF RAW, " the highest rated weekly show on cable (about 6 million viewers), was broadcast live from the FleetCenter, Nov. 12. Before he was Albert, Bloom, 27, was called Prince Albert; before that he was Baldo; his first ring name, in the days when he worked for local independent shows, was the Mongolian. But before all of that, Bloom had his heart set on a playing football, which he still refers to as his first love. " I played at University of Pittsburgh and was a free agent with San Diego, " he says. " But I was released. It just didnít work out. So I started teaching and then gave wrestling a shot. " Iíve always been a wrestling fan, " he adds. " I used to watch the Von Erichs and Bruiser Brody, and I watched the WWF, too. I played every sport in high school - basketball, football, tennis, ran track. But we didnít have a wrestling team at Peabody High. " When football was finished for me I was working in the Revere school system as a teacher with special education kids. I loved it and Iíll do it again some day, " he says. " But a friend came up to me who was good friends with Killer Kowalski. And he pointed me in the right path. I went and met Killer at his wrestling school in Malden. " As with everyone in this strange business, Bloom had to work his way up, learning how to fall, how to throw convincing punches, how to give a convincing interview, how to get either cheers or boos from an audience. The job requires the wrestler to be as much an actor as an athlete. He learned the basics at Kowalskiís school, then took it from there. Agents scouted him, video tapes were watched, he was discovered. " Baldo was a babyface, a good guy, and was really well-liked, " explains Bloom. " But Albert is a heel, a bad guy. Right now, heís just an ass-kicker, for lack of a better term. My character hasnít quite evolved to where I want it to be. Iíd still like to do some more with it and speak a little more. Iím trying to find my niche. " Some of the ideas for the direction of wrestlersí characters come from WWF owner Vince McMahon, and others come from the wrestlers themselves. " Heís very open, " says Bloom of McMahon. " Heís told me a few times, ĎI want you to work like thisí - a little more aggressive or maybe, at other times, a little less aggressive. But we add a lot of stuff too. You know, the Rock went out one day and did Ďthe peopleís elbowí " - his signature move - " as a joke. And look at it now. " Babyface vs. bad guy Bloom may not have achieved Rock-like status - that WWF superstar recently appeared in the blockbuster " The Mummy Returns " - but heís making a living, something those close to him werenít sure heíd be able to do when he first broke in. " My father was a detective in Melrose when I started doing this, " says Bloom. " He was a little taken aback about it because I went to school and busted my ass for an education, and now I wasnít going to use it. But he always told me to go after any dream I had. So he understood but he thought it was farfetched that Iíd be able to be this successful. And heís very happy for me now. " And then there are those piercings, around 20 of them, which have been setting off airport metal detectors for years. These days, heís just asked to step aside and is checked over with portable detectors. " When I was about 13, I went to a piercing place in the North Shore Mall, " recalls Bloom. " And the lady there said, ĎI play bingo with your mom. Sheís gonna kill if she finds out Iím piercing your ear.í But itís addictive. I couldíve gone with tattoos; I like them, and I do have some on my legs. But you know, 10 years from now I could take all of these out " - he points to his right ear - " and you wouldnít know they were there. " All of that metal, complemented by the big bald head and the mouth that rarely smiles, is just about perfect in getting across his heel persona. But Bloom admits he wouldnít mind playing a babyface again. " It is pretty cool to have the fans behind you, " he says, then lowers his voice almost to a whisper, and adds, " but I like being booed. Iím a better bad guy. Thereís nothing like being the center of attention, and everyone either hating you or everyone loving you. I donít know if thereís a big difference because Iíve never been loved as much as Iíve been hated, but it must be pretty cool to be the Rock. " Whichever way his character goes, Bloom hopes to be at this for a while. " Until itís not fun anymore, " he suggests. " It could be a year from now, it could be five. It would be really nice if I could get my future financially secure if I start a family. But Iíll do it as long as I can, and then I want to work with kids again and I wouldnít mind coaching football. " On those precious days off, he considers himself just a normal guy, hanging out with his girlfriend, checking out the scene at Man Ray in Cambridge with his pals. And he insists that when he does go out, heís Matt, not Albert. People often come up to him and say hello or that they love what he does, but in those situations heís rarely bothered for an autograph. Much to his surprise, though, he is quite popular for a heel. " Yeah, sometimes I canít believe it, " he says. " I met a kid not long ago through Make a Wish. And one of his dying wishes was to meet me. And I just couldnít understand. I thought, ĎThere are so many other people you could meet, why would you want to meet me?í But he wanted to, and it felt awesome to do it. It was emotionally draining; I felt so terrible for him, and he did pass on. But I guess I made him happy first. "