Keith ‘Ruffneck’ Colwill has seen it all in his ten plus year career on the UK wrestling scene. In this exclusive and very candid interview with Collar & Elbow’s Chris Pilkington, he shares his thoughts on Preston City Wrestling, the recently released 1PW book, that incident with Jay Phoenix and much, much more!
Keith Colwill has a lot on his mind. With a prominent role alongside veteran Keith Myatt in Preston City Wrestling and a growing reputation as a real fan favourite, the immediate future looks decidedly bright. Yet it is the incidents and indiscretions of the past that weigh heaviest on his mind thanks to the recent release of a new book which chronicles the entire history of 1PW.
We caught up with Keith shortly after the most recent PCW show Guild Wars to address the blossoming promotion as well as to give him the platform to address several issues that he feels were misrepresented in the 1PW book.
You and your tag team partner Keith Myatt have become somewhat of a permanent fixture in Preston City Wrestling. How does the atmosphere in Preston compare to other promotions you have worked for?
Steven Fludder extended an opportunity to us and we have taken advantage of it and its paid dividends for myself, Keith and PCW. The most important thing about PCW is that it’s run like a business. [PCW owner Steven] Fludder does not want to be thrust into the limelight. It’s certainly not a vanity project for him to thrust himself on the shows. He takes satisfaction from PCW being the promotion that everyone is talking about and not Steven Fludder. Don’t get me wrong though everyone has an ego in this business including Steven but he’s all about Preston City Wrestling and what great shows it can put on.
As for the atmosphere, it’s the best I’ve ever come across since 1PW/FWA. The fans love their wrestling there and there is an awesome mix of people who come to the shows. I brought about ten people with me who are not hardened wrestling fans and now they love it so much that they can’t wait for the next show. They are making weekends of it and bought into every match and loved every minute of it. I guarantee you that they will bring friends too and that’s what its all about.
I’ll be honest with you: me and Keith are touched by how the fans have taken to what we do out there. Every time we go out there the crowds go crazy for us and chant “M.O.B! M.O.B!” like you wouldn’t believe. And it’s kids, it’s Mums and Dads, it’s young lads having a pint, it’s an older generation of fan from the World Of Sport days… it ranges across the demographics. I think the (M.O.B) gimmick has got over with them because we are like the fans, we’re working class, we have no airs and graces about us and people love to see us drink beer and kick a bit of ass now and again. We’re a very relatable gimmick and when were are having fun then that shows and then the fans in turn have fun which in turn makes for a truly special atmosphere that we all know and love at Preston City Wrestling.
PCW has generated a lot of buzz over the last ten months as one of the fastest growing promotions in the country. What do you feel is the key ingredient that has allowed it to progress so rapidly, and what, if anything, do you think is missing for them to step up to the next level?
The key component to PCW is variety, plain and simple. It’s the age old analogy of the three ringed circus where if you don’t like the trapeze act then you will like the clowns. If you don’t like the clowns then maybe the lion tamer will grab your attention and that’s exactly what PCW is like. There are fast paced matches that are full of work rate. There is high flying matches, there is brawling, there are characters, there is technical wrestling from the best around and then you got named talent like John Morrison that will always grab the attention of fans.
PCW has a great formula with a great set up and continues to strive with innovation like Blu Ray and even 3D. Though it’s early stages, it looks like the next stop is going to be TV and I’m convinced that people will enjoy it. The best way to enjoy Preston City Wrestling though is to get yourself to a show live and in person because the atmosphere is off the hook and the guys who work and represent PCW bring their ‘A game’ at every opportunity. It’s no secret that PCW are the fastest growing promotion in the UK and along with other top promotions around, are a contributing factor to British Wrestling making a resurgence.
With the likes of Akira Tozawa and Colt Cabana appearing for the company, as well as Davey Richards and John Morrison still to come, do you think that PCW has the potential to learn from the mistakes that 1PW made and make promoting shows with a mix of UK and imported talent a viable business plan?
It is viable to incorporate imports and generate revenue too. IPW:UK are testament to that, however based on the current roster that we have I’m absolutely convinced that PCW would generate great crowds regardless of them being there or not. Imports have always been used correctly at PCW and that is to compliment the card and the promotion.
One thing that Steven Fludder is is a businessman and then a promoter, and one that has his head screwed on right. If he doesn’t think it will work or is not financially viable then he won’t do it. He knows the pitfalls of what has happened with other promotions and sees the holes that other promotions have got also. He’s not the perfect promoter though and still has a hell of a lot to learn so he needs to keep his feet firmly on the ground and listen.
I’ve seen a lot of promoters hit dizzy heights and then plummet to rock bottom because they glowed in their strengths but never worked on their weaknesses over time. Fludder has shown an incredible aptitude for the business though which reflects on how great the promotion is at present. Long may it continue.
Speaking of other promotions, I know you’re somewhat unhappy about some of the comments made in the recent 1PW book with regards to how the Jay Phoenix incident is portrayed. (To give a little context, Keith hit Jay Phoenix during the interval of a 1PW show, an attack that he feels was provoked by Phoenix, and was subsequently banned from several shows).
Steven Gauntley ain’t got the first clue about what happened. What I said in the book is fact. One thing I don’t do is b******t and I pride myself on the fact that I’m a straight shooter and tell it like it is. Some people appreciate that and some people don’t but for him to come crawl out of the woodwork and come out with that line of c**p is nothing short of outstanding. I thought quite highly of Steven Gauntley and despite his shortcomings, that were abundantly clear, I made a point of showing my appreciation of what he did for myself and Pain Inc in the 1PW book. I guess Gauntley’s true colours and thoughts of me are truly reflective in the book despite the amount of times I went out to bat for him and for that matter every incarnation of 1PW.
If you read that book you would think of me as some sort of mindless thug who was an incompetent worker and also an eater of kids for Christ sake. What p****s me off the most about the book is the fact that there was people in there like Gauntley who was given the opportunity to retort to some aspects of questioning of himself (and others for that matter). I think it’s a disgrace that some people were given that chance and other like me were not afforded such a luxury.
I’m all for people having opinions on me, hell I know there are people in wrestling who probably hate my guts for whatever reason and that’s fine, because right or wrong it’s their opinion and they are entitled to it. For me though I would have extended the chance to respond to such things. If someone asked me about being part of a book again I’d certainly think twice about doing it.
Gauntley also claims that you were probably happy that Jay had been involved with the public scandals as if it justified everything you ever did to him (Jay was recently found guilty of possessing indecent underage photographs and committing an indecent act at a swimming pool). What do you make of that comment?
That is possibly the most sickening thing I’ve ever heard in my entire life. That implies that I’m happy that he did vile things to children just so I could say “look I told you what he’s like”. I mean c’mon that is absolutely f*****g disgusting and I resent the accusation. In fact Gauntley can take his comments and stick them up his a**e, because the more I think about that comment the more it winds me up.
Now I’ve always accepted responsibility for my actions with regards to Jay Phoenix but here’s the flip side to the coin. Back at the 1st 1PW show when I went up to Gauntley and said do yourself a favour and do not hire that kid because of all the s**t that comes with him, then he wouldn’t have been there for me to give him a crack in the first place. Now I could easily say that and so many things could have been avoided, like the time he allegedly went ballistic when he had to drop the title or the time (which is sickening even more given the gravity of what he has done outside the confines of wrestling) which was telling all in sundry that he had visited loads of terminally sick kids and given them loads of toys and was their saviour. It came to light that it was all b*****t and he was so mentally unstable that he made that s**t up to get himself over.
Seriously I could go on and on about all the things he did that could have been avoided had other wrestlers advice to Steven been listened to but to its all history now. I guess you wouldn’t have got all those wonderful five star classics that Jay Phoenix was in or that match with Samoa Joe where he broke his jaw (Joe was too professional that day too), but hey, what do I know? I’m just the guy who turns up to shows and begs for work allegedly.
Steven Gauntley also claims that you weren’t booked for the show in Barnsley the night the incident occurred. Is that true?
I can count how many shows I’ve been to a show where I was not booked, and that isn’t one of them. Myself and Sabotage were booked to do a run in to get us back in the frame of things but Sabotage pulled a no show and left me there in Barnsley looking like a p***k. At that point Gauntley said if you both aint here I aint got anything for you, which was disappointing but it was fair enough given the fact that Pain Inc were booked, not Ruffneck, so I said fair enough. I did actually pitch to be the enforcer/referee in the Stone v Iceman match but it was decided that was not a good idea so I left it at that.
You make mention of the fact that a lot of people hated Phoenix yet they failed to back you up after you hit him. What kind of effect did that have on you at the time?
Typical wrestlers to be fair, all mouth and very little action. If you say you’re going to do something then just get on with the b*****d and do it because talking about it won’t get the job done. Like I said before, the only thing I regret about that day was the fact that it was done in front of the fans which is a cardinal sin and should never of happened there. There were wrestlers like Dragon Aisu who said they were gonna f**k him up and do this that and the other to him but he never did. To be fair though as much as Dan is someone who I don’t dislike and actually respect him for writing this book, he couldn’t knock the skin off a rice pudding. To his credit though he had the fans convinced he was some sort of tough guy wrestler so in that respect he had that level of believability, but outside of a worked environment he’s soft as s***e.
There was quite a few wrestlers that day who after it all went off, came up to me and said he had that coming but were looking over their shoulder to make sure Gauntley and co were not looking at them. Guys did not want to be seen associated with me and I was pretty much ostracised for my actions. Sure everyone said that I was the man for doing what I did but it’s not like any of them stood up for me when I got banned from shows and Phoenix was working at 1PW. There were actually guys there who I helped put words in for to get spots at 1PW who did absolutely f**k all to help me out but that to be fair should have come as no surprise. If you got two true friends in wrestling then that’s good, if you got three true friends then your doing really well, if you think you have more than that then your f*****g kidding yourself.
Moving forward to 2007 and the first closure of 1PW, where you surprised at how quickly the financial situation had deteriorated?
The whole thing with 1PW was that it gave away far too much too soon. Loaded cards that on paper looked great but realistically the company needed to be turning profit to make sure the new show was just as loaded as the last. The thing is if you give everything away too soon then how do you top it? Straight away you have put yourself in a corner and made the promotion unsustainable if you are not making money which 1PW clearly wasn’t doing.
To be fair to Steven he probably had that many people in his lug hole that he didn’t know which way to turn. By the time he developed a backbone to tell people “no” it was too late which was a shame. As I mentioned in the book I saw such a dramatic change with Steven from being a good humble individual to a paranoid unscrupulous person with a progressively worsening drinking habit. The business consumed him and spat him out like yesterdays left-overs.
You also talk in the book about the 1PW academy which produced a lot of talent that quickly found its way onto the 1PW shows. Do you feel this was a cost cutting measure or a way to try and create new stars?
Gauntley was obsessed with creating home-grown talent and I think both factors had a major part to play in it. There were some guys there that had talent but they had nowhere the level of experience to have been on them shows. They were really high on Gary Player who was the standout of the school but he was greener than The Hulk’s dirty underwear and again was getting thrust far too quickly into the forefront. Again if they had given him another year and built him up rather than force feeding him to the fans then he would have been in with a shout but again 1PW owners never had the patience to ride things out which was to the detriment of the talent they were trying to push.
Bottom line is if you force-feed the fans then they will grow to resent it and that’s what happened to those lads. Some were more capable than others but being capable and being ready are two separate entities in pro wrestling. I saw experienced guys trying to help some of them out and they thought they knew better and turned their nose up at it because Gauntley was blowing sunshine up their a******e and started to believe their own hype….shame really.
In 2008, 1PW changed hands and you quickly found yourself falling out of favour with with the new owners. How did that feel?
I wasn’t surprised. As I mentioned in the book I’ve had my run ins in the past with Aisu and it was always a combustible relationship. It would seem that in the past we used to rub each other up the wrong way. Something that was omitted from the book was a situation where I was trying to help out. I have a good handle on things and see the bigger picture and was not looking to get myself over but to compliment elements. At one point I was advised by doctors to give up wrestling due to suffering a mild stroke and due to repeated head trauma over the years. I took their advice begrudgingly and Gauntley came up with a role for me as a co -gm which I thought could be fun. It had legs and was fun but it was clear Aisu didn’t like it. At one point there was an angle where Joey turned and joined the Damned Nation. For me it was logical to be out there as he was my tag partner and it added a bit of drama. Aisu turned around to me and said “This aint about you dude” and I was f*****g livid but due to the Jay phoenix incident I could not do a great deal without getting fired so I bit my lip.
For days after I stewed on it, once I have something grinding my gears I can’t let it go. I didn’t have his number and people were reluctant to give me it so I sent him an email and aired what I thought and basically asked him for his address so I could drive from Manchester to the North East to sort it out. To be fair he sent me a reply but made it clear he wanted no part of it which was fair enough Some people would have said f**k it lets f*****g have you and others fold like a bad hand of poker. Dan is clearly is no poker player.
When I had that match at Mortal Kombat (against former partner Joey Hayes) anything that could have gone wrong did and even though it wasn’t as bad as how Dan made it out to be in the book it was not great and could not live up to the hype. I was in a lose/lose situation. If the match was great Joey would have got the plaudits. If the match was s**t then I would carry the can and I knew that going in. I know for a fact that there were people actually praying for a match that would not live up to expectations and they got what they wanted. Why they would do that I dunno but that was the final nail in the coffin for me.
I got cast to the side by Aisu and co on the strength of one match which I thought sucked. Dan has gone on to say he thought it was my swansong match. I genuinely do not know where that came from but I certainly never gave that impression but that might be another classic case of 1PW miscommunication. I got a second and third opinion off doctors to make sure I was ok to wrestle and they were happy for me to do so as long as I didn’t absorb too much to the head and was selective with what I did, which to this day still holds true. So when I was given the ok that should have been a clear indication I was back. But going back to what I said before I was judged on one match which is complete b******s.
What about all the other matches or other involvement I had in 1PW? What about the feud that Pain Inc had with The Chavs that received rave reviews? If the fans had turned around and said “Ruffneck sucks and he shouldn’t be there” then fair enough but based on the responses I got from the crowds I was always well received win, lose or draw and always gave them all I had. Even the guy who reviews the matches in the book doesn’t have a bad word to say about my performances in 1PW.
You mention that a lot of wrestlers would rather “milk the cow dry for what it’s worth today rather than what it could be worth tomorrow.” Do you think that certain wrestlers wage demands ultimately played a part in the downfall of the company?
I still think that to this day. There are very few businessmen in wrestling and there short sighted way things work in their minds is mind boggling but that goes back to the carnie nature of wrestling. When the wrestlers saw Gauntley as a money mark they were all over him like white on rice and exploited his good nature and lack of business acumen to the max. Wrestlers live for today and don’t think about tomorrow which when a golden opportunity like 1PW came around they raped pillaged and plundered the promotion. Don’t get me wrong everyone who owned 1PW have to accept accountability as well but British wrestling had a golden goose there and it was abused to the point of it becoming just another promotion.
Like I said it was not just outlandish wage demands that killed 1PW. The fish stinks from the head down at the end of the day but I just think if wage demands had been that little bit more conservative that the company would have had a fighting chance to grow. As the company grew and the wrestler proved his worth then his wages would grow with the company. That’s how business works and that’s how sustainability and growth work.
If 1PW were ever to rise from the ashes, do you think it could have a successful run, or is the 1PW name too tarnished?
No chance. That name should have been rebranded when Aisu and co took over but they thought it had worth. Bottom line is it didn’t and was quite toxic at that point. I remember going to Sheffield with Dannny Rodd to have a business meeting where the guys who co promoted the Sheffield show wanted to re-brand the company. I honestly thought with the combination of using their skill set and our skill set that the potential of doing something special was a doable option. Unfortunately Rodd would not sign the agreement and did not come to fruition. Who knows what could have come of it. Some things were meant to be but in the end 1PW despite a lot of fabulous memories is best laid 12 feet under. I would question the business skills of anyone who tried to resurrect that name again.
This article was written by Chris Pilkingon.