UK Wrestling Scene Interviews

Gary Graham Interview

Wrestle-Zone Wrestling is one of the newest promotions to hit the UK Scene in the past year, with some successful shows under his belt, I had the opportunity to catch up with the Co-Owner Gary Graham, and put some questions to him.

Wrestle-Zone Wrestling is one of the newest promotions to hit the UK Scene in the past year, with some successful shows under his belt, I had the opportunity to catch up with the Co-Owner Gary Graham, and put some questions to him.

Can you tell us how wZw came about?

Back in May last year I was checking out the local promotions latest offering, in Newcastle and I knew a few of the lads from previous shows I had attended. Anyway this was the 4th IWF show I had seen and the audience was really low, I mean really bad attendance figures. This shocked me somewhat as some of the talent on offer was pretty good. At this point I thought about promoting a show of my own, because basically I thought I could do better and put on a show not just several wrestling matches. Carl Turner (General Trent Steel) was becoming a good mate and was on the show, this was to be his last show for the IWF as he bled a little on the show. He never cleared it with the promoter and basically got fired. I ran an interview with Carl, about this and the owner’s son made threats of violence if I attended anymore of their shows. Carl and myself met up one night and we discussed the possibility of building our own promotion. We devised our own business plan, managed to get a pretty decent budget together and decided to hold our first show in November last year.

So you have been promoting wZw for well over a year now, in that time you have promoted several shows, could you just give us some background on these shows?

The first show was the most stressful; we had a lot of trouble from the IWF at the start, which I suppose was their way of showing they were feared of the competition. They ripped down posters in the venue and were caught, even when the centre warned them they, still continued. Then we discovered they had booked a show two weeks before us in the same venue. Basically the centre’s manager did not care that two promotions were running two shows in two weeks of each other. We put in a mighty complaint against the centre to the city council and we were not amused. We were close to pulling the plug on the show, but we invested a lot of money so far and decided to ride it out. The IWF cancelled the show a week before it was meant to happen due to a bereavement.

We had a film crew following us for the days leading up to the show, mainly covering my agoraphobia and how I was dealing with the stress of promoting. To be honest if it was not for Carl, I would have cracked up; people have no idea of the stress of promoting. There is no fun it what so ever. The first show was awesome, we pulled 230 people a lot less than we hoped and needed to be honest to pull back some of the funds. The show was awesome and the crowd loved it.

The next show we held in South Shields, we thought we would try an afternoon show, keep ticket prices really low and see what happened, we drew pretty poor really about 170, this time we broke even. The show was a lot easier to promote and more fun.

Next show was the Monday Night Mayhem in Middlesborough, this was the poorest promoted show we have done and it showed in the attendance of about 130. This was our point of realisation that there is no money in pro wrestling and a realisation that we loved what we were doing and that’s what was driving us forward. The fans loved the show and we have had some great feedback from people who attended we will be back their early next year.

Our latest show, I say latest (Non Free Admission Show) was Worlds Collide in Whitley Bay, this was a tremendous event for us in many ways, we knew what had to be done to promote it successfully. There is a funny story (not at the time). The ring broke just before we were due to start letting people in. I had to rush out and drive to the local B&Q about 6 miles for some strapping. Before I went I got the ticket sales and security to open the doors and start letting people in. As I drove out of the car park, there was a queue stretching out of the car park. I was amazed to say the least. On my way back, the phone rang and it was the ticket seller. “The place is almost full and a coach has just pulled up.” I thought she was winding me up. I got back to the venue and the place was full, people were standing. This was the warmest feeling I had whilst promoting wrestling. I fixed the ring and went backstage told everyone that we had a full house and the buzz was great. We like to have crowd control barriers around the ring, to protect the crowd and it gives the wrestlers a barrier not to cross. Insurance is hard to get nowadays, due to wrestlers falling into the crowd and hurting the public. This show was a test show for us as, we had an Ultra Violent match for the main event. This was made clear on posters and advertisement and before the match it was also announced that it could get gruesome, I also explained that they were trained athletes and knew what they were doing. The match was a “4 corners of hell” match; it involved 4 weapons placed in the corners of the ring two high above the ring on poles. We had 2,000 thumbtacks, a cuddly toy (a staple gun hidden inside), a bin full of weapons and a steel chair. This match was awesome and the crowd loved it. The card was filled with 10 matches; we had a live band, a hired in set and lighting show and some pyro’s. All the matches worked well and the wrestlers loved it as much as the fans.

What made you get into the whole promoting business when it’s notoriously hard and with very little rewards?

I love wrestling. That’s the only answer; it’s like a bug to me now. The money well its not there, if it was about money well wZw would have died after the first show. Carl and myself both have one goal and know one day we will be full time paid employees of wZw. Until we have a full structured company we don’t want to make money, we want a great promotion. That’s the goal and ambition we have. Every penny we make goes straight back into the promotion, that’s what makes us special and the thing is the wrestlers/trainees see that. Earlier I explained how I got into starting wZw. Our wife’s think we are mad, why spend so much time on something and get nothing out of it. The thing is our rewards might not be financial but seeing a happy crowd attend one of our shows gives you a buzz like nothing else…

As you said your most successful show to date ” World Collide” was a sell out, what would you put this success down to?

Hard work and most importantly Teamwork. Being a promoter means you have to learn how to delegate, in the past it’s always been down to Carl and me to everything that needs to be done. This time we distributed the workload. We had a massive flyering team and postering team. Made sure everyone within 3 miles of Whitley Bay knew about the show. Success is something that can’t be done over night, we had 3 previous shows all done different and we had to learn from each what to do and what not to do. Only thing is now we have to follow that up next time. Ohhh the video comes out on Friday 7th November, with some Ultra Violence Cellar action. Details can be found here.

Its fair to say that you are a successful wrestling promoter, but what advice would you give to any budding promoter who’d like to hold a wrestling event of their own?

My advice is listen to what other promoters say! Anyone can promote a show. If you’re doing it to make money, then you are not very intelligent and it’s not going to happen. Make sure you have a fool proof business plan and the most important rule is make sure your budget is enough to pay everyone that you owe money to. Work on the principle that no one will walk through the doors to see your show. If you don’t have enough money, you can end up in court and sent to prison. Also make sure you have FULL public liability insurance for the show. I know a lot of promotions don’t and they can get away with it. In a culture of suing anyone and everyone it’s a must. Promoting is not easy; there is nothing but stress and anxiety. One thing I have learnt is don’t trust anyone and make sure you cover your back on every event.

Your promotion has had BCW stars appear on your events, what is the relationship between wZw and BCW?

wZw and BCW, well Colin McKay is an awesome guy and a great promoter and wrestler, he knows the business and has had similar problems to us in Scotland. The idea of us working together gives both of our rosters more of a chance to work with different people and get over with crowds in Scotland and England. Both of our rosters are good and get along with no problems at all. Having a large pool of wrestlers we can work together and share and give the fans the best shows available. Who knows next year we might see a jointly promoted show, maybe even a super show of sorts in Scotland and England bringing in maybe one or two US stars.

With yourself, IWF and new wrestling federation promised in 2004 called X- Wrestling, The North East of England seems to be slowly following the trend of most UK regions as establishing itself as a part of the UK Wrestling scene, what are your thoughts on the competition?

I don’t mind competition even though I feel we don’t have any, IWF run totally different shows than we do. We are separate companies and have separate agenda’s. X Wrestling, I can’t see how it can be run effectively or efficiently if you look at the talent line up and the costs involved you are talking tens of thousands of pounds, there is no market for that sort of show. I would love to be proved wrong on this.

Do you think it’s important for the UK Scene to have competition, or would it be better off for several promotions to “group” together and promote shows?

To many promotions is a bad thing only if they are running poor shows, you have a show full of wrestlers who look like they have just stepped out of the crowd, that to me is not good, we were guilty of that I hold my hands up and admit it. Now after many consultations with other promoters and wrestlers from the UK, Europe and the US, it’s in our interests for the wrestlers to look like wrestlers. Competition is good like I said if the shows are run well and the fans like them. If you run a bad show fans tend to tar it all with the same brush, that’s what we have encountered here in the North East, more because of the Tribute shows rather than other promotions.

You and your promotions seem to be dedicated to delivering training to the North East, could you explain what facilities you have, and why is this so important to wZw?

Good quality training is hard to come by here in the North East, our main sessions are 5 hours in Newcastle, we have a full sized 16foot wrestling ring, full matted area and a specially designed crash mat specifically made for wrestling. The centre has a separate dining area, kitchen, changing rooms, secure car park, obviously the large hall and a conference room, which doubles up as a locker room for the free admission shows we run every 6 weeks or so. Training our own guys in a ring every week helps develop a wrestler. You look round the UK and 90% of schools the trainees will not have been in a ring until the day they are on a show. This to us is shocking and very dangerous; the wrestling ring is a dangerous place and is nothing like wrestling on mats. We have video clips on the website of some of the trainees who had never done any wrestling before and the transformation is amazing. The training that’s offered by Carl, Iceman and Spitfire are turning both kids and men into fully-fledged wrestlers. I pledge this time next year you will have seen or known many of our trainees in different shows across the UK. We also run cheap 2-hour sessions in North Shields and Thornaby in the leisure centres. This is all mat based wrestling, working on moves set, mat moves, in ring psychology, various holds and throws. The classes in the centres are small, we have not had the funds to advertise the sessions fully yet.

Iceman is a key part of the wZw roster, and he recently appeared on a show promoting a Backyard Wrestling video game with some other stars of the UK Scene. The show was criticised by many people for promoting Backyard Wrestling, what would you say to that?

It was criticised by Internet marks and wZw/FWA haters. Iceman was paid a lot of money to wrestle in a pure Ultra Violence match with his own person Idol Mad Man Pondo. He was slated for doing this. He is a wrestler, he was getting paid to wrestle at a massive games launch in London, and all expenses paid hotel the works. The game is called BYW – Don’t Try This at Home. Listen to the last part of that “DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME” need I say more.

What would your advice as a promoter be to anyone who is currently involved in Backyard Wrestling?

I used to think Backyard Wrestling was the cancer of wrestling, but after watching that documentary on C4 the other week, now I realise its nothing but kids trying to be clever. Its all bull sh** really. These kids I would like to hope would have the sense not to do it, but there is no way we can stop it. The more fuss we make the more publicity we give it, that’s a bad move. We have “EX Backyard Wrestler’s” training with us. I emphasis “EX”. They grew out of it and wanted to learn how to wrestle in a safe, controlled environment. Now that’s what they are doing and one day will become great wrestlers.

Your promotion has now hosted one training weekend with FWA’s Mark Sloan and there is an impending training weekend with Alex Shane, are there any plans to have any more FWA talent appear on a wZw shows?

Currently we are working with various people from the FWA running seminars, the next one is in the middle of this month, with Alex Shane (Details at As for shows, we are still fairly small and we still have a long way to go before I feel we are ready to have FWA stars on our card. Next year is our year and expect to see big names booked on the shows. In January we have booked the mighty UK Pitbulls for the “Aftermath” show in Consett, County Durham. Next year we hope to have Mark Sloan back up for another seminar.

The UK Wrestling Scene is establishing itself in its own right, but whom would you say is currently the best talent from our shores at the moment?

To be honest, I have not seen all the talent so it would be unfair for me to say. The UK has a massive pool of talent and as long as everyone is happy doing what they are doing then it’s all-good. We are always looking out for new guys.

Are there any plans to bring any other UK grapplers to wZw from around the UK’s promotions?

Why not, that’s what I say. So far we have had FWA, The Garage, BCW, UKWA, TWA wrestlers on the card. I want us to work closer with loads of promotions and hopefully bring more to the fans of the North and send more of our lads around the country to work for other promotions.

Are there any plans to have any overseas talent appear on wZw show, and if you could have anyone who would you have out of the current free agents at the moment?

Next year, we are hoping to have a BIG show, we will be bringing some big names into wZw for both a seminar and to wrestle on the show. I am not going to give anything away just yet. Watch this space…

Are they any plans to tour or promote shows anywhere else, or are you always going to stay local?

Next year we are going to be promoting all over the North Of England, to the Scottish Borders, Across to Cumbria down to Yorkshire and across to Blackpool. Our aim is to conquer the North first, then maybe 2005/2006 we will attempt to make waves around the UK, we have also been looking into 3 dates late next year in Germany.

In order for the UK Scene to continue and advance in its success, what do you think superstars and promoters need to do?

I think more wrestlers need to look like wrestlers, stop the “spot festing” and work more on match psychology, the current problem I am finding after visiting shows and watching tapes is that wrestlers are forgetting there is a crowd there to be entertained. Most of the crowd are not there because it’s wrestling, they come to see a show and want to be entertained. That’s the job of the wrestler in the ring. Promoters need to stop bitching and complaining, myself included. If some spent as much time and effort on there own promotion than on trying to destroy others, I am sure there would be some great companies out there.

Your next show is part of the Nu Breed Training division, could you give us some details of the show and what to expect?

The next show is called Crash Landings and will be after the Alex Shane weekend, Sunday 16th November at the Ray Gray Community Centre. This will be a free show. We are hoping to put most of the weekend trainees on the show in some form. A lot of the outside wZw bookings are from already trained wrestlers who want to learn a little bit. Back to the show, the card has not been booked yet. But an exclusive here, I am hearing that a ladder match will be booked for the show, Iceman Vs Iain “The Northern Xpress” Robinson for the Xtreme title. The academy shows are ran just like the paid shows, except we use more trainees mixed with the roster. Great shows like the Worlds Collide show help pay for these free shows, because as everyone knows there is no such thing as free, someone has to pay for it. We do and we don’t mind. This is not about money this is about giving something back to the trainees and the community.

Do you have any plans for any future shows in 2004?

Yes we are anticipating a busy, busy year. Our first show of 2004 will be in January; its called Aftermath at the Trades Night Club, Consett, County Durham, this show will be on Monday 19th January. We will be returning to Whitley Bay, Middlesborough and Newcastle too. New venues have been sorted in Carlisle, Newcastle, South Tyneside, Stanley, Gateshead, North Tyneside, and Blyth. Dates will be released in January, when we should have details of our first 6 months line up. Of course we will continue with the free shows every 6 weeks or so and hopefully take them to other parts of the community too. Next year is going to be a busy year for us and hopefully will put us in the top 3 of UK promotions. You never know you might see wZw on the TV in spring next year.

What can we expect from wZw in the future years?

The Future is bright for us, we continue to grow and continue to invest in our trainees, new equipment, better facilities and more to make wZw shows more exciting and fan friendly. After all it’s not about a ring and wrestlers any more people want to be entertained, people want to see a show. Here at wZw, Carl and myself aim to bring that. It’s going to take time, but we are not in a rush. In our 5-year business plan/forecast we aim to have our shows on the road 7 days a week, all over the UK using every wrestler the UK has to offer. Employing 3/4 teams of riggers and staff setting up venues, postering, and flyering all over. We have to look to the future and keep our goals within reach, we are on track with what we set out and our business advisers are happy with the progress.

Any final comments?

Final comments, first check out the wZw website –, secondly purchase some of the video’s and thirdly come check out a wZw show, we are not the WWE, but hey who would want to be at the moment. Ohhhh yes, thanks for reading this, you can go for a pee now.

Thank for your time Gary.


(Questions supplied by myself & Goldy)