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Nottingham Castle

School of Hard Notts: Enter Wrestle Gate Pro

12 January 19 words: Chaz Wright

Finallythe wrestling has come back to Rushcliffe! Champions from across the globe are heading to Notts on 26 January to entertain fans and beat seven shades of subtext out of each other. Bringing harder, edgier style influenced by Japanese wrestling and MMA and with at least one legitimate dream match on the card, it’s something new for the city. SOHN talks to Gary Ward, promoter and owner of Wrestle Gate Pro.

Wrestle Gate Pro has very specific influences. Describe your vision for the debut show, Open Gate; how would you convince Nottingham humans who have never attended wrestling to buy a ticket
I know some of your readers might not be familiar with Japanese wrestling but it’s a much more realistic, sports orientated style, more like MMA. If combat sports are of interest to you our show will blow you away. Like WWE the results are predetermined but when you watch our style and think “that looked ridiculously painful”  thats because it is, these guys really don’t pull their punches. I have tried to book a card that combines Japanese style with our British catch wrestling heritage but without the pantomime aspect. Giant Haystacks vs Big Daddy, this is not.

You have some top guys on the card, “Smashmouth” Chris Ridgeway, eye-catching internationals like Mil Muertes and WWE star Millie McKenzie – could you talk us through your thought process when booking talent?
The main thing is I love the performers! Chris Ridgeway deserves to headline every card he is on, he embodies everything that we hope Wrestle Gate will be. I have no doubt he will go on to big things wherever he wrestles and Millie McKenzie is just a total hard caseI wanted our first show to feel like a bit of a super card so getting some big international names, as well as the home-grown talent, felt important. I also want to mix it up a bit with performers like Session Moth who is more famous for her comedy, but she can brawl with the best.


Mil Muertes is an internationally popular Lucha-libre star via the show Lucha Underground. This is both his first UK show, and the first time he has faced German wrestling machine John “bad bones” Klinger, staging a legit dream match for your first show must feel like a coup?
It is a good feeling. Lucha Underground has fans all over the world, Muertes is just such a unique character, I decided to put my money where my mouth is book him. Bad Bones is perfect to face him, such an underrated talentI wanted to announce who we are, give the crowd something fresh and bring in guys who haven’t worked in the UK before. I am genuinely happy to give this one to the fans.

I love Rushcliffe arena as a venue for wrestling and I was really gratified to see it was back in action, any interesting plans for utilising the space?
The first independent wrestling show I ever saw was at Rushcliffe and I worked with Southside wrestling there. The size is perfect for an intense atmosphere. Really, it wamy only choice as venue and the management there have been brilliant, they were just so supportive and keen to go again, so I just grabbed it with both hands. We have some exciting plans, professional lighting, big screens and high-level production values - we think the audience will be pleasantly surprised. We have five shows booked here in the next year and we really want the arena to feel like our home.

Any Nottingham wrestlers you are particularly keen on, and will we be seeing them at Wrestle Gate soon?
Gabriel Kidd definitely springs to mind. I think he is a really good fit for us but he could work anywhere in the world, especially Japan - he reminds me of Stan Hansenhe just has that aura about him, a real hard man. I am sure he will take over the world soon.

UK wrestling is in a great place right now, does that work in your favour as a promoter, or does it make it harder to get your mitts on the stars you really want to book?
I am happy to see so many great UK performers get opportunities with big companies, I think there is so much depth of UK talent that there is rooms for all of us. Notts has a few different promotions at the moment and that’s wonderful, we are all doing different things and there is so much talent out there we can give up and comers the chance they deserve, as well as bringing in a few foreign stars.

You have some really big names booked for your first show. Some wrestling promoters have fallen foul of overbooking in the past creating a model they can’t maintain - do you have any worries about this?
No, the core of our show is rising British and European starsthat’s our heart. We will keep mixing in the bigger international names to set us apart, but in sustainable way. We also want to work with the people of Nottingham; my background is in recycling used tech, supporting businesses, the community, charities and so on. We don’t just want to drop in and put on shows, we want to be part of Nottingham and work with local businesses, we are in this great city for the long haul.  

Some promoters like to get involved; perhaps adopting a silly walk or writing themselves into storylines – any plans on this front?
No, none, zero! I might come out and thank fans for the first show, but I can assure you I won’t be appearing as a character, referee or anything like that. I will be a presence at events and if fans enjoy it and want to come and speak to me or make suggestions, that’s fine, but you won’t catch me running in brandishing a steel chair or booking myself as champ I can assure you!  

I want to talk about one of the most controversial subjects in Wrestling – Big Foam Fingers. Unfortunately, a dying artform in modern wrestling, do you have plans for a Wrestle Gate Pro finger?
Ha, not exactly our sort of thingbut I am always listening, if fans came up with the perfect Wrestle Gate finger, maybe one designed to deliver a knife-edge chop, we might consider it. We are always open to new merchandising ideas! 

Finally, your impressive logo features a fearsome lion. Aficionados will know the significance of the lion motif in Japanese wrestling but were you also conscious of the local connotation as the city’s favourite meeting spot (and magazine!)?
Funnily enough, I had my stag do in Notts years ago and actually we did meet at the left lion. To be honest, I didn’t have it in mind when working with my designer, I just wanted a design that showed what we are about, but admittedly it’s a nice overlap – Nottingham is obviously the place we are meant to be!

Sounds like a real slobberknocker. A few tickets may still be available for any Jabroni who haven’t got on board already.

Wrestle Gate Pro website

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