At this time of year, it’s important to recognise those that do charitable work in their communities. Our own King Of The Ring, Andy Spoors, caught up with a trio of wrestling fans who are doing just that…
There are few fanbases quite like the one that belongs to wrestling. From vociferously debating the industry’s current affairs to passionately campaigning for a particular wrestler to receive a spell as champion, fans don’t always play well with others.
It’s fairly superficial though, as digging a little deeper will uncover a compassionate and fiercely loyal set of individuals that make up a tight knit community. If there is a cause to rally to, these fans are amongst the most generous in the world. Put simply, wrestling fans care.
Three such fans, Andy, Ash and Dan are fantastic examples of this big-heartedness, forming WrestleCares in late 2019. A non-profit organisation that relies completely on item donations, the trio of life-long wrestling fans have made it their mission to help disadvantaged children in the UK.
“We put together shoe boxes of wrestling figures, cards and other items to gift to children with medical conditions such as Tourette’s Syndrome and Autism,” said Dan. “We try and theme the boxes around a particular Superstar such as John Cena, who kids obviously love.”
“I see the nine-year-old me in the faces of the kids when they open their boxes and it’s a great feeling,” Ash added.
As with most altruistic endeavours, the idea has humble origins, as Andy explained. “I was walking down the street and approached an old woman collecting money for charity and gave her a few pounds,” he said. “It gave me that warm fuzzy feeling.”
That feeling would evolve into a tangible entity in WrestleCares, who this year have worked with charities such as TIC Hull & Yorkshire, as well as Hull and EY Children’s University to deliver dozens of boxes to very excited children in the region.
But where does the ‘love of wrestling’ side of the charity work stem from? Well, that depends on who you ask. For Andy it was a family affair.
“I used to go to shows with my Dad and Grandad,” he said. “I grew up with names like Giant Haystacks, long before American Wrestling was a thing over here. From there I watched Terry and Dory Funk do some of the harder stuff and I enjoyed guys like the Von Erichs too. Of course, Mr Hogan then entered the scene.”
It was a playground pastime that sparked a passion in Dan. “Mine came from trading cards at school. I collected Match Attax (football cards) so when Slam Attax came out it caught my interest. The first show I watched was the Royal Rumble with Randy Orton vs Jeff Hardy. It was a great show to watch as John Cena returned in the Rumble match too. I just wanted to be Jeff Hardy when I was younger.”
“I was six and at school when one of my best mates came in with The Ultimate Warrior style face paint on,” Ash recollected.
“I just thought it was the coolest thing ever and wanted to know more so I watched WrestleMania 8, which was great as it had Brett Hart vs Piper and the return of Warrior too.”
With all three beginning to take notice of the weird and wonderful world of wrestling from a young age, it’s little wonder that it’s a young demographic the trio look to ignite a similar passion in, through their own charitable work.
2020 has been a brutal year for many, so generous schemes such as WrestleCares are more important than ever. Just as the rest of the world were forced to adapt to not just local but worldwide restrictions, WrestleCares found themselves needing to take a new route to achieve their ambitious goals for the year.
“We wanted to have a booth at the wrestling convention in Liverpool, For The Love Of Wrestling,” said Andy.
“The plan was to have a WWE Championship belt on the table, let people know about who we are and what we are trying to do and if people donated an item, they would stand a chance of winning the belt. It’s something we hope to revisit when events go ahead.”
The process of collecting donations with nothing but a social media presence presented logistical considerations to overcome too.
“We started collecting donations back in July and August,” Dan said.
“Everything was quarantined for two weeks, sanitised and then quarantined for another two weeks to minimise any kind of risk to the children that would be receiving them.”
Just like the guys, wrestling itself has had to find ways to overcome the obvious obstacles a worldwide pandemic poses. With cinematic matches, crowd-less arenas and the abilities of wrestlers brought into sharp focus, what has stood out?
“We went to the Royal Rumble Watch party at Tribal in Hull back in January, which was great,” Dan recalls. “Drew Gulak vs Daniel Bryan at Elimination Chamber is another one that doesn’t get mentioned enough.”
“Stadium Stampede,” Said Ash with confidence. “It was the best match this year no question.”
With decades of wrestling knowledge across the trio, the interest isn’t limited to just WWE. Keen fans of AEW as well as British wrestling promotions, it comes as little surprise WrestleCares have partnered with new Brit outfit Wrestle Carnival.
For those that haven’t heard of the fledgling promotion, Wrestle Carnival promise to ‘bring you the very best matches and captivating storylines in 2021. The Carnival will draw from all aspects of professional wrestling, Lucha, Hardcore, Strong Style, British and Comedic to give you a unique can’t-miss live event experience’.
As is often the case for wrestling fans, all three also share a love of rock and metal music. Almost in affirmation of that point, WWE have turned to some of the biggest names in the history of the genre to provide themes this year.
Undertaker entered his last match to Metallica. AC/DC and Green Day have provided PPV tracks in recent months. Even War Pigs by Black Sabbath echoed around the Capitol Wrestling Center for WarGames earlier in December.
When quizzed on what bands he is interested in Ash rattles off a list that sounds like a who’s who of Download festival history. Journey, AC/DC, Steel Panther, Sabbath, and Aerosmith are just some of the names that both Dan and Andy nod in agreement, throughout.
“To be honest I’ll listen to literally anything — I could be listening to a Katherine Jenkins song and go straight into Suicidal Tendencies,” Andy said before professing a new-found love for BABYMETAL.
Although the hard work may be literally wrapped for this year, plans have already been laid down for a huge 2021 effort. When asked what they are aiming to achieve, it is apparent that WrestleCares is shooting for the stars.
“I’ll say it,” piped up Ash. “I want to work with a company in the States next year. AEW in particular.
“I don’t see why we shouldn’t aim high. We had someone from Indianapolis get in touch about how they could get involved. I also want to shake people’s hands for their donations this year.
“We haven’t had the chance to do that yet and we really want to say thank you to anyone that has helped!”
Check out the WrestleCares Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts for announcements on how you can get involved and donate to a great cause next year.