I’ll no lie. I was a wee bit apprehensive about approaching Damo to do an interview. I get that way with every wrestler, but there’s an air of no nonsense about Damo that made my arse clench up at the thought of having the audacity to ask him questions. I needn’t have bothered worrying though, as Damo is about as nice a guy you could ever chat to. I first spoke to him about a month ago to ask what the fuck his finisher is called, cause I kept calling it “Electric Chair *insert adjective* ” and I was sick of chucking out guesses, but the big man was about as warm as a person can be over Facebook chat, and we had a right good natter about the wrasslin. My favourite thing to do in the world, and it seems to be something Damo enjoys tae, cause he answered all my daft questions brilliantly.
Talking more about the process of asking him than the man himself eh? A fuckin sin. The big man has been killing it for the best part of a year now, with his new, incredibly hairy, incredibly fucking scary look. He always had all the tools to be a leading light in the UK scene, he just needed something to tie it all together, and this new “beast” persona (I’m talking beast in a ‘big scary bastard’ way, not a Rolf Harris type of deal) seems to have done the job. So with the big man having great matches, and crushing the ribcages of everyone who dares cross his path, its only right that we find out a bit more about him and who’s ribs he plans on crushing next. So without further ado….listen tae yer man Damo.
1. Usual shite generic opener, but it has to be done. What first got you into wrestling and what made you decide to pursue it as a career?
I caught the tail end of World of Sport as a child, the bright colours and some of the characters was probably what got me into it, and it suddenly changed to NWA/WCW. I say suddenly, but it was probably a lot more gradual (but it felt sudden alright?) the American product was even more flashy and more colourful. My best friend Chris would tape the WCW episodes and we’d watch them over and over and we’d end up becoming massive Stinger fans. I got my hair done the same as him, all the nonsense haha. I ended up seeing WCW in Belfast a few years later, 1993, and the card was the sublime and ridiculous all rolled into one.
Like pretty much everyone, I fell away from wrestling when it was no longer available on free TV, but with the boom of cabletel (essentially cheap sky) around 97/98, I was given the opportunity to see Raw, Nitro and ECW all at the same time. Wrestling overload. That coupled with the advent of public internet, meant it was a hundred times easier to get into it.
I think getting swept away by the boom is what made me want to be a wrestler. I enjoyed sports, martial arts and drama away from wrestling, yet I did them all with wrestling in mind if that makes sense.
I made the decision at 16/17 to use University as an excuse to move countries and find a wrestling school. Finished school, packed everything up and never looked back.
2. You combine a very active wrestling schedule, with training the new breed at Source. How much do you enjoy combining the two? Being in performer mode a lot of the time, then coming back down to earth to be a mentor/teacher to the stars of tomorrow? I’d imagine ye sometime go full Damo in training by accident, and start hitting all the sentons on the trainees.
Haha! Not as often as you’d think. I’ve been training others for five years or so so I’ve learned patience….there are still moments where you nearly hit the roof…
But yeah I enjoy training folks. Its the best, worst, most frustrating, most fulfilling, most difficult and easiest thing I’ve ever done. No two days are the same. Every trainee learns differently. Some take it seriously and want a genuine career, others just want to give it a wee bash and tell their pals they’ve tried it.
I’ll wrestle three/four days in a row, finish the weekend with something mental at ICW…..then be at Source on Monday for a full week of training. No rest for the wicked!
3. You’ve recently re-emerged as a regular in ICW after sporadic appearences in the past do you put that down to your new look? How much have you enjoyed getting to leather the likes of Joe Hendry and Lewis Girvan when you had a big hand in training them? (sorry thats two questions, I’m a cheatin bastard, but yer an interesting guy and I want ALL the info)
Jeezo, folk must already reckon I talk too much!
I put it down as good timing. Mark Dallas knew I was good, he told me he saw me as one of the top guys, he just didn’t know what to do with me. He was right. I didn’t really have a gimmick or a character that grabbed anyone.
In early 2013 i had gotten really into heavy lifting. I had a great mentality and had phenomenal gains. By summer I was Military pressing 50kg dumbells in each hand and leg pressing 600kg. My thighs got up to 36inches. I didn’t even realise how well I was doing until i was out lifting the lads at the gym I previously looked up to.
I made a decision to grow my hair in. I’ve always wanted to and tried to before but always got annoyed after a certain point then shave it off. When I did I would look like every other mug.
I was sick of looking like everyone else. I finally decided to get the finger out and go for it. Beard wise and body hair wise I decided why not? Everyone looks like a feckin swimmer. I’m a man. A hairy feckin fat strong man. Why bother trying to be something I’m not? I sent Dallas a couple of photos of my progress and he decided it was time to try again. He wanted to call me Big Damo. He was worried I’d be funny about changing my name…. I thought it was great haha! The character is slowly evolving. I’m excited to see where we go over the next couple of years.
As for wrestling my trainees, its been great. On the current active ICW roster, Joe Coffey, Mark Coffey, Jackie Polo, Joe Hendry, Chris Saynt, Lewis Girvan, Solar, Nikki Storm, Viper, Bete Noire, DCT, Sweeney, Yum Yum and another batch who will be debuting at Space Baws, all trained under me….for their sins.
It’s great getting to see their development, then getting in there against them and realising just how good they are. I’ve wrestled Joe Coffey, Joe Hendry and Lewis Girvan in the last couple months for ICW and they all wrestle very differently while all having the great fundamentals we drummed into them.They then go out there and showcase their own styles, their own individuality and its hard not to be proud. I’ve helped a lot of people, but its guys like this who are working their bollocks off to be more than a “good trainee” but aiming to be full time pros. Feck it, lets be honest, these lads are kicking established wrestlers off cards UK wide…and thats down to their own hard work!
4. Staying with ICW, you were recently announced in a match with a similar sort of performer in Dave Mastiff for ICWs Magical Mystery Tour. You must be buzzing for that match, and being involved in the tour in general?
Tour wise I am most certainly buzzin. This is what we want and this is only the beginning. Not tryin’ to spoil anything but its not just England on the cards. ICW is going to be the biggest company in Europe.
As for the Bastard, I am a big fan of Dave’s work. Love what he brings to the ring, and I would say hes top 3 in Europe right now….but I cannot wait to stand on his chest. I’m on a quest to becoming the top Heavyweight in the business, and (to paraphrase a legend) the only way to be that guy is you have to beat that guy.
5. You’re co-owner of SWA and the company seems to be going from strength to strength, can you tell us a bit more about your role with the company and where you see it going in the future?
Funny you mention it, my role is diminishing all the time.
I took SWA over a bit like an interim manager in football haha. At the time it was so important, I had to step in or let it die or go into the wrong hands. I can safely say over the next few months it’ll be in the hands of two wonderful fellas who respect and understand the business and will run with the momentum its building. (And far surpass what I can do with it) In all seriousness I don’t want to be running shows when I am good enough and healthy enough to be competing. I’ll always be there to give advice if needed but I can’t commit to its growth while I’m worried about my own growth so to speak.
6. You’re exposed to some of the upcoming stars before any audience sees them, is there anyone who you spotted right away in training and thought he or she would do well? Joe Hendry in particular seems to have risen to a prominent position in a short period with his charisma being a big factor in that.
Joe hates me telling folk this but he was a nightmare at the beginning haha!! After the FIRST session he was on about running vignettes for his debut!!!! He certainly learned it wasn’t that easy and went on to be the hardest working lad I’ve seen. He advanced quick as he put himself into debt and came to training every day (travelling from Edinburgh no less) came to every seminar with outsiders, badgered me and Whippy with questions all the time, lived in my living room at times…
Wouldn’t want him any other way mind.
Others who I knew from day one? Joe Coffey, Jackie Polo, Nikki Storm, John the Bomb (sadly injury derailed him) Others have to work harder, but their gain is greater. Viper is one who advanced way later but I think I’m prouder of her because of it. She is still at every seminar and trains regularly and I reckon sky is the limit for her. Shes embraced a great image, is now completely fearless and is getting madly over. Watch that space.
7. A bit of a cheeky one here, feel free to dodge it, but how do you see your relationship with the PBW Academy? Considering both promotions have a similar ethos, is there a healthy rivalry there, or just a friendly working relationship?
I think folk believe (or want to believe) theres more there than there is. Are we in direct competition? Yeah. But I probably respect Kid Fite more than anyone in wrestling as he juggles a great wrestling career, training and promoting way better than I do haha!!
But yeah I think it’s a healthy AND friendly rivalry. We do have difference of opinion on things, but if we agreed on everything then variety would be hard to come by. You particularly enjoy Joe Coffey and Noam Dar right now. Both from the two different schools. Both are on the radar of the top two American companies. Says it all really.
8. With wrestling, promoting and teaching eating up your schedule, is there one in particular that you feel is your main focus?
I made a pigs arse of my own career. In 2010 I had a WWE tryout. Instead of capitalising on it and working on me, I focused far too much of the school and SWA. I was too worried about either business dying that I let myself down. I have an email from Fergal somewhere were he told me I need to start being selfish and work on me. I dingied it for a year.
I can safely say thats not the case any more. My main focus now is my in ring wrestling career. Everything else is secondary.I had a sudden realisation at the tail end of last year. I was starting to look good enough and was about to turn 29. I’m a great feckin wrestler and I need to go and showcase that. I’ll worry about promoting etc when the bumps get too hard.
9. Your new look seems to have come from a deliberate attempt to “bulk” yet you’ve retained your agility in the ring (that VanDamoNator was insane). Is it just a case of eating a lot of red meat and lifting double decker buses, or is there a more sophisticated approach to training that helps you achieve that balance between beast and Billy Elliot? (I mean that in the most endearing way possible btw, please dont batter me)
I hate saying it but the Van-Damo-Nator is nothing. I can do it in bigger rings. I can do even more mental things. I just choose not to do these things regularly as the risk of injury is high as I am legit 22 and a half stone. Wait till you see me do a standing dropkick 😉 I do them better now than when I was 12 stone!
I currently carry extra weight, a little more than I should as I’ve torn my hamstring and damaged the nerves around my hip all within a couple of month or so period. This has affected my lifting and cardio a lot. By the end of the year I’ll carry a little less. I like sitting at around 21 stone.
I eat a lot of calories when I am training. I swap between high reps low weight, low reps high weight and combinations of both over 6 week periods. Porridge, eggs, meat, spuds, veggies and still room for copious amounts of beer.
10. You have match with Chris Renfrew coming up for PRIDE Wrestling, which is something of a rematch from a batttle you had for the Laird Of The Ring Title in SWA around 5 years ago. You must be looking forward to that considering how much you’ve both changed as performers over the years?
I want to wrestle Renfrew in ICW, but I’ll happily do it in Pride. We came into wrestling at the same time. We beat seven shades out of each other in SWA. We walked our own paths, developed our own styles, and matured a lot as people.At the beginning I saw Renfrew as the only other serious trainee. We were similar heights, weights, shared similar thoughts on wrestling. When we wrestled I knew there was going to be an intense match, both of us game to impress.
Going back five years later, we’ll pick up where we left off and Pride Wrestling will get something special in September.
11. Last but not least, anything you want to tell us about, feel free (sidebar, me and my bearded pal are looking for a third beard to complete our stable, 3MBeard. We dont do wrestling stuff, just get stupidly steamin at innapropriate times, ye fancy joining? 😉 ) Upcoming shows, or your own range of protein shakes or something. Anything you like mate. Fire away.
3MBeard? Where do I sign up and is there a minimum beard requirement?
I think the only requirement is being comfortable drinking a 2L of Strongbow under a bridge, and the beard needs to be long and most importantly real. The amount of applicants we’ve had glueing pubes and dug hair to their faces would make ye sick man. honestly
Yes indeed I do have pimpage –
SWA has two huge shows in October. We are live in Motherwell Concert Hall October 18th and Paisley Lagoon Centre October 24th. Joe Coffey takes on Doug Williams and Dave Mastiff respectively.
ICWs biggest show of the year Fear and Loathing 7 is almost sold out. This year its at the Barrowlands November 2nd. I’ll be there, as will a certain Drew Galloway and the squad!
Follow me on twitter and send me your best Father Ted quote – @BigBeardDamo
I usually do links and stuff in this bottom bit, but the big man went ahead and done it himself. Seriously one of the nicest, most engaging characters in British Wrestling at the moment, and a man who is going far. Any opportunity you have to catch him do the thing he does best, take that opportunity. Ticket and event info for the aforementioned Renfrew match at PRIDE can be found here.
Also, give the Damian O’Connor Facebook page a like, help the big man get to 1000 likes. I think ye get a gold star, or a lucky bag or something when ye reach quadruple digits, so help him achieve this dream.
See if ye fancy it anaw? Follow my stupid shit. Facebook and Twitter. We have a logo now and everything so it feels professional enough tae plug it. I also just worked out how to make yer text link to pages, so I’m quite fond of doing that a lot cause new things give me a semi.
But aye. The Big Man is doing excellent things right now, which goes to prove that anything can be achieved if you embrace the beard.