by Dr Debonair, Esq.
Over the past year, you’ve appeared at major promotions up and down the United Kingdom, across Europe and in the US. How did a wrestler from Wales become recognised as one of the most innovative high flyers to come out of the UK?
Wales has had a very small wrestling scene over the last 10 years, compared to the likes of England and Scotland, so when I couldn’t find regular work in just Wales alone, it motivated me to travel to shows as much as possible. This became a regular thing even when I had just started training, and I would travel to Kent for week long camps with NWA Hammerlock to learn from the likes of Zack Sabre Jr and John Ryan.
When you start travelling around for different training sessions and shows, you start networking, so the contacts I made in Kent at those training camps, would years later become the people who got me booked in countries like Spain and Germany, which led to more exposure around Europe.
Not only are you a wrestler, you’re also behind the successful Attack! Wrestling. How did you get involved in that and has this given you a greater appreciation for the business?
ATTACK! was actually founded by two of my close friends, Pete Dunne and Jim Lee. I was heavily involved in every show they put on, but after a year or so, Jim had to step down from promoting due to other commitments. At this point I wanted to run a show in my hometown of Cardiff, because my friends and family were constantly asking when my next local show was, but at the time there were no local shows. This progressed into me co-promoting the promotion with Pete, as we started running our Cardiff venue semi regularly, which is now our main venue for shows.
As if being a wrestler and promoter isn’t enough, you’re also behind the Defend Indy concept. How did that come about and did you expect it to have the impact that it has had?
DEFEND Indy Wrestling was something that I started with Pete (Dunne) and Eddie (Dennis) about 2 years ago. We’re all massive fans of Pop Punk/Hardcore music, and we started to get frustrated with the limitations that the wrestling scene seemed to have compared to the subculture scenes of the music industry. At the time, it was very rare to see a clothing brand based on not only professional wrestling, but independent wrestling.
We had a lot of stick from people when we started the clothing range, but it seems to be a common trend for some people in the wrestling community to disregard ideas out of their comfort zone, which we discovered when building both the DEFEND clothing brand, and as we executed more “out of the box” ideas with the ATTACK! Pro promotion.
I definitely think we’ve turned a lot of heads over the last two or so years. There seem to be a lot more clothing brands amongst the British wrestling scene now than there was when we started, which means people have accepted that it can in fact be a productive idea, and it’s now more accepted by the ones who were once critics.
We’ve also built a strong following in America, which is incredibly rewarding, as I think it shows awareness that there is in fact a wrestling scene in the UK.
DEFEND hasn’t stopped growing since we started, and I plan for it to continue to grow for as long as possible!
Winning the first Natural Progression Series at Progress,then the Progress Staff and challenging Havoc at Chapter 13 for the title garnered a huge reaction from the crowd. Considering how vocal the crowd can be, how does it feel to get such a positive response to what you’re doing and were you nervous about their response?
It’s always incredible wrestling in front of the PROGRESS fans. I used to get quite nervous before performing at PROGRESS, but over the last year or so, it’s been more and more comfortable every time. I feel like there’s a strong communal feel at the shows, and being a part of that is quite comforting when you’re wrestling in front of 400-700 people. It definitely helps lose any nerves I would have had before I became a regular roster member.
You’ve faced heavy hitters like Tommy End at Southside and Rampage Brown at Progress. How does it feel being a much smaller guy in the ring facing guys that size and still remaining a credible challenger in the ring?
Being in the ring with much larger opponents always reinforces my mentality that I take the role as the underdog. It’s obvious I’m gonna get thrown around and beaten up a load, but it allows me to take more risks and most of the time see bigger pay offs, as that’s that only way I’ll be able to be credible in the ring with those much bigger than me.
Doing what you do, there’s no doubt that you’ve come away with more than a bruise or two. What kind of injuries have you suffered in the ring and what keeps you going?
I’m fortunate enough to not have any serious injuries as of yet (touch wood). I’ve had a few slight concussions, and a few stitches in my shoulder one time, but other than that just a few bumps and bruises over the years.
Recently, a well-known female wrestler made comments about the versatility of two of the UK’s best. You’re known for the high flying style of wrestling, do you think that high fliers have difficulties evolving or performing in more technical matches?
It all depends on the wrestler. Personally, I feel that over the years I’ve been letterboxed as a highflying wrestler, as I’m booked on shows because of my athletic or acrobatic ability. However, I’d love to be in a match where I could chain wrestle for 30 minutes, which was the basis of my training when I started wrestling.
People often assume that what they see from performers in the ring is the full extent of their ability, when in reality, there are probably a fair few 300lbs+ guys who are able to hit top rope moonsaults, highflying gymnastic wrestlers who can chain wrestle for hours, and gimmick based performers who could put on a 60 minute wrestling clinic, if they were ever asked to, or felt the need to.
The UK scene has a number of high fliers, including a whole generation coming through training schools. How do you stand out and what advice would you give to the new guys?
I’ve been told from my peers that what makes me stand out from other young high fliers, is my ability to gain sympathy from a crowd.
My advice to any aspiring wrestlers, whether they be my size and wrestling style, or completely the opposite, would be to stay as open minded as possible. It’s so easy to become impressionable to your trainers, peers, and those above you in the wrestling industry. In my opinion, you should listen to every bit of advice given to you, but make a concious effort to choose which advice applies to you.
I also think that as a newcomer in wrestling, you shouldn’t try and base your image, character, or wrestling style completely on others. Take inspiration from others, but don’t be the second best version of someone else, be the best version of something new.
Most wrestlers have a job aside from wrestling or, like yourself, went to University. How did you balance this, along with the time in the gym, training, travelling and performing at shows?
When I was in University, I found it quite easy to balance. My lecturers knew that I wrestled most weekends outside of University, so would always understand if I had to leave classes early or skip weeks at a time for European trips.
For the last 3 years i’ve constantly had more on my to do list than I can handle, but I’d much rather live like that than not have enough to keep me busy. Sometimes I end up neglecting certain projects I’ve started, and juggling different projects can become stressful, but it’s definitely a lot of fun.
Things have however become a lot easier since I graduated last Summer. I even have enough time to play gigs with my band, something must be going right!
Being as well travelled as you are, what separates the best and worst promotions and how do you know who to avoid? Have you ever turned up at a promotion and regretted it?
The best promotions are the ones that look after you outside the ring. As a wrestler, you learn how to protect yourself as much as possible inside the ring, but there are only a few places you can work who treat you well backstage.
It’s always a total pleasure working for the likes of NWE in Italy, PROGRESS, and Dreamwave Wrestling in Chicago who supply you with expenses such as bottled water, energy drinks, catering and accommodation when you’re working for them.
It’s always nice getting any perk from a wrestling show, whether it be a free shirt or DVD, or a bottle of water. I think these nice gestures motivate their performers to try even harder in the ring.
Having spread your wings beyond Great Britain, what’s the reception to the new generation of British wrestlers out of the UK?
When I travelled around America with Pete Dunne, we had a great reception for the British style of wrestling at most places we went. AIW in Ohio and Wrestling is Cool in Philadelphia were especially impressed with our style of chain wrestling.
Europe seems to be a bit more familiar with the British style, but I definitely think the UK has some of the top talent in the world at the moment, and all we need is a platform to give our country the exposure it deserves.
Following the positive feedback to BBC Scotland’s Insane Fight Club, about the Scotland-based Insane Championship Wrestling, and the reception of British wrestling on Challenge, do you think that British wrestling is ready to shake off the portrayal usually given to it by the media?
The Insane Fight Club documentary was fantastic. I think it greatly helped the awareness of the British wrestling scene. Any TV time is positive for our little scene, and I think it’s great that there’s a weekly show on Challenge reminding people that the British indys exist.
Hopefully this will keep growing and eventually there will be a big enough platform to gain British wrestlers and promotions enough exposure outside of our country to push us to the next level.
Mark can be found on Twitter @MantotheDrews
White Lightning Mark Andrews can be found on Facebook
His band, Junior, are also on Facebook
Our thanks to Mark Andrews for his time to conduct this interview and also thanks to Dr Debonair, Esq for contributing it to the Wrestle Ropes website.
Special thanks to Southside Wrestling & PROGRESS Wrestling for the use of their images in the article.