For some it’s the modern-day equivalent of the gladiatorial games; the pinnacle of male testosterone-fuelled showmanship. Powerful god-like men strutting around in dramatic costumes, growling and shouting as crowds cheer the relentless, awe-inspiring manliness; the kind normally men can only dream of. For others it’s a bit like watching a pantomime in Skegness, but where all the ex Hollyoaks actors have undergone some kind of intense juicing process.
Over in America wrestling has been one of the most popular forms of entertainment for a large part of the last century, playing a pretty heavy role in school and college PE sessions. However it wasn’t until the 1980s that the strand known as “sports entertainment” came to exist – this is the point where things started to get a bit more colourful (yes, I’ve been reading Wikipedia again), and where people over in the UK started to become interested.
Any man (and some women) over the age of thirty will no doubt remember that kid at school whose family had a Sky dish. The one who would come into class and pass on a video cassette with the latest Wrestlemania to his closest friend before it makes its way slowly through the rest of the class (he was the same kid who probably introduced you to the Simpsons and The X-Files). The next few weeks of lunch breaks would be spent attempting leg drops or an Ultimate Splash on anyone who was making their way to the canteen to buy some Salt ‘n’ Shake. Incidentally, here’s a video of what most of them look like now:
Fast forward a few decades and Gymbox is bringing show wrestling back with the help of the team at Progress Wrestling. Covering everything from holds, throws, acrobatic manoeuvres and even character development, the class is probably a bit different from what most people are used to. After trying out a demonstration of the class – a step further towards my dreams of being Brett “The Hitman” Heart – I spoke to pro wrestler and trainer Darrell Allen to find out what show wrestling is all about.
What are the main differences between wrestling and show wrestling?
Well, we like to call it “pro wrestling” as it’s most commonly known by. The difference between what we do and so-called “real wrestling” is that pro wrestling focuses on the entertainment and performance side of combat sports. We use different match types and back stories to help engage the consumer.
How does someone become involved in show wrestling?
The most used way of becoming involved is to find a reputable training school where you can learn all aspects of the wrestling business from wrestling yourself, right through to refereeing, producing events and more.
How physically demanding is the sport? Can anyone do it?
I’d say that anyone CAN do it, but will only succeed if they really want to. It’s very demanding, both physically and mentally which many forget. It requires a high level of conditioning and stamina as well as being able to feel confident performing certain moves, as well as receiving. It’s a tough business and when you’re having a match you’re pretty much responsible for someone else’s life as well as your own.
As a sport professional show wrestling is seen by many as a bit of fun where the athletes don’t actually get hurt. What are your views on that?
Haha, it is a bit of fun for sure, but in a nutshell there are real athletes performing real holds, throws and more. I’m currently injured myself needing shoulder surgery due to an accident in the ring, as are many of my colleagues and close friends with various different injuries. Our job isn’t to convince you it’s ‘real’ per say, just to make you forget for however long the match is that what we do isn’t exactly fake either.
Are there any famous show wrestlers that made you want to take up the sport?
Growing up I was always a big fan of The Undertaker, Steve Austin and Triple H – all very successful WWE wrestlers. I can’t remember the exact moment I knew I’d like to give it a try someday but I remember it being as a kid watching the likes of those mentioned.
How long would it take for someone new to train for a fight?
How long is a piece of string? It all depends really, I’ve been training people for a few years now and newcomers come in all different shapes from all different backgrounds. It also depends on how many hours you put into it, a bit like learning to drive I suppose. Some can pass in a few months, some (like myself) can take over a year. On average, most people need to train for 4-6 months before being deemed ‘ready’ to compete on a live event. That said, competing on live events is all part of the training in my opinion as you can’t teach certain things in a training school. Things like crowd interaction, especially when our events tend to draw hundreds, not far off thousands.
What kind of training would a show wrestler undertake to prepare for a fight?
There’s a lot to learn before a fight. It ranges from break falls, rolls, rope running, performing holds and throws in a safe manner and more. I wouldn’t like to give too much away though, the best thing to do is to simply give it a go one day!
Show Wrestling classes are free to members of Gymbox and take place at Holborn and Covent Garden. For anyone planning to take a real plunge, Progress Wrestling also have a training school in Camberwell with beginners courses running over 8 week course Click here for more information.