Behind the scenes: Leicester Championship Wrestling

When you get invited to a show that’s in a college, you think you know exactly what you’re going to get.

imageLeicester Championship Wrestling – housed in Brockington College, Enderby – doesn’t fit those stereotypes. The shows aren’t in a musty old gym; nor is their ring held together with bits of tape. With a sunken floor for the ring, a stage and ring catwalk, bleachers at the side, a proper lighting rig, plus tiered seating available when necessary, this is a very nice venue indeed for wrestling. Indeed, as promoter John Shipley spent the hours pre-show checking that the custom-made titantrons were working on both screens, it was obvious from the outset that this was not your average Britwres show in a school.

Because of my interest in training schools, they invited me to watch their new recruits being put through their paces by trainer Xander Cooper. On arrival, their small batch of trainees were working with the backstage team to put the ring together, and I’m advised that this is both the best and worst ring in British wrestling; best because of its quality, worst because of how complicated the damn thing is, and that’s borne out by the fact it took them just over two hours to complete the construction.

Cooper’s students are all relatively new to the business, with the least experienced having trained for around six months. They look very young as well, and seem to be at that stage of training where they’ve not always got the confidence in themselves and what they’re doing in the ring (from what I’ve seen this is relatively common – but some companies will rush these novices onto main cards, making it a very awkward viewing experience for the audience).

So it’s interesting that Cooper starts the session by telling them they’ll be focusing on how to look more aggressive, and throughout he’s encouraging them to make their strikes look meaningful and to make noise no matter whether they’re hitting or being hit. He stresses the importance of composure rather than speed – something a lot of new wrestlers can learn from.
As a fan, it’s fascinating to see the drills that trainees are put through – as a bystander, I couldn’t even remember the order the moves were supposed to come in, let alone actually do some of them. And it’s thought-provoking to hear them discussing what Cooper calls the counterintuities of professional wrestling; theoretically you’d try to protect yourself in a fight but in wrestling you need to open up to give your opponent something to hit. It’s all about striking a balance between what looks “realistic” and what looks impressive and entertaining – sure, everyone involved in wrestling knows that on some level, but it’s not often one peeks behind the curtain to see how that works.
Rather than pushing trainees onto the main roster before they’re ready, LCW have recently been hosting trainee shows. Getting used to working in the spotlight will be an extra test for these new wrestlers – after all, it’s all very well being able to perform drills with your classmates, but doing it in the same ring with half a dozen lights on you plus an audience can be a very different experience.
And obviously the long-term plan is to use trainees on the main LCW shows, where there’s already a lot of top-class talent – Cooper himself, of course, but also the faction from the House of Pain, including Stixx; the Hunter Brothers; Kris Travis, and more. At the moment, LCW is running moderately successful shows for a partisan local fanbase – with these long-term plans for development, they look set to progress to bigger things in the future.

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