For a man who was “Never looking for the WWE” to put it in his own words, life must be a bit surreal for Wolfgang at the minute. He undoubtedly emerged from the WWE UK Championship Tournament with his profile higher than ever. Impressing with some eye catching performance, but there’s a feeling that of the people involved in the tournament, he is the one who’s work during the tournament itself done the most to make people at WWE sit up and take notice. A remarkable journey considering it’s one that started in the bath, but one that the big man seems to be taking in his stride going forward.
“There was 4 guys (Pete Dunne, Mark Andrews, Tyler Bate and Trent Seven) lined up to go over and do all this promotional stuff after the tournament and by Sunday night they’d changed it to five guys and I was on the list. I had done everything I needed to do to get on that list, because they had a pr conceived idea of who they wanted to use and I managed to change that over the course of the tournament. I’m very proud of that. They took us over to San Antonio for NXT takeover and that was amazing in itself. To stand on the apron and howl and have a fraction of the 15,000 crowd do it back to me and know what I was doing was surreal. I got to see New York as part of that as well, and got to go over to Times Square and get a hot dog which is something I’ve always wanted to do, so this whole journey allowed that. As much as the wrestling part is a dream come true, getting to do things like that and see the world is a dream come true as well.”
British Wrestling enjoying a revival is something directly influenced by Scottish Wrestling, with the level of talent being produced and a scarily high level from trainee level right up to seasoned pro’s. Gone are the days where fat guys in ill advised lycra are falling over each other in front of a handful of grannies and guys who sleep with replica wrestling belts under their pillow, so the fact that Wolfgang entered that tournament as the lone Scot (definitely some kinda lone wolf joke in there, but we’ll patch it the noo) was a source of pride and pressure. “That in itself was a big thing for me and a huge weight on my shoulders. If you’re a Scottish Wrestling fan and particularly an ICW fan you’ll know about the wealth of talent that’s come from Scottish Wrestling”
“At the press conference, we got to meet Triple H for the first time, and as much as it was William Regals brainchild it was very much a Triple H production. I knew most of the guys that were there like Trent Seven, Tyler Bate, Mark Andrews but some of the guys I didn’t really know and I was sitting there trying to gauge what level I was at in comparison to these other guys. Sitting in the lobby sort of thinking to myself I don’t know how far I’m going to go here”
Turns out he needn’t have worried, as he made it through a bruising encounter with T-Bone in the first round to progress to the Quarter Finals to renew a familiar rivalry with none other than fellow ICW mainstay Trent Seven. “The first round was against T-Bone. A guy I’ve always enjoyed working with over the years. I think it was meant to be two big guys knocking lumps out each other. That’s what they were looking for from the first round, so I had to match his power but also show off a bit of what I can do. I might be 18 stone, but I can fly about like I’m 12 stone, so I wanted to show them a bit of what I could do. I wanted to showcase everything I could do in this one match and fortunately enough I made it past T-Bone into the Quarter Finals. ”
A simple moonsault was a huge part of the reason Wolfgang caught the eye. The clip of him performing a move he’s likely done thousands of times got hundreds of thousands of hits across WWE’s social media accounts and had the wrestling community buzzing over the deceptively agile big man responsible for it. Big guys doing moonsaults isn’t a new thing but big guys doing springboard moonsaults from the second rope with the grace of a ballet dancer? That’s some groundbreaking shit right there. His performance in the first round gave his confidence a major boost going in to the majorly important encounter with tournament favourite Trent Seven. “Going up against Trent, him being the favourite and the guy I headlined Fear and Loathing at The Hydro with was a familiar feeling. He’s one of those guys I have lots of good chemistry with, so I was looking forward to going into that environment again. The support was very like an ICW crowd, there was a lot of Scottish folk that were on my side but a lot of ICW fans in general. To be in there with Trent it just felt like we were in The Garage. Beating Trent came as much of a surprise to me as it did to everyone else, as I say he was the favourite to win it and to make it past him into the Semis against Tyler Bate was huge. The guy who put me out was the guy who went on to become the first ever UK Champ, and I made it to the semi finals, so I’ll take that”
His victory over Trent in the tournament extended an impressive winning record against him. A score that has since been evened, but despite his early success against the moustachioed one, he was a talent that had Wolfgang’s admiration from the very start. “Trent Seven came out of nowhere in ICW. Its a name I’d heard in recent years before he came in, but I’d never worked with him. I was actually his first match in ICW, he was thrown in with me and Damo on a tour show and it went well. We had good chemistry right away. He went on to have some incredible matches with Whippy (Mikey Whiplash) and took off from there. I won the belt from Joe, cashing in the Square Go contract after he beat Damo, and Trent had a bit of a buzz due to some of the stuff he’d been doing with Moustache Mountain, stuff like going over the Chikara and getting a lot of exposure with Progress etc. Some of the exposure myself and ICW maybe weren’t getting, so it was great to be able to work with a guy with a buzz. To be able to go in there with some pretty good matches with him with good chemistry as well. It always helps when you’re in there with someone and you know its going to be good before you even have the match”
The most impressive of those victories however, undoubtedly came at the biggest wrestling show Scottish Wrestling has ever seen. 6,000 fans turning out for ICW’s big date with destiny at The Hydro. Wolfgang stoated out in front of his hometown crowd who all seemed to be pulling for a guy from Birmingham such was his popularity amongst the ICW faithful at the time, and stoated back out a bit beaten, bruised and battered but most importantly STILL the ICW World Heayweight Champion. A career highlight in a period where they seem to coming thick and fast for the big bad wolf. “Being the world champion going into the Hydro in front of 6,000 fans,the biggest British Wrestling show in 34 years or something like that. Thats just monumental *pauses* PRESSURE” *laughs*
Pressure that the big man is learning to thrive under, and considering it was his third cage match in ICW, it was pressure that had a degree of security about it. He knows what hes doing in there as much as any man can really know what they’re doing when chucking another man about inside a metal box.
“Anybody who knows me knows I’m a very laid back guy, even through all this stuff with WWE, it’s not really phased me. It was a lot of pressure, but it was a situation I was comfortable in. I regularly go to ride my motorbike down at The Hydro with my Da. I got to go into the cage, which I’d already been in twice. Had in my opinion, the best cage match in ICW so far with BT Gunn. I definitely credit that as my favourite of the three. I thought id get better at them as they went, but I still think what me and BT done was the best one in ICW. It would have been nice to be the main event, and I don’t see why the World Title isn’t the main thing on the show, but we done what we could with our place (on the card) and to walk in champion and walk back out with the title was something nobody expected me to do. All the momentum was with him and I overcame that. Its a feeling I’ll always remember.”
Pride comes pelting out the big man when he talks about that night. One that clearly has had a profound effect on all involved. The Hydro isn’t even the ceiling. Until ICW are running Barramania at Hampden every year, there’s still work to be done. Nest stop, the moon. “Dallas is a guy who you always take what he says with a pinch of salt but 5-6 years ago, whenever the Hydro was built, he’s sitting telling us “We’re gonnae run that one day” and sure enough it happened and we’re doing it. Its wild. Absolutely fantastic the way wrestling is in Britain now. Its been good to be there through it all. From day one. If you think about it, a lot of what’s going on in British Wrestling today came from what happened in Scotland. There’s a lot of guys who would tell you if it wasn’t for ICW back then, they’d have given up doing this a long time ago. Even after the gold label era, there are times where you think to yourself is this really worthwhile?
You really need to love this job to keep doing it
Over the course of a 15 year tenure as a top guy in Scotland and a known face in the UK, Wolfy has gone through his fair share of hardships, but the love and respect he has for his craft shines through when asked if the recent upturn in his own fortunes has validated his decision to constantly keep grafting at it through the hard times. Very much coming across as a man who’d be just as happy as he is now if ICW never got any further than tearing the roof off The Garage once every other month. “Wrestling comes first to a lot of people, and they’ll tell lassies they’re getting in a relationship with that wrestling comes first, and I’m better being honest about that from the start. It’s that kind of thing and missing stuff, things like missing birthday parties, missing funerals even. Things like that. I don’t’ think I ever needed the wwe to validate that for me. I’ve always done it because I enjoy it. It’s never been about money or fame even. If ICW was all I was ever going to get I’d be happy. You can make a full-time living from doing companies like ICW. It can be done. It’s not a very comfortable living, but if it’s a job you love doing you can fully immerse yourself in it and it can be very rewarding. Obviously it gets a lot more rewarding when the WWE phones you and tell you they want to work with you”
With 15 years experience under his belt and a ringing endorsement from a former opponent in ICW, Finn Balor (Fergal Devitt in his ICW days, not that anyone reading this could possibly not know that, but ye never know eh) you could have forgiven Wolfgang for feeling like the graft was over and he knew it all but from day one it was back to the graft. “When I got to the performance centre and I was mixing with the NXT guys, as much as you’ve done to get there in the 15 years leading to that point, it all starts again. You’re back to day one, rolling in the ring like we go with the GPWA trainees. You train every day. You build the ring and take it back down. You do everything that’s required from a professional wrestler with a touring company. When you get to RAW, Smackdown level you don’t need to do all that, but with NXT they do smaller shows around the US and its more like you’re part of the team and you’re back into the grind again. I dont feel as if there’s any great reward or validation now because I don’t think I’ve really got anywhere yet. There’s so much further to go. This all happened to me fairly, I wouldn’t say easy? but this all sort of fell in my lap. I wasn’t looking for WWE. Didn’t go for a tryout. I basically got a phonecall one day saying “do you want to be in this tournament?”So if I can get this far and do this much without really fully trying, what can I do and how far can I go if I turn the switch and give it a proper go? Lets see what I can do here. I’ve joined a gym and stuff. If I just apply myself, now that I’m under the umbrella of the WWE god knows what we can do going forward”
That match with Devitt at ICW Hadouken back in 2012 was the night my own personal love for pro wrestling properly came roaring back, something I will always be personally thankful to them both for. The atmosphere in The Garage that night was something special and the novelty of being able to see one of the best wrestlers in the world at that time was offset with a conviction that the man being charged with taking him down had more than a fighting chance. The crowd was fully absorbed from the start in a match the man himself regarded as his biggest since his fame encounter with Marty Jannetty back in the day
“The highest profile match I’d had since Marty Jannetty in 2006. The match (with Devitt) was a fantastic match, it’s still up on Youtube now, you should go and watch it. More so because I was in there with Prince Devitt, who’s one of the best in the world. I mean he was the first WWE Universal Champion, and I hope to follow in his footsteps. His influence has definitely been a factor, more so when I’ve been over there, he’s been happy to point me towards the right people and give advice with entrances, taking your time with stuff etc. With all that, the wrestling part is easy, but there’s so much more to consider, so its good to have guys like Devitt, Damo, Noam, Nikki Storm and now Drew over there to keep me right”
It’s a credit to the level of talent over here that a growing fraternity of ex ICW/British Wrestling aficionado exists as almost a ready-made support system, but when you start running the same buildings as WWE, they’re going to have to have a proper look at what you’re doing. A credit to the work being done, and with the level of talent being produced at almost a grass-roots level even better than ever its hard to see a downside to it all. ICW now seem to enjoy a working relationship with WWE that could see the product go to another level and its a relationship that has proved beneficial to the company already. With former ICW alumni Noam Dar set to appear at Shug’s House Party 4 in July. A full-time WWE employee being allowed a one night only return ‘home’ is a situation that would have seemed unfathomable mere months ago.
“My favourite thing is that I still get to come and coach at the school. I still get to ICW, PBW, BCW and all these companies who gave me my start. Companies I want to keep having a working relationship with. If the WWE want to come here and start a show I think thats only going be a good thing for business everywhere. All these people watching are going to see guys like Noam, Damo and me, knowing they came from companies like ICW, SWA, PBW etc. It’s only going to make these companies better. The problem has always been that there’s never been a path for getting to the WWE
Ye cannae go down the job centre and go ‘I want to work for Vince McMahon’ but now there is. Now you can come to the GPWA, knowing one of their coaches is working with WWE and that becomes an avenue to get there. Its something that 10 years ago or 15 years ago when I started you couldn’t have thought of. I think finally now we’re getting British Wrestling where it needs to be on an independent level and its only going to grow.
There’s absolutely no sense that Wolfgang is anywhere close to being done with matters closer to home either. The beauty of his affiliation with WWE is that there is room to still be Wolfgang. A legacy he will have felt was only just beginning when he finally captured the ICW Title after years of near misses. A second reign with the big shiny isn’t quite at the forefront of his thoughts quite yet, but Pete Dunne’s been cutting about with some serious hardware since adding the WWE UK Championship to the Progress Title, and that’s a look you can’t help but be impressed by. Even if you choose safer means of transporting that hardware than carrying it about in yer gub. “When I dropped the belt I didn’t feel as if I immediately wanted to go back after it. When I had the belt it felt like I held on to it for as long as I could. I would say there’s only ever been three ICW World Heavyweight Champions. Three who have taken it and showcased it all over the world. Drew who’s just been signed and made it a world title, Damo who took it and defended it in the old ECW arena in Philadelphia I believe and me. I don’t think I need that title back. I think I can still call myself a world champion. I think as much as the title helped me, I helped the title just as much”
Another reason we hopefully won’t be seeing the back of him on a permanent bases for a while yet is that he now has a vested interest in the Scottish scene going forward. The GPWA are now producing talents that are being seen up and down the country. A fact that he speaks on with a huge amount of pride when talking about the immediate future for him in ICW. There’s a hunger to see people like The Purge, Aaron Echo, Ravie Davie and other “up and comers” get their opportunity to replace those who have moved on to pastures new. For all the fear that WWE are just coming here to cherry pick talent and leave the scene bare, that’s simply not a possibility with the level of talent coming through now.
“Now? What I would like to see happen is fresh faces come in. Bringing fresh faces in and letting them work with guys who are experienced. I’d like to see The Purge get more opportunities. They’re the kind of team you could throw in with NAK, Fight Club, and you’ll get a different match every time because they can adapt. There’s a lot of guys from GPWA I’d like to see involved but even besides that guys from down south like Mark Andrews. I’d love to see him in ICW again, and to be able to have a match with him in that environment would be something great. If you take Wolfgang out of ICW you’ll get a version of him, but if you put Wolfgang in ICW, thats where he’s at his most comfortable. Even if it’s not necessarily in Glasgow, even on tour if you have that ICW banner on it, it gives it that bit of extra emotion.”
“What i would personally like to do is just do my thing, and if I’m involved in a tied down feud or if I’m just the guy who needs to come in and sort shit out (I suppose you could refer to that sort of person as a regulator) that’s what I want to do. I’m mates with everybody so there are possibilities everywhere. I’m also mates with Red Lightning who’s just came back into the mix again, so if he needs something sorted out, I might be called upon to do that. Red Lightnings a mouthpiece, and I’ve always been his big mate that he shouts on when his mouth gets him into bother. I’m kinda in limbo the now, where I’ve been the world champ, no desire to get it back, there’s other people who have been out of the title picture for a while that id like to see get back into it. Obviously BT Gunn being one of them. Stevie Boy is another who just needs somebody to go ‘he is a world champion’ and as soon as that happens everyone else will follow suit because he’s got the talent. I’m enjoying being involved with ICW and the production values we’re seeing now. The thing I like about it is that when ICW started you could do what you wanted. You had creative freedom, and it was a bit gritty and even now the production values are up it’s still like that. There’s still freedom there to do whatever it is you want to do.”
A fact that was never more prevalent than during the most recent ICW show when Wolfgang wrestled Liam Thomson with a kitchen sink and a fuckin’ washing machine up for grabs. A match that is legitimately one of the best I’ve seen all year, which is astounding considering there was a real life washing machine slap bang in the middle of it. Matches have no right to be good after a washing machine is in the mix. No right at all, but being in there with another one of Scotland’s hidden gems, and a guy who has been outstanding in all aspects recently, Liam Thomson, made Good Housekeeping seem easy. Messy, but easy.
“Liams a guy who again, just needs someone to put that spotlight on him to show everyone how good he is. Liam Thomsons’s never had a bad match, anytime I’m in there with him it’s always something good. He’s one of my top 5 guys to work with, if not top 3. Because again, that chemistry is, here. After the Square Go (when Wolfgang stole Liam Thomson’s sink along with his place in the Square Go itself) we’re thinking where can we go with this sink thing? He does that promo with Saynt at the Asylum, where he stops in the middle and goes “is that ma sink?” and they wee videos have made people relate to him and people genuinely want to see him get his sink back. The sink could be the world title for all they cared. So I started thinking what we could do with a Good Housekeeping match.
“After the one on Sunday there, hopefully theres a sequel happening. I’ve took his sink, then his washing machine, although its a bit banged up now. I’m sure hes got a mortgage he can offer me if he wants this sink so badly”
The GPWA is something all 5 men involved in it have always harboured the desire to do, but it was an opportunity presented by ICW owner Mark Dallas, who was looking for a unit big enough to store two wrestling rings, that saw the creation of the Glasgow Pro Wrestling Asylum. An endeavour that has unquestionable gone hand in hand with Wolfgang’s recent personal success.
“Dallas said he was looking for space to rent for the wrestling ring. I told him if you get somewhere big enough I could run a wrestling school. He’d offered it to other people and they said no based on the money not adding up. This has never been about the money for me, and I was humming and hawwing about wrestling at the time and was looking to dedicate myself to it fully. What better way to do it than by running a wrestling school. I phoned up Lionheart, Jester, Red and BT Gunn and we decided that between us we could run a very good wrestling school. Other schools out there can sometimes rely on guys that probably aren’t qualified to be teaching anyone. Guys who’ve went to a school somewhere and maybe come back to a sort of secluded area and opened a school based on that. With us we had a lot of the bases covered. I’m an all-rounder. Red Lightning and Jack Jester are two of the best characters around. Lionheart. Jester’s persona is something you can’t teach, the way he carries himself and portrays his character but it helps if he’s around as an example. Red is second to none on the mic and in front of the camera. He’s just so natural no matter what role hes playing and can get emotion out of anyone. Lionheart has wrestled for the ROH Title, been seen in WWE and TNA. He was doing that sort of thing long before any of us, and BT Gunn is quietly the best wrestler in the UK. My favourite wrestler to watch, and hes my mate, so I wanted him by my side on this journey.”
Withe lineup of coaches set, they put their heads together and came up with something a bit different. A new way of teaching folk how to throw each other about safely. A key factor in deciding if a trainee could go forward and do a job that constantly carries huge risks. “We came up with the 8 week induction. We wanted to do something new, fresh and exciting. Wrestling training used to be you’d show up, pay your tenner a week and in bad cases it could be someone very unqualified and trainees might think they’re more accomplished than they actually are. We came up with this concept where we invite people as a group, and they start from the same level. We tell them we’re going to teach you the basics, and then asess you to determine if you can do this in a way that looks after your own safety and the safety of everyone else. We’ve had MMA guys come down and try it, Billy Kirkwood even done it, its a great thing for everyone who wants to do it for them to come out and see just how hard it is. We put it out on social media to drum up interest, and one of the selling points was the size of ring we had to offer. The bigger ring is an 18 footer. The facility we had too, we’ve moved into a bigger unit now but the one we had then was perfect. Molly Spartan, Andy Downs (Austin Osiris) CS Rose, Jamie Fawkes, Danny Cantrell, Sam Barbour were all part of that first batch. The first,second and third intakes all sort of meshed together. As much as it was fresh to them, it was fresh to us to. We’d done seminars but to be put in this position where you’re responsible for peoples education going from knowing nothing to going as far as even WWE level was something else. It was always something my dad encouraged as well, and something I’d wanted to do. Although I dunno if that’s because the wrestling didn’t look like it was going anywhere” *laughs*
Maybe they’ll take ye as a trainer one day eh son! While the WWE have taken notice of Wolfgang the wrestler, being a full-time trainer is something that seems to appeal to him at some point down the road. The GPWA proving to be the start of a new love affair with an old mistress and bringing a new enjoyment to this wrestling caper for the big man. “As soon as we started teaching it i just fell in love with it. I got to be in a wrestling ring a lot more often as well which has helped me, but the coaching side and teaching people is something I’ve really enjoyed doing. Spending time with folk and seeing them develop from day one to the point we’re at now where guys are getting work all over the country. Is a testament to us as coaches that these guys are getting seen and its proof that people coming from GPWA wont be shite. We’re only putting out the best of the best. You can only teach them so much before you go right, go in front of that crowd and wrestle that guy. As much as you can teach them in the school, there’s no better way to learn how to work a match than actually getting out there and doing it”
That has proved to be absolutely true as the improvement in the GPWA trainees since they began running the “Night At The Asylum” shows has been noticeable. Gaining experience from wrestling seasoned pro’s and more recently trainees from other schools as well. The GPWA Invitational showcased talent from not only GPWA, but Source and the PBW Academy. A kind of competitive unity that can only serve wrestling well on these shores in the future as the next generation get early experience of working with each other. “The shows were always just going to be pals and family and a few local fans who knew the scene. They’ve become their own entity now and have charterers and storylines on their own. I think Red Lightning really thrives in that situation. He kinda takes charge when it comes to the running of the show. He’s always trying to take over ICW so as long as he gets to write some kind of show he’s happy. It was always going to be lets put the trainees up against the coaches and other experienced folk, but now we’re trusting them to go up against each other and even guys from other schools. That (The GPWA Invitational) was Reds idea as well; To run a 16 man tournament and include other spirits. I think for the Scottish Wrestling scene it was fantastic. there’s so much available now, if I was fan I’d probably beat as many shows as I am as a performer.”
A performer who might just be becoming accustomed to seeing all his dreams come true. As soon as tomorrow night the big bad Wolf will lineup on the NXT Aberdeen show. A sign that his relationship with WWE is showing no signs of coming to an end anytime soon.
“The tour starts in Aberdeen, and goes all over the UK, finishing up at the Download festival. I’m really excited about being a part of the NXT team, and getting to train with the likes of Tommy End and Damo again, as well as all the other guys. From the experienced guys all the way down to the ones starting out, it’s very much a team and me, Mark Andrews, Pete Dunne and Trent Seven and every much looking forward to joining the that team and bringing the UK element to it. The more we do on these shows, the more impact we have, will do well in the long-term when they do promote some kind of UK brand. These might be smaller shows but you can guarantee but that the 4 UK guys are going out there to show why there is a UK Championship, why they’re doing these tours over here, and why a company underneath the WWE banner but a brand that exists as its own entity can come over here and create their own tour. That’s something special it itself. Not only can WWE tour over here, NXT can too, and I just want to make sure they notice the UK guys especially”
Get along to Aberdeen tomorrow night, or any of the other dates on the NXT tour and see another chapter written into a journey that may or may not have started in the bath with William Regal.
Used all sorts of images. Thank you to David J.Wilson as always for his stunning work. Warrior Fight Photography anaw. WWE even! and anyone else who’s images I’ve used. If I’ve used something you own and haven’t credited please give me a shout.
Big thank you to the man himself for taking the time to talk to me. Follow all his social media type things here