Advertisements

Ballancing Act: Irish Wrestler Seeks Further Success

bingoballance1

We sat down with Irish News Review wrestling columnist Gary “Bingo” Ballance to assess the current state of Irish wrestling and see what 2014 holds in store for the Zenith Of Zero Gravity.

What needs to be done to help Irish wrestling as a whole grow stronger in 2014?

I think television coverage would be a massive step forward but, on a smaller scale, an emphasis on quality shows and value for money for audiences each and every time would certainly be a good place to start.

Will we ever see the many Irish wrestling promotions unite to form one major promotion?

In my view? No. “Too many cooks…”, as the saying goes. Each promotion/promoter has an idea of what’s “good for business”, and the battle of egos would lead to a giant clusterfuck. That’s not a knock on anyone running a promotion at the moment. If I was running one, I’d have an idea of how I wanted things done, and have a method of working to that, and wouldn’t be particularly happy to work to someone else’s template. To be honest, I don’t think one giant promotion would be good even if it materialised; it would monopolise the number of spots available in the country- more so- and the lack of competition would lead to complacency. A bit of strong competition is always healthy, I think.

Could Irish wrestling ever turn into a full-time job for wrestlers like yourself?

If there were regular bookings for good money, and you could make a comfortable living? Sure. That’s not the current state of play in this country, though, as it stands, so it’s not an option. Not for me, anyway. Not at the moment.

Do you think the big American promotions underestimate Irish/European talent?

I don’t think so, no. They have a number of European wrestlers on their roster at the moment, and have previously featured the likes of Finlay and Regal in relatively prominent positions on their shows. I think they definitely appreciate what the likes of Barrett, Sheamus, Drew and Cesaro bring to the table, and the addition of these guys adds a bit of variety to the show, and a more hard-hitting, European flavour to proceedings. Part of Sheamus’ gimmick is that he’s Irish, so WWE can say they have an Irish wrestler as part of their show. Unless another Irish wrestler had something very special and something different to set themselves apart from him- like Fergal Devitt, for example- why would they take a gamble, and wade through all the visa crap and red tape, when they have hundreds, if not thousands of wrestlers on their doorstep? It’s just logistics, really, in my opinion.

What can Irish/European wrestlers do to have a better chance of getting noticed?

Get bigger, have contacts, and have something marketable to set themselves apart from anything WWE currently has.

You have faced and worked with a number of international wrestlers throughout your career. How would you describe that experience?

It’s varied, but each situation has provided invaluable experience, and something to learn from. I worked a Fatal 4 Way early in my career with Red Vinny, TJ Wilson (now Tyson Kidd) and Ricky Marvin, and it was an absolute mess. Marvin’s from Mexico, and was by far the most experienced of the four of us, and he laid out the match. Even at that stage of my career, it didn’t make a lick of sense to me, and I knew we weren’t gonna go anywhere near the time we’d been given for the match. It was an interesting experience, though, to just go out and see what happened. Similarly, working with Keni’chiro Arai was fun, back in 2007- I have pretty much no Japanese, and he only had a little English, but we managed to put a match together, and I really liked working with him. He was a gent. The experience working with some of the ex-WWE/WCW/ECW and/or ROH/TNA talent has varied. Some have been really sound (Doug Basham, Tracey Smothers, Daivari and Alison Danger, amongst others), while others like Raven and Vito behaved like prima donnas. It’s always cool to meet more experienced people, though, and pick up bits and pieces of advice, and tips to try and strengthen your own performance.

Two Irish talents were snapped up by WWE in 2013- that must be a huge boost for all to know the top American promotions are keeping tabs on Irish talent?

I can’t speak for the rest of the lads, really, just myself. I don’t get the impression that anything has changed, really. WWE still seem to be looking for what they’ve always looked for, and for those that fit their mold- unless you find a way to fit that mold and/or have the contacts in the organisation, a tryout or a shot at getting in there seems as elusive as ever.

Will Irish wrestling prosper in the future or are the numbers signing up for training declining?

I don’t think there’s been any noticeable decline in people joining training, really- not from what I’ve seen, anyway. I’d say that as long as trainees are getting information and advice from those with plenty of consistent in-ring experience and a broad knowledge of all aspects of professional wrestling- guys who know what they’re talking about, not bullshitters- and get the opportunity to learn and grow on shows, I have faith that the Irish scene will be in good hands in the years to come.   

bingoballance2

How would you describe the evolution of your character from your debut in 2005 until now?

It’s hard to say, really. Bingo Ballance and Gary Ballance are essentially one and the same, so any changes in “Bingo’s” personality or character would mirror my own experiences, and outlook. I don’t think I have sufficient objectivity to judge any changes in my personality over the years, but I’ve tried to stay true to who I am as a person outside the ring, as much as I can. When I started, I was fairly naive, and tightly-wound. Nowadays, I’m slightly less tightly-wound, a little more laid-back, and definitely more cynical. I doubt that would translate into my performances, though! One noticeable evolution, however, would be my comfort in the ring, and that’s something that people who know me have commented on. They’ve seen my early work, and my more recent work, and noted that I look more at ease and comfortable when I’m wrestling, and that’s definitely something I feel. It’s a nice place to be, mentally.

Which of your title reigns has been your most enjoyable and why ?

That’s a tough one, actually, and I don’t think I could actually pick a favourite one; each was enjoyable for different reasons. My first reign as IWW Zero Gravity Champion will always be special to me, for sentimental reasons. Holding the Wrestlezone Undisputed Title was great, too, as it was my first championship in a promotion overseas, and I have a great fondness for Wrestlezone, its wrestlers and its fans- it was cool to be Champion there, even for just a brief while. Winning the CCW Title last year, as well, was great in its own way as it was totally unexpected, and at a stage where I felt like I was winding down. That night in Cork helped prove to myself that I still had a little bit of the ‘old magic’, and was a confidence boost when I needed one.

What would you say has been the biggest eye opener for you during your time in the industry?

I don’t think I’ve really been that shocked by anything! I knew that things on an independent level wouldn’t be as glamorous, compared to WWE, and, to be honest, I wouldn’t change that for the world. It adds character. I’ve gotten changed in alleyways, men’s rooms, caravans, and every conceivable cramped or tight space, and slept on floors, couches, in airports, on massage tables, you name it! It’s been tough at times, frustrating at others, but this is something I love doing, and they’re stories and experiences I will remember in the long run. “Nothing in this world that’s worth having comes easy”, as they say. I think, on some level, this is why people have gotten behind the likes of Daniel Bryan and CM Punk- they know the work these guys have put in, and the sacrifices they’ve made over the years, to do something they’re truly passionate about.

Do you foresee any loopholes that may allow you to return to CCW to reclaim your title? Is that a path you would pursue if possible?

Certainly, yeah. Y’never know. I enjoyed most of my time with CCW, and was disappointed with the way things were left with them, so there’ll always be a part of me that lacks closure in that regard. That said, I’ve other commitments this year that I’m focused on and, unfortunately, they preclude me going back to CCW, for the time being. I wish them the best, though, for their shows this year, and hope they get on well.

Which promotion has been your favourite to work for?

I don’t think I really have one particular favourite, but I have a few I’ve enjoyed for different reasons. IWW, for a fair portion of my time there, was a fun place to work. I got to do shows, travel, and work with guys that had become my friends, and had some really enjoyable matches with the likes of Bam Katraz, Red Vinny, The Ballymun Bruiser and Vic Viper, amongst others. I enjoy working for Wrestling.IE, too, as it is a really professional-looking product, an actual brand for wrestling in this country, and a fantastic platform for Irish wrestling to, as it were, put its best foot forward. As well as getting the opportunity to wrestle in front of large audiences there, I’ve had the chance to work with other Irish wrestlers that I hadn’t been able to work with in Irish Whip, like Seán Brennan, Paul Tracey, Jordan Devlin and Dunkan Disorderly, for example. Abroad, I’ve had a blast anytime I’ve gone over to Wrestlezone in Scotland- they’re a really nice bunch of lads, hard-working, and the fans there are terrific.

IWW once seemed to be on the verge of great things but has stagnated in recent years. Why do you think the promotion where you first honed your skills has dropped off in recent years?   

I don’t really know, to tell you the truth. Their online presence has diminished considerably over the last few years, so it is kinda hard, in fairness, to track how they’re doing or what’s going on. I haven’t seen any of Irish Whip’s shows since I left in 2009, so I can’t really speak to the quality of their product, workers or training, and it would be unfair of me to speculate on. I do think it’s fair to say, though, that their presence on the Irish scene is not as strong as it would have been about five years ago, or so. 

Moving forward, would you say your primary focus is on training the Irish stars of tomorrow or performing in the ring?

I’ve gotta say my focus is on my own work for the time being; while I can still perform to a standard that I’m satisfied with, I want to keep going, and going strong. I enjoy training others- and if the option of a regular training position were there, I’d take it- but in the absence of that, I’m working away on my own thing. To be honest- not to put too much of a downer on this- I’ve helped people in the past and had it thrown back in my face, so I think it’s best to just work away, and concentrate on my own stuff. It’s easier and less head-wrecking that way!   

Where can fans see you in 2014?

Any Scottish supporters can catch me again in Wrestlezone this year, and I’m looking forward very much to heading back over. On home soil, I’ll be doing shows for Wrestling.IE, and whatever else crops up. 

Will 2014 be your breakout year?

Heh heh. I honestly don’t know. It’s too early to tell. I will definitely try to make the best of whatever situation I find myself in, though, and we’ll see what happens. I just want to have great matches, and if I can reach the end of 2014 proud of my work for the year, I’ll be happy.

Images courtesy of Brett Hadley

Advertisements
  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Advertisements
%d bloggers like this: