Monday, 8 June 2015

Have I Really Been Doing This For Fifteen Years?

Me, February 2002
It was way back in June 2000 that The Two Sheds Review made it's first appearance online in the e-mail newsletter The Wrasslin' Analysis, and if someone had told me back then that I'd still be churning out this stuff in 2015 I quite frankly wouldn't know what to say.

You see, back then my life was entirely different. I had a job which I absolutely adored, I was starting to travel around a bit visiting places I'd never been to before, and I made a point of watching every wrestling show that was broadcast here in merry old England.

Things have changed drastically since then. I had to give up the job I loved due to a prolonged period of ill health, I achieved what I thought was a dream job in a business seemingly populated by people who wanted to know me just so I could promote their careers, I met people who became good friends, got rid of those so-called friends who were doing more damage than good, and worked in a variety of different jobs before struggling to find long-term employment. I've also lost dear friends and family members, too many to mention, some of whom were taken far before their time.

But there's one thing that's been a constant throughout all of that, and that's this, The Two Sheds Review.

When I look back now at why I decided to write online about professional wrestling (and later mixed martial arts) I find myself thinking about how much the medium in which my work has changed in the past fifteen years or so, and when I look at the options that are open not just to me as a writer but to anyone doing anything online it kind of seemed like the dark ages back then.

When I first started I didn't actually have complete access to the internet. Early in 2000 Sky TV launched an e-mail service through their Digiboxes. It was quite a limited service at first, with everything having to be "typed" in through the remote control, and it was only when they introduced a keyboard that things became a lot easier.

By then I'd already subscribed to a few e-mail newsletters I'd seen advertised on Sky Text's wrestling news page, and having tested the waters a little by getting a few pieces published in fanzines (remember them?) that I e-mailed  the editor of the aforementioned Wrasslin' Analysis about writing for him, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Apart from my work appearing in those newsletters I didn't actually have any way of promoting myself. Things got a bit better when I brought a dial-up modem (remember them?) for my modem, but the options open to me were still quite limited. You could spend hours looking for wrestling websites who might be interested in carrying your work, or you could just hope that someone sees your stuff and likes it enough to recommend you to someone.

This is what happened to me, when a guy named SamJerry and a girl named *Graysox* praised me to a few people, and The Two Sheds Review began appearing on websites as well as in newsletters.

I really was a fun time to be an online wrestling writer back then. You had the big three battling each other, with the mighty World Wrestling Federation conquering all before them with that Attitude of theirs, World Championship Wrestling losing millions a year and going from bad to worse, and little old Extreme Championship Wrestling, with it's almost cult-like following and it's reputation for producing superstars that the big two could take off them.

But within a year two of those three would be gone. ECW went bankrupt, and Vince McMahon purchased WCW after years is mis-management left them without their billionaire backer and a television deal.

Now here's something you won't know. You see, back then the only real way you could see wrestling outside of the big three was via tape trading, But I was never really one for trawling the tape trading websites looking for stuff, and I didn't have anything to trade, so with only one wrestling promotion to write about I actually considered calling it a day. Yep, The Two Sheds Review nearly ended after less than a year.

Something soon changed though. After seeing a centre-spread article in my local newspaper about a certain promoter's attempt to get British wrestling back to it's glory days I knew that I had found alternative to the WWF, and it was right on my door step.

Now here's where it gets a little difficult for me. Long-time readers of my work will know exactly what wrestling company I'm talking about, and why I've never written about the main reasons I left that company you'll also know of some of the troubles I've gone through since I left them at the back end of 2005.

So while I don't want to talk about my time with that company, I can say that it was during this time that I realised that British wrestling, which was more or less dying on it's backside when it lost it's national television contract in 1988, was alive and doing extremely well. It was also capable of producing it's fair share of men and women who would go on to attain superstar status on the main stage. You've only got to look at WWE's and TNA's current roster to see that.

My re-discovery of the British wrestling scene, and the launch of The Wrestling Channel in 2004, led me to discover the much wider world of wrestling. I learned to appreciate the work of those who toil and sweat as they attempt to make it to the brighter lights of the wrestling business, and seeing some of the shows on TWC certainly was an eye opener. A lot of the men and women I first saw on TWC made it to the big leagues with varying degrees of success, but if I were to list every one here it would take me an age.

However, embracing the wider world of professional wrestling also has it's downside, because as well as the good you've got to put up with the bad as well, and some of the stuff I've seen over the years has been really, really bad. In fact some of it made backyard wrestling look quite professional.

From the kid's wrestling that had a cult following on public access television to the women who wrestle in a small gym selling their wares to people who really have no interest in storylines or character development, to the garbage-style wrestling with men and women smashing each other over the head with light tubes, I've seen stuff that is pretty bloody awful.

But when you look at the bigger picture you have to realise that to get the good we have to put up with the bad. It's like that old can good exist without evil sort of thing. It will never go away, and you'll probably never see it reviewed in my column, unless they send me a free DVD to review that is!

Me, October 2014

So, fifteen years and over 1,500 articles later, where does The Two Sheds Review stand today? Well, I don't have any plans to give it up. I'll keep going as long as I feel happy to do so. Although I've had quite a bit of heartache doing this over the years that's been far outweighed by the amount of enjoyment I get writing about an industry I've watched and loved for as long as I can remember, and now, at the ripe old age of 43, I really don't see a need to stop.

Sure, Dave Meltzer probably won't e-mail me asking me to write for the Wrestling Observer. I'll probably never get a gig writing for magazines like Pro Wrestling Illustrated or Fighting Spirit, and the likes of Alex Shane and Wrestle Talk TV will probably do next to nothing to recognise what I've done over the years.

But I'm happy to carry on with what I'm doing. Okay, I only post my work on a few websites now, and some would say I should show a lot more ambition by trying to getting in touch with the likes of Dave Meltzer and Brian Elliot.

For me though it's now about happiness. I've built a little comfort zone for myself that I'm happy to stay in, and after all, after all of the hassle I've been through over the past fifteen years to me happiness is everything.

So in closing I would like to say a big thank you to some of those who have helped me along the way, to the likes of SamJerry and *Graysox* who offered me advice early on, to those editors and webmasters who let me write for them, to the few wrestlers who keep in touch and ask me how I'm doing, to the companies who ask me to review their products, and to you, the people who keep reading the stuff I churn out.

But most importantly I would like to say an even bigger thank you to my brothers Paul and Mark, Paul for all of the support he's given me over the years, and Mark for subscribing to BT Sport and buying the WWE shows from Sky Box Office and keeping me supplied with regular MMA and wrestling shows to review.

And to those furry friends who have done more for me than they'll ever know. Especially that big daft brown and white one sleeping at the bottom of the bed as I write this.

Thank you one and all, and here's to the next fifteen years!