Diary Of A 30-Something Trainee Wrestler: Wrestival III And “Smart” Mark Blake by Wayne Tomkins

What a week this has been! To think that the week started on such a high (I’m counting Saturday to Saturday here) with my announcing of Wrestival 3 and The Saint seminar last Saturday and Sunday, I wouldn’t have thought it would have ended so crappy.

Illness has struck the Tomkins’ household. Gastroenteritis to be precise. Look it up if you don’t know what it means as I’m not explaining this one! My son Logan brought it back from school with him last Friday (talk about that in more detail in the main part of the blog) and passed it around like it was a packet of sweets! Myself, Tasha my step-daughter and now my wife Donna have all succumbed to it in varying levels. We’re getting over it now, but it meant that the time in the week where I could write this up, was spent in the toilet/bathroom. So I’m writing this on the Friday, usually my day for posting. Looooong day for me today! So without further ado, here are my thoughts, feelings and main roster debut of myself at South East Professional Wrestling’s Wrestival 3! Enjoy!

I wasn’t looking forward to this. Setting off to Hawkinge for the biggest day of my wrestling career (if you can call it that) knowing I wouldn’t have my two biggest fans in attendance. Logan was ill with stomach cramps, sickness and diarrhea, and because of that my wife Donna had decided that neither herself or Logan will be going tonight. I was nervous as it was, but knowing I wouldn’t be seeing at least two friendly faces in the crowd sent me over the edge. I was back to the bricking it stage. I know it couldn’t be helped, but it still sucked ass.

Luckily my step-daughter Tasha was coming. She had been asked by SEPW management if she could help out with putting out the seats, serving customers at the merch table etc. She seemed genuinely excited that she had been asked and couldn’t wait to leave and get on the road.

So after our goodbyes with the ill people (at arm’s length I might add) Tasha and myself jumped in the car and went to pick up Conroy and made the short trip to Hawkinge to help set up.

Arriving at the community centre we found the light and sound guys already setting up their equipment, while Nathan (MeatHead), and Steve (Alex Aces) were milling around. Apparently we couldn’t put the ring up for a while as the centre had booked the other hall for a birthday party, and that’s where we stored the ring itself.

Half an hour soon flew by and more and more SEPW Academy students arrived including Jacob (Jack Voltage), Luis (Will Power!), Ollie (2Tone), Senior Referee Dan (One Fan Dan) among others. The L&S guys were still setting up when we got the all clear to grab the ring, so we carefully made our way around them as we went off to get and build the ring.

As it’s show day, we take our time and are more meticulous with assembling the ring. Last thing we want is for something to go wrong during the show, so the ring took about an hour to put up, but at least we knew it was in brilliant shape for the show later that evening.

With the ring assembled, myself and Tasha quickly nipped off to grab some food from a local shop nearby. Nothing like a huge packet of sweet chilli peanuts and some chewing gum to get you through the day and stop the nerves! Upon returning the seats were being laid out, so Tasha and I quickly helped out and got that job done. Looking around I saw that Head Coach/SEPW Owner Matt (Mr Wicked) and his better half Amy had arrived to help oversee what we were doing. After a quick chat with Matt about how he wanted certain in ring segments to go (check me out sounding all professional!), I saw “Savvy” Sid Scala arrive. He made his way around the students introducing himself and was very much the professional I expected him to be. Also without his hat he looked a lot younger, which is totally the opposite of me. I need my hats and beanies to look younger!

Not long after Sid arriving, the trio of The Saint, JD Knight and Eddie Ryan arrived, and again they made their way around the class to say hello. All three are booked on a regular basis for SEPW, so we all kinda know them.

With introductions and hello’s made Amy, Tasha, and April (Senior Referee Dan’s wife) started to dress the ring. Not just with our usual ring skirts and turnbuckle pads…..Oh no, SEPW management had bought brand new skirts and turnbuckle covers that looked über professional! Don’t believe me? Look at these pics and tell me what you think…..

Pretty sweet huh?

Ring assembled and dressed, seating laid out, light and sound arranged, it was time for the 6pm meeting. Matt jumped into the ring and asked everyone to stand ringside while he went through the card and what was happening. All of us stood around the ring like lumberjacks, waiting for the pertinent piece of information about themselves. Tasha was very happy to get a mention; made her feel like she was part of the event rather than an “employee”.

Matt finished up by saying he wanted everyone involved this evening, backstage by 6.15pm as the doors will be opened at 6.30pm sharp, to have a great night and show everyone that SEPW are a promotion on the rise and this is our year. I took that as my cue and went to the car to grab my suit and bag, and then headed backstage with the rest of the talent.

This was a new experience for me. Of course I was backstage for last month’s Hustle & Heart, but that was with all my fellow academy students. This was backstage with stars of the British wrestling scene, veterans with at least 8+ years experience. All of a sudden I got very nervous very quickly.

I needn’t have worried. There was an air of calm backstage that put me to ease right away. I got words of advice from JD Knight about my role this evening too. He basically told me to just take a second or two and breathe before I talk to relax the nerves, speak loud and concisely, and to just enjoy it. What’s the point in doing anything at all if you don’t enjoy it?

I walked away from JD feeling much better about myself and the night ahead, so if you’re reading this JD (and why not if you’re not?!) thanks again for calming me down, very much appreciated.

I left backstage and made my way to behind the curtain or gorilla, pulled out my flash cards and began going through what I had to say in the opening segment. In a nutshell I had to welcome the crowd, remind them about the debut of “Savvy” Sid and the main event (which was a TLC match for the SEPW Heavyweight Championship), promote SEPW’s social media presence, and last but not least push our amazing merch table. Not really much is it? But I had to do it in a calm, collected manner, which I kinda was but hearing the hall fill up I was getting nervous again!

I started to pace back and forth while “rehearsing” what I had to say when I noticed Luke (Chris Castle) lying very nonchalantly on a weight bench reading from a pocket note book. I asked him if he was nervous and did he have a promo to cut that I didn’t know about as he was reading, and he replied that he was indeed very nervous and was just reading up on match notes on his upcoming bout later that evening with The Saint. If he was nervous then he must be great at poker as he looked more cool calm and collected than Ric Flair at a Hooters!

I tried to get back to my “rehearsal” when Matt walked into gorilla looking very swish in a white shirt and trousers. No wrestling for him tonight, as he was to shoot an angle with Will Power! as his manager/associate. When all of a sudden it hit me! I knew why he wanted me to wear a new SEPW tee instead of a shirt/rollneck top that I usually wear…..He wanted to steal my thunder and be the best looking dude out there! I did ask him about it and he confirmed my theory, then told me to get my head in the game as I had to announce the two minute warning.

Mic in hand, I announced to the masses that there was just two minutes before Wrestival 3 commenced, and the crowd gasped and began to get louder and louder.

I turned around and saw Jacob in his gear getting ready for his first main roster show. I grabbed him by the back of the neck and brought him so our heads were touching. I said to him:

“This is your time now dude! Go out there, show them exactly who you are and what you do! Tear the house down, this is YOUR time!”

The riffs of the SEPW music began, I waited for my cue and then stepped out into the hall to a mixture of smoke, cheers and lights! That rush of adrenaline that I first experienced last month at Hustle & Heart came flooding back, pulsating through my veins quicker than I could handle! I walked down the ramp right arm in the air acknowledging the crowd, and then proceeded to make the first botch of the night. As I tried to hop up onto the apron I mistimed the hop and slightly slipped as my knee came into contact with the edge of the ring, just a tad, but still noticeable to the front row behind me. Quietly laughing to myself as I stepped through the ropes I took more than a moment to take in what I was seeing.

There in front and around me were over 250 people, all ready for me to tell them about tonight’s proceedings. I looked at all four sides of the ring, I looked at Tasha and April at the merch stand, I looked at Steve (Alex Aces) who was at the hard cam and I was just astonished at how different this all felt to Hustle & Heart. There were no fancy lights, no smoke machines at that show. This? This was a whole different level.

Another quick deep breath and I began my spiel. I’m not blowing my own trumpet, but I think I did pretty good in that first segment. I remembered the parts I had to hit, I took my time and was loud enough, all in all I felt at ease much more quickly this time around than last month.

A few minutes later I was announcing Will Power! and Mr Wicked to the ring for their open challenge. For some reason unknown to me, Mr Wicked took the mic and talked away, promoting Will and his open challenge. I think he was intimidated with my announcing prowess. After himself and Will had finished I was handed back the mic, quite roughly by pushing said mic into my chest. Yup, definitely intimidated by my skills!

All of a sudden music filled the arena and Jack Voltage made his way out from the back to answer the open challenge, to a great ovation. Remember that most of the crowd here tonight didn’t know him as this was his main roster debut. Quickly sliding into the ring he took it to Power! straight away.

Now I won’t be doing a play by play analysis for each match, I’ll be telling you about how the crowd reacted, how I saw things etc. When the match videos go live, I’ll tell you all where to find them and you can watch the matches and see for yourselves just how great they all where.

This was a great opener! It was fast paced and got the crowd into the event from the get go! Unfortunately for Jack, Will picked up the victory but wasn’t satisfied with just the win, he wanted to make a statement. Mr Wicked slid back into the ring and a beat down of Jack commenced with quick sharp kicks to his body. That was until MeatHead ran down and chased the Wicked/Powers from the ring to make the save!

MeatHead is essentially a heel, at least that’s how he’s been booked for the past few shows. But the paying crowd have been having none of it! Every show he’s been on the crowd have cheered for him on a par with Conroy, so SEPW management have listened and turned him face in one fell swoop. See Uncle Vince (ssshhh I’m hoping he reads these blogs of mine!), listening to the fans pays dividends!

The crowd were eating this up and it’s only 25 minutes in! From my vantage point, beside the mixing desk next to the merch table, I could see that every kid was on their feet in support of MeatHead and that had obviously pissed off the Wicked Powers! connection. So much so, that they brought out an opponent for MeatHead right there and then…..the also debuting Justin Vincible!

I love this photo as the tongue out smirk shows nothing but disrespect in my eyes. It also reminds me of TK Cooper, one half of the South Pacific Power Trip, and he also does something similar with the desired effect! Justin was The Silverrrrback at Hustle & Heart last month, but felt he needed a new gimmick. So Justin Vincible was born, in just one month!

Regular readers know that I’ve called MeatHead a crazy ass dude on many occasions. He has this “need” to go above and beyond in his matches, to put his body on the line all the time. Tonight he didn’t and I can honestly say that the match was better for it. It was actually match of the night in my honest opinion. Both MeatHead and Justin stole the show. It wasn’t a spot fest, although there were a few.

There was an actual story to the match and it ebbed and flowed so damn well! I really can’t wait for you guys and gals to watch this match, you’ll be surprised at how awesome this match was!

MeatHead went over after his Swanton Bomb finisher (stolen from me I might add!) and the crowd went crazy, a great decision there to turn him face. Where he goes after this I don’t know, but I can tell you that both Meat and Justin’s stock rose dramatically thanks to this match!

With the crowd on a high it was time for me to bring them down ready for the next match, I know my role peeps! I had the honour and privilege to announce that Hustle & Heart 2 would be taking place in this very hall on June 18th, Father’s Day, that Voltage, MeatHead, Justin and more would be appearing. I didn’t say that I would be there, I’m trying to get the crowd back under control remember, don’t want to hype them up again!

With that announcement completed it was time to get the next match under way….

As usual with “The Original” Conroy’s entrance, as soon as the first few bars of Kongos “Come With Me Now” hit, the kids in attendance began stamping their feet, and when Conroy stepped through and into the arena those same kids went wild! They lined the aisle waiting to get a high five with the most over wrestler on the roster! Honest I’m not exaggerating! The only problem is, because he’s so well loved it takes an age for him to get in the ring and let me announce his opponent. So I stood there, in my corner of the ring while Conroy was getting accosted by the kids. I shouldn’t moan really, it’s a great moment, but not when I’m under strict instructions to move the event along!

After about four minutes, Conroy gets into the ring and gives me a sly wink and smile…..cheeky shit! With him now in the ring I can get on and announce his opponent, the debuting “Savvy” Sid Scala.

Sid’s gimmick is based on Del Boy from Only Fools And Horses, for those across the pond and elsewhere, Del Boy is a character from a long running sit com over here in the UK. He basically is a wheeler dealer dodgy wide boy character and Sid puts his own unique spin on it, and it works really well.

Again it was another long entrance as Sid was scooting around ringside trying to sell his wares (tees and suchlike) to the crowd and impressionable kids, but I had already left the ring and was back at my mixing desk position. As Sid was about to enter the ring he hollered over to me and called me over to him. He proclaimed rather loudly that he didn’t trust the dodgy Hawkinge lot and left me in charge of his scooter. A lot of pressure on my shoulders, especially as many of the kids wanted to pinch it for a ride.


Never one to miss a photo opportunity, I told Tasha to grab a quick pic of myself and the scooter ?

This match was the complete opposite of the previous match. This was a slower, technical, humourous match. It felt like I was watching a Xmas panto at times with the kids telling off Sid for not playing fair! Sid’s facial expressions tell more than what I ever could, and the fact he can draw not just the kids but the adults into his matches too shows just how talented he is. Can’t wait to see him again for SEPW!

The finish was Conroy hitting his Conroy Cutter OUTTA NOWHERE for the win! The crowd and the kids more importantly, screamed that their hero had picked up the victory and as he tried to leave the ring, again he was swamped by them all the kids in attendance as the photo below shows.

Imagine the screams of joy if MeatHead and Conroy ever teamed up? My head hurts just thinking about it!

It was now interval time and in I jumped back into the ring to quickly shill the merch table, a raffle that we were conducting, and the fact that they only had 10 minutes before the action restarted! And just like that the crowd got up and went for their bathroom break or merch table, and I quickly went backstage to see how things were and for some feedback on how I was doing. The general consensus was that even though I thought I was being slow and concise, I needed to be heard above the noise of the crowd and the sometimes differing sound levels the light and sound guys were doing. I took all that on board and went back ringside to say hi to the crowd .

Walking around the ring I bumped into a few familiar faces (hey there Ritchie! See you at training soon!) and I even had a few photos taken with some of the crowd. I felt important for a few moments before I looked at my watch and saw that it was nearly time to bring back the audience from the interval!

With the mic feeling more and more at home in my hand, I reminded the crowd that it was time to start the second half. I conducted the raffle as professionally as you can (I did mess about a little bit there, can’t be straight laced all the time) and went straight into some shilling. This time it was for the SEPW Academy and Hustle & Heart 2. Basically saying that myself and Senior Referee Dan Hall (who had joined me in the ring by this time) are both members of the Academy along with some of the wrestlers that have appeared so far, and if wrestling, referring or announcing interested anyone then to go to our website for more details of how to get involved.

After that little shill it was time for our last two matches of the evening. Coming up next was Mr Nonchalant himself, Luke aka Chris Castle to face off against The Saint.

The Saint made his way to the ring antagonizing as many people as he could, just in case you didn’t know he was a heel. Even though the kids were hassling The Saint they weren’t getting too close, that to me is the sign of a great heel. When he entered the ring it looked like he was making a beeline straight for me and all my composure left me as I quickly darted out of the way so he could berate more people outside the ring.

Here’s a thing that makes The Saint a very special person to me. As he was finishing up talking to the crowd he walked past me and quietly said “slow down, take your time”. That meant so much to me, that he wasn’t only looking out for fellow wrestlers, but everybody, myself included. He didn’t have to say anything, he could have left me to my own devices, but he didn’t. That’s the measure of the man and I’ll be gushing about him some more in my next blog entry.

P.O.D’s “Boom” soon blared across the PA system and Luke burst onto the ramp a totally different person to the laid back chilled guy I saw backstage! He was absolutely bursting with enthusiasm!

I made my way back to my spot by the mixing desk when The Saint called me back. He asked me to take his hoody for safe keeping and the mic, and proceeded to cut a scathing promo on Castle that ended with the loudest slap across the face that echoed across the hall! I grabbed my mic, scurried back and the match began!

No word of a lie this match contained some of the hardest shots of the entire night. Forearms, open palm strikes, kicks, this match had them all. It wasn’t just brawling, there was a technical aspect to this match too. Both men were locking on holds and escaping, it was a real mix of styles throughout.

In the end of a very hard hitting match Castle picked up the submission victory thanks to his Castle Walls submission. As Castle walked to the back I could see a few welts on his chest and neck which reminded me that I’ve got an easy job compared to those guys!

It was now time for the MAIN EVENT OF THE EVENING! To help me with this next segment I did actually use my flash cards as there was too much to remember for a match this important. I began by explaining the rules of a TLC match and then waited for JD and Eddie to enter the ring before I did my championship announcement of both men.

With both men now in the ring and in their respective corners I began the championship introduction, ala standing in the corner to my right, weighing in at, hailing from etc etc.

With the introductions complete I quickly made my way out of the ring before the carnage started, and it didn’t take long before the chair that JD brought to the ring was used and more were added to the match too! It was a very physical match with all three components of a TLC used at one point or another.

After another hard hitting match, Eddie Ryan retained the SEPW Heavyweight Championship after putting JD Knight through a table and scaling the ladder to retrieve his belt. Announcing Eddie as STILL SEPW Heavyweight Champion is an absolute highlight of my wrestling career so far. I wanted the crowd to know just how excited I was in saying those words and hopefully it came across. Hearing those cheers from the crowd Eddie, wasn’t prepared for what happened next….

Will Power! assisted by his cohort and SEPW Owner Mr Wicked, cashed in his 24/7 briefcase on a battered and weary Eddie Ryan to get his championship match. And with some outside interference from Mr Wicked, he won his first ever singles title, albeit in dubious circumstances.

I had the honour and privilege to announce Will, a fellow academy member, as the NEWWWWW South East Wres…..Professional Wrestling Heavyweight Champion! Yes, I messed up a little bit with my announcement, and yes it was very noticeable, but I’m hoping that I’m cut a little bit of slack as not only did I mark out, but I also got a little emotional too. One of the Academy students has become the champ of the very same company that he trains in. I was so damn happy and proud, but this time I’m hoping that it didn’t come across with my announcement. With a heel winning in such circumstances I should downplay the moment somewhat and let the fans vent their anger.

With the fans still upset with the result, and as the Wicked Powers connection made their way to the back, it was time for my final segment. I stepped through those ropes for the last time and shilled the after show meet and greet, the merch table and the upcoming Hustle & Heart 2 and then proceeded to thank each and every person for coming and for making it a momentous night, it was after all my first night calling such a big show. As the crowd filed outside I took one last look at my home for the last few hours, my ring, and mentally counted down the days until I next step inside and MC……

Closing Time

There we have it, another fantastic learning on the job experience, which in my experience is the best way to learn, the old adage sink or swim comes to mind. I’m hoping that the fans in attendance, the boys in the back and SEPW management think I did enough to warrant another main roster announcing gig somewhere down the line.

With Hustle and Heart II happening in a few short weeks I know (well hoping is more apt) that I can have the honour again of MC’ing that show. To me, if I did I know I would be 1000% times more confident on the mic and in the ring. I’m counting the original H&H and Wrestival 3 as learning or training experiences, and H&H II would be my first real gig where everything I’ve learnt so far would be used from the get go. I know I’d be more relaxed in the ring, remember when to shill this and promote that, and send the fans and the boys in the back home happy. That’s my thinking anyway, but this is me, if something could go wrong it will go wrong!

That’s about it for me today, well done on staying the course! Nearly 4700 words, but it is a show review special so I’m hoping you forgive me because it’s not often I do blogs this long.

In the next few days I will be posting about the very next day after Wrestival, Sunday training with a difference. The Saint, who performed on the Wrestival card, held a seminar for us SEPW Academy students and it was amazing. The guy is awesome and genuinely wants to help everyone he can. More on him and the seminar next time.

So until then, give yourself a Barry Horrowitz pat on the back and I’ll see you real soon!


Pictures courtesy from Claire at Just Shoot Me Photography.