(originally conducted November 2015)
Mark Andrews has continued to develop and progress since competing in TNA Impact Wrestling’s British Bootcamp. He recently took some time out of his busy schedule to participate in an interview with me. Andrew’s career has spanned almost 10 years as he has been wrestling since the age of 14. In his career he has unquestionably earned a name for himself competing for several independent promotions throughout the United Kingdom and the United States. His growth as a performer both in the ring has been remarkable. In the interview, Andrews shares his thoughts about work outside of wrestling with his punk rock band Junior, his clothing brand Defend Indy Wrestling, and how the last year of his life has seen him competing all over world. He also opens up about his history with the business and who was integral in his wrestling development.
Andrews also discusses how integral the maintenance of relationships, not only in wrestling but throughout his life, has been in shaping him into the person he is today. He discusses his early training and development in NWA-UK Hammerlock, how he has made the most of each and every opportunity he’s been given, and his aspirations to continue to develop his craft. TNA Impact Wrestling fans will be pleased with how Andrews’ enthusiasm and energy is just as evident in this discussion as it is in the ring. Prior to this interview, Andrews held a seminar for aspiring wrestlers and fans, discussing the psychology behind the decisions made in the ring and how to set up and transition from one move to the next.
Andrews remains an inspiration that fans can communicate with via various social mediums, such as Twitter and Instagram where he can be reached @MandrewsTNA.
Edd Ferris, Mike Bird, Zack Sabre, Jr. are three people who were key to your training. Describe the experience.
I originally started training under NWA-UK, which was basically the Welsh branch in Wales. That was run by Edd Ferris, who was one of my first trainers who showed me all the basics; that was most of what I learned from him at the time. Then with Mike Bird, he was the side trainer who did more private classes with me and taught me a lot of stuff. Then Zack Sabre Jr was more my trainer at the NWA Hammerlock school in Kent, which was about a six hour drive for me. I would drive about six hours straight and then back, and then camps throughout the year. So I think they all had a hand in training me. I think Mike and Zack, their instruction has shown a lot more in my style now. If you look at a lot of my old stuff then you could say, ‘oh, he’s a hybrid of the two wrestlers’ and you can actually compare it. It was obvious back in the day, but I’m not so sure now if it is as much.
The NWA -UK Hammerlock also gave you a number of experiences. What did you walk away with from your time there?
Hammerlock was a really great experience. I spent more time there training, along with the wrestling matches, because a lot of the shows they did were happening when I wasn’t experienced enough to be a part of them. The NWA Wales shows were what brought me into the business. The first NWA Wales show was one I remember back then, Magnus did the ring job so he was there. Marty Scrull was there as well, I’m pretty sure, or he was one of the first ones I remember in the ring at least, when I was there. So there were all these guys who have all become big stars now. I remember on my first day in TNA going up to Aldis (Magnus) and saying to him ‘Hey man, you did the ring job for my first show’. He was like ‘you were that 14 year old kid?’ and I was like ‘yeah’ and it was a weird kind of moment for me. 10 years later, it was really cool that we’re here. They played a big part in my development, the entire community. Even now, I’m seen as the young guy, since I was the young guy back when I was training. I had potential as I guess everyone saw. So a lot of positivity and real positive memories both with NWA Wales and NWA Hammerlock. Those camps helped me mature as a person both inside of wrestling and out. A real bunch of fond memories from that time.
Wrestling at times takes itself too serious. Describe the neXXXus experience. How it came about and could more have been made with it?
(laughs) It’s so funny because this was such a real small spot in a comedy show and it always comes up in interviews actually. I only did it once or twice at the time. There was Triple X wrestling at the time in the UKm which had a real buzz about them. They brought over Bryan Danielson for the first time. It was an indy show, and not a regular part of the promotion. They brought in Zack Sabre Jr. They practically made Zack Sabre Jr. So when I got in there I was ready. It was an indy darling promotion. It was a good indy promotion and I had some good friends there. They did a lot of comedy stuff and they put a lot of guys in funny gimmicks. One of them was the neXXXus, and I was, I believe, Mandrews Tarver. I had a bandanna around my mouth and stuff. But it was fun and cool, it was one of the few times where --I would use the term heel loosely-- I was a heel. There were a few other times, like in Celtic Wrestling and random carnival shows, it was more times when you are allowed to experiment on a bigger platform on. It was more of a laugh to be quite honest. The promotion Triple X was one where I have a lot of fond memories, and they were a lot of fun to work with. A lot of fun to work, for fun fans that were in the know. I don’t think that it was going to be a serious kind of thing.
This past June I had the opportunity to speak with Rockstar Spud who couldn't sing your praises enough. How would you describe your matches against one another and what you feel you may have learned from one another?
How very nice of him. It’s funny because when we were on the indies together, we didn’t really cross paths too much. We weren’t exactly like the best of friends, and we weren’t enemies either. We didn’t really hang out. But once I got to TNA it was a process where, I became close with him, and I owe him loads. In terms of the advice that he could give me, he was the only person in the entire world that knew what I was going through, the exact same thing, in the British Bootcamp, and because he was the winner. I got a lot of good advice from him throughout the series, and I was very willing to take it. Ever since I’ve been in TNA he has given me good advice and I can’t thank him enough honest. I’ve learned a lot from him as well in terms of wrestling and those sorts of things, so I have a lot to owe to Spud. I’m really grateful for what he’s done for me really.
Your time in the UK is long and illustrious. Describe your entire time there & the farewell tour arranged by ATTACK?
It was actually only a farewell show, that we did and the show that we did was actually my favorite memory in wrestling that I have. It was great. That weekend it was so many things all at once. It was a month that I had completed the Bootcamp in TNA, and it was only a month after that I got the contract with TNA and it had become public the day before my birthday. Then the day of my birthday, I had a PROGRESS wrestling show and I had a big match with Eddie Dennis. For the ATTACK show, we sold it out in like 17 minutes, and it’s only a tiny little venue with 150 capacity, and we had to oversell it, we had to cram in chairs there. It was all my friends, all my family, loads of local wrestling fans. People that had travelled from Italy to Wales to this tiny little community centre, really it was everything I had really wanted actually. It was a punk rock show but a wrestling show, which is what ATTACK is all about. It was a nice farewell. I’m really grateful for the scene we have in the UK, but not just the scene but the group of friends that I have in the UK in wrestling. I feel that if it wasn’t for us moving each other and egging each other on that we wouldn’t progress and we wouldn’t grow. It was a real special show that one with ATTACK. It was probably my fondest of memories in wrestling.
Wrestling has tremendous crossover appeal to different forms of media. Where did the idea to play Pikachu come about & do you think that idea could work in North America?
Definitely. With ATTACK pro wrestling we have started doing very interesting shows. It started off of as us being really fond of the idea of American indie wrestling, and no one in the UK was doing it, so that started becoming something that we would do and then everyone started doing it. Then let’s take it one step forward and have crazy cosplay shows, whether it be based on films or themes. We had a ‘Jaws’ themed show, we had an ‘American Pie’ themed show, and the one that stood out the most was the ‘Press Start’ themed show, which was our video game themed show, so we would be able to act like our favorite video games from our childhood. A big part of it for us was the nostalgia. So me dressing up like Pikachu every year was something that I loved doing. If it was something that I could bring to different promotions, it would certainly be something that I would love doing. It was just a good laugh. The one place in the UK where you could have all of these top wrestlers from around the UK acting silly and dressing up, and you are not going to see that at every single wrestling show you go to but you will see it at ATTACK. I love it, I absolutely love it. (laughs)
Coming to North America lends itself to opportunity. What did the TNA British Boot camp opportunity present itself to you & how have you parlayed that moving forward?
The last year of my life has been insane, milestone wise, to be honest. Two years ago in 2013, me and Pete Dunne, my best friend and tag team partner, came out to America for 10 weeks. We flew out here, we had a hotel for 3 nights and nothing else planned. Luckily, the amazing people involved in the wrestling community would get us set up with a place to stay, and we didn’t have to pay for another hotel for the rest of the 10 weeks. That was a massive learning curve, though I was already quite familiar with America and the American wrestling scene. And then going to TNA and the whole Bootcamp process in the last year has been an even bigger step up. I am not only dealing with them, but America on such a bigger scale. It’s not just learning about a TV show, I’m dealing with a culture shock, and it’s a shock to my work as well. It isn’t indie wrestling anymore. It’s how to work TV, how to work with cameras, how to work with stress, call times and all those things that come with TV wrestling. I’m incredibly grateful for what I’ve had over the last year of TNA and it’s been a massive learning curve. To share a locker room with Kurt Angle, the Hardys, Abyss, who have sorted out their craft so well. They are so good at their craft and I get to learn from guys like them. It’s what I’ve wanted for the last 10 years.
Describe your time with PWG, and what experiences and/or matches you had there that provided the greatest learning experiences?
PWG was super awesome, it was the best. I had been watching PWG for years along with Chikara, those were the two big promotions that I used to watch when I was younger. I got to work with Chikara when I was 19 in 2011, so I got to check that off the list. PWG is one that I got to tick off more recently. It reminds me of Progress in the UK in a number of ways, it’s the more super hard indie show. It worked out well. It was super fun and everything I thought it was going to be, and hopefully I will get a chance to come back soon. It was a real good experience.
Smash Wrestling has been called the PWG of Canada. Having now competed for both promotions, how did you find your overall experience with Smash this evening?
I definitely think that it’s very easy to compare Smash to PWG. It’s easy to say that it’s the PWG of Canada. I also like to think that it’s the Smash Wrestling of the world, its own brand entirely. I was speaking with Sebastian today and it’s been awesome. He knows what he’s doing here, and its independent wrestling done right because a lot of people are doing it wrong.
Often times people don't plan for life after their careers have ended, but you have diversified your interests with “Defend Indy Wrestling” & “Junior.” Where did the idea to expand your entrepreneurial interests come from?
I think that’s something I’ve always had since I was a kid to be honest. When I was younger, I’d be on the playground selling video games to my friends, trying to make a profit there. When I had a backyard wrestling promotion when I was 12, I’d sell t-shirts at school and stuff like that. I think I’m someone who likes to be progressive and productive, so whether it’s wrestling or music or it’s a clothing brand, I just like to keep moving things forward. But wrestling has certainly been the thing that’s opened me up to the idea. I love to video edit and do graphic design because of wrestling, and it’s been beneficial outside of wrestling as well. Wrestling definitely opened up a lot of different gates for me.
What does the balance of 2015 and beyond have in store for Mark Andrews?
Honestly, 2015 has been incredible and I’m not sure how next year is going to top it. I definitely plan to, somehow. If I can keep progressing in TNA, if I can keep progressing with wrestling in general and with my band, my clothing brand, whatever it is, just keep moving forward and just see as much of the world as possible at my age now.
Was there anything you'd like to share, inform or promote as it relates to Mark Andrews?
I’d like people to check out the DefendIndyWrestling brand not just to help me sell merchandise but to see what we are all about. It’s about raising positivity on the indy wrestling scene, which can sometimes get negative, and just seeing what it’s all about. If you like ATTACK pro wrestling, check it out. Fans can interact with me @MandrewsTNA on Twitter and Instragram. It is the best way to get a hold of me.