We hired professional wrestlers from FutureShock to wrestle along Curry Mile on a Saturday night, where up to 20,000 people can be at peak time. Why? Because we could. We wanted to encapsulate the attitude of Koi, the madness and the outlandishness of our brand, our attitude. What better way to do this than to get wrestlers to smash chairs off each other’s heads and throw each other into the side of bins?August 9th, 2022 | Abby Brooks
We hired professional wrestlers from FutureShock to wrestle along Curry Mile on a Saturday night, where up to 20,000 people can be at peak time. Why? Because we could.
We wanted to encapsulate the attitude of Koi, the madness and the outlandishness of our brand and our attitude. What better way to do this than to get some wrestlers to smash chairs off each other’s heads and throw each other into the side of bins?
One might think “what does an alternative footwear brand and a wrestling club have in common?”, and although this may seem like a valid question, but we wanted to show that these athletes do exist, not just on the TV screens across the pond, but right here in Manchester. This was a display of our athletes performing on a level that rivals with the iconic scenes of WWE as a youngster.
Thanks to their skill, this masterpiece was successful in driving insane traffic - people gathered around filming, many of them were under the impression that this was a genuine conflict. Starting at Huqqa sheesha bar, Joe and Sam were throwing each other down the street. The vibes were immaculate. It was followed down the road by witnesses as if it were a ticketed event, watchers heckling and getting involved. They even took sides. At one point the commotion made its way into a restaurant on Curry Mile (Jafra), as if it were a movie. In Jafra, they threw each other onto one of the dining tables whilst people were eating at other tables, and nobody failed to hold their phone up and begin filming, with Joe eventually closing Sam’s head into a metal serving dish whilst he shrieked in pain, begging him to stop. And of course there was no shortage of chair throwing and smacking, followed by a bottle smashed in Joe’s face. After being done with Jafra, they then ventured back out onto the streets for the grand finale - with Joe being announced as the winner.
The Koi team was so inspired by the performance of Sam and Joe, they got so into their characters and went all-out; it was clear that they took their professions very seriously. This motivated us to investigate this profession more deeply, making a special visit to Sam at Future Shock:
What were you thinking when you were first approached to be involved with our project on Curry Mile?
I thought that very rarely in any other industry is someone gonna walk round and say “we’ve got this idea for you to beat each other up in public”, most other industries would say “that sounds stupid why would you do that?” And the moment this was put forward I was like “brilliant. I know exactly the kind of people I want to get involved”. I knew exactly how silly it would be…yeah, I was more excited than anything.
What’s the maddest thing you’ve ever done, have you ever been involved with anything like this before?
Umm, not so much street performing like that. We’ve done events that obviously aren’t usual wrestling events…having a New Year’s Eve party where I wrestled a stripper in custard. Nothing more to explain than that…we did it for the “exposure”, um, and I don’t know what the exposure is. Still to this day, don’t know what it was, but I just hate custard because of it, so, yeah.
Have you ever gotten any mad injuries or witnessed any on other people at Future Shock?
Luckily, not at FutureShock. Touch wood touches head. We’ve had no real serious injuries at FutureShock, but I’ve dislocated my collarbone wrestling elsewhere, I’ve torn my achilles tendon taking a move onto thumb tacks because I was thrown incorrectly, I’ve witnessed a broken leg, I’ve witnessed and eyeball pop out…there’s been some hell of injuries in wrestling, and again, luckily they’ve never been inflicted on purpose since we’re trained to look after each other and we don’t mean to do this but accidents happen. I’ve kind of seen all kinds of mad stuff in wrestling shows, but again they are infrequent that I’d like to point out…
Oh my god, I can’t believe you witnessed someone’s eyeball pop out…did you just stick it back in?
It didn’t come like out out, but it came out, and it was kind of like a “3,2,1, pop” and it got popped back in. It was a fun Tuesday.
Anyway, how exactly did you get into wrestling?
So, I’ve always been interested in it, and I think a lot of people grow out of it, but I didn’t. One of my friends randomly came to my house and said “I’ve just started wrestling training” and I did not think wrestling existed in Britain. I just saw stuff on tv and thought it was dream stuff, and that no one ever gets into wrestling, so I found a training school, turned up on the first day and I was just hooked. I was quite a sporty kid so I played football, squash, any kind of sport…I was in the girl’s netball team…any sport I could play, I would play it. Then when wrestling came around, I thought “so you get to be athletic, individual, you get to be creative, and do the things you want to do and you get to wear mad costumes as well?” So I was like “yeah, I’m in”. But yeah, from there, I never missed a training session, did it for 18 years now , and now I run the training school I started at…it’s a weird full circle kind of moment.
At any point when you were growing up, did wrestling become a dream of yours?
It was a pipe dream. Yeah, I mean, either becoming a professional netball player, and I was massively into media stuff like videography and editing kind of things, but wrestling was the thing I always came back to. I did football coaching, I did media studies, did all these things and wrestling was always still in the back of my head when I was training, it still took my full focus. I remember getting many disciplinaries at my job and they were like “this is what you wanna do?” And I was like “no I wanna be a wrestler”, but, this was very hard to explain to someone when they’d ask where I was and I would be out wrestling.
Where did you grow up, and was it difficult to get into this career there?
I mean, I’ve been Manchester since day 1, so I’m lucky I was born and raised round Moss Side area, and it was more fortune more than anything…I found a training school in Manchester, but the first thing I was told when I started training was “go everywhere” so I was lucky I had friends who drove or transported me so I trained in Grimsby, Hull, went up to Scotland and trained, went up to Nottingham and trained. Being young enough, that I didn’t really have a full time job and I was just out of education so I was like “I’ve got the freedom to do this” so was quite lucky. My parents were like “what is this hobby? Why have you got pleather pants in your wardrobe? What is this? What’s going on?”. My dad asked me many times “is there anything you want to tell me?” And I was like “I’m a wrestler” then he was like “oh, that’s less concerning than what I thought it was gonna be”, but yeah, it was a weird thing to try and explain to my parents that I wanted to do this full time.
What challenges did you tend to face when getting into it?
Mainly my size, when I started out I was very gangly. I had very long arms and legs, and wrestling is kind of one of those things where you have to be a certain shape and size, and especially when I started it was like if you weren’t six foot and jacked you were never the guy that everyone would fight. But, I was quite friendly, I was quite chatty, I was good around people and good in front of an audience and that kind of played to my favour, and now wrestling accepts all shapes and sizes, the characters are accepted as much as people who can lift heavy weights…but yeah, when I started it was just being a bit small, a bit gangly and thin, and luckily I discovered a gym and got some advice on how to work out.
It’s so nice that your personality got you in there.
Oh yeah, absolutely, that was the only thing that got me into places. If I was an arsehole I wouldn’t have got the opportunities I have now.
What advice would you have for someone who wants to get into it?
Find a school that has a history of it. The wonderful thing is that wrestling schools can be anywhere, anyone can open a wrestling school. Have a look at the people who’ve trained there, have a look at what they’re doing now and also look at the atmosphere and think “are they friendly? Are they giving you good advice?” I mean, if they’re shouting and screaming that you’re terrible, why would you come back? It’s the same thing with any sport, treat people the same way you wanna be treated so don’t be coming in shouting and screaming. They’re like gym. A gym is terrifying the first time you go in until you realise that everyone is in there for the same reason you are. Everyone’s intimidated by everyone else, everyone’s there to exercise. Same with wrestling, we’re all there to do the same thing, we’re all there to have fun with it aswell because, like I said about telling my parents, it’s a weird thing to explain to people what you do for a living. If I’m like “yeah I’m a wrestler” and they’re like “what? The fake stuff with the punching and the kicking?” And I’m like “yes, just like that”. Then, they’re like “what, you make a living out of it?” And I’m like “yes”. There’s always these same conversations you keep having so you have to at least have fun doing this job, because if you’re not having fun in this job, why wouldn’t you find an office job? My advice is to go and have fun and find somewhere reputable.
How did the pandemic affect your career?
laughs So, funny story, I took over FutureShock, all the shows and the school in December 2019, and that was also the time I went fully self employed and decided I was going to take over this company and run it all my self, and then the funny thing happened in 2020, but again, quite lucky - the business had been running a lot longer, I did the universal credit rule like everyone else and had that little panic, but we were quite a good community and kept in touch via Zoom…I could give the gym keys to other people so they could use the facilities when I was done, but it was weird, because I feel like the first time we got to wrestle when it was allowed, it was like “we have to physically touch but we can’t shake hands? How does that work?”. The rules and regulations and all the sanitary products we had to use, it was such a scary time but I’m glad we got through the other side of it, and we’re a lot more safe for it now. Cleaning procedures never really used to be a thing for wrestlers, so now we’ve got those in place and Covid regulations and we know the process. Bad time, but kind of a good outcome and we’re better for it.
On a more positive note, what’s the most rewarding thing that has happened in your career?
So, I’ve got a couple. Things that I’m proud of aren’t necessarily me that has done them, I’ve had a couple of people who’ve trained with us and are now with the WWE who are now, like, earning a full time living over in America. I got to do, with a couple of other people who have trained with us as well, the pilot episode for a wrestling show on ITV, it was a show that wanted to bring wrestling back to TV…that was quite fun, wrestling in front of loads of people, we got to do the Doncaster Dome which was mental...I also got to witness Rick Flare and RVD and Mr Kennedy and all these people who I was fans of when I was a kid, walk past and say ‘cheers kid’ and I was like “oh my god Rick Flare just said hello to me, ahh this is weird!” and then watching him come back stage, watching him sanitise his hands and call his wife, and I was like “this is great, I’m behind the curtains”. But, I think the most surreal thing was when I was at a meet and greet with Kurt Angle…everyone was patiently waiting and we were sat in this queue…one person in the queue was like “Sam can I get a photo?” And it was someone who came to our shows, and the weirdest thing was Kurt Angle looking really weirdly thinking “why is one of the security guys getting a photo with a fan?” And he was like “oh are you a wrestler? Really good, keep it up, keep working at it” and this advice was the most generic thing in the world, but being a new trainee and being excited about the business I was like “Kurt Angle just gave me advice and now I’m really excited about wrestling full time!” There’s a few little moments and cool things, and if someone else is doing something cool, I’m always, like, a part of it, even if it was slightly linked, that’s my biggest thing, I’m very much like ‘you guys go and kill it’
What do you like to do outside of wrestling?
(I’m a) massive video game nerd. I play a lot of video games. I still do a lot of editing stuff, so I do a lot of stuff on PhotoShop, a lot of it is for wrestling things so I’ll cut some clips of wrestling shows together. (I’m a) massive binge watcher of TV, so I’ve been non-stop watching The Boys and Better Call Saul on Netflix…I like to do outdoor activity things but because I do this full time now, I go home and I’m just like “put something terrible on TV”, like documentaries, things where I’m gonna switch off but I’ll also be like “ah, I need to figure out who did it” till 4 in the morning…but yeah, binge-watching, video games, and yeah I’d say the gym.
How do you think British wrestling differs from wrestling in the US?
I think largely, the main difference is, apart from the budget, I feel like we are a lot more closely connected in British wrestling, because if you don’t know British wrestling exists then you really don’t know British wrestling exists. Unless you’ve seen it on TV, or been to a show, you assume it’s America and that they come over here. I think the benefit of British wrestling is that someone will come as a fan, they can follow you on social media, they can meet you after a show, there’s a bit of a disconnect in American wrestling because they are celebrities and superstars and they get on the coach and go to the next city, but we’re there after a show trying to sell our t-shirts or 8x10s or taking selfies with fans and there’s an immediate connection with a fanbase of people who will come to our shows, know all our stuff, have all our t-shirts and it’s a lot more close-knit than it has been. There’s also this knit of fans who go “I wanna give this a go”, and immediately there’s a school available that you can come and train and learn and you’ll meet the people you’ve watched wrestling and they will teach you how to wrestle, and that’s kind of the benefit of British Wrestling. But, American wrestling is so much bigger, it’s in every town, it’s in every state, in Britain it’s slowly growing again, and it’s gonna be kind of everywhere in the next couple of years because everyone’s trying to find that next entertainment thing, like the theatre becomes really big, then everyone goes to outdoor events and sport events, like the Women’s Euros means everyone’s back into women’s football which is great - all it takes is one event or one viral thing or one mental achievement, and then everyone’s back into watching wrestling again. I think everyone will go “ah, I remember watching wrestling as a kid”, and that’s the thing, it doesn’t really go away, people just forget about it, which is when we come in again.
So you think it’s gonna get a lot bigger in the UK then?
Yeah, I think it’s only gonna grow…there’ll always be wrestling, just like there’ll always be the circus, there’ll always be wrestling, just like there’ll always be the cinema, it’s always been around, and no matter how big or small a budget, we will always make a wrestling show work.
At Future Shock, do you tend to immerse yourself into a persona?
My persona at FutureShock laughs is basically what I do, but I make it more of a bad guy…I’m ‘Big Money Bailey’, basically the idea is that I am the coach for most of the North West talent and I should be regarded as the best wrestler in the room, I should be regarded as this egomaniac who basically goes “well, if it wasn’t for me then all of you guys wouldn’t be here”, which couldn’t be further from what I actually am, because there’s a small truth in there, so I turn it up to 11 and make it a larger than life persona, which is why I’ve got the horrendously dyed hair…but anyway, it’s a bit of an egomaniac, kind of like “I am the boss’”.
So you wouldn’t say that it’s an extension of your personality then?
I mean, it’s probably a tiny bit true, but, like, luckily the people that I’m smacking, I also train, so if they’ve got any resentment towards me they get to do it in the show…so generally speaking, I hope that it’s not actually who I am as a person.
What category would you place wrestling into - is it more of a sport, acting or a combination?
100% entertainment. I treat it as a variety show, like if you go to the circus you go to watch the clowns, you go to watch the trapeze acts or you go to watch…the magicians, and wrestling is the same sort of thing. There is the comedy aspect of wrestling where it’s a bit silly, it’s a bit slapstick, but some of it is really high-flying, like “how do they do that?”, sort of thing, then there’s also the aggressive, people brawling, beating each other up, and there’s weapons. No matter what, you go to a wrestling show, and there’s something for everyone, and if you’re like “I’m not really into the flippy stuff”, you’ll love the comedy things. My dad when he used to come to the shows, he didn’t really care about the beating each other up and trying to be dead macho, because he was like “that’s the campest thing I’ve ever seen”, but he loved the idea of the slapstick comedy side of it, he loved the people doing the incredible flips and twists, and he didn’t understand how you could do that to yourself…wrestling is a great variety act, and there’s something for everyone.
Have you ever had any real beef?
None that I can talk about on camera laughs, nah, I’ve had disputes with wrestlers and fans alike. Sometimes, there are fans who put there views on podcasts and they’re entitled to their own opinion, but, when someone peels back the curtain too much and they talk about someone’s personal life, and someone’s relationships and things, like, a podcast decided to talk about my marital status as a reason why they like me now, because I am no longer with my said partner, and I was like “oh, that’s not really okay”, to the point where my ex-partner came to me and was like “what’s going on about this?” because she’d seen it on social media, so it all kind of blew up, so that’s the point where there’s a barrier because we are entertainers but we are also kinda like human beings with personal lives and things that we don’t really want to share with the rest of the world, and the problem is with social media to an extent, is that everyone overshares, and if someone feels bad, they’re gonna say they feel bad, but the problem is that a fan doesn’t know the difference between that and “I’m gonna beat you up next week”, so the wrestling persona and the real life persona becomes a thing, so there are times when we’ve needed to have discussions, and now I’m a bit more thick-skinned to not become totally battered by it…but remember, wrestlers have feelings too, we are not fish, well fish have feelings too actually
What’s the most embarrassing thing that’s happened to you at Future Shock?
I had a wrestling match where we used props and weapons…we had lego…the idea was that I had fallen into the Lego, but my pants has ripped from the crotch region, and I thought it was really cold all of a sudden, and luckily I was wearing underwear…so it was just the thigh, my exposed thigh, and I wasn’t wearing the best pair of underwear that I could have worn…towards the end of the match I was just holding my crotch in place, as I’m still being beaten up by the other wrestler, and luckily no one seemed to notice, even the camera didn’t seem to pick it up but I knew, and you’ve never seen someone leave the ring quicker in their life, so that was the most embarrassing thing…
Can you RKO Kev?
Oh, absolutely, that’s mandatory. If you come into a wrestling performance centre you’re gonna get an RKO at the very least. So yeah.
A massive thank you to Sam Bailey and the rest of FutureShock!