Interview: Danny Garnell talks Hammerlock, Andre Baker and Japan

Tell us a little bit about how you got started in wrestling.

I started with Hammerlock in 1998; at the time, it was really the only wrestling school there was. I was doing amateur wrestling and stuff at the time, but my dad used to take me to see the pro shows – the All Star shows – when I was little, and then I saw an advert for Hammerlock in PowerSlam magazine.

n/My dad took me down to training, I met Andre [Andre Baker], obviously, in training, and it just went from there, really. I debuted the following year when I was 15, and then I just went on the circuit with them till 2004, when I took a break for a couple of years. When I came back, Hammerlock was just folding up, so I worked for LDN and IPW for a bit, and then came back to Hammerlock when it started up again.

What was Andre’s method of training like, particularly as you came into it from an amateur background?

I agreed with his way of training – but I’ve never known any different, really. You had to do the unenjoyable stuff before you got the chance to bump around in the ring. His philosophy was that you have to learn how the body moves, really moves, before you can start doing pro wrestling, because it helps you move better, it helps you sell better, it adds logic to the matches.

Andre was the first person I know of to introduce a grading system to pro wrestling. He got us accepted by martial arts governing body as ring wrestling as an exhibition of real wrestling. So you had to do your yearly grading, and with your grading comes insurance, so we were all insured on the shows. I know the British Wrestling Council do a similar thing now, but Andre did that ten years ago. It did limit injuries, and you knew that people you were going on with were as competent as you, maybe more competent, so you had that confidence that they could work safely. It was good in them terms. It was good as well because it was a legitimate martial arts governing body, even though they were pro shows, it gave them a little bit of legitimacy.

Now Hammerlock has started up again, what’s different and what’s the same as when you first began?

Well, a lot of the wrestlers are the same. Zack [Zack Sabre Jr] worked the first memorial show, Fergal [Fergal Devitt] came back over from Japan; because of how far their careers have moved on, they’re not going to be as available as often, but they’ve tried to get as much of the old gang back together as they possibly can.

Andre used to run a lot of tours, not so much a show every week as a two, three-week tour, all round the country. He’d bring over a lot of the old WWE guys to be on tour with you. It’d be good to do that again, but we’ve all got these other commitments now. We’re all older now, so we’ve got families, jobs, whatever, whereas when we started out we were all pretty young.

Obviously you’re one of the ones with family responsibilities – how has that affected your wrestling career?

My wife’s really understanding. My wife’s dad was a boxer, and he was away a fair bit boxing, she understands it from that viewpoint. He gave up when she was born, but she says he had a lot of things that he wished he could have done but didn’t get a chance to, so she’d never want to hold me back and have me when I’m 40, 50, saying, “Oh, I wish I’d done…” so she’s kind of “go for it while you can.” Sometimes it does mean knocking back a booking, because I’ve got stuff on, but sometimes to be honest I would rather be at home.

You’ve achieved a lot in your career – is there something you still want to do that motivates you, or is it simple enjoyment?

I just enjoy it, the shows. I pick and choose the shows I want to do, I like being able to do that. I would love to go to Japan. That’s always been my goal – when I did wrestle out in America it was like, it wasn’t quite what I thought it would be, so I’m happy not to go that route. Japan, I would still really like to do. Whether that happens or not, I don’t know. But I’m happy enough doing what I do over here. I’m just happy doing anything!

This year’s NWA Hammerlock Andre Baker Memorial Show is at the Angel Centre, Tonbridge Wells, on June 2nd.

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