“I looked like I was part Barney The Dinosaur” – A Wrestling Fan, Like You

“I looked like I was part Barney The Dinosaur” – A Wrestling Fan, Like You

Wrestling fans come from all walks of life. Just because someone doesn’t hold a grand position as a public figure, does not mean that their voice should not be heard and that their concerns should not be acknowledged. This matters for all of life, for all people, but especially those that represent marginalised groups, whose concerns often unfairly fall to the bottom of societies unread pile.

Here at Chops Kicks and Nearfalls, we want to lift the voices of those who are unheard within the world of professional wrestling. If we were to make the most obvious tag line comparison, we’d be “the voices of the voiceless”. Whether this means continuing to provide this platform that allows people to work on their craft and have their opinions heard. Or doing what you will hear below: conducting interviews with those that may not be deemed worthy of having their words heard by some.

This is the first example of what I’d like to do going forward, produce interviews with fans of every ilk and present fun conversations in both a written (and possibly audio) format, to be enjoyed by fellow fans all over the world.

We are all fans, and we all have opinions on the sport we love. Sometimes it’s nice to just hear someone else’s journey through wrestling. I know I like to hear people’s tales. So here we begin, with a good friend of mine, and a lifetime member of the “Alphabet Mafia”. Aled Jones, a wrestling fan, like you.

So just to confirm you’re happy to have your voice recorded as part of this interview?

Yep, I’m happy

Awesome, awesome, and if you could introduce yourself to us please?

Hi my names Aled, I’m 25, and I’m a good friend of Sam, I was a regular customer at RCADE, and he’s invited me here today to talk about my views as a fan of professional wrestling.

Cool, well the website this is for, ChopsKicksandNearfalls.com us looking to have more content on “REPRESENTATION MATTERS” this February, across ethnicity, religion, gender, sexuality, race. You are one of my best wrestling friends, but you are also an openly gay man. Correct?

You are correct on both points, yes.

Awesome, just to totally clarify that so I don’t use any incorrect terminology and get in trouble. (laughs)

We won’t jump straight into that aspect, at first I just want to know a bit more about your wrestling fandom. When would you say you officially became a fan of wrestling?

Well I’d say it started very early. I can remember watching, it was about 1999, and my brother was always watching nWo and Goldberg and stuff like that, but I was a little later. So I was coming in in the midst of the Attitude Era, and it was the Rock vs Mankind for the WWF Title. I remember seeing the crowd, and I remember thinking “What the hell is going on?”, ’cause I was literally 3.

I saw Mankind and thought “wow, he’s strange looking”. I’d heard my brother speak about The Rock, the match was pretty good. Ken Shamrock came through with a chair, and then the glass shatters, and the crowd went absolutely apesh*t. Austin was doing his thing, and Mick got the cover, and I was sat there going “this is INSANE!”.

So your first experience with wrestling was the end of the “83-Weeks”?

Yeah, ironically since my brother was a WCW fan.

Mick Foley as Mankind, held aloft by Billy Gunn and Triple H after winning the WWF Title from The Rock on “RAW is WAR”, while X-Pac looks on (Credit: Sky Sports, World Wrestling Entertainment Inc.)

Were you a WCW household, before Mick Foley’s title win?

We were a bit of both really. My brother, he really loved the whole, rise of the nWo, even when it got old. And then Goldberg was a thing, larger than life. In the mid-2000’s, I rewatched a lot, and realised I’d missed a lot. If I could have been a fan just around the time Ted Turner took over, we could have seen all that cool stuff.

What do you think drew you to professional wrestling? Was it Mankind looking so different from anything you’d seen before at such a young age?

Yeah exactly. Obviously when you’re watching sports on telly – the rugby players and the football players – the former is big-tough-guys, muscle bound, and then with the latter, it’s like pretty boys. I never really got into. Like, how am I to identify with someone who earns millions for kicking a ball? No offence to any football fans of course…

… You’d rather watch someone who earns millions getting punched in the face? (laughs)

Yeah (laughs)

That you can relate to.

And the fact they bleed for their craft. When I got wise and found that out, I realised “Oh wow, you actually forcibly bleed, ok”.

Chris Van Vliet has said, “Professional Wrestling is a bit like magic, and once you find out how the trick is done, you’ll either decide you’ve been tricked and don’t like it anymore, or go, ‘that’s amazing, tell me more.’”. The way you talk about the concept of blading, and thinking “that’s even cooler, they go to such lengths” is definitely the latter.

I really like Chris Van Vliet, he’s a very knowledgable guy, I like his interviews. With the curtain being lifted, I am aware that I want to know more. I use wrestling terminology in my day-to-day life, and people are like “What’re you talking about?”.

What piece of wrestling terminology do you use the most, on a day-to-day basis?

A Heel Turn. If I’m in work, and I’m on the phone to a customer, afterwards I’ll end up saying “they’re going heel on me”.

Who do you remember as your first favourite professional wrestler?

Definitely when Stone Cold came to the ring, it was y’know, you couldn’t not love Stone Cold Steve Austin. The Rock was in his own league as well, and they were both equal, but Steve was the bigger of the two because he came first. The Rock has gone on to major things obviously, but we still think of the Austin 3:16 era. Honestly though, looking back at it, my favourite all time has been The Undertaker.

The Undertaker dressed as his Ministry of Darkness rendition. Complete with added eye shadow, and large shoulder tunic. (Credit: World Wrestling Entertainment Inc.)

Why has he become the number 1 for you?

When I first saw The Undertaker, it was The Ministry ‘Taker, with all that cult stuff, and I’ve always been interested in “the dark side”. When I saw him I was scared of course, but with horror you can’t look away. All of a sudden, the next year, he’s a biker now? I thought it was literally a new person, being young and naive. But then it turned 2004, and he was The Deadman Undertaker, and I’m thinking “well what does this mean? I mean he didn’t die?”. But as I said with Goldberg, I went back and I watched and I realised – “this guy has been a big deal.” And then while I was watching, in the mid-2000’s, he hit his peak. He’d obviously had big matches with Austin, The Rock and Shawn Michaels. Badd Blood, top 5 favourite matches ever. But when he came into his own and became an amalgamation of everything, that’s when e did some of his best work. He could wrestle a bit different, and he had absolute belters with the likes of Kurt Angle at No Way Out, his two matches with Shawn Michaels, the two matches with Triple H. A lot of good stuff really.

I feel that, as he got older, he was able to focus on the in ring a little bit more than the character work. He’d built up enough good credit with the fans, that they were able to ignore the rules of kayfabe for him, and understand that – he needs a change, lets see what he can do.

He’d progressed out of the cartoon era. Kayfabe had been demolished in ’89, but he was still cartoon based. The sit up was really cool, but for instance when he ascended to the heavens after his Yokozuna casket match, you can’t really get away with that now.

How do you feel about today’s more supernatural characters? (e.g. Abadon, Su Yung, The Fiend.)

They can’t do the physical supernatural stuff. They should focus on things like the mid-2000’s films like Insidious, the more psychological horror. With Bray Wyatt, I loved The Fiend when I saw him as the creepy children’s entertainer. I thought they were going to go the more Pennywise, mental, manic, but the physical side with the props and the lightning, I’m not sure that works now. That’s just my opinion. I always wanted to see a character that was such a depraved scumbag, that you hate so much, that people want to tune in to see him get his shit kicked in. (Unlike today where we appreciate heels for being good at their craft.) Maybe it’s me being the horror junkie that I am.

Is there any moment or match, throughout all of wrestling, that you find yourself going back to watch most often?

I prepped for this. It would have to be The Rock vs Hollywood Hogan at Wrestlemania 18. My god. It is weird in a way, because in 1990, Hogan lost in the Skydome, to the next star, and 12 years later he loses to the current star. It was poetic in a way. You could feel it. The two moments that stay with me: when they had the stare down, and all the Kodaks are flashing; and the exchange where The Rock does the Rock Bottom, Hulk kick out, Hulks up, big boot, drops the leg, and JR says “he beat Andre with that move.” 1-2-Kickout. We didn’t know, we thought that was it, there was no way The Rocks gonna lose. This was at the height of when I’d started going back to watch WCW, The nWo, and Hulkamania. I was clued up as to who Hulk was. He’s still one of my favourites to this day. You turn into a kid watching it. The last time I watched it was 2 months ago, there with my takeaway-

(laughs) I mean those are the best wrestling moments, when you’re not sure what you want to watch, but you want to watch something while you eat.

Exactly.

Were you Team Hogan or Team Rock for that match?

It honestly wasn’t a concern, I was too into it. My brother was the Hulkamaniac (at the time).

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson glances to the crowd as he faces off with white moustached, black bearded “Hollywood” Hulk Hogan at Wrestlemania X8 (Credit: World Wrestling Entertainment Inc.)

We wanted to try and promote inclusivity in the world of professional wrestling, get more voices of marginalised groups that make up the wrestling fandom, and see how you feel about different aspects of it. How do you feel that the LGBTQ+ community is represented in the history of WWE?

As characters, you had Pat Patterson, who was the oracle, the Yoda of pro-wrestling. Even further back, there was a manager, who isn’t known today, called The Grand Wizard, who was outed as a homosexual after his passing. He was a big time heel in the 60’s and 70’s for Vince Sr., who was a big deal as well. You’ve had Darren Young, and even today, there’s Sonya Deville and even more people. It’s weird to see, because it was a very unspoken thing, but now there’s LGBTQIA people, even in AEW like Sonny Kiss. There are others as well, but the names are escaping me. 

I remember seeing Pat Patterson in Glasgow, being interviewed by Kenny McIntosh for the Inside the Ropes tour, and he was singing My Way by Frank Sinatra. Everyone was swooning, and calling for an encore. There was a gay couple in the front row, and Pat says to them “you had the balls to come out!” In his French-Canadian accent. He was a blast, sharp as a tac for his age.

I also wanted to ask about how WWE has portrayed storylines, such as the Billie and Chuck Friendship Ceremony or, the debut of Mickie James, and the discussion since being that these had good concepts behind them, but the execution was somewhat tone-deaf. What are your thoughts?

There was no malice intended of course – I make Gay jokes all the time. The whole idea of the commitment ceremony with Billie and Chuck was something I forgot about until last year, and I thought I might have dreamt it. Billie and Chuck were a good team, but they weren’t really looked at as serious, which is a shame. The main reason they were perceived as Gay was the third member Rico. They never actually said they were Gay, they just hinted at it, it was always the double entendre. But you also had the other end of the spectrum, with acts like HLA (“Hot Lesbian Action”). Female homosexuality had been portrayed before that in ECW, with Beulah McGillicutty and Kimona Wanalaya, full on making out with each other. With Mickie James, I loved that storyline. It wasn’t so much the Lesbian angle to it, it was the stalker. It was never really a Lesbian that I saw with that one – it was a stalker who thought she was in love with her. She loved her as though she was her idol, rather than her lover. They were trying something with making her Lesbian, but it didn’t catch on. I mean, people know now, if someone is portrayed as a Lesbian or a Homosexual, and they’re not, the audience knows, they’re not going to buy it. [References the Mickie “V” symbol/lick from Wrestlemania 22]. That was edited out, apparently, Vince [McMahon] was really pissed off, but you’d have thought he would have been a fan. [Discussing the rumour that Chelsea Green and Mickie James were going to do a similar storyline to Mickie’s introduction, prior to Chelsea breaking her arm on her Smackdown debut – and the confusion about whether there would be a romantic element to it.] You have to be careful with that kind of thing now. If it was more romance focused – I won’t be offended no matter what they do, so long as it’s done tastefully. As long as it isn’t cheap crap for the sake of cheap crap. There are some people like the SJW’s, it’s a good idea to be politically correct, but when there’s no malice intended – for instance making fun of the ridiculous stereotypes surrounding Gay people, rather than Gay people themselves. There are so many people out there across the world, it doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. Getting mad at a wrestling show should not be high on the totem pole. A person’s character should not be that they’re just gay. Ok, you’re gay, but can you wrestle? Can you sell? Can you work? How am I supposed to get invested in you if the only thing about you is your sexuality? 

An image showing Billy and Chuck smiling at WWE’s Titantron, during their Commitment Ceremony/Wedding (Credit: World Wrestling Entertainment Inc)

Do you have any uncommon opinions about professional wrestling?

There’s always the common opinions – I find that there are some matches that I don’t get. Actually, there are a lot of matches that I don’t get, but there are matches that I want to come back. The stretcher match, I loved that match, it’s a brilliant idea. (It’s a bit weird that you have to move it over the line. Why not to the back? Or into the ambulance?) I find, AEW to be a bit overrated. That’s not intended as an insult to anybody. I loved Double or Nothing 2019, with Cody vs Dustin. But with like, Chris Jericho, who’s become a parody of himself. When the internet gave him the nickname “Jeric-OVID”, after his performance at Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. AEW – if you like it great, it’s not my thing – I like WWE, because I grew up watching it, but I also like the indies, like Revolution Pro Wrestling, Insane Championship Wrestling has become very near and dear to me, because of my time spent living in Scotland. I was welcomed there, and the people were so nice. I’ve become a lot more of a fan of the old school styles of wrestling, like the Rock’n’Roll, Midnight Express(es). Ric Flair, his wars with Dusty Rhodes, Harley Race and Kerry Von Erich. Watching that back, it’s just so cool. [Have you been watching the revamped NWA?] I love that. NWA Powerrr, it’s got that studio feel, and Nick Aldis is probably one of the best wrestlers in the world at this moment. You’ve got people like James Storm, who was good as the National Champion. The Rock’n’Roll Express, who are still going. (As long as they’re of sound mind, and they’re not hurting themselves, go for it!) You have guys who I liked back, like Trevor Murdoch who’s doing well too. You have Eli Drake who was good as well.

[Taken from later in the interview, but of more relevance to the discussion about AEW.] When I say I find it overrated – the match styles don’t appeal to me. You’ve done all of this, and you’re done ten finishers, and he’s still kicking out. How are we meant to buy this? People like the Young Bucks, I don’t get them or their appeal. Nothing against them or people who like them, it’s just that I don’t get it. We each like different things. People will hate on you for not liking it, or they’ll call me a WWE shill, but screw you, you don’t me. Don’t get me wrong, I hate some stuff WWE does… There are still some guys there I like. I love Penta El Zero M, I love Jungle Boy, Sammy Guevara is a good cruiserweight. MJF is such a b*stard, I love him.

You mentioned ICW, which you introduced me to officially, what brought you to ICW? 

Before [I moved to Scotland], by 2016, they’ve got the likes of Grado, who was taking off, getting signed by IMPACT! Being back and forth with ICW, and despite his character he’s a very good wrestler. I found out they were coming to the Tram Shed,  a local music venue here in Cardiff. I couldn’t get tickets, and figured I’d wait until next time – but when I got offered the job in Edinburgh, I realised they had a show on, it was a 45-minute train and I wouldn’t have to stay the night. “Let’s see if it’s good.” The first show I saw was a death match invitational, which I like now and again when it’s done sparingly, but the finish was a thick glass pane in the corner. A running death valley driver into it, glass shatters everywhere, all over the crowd, and Mark Dallas [ICW Owner and on-screen authority figure] comes out saying “that shouldn’t have been allowed.” Like yeah, no shit. But that got me. I love Scottish humour. Billy Kirkwood is a great comedian, and a great commentator, and when he would do his opening monologue, my face would be aching with laughter. The fact the shows are more adult orientated is also very nice. The people there are so friendly, so lovely, they just want to have a good time and be entertained. It’s a nice big family. ICW, of all the indies, really holds a special place for me.

What’s your thoughts on ICW now being featured on the WWE Network?

I love it. It’s good they’re getting the exposure they need. I was worried that they might have been censored, since they use rather explicit language, but from what I heard they haven’t. They did have their own on-demand service, which we don’t know the fate of now considering Fight Club [ICW’s episodic weekly show] is on The Network. They’re recording that behind closed doors in The Asylum their training facility. [On the first round of tapings for The Network focusing on the Lionheart League, in tribute of the sadly passed former ICW World Heavyweight Champion.] I cried like a baby when I went to that show [ICW Fight Club 7/6/2019, The first show after Lionheart’s passing]. When I was there, in the line outside [the venue], there wasn’t the usual sense of rambunctiousness and camaraderie. Once we were in there, it was more of a “right, let’s get through this, don’t cry, don’t cry.” When they brought out his boots, I became a puddle. It was nice to see how he’d touched so many people. That was the most important show I’d been to. More so than Wrestlemania

For those not from Scotland, the impact felt, on a smaller geographical level, was similar to the sudden passing of Brodie Lee, from late 2020. 

They were both insanely young. I’m not going to pretend I knew him, cause I didn’t. I wasn’t there from the beginning to be buddy-buddy with the wrestlers, but from what I could see he had clearly touched a lot of people, and will always be dearly missed.

What are some other significant moments from your time as an ICW fan? 

There are some obviously great moments in ICW: Grado winning the title, ICW blowing up and becoming this huge thing, the Fight Club documentary – when Fergal Devitt was Prince Devitt. Despite all these things, I think that has to be the most key moment in ICW history when Lionheart passed. Because he was one of their own, it was so sudden and he was so beloved, it was so sad. Sadly that is the number one moment in ICW history. It’s sad to say, but it is.

But that speaks to his character.

Absolutely. You don’t mourn the passing, you celebrate the time you had with them. That was the response, that’s why it was so widespread.

British professional wrestler Lionheart standing against a brickwall with the Insane Championship Wrestling World Title on his shoulder, for a promotional photoshoot during his final run as champion, until his passing (Credit: Insane Championship Wrestling)

We met, through my work at RCADE Glasgow. You are a massive fan of the N64 console, which of the WWF games for said console is your favourite?

If there was a crime scene at RCADE and you had to dust WWF No Mercy for prints I’d be the first suspect. My first game console was the N64. I had it at the tail end of its run, and WWF No Mercy was amazing to play. Despite the graphics, the gameplay was just great. The survival mode would really kill me – you would try to eliminate so many people so you could unlock characters: Ken Shamrock, Shawn Michaels and Cactus Jack. They had a title mode which was just great. My Uncle and his wife at the time lived in Dundee, and every Easter Sunday we would go up to visit. My Cousin also had the N64 and he had WCW/nWo revenge, which was like the counterpart (and I didn’t this was the best selling wrestling game for the N64.) The other one, which is an unsung favourite is Wrestlemania 2000. That’s the holy trinity of wrestling games in my opinion. Wrestling fits with video games so well.

Are you in any way interested in the upcoming AEW video game release?

I am interested I won’t lie. From what I’ve heard, it’s either going to be like No Mercy or Fire Pro [Wrestling World]. I never got to play Fire Pro, but if it’s like No Mercy I would be interested. 

Going further with video games, I’m not sure if you’ve heard of MDickie? He was the developer of video games that use 64-bit graphics, and he’s created quite a few games which are cult favourites. And even now on the [Nintendo] eShop, he’s got a thing called Wrestling Empire. One I’m personally looking forward to is RetroMania Wrestling, by RetroSoft Studios. They’ve got a limited roster at the moment, but it’s the unofficial sequel to WrestleFest. They’ve got Nick Aldis, they’ve got Zack Sabre Jr., they’ve even got people from the past (Austin Idol, Tommy Dreamer, the Blue World Order) and even people like War Horse, Jeff Cobb.

Did you ever consider becoming a wrestler?

No. I saw it and I thought “it’s insane”, but at the back of mind I’m like: the travel is terrible, there’s some element of pain involved, and when you read about the ugly side, the politics and everything, no. 

My first ever indie show was in 2017. I was up in Wrexham, and Wales Comic-Con was on at Glyndwr University. The Comic-Con had wrestlers there (Mick Foley, Lita), and the company there was Preston City Wrestling. Each holder of a ticket to the Comic-Con got free entry to the show. Of the wrestlers there, a lot of them are now working for NXT UK, like Tyson T-Bone for instance. 

In the break there was a photo op in the ring. So I go in the ring, and I have to go under the rope because I’m below average height. We have a chat and the photo and everybody’s lovely, and I go to leave the ring. I’m going under the lower-middle rope, and I have no co-ordination. I think I’m all the way out, and I whip my head up really fast, hit my head on the rope – which hurts! I fell, on my hip, on the apron, and then I fell to the ground. My hip looked, I looked like I was part Barney The Dinosaur. Yeah, maybe I belong behind the barricade… But I can say I took a bump. Probably not very well. God I was so embarrassed, but it’s something I can look backhand laugh at. 

Wrapping up, is there anything you’d like to add?

There’s this good [YouTube] channel, called The Nobodies Watch Wrestling. They’re these drag queens (Lady Bearica Andrews, Ariel Italic, and DJ Accident Report), they review wrestling – and they’ve even had Colt Cabana on there walking in heels (which is very weird. An uncomfortable visual… He’s got good legs! I’ll take your word for it.)Obviously, there’s a sexual aspect to it – it’s men in trunks and tights obviously there’s going to be a sexual aspect to it – but it’s the same in the Attitude Era where [straight] guys loved the girls in the Bra and Panties matches. Just now it’s the other way around. There’s always going to be, sex sells, you’ve gotta be in great shape, you’ve got to look appealing, there’s something for everyone. It’s a lot of fun, I’ve had a good few laughs.

With LGBTQIA fans, I find wrestling fans are not the most tolerant. You get the fans that chant “USA! USA!” at the sight of two foreign wrestlers. There are some instances I’ve seen of someone calling someone else the F-word, and I’m thinking “dude it’s a wrestling show. Un-wad your panties.” You’re fans. You’re not going to see each other again in all likelihood. Why are you actively going out and trying to make yourself miserable?

As Hooked on Wrestling say, “It’s wrestling, enjoy it.”

Live and let live. If you’re a wrestling fan, that’s great, we can talk wrestling. It doesn’t matter race, sexuality, or gender you are – hell even what religion you are. I’m a Christian, but I remember seeing a while ago on YouTube there were these fundamentalists protesting Wrestlemania. Which was a weird thing. With the wrestling fans giving them the whole “What? What? What?”. I think they almost had a stroke when they saw someone dressed up like The Undertaker. It has no place. Just, go with it.

Out of curiosity, do you have a top 5 of favourite wrestling matches?

Bret Hart vs Mr. Perfect – WWF Summerslam 1991

The Undertaker vs Shawn Michaels – WWF Badd Blood 1997

The Rock vs Triple H – WWF Summerslam 1998

The Rock vs “Hollywood” Hulk Hogan – WWF Wrestlemania X8

Brock Lesnar vs Kurt Angle – WWE SmackDown 18/9/2003

Interviewee Aled posing for a photo alongside WWE Hall of Famer Jeff Jarrett during a Wrestling Travel meet and greet. (Credit: Facebook, Aled Jones)

If you have a wrestling story to tell, ensure to contact the author.

As with all interviews, all thoughts expressed are that of the interviewee, and the interviewer, and not the attitudes or ideals of ChopsKicksandNearfalls.com.

This interview was conducted on 18/01/2021.

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