My 2017 Year In Review

Added by Nathan Cruz

As an introduction I can’t promise you much in the way of ‘light reading’ here. Sure they may be a few nuggets of gold here and there of positivity; however 2017 for me has been a professional hell. Thusly resulting in my personal life mirroring the same.

I’ve not written a year in review in sometime, for many reasons albeit the most valid that I rarely had much time to myself and had no real inspiration to write something reflecting yet another successful year.

But as my fiancée has returned to university to study her teaching degree, leaving me with much more free time and I am experiencing for the first time in my 11 year career somewhat of a car crash of a year; I thought it may at least make for some interesting reading, answer some queries and perhaps may make you feel better about your own year.

In some ways this is a form of therapy for me, getting my issues off my chest instead of letting them build up and subsequently get the better of me. That now said; this was my 2017…

To quote a brilliant British sitcom – “Well it started badly, it tailed off a little in the middle and the least said about the ending the better”

January was brutal. In the closing of 2016 I was awoken one morning to an email from none other than William Regal, asking me call him when I received the email.
The call was to ask me if I would be interested in taking place in the WWE UK Tournament.

A story that I have told countless times yet however rumours will always circulate. The truth is I was at London for the photo shoot, vignette taping and medical. Upon taking of the medical I failed on the grounds of a blood pressure issue (a systolic reading of 160).

This rang alarm bells as my father unfortunately suffered a stroke in 2010 and I was concerned this could be hereditary. I was asked by WWE staff to contact my GP and hopefully be prescribed medication.

I went to my GP the following day and read a 134. The doctors were adamant that I had nothing wrong with my blood pressure and contributed the reading to anxiety. I went back and fourth between my doctor and the WWE doctor eventually getting a 24 hour blood pressure monitor that showed my average being 136. Something that could have been lower ideally but was still nothing at all to worry about.

January rolls around and I awake one morning to receive another email from William Regal. This one to say that I was unfortunately taken out of the tournament and would hopefully get a dark match. I lay in bed for an hour not moving, not doing a thing. I finally got up, went down stairs and made breakfast. I went to message my close friend Dash, at that moment it sunk in and I broke down on the sofa in my living room. None the less I of course still made the trip to Blackpool.

At this stage my retainer contract may still be honoured if I pass my medical that day otherwise I would be offered a one off extra payment. The first test I failed miserably and again the physician on hand ruled it down to anxiety and after reviewing my 24 hour test was more than happy to clear me. However WWE (remember how big of a global company they are) needed confirmation by their own doctor. Day 2 of the tournament I had a full ECG taken. Four tests all backed up the physicians theory of my spike in blood pressure been put down to anxiety and I was cleared to compete that day.

At this point I’d like to thank Mark Haskins. He had been there that weekend also going through some medical complications. The Saturday he was great, we were there for each other in what was understandably a day full of mixed emotions but we were riding that wave together. The Sunday however I was cleared and asked to do a dark match. Mark wasn’t feeling well that day and I felt awful; he’s been a good friend to me for a number of years and has had my back at my lowest, yet here he was and I felt totally helpless.

I later described my feelings about that weekend to Flash Morgan Webster on his podcast ‘Wrestling friends’ (rate, comment, subscribe) as being mixed.

To see something like that take place in the UK and to be as well received as it was felt incredible. For ten years I have been part of British wrestling and part of its recent rise in popularity. Either it being my work with PROGRESS, NGW & British Wrestling Weekly, my schedule and effort in working for All-Star Wrestling with new and seasoned talent alike; this was something I felt I had contributed to and I was supposed to be a part of, yet I had to take a step back.

To this day I don’t know how I feel about that weekend, I just know in the months that followed it would continue to plague my mind and would lead me into a depression that has been flippant as the year continued. I literally had all my dreams in the palm of my hands. Quite literally that is, I had a WWE contract in my hands. All I wanted from the age of ten was those papers to sign, everything I’d worked for since I was 15 was there and the next; it had gone.

Bad luck was to follow me. I was asked to be an extra in the upcoming film ‘wrestling with my family’ about WWE star and UK original Paige. Originally offered 6 days shooting at a reasonable sum of money, it seemed to take the sting out of what had happened in Blackpool. However this was to be short lived. A day before my schedule was changed to be shooting a day earlier and reduced to just one days worth of work… yep just as good…

I will say that day was hilarious though. Ligero and myself have a tendency to act very silly when we get tired and bored. Throw hunger into the mix with the addition of caffeine and the result was Steven Merchant asking if all the extras could please mime as ligsy and I had legitimately ruined a shoot by laughing so loud on set due to trying to break each other. Upon reflection, we didn’t deserve the other 5 days worth of work, but hey “we had a giggle”.

As February rolled around my schedule was once again heavy as I would be embarking on the half term Butlins run, only this year it would be different as for the first time in four decades it would be ran out outside of the All-Star banner. This has been a story of great controversy and one that I have sadly found myself in the middle of and falling victim to in some part. Despite what rumours have surfaced about the situation I can only tell you honestly; if you decide to believe me or not is completely out of my hands.

I first heard of this in the August of 2016 when I was working for Brian in the summer. Letisha (Brian’s daughter) received a phone call one day from Brian at the camp site I was working for him that day. Tish asked me “Nathan, Dad wants to know if there is anything you want to tell him?” I laughed it off as I had no idea at all as to what he meant and knowing Brian, it may have been anything!

Tish later then asked me and told me it had something to do with NGW (NGW has been my home promotion since 2008 and I have been one of their flagship characters for pretty much the entirety of their history) at this stage I was concerned. NGW were already running the Hull City Hall, a venue that Brian has ran for years and I could only imagine it may have been something to do with that.

I immediately contacted NGW’s head promoter Rich Dunn, who informed me that they had been approached to do a sample showcase there and they had kept me off the show as they knew it would put me in a difficult situation.

The day they had that showcase I was working for Brian, the day after I competed in the same venue they had for Brian and went all out in a contest against Fabian Aichner.
NGW understood and respected my loyalty to Brian however later in the year they was informed that Butlins were interested in updating the show to what NGW could offer.

Sadly this has been the root of me losing a few friends from that team, many of which I have fond memories with. In regards to Brian himself, he has been totally understanding and has still being offering me work. I would like to add this before I close on this negative chapter. I wouldn’t be where I am today if it were not for Brian Dixon.

Little known fact, when PROGRESS wrestling promoters Jim and Jon first saw me, it was at Gravesend for Brian. They made the decision that night based on my performance that I was to be their first champion.

Brian, gave me the biggest opportunity when I was 19 to make this my full time living and always made sure I was working with people who would help me improve.

I’ll always be extremely grateful for that and all the work he has given me over the years.
I’ve had my ups and downs with him as you do with any boss, but Brian allowed me to live a life I had only dreamed of, to learn from some of the greats and to make some very close friends in this job. I truthfully love him and will forever be grateful for all he has done for me. It’s upsetting that it has come to this I just wanted to thank him for everything he has done for me.

That aside it was time to focus on the positives. Butlins expected something different and the pressure was on us all to deliver just that. That first week I was working with Zack Gibson & Joseph Connors in the main events of the one night story the NGW Butlins show presents. It was exciting, it was different but we all had a very positive mind set about moving forward with this. It was a bold move and we were all a part of it for better or for worse and in the weeks that followed we were evidently there for the better. The reviews of the show and the new presentation that were coming in from guests were flattering and were truly rewarding for all the effort we had put in over the half term run. It got me excited for the summer season that year and I could tell by the vibe of the lads who were experiencing this for this first time, such as Robbie X, that this was going to be something they honestly couldn’t wait to be a part of.

As for me personally my career was somewhat in limbo. I didn’t know where I stood or what my direction was outside of NGW. As the year would go on NGW would be my silver lining in an otherwise very dark cloud.

This came in the form of an offer from Alex Shane.

Now many have their grievances with Alex, but to me he has always been incredibly helpful, appreciative of what I do and has rewarded my hard work handsomely. We’ve argued on a number of occasions and I have no doubt they will be more to come, but that’s always respected as both sides of our argument stem from our passion for professional wrestling. Alex is head of a media company that NGW falls under the umbrella of.

After hearing the news of my WWE experience he approached me at the start of the Easter run with an offer to put me under contract for NGW.

The contract would mean that I would have a guarantee set amount of money paid to me monthly as long as I would prioritise an agreed amount of dates and would consult with them before any work for British TV wrestling. After talking this over with William Regal I decided on signing what was basically job/financial security for a whole year.
Imagine that? A UK independent promotion being able to offer that? I find it incredible and exciting at the same time. NGW never gets the credit I feel it deserves. 4-5 times a year they draw 900-1200+ inside the Hull City Hall for a highly well produced show that features some of the finest UK talent around. On top of that they tour to other venues across the country and always draw well putting on a top quality show.
Then to add icing to the cake they’re working to create more opportunities like the one I received to enable more talent across the country to have a stable income.

As a team, we continuously work together on improving the show, developing young British talent and creating opportunities for those trying to break out. Targeting a casual audience at a time that it’s “cool” to target internet fans is one of their smartest moves and has lead to a very successful year for them. One that I am very proud to say I have been a part of.

As Easter started to grow closer I was adamant about finishing a personal project I had started on the year previous. That project been our back garden. My plan was to put in a pond that would have a deck sitting around it that would lead to a tiki bar that I converted from an old shed.

The year before I had done the landscaping and dug the hole for the pond. However I ran into budget issues and then went away for the summer season, followed by my three week tour of the United States (read the November 2016 edition of Total Wrestling magazine to find my review of that trip) and subsequently the hole had filled with rain water.

The first task was to drain the pond and finish it before the rain water would fill it up again. Gemma, God bless her was insisting that the better option would be to fill it in and just put a decking over it. However those who know me well know that if I say I’m gonna do something, I’m gonna do it (except pass a blood pressure test for the WWE)
After another 6 weeks solid graft on that garden I managed to get everything I wanted accomplished. A beautiful pond with a rockery and waterfall, a decking that sits over the pond, a tiki bar complete with beer fridge (thank you Andy Dye), a beautiful lawn that I can relax and mow and a bbq for friends and family to enjoy summer parties.

When the stresses of this year got the better of me, I would often find myself out in that garden enjoying the sun with a ice cold blue moon, my toes in the water and some Zac Brown Band in the background. If I achieved anything this year; it’s that garden!

Between working on the garden I was on the road a lot for NGW’s Easter run. By this point we had a worked out the two alternating shows and our roles on them. Mine would vary but with my heel turn on the horizon on our live event they were now firmly placing me in the role that I excel in. Those ten days were some of the most fun I’ve had. The team was really starting to bond and I was getting to know some of the new lads such as Amir Jordan (big time) and David Graves (the non-div from team sports). Quite often we’d stay up late into the night drinking, laughing and sharing stories. Getting more time like this with lads such as Wild Boar, who I have always had great admiration for, has been the highlights of my year. Again, alcohol may not be the best solution, but alcohol and friends is a major help. Those nights have been very helpful to me, so thank you to all who have shared a tipple in Cruzy’s Casa.

As I previously mentioned, I had been a guest of Flash Morgan Webster’s podcast ‘Wrestling Friends’ (two plugs in there Flash) in which I had mentioned in that gathering that I had always wanted to have a match with against Flash. Flash was always someone who I had seen something in due to his absolute believability as an underdog baby face. I knew he and I would be able to work something special together. Following that podcast I received a text message from Jon Briley who revealed that the plan was to always have Flash and I against each other in Manchester that March. The contest was one of his first since returning from injury and was one of my first outings as a singles wrestler in PROGRESS for quite sometime. It was a match that I felt we both had something to prove. Flash would come back from that match to say it was one of his favourites that he had ever had. I was very proud of that as I had started to have self doubt about my ability but that match put me right back into my stride as would my match against long term rival/friend El Ligero at The Electric Ballroom.

As my year in progress moved on I was put up against Spud. A match in which was set up really to introduce the next evolution of my character in PROGRESS now that I had broken away from the origin.

I’ve always had a ton of time for Spud and love his approach and mind set on wrestling. If anyone understands the importance of story telling and character it’s that guy! Later that year I was entered in the SSS16 tournament against Jeff Cobb. A legit beast from the United States, I was excited for this one, mainly being because I’m a massive Godzilla fan and saw this as a chance to recreate some of my favourite moments from those movies but in a wrestling ring setting (I’m not talking about Big Kaiju)

As much as I enjoyed that contest and how much Mark Andrews had me in stitches of laughter that weekend; I left The Ballroom with a lump in my throat. I knew I wasn’t going to Boston for the next overseas show and that I wasn’t going to be on Alexandra palace. It was somewhat of a bitter pill to swallow for me.

That night I drove from London to Bognor for the NGW show the following day and had a serious think about things. I called Gemma and vented my frustration to her to see if it would help. It didn’t, it only plagued on my mind more, so much that I barely slept that night. It was something else to add to the shit mix cocktail of my year.

After some heavy consideration I made the decision to reach out to the three PROGRESS promoters to suggest that after the upcoming tag match in June with Zack and I taking on Haskins and Havoc, that I should take a step away from PROGRESS.

It was a tough decision to make but for the sake of not burning bridges I felt it to be the smartest move. I didn’t want my emotions getting the better of me and this resulting in bad blood. Instead we parted ways very amicably and all three were fully understanding of my reasons to step away, even asking me to record a ‘promo’ to vent all my frustration. If you haven’t seen it, you can find it on their YouTube page. Quite a lot of that came from the heart. I had a teary eyed hug goodbye with Glen that day and parted ways.

To those who still reach out requesting my return or expressing how much you miss me there, thank you, I meant it when I said that no one cared; because that’s honestly how it felt. Hearing that at least puts my mind to rest in knowing that what I did there mattered. I gave PROGRESS some of my best performances (the reactions we created in the sss16 2016 tag team title main event are some of my proudest moments) and will always look upon some of those matches and moments with great pride.

Some may question my decision considering the working relationship between them and the WWE, but as that has already left me in a complex state of mind; I think that for the state of my mental wellbeing, the decision was justifiable. I do miss pissing off that crowd though.

In talking about pissing off a crowd, in June; after a three year stint as NGW’s top baby face, I returned to my role as their lead heel. A role that I have not adopted in that promotion since early 2013. When I originally requested time away from NGW it was because I knew my character as a heel had ran its course. I had risen through the ranks from a mid card guy to the promotions top champion and lost it in one of my proudest matches in 2011 to Matt Myers.

Following that the group my character had assembled all began to fall apart. My tag partner and heavy, Colossus Kennedy finally snapped, Rich West would walk away as would my ‘girlfriend’ Melanie Price. The character became a drunk and lost all passion for what he was doing until his best friend would get to rally out the Showstealer the crowd had grown to know. Just as I was making a mend the new group lead by Rampage Brown would storm the ring leaving me a heap and written out of the promotion for over a year.

Since then NGW has evolved into something much bigger. The show is now more than ever aimed at casuals, families and young children with the model of a comic book come to life. The stories now are less ‘soap opera’ and more competition based however those dramatic moments are what brought NGW to the dance so to speak. As a baby face I felt that I had also ran my course. I’d taken down the control, become NGW Champion and defended the title successfully for over a year before losing it in a rematch to (you guessed it) Matt Myers. It was time for a change. The night of the turn I was so excited. We had announced that I was unable to make it to the event as advertised as I had been taken to hospital. So many fans and friends who knew of my blood pressure issue were sending concerned text messages to see if I was ok… I didn’t reply of course!

Finally the moment arrived in which I would walk out to save the day to a huge ovation, I knew then that we had the! I would storm the ring and square up to my current rival Rampage Brown, only to turn on Myers, take the pin and once again become NGW Champion. I have never been so delighted to see so many children crying. As evil as that sounds; I knew it had worked. I broke so many hearts and we launched NGW’s story into a new direction.

Working heel is what I’m known for. It’s my strong suit no doubt but I did enjoy my role as NGW’s hero. Flash Morgan recently caught one of my matches from NGW as a baby face and was baffled that I don’t get to do it in more places.

One thing I’ve always prided my self on is being able to do the job that is asked of me. Be more than just ‘an act’ but be diverse and fall into whatever role a promoter may need of me. NGW has certainly let me display that over the past 7 years for certain. The heel I portray now is different to the heel I portrayed back in 2011 and that was different to the heel of 2012-13. Looking forward to the new year I’m very excited at where I’ll get to go with this.

I’m often asked by peers, trainees and fans alike why each year I make the decision to solely focus my attention on working the holiday resorts and towns throughout the summer period. This been my 7th whole summer doing so. The truth is they are many reasons. But to name a couple; Firstly no matter what experience level you’re at, it’s always such a great educational experience. The frequency in which you get to wrestle, the journeys travelling with like minded individuals, discussing wrestling. It’s invaluable. Secondly and most importantly, it’s a lot of fun and I find it very rewarding. I have never approached a holiday show with the mind set of “it’s an easy night.”
From my first summer in 2010 I have always prided myself on being hard working and changing the false perception some people have of the shows. From my early days learning from so many greats thanks to Brian Dixon and All-Star Wrestling. To this year where I have been found myself more in the role helping the new guys coming up at both NGW and Megaslam. I truly find this to be what I love about pro wrestling. Capturing an audience that are willing to suspend their disbelief and take them on a ride of drama and emotion.

The fact is this year there has been so many places that have had such busy summers and so many are getting chances to perform on a regular basis. Either if that’s the lads and lasses competing regular on the Indy scene this summer or people like myself working the busy holiday resort shows.

I look back at each year with such joy and all for different reasons. I’m particularly proud of Bilal Ansari, (who has survived with us all summer) Dave Lewis and Cole Revill-Nesbitt.

Cole who is a trainee of mine who has been and experienced his first summer thanks to Megaslam wrestling. Dave too working the busiest of schedules between Megaslam and NGW and it has been my pleasure to help in what way I can on my appearances at Megaslam this summer. Bilal, who has really grown a lot this summer not only as a trainee, but as a person and a friend. That’s not to ignore so many others who I’ve seen improve week after week this year.

The worst part of the season is when it comes to an end. Thank you to both NGW and Megaslam wrestling for keeping me on a busy schedule and giving me the opportunity to give something back to the job I love and has done so much for me over the past decade. This summer I needed more than ever and I enjoyed every rib, every journey, every match and every minute we were together.

One in particular was the new comer to the NGW team; that being Bilal. Bilal has endured an awful lot of ribbing this summer. Ribbing is somewhat of a time honoured tradition in our job. Just silly humour and in a lot of ways, character building. I’ll keep many of the ribs private as I feel they are some things in our job that should still be left between the boys and girls. However there is one rib in particular I think is just too good not to mention.

A certain well travelled masked wearing wrestler who shall be named Mr El. No wait that’s too obvious. Let’s just call them Ligero; came up with the idea of every time we approach Bilal in that battle royal, we should give him a head mare (snap mare if you’re Americanised) what resulted was Bilal taking a grand total of 17 head mare take downs in the space of ten minutes. By the time I entered the battle royal at number 5 (Bilal being 1) he had smartened up to what was going on and tried to block a double head mare from myself and Kip Sabian. This didn’t result in a nice bump for Bilal let’s put it that way. Eventually, an exhausted and dizzy Bilal was eliminated out the battle royal, leaving the rest of us hiding our laughter from the thousands of people in attendance. Marvellous stuff.

Another member of the British wrestling scene I’ve been able to spend more time with this year is Eddie Dennis. Eddie contacted me last year to inform me of his plan to go full time with wrestling. He asked me for advice and I contacted a few places giving my recommendation (Rich, Alex ha way now I’ve been nagging for years). I’ve always enjoyed Eddie but it wasn’t until The Origin feud with FSU in Progress in 2016 that we got to actually work together. It was then my opinion of Eddie grew further. He was/is a delight to be in the ring with. Those matches with FSU were so much fun and so rewarding. This year Eddie and I got in the ring for our first singles up in Newcastle for North Wrestling.

It was a main event none the less so we really got to take the gloves off and have some fun. We later tied up in Sheffield for HOPE Wrestling, again in a main event and another very rewarding and fun match. There was a point in which Eddie speared me with an Edge action figure. I’d usually no sell such shenanigans but it made me laugh so much I had no choice but to take the hit to disguise my laughter.

What I also love about Eddie is just talking wrestling with him, I feel we’re very like minded on certain aspects of our job. Eddie has been keeping a blog since leaving his ‘safe job’ and stepping out on his own into the unpredictable world of pro wrestling and he kindly gave me a little write up following our match at HOPE.

Eddie’s story this year is inspiring and it’s truly fantastic to see what he’s doing down in PROGRESS not to mention making this his job and living a dream; one that perhaps I have taken for granted this year due to one or two frustrating set backs. And truthfully this year has gotten the better of me, despite having opportunities such as a return visit to the United States.

Last year Sami Callahan, was kind enough to set me up a three week tour in the United States. To this day I consider him one of the most selfless guys I have ever met.

Whilst there I managed to make a good impression on well known promoter Gabe Sapolsky and his work partner Trevin Adams. No secret to anyone who knows me, but I love water parks! They’re my favourite theme parks and it’s my life’s mission to tour the worlds greatest parks. I was laying in bed one morning when I got a WhatsApp from one of my best friends, Dash Wilder. The message was a video of the brand new water park in Universal, Volcano Bay, with an attached message saying “mate, pack your shorts.” I was ridiculously excited to say the least so decided to contact a few of the promoters I had worked for the year previous to see if another tour would be possible.

Gabe, was first to respond offering me a spot in their style battle tournament for WWN network. Along with a few other connections (a long awaited debut for PWX being one) I was pretty much all set. Dash, offered me a place to stay at his and the next thing I was on my way to spend my 27th birthday in Florida.

However boys and girls you may be thinking that this is where my 2017 brightened up. And yes I did have an absolute blast out there, more of which in a moment. But my 2017 bad luck was only going to follow me across the pond and take form of a hurricane. Yep. I flew in just in time for hurricane Irma. Now let me just say, it wasn’t as bad as the news made out (at least in the area of Orlando in which I was staying) but the following day, without air con, no electricity and a mandatory curfew in affect until the roads were clear? Now that was rough. Dash was caught out of state as he had been filming for Main Event. His family and I were enduring the heat back in Orlando and doing all we could to keep the dogs cool.

Eventually things got back to normal and on the day of my birthday Dash took me to volcano bay as a gift. We met up with Chardonnay who was also out in Florida working shows and got excited to go hit the big slides… but here comes that trademark Cruzy 2017 luck!

Due to the Hurricane a number of the parks main attractions were closed. I can only imagine what my face looked like, but I was determined to not let it ruin my day. I had flown half way across the planet, was with one of my best mates that I don’t get to see no where near as much as I wish I could and we was still in one of the worlds best water parks with the Florida sun beating down on us. Dash understandably was pissed off. He had paid full price for these tickets and there was no warning before that most the attractions would be closed off.

We managed to use this to our advantage by getting permission by the manager to jump into fast track for some of the remaining rides but we sadly lost Dash when he had gone to complain at the main ticket reception. I felt awful about it. We still managed to salvage some fun from the day including an amazing superman belly flop dive by my self!

I was also invited by William Regal to drop by at full sail university for an NXT taping. It was good to see so many familiar faces but also tough at the same time. I have worked with, competed against and gotten to know so many of the talent there now. From Alister Black, formerly known as Tommy End, to Adam Cole, Johnny Gargano, Fabian Aichner, Ciampa, Nixon, all of which asked me the same question that day “are they any closer to bringing you here?” (Or at least something to that affect) and the sad truth was the answer was “No. I’m just here to say hi”.

It was a tough night and thank god I had a good mate like Dash there to take my mind off it. He too has had a frustrating year, for those who follow WWE will know. Only a few months before I flew out I received a message from him saying he was so sick of drinking food. His debut to the main roster alongside Dawson was one of the biggest reactions of mania weekend. Brought a tear to my eye watching it I was so pleased. It was such an exciting sign of things to come, but due to injuries they have had their momentum slowed. Sometimes just your frustrations and a couple cold ones is all the therapy a man needs. George Straits ‘cold beer conversation’ comes to mind.

That aside though my return to the States was amazing. Dash wouldn’t allow me to not have a good time, he’s that kind of person. We spent a few nights in the casino up in Tampa with No Way Jose which were a lot of fun. Again stories that will remain between us but “$600 in 5 minutes” and “my souls had left the building” are two particular favourites of mine.

I also got to travel to North Carolina and debut for PWX. I’d heard so much about them over the years through Dash, the Bravado Brothers and my good friend John Skyler who I got to catch up with at that show. I hadn’t seen John in three years and god it felt good to see him again. I met the very gifted Cory Hollis whilst I was there yet we both found ourselves feeling like we had known each other for years through Dash and John as well as social media.

There was Alexander James who is worked the year previous in CZW. David Star who has been frequently flown in to the Progress shows this year, I travelled down with fellow Brit Martin Stone and Jason Cade who lived with Sami when I was staying there last year and lastly but by no means least Darius Lockhart; my opponent that night and a young man is met the year before when he was over training in the UK. Suffice to say, I felt at home. It was strange. I knew so many guys here, the audience was my kind of crowd (a good mix of fans and family casuals) with a great atmosphere. It was too short, I wish I could have stayed longer and I certainly hope to return to PWX sometime in the future.

As to Dash and his family, I can’t thank them enough. For everything they did for me whilst I was there, for taking my mind off things even when they visibly got on top of me, for every burgerfi/coop visit. I never thought tears of laughter could be produced over a game of Yahtzee, but that was one example of the Cruzy 2017 luck being humorous and Dash, Pam and I howling away.

I flew home in time for the half term run ready to get to work on home soil… something I should have made the most of because the luck was about to lose its comedic touch as November rolled in.

The one thing that’s difficult about being a full time wrestler, is the hustle for work. Either promoters have a group of guys they like, some promoters presume you’re busy, others may be too cheap or some just may not like what you do. This into consideration it can be a challenge at times to keep a busy schedule, especially one that I had been on for the past six years.

However November/December I have found myself in the biggest dry spell I have had since 2008.

Despite chasing up promotions I have previously worked for this year or years past and to good review, those messages have fallen on deaf ears and I have found myself  working a total of seven shows in the past two months. Seven. That is miserable. Thank god for my NGW contract otherwise our home would have been taken by the bank.

This, as you can imagine, has not been any good at rallying myself out of this on and off depression I’ve been going through this year. The self doubt and confidence issues began to build further and manifest.

I had my first match in two weeks at HOPE on the 2nd of December. It felt great and the feedback from it was all positive, the moment I’m back in the ring I’m back at home. The moment I’m actually back in my house not working for another two weeks is when I feel lost. The final match of my year is a big one no doubt. Hull’s first ever steel cage match and I’m once again headlining the venue I used to go watch wrestling in and against my long time closest friend Matty. Having that has kept me motivated to go to the gym and at least watch my figure. It’s given me a goal. Almost poetic that NGW is my final goal of the year and it’s what has kept me alive for most of it. As much as I may joke and mask that it’s fun to be paid to stay at home; when you’re as ambitious and passionate as I am, it’s absolute hell.

Which brings me to the sewage topping to my 2017 shit cake of a year. The final week of November. I was booked that weekend for 3CW up in Darlington and NGW in local Beverly. The Tuesday of that week my car broke down due to it needing a new alternator. In the space of 24 hours I was short £400. But when things could only get worse they would. That Saturday I meet the ring van. Throw my case in the back which contained my boots, my ring jacket and my favourite pair of ring tights that were generously made for me as a gift by my friend Elli Noble. Half way out of Hull travelling at 60mph on the motor way we notice the side door of the van had slid open. Of course nothing had fallen out, except my case of course. For hours I searched up and down the stretch of motorway it could have been but to no joy.

I called local authorities but again nothing. The next night I competed in Beverly in some of my spare boots and pads. I didn’t feel like me. Thankfully on the Monday I called the police station once more and to my delight someone had returned the case after finding it! Such a huge weight was lifted but for the sake of me missing that 3CW show at a time when bookings were not coming in; it sucked. To the point I considered quitting.

My home life isn’t much I like to go into. I’m a private person in that sense. My family is my family and like to protect them from the eyes of the internet. My parents have been great and as supportive as ever. Jasper is the love of the family. My uncle is doing well and Gemma is very busy now she’s back studying but still finds time to watch a Christmas film together, even if she does fall asleep half way in. And my friends, well they ‘re the best really aren’t they? I’m blessed to have such a good group of friends. Two in particular which we’ve been together since we were just wee lads!

One good friend I’d like to give mention to is Rampage Brown. Rampage has been a close friend and mentor to me for over 7 years now. We have both seen each other’s lowest moments and rallied each other through but this year in particular I felt we both have been riding a very similar wave in our professional lives.

Many times this year he has been the one of the phone to me either calling or messaging to help me through it. We had a good talk at an NGW event at City Hall which lead to one of the funniest rants I have ever seen him do! He again has taken my mind off things, or given me words of advice or simply related to what I’ve been going through. He always helps me when I need it. And I’m not the only one he does that for. Such a genuine guy and hands down the best wrestler this country has perhaps with the exception of James Mason (I’ll welcome any argument to say otherwise). He deserves every reward in life. It makes me very happy to see how much love his life at home gives him and how much he adores his daughter.

In closing to this year… good riddance. 2018 has already started filling in with a good amount of dates so I’ll still be around for at least another year. Will it be as dreadful as this year? God I hope not. 2017 has been the best year ever for some of British wrestling, yet I haven’t had that experience. Instead it’s left me in a very low place. One that I hide well and live with, but can’t do anything about. As much as I want to; it’s just there. That constant question of “maybe it’s time to call it a day?”

Then again this is just my first major set back. And perhaps I should be thankful that it’s only been this one; the timing may not be the best but I’m still doing what I love. Look at Eddie Dennis and dozens of others who are just now getting to experience the life I’ve lived for the past 7 years. Because for the past seven years and at least one more I am a pro wrestler.

Kind Regards,

Picture Credit: James Musselwhite (@Y2jimbob/@poa_wrestler)

Visit his website: Portrait Of A Wrestler