Health

Wrestling With Anxiety

Reading Time: 14 minutes

Original Article

– “Children should be seen and not heard” – Robert Inch

My dad died the night of Wrestlemania 21, the 3rd April 2005, and I was relieved. He was the greatest man you’d ever meet – when he was sober. Unfortunately, alcohol took over his life from when I was about 7 onwards, leaving him an abusive bully. Not physically, emotionally.

When I was younger, he liked control. He controlled me, but he did it subtly. We seemed like the best behaved kids ever, but we had to ask for a glass of water in our own home. And we weren’t allowed to accept an offer in anyone else’s. If I ever did pluck up the courage to mutter a word in front of anyone, my dad would belittle me.

And that’s my first memory of anxiety.

Amongst all the madness of my childhood, there was one thing that I could hide away and enjoy and that was professional wrestling. I could immerse myself in this over- the-top dramatic sport, and get so enthralled in it that it would offer me the chance to forget about everything else that was going on around me. It provided my  imagination the opportunity to seek refuge in a world where it would be possible for someone like me to stand up to someone like my dad.

As I grew older and stronger, my dad wrestled with the grips of alcoholism and I watched him waste away. I could have put a stop to the abuse, but the control he had  over us would never have allowed it.

In his later years, my brother and I would be up into the wee hours on school nights, picking my dad up after he’d fallen down the stairs again, cleaning up his sick and putting him to bed whilst my mum was on nightshift at work. My mum was working full time to try and support our family and did everything she could to bring happiness  to our lives.

It was a Monday that I came downstairs to see my dad luminous green with a look of vulnerability in his eyes I’d never seen before – as if he’d finally realised what he’d done. He spent the next week in the ICU as they flushed 16 litres of toxic fluids out of his body after his kidney and liver had given up. Although I’d had the past 15 years of putting up with his shite, before that, he was my hero and I watched him dying in a hospital bed with tubes and wires surrounding him.

On the night of April 3rd, he sent me home to watch Wrestlemania, because he knew how much it meant to me. I can’t remember what time it was that I got the call, but  I remember I got to watch Hulk Hogan smash Muhammad Hassan and Davari. Still, the call came – it was my brother crying. I had to go back to the hospital, and I had to do it now if I wanted to say goodbye. I remember the taxi taking 25 minutes to come, but because my anxiety was so bad, I couldn’t call the company to ask them why they were late, even in such extreme circumstances.
Nevertheless, I got there, I said goodbye, and what happened next I’d rather keep private. It was traumatic, but at the same time, relieving. And that was that.

 

– “I’m going to be a Wrestler” – Andrew Inch

I was finally free of the control, but I’d had so many years of being made to feel like I was worthless, that I truly believed it. For the next year, I over indulged with food and cigarettes and I couldn’t care less about my health which meant that I was 17 and weighed more than 20 stone. Of course, the vicious cycle was, the more I ate, the more anxious I was, so the more I would eat.

It was May, I was leaving high school, and I remember I had stayed up late watching wrestling, which was the norm. I lay in bed, and I burst out crying. The  realisation hit me that I, 20 stone, 17 year old me, could never be a wrestler. At the time I felt like I was so worthless, shy, over weight and un-athletic, that I could never be one of the super human, charismatic wrestlers I obsessed about. I remember just crying myself to sleep that night, at 17 years old, feeling like my  dream couldn’t possibly be further away.

I told my mum about it the next day, and how down I felt. That was the turning point. That was when I said to her, “I’m going to be a wrestler”. So I googled and researched every piece of advice or information I could find on dieting and wrestling training. I found a bog standard template of a body builders cutting diet – egg whites, porridge, chicken and veg and protein shakes. I also found out about a Summer pro wrestling training camp taking place in Kent in September. I had the prospect of travelling to Kent on my own, and for the first time up until that point, I wasn’t anxious. The same day my mum took me to my local gym and set up and paid for a gym membership for me.

On my first session at the gym, I was running on the treadmill and needed to take my jumper off. As I began to pull it over my head, I stopped running (obviously never a wise move when on a treadmill). The next thing I knew I was on the ground, my jumper over my head, my pot-belly hanging out, the whole gym staring at me and I had what was left of a 4×4 metre mirror smashed into a million pieces all around me. Not the start I wanted, to be fair.

From the May to the September I had gone from over 20 stone, to about 14 stone. I had never been more determined and focussed in my entire life.

 

– *In a strong English gangster-like accent* “Half you c***s won’t even make it to the end of the week, let alone the WWE” – Andre Baker

As a true wrestling fanatic, I packed everything I thought I’d need for my weeks training at the NWA-UK Hammerlock Training Camp; every wrestling T-shirt I owned (and  there was plenty), a brand spanking new set of amateur wrestling boots and my D Generation X “suck it” bomber jacket. I took the train from Kirkcaldy to Ashford in Kent and arrived at The Fat Fiddler, my accommodation for the week, which would be best described as a hell hole. I couldn’t have been happier to be there after eagerly introducing myself to the lady proprietor, who shouted to her husband, “one of the wrestlers are here”. I was taken up to my room – it was a converted loft room in which you couldn’t swing a cat, I could hear people fighting in the pub downstairs and screaming out in the streets, but there I was, proudly “one of the wrestlers”.

The next day I turned up to the hall, we go in, there was about 30 of us. All different shapes and sizes, all a bit weird, all nervous and I finally felt for the first time in my life, that I fitted in. The most intimidating man and woman I’d ever seen came in (Andre and Amanda Baker), along with a beautiful young man, with the most glorious fringe (Zack Sabre Jr.) – they were to be our coaches for the week. They lined us up, we filled out the necessary forms and handed over our money.

And that’s when we got our speech from Andre – who went on to speak about who he’d previously trained over the years, what to expect and then he crushed our dreams by telling us, “half you c***s won’t even make it to the end of the week, let alone the WWE.”

The camp was the hardest thing I’d ever done, it was a combination of fitness and wrestling drills, shoot wrestling, and basic professional wrestling skills. There was a wrestling ring in the room the entire week, but we didn’t get to go in it until pretty much the last day, we were bumping on paper thin judo mats on the community hall floor. The evenings consisted of drinking, led by the guys from NWA-UK Ireland – who all lent me a piece of clothing each cause they refused to go out with me wearing my wrestling t-shirts.
Andre was right, by the end of the week we were down from 30 to about 10 people. It was the best week of my life.

 

– “Are you ready?” – Jon Ryan

I continued to go on NWA training camps in England, Ireland and Wales throughout the next 18 months, which helped me become more and more confident. I was loosing weight, training and dieting – and I really felt I was on the way to becoming a wrestler. During this time I made my in-ring debut at The Margarate Winter Gardens in a royal rumble. I had come prepared for my debut with my amateur wrestling boots and my urban camouflage trousers that I had bought specially from The Indoor Market in Kirkcaldy. At the time I took it as a great honour to debut – I stepped through the curtain and saw, standing in the ring Zack Sabre Jr, Danny Garnel, Jon Ryan, Jimmy Havoc and a big wrestler called Kurupt. I took a breath, and I ran full speed at the ring. I slid under the bottom rope, into a kneeling position and Danny Garnel volleyed me in the chest, so hard that I farted and nearly followed through. The kick literally lifted me up to a standing position and I was face-to-face with Zack who was laughing hysterically, he forearmed me in the face so hard that I saw a flash. I spun around and was facing the corner post, I then felt hands around my waist, and Jon Ryan whispered in my ear, “are you ready?” and before I could say yes, I was on top of my head in the corner, on the other side of the ring. It was great.

I found W3L, and started training there. But a wrestling coach from Glasgow who-shall-not-be-named, found out that I’d trained at Hammerlock, and asked me to come across to his training school in East Kilbride. Shortly after, his training school passed over to Kid Fite and became The Scottish Pro-Wrestling Academy. I trained there from 2007-2011. By 2011 my wrestling career had really kicked off, I was wrestling every weekend in the UK and often in Europe, whilst always still attending wrestling training in Glasgow on a Sunday. I’d still always be the first person there (thanks anxiety), and the last person to leave.

 

– “Alright mate, where the fuck have you been?”

2011-2012 is when it really kicked off for me, I was wrestling regularly in decent matches and there was a buzz about me. I’d had the best of five series with Liam Thomson awarding me a fan following and notoriety amongst the ICW faithful’s. I then started getting matches with Noam who I’d been training with from the start and who was my best friend within and outwith the wrestling bubble. With Noam Dar, I could wrestle with my eyes shut, and my anxiety in those 10-15 minutes was  non-existent. Doors started opening for me, meaning I was wrestling for other promotions and in higher profile matches.

However, without really noticing, wrestling had gone from being my release from reality and anxiety, to my main trigger. I felt like as long as I kept moving, reality wouldn’t catch up with me. I had adopted Andy Wild as my armour to the world – I had blurred the lines between my wrestling persona and my true self. I  preferred to be confident, charismatic Andy Wild, rather than anxiety-riddled, over-weight Andrew Inch. At the time I felt like I could take on the world, looking  back, it was probably the start of the snowball effect which would lead me to eventually feeling completely lost.

The pinnacle of my run, and my highest personal achievement within wrestling came in the form on a World Heavyweight Championship Title, at PWE in September 2012.
I’d finally been given the stage I needed against the right opponent, in the right setting, at the right time, with the right build-up. That night I won the match, Noam handed me the belt, and the roster came out to the ring clapping and hoisted me up onto their shoulders. But it wasn’t Andy Wild that was on Wolfgang’s shoulders, clutching a heavyweight belt, with a cheering crowd – it was 17 year-old Andrew Inch. Who thought that he’d never be able to be a wrestler, and finally, he was.

It’s a 100 mile journey from Ayr to Kirkcaldy, and I cried the whole way home*
*Home – a bedroom in my 8-month-pregnant girlfriends mums house. Just over a month after the biggest night in my wrestling career, my son was born. All of a sudden I’m standing there with a baby in my hands. There’s no drink, no party, no fans cheering. There was only Andrew Inch, an immature little boy who’d never really grown-up outside of wrestling. Alone. Re-united with an old friend. It literally felt like anxiety was standing next to me, with his arm around me, saying “alright mate, where the fuck have you been?”

 

– Hannah

Back to July 2011, when I met Hannah. She was my first obsession outside of wrestling, the first person I’d experienced who gave me the same relief from my anxiety  that I thought wrestling did. We were infatuated with each other, and things moved really fast for us – although it never felt like it.

I first saw her in a nightclub and it was your typical, eyes meet across the room, the sound disappears, a beam of light shines down upon her, and it was love at  first sight. So of course, instead of going to speak to her – I did the super cool thing, which was find out her name, and go home to add her on Facebook.

From Hannah’s point of view, there was some goofy guy, staring at her with a massive goofy smile on his face, from across the crowded club for what was uncomfortably  too long. She then gets a friend request from said guy, clicks on his profile, and sees him in spandex pants, play fighting with other men. Carlsberg don’t do first  impressions, but if they did – this wasn’t it.
At this point, Hannah didn’t even know wrestling was even a thing any more. This was good in many ways – it meant I could talk about it loads (every wrestler loves to do that), and to be fair she did a good job at pretending to be interested. But it also meant that she had no idea who Andy Wild was, so for the first time in a long time, I had no choice but to be Andrew Inch.

 

– Jacob Robert Inch

By the next February, we found out that we were pregnant. We had only been dating for 7 months, Hannah was only 19, we lived with our parents, and all I’d ever really focused on was me and my wrestling career. Even through her pregnancy, wrestling was still my main concern. November came, Jacob was born, and it was even tougher than anyone told us it would be. Nobody can prepare you for becoming a dad, especially when you have mental health problems.

I’m now not just juggling my wrestling career with anxiety, I’m suddenly a dad who’s had no example set of how to be a dad. I have a girlfriend who’s really unwell and completely relying on me as well as a new born baby.

Like most new mums, Hannah suffered from post-natal depression. So whilst I’m doing three nightshifts a week for work and wrestling all weekend, Hannah’s at home trying her hardest with a new-born baby who would.not.sleep. and she needed me. I had a choice to make – and I chose my family. Wrestling had to take a back seat. There was no way that I could have let Jacob grow up with a dad that wasn’t dedicated, and who he couldn’t count on.
It was the best decision I’ve ever made.

 

– “You don’t look like someone who would have anxiety” – my doctor

As I started letting wrestling promotions down, over the next few years they called for me less and less. Understandably, to them – I couldn’t be relied upon. What the wrestling community couldn’t see is that, I was being relied upon. At home, with my now fiancé and young son. I wouldn’t change it for the world – I got to spend quality time with Jacob in his first years, watching and helping him grow, and being the dad that I always wanted. I still wrestled every odd weekend, some promotions stayed very loyal to me. But to progress my families life, I took an opportunity to start a career in the motor trade. This meant being away from Jacob, but it meant I could provide a better life for us. I worked 60 hours a week, 6 days a week, which meant even less time for wrestling. It didn’t take long for the bookings to dry up almost completely. It didn’t matter how happy and complete my family made me feel, there was always a part of me that felt so outcast and far away from my dream of being a wrestler.

Fast forward to 2015, I was in a job I absolutely hate but working for my family that I absolutely love. I was 20 stone again and telling anyone who would listen that I was “bulking”. Any effort to hold on to anything to do with wrestling was completely un reciprocated, I pretty much lost all contact with friends, my relationship with Hannah was strained and eventually it got to the point where I couldn’t cope. I had lost complete control and I could no longer hide it.

Hannah made me go to the doctor. As much as I’d wanted to go for help, the idea of lifting a phone and asking for it was completely out of the question. I find it funny when you see things on social media or on the TV about support with mental health, but when you feel so numb and so lost, asking feels like climbing mount Everest. The only way I can attempt to describe my anxiety at this point is like standing in a really crowded pub, with all the talking and talking and talking going on in your head, but your voice isn’t strong enough to reach above the noise. You might not be alone, but you feel alone.

I plucked up the courage to go with Hannah to doctor, and like a massive kick in the balls, my GP turns around to me and says, “you don’t look like someone who would have anxiety”. What the fuck does that mean? What does someone with anxiety look like? Apparently not a big guy in a suit.

He prescribed me medication and I continued on it for a year, although at a few points I thought I was miraculously cured and came off it for a while. I felt like I could breathe again, and I was finally gaining back control of my life.

Early 2016 I was offered another job, still in the motor trade, but in a family-run dealership. The atmosphere was so different than your usual competitive sales job,  it was like a weight lifted off my shoulders. And it helped that the pay was better too. Jacob was becoming more independent, Hannah had everything at home totally under control, allowing me to have something that I hadn’t had since 2012 – time.

 

-“This can’t be it”

During 2016 I was contemplating calling it a day with the wrestling. I had my family, I had my career, and I was back in control of my mental health. I thought myself so lucky, I didn’t think I needed anything else. Until I got a phone call from Mark Dallas, asking me to wrestle Noam one more time before he left for the WWE. The morning after that match I came downstairs to Hannah, genuinely upset, and said “this can’t be it”.

That point gave me the motivation I found when I first said I was going to be a wrestler at 17. I wasn’t willing to let something I’d worked so hard for, disappear. Being back in the ring with Noam reassured me that wrestling was something I was good at, and now with having achieved everything else I wanted to outside of wrestling, and with finally having come to terms with having anxiety and learning how to control it where possible, I could give wrestling the attention it needed, and with the right frame of mind.
Over the next year and a half with the help of an old friend, I worked night and day to get myself back into good physical condition. The bookings started to trickle back and I finally found the right balance between the wrestler and the dad.

 

-“Dear Mr. Regal”

July of 2017 I decided to take my fate into my own hands and plucked up the courage to contact the WWE, hoping to be considered for the November Manchester try-outs. After I sent the email, in anticipation of receiving a reply, I started training towards it. And I also checked my emails every twenty minutes for about 6 weeks.
It was then on one Friday evening when I was on my way to the Chinese to pick up my take away, when I refreshed my emails for the billionth time, I had an invitation to the try-out. Obviously I still ate the Chinese, IIFYM and all that (it didn’t).

I felt validated, nervous and so bloody excited.

 

– “Andrew Inch No.1”

Like I’d come full circle, here I am again, on a train from Kirkcaldy heading towards a massive opportunity. 11 years have passed and in my mind, I was always going to get to this point, I just didn’t think the road to get here would be less like a road and more like a rollercoaster. I have a beautiful fiancé, absolutely amazing little boy, a new dream home, a brilliant job, and this was the last thing I needed to achieve, to have achieved all of my dreams.

The morning of the try-out I woke up in the hotel room, and it was overwhelming. I took a deep breath and just told myself that if this was my one opportunity to prove myself, I absolutely could not let anxiety get in the way. I arrived at the arena, and made my way to the ring. I walked up the iconic metal steps, wiped my feet on  the apron, stepped through the ropes. Shouted my name and shouted my number – Andrew Inch number 1.

I’ve spent twenty-two years letting anxiety control almost every aspect of my life. It’s taken almost as long to understand that acknowledging it, respecting it and understanding it is the key to dealing with it. I’m not cured, and I never will be. But I live on the basis of trying to have more good days than bad. And I promise you that if you feel the way that I have, although it doesn’t feel like it, your dreams are attainable. You’ve just got to keep on moving forward.

That young lad crying in his bed had just got into a WWE ring, as a wrestler, and God it felt good… here’s to the next chapter

 

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