A Tale of Blood, Sweat and Elbow DropsMature

The 'tale' of one boy/mans journey from being shy, inward, and lonely, to becoming more outgoing, at ease, and ultimately happy. However this is no ordinary journey, and the price to pay was steep. This man believes it all could have been much more easy and painless to achieve the state of mind he now has. But where would the fun have been in that?

1st January 2006: The Billy Banks; WCWe Cage Arena, Penarth

~ I was lying in the grass, in the cold, wet mud. My bare chest was being soothed by the piercing cold, after the chops I'd just recieved. Farrell was carefully placing the NAW Heavyweight Championship belt back in it's case, blood seeping from his nose. I eventually got up, only a few people were here. Gruff, Rich, Rowley and Dave to be precise. I realised I couldn't lie there forever, dwelling on the fact that my big match with the legend Steve Farrell could have gone a lot better. So I got to my feet, my black t-shirt draped around me in tatters. The disappointment in how the match went soon became irrelevant, as I realised, regardless of how this particular match had gone, that it might be worth pushing myself with this wrestling thing. ~

It doesn't seem like much, but a silly little hobby like backyard wrestling turned into something that changed my life. It changes everyones I think. In different ways; for me, I ended up meeting a lot of people I never would have and became a pretty experienced traveller. Taking a 20 minute bus into Cardiff used to be the be all and end all for me. Going to England seemed like such an alien concept, yet since I found the UKBYW community I've probably travelled to and from there a hundred times, sometimes on my own. So where did it all start? 12 years ago would be a good guess, around 1997 when I began watching WWF on the weekends. At the time, noone I knew(or so I thought) liked wrestling and the general consensus in school was those that did, were sad, stupid or gay. Or all three.

I was living in England at this point, my Mum had remarried when I was about 8 and we moved away from Wales to live in small Wiltshire town Lark Hill. It was near Christmas on a cold day in '97 when me and my friends were playing football on the field outside our houses. Chris Marshall, Ben Guy, Jamie Guy, Martin Smiles, Dean Jones, Jonno Smiles and myself had practically finished the game, resorting to playfighting to decide a particular goal. Jonno randomly ran up to Chris, my best mate, and gave him a Stone Cold Stunner, everyone started laughing, going nuts and shouting 'Stunner!' in excitement and amusement. I asked them if they watched wrestling, the thought that my circle of friends might watch never occured to me. They said they had been watching RAW for a few weeks and loved Stone Cold. I told them I'd been a fan for quite a while and lent them a few old school VHS tapes.

Needless to say, we all went WWF mad for ages. It was around the time of Wrestlemania XIV that Dean suggested we start our own wrestling show. We all thought it was a great idea so we went scouting around Lark Hill for somewhere to hold our weekly shows. We settled on a little area in one of the nearby woods for our weekly shows and a nice grass patch next to a huge hill for supershows. Chris came up with the name Lark Hill Wrestling and we all loved it. How original. On one Saturday I made my way up to the woods and found that Jamie and Dean had cleared a square area of leaves, put up four poles and some flimsy string to form the ring. They'd even cleared a place for an imaginary announcer's table. It was all very exciting for a 9 year old and in our minds the first show was amazing, of course it was probably horrendous. The fun factor was immense though, so we didn't care about the minor details. We never thought to film our events, I don't know why, I had a perfectly good camera sitting at home. It would've been great if we had, watching those back today would be quite fun, more nostalgic than embarassing I'd like to think.

Fuelled by watching WWF every week we ran shows all the time, every week without fail we'd do a show and sometimes we'd do them every day. I became the LHW champion 3 times wrestling under the lame name Jake Bullitt. I suppose it's no better than Sand Dog though...I used a Sharpshooter/Anklelock variation which I called...The Shooter. Amazing I know. I had a really fun match against my best mate Chris Marshall, a submissions match for the title. We flippantly used every submission we knew and near the end we climbed up the big hill next to the woods. I tried going for the Shooter but he pushed me off and tackled me all the way down the steep hill. I really banged my head and neck hard on the way down, my first memory of actually getting hurt in a match. I ended up locking in the Shooter and winning the match. I would go another 9 years without ever losing by submission or giving up ever.

During the summer one day, things took a nasty turn. We had an event right into the evening, Chris was in a match with Martin who had put him in a figure four leg lock. He held it on tightly untill Chris tapped out, but didn't let go untill Chris started crying for real. They all seemed to think the more the real, the better the result. Everyone was laughing at Chris' expense and the whole thing upset me quite a bit. He tried fighting them off but in the end gave up and went home. Things were never the same with us all and we were never as close. The incident which shall not be named also spelled the end of LHW. It was shame as they were very good friends who I'd shared some great times with.

By the time we all went to high school, we went our separate ways, most of them going to boarding school, Chris moving away(I never saw him again) and me going to nearby Upper Avon high school. I found new friends there, more who were interested in wrestling. One of those people was portly, jolly Ashley Mountjoy and between us we formed Upper Avon Wrestling. I never lost in that fed, but then again I never had many matchs. We wrestled at lunchtimes and after a few months wrestling got 'banned'. Probably a good thing however, as I never found it any fun and people took it too seriously. Upon entering high school I entered a different world, with more vicious characters that was something of a shock from the nice, safe Lark Hill Primary. I remember a kid called Jason Spooner who broke his leg playing football, he was a first year and as he lay on the floor crying his eyes out, kids as old as 16 formed a big circle around him pointing, laughing and taunting. It was horrible and I had to start toughening up.

It wasn't untill late 2000, a year without wrestling, that I returned to the backyarding ways. Someone I vaguely knew, Gary Mead had started wrestling with some people just outside of school near the river. RiverSide Wrestling was about 20 minutes away from me and took place on the weekends. I had a bus pass and a stop(like most places I've lived) right outside my house, so whenever I'd catch the bus to RSW, it was always an excitement builder as I'd imagine things I could do in my matches. It was a wicked arena, had a great feel and atmosphere to it. Of course with it being right next to the river, noone could resist doing moves into it. I remember one time in which I keeled over laughing. Gary was wrestling some kid called The M. They were having a match for the RSW title, after a built up feud over a few months. I'd never really experienced a 'feud' or buildup in backyard wrestling by that point so it was quite fun to watch. The match ended with a spear into the river and The M went underwater, without resurfacing for what felt like a minute but in reality was probably only seconds. He burst back up gasping for air, stuck in the reeds shouting 'You dick! You tangled me in the reeds!' The look of shock and outrage on his face was priceless and we were all in tears. The M, whatever his real name was, eventually saw the funny side and laughed along himself.

I stayed in RSW untill the summer of '01, during which time I won the RSW title twice, but it was only to build the feud between Gary and The M and rack up their own individual wins. My Mum had broken up with my Stepdad at this point and we were preparing to move back to Wales. I was in two minds. Since high school started, I hadn't made many great friends and suffered a lot of bullying, so in a way I was glad to be gone. Yet the memories of the summers before and my old mates in Lark Hill were something I wanted to hold onto for as long as possible. Upon moving back to Wales I had pretty much no friends as I was out of school for 4 months. Except for a few that I remembered from when I used to live in good old Penarth. One of them was Richard Brace, a well known figure in the area. Maybe not for the right reasons but still, a legend in his own right. He also had a mild interest in wrestling and we formed WWF, Welsh Wrestling Federation. Again, absolute brilliance.

The first event we held was The Big Bad Bash at the Beach. It was held underneath a multi-storey carpark on the sandy beach of Penarth. Inside a steel cage no less. It was quite honestly a low point, the whole thing fell apart(the match, not the cage). It ended with me rolling up Brace on a razor wire bed. The structure itself was quite impressive considering it was on a beach, and we were like 12 or something. It was hell getting those cage panels down from this ledge the day before to move them again the next day. The excitement and building of the cage was a lot better than the match/s itself. Richard went up to Penarth pier and got some tomato ketchup to use for fake blood. We had a codeword for the cameraman to turn around whilst we applied it during our match. 'Who's the man?' It's actually so ridiculously laughable watching it back. At the end the camera is still on, and another Penarth legend, Carl Brace asked if there was ketchup left. We both replied 'no'. To which he vindictively shouted 'FUCK YOU'. I won the match becoming the first WWF champion. I then defended it against Carl and Richard didn't really film it properly so I called the event to an end. Carl turned around and said just as the camera turned off - 'We were gonna do a fall through, you FUCKING CUN' - at which point the camera cuts to me saying, 'That's it, it's a complete disaster.'

We even took the fed into France that summer when me and Richard went on holiday, taking my plastic title belt with us. Some French kid won the title off me and I then won it back the following day. Funnily enough, I remember two girls we fancied were flirting with us on the camp site, and we both agreed on which ones we liked. We then spoke to their little brother who spoke some English and he confirmed that they fancied the opposite, bummer. Richard also got a bucket of hot water in his face for his troubles. It was a great holiday, with many evenings spent swimming in the river and taking our Frisbee/Badminton hybrid game far into the night. Richard refused to lose and was very competitive, so my Dad came to referee and I beat him again, causing the poor sod to storm off in a strop. Not the last time either, as we put on a match for my Dad and some others from the family, and he started hitting me for real, his competitiveness spiralling out of control. So I ducked a punch and put the Tazmission hold on him and really applied the pressure for a few seconds. He went nuts and began pounding the hell out of me, but I blocked most of it. He then stormed off in anger saying he was 'walking home' as the guys roared with laughter.

Back in Wales we had a few shows on the big front lawn at the Kymin looking over the beach by my Nan's house where I was living at the time, I can't find those shows anymore which is sad, I can't honestly remember what happened. I do remember Richard once stiffing me though, so I let loose on him with a baseball bat(a rubbery one). My Nan saw from the window and told me off for that one. After getting overzealous on more than one occasion, we decided to stop being teenage idiots and stopped wrestling.

In early 2003, I started to watch a bit of wrestling again after discovering the UKBYW community and we restarted it up again. After about 6 months of weekly shows in the Brace's backyard, with the same matches all the time it all ended at the end of 2003 at 'Armageddon'. Neil Brace was the Intercontinental Champion and The Chef(Carl) was the WWF champion. We had a big(little...tiny really) tournament and in the end I won the WWF championship for the 3rd and final time. I hurt my back slightly after getting knocked off the 6 foot wall in the Brace's backyard.

We reunited WWF for one day only in March 2004 as I took on Richard again in a 'Welsh Death Match'. The rules being 1st fall: submission, 2nd fall: falls anywhere and 3rd fall: last man standing. After a gruelling(lol) 40 minute encounter which saw me fly off the wall again and land awkwardly my back, the match ended in a double knockout. For some laughable reason, Richard died at the end. My wrestling days were over and I all but forgot about it as I started pursuing filmaking as my main hobby. It would take a picture on the UKBYW forum to get me back into actively wrestling again...

 

 

 

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