Many independent wrestlers wanting to learn more about their craft head overseas to England for the chance to work a full schedule. The “English Style” is respected and is quickly regaining a following. While stars like Doug Williams and Nigel McGuinness are currently making waves, Essex, England’s “Wonderkid” Jonny Storm was one of the first ones to wow North American crowds.
“The British style is not that renowned in England anymore because no one is doing it. When people do it in the U.S. it is seen as new and fresh but really it’s the old British style, just no one does it so they think it’s new. Americans come to England to learn from some of the old school guys and to work a lot, which you can’t do in the States,” Storm told SLAM! Wrestling. “You can wrestle up to five or six times a week, it is good experience to have. I am thankful I am English. I am glad I can wrestle, you see a lot of guys doing fantastic flips, but the bottom line is basic wrestling.”
At 26 Storm is already a veteran, breaking into the business in 1997. However he doesn’t consider his early years as “official.”
“I was a big fan of wrestling growing up, more the Americanized version then the UK style. British wrestling was on TV when I started watching it and it was older stuff like Big Daddy and Giant Haystacks, and I would watch it but wasn’t really into it. I was more into the WWF and that sort of stuff and you can tell how that has influenced my style today. I used to go to the odd local show, I was at a show one day and a guy was buying a ring. We would always go round back afterwards to get autographs and the guy asked if we wanted to start training and we said sure. My best mate at the time and I went upstairs and chatted to a guy who ran a school and it went from there. I spent four years in this shitty little school. It wasn’t a con but the guy was a lazy bastard who didn’t do anything, just took our money and we pissed around on mats every week. I don’t really count that as part of my career, but we learnt little things.”
Once Storm headed out on the circuit he truly began his career.
“It wasn’t until I broke out and started touring on the circuit that I really learned the job. I was lucky to learn from the best English wrestlers like Robbie Brookside and have matches with rounds which I hate doing but you learn a lot. My last time in Japan they made me do rounds and I knew how to work the match. Things like that are really good for your career. I can do the American style but I can mix it up a bit.”
Early on Storm met another young up and comer named Jody Fleisch. The two bonded and started generating a buzz, which spread to the U.S. where they took their feud to Ring of Honor and Combat Zone Wrestling. It was a feud that was born out of natural chemistry.
“It was one of those things where he and I went to the same school, he turned up a year after me. We did a couple of matches for that company and you could tell even then there was something there. There are wrestlers that just click when they get in the ring and Jody and me were like that. I was the only guy who flew in that company, and when he came in he did the same and it didn’t take a genius to think we should be put together. It was cool, but I didn’t think anything of it. We both left that company but we lived half an hour away from each other so we stayed in contact, he gave me some numbers of promoters and we hooked up from there and became best friends. We ate, slept, and breathed wrestling and were such good friends having so much in common, that has caused some of the greatest matches in wrestling when two people know each other really well and are great friends outside of wrestling.”
Fleisch has since retired due to nagging injury and his personal life, something that another well-known UK star, Alex Shane, has also decided to do. Storm is sad to see two men he respects walk away.
“Everyone is a little messed up in wrestling because you have to be. Jody is pretty mad but that is more his personal life and, his girlfriend, he can’t be without her. It’s a serious relationship, which is weird for me because I will just shag anyone. He is crazy about her; I have never seen anything like it. She was a big part of him retiring. Alex Shane is doing the same thing, which I guess means they have found the right one. There has only been one girl I would have quit wrestling for, and looking back on it now, if I had quit wrestling I wouldn’t be doing anything else.”
It can be frustrating to wrestle in the UK, as regardless of your talent you are often overshadowed by the U.S. stars that tour. Part of what appeals to North American stars is the chance to work daily on UK tours. Stars like American Dragon, Johnny Devine, TJ Wilson, Colt Cabana, Chad Collyer and many more have taken advantage of the opportunity.
“It annoys me that people think these American indy guys are on a different level then us because we are from England. Independent guys work for indy companies in the UK, but because they are American they are seen as more of a star then we are. That’s bullshit. They don’t do anything better then we do, it’s the same thing we do but they do it in America, so they are seen as big stars. When we come here not many people know who we are. That’s just the way it is. It is weird how Jody and me had to come to the States in order to get to that level in England. When we came back the first time people treated us like a big deal and it was strange because we are all wrestlers at the end of the day, we just do it in England.”
While a select few wrestlers are getting exposure in North America, it isn’t enough.
“It’s overdue, people do not look at England for talent anymore. My ticket for the Pro Wrestling Guerrilla show in April, the cost of my ticket from England to California was only $100 more than AJ Styles’ ticket from Georgia. Promoters think it will be so expensive to bring in talent from England and it’s not. There is a big misconception about that so promoters don’t look there. A lot of the websites cover the world, Japan, Puerto Rico, Mexico but there isn’t a section for England. England is one of the biggest wrestling territories in the world today. With the amount of shows there are in England how can it not have the press of other places that run one or two shows a month? That is the bottom line — we don’t get the publicity other places do, so we aren’t seen to be as a big deal.”
While some find Storm’s English accent hard to follow, he enjoys confusing people. Storm has quite the unique sense of humor.
“I like it because I take a piss out of people and they don’t understand me. I can say ‘you’re a twat’ and they don’t get it.”
While the stereotype of tea and biscuits doesn’t fit for Storm, he does fit other ones. Having been all over the world, the question has to be asked, where are the best fish ‘n’ chips?
“That is a tough one, I would have to sleep on it, eat a few fish and chips and get back to you. The promoter of Wrestle-aid in Japan calls me ‘Fish ‘n’ Chips.’ He calls me it ten times and day and it’s so unfunny, but Joe E. Legend and I find it hilarious.”
Storm’s experience in the U.S. has seen him on both coasts as well as in TNA, where he represented the UK in the “World X-cup” tournament in September of 2003, losing in the first round to Teddy Hart. He was scheduled to be on Team UK during the Team X-cup series but scheduling conflicts prevented it.
“I was offered Team UK but didn’t do it because FWA is my home company, and they had shut down for six months to revamp. The week that they wanted the Team UK, FWA was doing their restart show. FWA said we could do TNA but we had to come back for the FWA show and then go back out. We had really short notice as well. Originally it was me, Doug Williams, Robbie Brookside and Jody who they didn’t know had retired at the time. TNA didn’t want to pay for two flights, which was fair enough, and didn’t want us to do the FWA show. Doug and I were big stars there so we couldn’t do it. They left it and got in touch with Brookside who set them up with Brian Dixon who runs All Star and he put together his four guys Dean 2 Xtreme, James Mason, Robbie Dynamite and Frankie Sloan, good workers but it was short notice. That was the story behind that, the UK and Mexico didn’t really gel. TNA should have bit the bullet and paid for the tickets because the original four were more X-Division style. It wasn’t the British guys’ fault they were thrown in at the deep end.”
Back home, Storm has been involved in a few high profile events, including the highly successful supershow put on by The Wrestling Channel in March, and training hopefuls for ITV’s Celebrity Wrestling.
“It was wicked, the biggest indy show in England in fifty years they almost sold out the Coventry Skydome. My hat is off to Alex Shane who books FWA and put it together. It was a fantastic show and cost an absolute fortune. They broke even, which is unbelievable. The DVDs are what they are relying on because it has so much good press people are dying to see it. If there is one show from the UK people from North America should check out it is that one because it has something for everybody. I had a lot of fun.”
While Celebrity Wrestling may have been considered a flop, Storm had fun being part of it.
“I really enjoyed the Celebrity Wrestling the whole time because it was on such a big scale. ITV is the biggest channel over here so it was cool working with them and a really good experience to see how it all works backstage. I really liked the finished product, which I know almost everyone didn’t but that is partly because I was involved. I knew it wasn’t ‘wrestling’ — more like American Gladiators — and as long as you can accept that and give it a chance it was entertaining and at the end of the day its only good for UK wrestling if this thing got big as the bigwigs will see wrestling draws in ratings.”
Having built a reputation in Europe, America and Japan, Storm has already achieved more then he imagined as a lad, and is looking towards the future with a simple goal.
“I want to make some money. I worry about getting hurt all the time. It’s like Bret Hart says in Wrestling with Shadows he was worried about making money and not getting hurt. I want to be safe and have good matches and not screw up my body and have some money at the end of it. I don’t want to grow old screwed up. I want to make enough money to live comfortably and then I will slow down.”