by Craig Hermit
Founded in March 2006, Premier British Wrestling is one of the top wrestling companies in Europe today. Promoting sell-out shows all across Scotland and fans who already follow PBW will know that their shows contain some of the best wrestling talent to be found across Scotland/Europe. Since 2008, Premier British Wrestling has also brought many top international stars to Scotland including WWE star Finn Bálor, ROH stars El Generico, Jimmy Jacobs and Matt Cross. The development and creation of PBW is spearheaded by man, whither you know him as multiple Promotional Champion Kid Fite or PBW owner Ross Watson, all fans know him as a man who has been influental in the wrestling industry. I recently caught up with him in between a PBW double family show.
CH – What would you say is the difference between the family orientated shows that PBW host against the more adult ICW style shows?
RW – I always like to try to explain the difference as if I’m explaining to my Uncle who perhaps doesn’t understand the difference. I don’t mean to patronise people as I say this, I sometimes see ICW fans say “Oh that’s that family stuff that’s crap”. They are entitled to their opinions, but it’s very much different genres. ICW is adult wrestling and we are family entertainment that’s your difference. Your know the wrestling camps, they are your super pantomime stuff. But PBW, BCW and many more are a serious product but are aware they need to entertain adults and children as well. Fans that go to both types of shows do tend to understand this though. Think about it this way, you have Robert Di Niro he acts in Meet the Fockers, then in a Disney movie and he was in Taxi Driver, same great actor just different styles of acting but same level of acting. At Maximum Impact there, you had BT Gunn versus Davey Blaze in a great match that wouldn’t have looked out-of-place in an ICW show, only difference was no swearing, no blood and pins n stuff like that but it was on par with any fight you’d see anywhere. It’s all about genres.
CH – Do you think that some wrestlers may find it hard to adapt to both genres?
RW – One thing I preach at the Academy, even though a lot of schools will teach their way, but in my mind everyone should be taught every way. A good coach should find out what everyone is good at then push them towards their strong points and then encourage them. Know your crowd and know your foe is my saying.
Sometimes you’ll have those guys who do well at an adult show will then make their debut at the family show. They’ll see the crowd getting hyped, they’ll shout their slogan but the kids will just stare anthem blankly because they are kids who’ve never seen them before and that kills the hype dead.
CH – What made you decide to start PBW only a few years after your debut?
RW – I started training in 2001 & yeah my debut was in 2003, but before that I always wanted to promote. I always wanted to run a show, back then you had either SWA or BCW and nowadays everyone gets on but back then it really was a rivalry. Looking back at their rosters, I truly believe those companies had some great guys but they also had some guys that weren’t, even back then I thought that but hey I wasn’t great myself. I thought we could do something different. So I’m sitting there thinking who do I want to run the show with, I thought I want Darkside, I want Wolfgang, I brought Bubblegum in and gave him his debut up here as well. When I done my first show it was well received. On that show I started with a tournament to crown our Champion. At this point everyone knew Drew Galloway was going to WWE so everyone started to put their titles on him, I love Drew I do, but I was thinking what happens after he leaves so I had Drew versus Wolfgang in the final and had Wolfgang win. Drew put him over before he goes and that way we don’t look like we’re panicking because he’s gone. Wolfgang was a fantastic first champion, it’s because of guys like him and Darkside that made PBW get noticed.
CH – Unlike other Wrestling Academies, PBW allows their trainees to start at age 12, cases of Noam Dar who started at 12 and Kay Lee Ray at 13 why did you decide to start your trainees at that age?
RW – I wish when I was 14 someone told me there was wrestling training in Scotland. You have schools for Boxing, Football and Dancing which you start at an early age and obviously with wrestling being an art form it’s complex and physical, people can get hurt. If you have young children start too early they will either get hurt or they’ll just play and it’ll turn into some sort of nursery. But 12 I felt was the right age, I mean with Noam, Stevie and Kay arriving, Stevie and Kay started with SWA, Kay started with them but she hadn’t done a lot, she was green we could say she’s PBW. Although Stevie gives us the tip of the hat, SWA had done a lot with him. Nowadays, we have a girl called Angel Hayes she started with us at 13, now 15 she’s on the trainee shows and she’s one to watch out for. Most of our trainees start young. I find that the younger ones absorb the knowledge quicker. Admittedly the younger ones can be a little indie-rific and want to do all the moves they see on YouTube. But sometimes wrestling can give someone focus growing up to I have had some trainees say that their friends are doing drugs but they want to make a go at this, we can help. If they aren’t very academic at school or if they’re having rough time we can also try and give our trainees some direction through wrestling and it does help.
CH – Many of your students are celebrating their one year anniversary with PBW Academy, names like Prince Ali, what do you attribute to your success? for example guys like Lou King Sharp, Lucha DS and Aaron Echo have all been on big shows throughout the year?
RW – Here’s a wee story, David Wilson, fantastic Photographer, he once came up to me, now I have a lot of respect for David a lot of people forget he sees a lot more wrestling than any of us so I really value his opinion and if he trusts you he’s honest with you. I’d like him to tell me if something was shit, “Ross that was shit” and I like that, alright cool. (laughs)
CH – David is an excellent guy, he has turned round to me once after I published a report, he said you were tired doing that weren’t you? Yeah. It’s wasn’t your best.
RW – (Laughs) Exactly he’s not being a dick, he’s looking at you saying your better than that. My job as a trainer if a trainee comes back high fiveing their pals after an okay match, I’ll ask what you high fiveing for? Because that’s a problem, you aren’t going to get any better. Back to David, he was asking why you opening all these schools? I could tell he wasn’t being negative but he wasn’t positive either and I said “If I was in the mining business I’d have more of a chance of finding a big diamond”, with that in mind we have three schools and even with the other schools around we are doing well.
I’m not going to take the credit for the guys who make it, the reputation of the school speaks for itself. If someone is training with me, they do the work, they do the graft, they show up and they are good I’ll get them booked in places. Previously I mean Mark Dallas will say to me who have you got, I said Kenny Williams, it was me that pushed for Kenny, if I truly say I’ve got one, he doesn’t want five guys that are doing alright he want’s the best. Look at Dylan Angel, he could fit right into that Zero-G Division no problem. He’s just that guy that is likeable and gets it. When they do well, yeah I’m proud of them but my job is when they get off n running so that no ego’s come into play. Yeah sure your good and you’re doing well, sometimes even a trainee level people can get bitter if they aren’t putting in the work. they will try to justify it to themselves that they are Ross’s pal. I’m like that’s no true, I have trainees that are my friends that aren’t good enough and vice versa.
CH – One of your stand out trainees in my mind has to be Lou King sharp, his debut match when he lost he started laying into a guard rail and the fans loved it, I remember thinking he gets it.
RW – Beautiful thing he’s got about him, he will do a show and some kids will look at him and think, “I can take him” you send out Jester, they will back off, send out Lou, those 8-year-old are thinking how they can beat him, you have comedy gold. He’s different, I mean this as a compliment, he’s a Glasgow Chavy Rockstar Spud, and Rockstar Spud is aware of him and Lou looks up to him. Well Spud has been there hasn’t he, he’s been the wee guy and he’s like fuck you guys that think I can’t do this and look at him now. Lou King Sharp just has that natural charisma about him you can’t teach that.
CH – This year a bit of a debate occurred regarding old school wrestling & new style for example: flips and dives whats your take on it?
Goes back to saying encouraging people to their strong points, for example Lucha DS, overall impression nice guy, he wants it, he’s a bit older maybe so there’s a bit more urgency about it. But he listens and it’s worked out now. Before he was a very much fly or die but before he wasn’t as in shape now he is. Now the problem you may have if you have a trainee who is athletic but they think they’re will Ospreay. The hard part is saying to them look you can’t do this style and the ones that can do it you have to explain it’s not about how many cool moves you can do in a match it’s about doing it at the right time and getting the right reaction. If you do all your best moves in your debut match at ICW and your back in the Garage a few weeks later what else do you do? You may get away with it second time but see the third time, you’ll get the Same old shit chants. Sometimes you need to focus on the selling and ring psychology of why we do things. I mean there are ways to do certain things, Strong Style for instance, the guys that do that are brilliant but it takes years to get to that level. Say in a trainee match and someone done a super-plex off the top rope and you should really sell that big move yourself but if I saw two trainees do that at my show and then not sell it, the kids witnessing that will think that isn’t sore. Definitely something I explain to my trainees. One thing that still pisses me off from trainees to the top-level guys, they see a move from a YouTube clip, I want to try this in a match, have you done it before? No, then bollocks before you do a move, you need to be able to do that move at least 10 times ob a crash mat, then you do it in a trainee match, do it several times then do it in a match. Remember it always goes back to your four basic bumps: Back, front, fishtail and bump.
CH – This year PBW unveiled PBW on Demand too much success, what is the plan for it going forward?
RW – Natural progression you know, ICW is doing it but a lot of family shows are progressing in doing On:Demand as well. Now someone across in America hears about Joe Coffey vs Kurt Angle, they go on the net searching Joe Coffey and via social media everyone wants something now, they don’t want to order a DVD and have to wait weeks for it to arrive. They’re sitting bored on a Thursday night and they want to see it now. So we put something up, now I’m well aware don’t have enough content yet, I mean ICW on demand service is amazing, they have a back catalogue and wee side shows tied into it with a team that deals with it so it brings in more revenue. Where PBW has Lucy, our one women army who’s doing fantastic at that, so our first show went up and few sales you curiosity killed the cat type thing, now I know you can subscribe to ICW for the same amount that we charge for one show, but the catch is I don’t want to take £10 off people if nothing new goes up. Imagine your gym being shut for two months when you have paid for three you know. We have actually discovered that our Academy shows are selling more I think it’s down to fans being curious about to see who’s coming next and where did people train. Moving forward, eventually if it brings in an extra few hundred pounds then we can get more footage up of the guys.
CH – This year PBW finally crown BT Gunn as your World Champion, how did that come about?
RW – It could be easily misunderstood that all the promoters get together and go “Oh who’s the next guy”, It’s not that, the fact that is that guy is promoting all the shows and those companies are doing well. You’ve got PBW, PWE, BCW, ICW, Discovery and even Rock n Wrestle, the reason they are doing well is because they know what they are doing. It’s not copying or anything like that. People go that’s the guy. He is just that good. With BT it is all him. His work rate, his professionalism, his image, his look, how he conducts himself online. It’s not just me, it’s the guys in the back have said he’s the guy we want to get behind. Personally, BT Gunn is the personification, the poster boy for the perfect wrestler. He can go do an over 18’s shows show with a gothic rock style look and the goth girls go “OH I like that!” and the guys go “Damn he’s cool!” and then he can come to the kids shows and he’s still into his rock n roll look but he’s got that look where they go he’s cool. Every audience he ticks all the boxes. He’s naturally talented at what he does and he’s a great worker.
CH – Going off with what you’ve said there, do you think companies like WWE and ROh should be looking at him then?
RW – Yeah, absolutely. I think it’s going to start to happen for him now, for a long time and he will say this himself, he was lazy about chasing it which is so the polar opposite of what he is like in that ring. For a while he didn’t treat himself like a business, but now he’s just joined Twitter…
CH – and it crashed in a day.
RW – (laughs) Aye I know, he’s started to advertise himself more, with Facebook he’s clever about what he puts up and when you look a British Wrestling talent, you know the guys going to PWG, NJPW and various other places, I’ve seen him in the ring with Marty Scrull, Pete Dunne, Zack Sabre Jr, Will Ospreay, Mark Andrews you line them up and put BT Gunn in the there and ask fans for the odd one out you couldn’t. I think, say if ROH did a deal with ICW and said I want five guys for you to bring over, he’s definitely be on that list. The best is yet to come from him.
CH – We touched on the subject of wrestling camps, during the holidays yourself and many trainees do, All star wrestling, how did you find it this year?
RW – 5 shows a week for 10 weeks, but the way it worked out in the last ten days it was every day and I was in bits. I was managing the books and the finances as well so I was getting home after 14 hours, the guys all went to bed and I’m trying to work out who stole a foam finger from Bryan Dixon (Laughs).
CH – It almost seems like a marathon of wrestling how do get your team into that different mindset from weekend shows?
RW – I would say, if you truly want it in this game, everybody says they want it, from trainee to main guy level, if you really want it be prepared to sacrifice relationships, jobs, money, friendships.
CH – Because this is your full-time job isn’t it.
RW – Yeah, this is my job for life. It’s not that I don’t aspire to go to America anymore, I mean maybe if there was a trade via ICW, but now at an age in my life I can look at things I can make time for things I may have neglected because of wrestling before but as long as your chasing I mean obviously I want to expand PBW, develop more trainees and I still like to do more countries as a wrestler.
CH – You were at Germany a few months ago yeah?
RW – That’s right, I still enjoy it but I no longer go there thinking I hope so-so is here for that promotion and I may get that chance, I now go there to have a good time and I want the German fans to like me or hate me, as long as they had a good time, the promoter is happy and I can go home seeing a good part of Germany thats it. Sometimes when you talk to trainees you go to ask them if they can help set up the ring or with a show they go Nah I got school then you realise it was a bank holiday, or hit you with some other excuses you know. I understand if there 13 to 16, but older than that & you’ve not got a job and if you’re not willing to make time for that what are you going to do when you look at your diary one day and you realise I’m wrestling the next 14 days. I know the flip side of that but if you really want it, it’s not just a job, not just a hobby, it’s a lifestyle.
CH – Focusing on yourself now, training since 2001, debut 2003, multiple Champion, BCW Champion for over three years, how do you feel looking back at your career?
RW – When I got into wrestling obviously WWE was the dream, but I got into wrestling to make a full-time living within the industry, I mentioned earlier I was keen at promoting early on and to travel so I got to do both maybe if we expand the wings a bit further we a flight with a lay over would be nice. (laughs) I’ve done that, you’ve always got to believe you can always do better otherwise you become complacent. I’m really proud of what I’ve achieved so far, also because I’ve never been that indie sensation guy, wither I was tagging with Liam Thomson in Fight Club fighting for the BCW and PCW Tag Team titles, or with Sha Samuels, I think I’ve got that reputation that I pride myself in not not showing for shows. But hey I had a wee phase where I was battling some issues and I showed up to some shows with a drink in me. I’ll put my hands in the air and when you have been in wrestling your whole adult life since you were 18 and it’s every weekend, during summer, throughout the summer, you know most people would be at their jobs during the week I was in the ring at BCW you can’t not have the odd moment. During that time my life was changing, I was going through personal issues at home and I was drinking and that was something I regret. But that is something I always say to trainees always leave your personal dramas at home. I did have that one year where people would say how is he going to be and yeah it got on top of me but one thing that was never effected was PBW. I think that was life preservation mode because this pays my bills. I’m in a much better place now. As of this interview I’ve not had a drink in 7 weeks and when I did it was a carry on, you know as it should be. My main passion now is helping my trainees, if people trust me with their dream then I will do the best I can with that.
CH – You mentioned there how things got on top of you, what advice would you give to others who may be going through something similar?
RW – It’s hard to say, I mean I know myself I don’t always want to go to people in case you seem weak so you start to kid on, so you but on this brave act like “Fuck everyone and everything” but it comes across as I’m pished and I don’t give a fuck, but deep down it’s I’m pished so I don’t brake down crying. There was once a wrestler on one the tours who was steaming drunk before the shows and some of the guys were bitching and moaning saying bury him. So I said to Mark Dallas, who was annoyed and I get that. But I said that everyone is bitching and moaning but that guy does a lot of shows and he’s never done that before, you know maybe we should talk to him. Which we did and turned out something was wrong. I got that because I’d been through it before. I mean if someones being a wee dick and taking the piss you give them into trouble and say to them but if someone actually has a problem and has dramatically changed you ask them if they are okay.
CH – In the last few years, you have had some really nasty injuries, one to your neck and then a year later to your shoulder, how has that effected you?
RW – This isn’t me being a poor me routine, during that time my marriage failed, the marriage may have been 2 years but it was a 10 year relationship so you know I’m moving out the house and I’m living by myself for the first time. You don’t time a marriage failing, I was stressed out, hell I didn’t even have wi-fi for week (laughs) and during this time I done in my neck and took a bit of time off then tried to wrestle through it and it hurt more than a few times. I said to various promoters I can’t do much, and more than a few promoters half jokingly said “Is your Neck sore” as if I was phoning it in. If I was in WWE, I’d have off for about a year you know. So that added to the anxiety because I’m getting into trouble for having an injury and just as my neck is getting better my shoulder got dislocated. In between that happening I was dropping size, and with personal things it was just…
CH – It was just shit really?
RW – Aye, it was just shit. I mean I’m back wrestling taking bumps but I was in agony and people are going you okay and I’m like I’m fine but when I get home I couldn’t move.
CH – Looking ahead to ICW Hydro this year, certainly much bigger than last year, what are your thoughts on ICW’s progression to reach this level so far?
RW – I always say, see if somebody had told me even four years ago of what was gonna happen, I’d have laughed at them. I remember even a few years ago all the promoters that were kinda pal’y Graham, Adrian, Dallas and me we used to say “why don’t we all try to run the Hydro we’ll get in an import or two. We’ll just run it just as a Scottish Wresting night” and even then we are like oh I don’t know then Boom! and its like honest to god its like you could almost make it into a movie the story. I think it’s fantastic. It’s one of those things I’m deeply proud of. Dallas tweeted after the 10th anniversary and named the guys that were on the first show and that one, there were like four of us and I was one of them. You can’t get any more of an ICW guy than that. We spoke earlier that there was brief period when I brought personal issues to work but overall it’s been a really good journey. I think now, the feud with Sha I felt for a while we were kinda like an after thought if that makes sense, the Polo’s thing worked & we got the belts but we wrestled each other about 12 times then all of a sudden it was like you’re gonna win it tonight and I’m like there’s no thought going into this when you look at all the angles before, the things we done with Kennedy and to their credit they let us get on with it. For a while there I felt like I don’t know where I’m going but the way it’s worked out it’s been timed perfectly.
The match is for control of the company, a massive match and the biggest personal feud in that match other than Drew and Dallas is me and Sha, and it’s almost like two matches rolled into one. Just when you look at everything they’ve done with On:Demand, when you hear about Devitt who’s under contract with WWE, and WWE is like alright we’ll give you Devitt, fans were all like “OH Wow it’s Devitt!”, I’m thinking WWe is actively endorsing ICW it’s so much more iconic than what people realise, most people are excited that Devitt is coming back, the business is changing and companies like ICW and Progress in fairness WWE is almost embracing them. Remember OVW, it’s almost like that again but instead of WWE sending guys farming guys out to them, they are like, we like what you have got. And it makes me proud.
CH – Multiple Scottish promotions are unified with ICW, how do you feel ICW has helped promote Scottish wrestling as a whole?
RW – Everybody is talking about British wrestling then maybe a year or two ago the overall opinion was it’s Scottish Wrestling doing well. But you know what, these days it IS British Wrestling. I mean What Culture has popped up almost out of nowhere and they are doing amazing. They had a huge following, a different following and they are put eyes on British Wrestling. You got the ITV thing, but the one thing we have in Scotland, and England is starting to get there now but our one big advantage has been me, Adrian, Graham and Dallas we are all pals, aye we are all mates. Yeah sure sometimes mates bicker and fall out. I remember the one day I ran the Glasgow Pavillion Theatre in the afternoon and that night Dallas ran the Glasgow Garage I had like a thousand people obviously that was my big show, he does bigger and he had seven hundred in the Garage that night maybe there was a wee crossover but that was living proof that family shows and ICW’s aren’t rivals, people come to my shows, children bring their parents and the parents like it more than they thought they then go to ICW without the children, people go to ICW and find out about these shows and they think I’ll bring the wee man to the family shows. Now we all plan our shows scheduling the dates going forward to include each others shows to let the wrestlers know as well. There has been the odd clash but we made it work because we get on so great. We are in strong place to move forward as one.
Photos: David J Wilson & Insane Championship Wrestling.
PBW next show is on Nov 26 in Dumbarton and you can find more details for PBW events on their Facebook page and www.pbwwrestling.com