For 12 years, ‘Bravehart’ David Low has been the promoter of Scottish Wrestling Entertainment (SWE), a family-friendly show who include huge international names alongside some of Scotland’s best homegrown talents. He runs shows all around Tayside, Fife & Dundee and has featured international talents such as the late Rowdy Roddy Piper, Tatanka, Diamond Dallas Page. At their upcoming show ‘Hell For Lycra’ show on August 29th, Colt Cabana, Chyna and Ted DiBiase will join a plethora of great homegrown talent for a historic show at Caird Hall, Dundee. This will be the first professional wrestling show at the venue in decades, and SWE are determined to make it a night to remember. I was able to speak to David Low about his career and the SWE ahead of one of their biggest and most important shows to date.
What are your earliest memories of being a fan of pro wrestling and what made you want to go into the business?
I remember watching wrestling that my friends’ dad had recorded on an old video tape which included clips from a Royal Rumble. It was about 1990 and I think it was Saturday Night’s Main Event. The action was so exciting, it got my blood pumping and I was hooked instantly. I don’t think it’s like that anymore. The characters back then were bigger, brighter and more eyecatching. After watching it for a while and seeing how these stars stood up for themselves and how they battled against bullies, I decided that I wanted to be a wrestler so that I didn’t get bullied anymore. I’m writing a book at the moment where I go into more detail about why I was bullied and how I stood up against them. My book is yet to be given a name, but it’s about my life in and out of the ring, my accomplishments and failures and the mistakes I have made.
How did you find a training school and get started in the business?
At first I didn’t. There were no wrestling schools in Scotland and there was no internet, so back in 1994 a group of my friends and I decided that we could probably do this crazy stuff, but instead of hurting each other on playing fields or parks (which we had already done for years), we decided to do it in our local recreation centre. There we could put some mats down and get the use of some crash mats for some of the bigger, crazier stuff. Eventually, in 1995, as we were leaving one day these two big scary looking men passed us and we overheard them at the reception desk saying that they had booked the gym for wrestling practice. The two men were Robert Reid (aka Bobby Duval) and Dave Maddison (aka Sonic Boom as well as many other personas). Both are retired now through ill health or age, but we went back and started to watch them through the windows in the door and they looked like they knew what they were doing. They had all the gear and the big high wrestling boots and pads and everything. So we continued to watch until finally we plucked up enough courage to ask if we could join them. At first they seemed hesitant and unwilling, but they must have thought ‘these kids can pay for the hall and pay us for our time’. The following week, which would have been in October 1995, we met up and started pro wrestling training. Later we found out that these two guys were booked on an event that was touring the UK and that what they were actually doing was choreographing parts of their match and getting a feel for each other. We knew from that day that wrestling was orchestrated and fixed – but NEVER fake! Fake would mean that it doesn’t exist or is completely unreal, but wow, wrestling was very real and I began to learn how much after taking big bodyslams and legdrops from this 40 stone mammoth known as Sonic Boom. He was quite popular and famous down in England, particularly around Newcastle and Blackpool. He had been a challenge wrestler at Blackpool Pleasure Beach and had been trained in spats by Drew McDonald (who around that time was working as a Road Warrior Hawk tribute, or ‘The Legend Of Doom’). Anyway, that’s how I broke in to the business.
What is the hardest part of training to become a pro wrestler?
The hardest part about training to become a pro is making sure that the guy training you has enough experience or knowledge to take you places and if what he/she is doing is the correct way. Is there a correct way and are there unorthodox methods? Yes, and both approaches can work, but you need certainty from the start to ensure that you’re not wasting your time or money for tomfoolery.
How did it feel to walk out in front of a crowd for the first time and how long before your confidence grew to a point of feeling comfortable in front of an audience?
To be honest, I actually felt the same way when I performed in May this year as I felt in 1997 when I debuted. I have just made my return to the ring after nearly 3 years of being out due to a head injury. Back in 1997, I was working a guy named ‘The Prince of Pain’ – the original, I might add! I felt terrified; not about the fans or my opponent, but in case I screwed up and made us both look bad. I remember standing at the curtain and my music (Freedom by QFX) played and my stomach was doing somersaults. I thought I was going to be sick, I needed to pee real bad and to be honest that feeling of needing a pee never really goes away before a match. As soon as you’re out there it goes, so I guess it’s just nerves. Between 1997 and 2003 the nerves were really evident and, because wrestling was more seasonal back then, every time I started feeling comfortable the season would end. I think I only really started feeling comfortable when my own promotion started doing regular events and then it became second nature. That saturday night in May I was transported straight back to 1997, just for a few minutes, then I realised that ‘this is what I do’ and to just suck it up!
How hard is it for new wrestlers to get bookings and build their name when they first start out?
It’s very difficult for fresh faces and new talent to get bookings and build their name when they first start out. Sometimes their own wrestling school might not have an attached promotion, or the attached promotion has far too many good enough workers already. Some, if not all of those workers are scared of losing their spots to new talent who are younger and fitter and have better bodies etc. I could easily name a few promotions that have waited until another company has taken a chance on their guys before booking them in main segments. I think the best way to learn is in front of a paying crowd who know wrestling and know what they want from shows and events.
Who have been some of your favourite opponents and partners to work with?
I have had so many favourite opponents over the course of my career that it would be unfair to name certain people, however I remember the early days and working some of the old journeymen who helped me in the ring. Those guys were favourites of mine. Some people would say their favourite opponents have been a famous person, but mine weren’t. Don’t get me wrong, it was a pleasure most of the time and it’s a great thing to have on my wrestling CV, but my favourites are the people I can learn from and be safe with in the ring.
When did you start promoting shows yourself and how did that come about?
I first started promoting in 2003 and the reason was that to my knowledge there were no shows going on in Scotland. The only shows that came through the area were being done by English promoters. I had an itch to start doing this again and I wanted to get back in the ring so badly that I bought a ring, trained some guys and started putting on events. It sounds easier than it was and it came with its own issues. Some old hands started causing trouble for me and trying to close down the SWE, but here we are 12 years on and still doing events, sometimes over 30 shows per year.
What difficulties have you experienced in running SWE shows?
In the past 12 or 13 years I have experienced many problems, from people cancelling my dates and shows, to venues being told that we don’t pay our bills and having events stopped or being promoted too late. I remember back in 2007, a former SWE member cancelled one of my events and then ran the venue himself. In 2008 a group of people whom I trained left to work for another promoter (who was brand new to running shows) because they thought the grass was greener. Where are they now? All back at SWE! In 2009, a venue cancelled an event and told me we couldn’t run any shows there as they had been told that we don’t pay our bills. A few weeks later he phoned back and said that he’d gotten it completely wrong and begged us to continue with the event, but because it had been called off in the meantime the attendance on the night was very poor. The gentleman asked us to come back as he had thought the show was great entertainment, but I declined because of the trust issue and because his mistake had meant that we didn’t draw. In 2010 another promoter ran the exact same storyline as us, saying that Ted DiBiase had bought his promotion. Of course it was false advertising, as Ted had really bought into and invested in SWE. In 2014, two upstarts who I got into this business left me in debt when they stole £5,000 from me over the course of six months and started their own promotion. When I discovered this I sacked one of them but let the other guy finish his workload for me before I got rid of him too. All the while, he was selling his product to the SWE fanbase. I have later found out that he has quite a lot more to answer for and the truth will come out. This is one of the top stories I’ll be telling in my upcoming book.
What are the benefits and upsides of being a promoter?
The biggest benefit of being a promoter is being able to decide where to run your shows. I’m old-school and try not to run in other territories, which can be difficult in Scotland. No-one should come into your area and if they do, they should offer your workers the shows first before any other talent. The other benefit is obviously choosing which wrestlers to book and who to promote.
How hard is it to balance wrestling, promoting, being a trainer at Hartland Wrestling Club & Training Centre as well as holding down a day job?
This is the difficult part of the job for me as I hold down a full time post working for a Mental Health team with NHS Tayside. I am also a dad to five amazing kids who need my attention and I enjoy every minute of being with them. My wife is an absolute godsend and without her I think SWE probably would have closed the year it opened. In regards to the wrestling school, I have a dedicated team of workers and trainers willing to help where they can to give these young lads and lassies a leg up and help train them. I also work closely with Marty Jones and Johnny Saint, who enjoy coming to Scotland and training at the school. Over the years there have been various other big names from the UK, USA and Europe who have been to the wrestling school and given training and advice.
What advice would you give to anyone who wants to break into the wrestling business?
I would say to them, don’t do it. Wrestling hooks you and becomes a mistress to you. I am a happily married man, but my cheat or mistress is wrestling. It controls me sometimes and causes so many problems that it can hurt friendships and relationships to the point of little or no return. However, if someone is keen and really does want to do this then train hard, don’t get involved in politics, respect your peers and most importantly, LISTEN! Listen to everything and everyone. One last piece of advice I would give is never shit on people when you think you’re on the way up because you never know who you’ll need on the way back down.
How important is the internet and social media these days in building a name and reputation, as well as for drawing crowds?
I think some workers are marks for themselves and they create pages to promote their own worth without trying to promote their company. Trying to help build the company they work for instead of just themselves all the time will help build the company quicker, which helps everyone. The one bug bear I have is when I have trained or helped train a few guys or girls and they ignore their present company to promote another company who they think is bigger, just so that they can get booked or be in with the in-crowd. Let me tell you, there is no such thing as an in-crowd because wrestlers and workers are fickle and fake friendships are changeable.
Your shows often feature legendary international stars as well as many homegrown talents. Who have been your favourite legends to book and work with and have any been difficult to work with? Who would you like to work with if you could book anyone?
All of the international guys that we have booked have been great. Ted DiBiase, Road Warrior Animal, Diamond Dallas Page, Roddy Piper & Tatanka were all really easy to deal with and work with. The most difficult to deal with are anyone who has an agent. I try never to deal with agents as they cause issues that don’t need to be issues. I would work with every one of the legends and stars again. I would have loved to have worked with Macho Man Randy Savage and ‘Mr. Perfect’ Curt Hennig.
Which British wrestlers do you feel have made the biggest impact on the sport as a whole?
Nationally, I think Marty Jones, Johnny Saint, Johnny Kidd, George Kidd, Les Kellet, Mitzi Mueller for the women and of course Mick McManus and Big Daddy, to name just a few. Most of the Golden Era guys did an amazing job and paved the way for all of us doing it now. In terms of international fame and impact, I’d have to say Marty Jones and Johnny Saint again, then Fit Finlay, William Regal, Dave Taylor, Dynamite Kid and Davey Boy Smith. Whether it was size, style or finesse, those guys all helped put the UK on the map. Nowadays of course you have Ricky Knight’s daughter (WWE’s Paige), Sheamus and Wade Barrett who all fly the standard pretty well.
Who from the current crop of British workers do you feel have potential to become big stars in the business?
There are a few British workers who I feel could make it big in larger promotions, but I think that their mood swings would cost them a contract sometimes. I have met, worked and booked some really good guys, but none who (in my opinion) are really ready for WWE just yet. If I was to say two names, it would be Joe Hendry and Sam Gradwell (aka Ricky J McKenzie).
What has British wrestling contributed to the wider wrestling world?
I heard somewhere recently that the big stars in WWE, like Daniel Bryan, Dolph Ziggler and even John Cena have watched old tapes of the gents I named above to help hone their skills and make them better workers. British wrestling always looked more real and the holds looked more believable because the guys doing it weren’t built like Greek gods, they looked like your average Joe Bloggs, so that helped it to look more real. When the Brits like Marty Jones, Johnny Saint and Finlay went to America and Japan, the wrestlers there wanted to learn how to transition from move to move better. The Brits were always good at that, even the bigger built guys in the UK could work and transition really well.
Do you think that British wrestling could ever be a strong national territory in its own right again?
No, I think the old-school rounds system and style bores people to tears, unfortunately. However, I don’t personally agree; I think that the rounds system could work, but it just needs to be jazzed up a wee bit. If you mean British wrestling but doing it the American way, then I think we are certainly stonger now than we have ever been, thanks to companies like ICW and PCW.
What are your ultimate goals in the business, both for yourself personally and for SWE as a company?
I never saw SWE being as big as it is today. I thought doing a few shows a year in the local area would be good enough, but over time this proved easier than I thought and with the help of my good friend, Charlie Riddell (who is now co-owner of the promotion), we have grown and made SWE into a worldwide recognised promotion working with some of the biggest names in the business where we can.
Our first big event happened in 2009 when we first booked Ted DiBiase to come to Scotland for Hell For Lycra VI in Perth’s Concert Hall. I didn’t know then that in 2015 we would be great friends and calling each other and skyping each other like we do. This booking really opened doors for SWE and people then realised that we were here to stay and would not be bullied. In the same year, a well known promoter called me and said he was going to kneecap me for running ‘his’ venue. I said, ‘Listen, the venue is just 11 miles from my house and I am a promoter, so why wouldn’t I do it? Wrestling is full of people who overthink everything. For me personally, I just want to wrestle, have fun doing it and help peple fulfill dreams. As far as SWE goes, all I can say is that you ain’t seen nothing yet!
You can catch SWE at one of their monthly events at the Ardler Complex, or look out for their shows all around Dundee and North East Fife. You can also learn more about SWE online at http://www.sweonline.co.uk/, including details of their upcoming events such as Hell For Lycra. SWE and David Low’s wrestling page are also on Facebook at the links below: