This week I had the opportunity to catch up with one of the UK’s leading light heavyweight superstars Darren “Tex” Benedict.
Hi Darren, Welcome to Wrestling101, how are you?
I’m very well thank you. It’s a pleasure to be here, and an honour to be interviewed.
To kick us off, can you tell us what you have got up to lately?
Wrestling wise, I have been very busy. I have worked for a number of different independent promotions in the UK over the last few months including RBW, UKWA, UKPW, CSF, BCW and TNT.
Why and how did you get involved with the Pro Wrestling Industry?
I like most of the pros on the circuit today have been a fan of the old WWF for many years when I was young. Probably since I was 5 or 6. I still to this very day consider myself to be very knowledgeable on all goings on of the WWF pre – 2000 era. LOL.
I was reading power slam and saw an advert for Hammerlock wrestling school, and decided that I should try it out – I never took part in any type of “backhanding “ as I didn’t feel the need to practise something before I knew how to perform it properly. I went to hammerlock in 97 and it was an amazing experience. Justin Richards and Paul Travel were the guest trainers on the weekend, and I can honestly say I sucked for the first 2 days – worse than any others at the camp. Yet something weird happened, as I seemed to click and after the third day of the camp I began to get everything right and really improved a lot. This led me to be given one of two “spots” on the end of camp show. This was my ill-fated debut – in which I was in a 2 on 1 match against Sebastian P Sterling and the ring broke before our match so we had to have a 1-minute squash match – what a great debut!!
I stayed with hammerlock for a year or so – making a few rare rumble appearances and then left.
From there I carried on my training in Harrow with a complete fraud named Steve Lee Curtis. He claimed to be a former British lightweight champion in 1987, and to be honest – he was crap – within 2 weeks, me and a friend of mine who wrestled as the Silver Bullet (Darren Levy) took over his school and successfully ran it for around 6- 8 months. Although not many people turned up, as there was no advertising etc, my skills improved no end, as Darren has many years of experience and we worked very well together.
The school shut down when finances ran out – and there was no way I was going to put my own money behind a fraud – so I heard about FWA London school and went down to train at the Sobel Centre. This was a great place to train – and Alex Shane and Dino Scarlo led it.
How did you feel when the FWA Training School closed?
From a personal view, I didn’t learn a great deal at the training school. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying that the teaching was bad – as it was fantastic – but what they were teaching was basic foundation stuff – in fact, on numerous occasions, Alex asked me to take the training. I have a good background in coaching kids (for football as well as other sports), and I found this to be a natural progression. So as well as learning bits and bobs, I also got to help teach many of the young trainees that the FWA had during this time.
When the school closed it was kind of a foreseen event, as we had moved premises to a really shoddy industrial estate. The landlord was a complete t**t and the environment was dodgy to say the least. I was at this time taking most of the sessions at Manor House (New premises) and was thriving as a worker myself.
It was also at this time when Hade Vansen, Cruiz, Stixx and Ross Jordan all were brought in to make their FWA debuts. Mine never came – Why? Well my size had something to do with it, as did my want to help with the training side of things – I guess I saw myself as the next “Sarge” from the WCW power plant (not that I’m comparing myself to him). I was never really given an opportunity that the others mentioned had.
When the school closed, I guess for me – it didn’t mean too much. Yes it was a shame that there was no longer going to be an FWA London base, but at the same time – personally (and perhaps selfishly) – I was not given any opportunities so I was not leaving anything behind
You have been given the nickname “Mr. Tradition” because of your wrestling style, do you think it is important for wrestlers to go “Back to Basics” in regards to their wrestling style as well as be innovative with highflying moves?
My training styles are very much traditional. Whilst I look at a worker such as Robbie Brookside and Drew MacDonald, who are the epitome of tradition, my tradition is more of a back to basics type. I strongly believe in being able to master the basics as apposed to the flashy stuff.
In terms of my wrestling style, I am very traditional, yet I also mix it up with some highflying stuff and innovative offence. My Mr Tradition moniker is one that I honestly portray more when I train other people, than when I wrestle. I will teach a bump with more heart than a moonsault, and I will teach a wrist lock more times than anything flashy move – as from a personal point of view – you can put a wristlock on any professional wrestler at any time – yet can you imagine a guy randomly moonsaulting on top of you – it just would be completely irrational.
Wrestling has a basic psychology that a match should tell a story – if a fan leaves a show not understanding this story – then you have in essence failed in your work that evening – yes you will still get paid – but you’ve failed. Psychology these days, in terms of fans on the Internet is seen as “old school” and traditional. However many of them do not realise that what the top UK guys of today are doing (not including the high flyers, such as Johnny Storm and Jodie) is exactly the same as the wrestlers of old – the styles haven’t changed all that much. Whilst the business has become “smarter” the fans haven’t adjusted at the same rate – whether they are behind or in front, I’m not sure.
You are currently one of the trainers at the Dropkixx Wrestling School, how did this come about?
I’m not actually part of Dropkixx School any more. I did used to be the head trainer for about a year and a half and 100% enjoyed and respected the school. I still respect what Dropkixx stands for and would not hesitate sending anyone to train there.
My being one of the trainer came about as a result of my successful stint training at and for the FWA London School. I guess I was a stand out student and Frank Rimer asked me to help out with training. Frank is the owner of Dropkixx and has some back injuries that prevent him from training the kids as he once could – Frank and me get on very well and thing just blossomed into a working relationship for a year and a half.
I stopped training at the school for private reasons that will not be discussed, but I am confident in the fact that the school has moved on to bigger and better things. They have had some fantastic guest trainers there including Bobby Barnes, Vince Randall and current stars such as Doug Williams, Flash Barker, Stevie knight and of course Alex Shane.
The school is in more than capable hands, with Darren Baxter Burridge doing most of the teaching. Burridge is one of the hardest working young stars in the game today and is an excellent trainer.
How does it feel training some of the UK newest wrestling talent?
The feeling that I get whenever I see any worker that I have had some part in training is pride. I am proud that that person has made it to whatever level they are at. I am proud that they are doing things the right way. Pride is an emotion that is very seldom seen in wrestling. I see pride when certain promoter’s care about their shows – for example Colin McKay, of BCW has enormous pride about the work that BCW does. And I also see pride when certain wrestlers talk about wrestling, such as Five Star Flash. But if more people actually had pride in what they taught, and did in the ring – then wrestling would be none the worse off.
But back to the question some of the talent that I have trained (helped train), including future FWA star Joe Riot, most of the future Dropkixx stars and up and coming independent stars such as Kris Linell, Scott Frasier and Flaming Red Stroodle. I have had the privilege, and it really was my privilege, to give each of these four guys a break of some sorts, by introducing them to promoters or just giving them a hell of a match. And I truly believe that all of these guys will surpass anything I achieve in wrestling.
You have worked for various promotions over your career in the UK, which have been your favourite to work for?
My favourite promotion to work for – in terms of production values is CSF, which is run by Stu Natt in Melksham. He delivers a good show for a usually packed house each and every time I work for him.
In terms of backstage atmosphere – I would site BCW as being my favourite promotion to work for. They have experienced guys such as Spinner McKenzie, Carl Conroy and Stevie Knight – as well as young guys who have a want to learn and have fun.
In terms of learning and lessons being taught, I would say that it all depends on who is in the locker room with you at the time. Robbie Brookside taught me a lot without even knowing it, just by acting the correct way backstage, as has other experienced guys like Phil Powers, Doug Williams and Stevie Knight. It’s amazing how much you can learn by either doing something wrong or just by listening and observing!
You have been working with the BCW Promotion lately, how have you been finding it?
Professional! BCW have everything in place to make wrestling in Scotland something bigger than what it ever has been before. They have the correct men running the promotion, and I believe the correct blend of wrestlers wrestling in the promotion.
The fans go home happy and the wrestlers are always laughing and joking – except when they are in the ring (mostly – lol).
BCW are doing things the right way – that’s for sure. They have a definite future in the British wrestling world, and while many promotions have inexperienced people in charge and little ideas about how to actually run a show – BCW seems to have found the winning formula.
Have you ever been approached to work full time for the FWA? As I have heard speculation in the past.
Well – the truth is that I have never been offered full time work in the FWA. However – Before Andy Simmonz was given the role of Duke of Dangers Butler, Alex Shane had spoken to me about doing it – however I was just about to go to America and the timing was sadly all wrong. In hindsight – there is no way in hell that I would have been able to pull off Simmonz as well as Andy has – he truly has taken that role beyond anyone’s expectations and fair play to him for it.
In terms of the future – The FWA is the big show in the UK – everyone should want to work there, and I am no exception. Alex Shane knows who I am and has seen me wrestle on many occasions. He is a business man first and foremost – if he feels the time is right for me to appear in an FWA ring, then it will happen and I will jump at the chance, until then – I just keep plugging away.
If you could work with any UK talent at the moment, who would it be and why?
Wow – good question. There are honestly SO many. I have had the chance to work with some of the best already in my career – Doug Williams, Justin Richards and Stevie Knight spring to mind immediately. Those are three men who I would relish the chance to face.
A new comer Charlie Rhyss (Rage), who I honestly feel is going to be the biggest thing in British Wrestling in the next 10 years, is one wrestler who I feel I could have an amazing match with. Everything he does is awesome.
There are hundreds of workers who I haven’t faced yet – you name them – I want to wrestle them. The more people I can work against, the better my ability will become.
Do you think that UK Wrestling will ever be as popular as it was in the “Good Old Day” when it was broadcast on National TV?
No – well not yet anyway. The FWA is going the right way about it. Promoting big shows and charging big money. However, I feel that they need to start doing smaller shows for more realistic money – and the combination of the two will hopefully do wonders for British wrestling.
When wrestling comes back onto TV (as it once was – in terms of British wrestling) and people start to be less ashamed of being a fan, then we have taken a vital step forward.
With the introduction of The Wrestling Channel, do you think this will help boost the popularity of UK Wrestlers and Promotions?
Yes – exposure = popularity increase. It’s a simple formula, yet not all exposure is good exposure. There is a big difference between publicity and exposure and the wrestling channel is providing exposure.
It seems every month a new UK Promotion starts up, do you think its good for the UK Scene, or do you think too many promotions will be bad for the UK Wrestling Scene overall?
In the long run it’s a bad thing. In the short time – bring it on, and call me!
You have to look at things in 5 years time – and say to yourself, just who will be around. I can think of many promotions that will not only be dead, but also forgotten.
For right now – I’m looking at this through the eyes of a budding independent wrestler. I want work and as long as I get paid, I’m not too fussed as to whom it’s for. The more work I get the more publicity AND exposure I get – and that’s a good thing for me.
You have been honoured by being nominated for the Pentland Jewish Sports Personality of the Year Award, how does that feel, and what do you think your chances are?
I am a proud Jew. To be nominated for an award of this calibre is nothing short of incredible and a hell of an achievement for me. As far as I am concerned, I have won already – maybe not the trophy, but personally – for the Jewish population to now be more aware of wrestling as a past time – I have achieved something and won.
Will I win the award – which takes place on the 12th of Feb – very unlikely – I am up against a Paralympic Gold Medallist and record breaker. I am up against an international cricketer and many other top class athletes. It’s an honour to share the nominations list with them. [Tex sadly did not win the award]
You have been privileged enough to travel to the United States and work shows, can you tell us more about your travels?
I worked for two promotions in the states, both in Maryland State. The promotions were owned by John Rambo – who is a very experienced Pro. The shows were small, but different as it was the first time I had ever worked an outdoor show.
The workers were all very friendly and to be honest – they were more hospitable than many UK promotions back stage area.
I travelled for 12 hours to get to the show – as I was teaching football to kids on a camp, this is how I spent part of my 2 days off. I arrived at my first show mid way through the first match – and just walked into the dressing room – met the guy who I was facing and then had 5 mins to be ready. We went out there and had a good match – I got to play an Englishmen – which might sound bizarre but it was nice as I had spent a while in England playing an American – how ironic.
The second time I was wrestling in the states – I already knew some of the guys – so it was good – I was in a four way and main evented too. This was an indoor show and the place was full – which was great for atmosphere but made it so hot. This match lasted a long time – and we went all over the arena – which I was told only after the show – that it was really not allowed or advised…ooops!!. America was an amazing experience wrestling wise.
What are your plans for 2004 do you have any trips to the states already planned?
I will be returning to the States this summer again. I have no wrestling dates confirmed as of yet, but am in discussions with a number of different independent promotions about work.
I also have been offered the chance to wrestle in Israel – and I am in negotiations with as we speak.
I will keep you updated.
Any final comments? –
What no word association…LOL
Once again, many thanks for taking the time to chat to us.
My pleasure…and thank you guys at wrestling101 very much. Keep up the good work!