And so I spoke to Nathan Cruz and Mark Haskins about why they’re now heading up a campaign entitled ‘Screw Indy Wrestling’…
Gentlemen, as I understand it, you’re arguing in part that wrestlers need to start thinking more professionally: the need to behave professionally, train professionally, and treat professional wrestling as a job rather than a hobby or pocket money. I’m guessing this is something that’s been irritating you for a while.
MH: To some degree, yes, although it’s got less to do with the amount of shows a guy has a month and more to do with the general attitude towards the business. Some guys aren’t as fortunate as Cruz and myself to have wrestling as a full-time income, but they’re still putting in the time to improve and better themselves.
At one point in my career I was working two jobs just to make rent while I trained, plus wrestled at the weekend, training in a ring for three hours every night of the week and blasting out a two-hour gym session every morning in the vain hope that wrestling would one day be my full-time profession. At no point during that time, or have I ever, referred to myself as an “indy” wrestler. I’ve never been an “indy” wrestler. I’m an independent contractor, working for independent promoters in the professional wrestling business.
NC: It’s been boiling my blood for a while. When I started out, I never aimed to become an “indy” wrestler. I aimed to become a professional wrestler. I accepted where I was but wasn’t happy with it. I wanted more and still do. That’s why I trained twice a week for three hours a session, soaked up as much advice from anyone I could, killed myself in the gym five nights a week and forcefed myself to gain weight.
I never accepted that ‘this is where I am, I’ll just call myself an “indy” wrestler’. What’s the issue? The business too hard for you to put the hard work in that it takes to become full-time like Haskins and myself? It’s pathetic. Do you think people like Rob Brookside gave their health for some skinny lads to call themselves “indy” wrestlers? No. He paved a way for people like us to make this a career.
Obviously you’re setting yourself up in direct opposition to the DEFEND guys – but are you targeting JUST them, or are there others you’re criticising as well?
MH: Of course DEFEND were always going to be the main target through this. They’ve been parading their stuff around for years and I know we weren’t the only people asking “What are you exactly defending indy wrestling from?” I guess the time just came where we answered our own question – us.
NC: Quite simply anyone who treats this business the same way those guys do are what’s wrong with the industry and why there isn’t so much work as there once was. Yet they claim we should DEFEND this? Get a grip, lads!
The terminology ‘indy wrestling’ is quite commonly used to refer to any promotions that aren’t the ‘big two’, though – are you concerned that you may alienate promoters with this? And have you spoken to any promoters about their persistence in using untrained workers or workers who’ll turn up for free or pay their own expenses?
MH: If anything my bookings have gone up, and numerous promoters have shown support. You would think the term “indy” would be an abbreviation of “independent” and while once upon a time that may have been the case, in today’s perception “indy” seems to be used as an excuse. “Indy” has become a term used to describe skinny kids who don’t want to put in the time to be a good representation of pro wrestling. If you have a guy who doesn’t work out, who has poorly-made gear and a pair of kick pads, and people say, “Yeah, but he’s different from those other guys you see because he’s an indy wrestler,” you’re making an excuse for a pisspoor attitude.
There’s loads of guys out there who work as independent professional wrestlers who still work their nuts off in every aspect of the game. There should be no excuse for that. In what other profession can you turn up with a “Half arse this” mentality and get by because you use the word “indy”?
NC: True that “indy” used to mean that. But as Haskins just pointed out, it’s drastically changed and as a result the business is suffering. Any promoter I know who is using guys who “work” for free and pay their own way, I always make a point of sitting down with them and explaining that it’s just outrageous. I have the same chat with said “workers”.
What do you ultimately hope to achieve with this? And what’s your message to the guys you see as ‘indy’ wrestlers?
MH: I hope young aspiring wrestlers take note. I hope, if anything, guys work harder. There’s a whole bunch of talent out there and if everyone was on the same page then maybe the business would be way better off.
NC: Couldn’t agree more with Mark. Hopefully it will open people’s eyes to the horrible reality that if we don’t do anything about this soon, there will be no more British PROFESSIONAL wrestlers because the so-called “indy” scene would have undercut it. In short, take it serious, aim high or f**k off.
Images: Haskins courtesy of BritishWrestlingPictures.com; Cruz courtesy of Chris Evers Photography.