A new appreciation for the art form

By Alex Howells @AJHowler

As long time readers will know around six months ago, now I began training to be a professional wrestler. At the time, it was more a case of living a boyhood dream than it was about making it Wrestlemania. It is something I had always wanted to do since I first watched SummerSlam 1992 from Wembley Stadium and when the opportunity arose to train with one of the country’s premier wrestling companies, Swindon’s 4FW, under long time performer and promoter David Sharp it was a chance that I couldn’t pass up.

What followed has been an amazing journey meeting great new friends and achieving a level of fitness and body transformation that I wouldn’t have thought possible when I was lead in hospital having chemotherapy some five and a half years ago. I can do things now that I would have never thought possible, demonstrating agility and timing that my past over seventeen stone self would have looked at and found daunting.

The experience has given me a chance to see all facets of the wrestling business, certainly on the UK independent scale, and has been a real eye opener to the amount of work that goes in to even the smallest of shows. I have setup the ring, which in itself is an eye opener as to what goes in to something so basic for any wrestling show. It is a multi-man job and has to be coordinated in such a way that the parts are put together in the correct order to achieve the build ensuring the safety of the performers who will be using it later.

I have sold merchandise not just for 4FW but also for some of the biggest stars in the world as they have passed through some of our bigger shows. The money that these guys can make in an evening is amazing but more so is the love and affection people have for the men and women involved. Just recently when selling the t-shirts for a top import talent the looks on people’s faces when they got the shirt they wanted, or got to exchange a few words with him was amazing to see and gave me a real understanding why promoters, such as Dave Sharp, do what they do.

As training progresses and we learn more and more by the week you really do gain an appreciation for the art form of wrestling. We’ve all watched for years and think we can do a piledriver or a dropkick but there are ways to do these things that make them impactful, safe and also look good. Something as basic as hand placement, even thumb placement can make a move look excruciating or like you’re barely even applying pressure. The theatre element of wrestling is what makes us all fans and facial expressions and noises at the right time can be an incredibly effective tool, but the placement and timing of these is key.

Training to be a wrestler has made me watch wrestling in such a different way. I now watch RAW and Smackdown looking to the small details that obviously, the superstars at the top of the industry do as second nature. How they attack the mat when taking bumps, how they hit the ropes in perfect balance and how they move and transition around the ring from one position to another seemingly without moving at all. I also notice the slightest error in hand placement or footwork now too, and sometimes more interesting the way in which the best of the best can, or at least attempt to, cover their mistakes.

Watching wrestling as a fan is fantastic and truly one of the best forms of escapism and drama that there is to see live. The process of training and learning more about how and more importantly why you do things in the ring has taken my fandom to a whole new level. I have always been a bit of a student of the wrestling business but being afforded the opportunity to see behind the curtain and/or camera is something else.

This week, and on the advice of my trainer, have taken the plunge and invested in my first pair of wrestling boots. Boots worthy of shows. These boots are being custom made in Canada and the three to four week lead time is ever decreasing and very exciting. Along the road so far I have already achieved a few things that I never thought I would whether it is getting to work in an actual wrestling ring to meeting some of the worlds biggest wrestling stars to ordering a pair of wrestling boots that hopefully one day get to be worn in front on paying spectators. That is the ultimate dream, always has been and until it happens always will be.

It is a long road to being able to call yourself a wrestler and that doesn’t end with your first match, your first big show or your first title win. The journey to be a wrestler is a constant one where you just strive to get better every time you step on to a training mat or in to a ring. This is an art form and you have to respect it as such, you wouldn’t expect to be able to play the piano after a week or a month but you’d expect to be able to do more at six months than one, and more at a year than six months and so on and so forth. I am truly grateful for the opportunity and will continue to work hard to achieve the next goal on my list. Whatever happens in the coming months and years I have an undoubted greater appreciation for the art form that is professional wrestling.

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