Wrestling is pretty close to my heart. So imagine my surprise when I was given the opportunity to partake in a training session and then have the honour of debuting as a referee all in one day!
Let me take you back a couple of weeks ago to an extremely nervous Hayley making her way down to The Wrestling Ireland in Omagh. I had visited the promotion a couple of months before hand for their final show of 2018 and had an absolute blast! From watching a jam packed full hardcore holiday match to being able to support some of the local guys from Belfast who had travelled to be part of the show, it was a brilliant night out and I couldn’t wait to see what they did next.
Skip forward a month or so when my little wrestling heart decided it wanted to be involved in the business. I had contacted promotions previously with unfortunately no luck in breaking into a non-wrestling role. That was until I message Nick at The Wrestling Ireland and he took me straight on board. We discussed back and forth all about our love of wrestling, the promotion and the possibility or ring announcing/refereeing and or managing and after a couple of discussions we felt that starting off as a referee would be a good way for myself to break into the scene. I discussed the option will Northern Ireland Referee Veteran Tommy who gave me a lot of advice and was extremely patient and willing to answer any and all questions I had about counts, positioning, what to do in certain situations and when to make the right calls. Thanks Tommy!!
After further reassurance from both Nick, friends within the wrestling scene and of course my best friends Stevie and Dave, I decided that I would jump feet first and give it a go! I was absolutely petrified but there was never any pressure put on me, I was given the option to take part in the training day, and Nick checked in with me on the lead up to the day to make sure I was ok and to assure me that if something happened on the day or I felt that I wasn’t able to take part that it was completely ok and they would just be happy to have me at the show.
10thMarch 2018. I got my butt into my car, picked up Stevie, Mitch and Shannon and drove to Omagh. I felt sick, I nearly didn’t take part in training and I nearly threw up multiple times before even stepping into the venue….but I pulled on my workout gear and before I knew it the 2 hour training session was over.
I have to say the biggest thank you here first and foremost to Cambo Cray for taking the training session. Cambo was extremely patient and attentive, always making sure to explain every exercise and especially for the beginners walking through them multiple times as well as assisting and providing immediate feedback. From rolls, to how to properly bump, to handstands and Ins and Outs, it was a great insight to simply learn the basics and repeat them as much as necessary to learn the feeling and the positioning.
The groups were spilt into beginners and those who had previous wrestling experience. As the only girl in the beginners group it was slightly daunting as my friends were all in the advanced class but this didn’t stop me from trying my hardest. Hooch and PJ Starrs took the beginners session showing us a chain sequence including a simple lock up, into a wrist lock, then hammer lock and finally into a headlock. My partner a young local boy was lovely but seemed slightly scared of hurting me. Hooch took the time to take me aside and allow me to practice with him whilst my partner got a little more coaching. My big wrestling brother Prento then popped over and went through the whole sequence with me as well to make sure I understood where to move my feet, what side I was to work and how to apply the pressure and what position to hold the hand.
After this we were called back to the ring to show our sequences, I’ll be the first to admit that mine was a little wobbly but again Cambo was extremely patient even going through it all again as well as stopping us at certain points to move us into the correct position.
We then got the chance to work with some of the more experienced guys and girls in the ring and to do a little bit of character work. This was the moment I was called “The Bayley of Irish Wrestling” with my upbeat and bouncy personality shining through as I locked up with both Prento and later with Taylor in which she bullied me into the corner (I’ll get her next time).
The beginners then again got the chance to have a go at Ins and Outs which are definitely harder than they look, with my short stature I ended up using the bottom room to bounce up, though I still didn’t manage to get it exactly. We finished off the session by practicing our bumps again and then it was time for food.
Throughout the whole training I had gotten so much guidance, support and feedback both from the roster in Omagh who I had only met for the first time, from my best friend Stevie who encouraged me throughout whilst setting up merchandise (and taking lots of pics and videos for me) and from Mitch, Shannon, Prento, Taylor, Jack and Adam who all have been training from a year to 3 years who took the time to ensure I was ok, that I understood everything and working with me during warm up and the lock up sequences. It was an absolute pleasure to train with them and in turn watch them train.
Coming back from lunch/dinner where I hardly ate anything due to the nerves I arrived back to the announcement that I would be reffing 4 out of the 5 matches. Talk about trust! After a quick run through of the rules, and asking as many questions as I could, I threw on my ref shirt and gear, nearly threw up multiple times and then made the scary walk from the back to the ring. There was no going back….and the rest was history.
I cannot thank Nick enough for trusting me and allowing me the opportunity to work with The Wrestling Ireland and all of the roster. From following this sport for over a decade, to a bad training experience which put me off for a while, I never felt more at home than I did running around a ring and counting to 3. From getting to push Prento and slap PJ Starsr to be able to watch the matches from the best seat in the house. I got to witness Skye James debut and participate in her very first intergender match which made me extremely proud, and I got to experience it all with my best friends.
To Nick, Cambo, Hooch, PJ, Pyro, Manny, Enda, Shannon, Mitch, Prento, Adam, Nathan, Stevie, Dave, Jim I cannot thank you all enough. From the bottom of my heart. Here’s to the next one.
(P.S if you want to see me as a tiny ref, running about the ring and scaring big ol mean wrestlers, The Wrestling Ireland will be in Letterkenny on 28thApril 2019. Tickets available Soon)
All Images and videos taken by the wonderful Stevie <3
Capturing all the memories even as his phone battery died!