The Al Snow Wrestling Academy (ASWA) is the hottest wrestling innovation in town. Pairings announced by the ASWA include MuchMedia, Impact Wrestling, Slam Wrestling and in addition the school is already teasing a TV deal. With an enormous warehouse as its base in Croydon, new recruits can look forward to multiple rings, big screens and of course some of the top teaching talent in the world! We sat down with Academy head honcho Simon Van Der Wolf and top trainers John 'Bad Bones' Klinger and the Alpha Female. In the first of our two-part interview we are schooled about the academy and what it takes to make it in the industry. Your education starts here....
How did the ASWA come to be?
SVDW: It was an idea of mine that I put into Al's head whilst we were drunk on homemade Hungarian booze. I asked why he didn't have his own school and he explained that he's always on the road and it's about trust, understanding and that he wanted to teach people his way. I told him the time was right for Europe to have a high-end, academy style school. I'd do it differently, I said, semester based because we want people to sign up and actually go through a proper course. Not pay your ten pounds a week, turn up once a week and forget about if for six days and have to re-do it. He said nothing for two days and then randomly said "let's do it!".
So people have to sign full time?
SVDW: We'll give people options but they have to complete their hours. Originally we were going to run it as a 12 week course but it's moved to hourly so people can complete it in their own time. We expect for students to come at least twice a week. We're not going to chuck people out if they can't make it but it will take them longer to grade up. There are three grading systems, novice, intermediate and advanced. Students won't be going anywhere or doing anything until Al puts his name on them because they're representing us and him. The industry is very fickle and when you've got your name on someone and they can't perform, people will ring you up and say "they're one of yours? What are you doing?"
Is there a bar to entry?
SVDW: No, you can be a complete novice. At our last try-outs a lot of people were novices but we wanted to see passion, desire, heart, discipline. We need you to tell us why you want to be in it because we can only judge on physical appearance and what our instincts tell us. We have to delve deep because we're giving them our time and knowledge, accrued over years. The wrestling industry is tight and people won't give away their knowledge for free. You give the effort and the time, we're offering you a voice in the crowd. If you have one trainer, you'll be their technical clone. In our academy you're getting over 200 years of knowledge - different styles and abilities, high-fliers, psychology experts and it's that last facet that can be key. It's not about doing a move but at the right time for the right reason
BB: Some guys have it, some guys need a long time to learn it. We're going to help you to succeed. If you really have the heart and passion for it, you will succeed in the end. We want to make sure it's not a hobby, it's a lifestyle. Meanwhile, the variety of the trainers is amazing. You train five days with one and five another - so you switch around and add your own voice.
SVDW: Al is a stickler for that - you must have your own voice. You have to know how and why to do things - don't be a spot monkey. He'll see wrestlers doing spots for spots sake and demand to know why. They should know not to show their hand every time you come out. People get pulled in by the crowd because they're not thinking about the match or the show but themselves. The ego has taken over in wrestling. It's not you that needs to get over, it's the show.
BB: From the first to the last - if you throw everything out there in the first match what do you need the rest for because they've seen it all. You can start hot but then you slow and go up again.
SVDW: That's it and we're going to teach you all about it. We have turned people down. One wanted to quit his job, one to quite college but you need an education. Of course there's monetary value in this which is reflected in what we're doing but it's not the be all and end all. You need a backup plan. You can be in the ring. Five and ten matches in you break your neck or smash your elbow and you can't do it anymore. It has happened to so many people and you're only as relevant as what you're doing now.
Only halfway through and we're already being schooled! Make sure not to miss the forthcoming second part of our interview where we discuss the trainers, the range of training options and the plans for the academy...