A real-life underdog story has been making waves in Cardiff for a few years now. Rhys Fisher reports on the success of Attack! Pro Wrestling.
When you think of Cardiff as a sporting city, most would not in all likelihood picture an ensemble of half-naked, spandex-clad wrestlers hurling each other around a community centre in Cathays. Yet Cardiff is swiftly becoming a wrestling city. At the heart of this is Attack! Pro Wrestling, a touring promotion started by Pete Dunne and Jim Lee, which found its home in Cardiff.
Mark Andrews, who is currently signed with the WWE but still co-runs Attack!, explains how the company first started as a means for him and a group of other aspiring wrestlers to practice their craft. “Back in the day the British wrestling scene wasn’t booming like it is now, and there weren’t really many opportunities. People weren’t happy booking younger dudes on shows, and we really struggled to break out. So I bought a 10-foot boxing ring and we rented out Cathays Community Centre. We ran shows, but it wasn’t for the public – it was just for each other, really.”
After honing their skills privately, the group began regular public shows in Cardiff, which soon became one of the hottest tickets in the city, routinely selling out within hours. Andrews attributes this following to the company’s decision to eschew “traditional family shows that only really appealed to kids” in favour of an American-influenced independent style of wrestling “that could genuinely appeal to all ages”. Alongside a desire to produce a more universally inclusive product, Andrews also highlights the company’s mantra: “showing tomorrow’s talent today”.
He speaks candidly of wanting to provide for others, the opportunities that he was denied, and which forced him to start as a promoter in the first place. “We were always the company that took a chance on young, unnoticed talent, and that’s proved to be the right decision. If you look at myself, Eddie Dennis, Pete Dunne, Wild Boar, and Flash Morgan Webster, we’re now all signed to the WWE and we were the main five in Attack!, back in the day”.
The current crop of talent looking to emulate the achievements of those main five will feature in Attack!’s next two Cardiff shows: Walkabout on St Mary Street on Sun 7 Apr and Cathays Community Centre’s main room, a former bingo hall no less, on Sat 18 May. Whilst Andrews mischievously suggests that both shows will be full of Attack!’s trademark surprises (they’ve secured unannounced appearances from internationally renowned talents such as Will Ospreay, Pete Dunne, and Moustache Mountain in the past), it’s clearly the April show he’s most excited about.
“We’ve been running the Walkabout show for a few years now, and it’s always one of our biggest shows of the year. It’s the day of Wrestlemania, the crowd have all got drinks in their hands, everyone’s looking to have a good time. I really urge everybody to come along, and anyone who’s thinking of going to your first show, this is a great one to come to.”
In many ways, Attack! Pro Westling is a classic underdog story: a group of shunned kids, refusing to give up on their dreams, who eventually rise high up the ranks of their profession. So whether you’re looking to get up close and personal with potential future WWE superstars without the inconvenience of a transatlantic flight, or to break up the weekend monotony of a night in Cardiff, an Attack! show may well offer you a chance to be witness to Welsh sporting history in the making.
Attack! Pro Wrestling, Walkabout, Cardiff, Sun 7 Apr; Cathays Community Centre, Cardiff, Sat 18 May. Tickets: 7 Apr £16; 18 May TBC. Info: www.attackprowrestling.bigcartel.com