by Kev Gill
Ladies and Gentlemen, below and over the next month, you will be treated to a tale of triumph and tragedy, of hope and despair, of bouncy castles and grasshoppers as we take a look at the rise and fall of a British indie wrestler. A cautionary tale that will make you laugh, cry and will chill you to the bones. This is the story of our heroic figure. This is the tale of Electric Kev.
The year was 1999, smack bang in the middle of the Attitude Era and the height of mainstream pro-wrestling popularity. The room was filled with the smell of musty carpets and dusty textbooks, discoloured by the light penetrating through the giant, single-glazed windows draped in faded curtains with dubious looking stains.
This room had not received a single lick of fresh paint since the early 70s, at the very least. The atmosphere was that of excitable chaos; it was French class and our teacher happened to be running incredibly late. I was 13 years old and found myself eagerly joining in on this rowdiness, which didn’t take much resistance because French was a subject that wouldn’t excite me even if the teacher happened to be the legendary French Canadian, Jacques Rougeau A.K.A The Mountie, cattle prod in hand. Not even he could enforce this particular curriculum-based law on me, no matter how handsome, brave and strong he may claim to be.
This would probably explain why I was in the lower set French class with some of the more (let’s say) challenged kids. You could say I was ROCK BOTTOM (hardy-hardy-har). This didn’t just mean I was bunched up with the naughtier lot, but it also meant I was sharing my learning experience with the slower chaps. This would also explain why, instead of having a classroom completely free of any adult supervision, we were sadly sharing it with a rather outnumbered and disgruntled learning support teacher, who was also waiting for the French teacher to arrive, and slowly but surely, was losing what little control she had.
Madam Bartlett was her name; a proud, militant and uptight South African woman who was trying her best to protect one of the slower kids from this sheer pandemonium. Whilst everyone was either play fighting or shouting out wrestling catchphrases, some of us decided to practice the infamous DDT move on said poor slower kid, leading Madam Bartlett (bless her) to then have no choice but to plead with us to never, ever do a ‘DDF’ on him again. Of course, we were more than happy to comply. The look on her face when we did that extra DDT on him!
The best part of this opening scene, not forgetting that Madame Bartlett has not yet completely lost her temper, is that we reverted to trash talking like our wrestling TV idols. My friend was The Rock and I was yelling DX slogans; “If you’re not down with Lekky Kev, then I’ve got two words for you……Suck it!!” Which begged a response from my pretend foe, “Know your role and shut your mouth, you jabroni, before I lay the smack down on your roody poo, candy ass!”
Madame Bartlett is boiling over at this point, then I, going over the top and ruining the fun for everyone else as always, shouted out “Suck my dong, you tit!” Then, in her thickest South African accent, Madame Bartlett, shrieked “Right, dats eet, I don’t want to hear any more of dis WWF nonsense AND DAT’S DE BOTTOM LINE!” As you can imagine, an intense and collective gasp was let out by everyone in that room, much like that of a frenzied crowd at a live wrestling show during a high-risk manoeuvre. This was very quickly followed by a knowing look in everyone’s eyes before we all, in perfect unison, bellowed “BECAUSE STONE COLD SAID SOOOOOOOO!” Bartlett’s head nearly exploded.
Maybe I am getting ahead of myself, but let’s traverse back to the beginning, where my insatiable hunger for WWE (or WWF as it was known as then), became apparent.
The year is 1990, a year of fluorescent coloured shell suits, jelly sandals and the Gulf War. I was already hooked on Hulkamania by this point meaning I was familiar with the likes of Hulk Hogan, Rowdy Roddy Piper, and ‘Macho Man’ Randy Savage. However, there was one more superstar who I had been indoctrinated into admiring via heavy merchandising, that I am still yet to witness on TV. Bear in mind that this was long before the internet and on-demand; if something aired and you didn’t have a VCR recorder and blank videotape handy, you were most likely to never witness that moment again, unless it’s over 24 years later and WWE have launched their Network (for only $9.99).
I even had this geezer on a t-shirt and wallet, along with The British Bulldog, Davey Boy Smith. Who was this colourful gladiator who had been rammed down my neck up until this point? Until I see him on the television I will have no idea. The man in question is (of course) The Ultimate Warrior. Here is the scene: sat crossed legged in my pants, chewing on a pack of Jolly Ranchers, today happens to be the day I finally see the Ultimate Warrior, as he is now cutting a promo before my beady little eyes, on my parents’ 18-inch, fat-arsed, television set.
Look who I saw at Earls Court back in 1993
From left: Mr Fuji, Hulk Hogan, Yokozuna, Jimmy Hart
Finally, the wait was over; this face-painted, unit of a man with shoelaces tied so tightly around his biceps that he could probably barely feel his hands, started to shout in an inaudible tone down the camera lens. Whilst I am sat confused as to why this highly pushed face of a character was shouting at me via the TV like I had just been a naughty boy (come on, I was only five years of age at this point!), I still remember my mother sat there with her hand covering her awestruck grin, repeating, ‘I just can’t get over how white his teeth are!’
And to be fair to the woman, the Ultimate Warrior did indeed have teeth whiter than all three Bee Gees combined. I, on the other hand, didn’t appreciate the aggressive tone he was shouting in and his hose pipe like veins pulsating through his biceps made me want to spew up my crunched up Jolly Ranchers. All this being said, he still struck me as absolutely mesmerising.
You see, it didn’t matter if these larger-than-life, colour-clad performers lived up to my expectations at that age or not, there were so many of these varied characters and gimmicks, that watching a show at that time, with that content, was mind-blowing for my younger self. To be a kid at a time where Hulkamania was rife and the superstars were like cartoon characters being brought to life, I really was lucky to be in that target age group at this special time and I cherish it to this very day.
I mentioned gimmicks, didn’t I? What I loved about this era was that a good proportion of the gimmicks were based on day-to-day occupations, you could even recreate the Village People out of the gimmicks that the WWF had to offer between 1988 and 1998. Do you think I’m being ridiculous? Here’s something I prepared earlier:
Indian – Tatanka
Cop – The Big Boss Man
Biker – Any one of the DOA (Disciples of Apocalypse)
Construction Worker – ‘Real Man’s Man’ Stephen Regal (William Regal)
Sailor – Tugboat
Cowboy – Either one of the Smoking Gunns
Even back then, they had the warnings: Don’t Try This at Home! But that did not deter us from staging our own shoddy matches. All we needed was a plot of grass, four sticks shoved in the ground to act as turnbuckle markers, and a great imagination. If you were extra lucky, your parents would take you to the right place at the right time and you would have yourself a big arse bouncy castle to become your new squared circle.
The play fights were the best, boyish innocence at its finest, although a mock match would quickly escalate into a full on shoot style conflict. I remember one day when I was six, I defeated all of my peers. However, before I could revel in my well-earned triumph, the bigger boys came. “One more match!” they demanded. Three ten-year-olds versus little, infant me. No details, but you can guess how this scene panned out: I received an immense pasting, as well as a grasshopper for a suppository (yes, really!). Still, I guess it’s the taking part that counts.
That’s the sentimental childhood crap done, for now. Next time, let’s time-hop back to my teens, in 1999/2000.