How ordinary South Yorkshire men don spandex and become real wrestlers
It is easy to see why millions of fans across the world love championship wrestling.
You have the drama of the fan favourite pitted against the pantomime villain, an astonishing array of acrobatic fighting moves and all of the flamboyance and fanfare of the crowd.
But what makes ordinary members of the public decide to don spandex, step inside a ring and take punishment all for the benefit of a baying crowd?
For Rotherham-based wrestler and promoter Brad ‘Flash’ Taylor the reason to get in the ring is simple - just for the thrill of it.
He said: “I remember my debut, in front of 2000 fans at Haven Holiday Park in Cleethorpes, they were cheering my name even before I went out of the curtain. I love how you can control people’s emotions, how you can go from someone hating you to someone chanting your name and rooting for you.”
The 24-year-old Swinton man and his wrestling co-stars have been wowing crowds across the country for the last decade through his touring company, Megaslam Wrestling.
One of Brad’s young stars, Robbie Mckenzie, of Goldthorpe in Barnsley, recently became the youngest holder of the Megaslam Championship title at age 17 and retailed it by defeating CJ Banks at the Doncaster Dome last month. He will take to the ring alongside a whole host of other wrestling stars from across the world at Megaslam’s next show at Rotherham’s New York Stadium on Friday, March 25.
For Robbie, AKA Caelan Taylor Mckenzie, the high-octane thrill of the wrestling ring is a far cry from his ‘day job’ as a sixth form student at Wath Comprehensive School in Rotherham,
He explained how he has always loved wrestling but when he started grappling more and more with his brother in their garden, he knew the time had come to do it for real, and so his journey from campus to canvas began.
He said: “It’s a miracle neither of us ever got hurt! I found an advert on Gumtree for Megaslam Wrestling, contacted Brad, and before I knew it I was throwing myself around, getting acquainted with the art of professional wrestling. Everything about wrestling makes my heart race. It makes everything we as performers do worthwhile, even if it comes with concussions and getting out of bed like an old man at 17 years old.”
Brad formed Megaslam Wrestling several years ago after being enthralled by watching American stars such as Hulk Hogan and The Rock on TV. He never saw himself doing anything else - even when school classmates doubted he would make it. He said: “My dream was always to make a living from wrestling and for the past six years I have. It’s great to prove everyone wrong.”
Megaslam is now ranked as the second biggest wrestling company in Europe and 2015 proved to be their busiest year, which saw them thrill the crowds at 250 shows nationwide. But it has been a rocky road to the top.
Said Brad: “In 2011 we presented a show in Barnsley and nine people attended, I really thought about packing the dream in. But after a few months of thinking I decided to take a risk and book bigger venues around the UK and it worked wonders. At Camber Sands, a Pontins Holiday Park near Hastings, we attracted 3,000 plus to the show.”
They also appeared on Britain’s Got Talent last year, and while they didn’t progress to the final stages, judge Simon Cowell told them: “I enjoyed that, I like wrestling.”
Despite rising to the top level in European wrestling, Brad has also had to pay a personal price for following his dream. He was recently forced to retire from the ring due to injuries.
“People say to us ‘it must be fake, as you are not hurting’ but the adrenaline takes the pain away. It is the morning after when the pain comes.”
He added that despite accusations from naysayers that wrestling matches are faked, it is a dangerous sport in which participants can get badly hurt.
Said Brad: “A full 100 per cent of the in ring action is very real. I have been in the job for 10 years and my body should not be how it is at 24. You cannot ‘fake’ picking someone up and giving them a body slam to a wooden floored ring.”
While Brad’s time in the ring may be over, he is unleashing a new generation of wrestlers on the UK as Megaslam Wrestling plans 300 shows this year. One of Brad’s other wrestlers ‘The Mexican Sensation’ El Ligero, originally from Tijuana, is now helping trainees at the recently-launched Megaslam wrestling academy at Adwick Leisure Centre in Doncaster. Visit www.megaslamwrestling.co.uk