This interview is a wee bit different to the ones on the site so far, as it comes from a bit of a unique perspective. From a man who combines wrestling with promoting at PRIDE. I’d like to do interviews with all the local promoters at some point, mainly because they work their baws off creating a show for us dafties to come and watch, but I asked James St James first cause he seems to enjoy a ramble and PRIDE seem to be doing some cracking stuff up in Bridgeton. If you haven’t made it to a show yet, rectify that. That’s advice I’ll be taking myself when the next one comes around. Anyway aye…enough out of me…..
1. I’m gonnae make an effort to make this a wee bit different to the normal interview if yer up for that. You do quite a bit of Q n A stuff on Tumblr etc, so you’ve probably been asked pretty much everything before, so I’ll try and make these a bit different. That being said, obligatory boring as fuck opener. What got you in to wrestling and what made you pursue it as a career?
I wanted to see Shawn Micheals get smashed. That was it really. I’d seen bits and pieces here and there, but as a young kid my Ghostbusters figures ranked way higher than the Warrior figure my mate Colin gave me.
It wasn’t until high school while I was hunting for something to fill the gap between Earth One and Doctor Who on a Saturday morning that I properly got hooked. Just by accident really. I’d go grab breakfast, leave the TV on Sky One and by the time I got back Shawn Michaels was pissing off Bret Hart, and being a naturally lazy bastard, I didn’t change the channel. Soon enough I didn’t want to change the channel, watching WWE was my Saturday morning priority. I just wanted to see Shawn get smashed and before I realised it I was convincing my pals at school to watch, perving over Sable in Raw magizine and having my mum tape Smackdown while I was away at uni.
It was a silent obsession that took hold of me without me knowing. Eventually I spotted an ad for training in some old magazine, probably Powerslam, and just got curious. I did a session down south, then being a skint student who couldn’t afford that train fare every weekend, waited for a school to open here. I won’t lie, those early classes were embarrassingly bad, and it took a long while before that crumbled and SWA started and even longer to get to the incredible set up available over the past few years through Source and through all those changes I was still there.
But it wasn’t until 2008-ish that I realised it had transitioned from a hobby into something more. I’m not sure I’d call it a career, but when I was put in a position where I had to choose the day job or wrestling, I packed a bag and went to the venue.
2. See, now it’s gonnae get jucier. We’ll get progressively more lurid, until I’m asking ye who’s on the bad Ket and who’s shaggin who. Nah but, any funny stories you can share with us from your time in wrestling?
I’ve got a really cruel sense of humour and find things funny that I really shouldn’t. There’s been the odd prank that still make some laugh. Stupid things like constantly hiding the T-Division trophy when Rickie Gibson was champion, or Red Lightning finding a drum backstage at a charity show leading to filming an Adam Shameberg entrance.
Especially though, it’s the ridiculous stuff that makes me laugh the most. There was one scenario where a promoter was ready to walk out because no one liked him that still makes me laugh. There was just this horrible vibe all through the show it just escalated to the point where there was a full grown man in middle aged tantrum mode who wouldn’t go back inside until someone said we waned him there. The sheer ridiculousness of some situations really tickle me. Not at the time, admittedly, but once it’s back to normal life on Monday I just can’t stop laughing at the surreal moments that made me feel like I was in a hidden camera show.
I’m just as guilty as anyone for going mad on show days so there’s probably a dozen stories of me being a complete fanny as well. The worst of it was when I was running around like an arse sorting out everyone’s matches for a Source show. I was wrestling on there myself against Damo, supposed to be going through the curtain in twenty minutes and still wasn’t dressed. So being a modest fellow in a cramped locker room with everyone wandering in and out, I put my coat over me, got undressed and just as I was about to put my trunks on, one of the women on the roster walk in, see me and dash straight towards me.
And she was on a mission. There was a thought on her mind and she wasn’t going to stop until she got it all out there. Not being able to get a word in, or explain that my coat was two inches away from a potential sexual harassment case, I had to sit there barely covered and have a very serious chat about booking and direction and all that shit while thinking through the entire conversation “I wish I was wearing pants.”
I can’t even remember what it was she wanted, but in that moment she could have asked for a grand a night and her own horse and I’d have made sure she got it.
3. Anything about Scottish Wrestling you’d change if you could? Be it problems you’ve encountered as a performer, promoter or both?
I’ve had a shitload of problems under all jobs I’ve done. But I’m not arrogant enough to think I have all the answers to fixing them all. If I could fix some of the personal stuff I’ve had to deal with, ideally I’d like to gave had a different path from there being nothing, to now as it was an absolutely miserable one with too many downs, and very few ups with the way a former promoter ran his operation.
Flyering with no thanks, being told I wasn’t committed enough despite focusing so much energy that I ended up in ‘no fixed abode’, to being fobbed off for pay and expenses that equals four figure numbers and offered a t-shirt as compensation, paying for services that were never returned, watching guys be convinced to sell their personal belongings, guilt tripped into relinquishing things, watching him convince trainees to sell their personal items to pay rent on the training school and him trying to shag at least three of my girlfriends… that became the norm.
It got ridiculous, there was a long period when we were all just completely miserable and a lot of people being asked to make sacrifices without any hint of reward. Eventually the last straw was broken and everyone woke up took control of the situation and things changed for the better. You can see that now and how well things have turned out. But if I could change one thing, it’d be to have done that sooner. There are a bunch of shitebags out there, but that was just a miserable era.
Most of the time I can live with it. I don’t believe in dwelling on mistakes and bad experiences. It made me who I am today, and the fact I’m still here to rant about them… I’m proud of that. I survived. And if anything it’s taught me to appreciate people a lot more. To always be thankful for them. To always give back when someone goes out of their way for me. To make sure they have the freedom to express themselves, to know that they are just as much a part of the process as anything else and that from the person collecting tickets at the door, to the main event match, I’m thankful for every single one of them.
So it was worth it in a way. The guys coming through the school now get the respect and the thanks they deserve as they’re not only putting in the effort, but they’re the ones handing out the flyers, putting up the posters, building the ring and doing a large chunk of the dirty work that so many hate to even think about doing.
It’s something I talk about with other survivors of that era on a regular basis and I think it makes us all determined to give them the best we can. Damo took the school and made it a wrestling wonderland. Jam O’Malley has become a wonderful support for many young guys. But from a personal standpoint, I sure as fuck wish there was a better way to have learned that lesson. And I get irrationally angry when I see someone taking all that’s available now for granted.
4. Anyone in particular you enjoy watching/working with on the Scottish scene at the moment on a personal level? Well I’m sure theres many but if you had to pick ONE standout.
Glen Dunbar is a major one as he’s stupidly underrated and can pull absolutely anything off. Over the years I’ve given him some absolutely ridiculous stuff to do and every single stupid request I’ve made, he’s not just done it – but he’s made it work better than anyone else could. Dunbar is one of the most adaptable and gifted performers out there who always makes sure the other guy looks absolutely amazing – he’s even made me look good!
There are dozens form Chris Saynt to Mikey Whiplash, Nikki Storm to Bobby Roberts, Damo O’Conor to Lewis Girvan – and I don’t want to take anything away from them – but the amount of passion effort Dunbar puts into the entire production from the moment he arrives until the last second before he leaves is unmatched by anyone and he deserves a lot more credit that he gets.
5. Your own promotion PRIDE is beginning to gain a bit of traction of late. I’m yet to see a show myself, but planning to go to the next one. Do you have any long term goals with regards to where you want to take PRIDE and what kind of product you’ll be putting out there to the fans?
There are a few plans in motion for the long term. I can’t give away details (in honesty, I’m too paranoid I’ll jinx it) but the basics of it all is that while everyone else is focused on expanding, and touring and taking over the world, I want to build a product where everything is contained in one place. One venue hosting one self contained bubble of reality.
As for the product itself, I want to try and create something unique. We have a much smaller capacity than most places which already created a much different environment. It’s more intimate, there’s more opportunity for close interaction with fans and right off the bat it gives a completely different vibe.
Be different. It sounds both obvious and insignificant at the same time but it’s one of the first things I think about when it comes to putting the show together. Pure wrestling? SWA covers it. Hardcore shenanigans? ICW’s a train ride away. Each promotion comes with a different style. On paper SWA and PBW do the same thing these days. But they’re not the same at all because Ross and Damo are passionate about different things.
For a while I tried to continue what I was doing with Source to the letter. Different venues, same mix of talent, same style. But what worked for Source and PBW, SWA and everyone else works because it’s based on personal preference and passion. But touring, growing, trying to out-do everyone else isn’t what I’m passionate about. My ideal is much different and it took me a while to accept that it was alight to believe in that ideal and to be different.
So when I think about what the product is, and I have a real hard time describing it so there will be rambling ahead, I think about what I’m passionate about. What made me passionate about wrestling and what I was doing with Source and then early on with Pride wasn’t what I was passionate about. What got me into wrestling was the story. Like I say, I wanted to see Shawn Michaels get smashed. I’d tune in every week to see that happen. So on a very personal level, I want something similar to be true in Pride. I want people to come and want to see Dunbar get smashed. Or Viper do a Mulan and prove she’s just as good as any man, see someone end Jam O’Malley’s reign, or Lewis get his title back.
To me, one of the biggest opportunities in pulling back to one venue, one location is to tell stories over time in a way that I couldn’t before. So staying in one place, keeping everything in that self contained bubble, I want to take full advantage of that and keep telling stories and for everyone on both sides of the curtain to have fun while we tell them.
So for the future I plan to build on that. Have fun, let us all explore the amazing creativity that flows from everyone backstage and build a product, not to take on the road where you have to introduce yourself to an audience every night, but to build it right here. For now, while the pieces of that plan come together, Bridgeton is the place for me to put the building blocks together and I’m excited to see how people develop, how characters grow and what ideas can erupt when we all let our hair down in that environment. It’s been a fun year with that coming together already and I really hope to push further and make Pride an exciting place to be.
6. Where do you feel most of your focus is now, wrestling or promoting? If you had to give up one to do the other full-time what would it be?
Definitely promoting. Most people don’t quite realise how much energy and time it takes. It’s all consuming and just takes over your life entirely. Especially being the one idiot who’s determined to do these smaller, intimate shows as it just puts a lot of pressure on the process and it feels like there’s never enough posters up or flyers out. There’s no room for failure. But for all the stress it can be highly rewarding. The best part of the job for me is taking a walk around and seeing people react so well to a show and to hear feedback afterwards. Especially younger members of the audience.
Me putting on the tights is more of an afterthought. In large part that’s down to a mental illness which keeps me on a real low most of the time and with various issues over the past few years mixed in with the depression and mood swings, it can be really hard to face it at all on the best of days.
The way I was trained at first didn’t help. I didn’t learn anything valuable until four or fives years ago when Damo O’Conor pointed out to me that I was better than I thought. And he was right. There is a lot of things I am good at and things no one has seen me do out of fear because when my mental state is combined with the way I was trained, it doesn’t bring out a confident main event player. It brings out self loathing and doubt.
The positive is that I don’t want to have anyone on Pride feel the same way. I appreciate every single one of them, and I’ll tell them after every show. Everyone puts in a hell of a shift, and they all deserve to be valued.
And in Pride I can feel a little bit more comfortable, more in control and try and have fun with wrestling in ways that I couldn’t before. It’s almost like therapy. Which, at the stage of life I’m at right now, I’m completely content with. My focus is on my work and my family.The rest is just an added bonus.
7. You give a lot of younger talent opportunities with PRIDE. Are there any in particular that blow you away? Anyone who you maybe havent got in for a PRIDE show yet that you’d like to work with?
Scotland is bursting with potential right now. There are loads of young guys looking to make their mark, but off the top of my head, from Source I really want to use Manlon. He’s put in a lot of effort at the Source Wrestling School and watching the show tapes back, has a tonne of potential. I absolutely love characters and he’s just the right kind of crazy. I’m really eager to see what he does in Pride, and we can find out in November!
Celtic Arrow is another stand out who’s insanely gifted as an athlete that I’ve used once and not had a chance to bring back. Which is a real shame as he’s mesmerising to watch.
There are others out-with Source. Rory Steele from W3L did a show with us and showed a lot of potential, especially as due to a late car had to put up with a lot of changes to the line up through the night. Kenny Williams from PBW Academy is also someone I’ve been eager to see in action with Pride. I’m really hoping to make some room next year. There’s so much potential out there just now, it’s insane.
8. In more general wrestling terms, the question has been raised quite a bit recently, so I thought I’d get your take on it. Do you feel theres any lines that shouldnt be crossed when it comes to garnering heel heat?
Thats hard to answer as no one so far in Pride has crossed a line that’s made me have to think too much about unacceptable audience interaction and I trust the roster implicitly. I wouldn’t be keen on any racial or homophobic remarks, stuff like that. But neither would anyone on the roster, to be fair, and I wouldn’t book anyone who would. There’s such a carefully selected bunch on Pride that I don’t have to worry about it.
9. We’re currently in the middle of quite a fruitful period for Scottish Wrestling, how has that impacted PRIDE in terms of crowd sizes and the type of shows you’ve been able to put on?
It’s really hard to judge as when I split from SWA and changed from Source to Pride, it was a fresh start and wanting Pride to build slowly on it’s own merits, I’ve been careful to try and not ‘poach’ fans from other places or piss on anyone’s shoes. There’s definitely some spillover from ICW. Thats one thing I’ve noticed more prominently this year, though I can’t say if it’s always been that way and I’ve only just noticed it, or whether certain crossover talents such as Renfrew have brought them in. But it’s a safe bet that has been a factor and it’s brought a sense of maturity to the audience.
The first Bridgeton show I did was in 2010 and looking at that audience alone over the past four years, there was always a high number of family and kids, but now when I look out there it’s a bigger mix with more adults in there. Which is nice to see and I think has made us all feel like we can be a little more relaxed.
Doing family shows there’s always this subconscious feeling in the back of your head that you have to be ‘kid friendly’. And it’s true to an extent, but lets be real here. The average age of kids in a Pride audience is eleven. That s bordering on high school, hormones ready to burst age and these kids watch grown up shows, play grown up games and are on the edge of forcing their way into adulthood.
A lot of the time the default is to present these kids with the wrestling equivalent of Spongebob. But these kids don’t watch Spongebob. They want to stay up past the watershed and do what the grown ups are doing. Seeing an influx of adults helps us relax and give them that. And so far, the feedback from kids as young as seven has been fantastic.Though I’ll have to give credit to my own kids for that one. I see what they watch, and what their mind can process. Kids are a lot smarter than they get credit for.
10. Favourite wrestler of all time?
Irrational answer, but Raven. His character work was my first insight into what you can portray and the depths you can go to. As a character there was more intrigue in that he wasn’t just there ot be loud and declare he didn’t like the other guy. There was a reason for what he did, a desire and a need behind it other than just the urge to fight and there was nothing likeable about him. But yet, a certain degree of empathy. There have been other great characters that people connect with due to their own personality and perspectives, but for opening my eyes to a whole different style that led to me viewing and studying ECW and Paul Heyman, Raven’s always going to rank high on there.
11. Favourite match of all time?
I’d probably say Cactus Jack versus Triple H in the cage. It wasn’t a technical masterpiece, and I get turned off by that kind of match today, but it was a hell of a story and I was on the edge of my seat when I watched it. And then I watched it again. And again. And eventually the tape wouldn’t work any more so I had to stop.
But fuck man, the drama in that feud culminating in Foley being given the boot. It was the first time I got insanely passionate about what I was watching and lost my shit. Thing is, when you study wrestling, train for it, write for it, there’s a nasty side effect. It loses it’s magic. I’m terrible for it. I don’t sit down and just enjoy the show any more. My other half stopped watching with me as she’d just get caught up in the story and I’d be sitting next to her analysing everything, breaking down moves and moments and routines like an overenthusiastic film student watching a Tarantino movie.
So I’m gonna cheat and pick two because I think it has to be viewed with two mentalities. Cactus v Triple H would top the favourites list before I got involved. Now that I’m analysing everything, I’ll pick another for the overly cynical mindset I’ve developed while being involved with wrestling. And that’d be Cena versus Punk’s big Money in the Bank match. Which I’m sure I’ll get shit for, but they wrote that perfectly and despite being in on the big secrets and being able to tear matches down piece by piece, that will probably be high on the favourites list for years to come for being one of the few matches that made me feel like a teenager sitting on my bed watching a PPV that my mum would shout at me for ordering on their account.
12. Last but not least, anything you want to tell us about? Be it info about upcoming shows, or any interesting shit you fancy sharing (like that time you ended Goldbergs streak in a dark match or suhin) feel free to let us know here.
I didn’t beat the streak, but I did wrestle the invisible man once when I got really bored waiting for a trainer to show up. Didn’t win though.
Next up for us is September 20th in Bridgeton, which will have Mikey Whiplash challenging Glen Dunbar for the Pride title. Which I am ridiculously excited about, more-so after it got delayed due to Dunbar’s injury. He is such a versatile talent, and Whippy is a Godsend to Scottish wrestling so seeing these two in the ring together… I don’t care if I’m wrestling or not, by main event time I’ll be in the front row acting like a toddler in a sweet shop.
Then on November 29th it’s the endgame show of the year. I’ve got one match planned for that so far but it’s going to be a cracking story. And it’s based on Star Trek 2. Which I’m unashamedly excited about.
All I can say is that in terms of what’s happening… there’s going to be some madness, and a few risks taken over the next year or so and opening next year there’ll be a huge emphasis on a new tag team championship (I’ll even give you a sneaky preview pic!) and I’m sure the gaffer will want Street Justice to be the central point of that!
Most of all though… Pride’s got such a variety from ridiculous characters, to serious wrestlers and everything in between that I think the future is just going to be fun!
Cheers to James St James for taking the time to answer the questions so honestly, and cheers to the interviewer for asking such amazing, insightful questions. He sure is a swell guy. Rumour has it he has a decent sized boaby and a stellar stock portfolio anaw.
Most importantly, shift yer arse to the next Pride show!