TK Cooper is an athlete who has risen in the ranks of BritWres since he arrived here in the middle of the last decade. Relocating from his native New Zealand, Cooper took a big step in moving to the UK, but it’s a gamble that continues to pay off. His flying, strong style ring work has won him a legion of admirers amongst both fans and peers. Plying his trade for all manner of companies across the breadth of the country, TK never struggles to fill his bookings.
There have been tribulations along the way: injuries, breakups, and stalled pushes. Yet Cooper has managed to reinvent himself several times over in order to keep his name on the tips of fans’ tongues. Over the last year or two, TK has managed to establish himself near the top of the card in companies such as RIPTIDE and Breed Wrestling. I spoke to him about that rise from the metaphorical ashes of a few years prior, the influence of the BritWres scene worldwide, WWE, AEW and much more!
Gareth: You’ve had some ups and downs over the last couple of years in terms of your career. In August 2017, at a PROGRESS show in New York, you broke your ankle. How badly does that affect an independent wrestler, being unable to work?
TK: From my experience, it messes with your head a lot, and I’m not a person that suffers from anxiety or depression. But all that time alone when friends – and I would say family but I don’t have any over here – have to go about their regular lives and you’re stuck at home with your thoughts. I imagine it must be different for people with maybe arm injuries because they can still do 90% of their life. Whereas when I broke my ankle it was such a nuisance to get up and move about, some days I just couldn’t be bothered.
Then like Netflix, YouTube videos, Playstation, you can only do so much of that before it just feels like you’re numbing your brain so you just have to sit there in silence which is just the most tragic thing ever, but you’re still trying to pass the time waiting for the damn thing to heal. Then add to that the actual fiscal problems, no work means no money so you have to try and shill everything you can to get by if you don’t have a job outside of wrestling. And then even if you do, maybe your injury gets in the way of that job. So it’s all pretty crap really, you can make the best of it, but the waiting is the worst part.
Gareth: So if your mental health deteriorates how did you occupy yourself, besides rehabbing, during your time convalescing?
TK Cooper: Well, it’s a mixture of what I said in the previous, while also planning for your imminent return. Designing gear, new merch, etc. I say it like I’ve come back a bunch of times, but basically making sure you don’t just come back as you were because trying to pick up where you left off 6 months ago means you’re 6 months behind everyone else that’s moved on. But wrestling life aside, just doing normal stuff, meeting up with people, going to the gym, just getting outside for fresh air, cabin fever is probably the worst thing that can happen to someone who’s injured.
Gareth: When you returned to PROGRESS the momentum you’d had before the injury wasn’t quite there. Is it hard to keep yourself visible to companies and fans when there’s such a big talent pool?
TK: 100%. Even though everybody brings something unique and maybe nobody does X quite like you, if cards are full it’s hard to squeeze yourself in despite your (former) popularity.
Gareth: You’ve had a long-time association with Travis Banks in tag teams and factions dating all the way back to your early days in wrestling with Wrestle Rampage in Australia. You’ve now split with him in PROGRESS so do you think that your teaming days may be over?
TK: Heck no. For the sake of the storyline the SPPT is done in PROGRESS, but I’d tag with Trav anytime.
Gareth: As the South Pacific Power Trip, you started out as heels along with Dahlia Black in 2016-17. You turned face and had a fairly quick run at the tail end of ‘17. Then reformed SPPT along with Niwa over the course of ’18-‘19. Which do you think was your best run with the group, and why?
TK Cooper: Not that there’s anything wrong with the current form of Niwa and I, but just as we started to build some credibility we’ve been cut off so it might end up being the best never was. So undoubtedly the first incarnation of SPPT was the best, from that tag-team tables match onwards (Chapter 38 – Gareth) till I had to go back to New Zealand SPPT were the hottest thing in PROGRESS. Well actually even when I came back we were again, but then I broke my ankle and we were the deadest thing, so swings and roundabouts.
Gareth: You’ve emigrated from the Southern hemisphere to come and live and work in the UK. That’s a massive step – did you have any concerns or reservations before committing?
TK: Nah, the moment I saw PROGRESS I knew that’s the kind of wrestling I wanted to be associated with and just went for it.
Gareth: What is it that makes the BritWres scene attractive to someone looking to emigrate for work?
TK Cooper: For me, it was just the fact that the British scene was offering a style of wrestling nobody in New Zealand could emulate so I wanted to be a part of it. Nowadays I’d imagine with all the feeders and springboards the scene offers to places like WWE and New Japan, it’s a pretty tasty scene to get involved with.
Gareth: Have you noticed any sort of change since WWE entered the scene here? A fair few places have had to shut up shop, so have they affected you at all, positively or negatively?
TK: Places having to shut up shop has literally nothing to do with WWE, a lot of those places are closing because they did bad business, had loads of debt and couldn’t pay it back. WWE has only really played a factor in who you can see where, and fair enough, those guys are stars now. What that means for me is that those spots they’ve left behind are fair game for people like me and my friends.
Gareth: Going back to long-running associations, yourself and Chuck Mambo formed Escape The Midcard via your self-made YouTube series. What was the impetus behind starting the show?
TK: It’s no secret that we’re massive fans of Being The Elite so while it’s not a copycat of that series, it was definitely inspired by it. In the sense that, we realized we hang out all the time, are always on the road together, we may as well start a vlog because nobody else on the scene was doing it at the time.
Gareth: Do yourself and Chuck write and direct the show together, or are duties divided up?
TK: Yeah it’s pretty much team effort besides the editing which I used to do on my phone but now we’ve upped production and I do it on my laptop.
Gareth: Would you like to see the series integrated into storylines in various promotions, or is that difficult logistically?
TK: We’ve loosely tried it at Breed Wrestling up in Sheffield and tried to integrate what we do on the show into PROGRESS and RIPTIDE, but it’s kind of hard to tell separate promotions narratives all as one universe, better to just stick to the goofy antics and backstage stuff.
Gareth: You’ve had some absolutely cracking matches both alongside and opposite Mambo in RIPTIDE. Would you say that’s due to natural chemistry between you, or is it down to planning and hard work?
TK: All of the above. Mambo and I train together, chatting every day about wrestling so it’s really only natural that our matches against each other would be good as egotistical as that sounds. I think most of the best matches I’ve ever seen people have been when it’s two best buds, or at least two really good friends because there’s that extra level of trust that you can have with that person to not drop you on your head.
Gareth: You’ve become known for your great promos for likes of RIPTIDE over the last few months. Is that something that comes naturally to you, or does the ETM series help you develop that particular muscle?
TK: It didn’t used to come naturally, but in the last year I’ve really found my voice and style of how I like and want to talk. I just take inspiration from different places that aren’t wrestling based and bring them into our bubble. I’d say ETM was definitely the platform I may have inadvertently used to get comfortable talking in front of a camera.
Gareth: You’re a regular for the majority of the major promotions in the UK: Rev Pro, PROGRESS, ICW, RIPTIDE etc. Creatively speaking, which company do you enjoy working for the most?
TK: RIPTIDE. Josh (Bevan) has given me so much of the reigns to develop my character and is way more on board for booking to be a 50/50 discussion rather than “this is your match”, “this is what we want.” Which I think from a boss/performer perspective is fine, but when there’s no room for creative discussion on why and how we get from point A to B because certain characters get there in different ways, it’s boring and 2 dimensional and RIPTIDE has allowed me among loads of others on the roster to tell multiple stories at once.
Gareth: You’re also a regular main eventer for Breed Wrestling, who’s USP is that they run unusual venues such as dance halls or caves (!). What’s the most interesting or unusual venue that you’ve worked in?
TK: Beyond the cave from the last Breed show I can’t think of a more bizarre venue. Bizarre in a good way like, surreal, I can’t believe I performed in a cave; kind of bizarre.
Gareth: What venue is your ultimate destination? We’re seeing a lot of our wrestlers head to WWE or Japan, and there are AEW and ROH too. Do you want that big match with Roman Reigns at WrestleMania?
TK Cooper: Mambo and I are set on trying to get signed to AEW, that’s it, that’s the tweet, or whatever people say.
Gareth: What’s your favorite wrestler’s entrance music?
TK: Undisputed Era or Edge.
Gareth: What’s your favorite wrestler’s gimmick?
TK: Tyler Breeze.
Gareth: What’s your favorite gimmick match?
TK: Feast of Fired.
Gareth: What’s your favorite match of yours?
TK: Me vs. Mambo from the Riptide Rumble 2019.
Gareth: What’s your favorite match of all time?
TK: Kurt Angle / Shawn Michaels – WrestleMania.
Gareth: What’s your favorite movie and why?
TK: The Departed – literally EVERYONE dies.
Gareth: What team name do you use in a pub quiz?
TK: Quiz Benoit.
Gareth: And finally, for fans unfamiliar with your work what can they expect from a TK Cooper match?
TK Cooper: Flips, scissor kicks and the best headbutt in the game.
A nice little chat with TK there, I trust you’ll agree. As he says himself, one of the more interesting aspects of his aims is the fact that he and Chuck Mambo are aiming to sign for AEW. That’s not necessarily something that I’ve heard a lot of wrestlers outright say. All Elite Wrestling is still a young company and the majority of wrestling fans grew up watching WWE, so that is the usual final destination. I have no doubt that TK Cooper has enough talent and ambition to one day become #AllElite. Until that time, let’s all enjoy his adventures in BritWres across the multitude of companies that he grafts for.