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The Joy of Variety: The Gary Ward/Wrestle Carnival Interview

After the uncertainty and inaction of the last year or more, British wrestling is picking up once again and is doing so with style! Wrestle Carnival, the brainchild of former WrestleGate co-promoter Gary Ward, is an exciting new promotion whose debut was much delayed by the COVID pandemic, but now that it’s running shows, is finding itself quickly gathering momentum and becoming a much-talked-about group amongst fans of the British scene.

We talked to Wrestle Carnival promoter Gary Ward about the concept of Wrestle Carnival, why variety is key to his vision of pro wrestling, whether the British wrestling scene really is dying as some say, and his relationship with Ring of Honor…

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Sports Obsessive: Wrestle Carnival has just held its first show, Curtain Call, on the 1st of August. Reviews of the show were very positive. How was the experience for you and did the show meet your expectations?

Gary Ward: It was pretty crazy being back, to be honest. Very surreal for us, for me, and for a lot of people. It’s the first time we’ve done anything in eighteen months, so just from that side of things, yeah, it was great seeing (people), you know, I think we did 190 people, which was great. My magic number’s always 200, I always like to get 200 if we can, but you know, 190’s amazing. I was very surprised by how well the tickets went, and everyone seemed to enjoy it. It was just nice to be back around other people, not just sitting in your room (laughs) watching TV or playing a game or whatever, it was just nice being out. 

In terms of the show itself, I thought everyone was fantastic. I enjoyed it, from what I saw. Being that I run the show, I’m kind of here, there, and everywhere, so the biggest issue I have when I run a show is a lot of people come to you and say, “what did you think of my match” or whatever. Unfortunately, a lot of the time, I don’t get enough time to sit and watch it all, so it’s nice to then sit back now and I can sit and watch it on our VOD and that. 

But yeah, it was a great time. It was just great to be back, really, it was so good. There was some teething problems, first day back nerves and just teething issues and just silly little things like…I forgot the ring bell, you know what I mean? (laughs)

SO: (laughs) Oh wow, where do you get a ring bell at the last minute?

GW: We improvised, unfortunately. I have definitely got a ring bell and I’ve got a backup all ready saved for that. So it’s just, yeah…you worry about certain things and then you forget the tiny littlest stuff, you know. I just put a lot of it down to the first day back, so hopefully in, what two weeks, we’ll be flying. 

SO: Awesome. I wanted to say, Wrestle Carnival is a really cool, distinctive name for a promotion. It kind of makes me think of going to the funfair as a kid or, like, the seaside for a day trip and going to watch some wrestling, which is a nice feeling to have. I mean, where did the name come from and what’s the concept behind it?

GW: So, I originally founded WrestleGate, which was in Nottingham, (and) decided to do my own thing. With WrestleGate, we essentially were trying to do very much like a Ring of Honor, early Ring of Honor, a bit like an MMA (event), where it’s just, Wrestle A vs. Wrestler B, and let’s just see who the best is. That’s great, and I love that style, and that is sort of me to a tee, but I wanted to do something a little more creative, a little bit different, and I just started to create, really. And I created about five or six different promotions, so I did the logos, the branding, the unique selling points, just the names and everything.

The more and more I did it, the more and more I was looking deeper and deeper into wrestling’s history. And I looked back to the carnival days of when it came in, and I thought “carnival sounds pretty cool.” I already knew there was a Wrestle Circus and they were in America, and I thought, “a carnival sounds pretty good.” And then looked at more about when the carnival would come into town, they would invite a local to come in and fight one of the wrestlers, and a lot of the time it was, sort of, underlying tactics; it was a bit bent, it wasn’t real. And they would win some bread or a small amount of money.

So that was always the idea that I had about doing it, and I thought Wrestle Carnival would be good. The name came from there and we just created more things as we went along. The idea behind it is to make it a variety show. I know everybody’s shows are variety in wrestling, but I like to try and sell that so you can that we’re gonna have a lot of different aspects on the show.

SO: Yeah, I mean, that benefits the audience as well, there’s a little bit of something for everyone. I don’t know if you’ve heard that Mick Foley quote; he said he looked at wrestling like a three-ring circus. So he said, if you didn’t like the clowns, you’d like the jugglers; if you didn’t like the jugglers, you’d like the trapeze artists, you know. I suppose it makes good business sense as well; you can appeal to a broader audience that way.

GW: Yeah, and I think that’s why the ticket sales, certainly for the first show, went so well and there was such a good response to it. We had elements of everything. We had sort of comedy aspects; we were inviting a fan into the ring; we had over-the-top characters; we then had just a submission match; then we had women’s matches; we had, you know, just ‘stand and brawl’ matches.

Wrestle Carnival Curtain Call 2021 promo image
Credit: Wrestle Carnival

So we had a lot of everything in there, and that’s what we’re trying to do as we go along. Next month, we’ve got quite a large variety of characters and matches, you know. We’ve got eight matches, which is a bit too many for what I want to do, but a lot of that is going to be seen with Ring of Honor, so I wanted to try and put a little bit more on there for VOD purposes. And we’ve just announced another show (Pure), so we’re just trying to give everybody a little taste of everything, and you might not love everything on that show, but I’m pretty sure you’ll like 90% of it. You may not like comedy but you’ll probably enjoy the other aspects, and then hopefully you’ll open your mind to comedy wrestling or to hard-core wrestling or to a technical style. There were aspects of wrestling I wasn’t always the biggest fan of, and since I’ve started doing this, I’ve kind of become more of a fan because I’ve opened my mind more, and I think that’s what we need to…it’s what we’re trying to do, and hopefully people take to it.

SO: Sounds like a great philosophy to have! For our readers who might not be aware of Wrestle Carnival, and if not, why not?—what can fans expect from a Wrestle Carnival show? You’ve talked about the variety, but what are you all about?

GW: Yeah, it is that its variety in wrestling. And it’s a family atmosphere. I wanna give people cheap tickets, affordable tickets, three hours of fun wrestling where you can see people that you’re massive fans of or see people that you’ve even never heard of and then you become fans of, and providing an opportunity for the people working on those shows to achieve their goals. My goal, and while it’s the worst way to run a business (laughs) is to cover costs. I just wanna cover the costs from show to show. If I make a bit of money for myself, great; if I just cover the costs for each show, I’m happy. As long as I can provide, or help people get to where they wanna be, I feel like I’ve kind of achieved something there. And you never know, I might be able to achieve my ultimate goal as well, but that is what we’re about: we want you to come in, forgot what’s happened throughout the week or for the last two years, have some fun, watch a bit of good wrestling, or some silly wrestling, and then go home and just talk about it for the next couple of days, then go and enjoy somebody else’s show and then hopefully, come back again in the next month. That’s exactly what it is: we wanna build a family atmosphere that’s got real good wrestling on it.

SO: Brilliant, that sounds perfect to me, especially, like you say, after the last couple of years, just to have something where you can let off steam, I think that’s brilliant, yeah, absolutely.

I was admittedly a little late to the party with Wrestle Carnival. I only became aware of you when…there’s a promo video online promoting your upcoming Carnival of Honor show, and the show is featuring Ring of Honor’s currently UK-based talent. It’s not unusual for Ring of Honor talent to appear on UK shows, but I was really impressed actually by the promotional video. It had Quin Mckay and Alicia Atout in it. And the fact that the show will be available to view on Ring of Honor’s Week by Week seemed to make the relationship with Ring of Honor more legitimate in my mind, and they’re obviously a brilliant promotion anyway. How did all that come about?

GW: It’s kind of a long relationship, in a way. I’m just a wrestling fan at the end of the day, and my favorite company in the world is Ring of Honor, I have a Ring of Honor t-shirt on (laughs) I mean, it is my favorite company to watch, and it really helped to bring my fandom back in in the early 2000s, and I’ve always been a big supporter of it.

And I started doing a little bit of writing about wrestling and always wanted to try and get in, but my dream was always to promote. Never really knew how to do that or how to get into it, so I started writing and doing things. I’d cover Ring of Honor, and that relationship there grew. They knew who I was, the talent started getting to know me. And then, when I started working shows as a photographer, I would meet some of the Ring of Honor talent, and then just that progression of me promoting them online, me talking positively about them, had somehow got back to people in their management and they would invite me to their UK tours, I would go to all their shows for free. They would invite me and I would cover them or interview somebody, there was no pressure to do loads of stuff. You know, I’m not the most confident of writers or readers, I find both of those very difficult, and so it was always nice that they would give (me) those opportunities.

It was just a continuation, and I had friendships with some of the talent there, and then, unfortunately at the beginning of Lockdown, I lost my job, and it was the first time since I was 16 that I’d ever been out of work. I really didn’t know what to do, if I’m completely honest. I can do graphic design to a certain extent, so I put a tweet out and said, ‘look, I wanna earn money. I don’t want people to give me it in any way.’ So, yeah, I tried to do some graphic design, and Ring of Honor management came to me and said, ‘we’d like to help you out, could you do some for us? Could you do this for us?’ And a lot of the wrestlers there came and asked me to do some graphics when they didn’t need it. There are people who never used them—they probably didn’t like them (laughs). They just wanted to help. There was Carey Silkin, I mean, he gave me four times the amount of money I was charging, you know. Delirious, who’s the booker there, again the same, and Quinn, everybody, you know. Matt Taven, Vincent, literally a who’s who of the whole of them. And it was really crazy.

I started talking to Delirious a lot, and I said, ‘why would you do this for us?’ And they just said, ‘you’ve always been such a supporter of us; we wanted to help you.’ So I was like, wow. I just didn’t think that some company in America would care about just a random dude in England, but they clearly do. So, we just got talking. There’s a friendship there now, and I sort of said to them, ‘look…’ Joe Hendry is an actual friend of mine, just from previously working with him, and I’ve worked with (Session Moth) Martina before, and I said, ‘can I try and do something? These guys and girls can’t get to America; what if I put something on and you take the footage?’

And then Doug Williams came out of retirement and I thought, ‘ooh, this is a good idea,’ ’cause I knew Doug had a contract with them or was due to work one of their ‘Past vs. Present’ shows. I said, ‘can I have these on the show and I give you the footage, and we work a deal,’ and they loved it and so yeah, this is where we are now, and then we’ve just announced Jonathan Gresham coming over. It’s going well! There are about 3 or 4 people that are Ring of Honor-based that we’re talking to, and hopefully January-February, we’ll have another one.

It’s just the continuation of a relationship. You know, we talk about ultimate goals. A lot of people’s goal in wrestling is to work for Ring of Honor. I have my own goals, and this all sort of helps towards achieving them.

SO: Yeah, absolutely. I think that’s incredible for a company to go out of its way in such a way. Obviously, you’ve given them that support, and you’ve been given that support back in return. It’s heartwarming.

GW: Yeah, it is. It’s really good to know that if you are good to people, especially online…I get some heat (laughs) I don’t know why but there you go—everybody does—but it’s just the idea that if you are good to somebody and you are good to people and, you know, I’m not going to sit and here and say I love everything that Ring of Honor does; I don’t, and I’ve been open, and I’ve even said that to them. But, I choose to think of positives and talk about the positives, you know. There’s been a number of shows I’ve been to that people have said, “oh, you always put us over online.” Well, that’s the whole idea, to be a positive world. We could be not here tomorrow, you know, with all that’s happened in the last year. It’s just not worth it, and for a company like that to gout of their way, and then, you know, I designed some stuff for their merchandise line, which was just mental, quite honestly. And they’ve got a new merchandise shop, I helped them do some testing on their shop. And like you said, it’s very uncommon, but it happens.

It’s great man, it is. It’s perfect. This is probably my ultimate goal. This is a dream for me.

Wrestle Carnival 'Carnival of Honor' promo image
Credit: Wrestle Carnival

SO: Brilliant. And Jonathan Gresham as well, he’s the leader of The Foundation, he’s the Pure champion. There’s been that return to that idea of pure wrestling in Ring of Honor. As a long-term Ring of Honor fan, has that been exciting for you to see the Pure wrestling (come back)?

GW: Yeah, I thought the tournament was just phenomenal, the way they produced it. It felt like weekly I was texting Delirious and just saying, “mate, this is insane!” (laughs). It was just so good. The video packaging, it was just so different and it felt so real, and the matches, while they were in front of nobody, you kind of just lost yourself in some of those aspects and it was just so well put together. I loved it. It was something that I wanted to do in England, I wanted to bring that as a whole company, but I just felt a variety is better. I just don’t think it’s as sustainable as a one-off promotion, I think some people would be a bit like, ‘Oh, it’s just six matches of the same thing.’

This is the good thing with Ring of Honor, they have such diversity…you could watch Jonathan Gresham and Tracey Williams and then you could watch the next match and it’s Danhausen and PCO, and you think, “what the heck?” 

SO: Or Matt Taven and Vincent tearing each other apart in a cage!

GW: Exactly. So there’s that variety, but Ring of Honor has really done such a good job with everything since this pandemic. The tournament was phenomenal, it really was.

SO: The production, like you, said, and the talking head moments before each match, it wasn’t just normal wrestling promos, it was sporting. It felt like what AEW said they were going to do when they first announced themselves and have that more sporting feel. I’m not knocking AEW, I like AEW, but it felt—

GW: It’s very MMA. It felt very UFC, and I’ve said quite a few times, I think UFC, while I don’t watch it as much now, probably a couple of years ago, was doing wrestling better than what wrestling was doing wrestling, in terms of its video packaging and everything, and it very much brought us down to that. And a lot of the wrestlers didn’t just sit there and give a two minute, (adopts comical Hogan-Esque voice) “I’m gonna get you and I’m gonna win and I’m gonna do this.” It was like, ‘I’ve been a professional wrestler for 12 years, this is the biggest opportunity…’ and it was like, the talking of humans and you felt like this, not a vulnerability, some of them there was, but there was a lot of this, you know, you wanted to root for them more, and I just felt that was so good. They’ve then carried that over with the women’s championship as well, they’ve bought that into there, and I just hope they continue to do this as they bring fans back more and more. I’m sure they will. But yeah, it’s been great.

SO: Obviously, from what you’ve said about the relationship you’ve built with Ring of Honor so far, I could see that being something that would continue into the future. Do you have any other relationships with other promotions in the pipeline, or would you be open to that?

GW: I’m open to working with anybody. I promoted the first AEW match (in the UK) in Nottingham, Pac vs. Hangman. I’ve worked with Dragon Gate, I’ve worked with All Japan, I’ve worked with Rising Sun in Italy, I’ve worked with wXw, GWF. I’ve got a good relationship with Court Bauer at MLW. I’ve never really been able to get anything done but it’s always been an interest in us working together, just never had an opportunity to do that. AAW in Chicago, I did some stuff with them as well. I know a lot of people in NXT and NXT UK. Yeah, I’ll work with anyone, you know.

In September, while the matches are going to be on Ring of Honor TV, we have the ‘Heart of Shimmer’ Championship on the line, for the first time ever in the UK, which is (between) Hyan and Alex Windsor, so my door, that ‘Forbidden Door’ that seems to be one of the buzzwords now, is always open. I just wanna work with everybody ’cause, like I say, if it ended tomorrow, I’m more than happy with the things I’ve been able to do or been a part of. This is just fun and hopefully, I’ll get to where I’d like to be, and if it doesn’t happen, I can at least look my daughter in the eye and know that I did go for my dream as a child. I think this is when all of this started when I had a child. That’s really what it is. I’ve done it, I’ve done one show, that was it, I was happy with that (laughs) but it’s carried on and it’s spiraled on to these crazy things. But yeah, I’ll work with anyone…within reason (laughs).

SO: (laughs) Of course. I believe the idea of Wrestle Carnival was something on your mind when you were doing WrestleGate, and I believe at first you were looking at running an all-women’s promotion. What changed your course on to doing Wrestle Carnival instead?

GW: I didn’t wanna really…I think EVE is so good and they have a lot of aspects of what I like…Dann (Read, EVE co-owner) was the first person who opened wrestling to me. Dann Read is a good friend, we text regularly—’cause he doesn’t sleep at night and I work night shifts, so it works out perfectly that we can chat, but I felt like, rather than just focussing on one area, why can’t we just have everybody? The biggest aspect was Jaida, who’s a ring announcer. I put it to her and she said, “but you’re gonna have it mixed anyway,” and I was like, well, yeah, and she said, “so why do you wanna focus on just one?” and I thought, no, you’re right. We’re promoting everything. You know, in September, there’s a lot of females on the show. In the October show that’s coming up, that’s pretty much dominated by female talent, and male talent too. I just felt like that variety was the right way to go, and I didn’t just wanna put ourselves into one area and close off everything else, ’cause inter-gender wrestling is still as enjoyable as male-and-male and female-and-female. So I didn’t want to do that, I thought it was good to open it up and have it available for everybody, no matter anything really. 

SO: Yeah, definitely. I can see it both ways. I mean, the NWA has just had a big weekend with their Empowerrr show, I don’t know if you’ve seen it.

GW: I saw some photos, I’ve seen some pictures and a couple of clips. I’ve got tomorrow off, and tomorrow’s my wrestling day, so I’ve got quite a lot of shows I’m gonna watch. I’m really interested, I wanna watch Nick Aldis vs. Trevor Murdoch, I wanna see that quite a lot ’cause I like Trevor. I know Nick, I’ve worked with Nick before, so I’m quite interested in it. I’ve seen the spoilers, that was the first thing I saw this morning (laughs) But yeah, I think what they did there was fantastic. 

SO: Yeah, definitely. It’ll be interesting to see if they can continue that (all-female shows) or whether it will just be, not a token thing, but they’ll kinda just look to do big events here and there with that, I don’t know. But like you say, I can definitely see the point of, why can’t everyone work on the same card and you’ve got that variety, absolutely.

GW: Yeah, I mean, what says we can’t just do an all-women’s show? We can do it if it makes sense, but I think that it’s good to have that variety, and if we’re really trying to push us as a variety wrestling show, if we say that, it needs to be it. So that’s why we stuck with that.

Wrestle Carnival Variety Show logo
Credit: Wrestle Carnival

SO: One question I wanted to ask you; there’s been a lot of talk over the last couple of years of people saying the British wrestling scene is dying or dead, and fingers are either pointing at NXT UK for taking all the top talent before there was time for promotions to build new top stars. I mean, obviously, British wrestling isn’t dead; you’re running shows, PROGRESS and RevPro are still going. I’m in Manchester, and in Manchester alone, there’s Future Shock, there’s CATCH now. What are your thoughts on all that? It’s an interesting discussion, but obviously, there’s a lot of negativity and I don’t think it’s necessarily warranted.

GW: No, I don’t think it’s warranted. I think a lot of the negativity stemmed from a few other things, and I think that people were perhaps looking at a way to go at the WWE for whatever reason. You know, a lot of their favorites left or have gone to Japan or America or to NXT UK. But there are so many people, there’s so many…I mean, if I could show you my inbox, it’s just full, and it’s just full of brilliant people. Sometimes when you look at my cards and you think, ‘blimey, he’s got seven matches on, he’s got eight now.’ It’s just because there’s so much out there.

Like I said before, there were aspects of wrestling I didn’t like and I opened my mind, and you’ve got to open your mind to new people, new things. If you come to one of my shows, or you go to CATCH Wrestling, you’re going to see somebody new that you’ve never heard of. Hopefully, they impress you and you want to see more of them, and that’s what I really wish people would do more, rather than looking at that negative. Go and find these gems and promote them yourself, you know, go and talk about them online.

You’ve got superfans of different wrestlers; you don’t have to be a superfan, you just enjoy their work. There’s a number of people in America, independent-wise, that I absolutely love watching, and now they’re starting to get some breaks or whatever, but there’s some that never had that. But still, promote them and still enjoy their work. I just feel that that needs to be done a little bit more, but everybody’s different, you know. I could be mega-negative about Tottenham Hotspurs all day long (laughs) you know? That’s just being a Tottenham fan. But there’s just so much out there, people just have no idea; it’s insane. There are so many good people. There are so many that have not had a chance. Look at Charlie Sterling now. Charlie Sterling, a few years ago, was working but he wasn’t everywhere. The guy’s so good, and he’s not lost anything, he’s not gained anything. He’s just been given an opportunity now. You look at Brady Phillips, who works all of my shows. A lot of people are not sure who Brady Phillips is, but if you watch him, you’re gonna be like, ‘Jesus, this guy is so good! Like, I was at the CATCH show. he and I stood at the merchandise table watching the show, and I was like, “this guy should be working this.” And then, they came to my show and watched Brady, and they were like ‘this guy’s well good!” They just didn’t know who he was. That’s not a thing on Brady, it’s just there’s so much out there. It’s just insane. And people like yourself, you can’t keep up with everybody. It’s mental. 

But I don’t believe it at all, I don’t think it’ll ever go. I think it’s taken a big dip. I think ticket sales are probably harder for people, I don’t know how everybody else is but I’m assuming it’s a little bit more of a difficult sell, but I think that’s COVID too. And I think some people just maybe don’t want to come back to wrestling because all that else has happened, and that’s fine. But you can take your time. But it’s not dead and I don’t think it ever will (be). It’s been in a lot worse shape than it is now.

SO: Yeah, I mean, I started watching wrestling in 1991, I was five, and I can remember seeing, like..I didn’t know it at the time but British wrestling had just finished a few years before on Television, 1988, and I grew up in Stoke-on-Trent, so the Victoria Hall in Hanley was my local venue, and I remember going to see the dying end of All-Star. I mean, All-Star is still going and who would have thought that once upon a time? You know, when I was going, they were resorting to a Power Ranger gimmick to try and capture the kids, you know, because it was the mid-nineties. And it’s crazy, and you think, like you say, it’s been in a much worse state.

GW: It’s been a lot worse, the country’s been in a lot worse. And there’s so much talent out there…if I had the finances to run a show every couple of weeks, I’d do it because there’s just so much around that people could see, but yeah, it’s not dead, I don’t think it ever will (be). Then there are people like you and there are people like me that just love wrestling, it’ll never die.

SO: No, hopefully not.

GW: No. I’ll do everything I can to not let it happen (laughs).

SO: (laughs) I’m gonna hold you to that, Gary!

GW: Yeah, cheers mate! Don’t blame me if it does, though (laughs)

SO: (laughs) Deal! We’re all aware of the shocking and truly upsetting things that came out of the SpeakingOut movement last year about the British wrestling scene; not just British wrestling obviously, but globally. I understand that you have an agreement with Equity with a company Code of Conduct. What have you implemented to provide a safe environment for performers and fans alike, and how important was it to you personally to do this?

GW: Yeah, it was mega important. I mean, I had my own things happen and I chose not to say anything, and that will remain the same. How I felt about things is the same as a few other people felt and I didn’t know until this came out and we had discussions as friends. It was paramount from being in wrestling—I’ve only been in it for three years. I think within the first six months I’d seen something I didn’t particularly like and I told the person that they would never come back to wrestling, and they didn’t because I saw what was happening, and that person never returned. I didn’t know that that was not the norm thing, as a human I just did that. But as we’ve gone on and we learned, some of the stuff’s just horrendous, and some of these people that I looked up to or I was friends with or people that I’ve…friends are probably the wrong word; people that I knew or had worked with, and it was horrible. I can’t imagine what it must have been like for a lot of other people. 

But it was very much paramount that we needed to do something. If I was going to stay and do this, I wanted to do it right, and they (Equity) were the first people I spoke to and said, you know, ‘I want some advice. What can we do?’ Then I implemented our policies and procedures. Things get sent out to all our wrestlers before they join or wrestle, and they see what we’re about as people and as a company. Equity essentially come to all our shows, they came to our first show. They’re there for the wrestlers to approach; they’re not there for me in any way. In fact, they are there to catch you out, in a way. If they see something that you’re not doing that you said you were going to do, they will come to me and they will…I don’t know what they’re going to do, but they’ll do something (laughs) you know, and it’s not gonna be nice and it’s not something that any of us want.

But they were at our show, and they praised our COVID protocols; they thought that was amazing. We tested everyone when they came in. (The Equity representative) praised a lot of things and said there was absolutely nothing that he’d seen or dealt with or heard or the interactions we’ve had that deemed him to worry about anything relating to us. They said they’d probably just pop into a couple of the shows or whatnot, and yeah, we needed to have that. It needed to be in place Like I say, it’s not to protect Wrestle Carnival, it’s not to protect me. It’s to protect the performers, and it’s to protect them so that if I say I’m going to do something, that I do it.

So, I’m gonna book you Chris for a show, and then I say, “actually, no Chris, I don’t want you now.” You have your right to go to them and say, “he’s agreed something with me and now he’s pulling out.” So, it’s protecting you. We all had a zoom call like this and all just talked about things to help each other and pledged that we’d be there and support each other and, you know, try and make the industry better and do what we can, you know. We’re not going to be able to stop everything, but we’ve made a dent and we can start, and this is a good place to do those things.

SO: Yeah, definitely, and I think, like you say, just trying to be a decent human being, you know…it’s important to have a safe working environment, so I do applaud you for that, absolutely.

GW: Yeah. You don’t go to work to be abused, right?

SO: No, of course, you don’t, no.

GW: And you don’t go to…you might go to the football and get a bit of banter with some people, but you wouldn’t feel that’s essentially the norm. That’s not the norm. You know, there are different aspects of what you might get—” oh, you’re an Arsenal fan, blah blah blah.” You know, it’s nothing. But a lot of this stuff (the things revealed by SpeakingOut) was criminal, to be fair. I don’t think anything has gone anywhere, that I know of, but a lot of it should have. We need to protect (people). It’s still new to us all and there’s gonna be mistakes and there’s gonna be things that we don’t know of. Like, I don’t drink, I don’t do drugs, I don’t smoke, I don’t go out after the shows. I literally put the show on, I go home to my family, that’s all I do. I’m not in that wrestling bubble, I’m not in any cliques. I don’t see all of those. I didn’t see any of those things, and I still wouldn’t now. But you need to, as an industry or company, if you are all together and trying to better things, you need to have this open and honest discussion with each other and say, “look, we need to help each other.” And I think this is a good start. It’s going to take a long time, but this is a good start.

SO: Yeah, that’s it, isn’t it. It isn’t going to be an overnight change but I think, that’s the important thing, if there are several people at once trying to make those changes and working towards that, change doesn’t happen until people start working towards it, so more power to you, absolutely.

Ok, so Carnival of Honor is your next show on September 12th. Tell us what we can expect from the event.

Wrestle Carnival match cards for Carnival of Honor
Credit: Wrestle Carnival

GW: Eight matches, which is too many…Nah, it’s not really, it’s great. I’m really excited about it because hopefully, several of the matches will be on Ring of Honor Week by Week. Definitely, Doug William-Dean Allmark, which is an actual Ring of Honor Pure Rules match, That will be on there. And then we’re hoping a few others as well. I’ve recommended some people to Ring of Honor and then we’ve put them on the show. We’ve just got a good variety. Again, we’ve got a four-person tag, inter-gender but four-person, so it’s survival. There was a bit of some craftiness with Charles Crowley at the first show, he unmasked Lion Kid. So hopefully Lion Kid can actually make the show and he’s got his mask, ’cause Crowley’s still got it. And then we’ve got the ‘Heart of SHIMMER’ Championship, which is Alex Windsor against Hyan, which is going to be fantastic. Alex is back after two and half years, maybe even longer, which is gonna be great. 

Joe Hendry has got a completely new look. If you follow him on social media, he’s absolutely huge now. He’s big. He’s saying that ‘The Prestigious One,’ is dead and this is going to be a new person. This is his first show back since the pandemic, he’s purposely waited for our show. He’s going to do a custom entrance as well, so there’s going to be something really special there. I don’t even know what it is, I have no idea (laughs) so hopefully, it’s good, I’m sure it will be. So we got him and then Leyton Buzzard, who’s been doing some great things up in Scotland, so that should be an interesting match. Chris Ridgeway and Carlos Romo in a Submission match, which I really like, that’s a good variety. And, you know, it’s gonna be a really good event; Sunday afternoon, finish by 4 and you’re home by, you know, six and seven, if you’re far away. I mean, I’ll be home by 7 o’clock, which is great. I live in Cambridge, so that’s perfect for me, rather than a 2/3 o’clock in the morning job.

It’s gonna be good. Then we’re going to be building to the next show, October 9th, which will be Chris Ridgeway and Jonathan Gresham. We’ve got Jetta as well, who’s just won the Pro-Wrestling: EVE Championship, she’ll be at the show, Alex Windsor again, Joe Hendry, and then we’ve got some others. We’ve got some other people who have just returned to wrestling, they’ll be on the show too, so we’ll announce that soon. I think this is a really good card. I mean, they’re all good cards, but this is gonna be really solid, this is gonna be really good. This is about five matches, and they’ll be real good matches. 

SO: Lovely. Well, do you have any last words for our readers, Gary, anything you want to go out on?

GW: Erm..just follow us on social media, that would be great, myself if you want to, you don’t have to follow me if you don’t want to, I generally just chat about wrestling and movies and TV shows, that’s all I ever watch, to be honest, or football. But yeah, if you’re not sure what we’re about, give us a try, you know. It’s a tenner to come and watch a show and you can come to watch some of the biggest names in the UK. You can watch Jonathan Gresham, you can watch hopefully some more people as things open up. If we entertain you, great; if you don’t find it your cup of tea, there’s no ill will, bad feeling.

As long as you’re watching wrestling, I honestly don’t care. I’d like you to watch what we do, but I just want people to enjoy wrestling. Go and support other companies, go and support CATCH, go and support DNA, go and support RevPro, TNT, Kamikaze—the list is endless. Pro-Wrestling: EVE, everybody. Just, if you love wrestling, go and enjoy it, be positive online about it, ’cause if we’re positive online about it, we’ll get more people coming in and watching it and want to be fans, you know. That’s it. Go and support wrestling. Independent wrestling. I like the big boys and all that, but support independent wrestling the best you can, because I know when AEW comes here, they’re gonna sell out Craven Cottage, some 30,000 people. But I wish I could get 10% of that at a show. So go support independent wrestling, ’cause we’re the grassroots of it. You don’t get Lionel Messi or Ronaldo without grassroots football. So, we’re grassroots and if you can help us with a like, a retweet, or you can come to a show, just do it. But ultimately, just support wrestling. 

*

As you can see, Gary is extremely passionate about wrestling and the many flavors it offers, and Wrestle Carnival is very much built on that passion. Looking to give a platform to the best big names and unrecognized talent on the British scene, Wrestle Carnival looks to bolster and benefit the whole scene by giving all levels of talent a chance and a platform to shine on. Gary’s commitment to providing a safe working environment for his talent is extremely commendable, and is demonstrative of a larger belief that wrestling is for everybody—we’ve only got to allow it to be so.

With newcomers like Wrestle Carnival and CATCH making waves, as well as the big players like NXT UK, RevPro, and PROGRESS and other long-term companies still pushing forward like Preston City Wrestling and FutureShock, the UK scene, is looking as healthy as it did at the peak of its modern popularity around 2014-2018. These are exciting times indeed.

Support Wrestle Carnival by watching matches from Carnival of Honor on Ring of Honor’s Week by Week show, and by buying tickets to their Pure show on October 9th from their website.

 

For more great interviews from us, be sure to check out: 

Do It Now: The Danny Cage Interview

Flipping the Script: An Interview with Chris Van Vliet

“How Can You Not Be Romantic About Wrestling”? The Papo Esco Interview

Written by Chris Flackett

Wrestling obsessed since '91. Lived through the Monday Night Wars and is still here to tell the tale. Major fan of Strong Style, technical and Super Jr. Wrestling, as well as big versatile hosses smacking the hell out of each other. Lives in Manchester, England.

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