My very short time as a pro wrestling trainee aka The Do’s And Don’ts of pro wrestling etiquette.
(This article was originally a post I made over on British wrestling fan forum, UKFF.com (under the moniker of ‘Accident Prone’). I was really, really happy with how it turned out and it got a lot of great feedback, hence why I thought it would be nice to post it here too. However, I have made a few changes to make it flow better and added a bit more context. With that said, please enjoy!)
Reader beware: There is a lot of cringe content in this. I was an arrogant wanker in my youth, and I have to make it clear that this all took place around ’05/’06/’07. I’ve grown and aged wonderfully since then, so I’m arguably more arrogant and more of a wanker now in my 30’s.
These tales are nothing but a good reason for why you should always go into wrestling training with a level head and a quiet mouth, whilst also having some level of maturity. I didn’t get far into the business at all (I didn’t even work a live crowd in any capacity) but I had some fun all the same.
I first started training at AWW (Anti Watershed Wrestling) back in 2005/2006 around the ripe old age of 19. I caught one of their shows at the legendary Irish Centre in Birmingham (my first real indie show, unless you class All Star Wrestling at the Alexander Theatre in the same level) and that’s where I found out about their training classes that were held in the same venue.
They were a local promotion that relied on the usual names; British Born Steele, Carnage (trainer),The Bouncer, Ronin, Dragon Aisu, Danny D (owner and trainer) and their own home grown talent and trainees.
Actually, quick detour about Dragon Aisu; me and my friends heckled him during his entrance at that show. He was the heel and we were booing the dastardly bad guy. Shortly into the match he exits the rings and makes a bee-line for me (I was about 3 rows deep, so way at the back), stands with his groin about 2 inches from my face and berates me for being a ‘smart fan’ and started making typing gestures and announced out loud “I bet your part of the fucking UKFF, eh? Fucking keyboard warrior mark!”. Just as fast as he had appeared in front of me, he was gone, now back in the ring and carrying on as usual. At the time I had no idea what the UKFF was…
As luck would have it, there were training classes once a week and there was an induction class a few weeks after that show. Great stuff! I’d always wanted to be a wrestler, and I’m sure my lanky, big nosed, long haired, skinny-fat self could be huge! And by ‘huge’ I mean my pro wrestling aspirations at that point were probably wrestling for CZW or IWS or something.
I was surprised to find out that the training class wasn’t in the main downstairs room with a set-up wrestling ring like where the show had taken place (how naive of me to think so). Rather it was was in the smaller attic room, with a half dozen gym mats. I walked into the room and, almost on cue, I see two lads chain wrestling in the middle. One of them leaps onto a nearby pub table and somersaults off into an armdrag. That lad was then known as Tucker but would go on to be BritWres regular Ryan Smile. I thought it was the coolest shit ever.
This filled me with joy, confidence, optimism and enthusiasm for the up-coming future! But it turns out I was no where near ready for it and I constantly made a gigantic fool of myself. Here’ some stories of woe from time with AWW, which lasted about 5 months;
- I decided it would be a GREAT idea to get into a chop contest with Carnage, who was basically the head trainer. He was the typical smash-mouth, built-like-a-bucket, gnarly local wrestler but that didn’t deter me from saying “How about a game of chops, Carny?” as I was queuing up for flip bumps.
He went first and chopped me fucking HARD. Tears almost spurted from my nose. I had immediate regret. I retaliated with a strike that would make Jenna Morasca cringe and then WHAM!, the second chop hit and I spluttered out a “Stop! Stop”. Carnage just turned his back on me in disgust and we carried on the class. I had no idea what the fuck I was thinking. I blame it on gallant youth.
- Danny D, the other trainer and head booker, had recently crowned Spud (who last I heard was doing okay for himself) as his no.1 contender for the main title at the next event. After helping out at a show leading up to it, I was chatting to my mate about the storyline; “I Don’t know why they’re giving Spud a title shot, he’s been booked to lose his last few matches”.
That’s when I had another fantastic brain wave; I SHOULD ASK DANNY! YEAH! Maybe that’ll show him that I have a keen eye for the business! Hey, you know what would be a better idea? I should ask him DURING TRAINING. IN THE MIDDLE OF A FUCKING DRILL.
And that’s what I did at the very next training session whilst we were all doing squats; I broke out of the line and waltzed up to Danny D with an arrogant stroll and loudly asked, “Hey! How come Spud has got a number one contender spot but he’s been on a losing streak the past few shows!?”. Danny looked at me like I’d just walked into his house on Christmas morning and pissed in his cereal.
“Spud actually won that no.1 spot a few months ago before his losing streak”, Danny chimed back calmly.
“Oh!” I countered. Then a thick silence arose, similar to the one that appeared after I had lost my pride during the chop battle. I didn’t even say anything else, I just smiled and nodded and got back into the drill whilst trying not to make eye contact with anyone. What a fucking tit I was.
- We had a guest trainer one day in the form of West Midlands-regular Dan Ryder. His idea for the class was to split the class up into four groups so he could work with each separately; technical, high flying, power and brawling I think it was. Everyone got to choose what style they wanted to learn for the day.
Me? Well as a 6 foot 2 lad with all the athleticism of a wet towel, I thought the PERFECT style for me was high flying! I proceeded to fail at everything, despite Ryder repeatedly asking me to join another group more suited to my novice strengths. I constantly denied that request.
I fell on my head doing Hurricanranas and couldn’t execute a headsciccors to save my life. Ryder took me aside and tried to help out. “Loosen up”, he said as I stood there with my arms folded. “You can’t be so uptight when you’re doing this”. For whatever reason, my reply to this advice was, “Oh yeah, I know all that! I used to do backyard wrestling!”.
Ryder gave me a quizzical look and said, “Well yeah, we all did…”. I re-joined the group as we were about to get a demonstration on spinning heel kicks. The looked easy enough. Everyone performed their own kick well, striking the previous trainee across the chest, before it was my turn. I took a run-up, leapt with all the precision of a drunken toddler and whiffed the target by half a meter, my body smashing off the cold pub floor.
“YOU BACKYARD TWAT!”, Ryder shouted with a massive grin. Pretty accurate, to be fair. The one positive I got from that lesson though is that I discovered I was a half-decent base for that style, and I just stuck to being the person who took the move for the rest of the lesson.
I was pretty bloody useless and I gave it up for a bit. I would help out at shows whilst I was there and even though I enjoyed it, I felt I didn’t really have it in me to get the job done.
Apart from Spud training at that class occasionally and Ryan Smile, I don’t know if anyone else from my time there went on to do much. Lucian Jones joined shortly after me and I think he’s still involved in the scene (I also accidentally stiffed him on a double-underhook suplex, as I forgot the part where you have to actually let go of your opponent’s arms) and there was a guy called Kid Glory who was the star pupil, but apart from that I have no idea.
About two years later I got the itch to give it one more shot. I found out there was another wrestling school operating out of Birmingham called K-Star and they had a much more professional set-up that included a ring, a curriculum and tons more room and mats. The only thing that hadn’t changed for the better was my attitude, and I was still way too immature and in the wrong mind set for the pro wrestling game.
K-Star shows were mainly made up of their trainees and a few local pros like The Hunters and Tommy Gunn, as well as the trainers Staxx and Karl Mizery.
I was at K-Star for about 6 months, where the following happened;
- When doing a chain wrestling drill, I was paired up with Lee Hunter (of the Hunter Brothers fame) to go through some basic standing grappling and the drill called for a strike to end the sequence. At this point, Lee Hunter was an actual professional wrestler who was getting paid to actually wrestle at shows so I should’ve kept my mouth shut and kept my ears open during this time.
But nah, not past-me! Lee calls for a superkick to end the chaining and I stopped him, broke the whole thing, and said “Hang on Lee, a superkick after some standing grappling? Like, this is the first 30 seconds of the match right? Isn’t a superkick a bit too early?”.
To his eternal credit and a real documentation of just how bloody lovely the Hunter Brothers are, he just hid his anger at this young wanker (who should’ve been stiffed in the fucking jaw, all things considered) and said, “Yeah okay, how about a dropkick then?”.
- There was a time I was doing the wrestler’s theme music for a show once, and I forgot to play the Hunter’s theme for their entrance. They stood right behind the curtain for a while before Staxx gave me a nudge and I remembered that I had a fucking job to do. After the match, Lee and Jim still made the point of coming over and letting me know that I did well.
Terrific blokes, the Hunters. Terrific.
- Talking of terrific blokes, there was this absolute sweet heart of a man called Rob Long. Lovely chap that no one had a bad word to say about and he wrestled around the West Midlands scene during that time, as well as attending the K-Star training classes. He was well built, looked the part and had charm for days. He had stories of The Undertaker pointing to him at a WWE house show and knowing who he was, and stories of how he had to end a match once with a top rope Burning Hammer because he and his opponent forgot the finish…in front of thirty people at a social club.
Anyway, this shows that I just was no where near ready for the world of pro wrestling nor did I have any understanding of the social nuances and just the general “Don’t be a prick” rules.
Me and a few other trainees were setting up chairs and the merch tables for that evening’s show. As I’m placing all the K-Star DVD’s on the merch table, I notice a ‘Best Of Rob Long’ DVD case that was missing the disk. I had flashbacks to a joke that Mick Foley did for a WWF special where he received a ‘Best Of Al Snow’ tape set only to find it was empty. You can see where this is going, can’t you?
I pick up the DVD, and I read it to the fellow trainees helping out, and I say “Oh hey look! It’s the Best Of Rob Long! And oh look!”. At this point I’m opening up the empty case and with a big goofy grin proclaim, “There’s nothing inside! It’s empty! Hahaha!”.
The trainees give me a look of scorn and my smile fades to a disappointed frown. I then look over my shoulder to see Rob Long at the other end of the social club, happily putting out chairs. I felt like such a massive cunt and it was a well deserved feeling of guilt and shame.
I left shortly after that show due to twisting my ankle doing a rolling back elbow at a training session. I had always wore Converse for training but I was told to wear trainers instead. I thought I knew better and, like fucking clockwork, my ignorance led me to my downfall. I was on crutches for about a month afterwards and I kinda just stopped going as at that point I saw all my peers making tons of improvements and progress whilst I still wasn’t really getting it.
I never had the right headspace for the biz; I was young, dumb and all I cared about was movez and doing an ‘edgy prick’ character. I should’ve focused on the basics and the fundamentals, instead of day dreaming about doing topés in a three-piece suit (honestly, that was the idea for my debut). But I was a terrible trainee and never listened to anything.
“Look at these old fogies with their storytelling and muscles! Wrestling is different now, man!” I would think. Man, that lad deserves a slap and a snug lariat to the throat.
“Shut your mouth and listen” is pretty much what my foray into pro wrestling should teach aspiring trainees.
Also, don’t be a cunt.