Interview With Andy Wild

Andy Wild

Having spent the past decade and change honing his craft in Scotland’s premier promotion – Insane Championship Wrestling – Andy Wild made his WWE debut last week in a valiant, but not victorious, effort against Kenny Williams on NXT UK.

Speaking with Inside The Ropesβ€˜ Lead Writer Gary Cassidy, Andy Wild opened up about his time at WWE’s UK-based Performance Center, the words of encouragement he received from ‘Mr WrestleMania’ himself – Shawn Michaels, and his aspirations to become a fully-fledged WWE Superstar after getting a taste of the action!

Former ICW Zero-G Champion, you’ve just debuted on NXT UK. I was going to introduce you as the ‘Dad Bod God’ but, having seen your Instagram recently, I don’t think we can use those words anymore to describe you! How’s it going, Andy?

Thank you very much for having me. I do appreciate it and I do appreciate the not calling me a Dad Bod God. I need to find a middle ground name. I’m trying to help all the dad bod gods. We’re moving to summer now, so we all need to trim up a little bit if we want those extra pints!

It’s such a good name, but as someone who’s spend the entirety of lockdown indulging in those pints and takeaways, I’m not having it! We need a new nickname. Firstly, congratulations on your in-ring NXT UK debut, which we will talk about – but I want to go back a little bit to the last time we spoke, which was just before ICW Fear & Loathing XII, but just after an incredible match you had with Stevie Boy Xavier at ICW Fight Club. I said it back then that it felt like a turning point. Looking back, does it feel like that? And if so, did you know it at the time?

You know, for anybody that’s kind of met me in wrestling, you’ll know from speaking to me in the past and things, I’m not like a big-headed or full-of-myself kind of guy. But I just knew, after years and years of kind of fighting my way up through the card in ICW again, after I had that little bit of time out, that I just needed a main event. I knew where I was. I knew where I could be. I just needed to be allowed to have that opportunity.

Put me in that role, let me do what I want to do, put me in with something like Stevie and I’ll show you, in however long the match lasts, exactly where I belong on the ICW card and that’s what I felt happened that night. It all kind of fell together. I walked into that match thinking, “I know who I am for the first time in my wrestling career,” which was a big thing for me, “and I just want to show everybody” – and I went out there and put on what was probably one of my best matches I’ve ever had.

Even at the end of the match, like after Stevie hits me with this finish and wins the match – and great, great for him because he’s a fantastic talent – after the match, we stand up and he hugs me and he just says, “You showed them, didn’t you?” He just said it to me. I didn’t gee him up. I didn’t say anything about it. He goes, “Well, you showed them,” and that was it. And it was kind of a mutual – before we even came backstage, we knew and everybody was backstage and a few people gave us a clap and bits and pieces.

So it was a real big turning point for me and it was actually the match that I sent to WWE to try and get a foot in the door at NXT. So, yeah, it worked. I think everybody was on the same page as you and me on that one.

I always say it, but with most championship matches that aren’t on huge events, you kind of feel like you know how they’re going to go. If the unsuccessful challenger can make you believe they have a chance, job done – and that was part of what made that such an incredible match. I believe, at that point, you’d JUST opened up a wrestling school, too, in FPWA. I mean, you’ve been doing amazing things there – even throughout lockdown! What’s it been for you having to adapt the way you teach people, using Zoom classes and the likes?

Yeah, it’s been very, very hard. Obviously, we’re a business and I wanted the business to grow, and I wanted to make money from it, but from a non-selfish point of view, I just couldn’t imagine…! I’ve been lucky enough to be involved in wrestling for almost 15 years now and always that being on a week-by-week basis of getting physical training. I couldn’t imagine being that… Think of the lads that have just got in the door, they’ve worked their arses off, they’ve got that debut and then they’ve just got it all taken away from them and they can’t progress, and they can’t get better and they don’t know when they’re going to get another chance to learn.

I was just like, “No, we need to do something!” So I started doing these webinars, I then started making some webinars free to other training schools because I noticed other schools we weren’t doing or didn’t have the facilities to do so, so I thought, “Maybe we can get some people involved.” And then I started offering it to outside FPWA and we end up doing two a week. Now, it became very, very hard – even though I love wrestling and I’ve got a lot to say about wrestling, I’ve got a lot of ideas on how wrestling works and I feel like I maybe have a different point of view from the upbringing I’ve had in wrestling to some other people a and I had a lot to say and to put over, but that only lasts about six months where you can find stuff to say and break things down. So we started getting people involved, guest coaches and things like that, and we just picked people’s brains.

What surprised me the most about lockdown, and it was something I knew in the back of my head, but you never really, like, reach out to people. There’s so many people that want to help! Like, I messaged Nick Aldis. I hadn’t spoken to him in years. We go way back but I’ve never really chatted to him. We throw each other an odd like and a “Merry Christmas” here and there but that’s it. I messaged him and he’s like, “Absolutely, I’ll do it, when do you want me on?” And you know him, he can just talk and talk, and talk.

So it’s crazy to think that we’re in a position where, yes, we can’t really train but, at the end of just one of these video calls, we could have the NWA Heavyweight Champion who’s happy to help progress people. So yeah, it’s been hard, but the doors are now back open, we’re starting to contactless training and if Nicola keeps her word and everything keeps going in the right direction, we should be getting back to contact training as of July – which is going to be… I mean, some of the students who got involved during lockdown did non-contact training so they’ve only really done roly-polies and running the ropes. They’ve never been slammed yet. They’ve maybe taken a back bump and done it themselves but they’ve never been forcefully put through the mat, so they’ve got an exciting time ahead for them – so this is really exciting.

So, the wrestling industry in the UK has changed a lot this year. Obviously there’s been the Speaking Out Movement, and there’s clearly still a lot of work to be done until we can get to a point where that problem is solved, but there’s also been wrestlers who just fell away from the business after a year of inactivity. One silver lining, though, is that a lot of the departures – voluntary and involuntary – from the industry have been replaced by talents who weren’t maybe featured prominently but are now flourishing!

For me, the perfect example is Pretty Deadly in NXT UK, and the likes of Craig Anthony and Daz Black in ICW. That said, I’m no trainer, and I’m no veteran wrestler! So, Andy, all the pressure’s on you – when the world is open again, who’s taking it by storm?

Oh, there are so many. That’s not a cop off of just not name of people, because I will name people.

But to start with the Pretty Deadly guys, if you ever have the opportunity to be around them, two the the most hard-working guys you’ve ever met in your life. I have met them in passing. I wouldn’t say I was friendly with them, but I’ve said hello and things, but I spent some time with them on those camps and honestly, they just do not stop working from the second they get up. Look at the stuff they put out on socials. I mean, that’s a full-time job in itself.

But to go back to your question, Scottish wrestling wise, Jason Reed for me has been somebody who has relentlessly stayed on top of his wrestling career throughout lockdown. It isn’t easy! It isn’t easy to stay on top of it and isn’t easy to progress and he’s progressed massively. Like you said, Daz Black, he is unbelievable. Raw talent. He is a really, really, really good talent. You can’t leave Leyton (Buzzard) out – as much as I have my own qualms with him in ICW at the moment, you can’t take away who Leyton is.

I mean, for ourselves, for our own training school, we’ve got a young lad called Umar Mohammed – he calls himself the Asian Sensation – and he’s done a little bit of enhancement-style work with ICW as well. He’s going to be fantastic.

We actually have a really good high flyer called Tallon Jr. Now, different to other high flyers, Tallon is about six-foot-odd and he’s very slim, very in-shape – but he can fly about like nobody’s business!

And the last person I’ll give a little attention do is we actually have a 17-year-old female student called Harmony Skye, and Harmony has been training with an old Scottish wrestler called Johnny Lyons for a good four years now. So she’s been training since she was about 13, and recently started training with myself. Honestly, once she makes her debut… She’s ready for her debut now but we need to obviously, after this lockdown and things, get the ring rust off and stuff but, once she makes her debut, I honestly think that she will bypass so much talent in this country because she’s absolutely unbelievable. So she’s a very, very, very good wrestler.

Don’t mind me, I’m just taking notes. I’ve seen the Asian Sensation before, but Tallon Jr and Harmony Skye… Got it! You mentioned Umar Mohammed wrestling in ICW recently and you obviously have been too.

Now, I’ll be honest, I was very hesitant about ICW coming back with no fans, because the fans are such a huge part of the show – but it’s been so good seeing that mix of veterans like yourself and the younger talent, not to mention it’s now on the WWE Network and Peacock! What’s it like wrestling in The Asylum, in front of no fans, but knowing you’re reaching many, many more people as a result?

Yeah, I mean, it’s amazing. It’s an amazing opportunity. It’s a hard is a hard position for a lot of the younger lads because they maybe haven’t debuted and they’re debuting on the Network. I mean, that’s just bonkers when you think about it. When you look at British wrestling and you’re used to the kind of “paying your dues” bit of wrestling in front of like 20 people at a British Legion for the first two or three years, debuting on the Network is is a huge thing but I think it’s a really, really good opportunity to fast-track talent.

I mean, with the NXT brand opening up and taking away a lot of very good, established talent, it left a little bit of space for people to come through. That wasn’t maybe happening. Like you said, some people have now disappeared that were involved in wrestling before that were maybe taking some of those seats that could have been filled by talent that deserved a place in the show and now you’ll see those people moving forward. So in that regard, I think it’s an amazing thing.

For myself, wrestling in front of people IS NOT A HARD THING!

Like I said, I started wrestling in 2006 where, for the first five years of your wrestling career, you wrestle for everybody you can, and if that means driving ten hours to wrestle for a show a British Legion and then driving back and being absolutely buzzing about it but you’ve only wrestled in front of eight people – six of them were people’s girlfriends and that was it. It was… Yeah, we’re used to that.

No, it’s great to know that now everything that I put out in terms of ICW is getting seen by WWE and also getting seen by much more fans – and you see that reflected in your social media as well. You see a lot more interaction from people outside of Scotland. But I’ve got to say, I do… When I’m on that treadmill in the mornings, I do speed up my running as I think about that murmur when you’re backstage and you hear Billy Kirkwood blindly swearing down a microphone at thousands of people, just getting them ready, and then the cameras go on. I’m really looking forward to that first… I hope I’m out first. Everybody wants to main event but I think on that first show back, I would really like that first match out maybe against somebody like a Stevie and just remind everybody what ICW is.

A lot of people are mentioning wanting to be first, but I love that the biggest pop when wrestling comes back in Scotland is going to go to Billy Kirkwood! We’ve mentioned NXT UK a couple of times and the tape you sent to them… I just said tape, I don’t think anyone’s sent a tape to ANYONE for about a decade. The match you sent to WWE being that match with Stevie Boy. How did it all come about, though, in terms of getting that foot in the door?

Well, I was lucky enough to be involved in a WWE tryout in the Manchester Evening News Arena in 2017. I went, did the tryout and, like a lot of people, it was a “thanks, see you later, you might hear from us, you might never hear from us” – which, in my case was, you never hear from us.

So I went away and worked on myself, and luckily, I think my biggest problem in wrestling, as I grew up through wrestling as a young kind of mid-20s guy, was I didn’t know who I was. As a person, I didn’t know who I was and it was very hard to have the confidence to realise who you were as a performer. As I became a father and I matured as a person, I started to realise who I am as a man and realised that, yes, maybe I’m heavier than everybody else. Yes, maybe I’m not as fast as everyone else but, by God, I’m just as talented and, by God, I can do everything they can do – if put in the right roles. So I thought to myself, “How am I going to do that?” So I thought, “I’m just gonna have to work for it.” So I genuinely thought to myself, “I just need to be the hardest worker in the room. It doesn’t matter who is there, I just have to be.” And that is not easy when you’re in a room with people like Joe Coffey and Mark Coffey, and Wolfgang, and all these lads are just unbelievable talents.

But I worked and worked away at it. I tried to build myself up through cards. Discovery Wrestling was a really, really big turning point for me, because they were the first company to just give me the ball and let me run with it, and that kind of culminated in a probably one of my favorite matches, again, with a main event against Joe Coffey for the Y-Division title. And fast-forward to that match with Stevie – like you said – I just knew.

As soon as I went backstage, I just knew, like, “If I’m going to now resend something over, that’s the match. Like that’s me going in there and show them – this is who Andy Wild is.”

So I go way back with Johnny Moss. He’s the head coach at the UK Performance Center. I’ve known Mossy for a very long time because I started my training at Hammerlock, which was a wrestling school in the south of England, in Kent, and Mossy was, like, their guy. But we just kind of kept in touch over the years and I thought to myself, “Well, look, I’ll just send it to Mossy” because I wanted feedback more than anything. Like, I wanted to continue to progress, and he gave me some really very good feedback in terms of things that could work on but he also said, “Look, I can’t promise you anything, but if someone was to come up and we needed a heavyweight to come in and do something for us, I’ll give you a shout,” which I thought was a very nice, generic answer that you’d send to somebody that you’ve known for a long time.

So I thought that was very nice of him and then that was it. Then, during lockdown… I work as a car salesman, so I work a 60-hour working week, so I’m six days a week, nine in the morning until six at night. So I’d always said to people, “Look, if I just had a bit more time, I’d be in better shape. Like, this is the best shape I can be in for my working life.” So as soon as lockdown came, I thought, “Well, I can’t NOT get in better shape now because I’ve been shouting from the rooftops for years, ‘If I just had a bit more time, I’d get in shape’.” So I just thought I’ll get my head down and get myself in shape. And that’s what I did for a long, long time.

Then I was just standing at work talking to a customer and my phone vibrated, and I went to the toilet, checked it, and it was a message from Mossy saying, “Would you like to come in as an extras talent for NXT UK? And I burst out crying, which everybody always does, I was just like shaking and everything. I ran out and phoned my Mrs, and I was like, “I just got the message” and she’s like, “What are you talking about?” And I’m like, “I’ve got the message.” She’s like, “Andrew, what are you talking about?” And I’m like, “From WWE.” She’s like, “You’re joking!” Hannah’s not a wrestling fan but when you’ve been together for a long time, your dreams become their dream kind of thing.

So, yeah, and I got the opportunity to go down and train with them for a few days and then debut against Kenny Williams, which is a nice kind of a full circle thing because I helped him, or tried to help them as much as I could early on in his career as well. So that was a nice kind of full circle to stand across the ring from him with WWE logos everywhere.

That’s one thing I was going to ask. Obviously you faced Kenny Williams, not for the first time. He’s not the only person in the locker room you know from your decade-plus on the circuit. What was the emotion of being there like? Was it just like walking into any other locker room, or was it still really special because of the magnitude of your surroundings?

Oh, no, I felt super special. Like you said, you’ve got that kind of feeling of… like, you arrive at the hotel, you see people that you know, so that’s comforting. But then you get to this Performance Center and it’s so American in terms of size. Nothing in Britain is big, especially in wrestling.

Like we have our ICWs and we have our kind of bigger companies but they’re still small in comparison to what America is, and then you walk into this Performance Center and there’s two rings set up, a full gym area, TVs. You look behind the curtain, there’s the London taxis for the sets for SmackDown stuff. It’s just… You just kind of look around and you’re just like, “This is just unbelievable” and I just found myself, the whole time I was there, people coming up going, like, “Are you all right?” Like people checking on me. “Are you OK?” I’m just going, “This is just mental. It’s just crazy.” And I was loving it. They’re like, “Are you okay? “I’m like, “No, I’m just trying to… I want to take it all in.”

You kind of start to think to yourself because… When you’ve been involved in wrestling for a long time, you start to understand that nothing really happens out things that you do because of the way it is. You’ll get a phone call, “Oh, we’re going to put you in this match with such and such.” And then the day comes and you’re not even on the show and you’re like, “All right,” you know, this is how it goes. So I’m standing there and I thought, “If this is all I ever do, if this is the only thing I ever do in wrestling, I’m going to enjoy every second” and I did. It was absolutely brilliant at the Performance Center.

Yeah, sadly I couldn’t make it to the media day at the Performance Center, but I did get to see some matches inside BT Sport Studios. I also got to ask Shawn Michaels himself about the “Voice of God” where he helps produce the show and the matches via Zoom. Did you have any interaction at all with Shawn Michaels?

Yeah, everybody’s going to laugh or any of the boys will laugh now when they see this because they’ll know how much I want to tell this story.

So Shawn Michaels is the producer for the whole thing so I had my enhancement match, I was told beforehand, like, “Listen, you’re in to do what you’re here to do. Once they say, ‘Clear,’ just move out the way and then they’ll maybe speak to Kenny and then that’ll be it but they’ll very rarely interact with you.” I’m like, “Sound. I know what I’m here for.” So we have the match, which is just a six minute enhancement match, you’ve been wrestling your whole life. I’ve never really had that… Like, as you know, of being like kind of mid to high card in ICW but I’ve never really had that “moment” – that hasn’t come. It felt like it was starting to come as I had that match with Stevie and then the world shut down and whatnot.

So I have this kind of six minute enhancement match and then they go, “Clear,” then Shawn Michaels comes over the speakers and he goes, “Great match, guys. Oh, Andy Wild, man, that was amazing. That was really good.” And, you know, you stand there and you’re like… First of all, they said, “Look, the speech is only one way, so you can only really smile” so I’m just… [He grins] the camera, “Thanks, Mr HBK.” But also I then start to become quite overwhelmed because it’s like…

I always thought I’d have that moment in front of thousands of fans at ICW and it would be, “Andy, Andy” or something, I don’t know. But then just to hear my name come from Shawn Michaels’ mouth is just bonkers. And then he spoke to Kenny and then he spoke to me again and just congratulated me again. And I walked backstage and I was just in absolute hysterics, like everybody’s coming over to give you the gee up and shake your hand, and I was like, “I just… I literally just need to go and stand in this cupboard here and just cry like a child” because it was 15 years just paid off. You know, you’ll see on my socials, I train in the mornings before work, I coach after work. Every single rep, every single session, every single long drive, late night, tiredness, all paid off in six minutes and an American guy that I idolised as a child saying “Well done, Andy” and it all paid off in one minute. It was just… It’s just bonkers. The whole setup is bonkers when you really take a step back and realise where we were three years ago, four years ago.

I love that because, not that I’m going to end your career prematurely here, but it sounds like the kind of thing you’ll remember no matter how long you live and no matter what else happens! You could win world titles, but when you look back, it might be, “That time when I wrestled in an empty studio and Shawn Michaels really liked my enhancement match.”

You do two forearms and a belly to belly in front of the greatest performer of all time and he tells you you’re good. I mean, that’s it, I’m fine now. I can retire. I’m sound.

I interviewed Shawn Michaels recently and asked about that “greatest performer ever” tag and he did say getting those words from your peers mean the most, so I totally get it!

Now, speaking with you, I can tell you’re pretty blown away by the whole setup and experience, and I’d imagine you’d love to do more work with WWE if possible. Obviously things are taped in advance there, so let me ask you directly – have you done more work with WWE, and what do you foresee going forward? Is becoming a WWE Superstar the dream?

Yeah, well, lucky enough, as you know, these shows are recorded way in advance. So that that match with Kenny was recorded about 10 weeks ago or 11 weeks ago and I was lucky enough to, in that case, I was involved in doing the match and being brought in a few days beforehand. Off the back of that, I got offered the most recent camp, which finished just recently, where I got the full two weeks. So they invited me back down to train with them for the full training camp, which was nine days at the Performance Center and then do TVs again. So you will see me again on TV. Obviously, no spoilers on the matches and things but you will see me again.

I think, for me, I do want to be part of NXT. For me, NXT UK gets a lot of stick. It gets a lot of stick from wrestlers, it gets a lot of stick from fans. But to me, from actually spending time there as opposed to being from the outside looking in, it really is just a group of British wrestlers, British AND European wrestlers, that love wrestling, want to build the scene, want to build their brand and just want to work hard – just the same way that they did when they were working on the independent scene and nothing’s changed. All that’s changed is that they’re putting that work in and get the full time wage from it. That’s the only difference.

It will not, in my opinion, effect independent wrestling negatively because they now have, all this young talent now has WWE stars who are one phone call away from Shawn Michaels for opinion and for guidance to guide them. I’ve been there now probably, what, 25 days in total or something between the two camps and I’ve learned more in those 25 days about me and about wrestling and little tweaks, and little things that you can do, and things that you can make more out of stuff, and the difference between independent wrestling and TV wrestling… In that time, I’ve learned more than I have in the last five years or so. So it really will just build everybody.

Yeah, but for me, my sole goal now every day is to become an NXT UK star. Hopefully a star, or even maybe a champion, who knows? Or an enhancement talent, that’s good as well!

As long as Shawn Michaels likes your work!

As long as Shawn Michaels gives me the gee up after every match. I’ll have to put that in my contract!

Well, if he decides to come back for one more match and wants the best enhancement talent to face off against… You never know!

I’ll take that!

One thing I need to say, ten weeks ago you had that match and you managed to keep it a secret, that’s pretty insane in itself. That must have been hell!

It’s so painful because I’ve got so many mates that I hadn’t really told that I’ve missed their stag dos, I’ve missed their weddings, I’ve missed their kids’ birthdays and things over the years because they’ve supported me with wrestling. They’ve been like, “Go for it, man, do this, do that” and you just want to say to them, “Mind all those times I missed all that stuff? Thanks for helping me out because look, where it’s got me.” It’s been really hard.

My son actually… I put on my socials but he did a little piece in his school newspaper about wrestling. “My Dad, The Famous Wrestler” it was called, right? And I’m like, “You didn’t mention WWE, though, did you?” And he’s like, “Ehhh, no, I don’t think so.” I’m like, “Listen, I don’t want the Coaltown of Wemyss Primary School to have the inside scoop on my debut for the biggest company in the world of professional wrestling.” He’s like, “No, we’ll just have to wait to see when the newspaper comes out.” We’ll have a look. And luckily, had it not, that makes a difference. But he hadn’t mentioned that, he’d only mentioned about Joe Coffey and how rich he thinks he is. So that was quite funny.

I’ll tell you what, Andy. You learn something new every day. I’ll need to start getting in touch with the schools of every local wrestler’s kids and try get the scoop!

You know you’d get the truth anyway!

So, I’m normally not a fan of the “dream matches” question, but I feel like it’s fitting here! Let’s go for two though and on the prerequisite that it’s after Andy Wild gets signed to WWE. Now, I know you’re not going to give away any upcoming NXT UK matches, so if you’ve already beaten WALTER for the NXT UK Championship, feel free to kayfabe me, don’t pull the belt out!

So, I want to know your dream NXT UK match, and your dream match involving anyone from RAW, SmackDown or NXT!

Well, I think I think the NXT UK guy would have to be Noam Dar, because we at every key point in my career, when I’ve looked up, he’s been standing across the ring for me. Even at the NXT UK thing, I walk into the Performance Center, and who’s the first person eyes with? It’s Noam. Who is the first person he locked eyes with when he came in through the door at training? Me. So there’s always that feeling of when he was 15 and I was 19 – I think that’s about the age gap – we’d sit in cars and we’d talk about getting to WWE and things like that, and it kind of happened. Well, it did happen. I mean, we were both there at the Performance Center and obviously he’s got his really, really good career there. So, yeah, to stand across from him, more than anything, on that side of things, would just be a whole “we did it.” I mean, two lads from Scotland who traveled from wherever we traveled to get to our training school, the first people to get there, last people to leave, we did it.

I think, for the all time one, this is a crazy one, because people always pull out their Triple Hs and their Shawn Michaels, and their Ric Flairs, and I understand why. I get it. But for me, when I started watching wrestling, Rey Mysterio really captured me as a performer and it wasn’t ’til I started learning to wrestle that I realised that I really liked being the guy that Rey Mysterio was wrestling, if that makes sense. So I liked all his stuff but then when I started to understand what wrestling was, I thought, “God, I could be that guy. I’m your guy from underneath. I’m your Dean Malenko, I’m your William Regal,” you know, these good bases. So, yeah, I think my dream match, my big payoff match, if I could just pick one and be given 20 minutes or whatever would be to give that match the kind of brought me in and wouldn’t let me go of a guy trying to pin Mysterio to the mat and throw him about, and he tries to pick up momentum. That’s my real kind of dream match structure and opponent, I feel.

I love that, because everyone says their favourite wrestler, but not really about the guys who are making them look good – and as you said, you’re Shawn Michaels’ favourite enhancement talent so I’m sure you’d do a superb job of putting over Rey Mysterio in that role!

There we go! I’m going to change my Twitter handle to “Shawn Michaels’ favourite enhancement talent!”

There we are, we got rid of Dad Bod God in the end! Thank you so much for chatting with me, and best of luck in the future!

Thank you very much! I really appreciate you bringing me on.

A huge thanks to Andy Wild for chatting with Inside The Ropes, and we wish him the best of lucky with his future – whether that’s inside or outside of WWE. Meanwhile, you can follow Andy Wild on Twitter here and Instagram here, and check out the Fife Pro Wrestling Asylum here. You can also read more of our longform interviews here.