“See – when I was young, you used to go to the carnival in the city centre, and those were your big days out. Like that’s what you remembered growing up as these amazing experiences”- I overheard Ross Watson, PBW owner talking to a trainee as a strong crowd filtered out of the Dobbie Hall – “I want these kids to all look back and remember when the wrestling came to their town and they got to see guys like Grado and Wolfgang”. It was a pretty pertinent point. It’s dead easy to get caught up in social media and be left thinking that wrestling in this country is all adult themed, #britwres twitter, ‘workrate’ matches and all the inner politics and squabbling that comes with it. But while the violent and technical masterclasses in your ICWs and Progresses of the world are vogue – the bread and butter of this stuff is with the kids. The wee lad in the second row on Saturday night with the Rey Mysterio mask and ‘Big Bad Wolf’ t-shirt didn’t care how many stars Meltzer gave Wolfgang as he sat in total awe watching his 18 stone superhero soar high above the black canvas. Neither did the lad – Dylan I think his name is – who I’ve seen at every BCW or PBW show I’ve been to for at least five years. He’s sat there in the front row, every time, decked out head to toe in support of his favourites and savouring every high five or ‘too-sweet’ as they bounce past during their entrances.
As much as a rowdy, pissed-up, chanting bunch of grungers can add to a show – the high pitched screams of about 40 wee lassies when Stevie Xavier goes taps aff is up there. The aforementioned Wolfgang – along with his real life cousin and PBW Champion BT Gunn – stood in the venue doorway for a good half hour after the main event where they had beaten lumps out of each other. Every fan, every nervous wean scared shitless of the big man, every 20-something wrestling ‘connoisseur’ in their NAK hoodies, every dad giving the knowing wink and handshake, every one of them got a few minutes of their time. Some wanted an autograph, most just a hello, a high five and a selfie. Hundreds of them. I was on ‘security’ here and had mentioned to Wolfy that he could just give me a nudge and I would make an excuse or whatever and lead him away. He never did. He play-wrestled, bantered back and forth, lifted folk up and swung them about. As the last few filtered out, I told him that was some shift he put in there. “Aye, really enjoyed that though” he replied. “This is their WWE, they are their larger than life heroes” Ross carried on as he wandered off to oversee his merry (weary) band of trainees pull down the ring. The show itself is about 2 hours of a 12 hour day for the PBW crew. The ring gets loaded into a van, taken to the venue, sits outside the venue while we await janny approval to enter (this is important), gets put up, show time, taken down, back to its holding unit and unloaded again. It’s a long shift, and by about half past midnight I’m cursing the 16 and 17 year old wee fannies (endearingly) bouncing around with some reserves of energy I’m sure I could’ve mustered up about ten year ago.
But in among the engineering work and miles on the road (which I’ve done absolutely fuck all of by the way I’m talking more about the rest of them) there’s food and laughter and bonding and ideas aplenty. There’s flirting and silly drama, talks of goals and aspirations, nerves and trepidation. While at every turn I’m telling myself I’m too old for this and there’s something immature about me kicking about with folk half a decade my junior pretend fighting – the more I get drawn in by this daft business and all of the carry on that comes with it. On the show, there was an open challenge for Lou King Sharp (gimmick succinctly described as a 5”2 loudmouth creep) and Kriegers (taller, hairier, greasier, worse dancing loudmouth creep) PBW tag team titles. I forgot wrestling was fake for about five minutes and started asking LKS if he was looking forward to seeing who he was facing. After snapping out of that idiocy, I changed it to a cool, insider and trendy “Who you working sat wrestling friend Krissy (I’m using your shoot name bro)?” In-keeping with the emphasis on youth here, it would be two up and coming trainees at the PBW Academy – Darryl and Kris (not LKS confusingly). The two of them are everything I hate because I’m not. Young, athletic and ridiculously talented with the whole business in front of them. Kris has had a few matches in shows and had the mind-boggling honour of the ‘experienced’ member of his team at a ripe old 16 years. I know Kris well – started training with him on the same day about two and a half years ago in fact, but while I left he stuck with it and got very good. I remember him having a gob on him and having no lack of confidence. Thankfully, that’s not changed.
I hadn’t met Darryl before. I didn’t speak to him much during the day either. He was quiet, pretty shy and understandably nervous. This would be his main debut in front of about 400 people – on a show absolutely stacked with the best talent in the country (and Lou King Sharp too). I sat in the empty hall after set up and watched the four guys involved put their match together and work through sequences in slow motion as Darryls parents – who come up from Penrith every week to get him to training – looked on. Darryl and Kris were in the lucky position to be in there with a couple of guys who were more than happy to make them look like absolute superstars while coming across as a pair of numpties themselves.
The open challenge gimmick is a tricky one to expose new faces to, because when the punters expect a surprise, they expect someone they know or some sort of grand return. This was partially avoided by it being made pretty clear it was an open challenge to academy trainees – but the point stands. When the two lads made their entrance after a rubbish and crap promo by Lou King Sharp the crowd were polite and gave them a warm – if unspectacular welcome. Fast forward ten minutes and the boys have been robbed of the titles by the shenanigans of Krie-King and the 400 strong in attendance were ready to set fire to shit and key some motors. Darryls mum was stood beside me, recording every moment and smiling like me every time I drive past a KFC. Most of the facebook and twitter feedback on the show had been commenting on the two youngsters and how well they done. Towards the end of the night, like many others, I made the point of shaking wee Darryls hand and telling him how brilliant I thought he had done and that he should be really proud of himself. His eyes opened wide and he beamed back “really, did you think it was good, thank you so much, did you really think it was good?” That was it right there man. It takes a lot to make me well up – usually a particularly well-acted advert, or a dog doing something that dogs don’t usually do – but I was nearly a wee blubberer then. Anyway, the next morning I went to training took a back slide and spiked my own head so that was good. Cheers
A fine read that was. Tune to mad Hendo next time he writes a thing. Also mega super thanks to Steven Mckinnon for the image.