Interview: Carrie Dunn – Author of “Spandex, Screwjobs, and Cheap Pops”
Carrie Dunn is a freelance journalist who has written articles for newspapers including The Guardian, The Independent, and The Times, as well as various magazines. She is also the author of books such as The Light Bulb Moment, A Brand New Bright Tomorrow, and Mothers In Fiction.
She is also a huge wrestling fan however, as being the Founding Editor of The Only Way Is Suplex (TOWIS for short) can attest, where Carrie delves into the depths of wrestling and offers opinions and insight into not only the latest in WWE and TNA, but the British wrestling scene in particular.
It is the last which is the focus of Carrie’s forthcoming book, Spandex, Screwjobs and Cheap Pops: Inside The Business Of British Pro Wrestling, in which she gains insight from promoters and wrestlers alike as to how British Wrestling is reviving itself.
I had the opportunity to ask Carrie about her thoughts on the British wrestling industry, and how the book came about.
What first attracted you to wrestling, and in particular the British wrestling scene itself?
For me, it’s the combination of sport and theatre – two of my great loves.
There are still many who would associate British Wrestling with the golden days of World of Sport. How dramatically have things changed since then, with the lack of mainstream television coverage and rise of the American powerhouses of WWE and (to a lesser extent) TNA?
World of Sport was massively influential on the British wrestling scene for years, so it’d be wrong to dismiss it out of hand. But there’s a common misapprehension that British wrestling began and ended with World of Sport – and of course it’s changed hugely since the loss of mainstream TV coverage and the concurrent rise in popularity of the American promotions.
However, on the up side, this has allowed for diversification here in Britain – there are dozens of companies around the UK catering for different tastes. Of course, they have much smaller audiences than the big monolithic companies did back in the day, but the product can still be exceptional.
What was it that prompted you to decide to write a book covering the current state of the British Wrestling industry? Was it at all influenced by the recent releases of All Or Nothing by James Dixon and Holy Grail by Greg Lambert?
After founding and editing my website The Only Way Is Suplex, I thought it would be great to finally have a book that looks at the UK wrestling scene as a whole as it is now – not looking back to how it used to be. So this book has been in the works for over a year, not influenced by any recent releases, although I did enjoy reading both the books you mention over Christmas – it just takes a long time for books to go from concept to the shelf!
I’m a fan of the scene as a whole, not a follower of one particular promotion, so I don’t have a particular axe to grind or one particular story to tell – I want to share the brilliant range of promotions and talent we have here in Britain and bring them to a wider audience.
For example, I’ve loved getting the chance to talk to people like Zack Sabre Jr, who gave me an exclusive interview on his return from Japan; Nigel McGuinness, who was absolutely fascinating when talking about his injuries and his recent documentary; Majik, who’s been very thoughtful and patient as I’ve interrogated him about his feelings on returning from retirement; Nikki Storm, who’s just as fantastic and feisty as she seems in the ring; the Blossom Twins, who look to be on a path to stardom; and the legendary Sweet Saraya Knight, who I admire hugely. I hope wrestling fans will be interested to read what they have to say.
Who do you expect to read this book, and what can they expect to gain from it?
I’m hoping for positive things for lots of people – I want the UK scene to be run well and for good companies and wrestlers to succeed, and hope the book can contribute to that.
I’m hoping fans of the UK indy scene will enjoy reading an insight into the companies and wrestlers they already know, and maybe they’ll be inspired to go to a show run by another promotion – just to see what it’s like. I hope that people who think that British wrestling ended with World of Sport might read it and realise what a great scene we have here. And I hope that people from abroad will read it, envy the amount of talent we have, and check out some DVDs!
You are obviously no stranger to writing books, having a number of them under your belt already, but were there any issues during the course of it or approaches you had to do differently than you would have with those, and do you feel that your journalistic experience was crucial in helping to do so?
That’s a tricky one. I think one of the biggest challenges with writing this book, and actually with writing about wrestling in general, is navigating ‘reality’ and ‘kayfabe’, and I hope I’ve managed to strike that balance.
The antics of the WWE crowd recently on the episode of Monday Night Raw after WrestleMania was attributed to a mostly European crowd, particularly the UK fans. How indicative is this of those who attend the various independent UK promotions that are growing in popularity?
Another tricky one. As I’ve researched the book I’ve found that crowds at different UK promotions have very distinctive personalities. Having said that, I do think the way British fans act at WWE or TNA shows is unique – the crowds in these arenas tend to be incredibly noisy, they have lots of fun, and they’re happy to show off their knowledge without being too smarky!
Is there any British promotion in particular that has captured your interest, and that you would suggest the fans keep an eye on?
Oh, there are so many! It depends where you live, how far you’re willing to travel, and the kind of wrestling you like to see – it just wouldn’t be fair for me to pick out one or two that would be appropriate for everyone. If you know what you like in your wrestling but don’t get along to many live shows, the book should highlight at least one or two promotions that might spark your interest.
For instance, I enjoy family-friendly shows, and I live in London, so it’s been great to see the development of Future Pro Wrestling; but I also like strong-style technique, so PROGRESS’s launch show has been one of my favourite things ever. But there are loads of great promotions all over the country, many of which I profile in the book – Preston City Wrestling, Insane Championship Wrestling up in Scotland, Welsh Wrestling, Triple X Wrestling, Pro Wrestling EVE, Bellatrix…the list goes on.
Actually, what I would recommend is if you see a show advertised in your area, be spontaneous, go along – it doesn’t matter if you recognise the name of the company or any of the wrestlers on the card, chances are you’ll find something to enjoy. A couple of years ago I was in Birmingham for the WWE Smackdown show and saw an ad for a tiny indy show in a function room attached to a pub – on arrival, the card included Noam Dar, Zack Sabre Jr, Marty Scurll, Eddie Dennis, Wild Boar, Mark Andrews, Shanna and the Alpha Female…not bad for a couple of quid!
And the same question for wrestlers currently competing on the British wrestling scene?
Ditto. Again. This would depend on the kind of wrestler you like, whether you’re character-driven or want to see technical chain-wrestling or prefer a balance of the two – although of course many of the best talent can switch it up and around (I’m not a fan of hardcore wrestling or deathmatches, so it makes me happy to see a talented wrestler like Jimmy Havoc show another side to his abilities on a family-friendly show). Do look around, though; I find it really rewarding (and obviously it makes me very smug) to follow the careers of wrestlers and see them do well.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
One of the best things about researching this book is having had the chance to speak to and get to know so many great people involved in British wrestling – promoters, wrestlers and fans. It’s a wonderful, vibrant scene – I really foresee even greater things in its future.
Thank You Carrie, it was a pleasure to interview you. Good luck with your book, which is already showing signs that it will be successful with a growing sales ranking within the wrestling category on Amazon UK.
Spandex, Screwjobs and Cheap Pops is available to Pre-Order now from Amazon UK, with a release date of 1st June.
You can follow Carrie Dunn‘s wrestling opinions and insight by checking out TOWIS (at TheOnlyWayIsSuplex.co.uk), as well as by following her on Twitter (at @carriesparkle), and her Facebook page for the book (at Facebook.com/spandex.carriedunn).