I’m gonna prefix this off by saying that this is a taster, a condensed version of how in a roundabout way I became a ring announcer.
As a child over here in the UK during the late 80’s, my wrestling journey began by watching WWF Superstars and Wrestling Challenge every Sunday morning on the tv. Seeing such charismatic characters as Hulk Hogan, Jesse Ventura, Ultimate Warrior et al enticed me with such a fervor that I wanted… No, I NEEDED to become a wrestler, but at the time there were no schools around where I lived. There weren’t many schools in the country really.
Fast forward a few years (ok quite a few if we’re being upfront and honest here) and a wrestling school opened up a few miles from where I lived. As soon as word got back to me about the school – South East Professional Wrestling – I was already envisioning the future where I “Smart” Mark Blake (it’s my in-ring persona) defeated a guy twice my size who had held the title for 434 days (😉) to become the new SEPW Heavyweight Champion. I just knew that I had to enroll. Yes, I was getting on in the ages stakes. Yes, I had the cardio of an asthmatic snail. But I had the determination to at least step foot inside that hallowed squared circle in front of a paying audience at least once.
My journey took a lot of twists and turns along the way. The Twists? A rather nasty case of rope burn while THE Doug Williams was in attendance, injuring my left shoulder so bad that even now I still don’t have full mobility in it, and finding out I have a heart condition that has pretty much stopped all aspects of physical exercise for me. The turns? Meeting fellow like-minded people at the school that now feel like family to me. Finding a new passion – writing about wrestling.
So with me now banged up and out of commission physically, my mindset changed. Maybe I won’t be the guy that defeats the champion after a lengthy reign. Maybe I’ll be something else instead? What though? A referee? As a manager? I just need to find my place, my spot. Then divine intervention took place.
The school had progressed so much that the coach/owner had decided to hold an academy only show. A show where the Academy students were on the card & highlighted. Matt (the coach/owner), knowing I can talk the back legs off a donkey, asked me to ring announce the event. Announce the matches, keep the crowd hyped up between the matches, shill the merch and future events.
Giving it thought for at least a millisecond I instantly agreed and prepared for the next chapter in my journey. I jumped online and watched two of the very best ring announcers (in my humble opinion) to step foot inside the ring. Howard Finkle (WWF/E) & Jim Smallman (Progress Wrestling Co-owner & Stand Up comedian).
Over the course of a few weeks, I wrote down a few notes on what I could use from those two men and carry over into my role. I say a few, I actually mean copious amounts of notes. Shesh, I had reams of paper!
Show day arrived and not a moment too soon. A family tragedy nearly kept me from fulfilling my destiny (a story for another time perhaps?), but I soldiered on knowing that I would kick myself forever if I passed on this chance.
I whittled down those notes to just a few small cue cards that I kept in my jacket pocket and made my way into the ring for the very first time in front of a paying audience.
As I entered the ring, all of a sudden a few lyrics from Eminem popped into my head. “His palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy.”
“He’s nervous, but on the surface, he looks calm and ready.”
That was pretty much me right there. I was so out of my comfort zone it was unreal. But I saw my wife, stepdaughter, and son, close friends in the crowd and that helped me suck it up and do my job….. Entertain the crowd.
And that’s what I did. Over the course of the next two and a half hours, I kept them entertained, shilled the merch, got the raffle over like you wouldn’t believe, and was thrilled to announce all my fellow students to the ring. It was a day that will live with me always.
Now? 14 months on from that original show, I have been lucky enough to have had the pleasure to ring announce another five shows. Had the opportunity to announce one of our hard-working students as the new SEPW Heavyweight Champion, explained the rules of a Lord Mounbatten match (Google it, I’m not going through that rigmarole again), even apologized to the crowd for low flying pieces of Lego that may have hit them. My life as a ring announcer is anything but boring.
So that’s it. That’s my journey of how I became a ring announcer. If it all stopped tomorrow I would be happy that I actually got the chance to step foot inside a ring, not once but six times.
But the funny thing is, and anyone in this business will tell you, is that once you get that first taste of being in a ring when your adrenaline is rushing around your body so fast, when you have that crowd in the palm of your hand…… You want it again, and again, and again.