When we think of wrestling, the first thought that usually comes to mind is the WWE, and perhaps rightly so. After all, the WWE is the biggest wrestling company in the world, full of world class talent who get paid fortunes to put on shows for millions of fans all around the globe, almost every night.
A lot of wrestling is associated with the United States, but little do people know that the UK wrestling scene is booming
with talent from all over the world making their way here to perform for some of the most die-hard fans wrestling has to offer. To find out more about the state of British wrestling, RealSport sat down with UK wrestler Ross Watson, better known as Kid Fite, who is also the owner of wrestling company Premier British Wrestling and Training Academies.
On... the difference between being an independent wrester in the UK vs America
Unless you are under contract to WWE or NJPW, I imagine the life of a UK wrestler earning his living on the indies is much the same as a wrestler doing the same thing anywhere in the world. Except perhaps the weather [laughs].
All joking aside, things are great just now. For me personally one of the best things at the moment is many of the more established companies are running 15-50 shows per year. A few years ago it got to the stage where I felt I was wrestling for one company after another that would pop up, run three shows then go out of business. These days I am performing every weekend and for the most part its either for ICW (Insane Championship Wrestling), BCW (British Championship Wrestling), PWE (Pro Wrestling Elite), SSW (Scottish School of Wrestling), RNW (Rock ‘N’ Wrestling). Those five companies alone are running over 60 shows a year. If you add to that the PBW shows I run but don't compete in (personal choice) and then also add in the holiday park shows over the months of July/August for All Star, I can pretty much fill up my diary on that alone.
It’s not to say I don't try squeeze in work from other companies. This year I have worked for Discovery Wrestling and NGW, also have work coming up again for Tidal Wrestling, 4GW and a few others I can't name at the moment as it hasn't been announced. It's a great mix of shows at the moment. One minute I can be in a really hard hitting affair at ICW, then the next night I can be entertaining families at BCW or SSW. As so many guys are coming over from America at the moment, you often find yourself against some big names who have years of TV exposure under their belts and an amazing career to boot. Over the last few years I have competed against The Steiner Brothers, Kevin Nash, The Young Bucks, Carlito, Davey Richards, Finn Balor, Mr Anderson, Drew Galloway, Paul London & Brian Kendrick, to name just a few.
On... competing against high profile wrestlers
I remember in particular being shit-scared going into the match with the Steiner Brothers. Scott in particular is a mountain of a man and to this day one of the most intimidating people I have ever met. In the end, the match was great fun and both Scott and Rick were amazing to wrestle. They made myself and Liam ]Thomson] look good, and the match was one I will always remember for nothing but good reasons.
In short, through the week I hit the gym and run PBW. My kitchen table is more or less my office and I am running that many shows, as well as the three schools, that PBW alone is almost like a full time job. Then at the weekend its either a PBW show or a show for one of the companies mentioned above and away I go. If I actually think about it, I probably work seven days a week all year round. In fairness though when you love the job you do, every day is a day off.
On... the training academies he's set up
Having an academy is something I always wanted to attach to PBW. I wanted to bring fresh faces into the scene and keep it moving. I also wanted wrestling to be accessible to as many people as possible who wanted to give it a try. I now have three schools running every Sunday: one in Barrhead where I am based, one in Greenock headed up by Scott Maverick, and one in Airdrie headed up by TJ Rage.
It's almost like a family business as Maverick and Rage were in fact two of my first ever students. When it came time to expand the schools, they had more than earned their stripes on the shows and also had first-hand experience assisting me with training. All three schools are currently doing very well. On an average Sunday we have around 70 students training under the PBW banner
On... what makes his training academies different
The two things that make our schools different from others in Scotland are the age limit and the fact we train students on mats initially. Kids these days can start football, boxing, dancing, karate, anything really at a young age, so why not wrestling?
Obviously due to wrestling being an art form I had to draw the line somewhere. With this in mind I made our schools open to anyone 12 years and older. One massive example of this paying off is Noam Dar. He began training with us at 13 years old and is now considered one of the best prospects in Europe, having appeared for TNA, ICW, Progress, Dragon Gate, PBW and PCW, to name a few. At this moment in time we have roughly eight lads and one girl all aged 14-15 who have all got the potential to follow in Noam and Kay Lee Ray's footsteps (Kay Lee Ray also started training at around the age of 13).
The reason I start all my students on mats is simple. I believe the ring is a privilege and not a right. You need to learn to bump, sell, catch, strike and so much more - all of which can be taught on mats. Once students have got to a certain level, I encourage them to come along and help out at shows. If the ring is up in good time before the show, they are given ring training then free of charge. From time to time some of my regular roster members will also jump in and do some stuff with them which is a wee bonus for them.
On... how to train up a new wrestler
Although some take to it quicker than others, I would say on average it takes around 12-18 months to get someone ready for a show. Once students are ready and have invested in proper ring attire, it is my job as their coach to help them source opportunities. Not only are these given on PBW shows, I also have a good working relationship with British Championship Wrestling, All Star Wrestling, Rock N' Wrestle, Scottish School of Wrestling, and Insane Championship Wrestling, to name a few.
Those who put the work in and show their dedication get the chances. We also show the students how to make a CV and approach other companies. So far 2016 has seen many benefit from this from our latest batch of students to break through. Up and comers such as Aaron Echo, Lucy Cole, Lou King Sharp, Lucha DS, Krieger and referee Sean McLaughlin are performing on shows all over the UK on a weekly basis. Echo is even set to join me in Denmark this May.
I would go as far as saying that almost every show run in Scotland these days has at least one person who was trained at our schools. I very much plan to keep pushing my school and will be working harder than ever with the current batch to ensure the school's great reputation remains intact. There may even be a fourth PBW Academy opening its doors sometime soon.
On... the state of the UK wrestling scene
The UK scene at the moment is doing the best business it has done since the World of Sport golden days. When I started wrestling in 2003, shows that drew in 150 fans were considered a success. Now you have companies like ICW filling venues that hold 500-1200 every month all over the UK, not to mention the fact that they drew the biggest UK crowd in the last 20 years when they sold out the SECC in Glasgow.
For me, being a part of that show was immense. I was so proud as I have been with ICW since day one when they were one of the companies drawing 100 fans per show. Then suddenly there I was about to defend my ICW Tag Team Titles with my tag partner, Sha Samuels, in front of 4000 rowdy fans who had travelled from all over Europe to witness the show. It was a fantastic night for everyone involved. As ICW is strictly for patrons aged 18 and over, there was a much bigger buzz online after the show than what the average family show would get even if they draw the same numbers.
ICW attract fans of the Attitude/ECW era, who have grown tired of the WWE's PG product and are now falling in love with wrestling again due to the gritty nature of these shows. Blood, beer & bad language flow at every show and it is working big time. ICW is also the company that I have been able to be the most innovative in. Over the years I have done stuff that I can honestly say I doubt has been done anywhere else in the world. I have tea bagged my opponents, pulled my opponent's trousers down and proceeded to chop him in his... well you get the point. I can also lay claim to being that guy that was flung into a moving bus when an ICW street fight spilled outside the venue in Glasgow's city centre.
There are also many other companies doing great business. Just yesterday I read that Progress Wrestling, who are based in London, sold 1300 tickets in 40 minutes the other day which is something I can imagine any other company in the US aside from WWE would struggle to do.
The guys and girls who compete on the ICW shows are the same guys and girls I use for my own shows at PBW (Premier British Wrestling). My shows are aimed at the family market and tend to attract families with kids who have been brought up on WWE. Saying that, due to the high quality of the shows, I am finding more and more adults are coming along for a night out with their friends. It is family-suitable, but at the same time, I pride myself on only using the best UK talent available and giving them free reign to be as creative on the night as possible with their matches.
Overall, I know this may come across as biased but I think the UK scene right now is one of the best in the world. When I started, former WWE stars would come over for an easy payday and fair play to them. They knew they could charge double, sometimes triple and be treated like royalty over here.
These days, although I am not going to name names, I know of very well-known former WWE stars who have used their air miles to come to the UK as they want to perform here. The overall opinion from them and even cur
rent WWE and TNA stars is that the UK fans are the best in the world, hence why TNA's highlight of their calendar is their UK tour.
All we really need is one of the national TV stations to pick up one of the companies. In my opinion ICW, Progress and Preston City Wrestling are leading the charge for the TV deal. Once we get that the sky is the limit.