English LingQ 2.0 Podcast #35: What Does It Take to Be A Pro Wrestler?

Shay Purser is a Welsh wrestler who also runs a Twitch channel. In this week’s episode Elle chats with Shay about the skills needed to be a wrestler, the things he gets up to on his livestreams and, um, dressing up as a granny and breaking his wrist in a nightclub!

Elle: Hello everyone and welcome to the LingQ podcast with me Elle. Remember English learners, you can study this podcast episode along with all the other episodes in the podcast as an English lesson on LingQ. Work your way through the transcript, translating words and phrases you don’t know while you listen. It’s an excellent way to level up your English. If you’re up for a challenge, check out the LingQ challenges page. There are all kinds of different challenges in lots of different languages. I’m currently just over halfway through my French 90-Day Challenge. I’m reading a Stephen King book in French, which is challenging and also super fun.

If you’re listening on Spotify, SoundCloud, Apple, Google, please feel free to give us a, like a share or a review. We greatly appreciate it.

Today. I am joined by someone from the exact same city as me, Cardiff in Wales. He is a pro wrestler and he runs a wrestling Twitch channel. I’m really excited to be joined today by Shay Purser.

Shay, How’s it going?

Shay: Hey Elle, how’s it going? It’s good to see you. I’m happy to be on, yeah I’m. Uh, yeah, excited be on. Good to get to do something different.

Elle: Excellent. Well, it’s great to have you, um, I’m usually interviewing people in the language niche or I have been. And so it’s really, it’s going to be interesting for our listeners, for sure to, to learn about wrestling something I really know nothing about to have to say. So I’m really looking forward to learning something new. First off, uh, you are joining us from Cardiff in Wales, as I said, um, where I also come from, how is life in Cardiff?

Shay: Yeah, it’s good. It’s changed a lot in the past like decade. It’s always been an evolving city, but, um, yeah, in the past 10 years it’s really taken a like cultural leapfrog and it’s a really fun city to be in. I like… it’s nice to see something always changing in the cities and there’s always something to do. So you really can’t complain.

Elle: Yeah, it, it’s such a beautiful city too. So Shay, wrestling… first off, I want to know how a guy from Wales where wrestling, isn’t really huge and it’s not like we have wrestling in high school or primary school. How did you even get into wrestling?

Shay: So, yeah um… it Just so happened that the one wrestling event in Cardiff, and for the most part in South Wales was two doors up from where I lived.

So when I was like five years old, I, um, started going to shows and watching like people that would eventually become my trainers, just starting their careers. Uh, and I, I watched like two or three shows and then I fell out of love with it. Um, then around the age of like 10 or 11, I, um, I hate television wrestling by the way.

That was the other… I didn’t, like, I thought it was fake, obviously. Uh, but I thought the stuff that I was watching was real, uh, just to let everyone know it’s all fake. I just was convinced by the illusion, the illusion of television. The like, oh, the television stuff is fake, but the stuff that I’m watching in this community center is real.

When in reality, it’s the exact same thing.

Now I use the, I use the word fake as I like a umbrella term. Predetermined is the word to use. Um, We we work together in the ring to create the most interesting match possible for the audience is the way to think about it. Injuries still happen. I’ve torn my MCL. I’ve had multiple concussions, uh, but, um, yeah, not a fun time, but, uh, I, uh, But in the same vein about some really fun experiences in it.

Uh, and I eventually started to understand this aspect of wrestling and started to really appreciate it and started to watch all kinds of wrestling. I was watching wrestling in community centers in America on YouTube because I thought it was cool and interesting and different than I’d go and uh, and then I really started to get back into it when I was a pre-teen into teenager.

I really started to enjoy wrestling again. Um, I started going to live events, so started bouncing around city to city and just trying to find out everything from what was going on in Japanese wrestling to what was going on in American wrestling to what was going on in European wrestling. I started to dig into the Britishwrestling scene and I was like, okay, I want to do this now, how old do I have to be to start? And in Britain we’re notorious for starting incredibly young. So I found a training school in Newport, which is about a 20 minute train journey from where I live. Uh, and I phoned up the trainer and I’ve always had like quite a deep masculine voice anyway.

Like I, I hit puberty voice-wise at like 13, so it really, uh, it really, so I pick up the phone and he didn’t even question my age. Where are your parents? I was like, ah, I’ll be okay. And then, yeah, I kind of weaved in from there and I started a training in Newport originally. Then I went up to the Midlands to go and train with a man who is now one of the biggest themes in wrestling, which is great.

Um, and then I bounced around the United Kingdom scene over to America. I’ve done, I’ve done a lot of bouncing to train and I’ve enjoyed it. It’s been fun.

Elle: So is it then, is it a growing scene in the UK, the wrestling scene since you started?

Shay: Uh, so I, as I started, I’d say the year after that, or if wrestling came into what we call a boom period, uh, and it, it really started to flourish.

Um, and it was a really, uh, it definitely, you know, uh, we eventually got to a point where in British wrestling, people were selling out the SSE Wembley, which is the smaller Wembley next to the actual Wembley stadium. Uh, we had people, uh, going to the hydro in selling it. We have people going to the NEC these huge shows are happening to the point where like WWE began to capitalize on it, major companies now view British wrestling as somewhat of a battleground, which is incredible. Um, admitedly due to to the pandemic we’ve had quite a big fall off and some other factors as well. Uh, but there’s a bit of a rebuilding scene in the United Kingdom right now. And I mean, if you look at it objectively as well, a lot of the people that were around five to six years ago are doing incredibly well for themselves now.

And that’s great. Like it’s, it’s good to see a lot of people that were around are now able to live their dreams full time. And a lot of the people that are still around helping rebuild or have found their own paths that make them incredibly happy. So yeah, the scene’s on its way back up again, after a bit of a dip.

Elle: Great. And I feel like it must be in the US too, just because, I say that I don’t know it’s just because there’s that show on Netflix, um, Glow.

Shay: I was going to say Glow actually, um, started… there’s now a, uh, women of wrestling it’s called, they’re having a reboot essentially, which is inspired directly from Glow.

Uh, and that has been, the amount of wrestling that is influenced by mainstream culture is incredible. And the fact that if wrestling gets mentioned in passing in something, wrestling suddenly gets a massive turn upwards, and it is really beneficial. It’s, it’s bounced back and forth. And I think like wrestling is at its best when it tries to keep up with pop culture.

Um, Uh, at like at it’s always the most fun, like, I dunno. I just really enjoy that.

Elle: Yeah. And there’s that movie too, I don’t know the name, with Florence Pugh, that British…

Shay: FIghting with My Family.

Elle: Yeah. I thought that was such a lovely fun film.

Shay: Yeah. Yeah.

It was a great, it was a great, um, I said this cause a lot of I’ve watched it with a lot of wrestling fans and wrestling fans are quite like ambivalent towards it for the most part. Some people liked it. Some people didn’t. I thought it was great because I was like, well, the target audience for this is young women. I was like, this is like, girls are gonna watch this and want to become a wrestler. It was like that that’s…

Elle: That’s good for wrestling.

Shay: I was like, that’s good for wrestling. That’s good for film. I was like, that’s good for everyone. Um, I know the family quite well, uh, wrestling in general is quite like a tight knit circle. So like, you tend to be like, uh, like two degrees of separation from every wrestler. Like it’s like, it’s like, oh, it’s like that guy who knows that guy he knows that guy and then I’m friends with The Rock plug. It’s like, it’s that kind of vibe.

Elle: So let’s go back to something you said earlier, and we talked about it being fake and you said as a predetermined show. So how predetermined I wonder. Do you go when you train, are you basically uh, rehearsing like a show?

Shay: So that’s a really interesting question and it varies. It actually does vary from where you go.

Uh, wrestling has different cultures, and I think that’s a really cool thing about it. So the way people wrestle in Mexico to the way people wrestle the United Kingdom to the way people wrestle in Japan is it’s the same sport and we will all wrestle each other, but we go about it very differently. The same way a basketball team might play very smashmouth offense and try and get to the basket to score two points. And another team may stay at the perimeter and try and shoot three. We’re playing the same sport, but we’re going completely different ways about it. Um, and that that’s kind of like that in wrestling as well, where like, um, So I like where I’ve trained and in the United Kingdom, we tend to train for practical situations.

So you’ll, you know, work with each other to make sure no matter what happens, you’ll get a good wrestling match and then maybe you’ll work on other things, but it’s primarily, you’re getting it down and making sure it’s okay, then you’ll go to, um, maybe Japan where they do tend to go a week or two in advance and prepare everything and make sure everything’s at least somewhat clean and smooth.

Elle: That doesn’t surprise me.

Shay: Yeah. I was going to say, I was also going to say the cultures of the wrestling replicate the actual culture very well too. Um, uh, and, um, then in America there’s kind of, uh, America’s kind of, um, uh, Again, ref representative of the real world. America’s kind of a melting pot of wrestling culture where like there’s a Mexican wrestling culture, there’s a British wrestling culture, there’s a Japanese wrestling culture there.

And it kind of, it’s a bit of a melting pot and you can go there and really do anything. And yeah, it really does vary on where you go. It’s really interesting.

Elle: Right. And speaking of the states, what about like Olympic wrestling? That’s a completely different thing, right?

Shay: Yeah. Completely different. But we do see a lot of Olympic wrestlers transition to wrestling because I think there’s this thing about being so fluid with your body and being able to move very cleanly that translates to wrestling. And also fundamentally just being coachable because wrestling is a, uh, something that involves, like you could be the best actual wrestler, as in the fundamental moves of wrestling in the world, you could be the best, but if you can’t pick up a microphone and talk, you’re never gonna succeed in the industry.

And that’s, that’s the performative side of it. Or at least people will have you believe that there are other ways of succeeding, but, uh, um, like you can, some people may, and that’s a great thing about it as well, some people could view… legitimately the wrestling is the one sport where you could be the best wrestler in the world to one person and the worst to another.

And there’s no real, it’s incredible.

Elle: And is there any, there’s no beef between, you know, the Olympic wrestlers and the other kind?

Shay: I don’t think so. I think we take it very in stride. Like, um, the only animosity I’ve ever felt is like from MMA fighters tend to be quite like, oh, like again, that’s a big generalization.

I’ve met some great ones. Um, I did, uh, I I’ve worked with people like Ben Askren and they’ve been great. And they’ve been super like nice and supportive of wrestling, but the issue is they can, the issue is you can never really complain because some of the most successful amatuer wrestlers of all time have gone on to work for WWE and be professional wrestlers.

So it’s like, it’s like, it’s like an, also the big thing, even if it’s not all levels, there’s uh, money and like, uh, a lot more money in professional than there is amateur, because amateur wrestlers don’t get the contracts. They don’t get, they don’t, you don’t see amateur wrestling on TV every Monday night.

Whereas you do see professional wrestling on TV every Monday night. So it’s a, it’s a logical transition for a lot of them.

Elle: Yeah. How about the skills to be a good wrestler then, as you mentioned, it isn’t just physical. It’s more personality. And that makes total sense. WHat else do you need?

Shay: It’s crazy, there’s so many different… so a base level, so I’ll describe like, and there’s several different aspects of wrestling as well, so like if you’re a television wrestler to an independent wrestler, there’s a lot of different things you tackle and take on, but the, the, the, the actual in ring, uh, physics, you, first of all, have to be, to be able to carry your opponents. You have to have enough endurance to be able to continue between an eight to sometimes 60-minute match. Sometimes you can go 60 to 70 minutes in matches. I’ve seen, I’ve been in those matches. It’s insane.

I have wrestled people that are 4’2″ and uh, 80 pounds. And I’ve wrestled people who are 7′ tall and 300 to 400 plus pounds.

Elle: And you have to be able to lift that 300 pound person?

Shay: It’s a, it’s a, it’s a help. It’s a help. Um, uh, especially when you’re training, you have to do a lot of training with people that are heavier than you.

It’s kind of like the worst case scenario, you know, run, run around with a guy who’s 6’8″ on your shoulders for 10 minutes. You’ll never do it in a match, but do it to get used to it. Um, get, get that uh… and then there’s this other aspect where the entire time you’re working with your opponent.

So you have to also have great communication skills. You have to have, uh, the ability to convince everyone who is watching the feeling you’re trying to convey as well as the stage performance side of it. And then on top of that, you’ve also got to go and sell your merchandise afterwards. You probably had to set up and help pack down the ring as well.

You’ve probably, you’ve probably driven five to 10 to 20 hours if you’re in the states, like it’s, there’s so many things that go into wrestling. It’s, uh, it’s endurance for the mind and body. There’s the acting side. It’s a lot, a lot of things go into it and there’s a… yeah, definitely. Um, it’s definitely, uh, something that, it takes a lot of determination, skill or passion. One of the, one of the three usually.

Elle: Right. Yeah.

I guess the passion for sure. As you say, you’re traveling, you’re spending so much time, hurting yourself.

Shay: Yeah. Like I said, I’ve had multiple concussions. I’ve broken my hand. I’ve torn my, I tore my MCL. I’ve torn my ACL.

Um, I, yeah, I’ve had a rough time of it. I perforated my eardrum, which is a horrible thing. It was a horrible thing when communication is key in wrestling.

Elle: And just a horrible thing in general.

Shay: Yeah. Um, yeah, not fun. It was… the best way I could describe it as well it’s like being underwater, like it was like, I, it sounded like it just sounded for a week like I was underwater. I certainly don’t have perfect hearing anymore, but, um… it’s a, we do it for what we love. Hey, we do it for what we love. That’s what I always say.

Elle: And what about your most recent injury? Before we started recording you told me about your wrist.

Shay: Oh, yeah. Um, so I do a separate job. Uh, again, like I said, stage performance comes with professional wrestling, uh, shout out to Bingo Lingo. They’re an 18 plus bingo company based in the United Kingdom. I am one of their, uh, stage performers, or they’re also known as grannies and apparently injury just follows me in life. Uh, I’ve managed to break my wrist and, um, Just there.

If you’re, if you’re watching, if you’re just listening, you won’t be able to, but it’s, uh, it looks like I’ll, I’ll describe it for someone that may be listening, it looks like it looks like a cartoon shark bite. It’s actually like that. That is exactly what it looks like.

Elle: Oh my goodness. How, how long ago was that surgery?

Shay: Uh, I’m three and a half weeks now. Post surgery. Four and a half to five post injury. I think so. Yeah.

It’s a pretty, it’s been, it has been a time. Yeah.

Elle: Ooh. Okay. Well Bingo Lingo.

Shay: I’d recommend checking it out.

Elle: I look into to that for sure. And that’s just inCardiif or is that around the UK?

Shay: It’s all around. It’s all around. It’s all around Europe. Now we did offer some in Ibiza last month. Yeah.

Elle: Why does it have to be, well, I mean an 18 plus I guess it’s gambling, but 18 plus you mean it’s run in the clubs?

Shay: Yeah, it’s run, it’s run in nightclubs and it’s catered towards it’s catered towards like a student. I mean, I say it’s catered to students hen parties, everything. I dress up as an old lady and, um, my job is to get everyone hyped up and excited, but I, I, I, one of my taglines as a wrestler is that I am more than a wrestler.

I think this encapsulates it.

Elle: Right. Okay. And do you incorporate any wrestling moves?

Shay: We actually do. Like, it was weird. They came up to me and they went, so obviously an iconic number in, I think British culture and every culture is the number 69. Um, uh, and that there is a, there is a move where I will jump on to my other Bingo Lingo granny partner in a 69 position, which is a very common training thing we do in wrestling.

I was like, oh no. I was like, oh, this is easy. I was like, I’ve been doing this for years.

Elle: So tell us about your, now I don’t know the lingo around Twitch because I do not use Twitch. I honestly, I don’t even really know if I understand fully what Twitch is. Maybe my listeners are as old as me and don’t know either. First, what is Twitch and what are you doing on Twitch?

Shay: So Twitch is a video streaming platform and you’ll, I’ll emphasize the word video. So Twitch got its brand and build by being a livestream service that would primarily stream video games and people would play on there. The most famous Twitch stream or streamer that I can think of is a guy called Ninja.

He’s become quite popular in like modern culture. He’s known as being like the Fortnite guy I think a lot of people call him, um, and it became a big gaming platform. A lot of people went on there, game and get viewers because we live in a world where people like to watch people play games. People like to watch people share their common interests and like to interact in a community where they can feel like they can share those interests.

And it’s really cool. And the Twitch live chat is perfect for that. Twitch has slowly started to expand now um, and it’s grown into a bit more of a. Um, well, multimedia platform, you can do anything from whatch someone, uh, cook on there, to what someone, uh, bake on there. I mean, that’s the same thing. Nevermind… you can go on there to watch someone react to sport. That was a horrible comparison. Could watch someone cook on there. Now you can watch someone play sport on there. Uh, there’s literally anything you can think of is probably being streamed on Twitch. As an example, last night, I streamed myself being turned into Pat Butcher for Halloween.

If you don’t know Pat Butcher, she’s a popular EastEnders character. She’s about 60 to 70 years old. So turning this into a 60 to 70 year old woman from the East End of London was certainly interesting.

Elle: She has a very, a very unique look, shall we say.

Shay: Definitely unique, but I’ve done everything from that to, um, I put, uh, during the height of the summer heat wave, I put a paddling pool in my front garden, set the camera up and sat on my street and just talked to strangers and asked them about how their day was going.

Um, and that’s kind of like, that, I think that does show… and then on top of that, I do daily sports streams where I’ll talk about the news and wrestling and, um, Football really or anything. And it’s not just about like, you may, you may not even be interested in the topic that I’m talking about. Like, I guarantee that several of the football and MMA fans that were watching me last night were not interested in watching a makeup artist talk to me about how Pat Butcher’s eyeliner is done, however, On the flip side, I believe my LGBTQ audience that would have tuned into whatch the Pat Butcher stream probably don’t have the biggest interest in how Ciryl Gane is going to overtake Glover Teixeira, in the, uh, in MMA. Like they probably don’t, there’s not those shared interests, but I think the, I think again, I used the term melting pot earlier.

I do use my stream as a melting pot to several people. Also, the more I stare to the people who are watching this on video, you can see a slight tint of scar on my eyes from the Pat Butcher look, I haven’t washed all of it off yet. I only just noticed.

Elle: A little bit of a mascarra is good for any time. Any person, any time. Emphasizes the eyes.

It’s all good. It sounds like you’re just have such a fun life where you’re able to do what you love, incorporate your passions into these different activities.

Shay: I think like, um, I have like a big thing, like I’ve actually actively taken a bit of a step back from wrestling in the past since the pandemic, because I had a big realization with this with 18 months off of wrestling.

I don’t know if this is what I want to do for the rest of my life, a real, like a real… am I going to, am I going to, for the rest of my life pursuing this singular sport, is this all I want to do? And the answer I came up with was, no, but I don’t want to stop. So I had to kind of find a compromise within my head.

Well, if I just carry on doing this for the rest of my life, I won’t be happy, but if I give up on it, I’m taking a huge part of my life that I’ve enjoyed so much and will continue to enjoy it. And I, I, I hit a crossroads when I went, tell you what I think I’m going to do wrestling, take an active step back and try and look into other things to pursue. Twitch came up at that time, I started Twitch and I was like, well, this is incredible, I absolutely love this.

Um, and as Twitch took off and I managed to very luckily get a contract with Twitch’s sports accelerator program. I, uh, I really wanted to take all of this under my wing. And then I was like, well, what else can I do to enjoy myself? Because in the meantime I was working jobs I wasn’t enjoying, uh, I was just not something, you know, when, when you, when you, when you’re trying to, like, I honestly, if you’d like as a bit of a pursuit of happiness and I wasn’t pursuing happiness. So I, I took myself back to a point where I could, I found a means of income that will make me safe. And then I found the most enjoyable way of doing it. And I think I’m doing well at the moment. The plan is just to keep growing and keep making myself have more fun and daring myself to do more things.

Elle: So you, are you saying that no more wrestling in the future, you would just stick to the….

Shay: No, I am, I will still be wrestling. I’m still, I’m just being actually I put a large video, uh, on my, uh, Instagram and Twitter explaining it, but essentially I’m just taking a bit of an active step back from… I’ve gone from training five times a week and wrestling three times a weekend to wrestling on my own terms. Now I want to be able to, I’ll still be training hard when I have bookings to come up to, but those bookings are going to be a lot less frequent because I’m very much, very much happy doing what I’m doing. I think I just have to put myself first and that’s it. I think that’s the important thing as well.

I think a lot of people get burned out from their passions and sometimes forget what their passions are. I love wrestling more than that. Like I, in the, in the time I’ve taken away from it and the step back I really appreciate how much I love it. And I actually have, like for the first time in a while, a real want to wrestle, I’m like, oh, I really, really re I have a hunger to wrestle.

Now. I’m like, I want to get back into a wrestling ring and I’m stopping myself. I’m like, I’m like, oh, I really want to get back into a wrestling ring and then I’ll get offered something. Then I’ll pause and go, no, I’m still gonna wait. I want to, and it’s like, I’m making myself hungry, I’m hungry and like driving my own passion back up.

And it’s really, yeah. I I’d say it’s a really nice thing that I’ve been able to do. And I found otherfulfillment in the meantime with stuff like Bingo Lingo and Twitch, which has been great.

Elle: Yeah. I was going to say, when you, when your passion becomes a chore, I think that’s the best thing to do is take a step back.

And now, like you say, you have this renewed passion, desire, interest in wrestling.

Shay: It’s so true, especially when you can like speak to other people that have gone to where you want to be, or like maybe have reached where you want to be and you see them snd you go, actually, it doesn’t look like the best thing on earth.

And it’s like, I think I’m, I’m gonna, it’s like, if, if all of this work leads me to something that may not fulfill me, I think I’m going to be okay. Uh, I think, I think I can, I think I can work on other avenues and other, other ways of making myself happy and I really say I have. And the other thing is to make work I’m proud of, and that is something you need full creative control over and very sadly in wrestling, you don’t always get given creative control.

Uh, so I I’m very cautious of that. I want to make sure that when I’m like 50, 60 years old and I look back on like my scrapbook of memories or my obituary, that is just pretty much my Instagram and I can look at it, I can look at it and just go, I really enjoyed that, that really made me happy. I’m proud of myself, and I think that’s really hard for a lot of people to do nowadays, but I think, I think I’m on my way.

Elle: Excellent. So what is in store for your Twitch channel?

Shay: Uh, yeah, we do, we do like a bunch of different content on there. I’ve always had big, uh, big plans. The big thing we did at the start of the year, which I’ll definitely be doing again, uh, in the coming months was, uh, we did a, I stayed up for 25 hours.

Um, and streamed with a bunch of guests, popular wrestlers from companies such as AEW, New Japan Pro Wrestling, and other places joined me. Uh, it was, it was, uh, tormenting. Um, uh, it was hard, but we, we raised over, I think 1500 pounds for charity, but we donated that to local food banks in Cardiff, uh, in the Midlands and in each city that I wrestled in while I was out in America.

Elle: Fantastic. Fantastic. Well, listen, Shay, this was super interesting. I learned a lot. I think my listeners hopefully did also. Um, yeah, I want to thank you so much for joining us and best of luck with the channel. Best of luck with Bingo Lingo and all that good stuff. I hope you don’t have any more injuries because you’d think having a break from wrestling, your body was getting a break, but it seems that’s not the case.

Shay: So the re the, the real funny thing is I’ve been, I’ve been in, I’ve been injured every October for the past four years. And there is something about the spooky month. There is something about spooky month. Yeah.

Elle: Okay. Well, at least now, you know, next October, just lock yourself in your house.

Shay: Bubble wrap.

Elle: Don’t go anywhere. Yeah.

Shay, thank you so so much. Uh, I hope it heals well, your wrist and, yeah, thanks for joining us today.

Shay: No worries. Thank you so much for having me.

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