Photo: Oli Sandler
A few hours before the opening bell of Revolution Pro Wrestling’s New Year’s Resolution show in Guildford, David Starr sat down with SteelChair Magazine to discuss all things professional wrestling. “My favourite wrestler’s favourite wrestler,” “The Cream in Your Coffee,” and… the guy that’s “really good at Twitter” gave his honest thoughts on a range of topics like intergender wrestling, WWE stopping their UK talent from working indie shows, and his unique journey to becoming an honorary Brit.
Although he let loose on the fans just a few hours later by being the dastardly heel, RevPro’s cruiserweight champion refrained from insulting us during our chat. He gave us one hell of an interview before putting on a hell of a show in the ring.
This interview will start with a compliment…
That’s a good start to the interview (laughs).
You’re great in the ring, but what really stands out is your personality and charisma. And, of course, your many nicknames. So what sparked this dream of becoming a professional wrestler, was it the in-ring performances or larger than life characters like Superstar Billy Graham?
Superstar Billy Graham is my number one favourite because he stood out in a time where no one was doing the things he was doing. Now people would say those things are semi-cliché. He created the cliché of the bodybuilder wrestler, the tanned wrestler, and the eccentric wrestler. In reality, it’s him and Gorgeous George. So I was always attracted to those kinds of athletes. Like Floyd Mayweather, he’s a piece of trash human being, but he’s a great athlete and a great sports personality.
But the first thing that got me into wrestling was Wrestlemania 12 with Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart, which was a clash of personalities that delivered on the in-ring competition. Everything felt legit, and weirdly enough on that same show, you had Goldust and Rowdy Piper producing the most colourful match you could think of, and that’s not what stood out. What stood out to me was the Shawn and Bret match, even as a five-year-old.
The thing that ultimately pushed me to become a wrestler though was CM Punk’s ‘Summer of Punk’ in WWE.
Funnily enough, that was the next question. You said that you had become disinterested in wrestling and the CM Punk promo brought you back. That promo was in 2011, and you started wrestling in 2012, so that was the turning point for you to pursue this dream?
The Punk promo reinspired me to want to become a professional wrestler. When I was five years old, and I saw Bret vs. Shawn, I said I wanted to be a pro wrestler. I started amateur wrestling when I was seven years old because I wanted to be a pro wrestler. I literally thought it was going to be like pro wrestling.
For years, people kept telling me I was too small or I had to be on steroids to be a wrestler, so I kind of just put it behind me. Then when there was that kind of exodus of megastars that I grew up with or I had become accustomed to, I didn’t pay attention the way I did before. Then all of a sudden, my good friend who lived around the corner from my house hit me up and asked me if I wanted to watch RAW. It’s weird.
CM Punk wearing his Stone Cold Steve Austin shirt sits down on the rampway and cuts that promo. Then when the mike got cut off, my friend and I looked at each other wondering what happened. Punk’s storytelling, his promos, he got you to buy into everything he was selling, and when I saw Punk do that, someone who isn’t necessarily the biggest, it was inspiring. So I decided I’m gonna do it.
You mentioned the amateur wrestling. How much did that help you in professional wrestling? Because we’ve seen how beneficial that has been for some wrestlers.
It helps. Although, my first close-knit trainer said my amateur wrestling background was not going to help me at all in pro wrestling. He proved to be, for the most part, a bit of an idiot. I think it helped on how to move, and understanding how to move another human beings body, I think that’s kind of important. I’m legitimately amazed by pro wrestlers that I know that are successful, and they’ve never played a contact sport. It amazes me that they can just pick up pro wrestling.
So I think amateur wrestling helped me in that way, and it made me tougher, as it helps you adjust to being beat up constantly (laughs).
Some people may not know this, but you’ve had a lot of short stints in companies like Impact Wrestling, ROH, and even WWE. Is it a little strange for you that your home is now in the UK, both professionally and personally?
Yes. Since the summer of 2017, I’ve been pretty much full time in the UK, and now I have a flat with my name on it which is a little different. It’s weird because I still have to adjust to when my Dad asks me if I’m coming home anytime soon, and I tell him I’ll be home, but I’m referring to Philadelphia. When I talk to my girlfriend, who is here, and she asks me about coming home, then “home” becomes my flat (laughs).
Your journey is a little different. Usually, it’s the Brits going to America, whereas you have come here to the UK.
Well, now it has gotten to the point where the UK scene is the hottest scene in the wrestling world right now. There’s not even an argument to be made. In the States, everything is so spread out, so it’s not easy for someone here to go to the States because where are you going to go? You have to be in a region, and you have to hope that region is running wrestling all the time. Here, someone can just get a train to this place or bus to this place, even flying to Europe is cheap. It’s a lot easier to get more work here, and there are a lot more weekday shows.
I also think the fans here see wrestling as more of a social event, as opposed to an exclusionary club, which seems to be the case in the States where people come to wrestling shows, and they are there for wrestling. My girlfriend noticed that when she came to the States with me. She went to shows here like Fight Club and Progress, and she saw all these shows that are kind of a party where people are hanging out, having a good time. If you don’t like wrestling, you can still have a good time at a wrestling show here. In the States, it’s possible, but it’s more like you have to be a wrestling fan.
Can you compare what the wrestling scene was like here in the UK from when you started to now? And were you aware of the UK scene?
I didn’t know anything at all. I didn’t watch wrestling outside the main companies. It was about six months into my career, and then I watched CZW, and when I fell in love with the CM Punk character, I looked up Ring of Honor. Then I started watching TNA when Bobby Roode had his nine-month run as champion. So I watched TNA, a little bit of Punk in ROH, but I didn’t watch past that. Then I watched CZW, Dragon Gate, and the bubble kept expanding.
I was not really aware of the UK scene, and then when I was fortunate enough to come over here in 2017, that’s when I started to learn the history of Kris Travis and World of Sport. Training with Tim Thatcher, I learned more about Pancrase style. Then I saw Marty Jones and Terry Rudge wrestle, which made me go “wow,” because that is sport wrestling. And that’s what I think of the British wrestling scene. But I was not aware of it too much until I was actually wrestling.
Would you ever consider going to WWE, perhaps as part of their 205 Live brand?
It’s not something I want to do or need to do. I think when you dive into it; there are a lot of things. I’m still a rebellious, anti-corporate kind of guy. So I have that struggle in my head, and then I have people in my family who tell me to get enough money, so I don’t have to do anything at all. I want to do it, but I want to do it the right way, and they say “there’s no right way to make money!” (Laughs)
So is WWE a goal? No. Is it something that if it happens, it will be cool? Sure. I would answer any phone call for a big opportunity, and I would discuss it and think about it. But I’m happy doing what I’m doing now. I don’t have a contract anywhere, which means I don’t have any insurance, because it’s nice to have a contract where you know even if you get hurt, you’ll still be getting paid. That’s cool, but that’s the danger of being purely independent.
So I wouldn’t say it’s a goal. If it happens, it happens. Same with New Japan or All Elite Wrestling, if it happens, it happens. As long as I can support myself and live relatively comfortably, that’s pretty much it.
Well, you’re basically British now, so maybe you could do NXT UK?
(Laughs) I suppose. You never know what’s going to happen. As opportunities approach, I think about it, I look at it, and I figure out what I’m going to do from there.
RevPro’s British heavyweight championship was on the line at the Tokyo Dome this year. That’s essentially the second biggest platform other than the WWE, what do you think that will do for RevPro moving forward?
It’s massive. It might be the biggest thing to have happened to Revolution Pro. It’s a step forward. Even having the head official Chris Roberts being there officiating that match, that stuff is very important, and just a building block for relationships to get more cemented.
That was basically what happened with Ring of Honor, they had a bunch of New Japan guys, and then all of a sudden, you see Ring of Honor guys going to New Japan. Then ROH titles were seen on New Japan shows. It’s a slow moving process.
Now you’re going to have Zack (Sabre Jr.), who is a regular at New Japan, walking around with the title that has the RevPro logo on it. And you already had Ishii doing the same, which instantly gave it credibility, especially with the Japanese fanbase. It’s just the next step. It’s big for Revolution Pro, and a great thing for professional wrestling. Another powerful partnership that provides people with the opportunity to make a living doing what they want to do.
Was it cool being a part of the match where they announced Zack vs. Ishii?
I think it was cool because if I beat Ishii that night, it would have been crazy because New Japan stars like Ishii do not lose often. It would have also been the first time the cruiserweight champion merges the title with the heavyweight title. So when Ishii won, you had something else that kind of came in and still gave the fans that big moment. So that’s really cool.
I’m just happy to be a part of anything that feels special. Even the build-up to the match with Ishii just felt special.
What’s it like working with guys like Ishii and sharing a locker room with someone like Minoru Suzuki?
It’s super cool because you see these guys that everybody’s talking about, and you are there, personally speaking to them. You have to be professional about it, but I do take times where I sit back and think about how wild it is that I’m talking to these people. It’s good to keep a level head because you are working with these people. You’re all professionals. No one’s better than anybody, and we’re all on the same show.
But it is cool to know that there are certain people that you can text as a friend. I’ve done that with my brother before. I’ll screenshot some text conversation with a wrestler he knows, and he’ll find it crazy that I’m friends with him (laughs). It’s important to keep that side because if I’m not in the main event of a show, I’ll get to enjoy the show after my match. I can pull myself away from being a wrestler and just being a fan.
RevPro’s desire to go to markets that companies like WWE will never pursue is quite admirable. Like tonight, for example, Guildford, and you guys aren’t just coming for a random show, it’s a stacked card with Jay White, Will Ospreay, yourself and more. Do you think this is why RevPro is doing so well today?
I think it’s important to tap into these markets and not ignore them. WWE will most likely not come here, and if they do, it’ll probably be a house show. But they wouldn’t give you a show with real substance, and RevPro takes the chance and does that. So is it important? Of course. Every fanbase is important. If there are people that want to buy your product, you should go and make it available to them.
What was your reaction to the announcement that WWE’s UK talent could no longer work for other British promotions?
It’s no surprise. You can see it building. And the fact that WWE did something that was unprecedented, unless you go way back, when, in rare cases, they would rent out their talent. But this didn’t happen very often where these guys that are under contract to WWE were able to wrestle on indie shows. Then you had people that saw them on TV or the Network, and they would see them on a local poster and realise they could see them for fifteen pounds. So that brought more eyes, and those fans may come to see them, but then they get attached to another wrestler or the show as a whole.
Guys like Pete, Trent, and Tyler, they’ve done a lot for this scene because I’m fairly certain those guys pushed WWE to let them do those shows for a while. So they did everything they could to keep this life flowing into the UK market, and now it’s up to us to take it and bring it even higher. But overall, it didn’t surprise me. At some point; WWE has to protect their investment. They are paying these guys salary, and they don’t want them to get hurt somewhere else, and there’s a high chance of injury in this sport. There’s logic to people being upset, but it’s up to the next person to step up. People have to take advantage of these new spots that have become available, and there’s so much talent that hasn’t been focused on because these guys were there, and these guys were demanding a lot of money, so that opens up a budget. Now there’s more money for more wrestlers.
Them being there and helping build this huge fanbase, and then leaving these spots for us to come and take and make more money, it’s only helped further create more of a wrestling middle class.
Finally, you’ve been involved in intergender matches before. You wrestled Tessa Blanchard, and you were famously the WSU tag champion…
Fighting for equal rights (laughs). We were saying that women’s wrestlers are the same as men’s wrestlers, so why can’t men pursue a women’s title? Right? We’re all the same. They’re wrestlers. We’re wrestlers, let’s wrestle. That’s it (smiles).
Triple H recently said that he doesn’t feel the need to focus on intergender wrestling; he believes it’s more shock value, and it doesn’t necessarily empower women or help them. What empowers women is wrestling other women and stealing the show. Do you agree with that or should WWE push intergender wrestling?
I don’t necessarily think it’s shock value. I don’t know if I’d categorise it that way. But I also don’t think it’s something that has to happen all the time. It’s bullshit to say the only way that women would be recognised is if they wrestle men. I think that’s nonsense because there are plenty of women who can have plenty of good matches with other women that can stand out, and steal the show.
Sasha and Bayley, we sit here and think about which one of their matches won match of the year a few years ago because they’ve had so many good matches. It just proves the point. All that matters is telling a good story. But I’ll say this, the fact that WWE has gone away from intergender wrestling so much, made the Ronda and Triple H moment at Wrestlemania so much bigger. It was nuts! And the fact Triple H didn’t have so much of an ego, and he just let Ronda beat the shit out of him, I mean, that’s probably what would happen in real life (laughs). But it’s not real life, and they still told that story that way. It was great.
I think it’s ridiculous that the argument of domestic violence gets brought up when it comes to intergender wrestling. It’s completely ridiculous. I also hate the fact that some won’t have a man hit a woman because they’re afraid of domestic violence, but they are perfectly fine with showcasing women attacking men physically. The victims of domestic violence, for the most part, are women, but if you’re saying sexes shouldn’t hit each other, then stick to the principal.
But I don’t think WWE needs to do intergender wrestling to show that women can hang with men. I think that’s nonsense because women can show how great they are by wrestling women.