Interviews

Interview With . . . Mark Andrews

Mark Andrews

Not content with being a WWE Superstar and balancing life as a musician as part of his band Junior, Mark Andrews has added another string to his bow – a podcast! Now, while a wrestler embarking on a podcast venture is hardly unique in 2021, two years of creation has allowed one half of WWE’s first-ever Welsh champions to offer a truly unique experience for listeners.

Speaking with Inside The Ropes‘ Lead Writer Gary Cassidy, Mark Andrews opened up about what makes ‘My Love Letter To Wrestling’ different to other podcasts, which guests blew his mind, and opened up about NXT UK’s hidden gems, why Tegan Nox is just getting started, and created his own WWE supergroup!

Former NXT UK Tag Team Champion, one of the first ever Welsh champions in WWE history, and he’s been doing a little bit more which we’ll save for the first question, it’s Mark Andrews! Last time we spoke wasn’t in a wrestling context, it was while you were on tour with your band Junior and, as if you weren’t busy enough, you now have your very own podcast! And it’s a bit of a big deal. It’s on BBC Sounds, and its called My Love Letter To Wrestling. Firstly, how did it come about?

Funnily enough, we’ve been making this podcast now for almost two years. So it was back in 2019 that my now close friend Dan Potts, who is a producer for the BBC and a HUGE wrestling fan, he came to a lot of shows in the Cardiff area, like the Attack! Pro shows and stuff. He reached out to me and spoke to me about potentially pitching this idea to the higher ups at BBC about doing a podcast about why everyone loves wrestling – but using my career kind of as the timeline throughout it.

We pitched it all the way back then and obviously got the all clear. Originally we were meant to release it maybe a year or year and a half ago even. We were meant to go out to ‘Mania, just as Covid had started, to go out there and do the last episode, kind of from ‘Mania. But obviously Covid happened and the world shut down and we weren’t able to do it. So we have had a few bumps in the road since since it started. In a way, I’m kind of glad that we could take the time to interview more people, kind of restructure the whole thing.

Now, I’ve been waiting two years for this thing to come out, and I’m so glad. I’m really proud of it now coming out. And so many people seem to be enjoying it. And yeah, it’s just been a really, really fun little project to do. You know, we’ve put loads of time into it, loads time and energy.

As you said, everybody in wrestling has a podcast, and I think wrestling fans tend to be used to that structure of a conversation for an hour – and that’s the podcast. But when you listen to podcasts outside of the wrestling bubble, they’re edited, they’re chopped, they’re produced quite well – and that’s the part that I guess I’m most proud of with this. It’s that Dan, the producer, has absolutely smashed it in terms of the structure and the editing. I like to think that it’s a more digestible podcast. It’s not just an insider, one on one conversation.

That’s the thing that immediately roped me in. Within seconds, you’re hearing so many familiar voices and they break up the conversation as you go. One thing I want to ask about – you’re just a positive person. You mentioned those setbacks, but you’ve been smiling throughout that whole story – and everything from your entrance music, to the way you wrestle just exudes positivity. Your album with Junior was called Beautiful Life, your podcast is a love letter. How do you keep that positive mindset?

Do you know what? I like to think I’m an optimistic person. I’m not sure if that’s something that just runs in my family or if it’s something I’ve learned over time. The truth is, there’s always going to be bumps in the road, right? With everything.

For me, it’s been throughout my wrestling career, my music career and with this podcast. And I think maybe once you accept the bumps in the road are going to happen, there are going to be hard times, there’s going to be lows, it makes you appreciate those highs so much more. At least that’s how I kind of try and live my life anyway. You know, it’s hard at times, but I guess you’ve got to stay positive – and also I do have a lot to be fortunate about.

I mean, right now I’m living with my dreams as a wrestler in the WWE, I get to play music on the side with two of my best mates, and then I get to talk about wrestling, which is the thing that I love most, on top of that. So, it’s easier for me to say to be positive because I’ve got a lot to be positive about. But, yeah, you’ve just got to enjoy life. That’s the way I look at it anyway.

I love that! Now, I’m aware that if I try to get any stories out of you that will be on the podcast, it’s just not going to happen – so I’m not even going to try! One thing I want to ask – you interviewed a lot of big names for your podcast – Shawn Michaels, Charlotte Flair, Kofi Kingston and many more, including your own family! Which was the most mind-blowing or eye-opening interview for you – either because of the magnitude of the name or the actual content of the interview?

Oh, do you know what? One of my favorite interviews from the whole thing is with Edge. And I think it’s because… This was after he’d come back from the from the first Rumble, from Rumble 2020 but it was before he’d kind of returned properly after that. It was like kind of in the middle of it. We chatted for about an hour straight.

Obviously you only hear bits and bobs throughout the podcast but he’s such a humble guy. And considering he’s such a huge star, who has achieved so much in wrestling, but on top of that, he has had so many bumps in the road, like we were talking about. He speaks so on your level, you know, there’s no arrogance about him. He’s the nicest guy.

Honestly, there was no, you know, he’s the higher up, but I’m the kind of rookie or anything about that. He just spoke to me about wrestling from his perspective and it was awesome! It was really nice to see because I think that’s what a lot of at least younger up and coming wrestlers, even like myself, can learn from – is not just necessarily what people are saying, but how they’re saying it and how they act. Edge is someone who I’d want leading a locker room anywhere in the world, so it was a real pleasure talking to him.

And especially because it’s Edge, you know! Like, it’s Edge! One of the best of all time! He Speared Mick Foley through a flaming table. It doesn’t get better than that!

But on top of that, it’s funny that you mentioned a minute ago, it’s all these wrestling megastars and then it’s my family. I love how it’s billed. “Triple H. Shawn Michaels. Kurt Angle. My dad!” Funnily enough, out of all the kind of top wrestlers in the world and all these guys who were giving these incredible stories and telling me this incredible knowledge on wrestling, it was really nice for me, even though I’m really close with my family and obviously my girlfriend and my friends, but it was really nice for me to have direct conversations with my friends from high school about how they felt when I was pursuing this crazy dream of pro wrestling, and they could give me their honest opinions on it.

And speaking to my girlfriend about what it was like the first time she saw me wrestle, because the first time she saw me wrestle, I did a moonsault off of a 16 foot balcony – and it was the first day that she met my mum as well, so it was all a bit overwhelming for her! But it was really nice speaking to my family and my girlfriend, my friends, because they could give a completely different perspective on it, they’re the ones that don’t necessarily fully understand the crazy world of wrestling. So they gave even a fresher perspective on it than anyone could of in wrestling, whether they’re a legend or a rookie or whatever.

I do love that balance as it is very unique! Now, a name which comes up a lot is Tegan Nox. Talk about bumps in the road – boy, she’s had enough for all of us! You’ve known Tegan for years so I just want to ask your thoughts on Tegan Nox as a person and a performer?

Oh, Tegan’s the best. I mean, as a person, she’s one of my best friends when we were coming up in the indies. Obviously we live on the other side of the world from each other now, so we don’t get to hang out as much, but Tegan is the best! She’s someone who was a real integral part to our little group of wrestlers growing up – the Attack! Group. You know, we always talk about kind of like the five of us being me, Pete, Eddie Dennis, Wild Boar and Flash – but she’s like the sixth. You know, she came in a bit later, she started after, she’s a bit younger – but she was the sixth member, really.

We spent every weekend together travelling up and down the country. I owe her so many miles of driving because I didn’t pass my test until, like, years later! She drove me up and down the country every weekend so I am in debt to her for that. But, yeah, she’s just a great person and I think she’s a great person around. She’s just a morale booster.

In the ring, I just… I can’t wait ’til the WWE Universe can fully see all of her potential. Don’t get me wrong, they’ve seen her in the ring. They know she’s a great wrestler. But she hasn’t been able to really hit her stride yet because of all these setbacks, because of her injuries.

I know that when she does come back and when she really goes in her stride… I mean, I like to boast to people about being one half of the first Welsh champions in WWE. I think she’s going to beat me to be the first Welsh singles champion because there’s no doubt she’s going to win that NXT Women’s Championship. I just hope that it can be in the Millennium Stadium in Wales. That’s where I want it to happen. I feel like after all the kind of bumps in the road that she’s had over the last few years, she deserves a moment like winning the championship in the Millennium Stadium in Wales. That’s what I hope she gets anyway. But, yeah, she’s outstanding. And I really I really can’t wait for the world to see that.

So, you’re a wrestler, podcaster, musician… I don’t want to make you any busier than you already are, but I recently spoke with Triple H and Shawn Michaels and asked about wrestlers becoming producers, namely Pete Dunne, and they pinpointed the likes of WALTER, Johnny Gargano. Is production something you’ve thought of yet in terms of WWE – or are you concentrating on your in-ring career?

I’d absolutely love to go into a backstage role with WWE. A lot of the wrestlers who end up making it on the NXT UK roster, we’ve all had different journeys to get there, but a few of us have actually had experience in running our own shows. Me and Pete Dunne ran Attack! Pro Wrestling, Trent Seven ran Fight Club Pro for years.

Obviously, you’ve got loads of different wrestlers who have actually had a hand in booking and writing, and writing promos, and I would love to do that within the WWE. On top of that, I’m a big fan of video editing myself. That’s my kind of side passion after… My side-side passion, let’s say, and I’ve started kind of trying to get my foot in the door a little bit.

Like, I filmed and edited the Subculture entrance video, for example, because there’s a saying of, “If you want something done right, do it yourself” and no-one will ever be more passionate about, at least in the music scene, no-one’s going to be more passionate about your band than you – and no-one’s going to be as passionate about Subculture than me, Dani Luna and Flash Morgan Webster. So we try and produce our own content, we try and produce our own entrance video and stuff like that. If I could do that on a larger scale, I’d absolutely love to.

I’d LOVE to be on the video editing team at NXT UK because, first of all, the guys there absolutely smash it, so I’d have to up my game, but I’ve had a handful of wrestlers come up to me and say, “Hey, can you edit my my entrance video?” Ever since they’ve seen the Subculture one. And so I’m like, “Hey, I’ll do it. Speak to the higher-ups! Speak to Vince and I’ll get that job! Speak to Triple H, let me in the video editing team!”

“I’ll see if I can fit it in between wrestling, podcasting and performing music.”

Hey, if you want something done, ask a busy man, right? I’ll be the busy man!

I’m going to ask you for at least three names on this one as I have a feeling I know at least one, maybe two of them. My favourite thing about NXT UK recently has been the complete overhaul and the new beginning seeing people like Pretty Deadly, who hadn’t won a match in NXT UK pre-pandemic, taking the ball and running with it, they’re now champions! Who have you noticed behind the scenes, putting in that time putting in that effort who might not be getting the TV time right now, but who will be making BIG impressions when they do?

I’m going to go for… There’s so many, the more I think about it. So, first of all, the obvious one, Dani Luna. I might be a bit biased but Dani Luna is right there. Honestly, when she gets a real opportunity to show everybody what she’s made of… Yeah, she’s going to blow up. Honestly, I keep saying to her, “When you get that WrestleMania payday, just remember who you started with.”

“I’ll edit your videos!”

Yeah, exactly. Yeah. I’ll that that five percent cut for your entrance video. But other than that, I’m going to name three guys who aren’t even full time roster members in NXT UK, and that’s Danny Jones, Andy Wild and Josh Morrell.

Those three, I mean they are absolutely smashing it. I’m a bit biased with Danny Jones because I’ve known him for years and he’s one of my friends but he’s an outstanding talent. You know, he spent time out in Japan and he really brings that style over to the UK. One of few guys who, in my opinion, comes over and kind of does it properly.

Then you’ve got Andy Wild, who is a real hidden gem in the scene, he’s a real veteran of the scene. I first met him 15 years ago at a Hammerlock camp up in Kent – we were both kids – and he’s honestly one of the best big men in the country.

And then you’ve got Josh Morrell, who I have no idea why he is not on the top of the card at your Progresses, at your ICWs, at your Rev Pros – at all of the independents in the UK. This guy is SO athletically gifted and I am desperate to get in the ring with him, on a one-on-one or a tag setting. He’s got so much potential.

If those three can keep smashing it, I think that, well, I guess that they’ll be the future of NXT UK because right now, they’re not even full time roster members and I think that all three of them – they’ve got waves that they’re about to make.

I love that you’ve taken the question literally and given me talents who aren’t even signed, who are DEFINITELY putting in the effort as they’re presumably fighting to get signed!

Final question. You’ve “duetted” with a lot of wrestlers in Junior videos and so forth. I want you to make the ultimate wrestling band. You can be in the band, but I want more members. At least a singer, a drummer and at least one guitarist!

Oh, okay. I’m pretty sure Mark and Joe Coffey were in a band when they were younger, so maybe I’ll throw one of those in there. And then who can sing? Danny Jones can sing… Tyler Bate can sing incredibly well as well because he can do everything, can’t he? I think, though, I would need a charismatic frontman, and I think that goes to Trent Seven. I think, you know, it wouldn’t even matter if he was singing out of tune, he would smash it! So Seven’s up front singing. Flash did used to play drums, so maybe I’ll whack Flash Morgan Webster on drums and then… Oh! Is this out of NXT UK or everyone?

Anyone!

BOOGS! I’m getting Rick Boogs in there on lead guitar. I love that man! He’s the best thing on TV at the moment! He’s the man! So yeah, he can be lead guitar and I’ll just stick with backing vocals and rhythm guitar, you know, or bass. I’ll do whatever.

Thanks to Mark Andrews for taking the time and to WWE United Kingdom for facilitating the chat.

You can follow Mark Andrews on Twitter for more. You can watch Mark Andrews every week on NXT UK, which is available via the WWE Network at 8pm every Thursday, then on BT Sport every Friday. You can also check out Mark Andrews’ new podcast ‘My Love Letter To Wrestling via BBC Sounds here.You can also read more of our longform interviews here.