Coiré Mc Crystall catches up with wrestler Rockstar Spud to talk confidence, spandex and the allure of wrestling..
“Chief of Staff, get it right! Chief of Staff and the most well paid man in all of IMPACT wrestling,” Rockstar Spud introduces himself to me, matter-of-factly. In the wrestling business, a touch of self-promotion is to be expected – encouraged even. From Hulk Hogan to Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock to Shawn Michaels, the world of professional wrestling has always been a place filled with men with egos as large as their massive frames, and it’s this that makes Rockstar Spud such a curiosity in the industry. Standing at a decidedly un-Herculean 5ft 4inches, the self-proclaimed ‘Baby Jesus of British Wrestling’ is far from the mould of a wrestler. However, though Spud might not look like a typical pro-wrestler, what he lacks in size he makes up for in sheer self-belief.
After winning TNA’s ‘British Bootcamp’ – a reality series where British wrestlers fought for fans approval to win a contract with Total Nonstop Action wrestling, Spud has planted himself firmly on Thursday nights as a devious authority figure with a harsh case of Napoleon syndrome. But what possessed Spud to ever step into the ring to take on competitors who are sometimes more than twice his size?
“It was something I always loved as a kid, and it was always one of those things where, and I think every fan feels this when they watch wrestling, it’s not what you’re watching – it’s what it makes you feel. It made me love people, it made me hate people, it made me want to see people get beaten up, made me want to see someone win and that’s what got me into it. I always go back to like, Mr Miyagi in the Karate Kid when he point’s to Daniel-san’s head and says ‘Karate not here,’ points to his arms and limbs and says ‘Karate not here’ and points to his heart and says ‘Karate here.’ And that’s what wrestling is. Raw emotion.” Spud, like many other professional wrestlers and fans across the world, is taken by the romantic idea that men in spandex tights, pretending to fight each other to a scripted conclusion can break the barriers of reality and truly suspend your disbelief. “That’s what gets people to buy into it so much.”
There were few wrestlers who Spud could look and say ‘I could do that,’ but while towering musclebound men are the norm in wrestling, some competitors made for interesting exceptions – and inspirations for the young flyweight from Birmingham: “one of the biggest things to me was Spike Dudley. He was kind of ordinary. Same build as me. He was a little guy – who says that I can’t do this? He’s doing it! And then you look at TNA’s X division – the most phenomenal wrestlers in the world and you’re just like ‘Wow’.”
TNA’s X division definitely opened doors to a lot of western wrestling fans. Taking cues from the intense Mexican lucha libre and Japanese puroresu styles of wrestling the X division cherishes athleticism over size and skill over muscle. Focusing more on the lighter weight classes, this seemed like the perfect area for Spud to break in. “Everybody told me I couldn’t do it. Which made me want to do it more. They’d say ‘but your size is an issue’. But what is my biggest issue is also my biggest asset.” In an industry where emotion is everything, being able to portray such a believable underdog can set you apart: “I know who I am. I know what I am. I know what my limitations are. But I know how to accentuate them positively and I know how to portray them negatively.”
Rockstar Spud’s matches with British favourites such as Jonny Storm, Jody Fleisch and current WWE talent Adrian Neville are critically lauded; however his reception in TNA has been more focused by his wily tactics to avoid confrontation, much to the furore of the audience. When asked if he would trade the (ludicrously camp) suit and bow-tie in for wrestling tights in the near future Spud got a bit apprehensive. “Not if I can help it. Okay. Okay. Why would I want to put myself through physical harm when I’m getting very well paid to be the Chief of Staff? Why would I risk damaging my body, and my teeth and my face – my perfect face? That doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy getting in there and beating someone’s ass. I just don’t have to. And I get paid more not to.”
Rockstar Spud and the rest of the TNA roster will be appearing at the National Stadium for a live show on the 29th of January.