Why Actor Paul Walter Hauser Is Joining Major League Wrestling (Exclusive)

Paul Walter Hauser is known for both his warm-hearted and cold-blooded characters on screen.

But fans will see a whole new side of the I, Tonya star June 1 when he joins Major League Wrestling for a 40-man match in one of their biggest events of the year: “Battle Riot VI,” which will stream live for free on YouTube.

“I always wanted to do this, and I knew I was going to,” the Black Bird Emmy winner, 37, tells PEOPLE. “I just didn’t know when.” 

Hauser’s foray into the world of pro wrestling isn’t completely out of the blue (his Instagram account, after all, identifies him as “wrestler” along with “actor,” “rapper” and family man).

“When I got asked to do a charity event back in November for Wrestling Revolver, alongside some very reputable names in the industry like Jon Moxley and Ronda Rousey, I said, ‘Yeah, I’ll come to a match and play around,’ ” he recalls. 

“I got bit by the bug really hard, and I love it so much,” Hauser adds. “I couldn’t be happier that I’m being embraced by that community.”

“Battle Riot VI,” to be held at the Center Stage in Atlanta, is a “super-sized main event [featuring] 40 of the fiercest wrestlers on the planet with new participants entering the ring every 60 seconds,” according to a press release.

Paul Walter Hauser at the 75th Primetime Emmy Awards Jan. 15.

Dania Maxwell/Los Angeles Times via Getty

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How did Hauser’s obsession with the sport originally begin? As a kid visiting grandparents down in Florida, the Michigan native recalls, “My mom’s brother Robert showed me wrestling for the first time ever.” 

Hauser remembers “laying on my stomach, watching this thing called Clash of the Champions that WCW, World Championship Wrestling, used to do… And what really took me by surprise was there was one guy who looks like somebody’s dad, this guy Arn Anderson. And then there’s another guy who’s 7 feet tall and looks like a giant out of a comic book, named El Gigante.”

What struck Hauser at the time, he adds, was “the giant guy, who looks scary, is the ‘baby face,’ the good guy. And then the villain, the ‘heel,’ is this guy Arn Anderson, who looks like your school principal or something. So I think the polarity in those characters, and what was fueling them to even have this fight, this story, was really engaging to me.”

Paul Walter Hauser (right).

Sam Crim

It’s not surprising, then, that wrestling was in the back of Hauser’s mind as he climbed Hollywood’s ladder playing a similarly wide array of characters.

Following his breakout performance in the titular role of Clint Eastwood’s Richard Jewell, Hauser earned Golden Globe and Emmy trophies for playing another complicated real-life figure, Black Bird’s serial killer Larry Hall. He’s also worked with Spike Lee in BlacKkKlansman and Da 5 Bloods, and next makes his Marvel Cinematic Universe debut in The Fantastic Four

Amid his busy schedule as an actor, he tells PEOPLE, “I try to sneak in [wrestling] training whenever I can, usually in Los Angeles, with my trainer, a guy by the name of Paul London.” 

All this while playing the role of parent, alongside wife Amy Boland Hauser, to two young boys.

Joining the wrestling community at the professional level “is a great motivator for me to get healthy too,” he says. “That’s incredibly important to me… being healthy, being around for a long time for my kids and my wife, and then seeing what else I can do.”

For more information on Hauser’s Major League Wrestling event, visit MLW.com.

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