The glory days of British wrestling when 20 million people tuned in every Saturday afternoon to watch the likes of Mick McManus and Big Daddy on World of Sport may now be a distant memory but its support is growing again and wrestling shows around the country are attracting big audiences once more.
At the forefront of that revival is local man Stu Allen who has been wrestling for most of his life, “the first time I watched it on television I knew that’s what I wanted to do,” he says. His mentor is one-time World of Sport bad-boy Adrian Street and Stu hopes that in October when his Extreme World Wrestling promotion stages a special show in Sussex Coast College to mark its 20th anniversary, Adrian will be in Hastings to help him celebrate.
Before then there is a slightly more low-key show to stage in the area, at Battle Memorial Hall on June 30. It’s what Stu calls one of his academy shows, that’s when the students who come to learn the art of wrestling at the classes he runs every week get the chance to perform in front of a live audience.
Stu, who wrestles as ‘The Dominator,’ doesn’t pull his punches about the fact that the audience become very caught up in the storylines that surround the characters who take part in his shows which he describes as ‘physical theatre’ but the knocks and bumps that the wrestlers take in the ring are just as real than they look.
When someone turns up at one of his classes for the first time if they are not interested in learning the basics then Stu isn’t interested in them. He says it’s essential to learn the fundamentals of wrestling and he follows the syllabus of Russian Sombo Wrestling and before any of his students can even begin to think about doing any flashy moves they have to go through the process of learning their breakfalls, throws and other holds, only when they have a strong grounding in the basics will he let them progress.
His classes cater for all ages and abilities. many of those taking part will never wrestle in public but train for fitness or for self-defence.
Stu learned the hard way. As a teenager he worked to raise the money to go out to the US and when he got there he signed up for Adrian Street’s Skull Krushem Wrestling Academy, “I trained three times a day whether I wanted to or not,” he says.
For youngsters starting their training with Stu there is more to it than the fighting and the performance, he teaches them how to be their own agent and how to look after themselves when they are travelling the country, he wants to ensure that his students can be independent and fend for themselves.
Stu’s wife Tarnya, who wrestles as Skarlett, is one of the best female wrestlers in Europe at the moment and in addition to their shows planned for the UK and Europe this year there are also plans for a trip to Dubai to wrestle there.
But back in the UK wrestling is in the ascendency once more with shows attended by more than 1,000 people being the norm. In addition, people are prepared to travel long distances to watch their heroes in the ring and Stu says that for his Hastings shows he will get people travelling down from the midlands and East Anglia, “it brings a lot of people to the town, so it’s good for the local economy,” he says with a smile.
If you are interested in finding out more Stu’s training schools run at the Fighting Tigers Gym in Hastings between 2pm and 4pm on a Sunday and on Tuesday nights from 8pm for 16 year olds and over and if you want to hear more from Stu himself he produces a regular podcast available from his website or through iTunes called Stiff Right Hand.