The first time the young Stu Allen watched wrestling on TV he knew that’s what he wanted to do and that’s what he went on and did, travelling to the US as a teenager to train with some of the biggest names in the business.
Stu’s been wrestling professionally for the best part of 30 years; in that time he’s seen the ups and downs of the UK professional wrestling scene but right now he feels like he’s riding the crest of a wave as UK wrestling reaches new audiences at shows all over the country and is drawing crowds desperate to come and cheer on the heroes and boo the villains.
But Stu isn’t just part of the ‘roster’ he’s one of the men responsible for the upsurge in popularity of this once ubiquitous sport, he’s the brains (and brawn) behind Extreme World Wrestling, better known as EWW. In October EWW celebrated it’s 20th anniversary with a show in Sussex Coast College that was packed with talent and which attracted a sell-out audience.
In 2018 Stu will have put on five shows in total across Kent and Sussex, more than he has ever done in a single year before but he’s catering for the growing demand among his audience. In fact the demand is not just coming from those who want to come and watch but also from those who want a place at one of his wrestling schools in Hastings and Maidstone which are both now part of the Al Snow Wrestling Academy, a worldwide organisation formed by former WWE star Al Snow to ensure quality of training and safety of trainees.
If you want to see for yourself what a great spectacle UK wrestling has become Stu’s latest show will be happening in two weeks time right in the heart of Hastings. On Saturday December 8th EWW is taking over Summerfields Leisure Centre to stage one of its ever-popular ‘academy shows’. These N-EWW events allow Stu’s pupils to demonstrate what they have learned and mix things up in the ring with some of the big names in the world of UK wrestling.
There will be lots of attention on local hot-shot Lupo Lee, he is a protege of Stu and his wife Tarnya and they tip him for big things in the years ahead. Lupo won a title at EWW’s 20th anniversary show and he’ll be defending that at Summerfields on the 8th against Furio. Maddie Almightyy, Deadly Nightshade and Lou Steele will be competing too as will Stu and Tarnya as their alter-egos Dominator and Skarlett, with Skarlett putting her title on the line against Cyrus Shade.
In the centre of the ring at Summerfields will be a brand new referee; Jamie Minihane who is the first referee to come up through Stu’s wrestling school and he is relishing the prospect of taking control on the night.
Summerfields was the venue for the very first show Stu ever organised in Hastings in 2009. He says there is a great atmosphere in the venue as the bleacher type seating encloses the ring and brings the audience really close the the action.
In a year that has seen EWW stage a show in Battle, two near Maidstone, it’s 20th anniversary show in Sussex Coast College and now this final show of the year at Summerfields Stu reflects on why the sport he has loved for more than three decades is back in the spotlight.
Much of the spike in popularity he says is down the quality of the show that UK wrestling promotions like his own are putting on. They provide genuine entertainment and excitement and engage the public: “People still have to ask ‘is it real?’ At our 20th anniversary show there was a big finale to the main event and one of the wrestlers was slammed through a table covered in tacks. After it was all over people were walking up to the ring touching the tacks to check if they were real – which they were – or in some way fake. It was amazing to watch the look of surprise on their faces.”
Alongside the growth in audience is also the growth in people wanting to learn how to wrestle. Stu is insistent that all his trainees learn the basics of a Russian martial art called Sombo wrestling, 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 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. A year ago an average class had 12-15 people today that’s up to 25 and growing all the time and Stu is looking at whether he might need to look at adding additional classes to his weekly timetable.
But for now all his focus is on the show at Summerfields Leisure Centre on December 8th when Stu and the remainder of the EWW roster will demonstrate once again why the popularity of wrestling in the UK in on the up and up.