The Life and Times of Charlie Fatt Part 4

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This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 4th September 2012.

The saga so far…

A long time ago, in a Welsh valley far, far away, I’ve become Charlie Fatt, professional wrestling referee. After an outrageous career of hardcore matches, cheating wrestlers and general shenanigans, I’ve decided to leave the UK. It’s time for Charlie to “die”.

My final show with NWA Hammerlock / Celtic Wrestling is only a few days away. My good friend, wrestling champion and promoter, Karl “Caiman” Griffiths and I have decided that Charlie deserves a send off. That is, my character needs to be written out of the wrestling storyline.

Between shows, I’ve been training with the wrestlers on weekends. Surprisingly, this rarely involves the ring. Most sessions start with some cardio work, followed by stretches. We then lay crash mats on the floor and start to practice the moves. I’ve become reasonably proficient with chain wrestling, that is, the standard grappling formula of arm bars, rolls and flip ups that all wrestlers have to learn. I also know how to fall onto my front without hurting myself, known as a front bump.

It’s the back bumps I don’t enjoy. Every time I practice throwing myself backwards on a crash mat, slapping my arms and feet on the floor to take the impact instead of my spine, I have no problems, but when I try it in the actual ring, I don’t seem to have the neck strength to stop hitting the back of my head on the canvas.

I’m still pretty confident that I can take a bump in the ring and not get killed so in the locker room before my final appearance, I suggest that Charlie Fatt gets eliminated when the heel (bad guy) pushes me in the way of a high impact move by the babyface (good guy). But which move?

Caiman suggests a clothesline but I decline. That involves a back bump and my brain is slightly allergic to being slammed into the back of my skull. I also dismiss being squashed in the ring corner. That is not impressive enough for a finale. Chris Recall, the wrestler playing the face character in the main event proposes that he jumps off the top rope and accidentally hits me with a cross body. Um, sure.

The card is underway and we have a big crowd. Many of my friends have come to witness my final match. They don’t know what is going to happen. I’m not 100% certain either.

All of my matches run smoothly. That is, my refereeing is appropriately terrible. I miss the bad guys cheating because I’m too easily distracted, and the faces get frustrated because I’m extra strict with them. In other words, I’m doing a great job.

At the right time, with Chris up on the turnbuckle, I make sure that I am in position standing next to the heel. As Chris flies into the air, I’m pushed into his path and he collides with me squarely in the chest. The momentum takes me painlessly onto my back and then I flip over and land with a thud on my front. I hear the crowd gasp in shock. I lie motionless in the ring until my fellow wrestling officials retrieve my body and drag me backstage, but I can’t resist a smirk. Charlie Fatt has officially been killed off in the wrestling world.

I still keep in touch with some of the wrestlers back in Wales. No-one so far has made it to the big leagues. I made some enquiries with Australian wrestling organisations when I returned home but didn’t fancy travelling to Sydney to referee for peanuts (or even less than peanuts). Karl “Caiman” Griffiths has gotten married and retired from wrestling. He hopes to immigrate to Australia one day.

A famous philosopher named Justin Bieber once said, “Never say never.” Will Charlie Fatt be resurrected one day? His zebra striped short still hangs in my wardrobe. You never know.

Published in: on October 9, 2012 at 01:14  Leave a Comment  
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The Life and Times of Charlie Fatt Part 3

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 21st August 2012.

The story so far…

I’ve unwittingly become the official referee for Celtic Wrestling, a professional wrestling promotion in Cardiff, Wales. With absolutely no training whatsoever, I survive my first ever 2 hour show. To my surprise, I’m invited back.

You’d think that there wouldn’t be much demand for professional wrestling referees. It’s not like you need much training (I didn’t have any). And the rules aren’t hard to enforce (there aren’t any). Somehow, my profile was posted on a UK wrestling database online and I started to receive invitations to work for other promotions around the country. I ended up politely declining all offers. You see, in my entire wrestling career as Charlie Fatt, I earned no money at all, not a single penny.

Unless you’re working for a major US promotion like World Wrestling Entertainment, you are not truly a professional wrestler. You’re more like an amateur “professional” wrestler. I wouldn’t think that there is a single wrestler in the UK, let alone Australia, who doesn’t have a day job. An independent wrestling show is not cheap to put on, so by the time the promoter hires a venue, publicises the event and pays the talent (the wresters), there isn’t much left for the lowly referee or ring announcer.

Celtic Wrestling was growing in popularity and the shows were now a monthly event. I had started training with the local wrestlers and was best mates with the then champion and local promoter, Karl “Caiman” Griffiths. Even the national promoter, UK wrestling legend Andre Baker, had started to speak to me.

Now before each show, I’d be briefed about the matches, who would go over (win) and we’d plan out any high spots (moves off the top rope, or a series of exciting moves). We’d also organise any referee distractions. Usually, this involved a member of the heel (bad guys) tag team turning me away for an argument whilst his partner cheated.

My favourite heel to work alongside was Tank. He was a 170kg monster with a wicked sense of humour. He’d grab me by the collar and turn me away from the shenanigans. I’d berate him for touching a wrestling official and as planned, I would then have to force him back into the corner of the ring, except Tank didn’t move as we had agreed. I pretended to push him with all my might, whilst the whole time Tank stood still, with his arms crossed laughing at me, along with the audience. Eventually, he’d give me a wink and I’d turn around, using my best acting talents to look surprised and confused that the faces (good guys) were now unconscious, the innocent victims of a concealed (but not from behind the ears) set of knuckle dusters.

I still occasionally pull out Charlie Fatt’s confused look. It’s really effective at the video store when I get asked about a late fee. “No, I’m certain I returned Titanic on time. I have no idea what happened.”

Next week: Son of Abdullah the Butcher, first blood matches and (possibly) the untimely demise of Charlie Fatt

Published in: on October 9, 2012 at 01:11  Leave a Comment  
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The Life and Times of Charlie Fatt Part 2

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 14th August 2012.

The story so far…

Somehow I’ve been roped into being a referee for a professional wrestling show in Cardiff, Wales. I’ve been given my stage name, Charlie Fatt, and have arrived at the show to officiate a “match or two.” The problem is, I don’t really know what I’m doing and I’ve just been informed that I am the only referee for the night.

It’s one hour to show time and the ring announcer has taken me aside to brief me on the referee gig. He explains that I just need to enforce the rules and count the pins as I see them. I‘m a little confused. Isn’t a professional wrestling referee’s job not to enforce the rules, or to least enforce them badly? How am I supposed to put on a good show if I don’t know the outcomes?

When I ask these questions, I’m informed that the “booker” doesn’t trust me yet and that until I prove myself, things need to stay “kayfabe”. He quickly runs me through the procedure to start the match. Check the wrestlers’ boots and behind their ears for foreign objects and call for the bell. Um, what sort of weapon can be concealed behind a wrestler’s ear? I’m never given an answer. I guess Monkey Magic kept his magic stick behind his ear…

For those of you new to wrestling, the booker is the person responsible for putting together the card for the show. They decide who wrestles whom and the outcome. For this show, the booker and promoter was veteran British grappler Andre Baker. I always found Andre to be a stern, humourless fellow who took the business very seriously.

Which brings me to kayfabe. In the wrestling world, kayfabe is the practice of portraying the events within a show as real. Everything is legit. The bad guys and the good guys really hate each other. That sort of thing. Nowadays, everyone knows that wrestling is entertainment but you’ll still never hear those in the industry openly speaking about the inner workings of the business.

Before I know it, my stage name is announced to the crowd and I’m walking through the curtains towards the ring. A few people clap. I try to look as serious as possible although I probably have a stupid grin on my face. As I climb between the ring ropes I realise that I had never stepped into a wrestling ring until that very moment.

Over the next two hours, I referee eight bouts or so. It is hard work. I’m constantly on the move, darting around the ring trying to stay out of the way of the wrestlers bounding about. The ring, although bouncy when a body slams on it, is really quite hard especially when you have to slap your hand down on it to count the pins and near falls.

I only make one major mistake during the show. When both wrestlers tumble out of the ring, I start my ten count. When the bad guy slides back in at the last second, I accidentally stop counting, and instead of calling for the bell due to a count out, I start counting from one again whilst the poor heroic grappler is forced to clumsily pretend to climb back into the ring very slowly to ensure that he loses. Oops.

OK, so it wasn’t exactly Wrestlemania but my wrestling debut was great fun. I particularly enjoyed being abused by fans for not noticing when the bad guys cheated or I missed the goodies getting a winning pin because I was “distracted”. In other words, I did a good job of portraying Charlie Fatt doing a bad job. I was hooked.

Next week: hard core wrestling, blood baths and the death of Charlie Fatt.

Published in: on October 9, 2012 at 01:10  Leave a Comment  
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The Life and Times of Charlie Fatt: Wrestling Referee

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 7th August 2012.

Many moons ago I was a lowly physiotherapist working in the Welsh town of Merthyr Tydfil. Living in a small rented terrace, I ventured out several times a week to rehearse with the local musical theatre company. In the month of warm weather that was known as Summer I liked to hike around the Brecon Beacons. Life was good

Nobody knew that I was harbouring a secret identity. At night, I’d put on my special costume and dispense my own brand of justice. That’s right folks. (In my best gravelly voice) I’m Batman. Not really, in the world of British Professional Wrestling I was known as the number one referee, Charlie Fatt.

I’m not exactly sure how I came to be a wrestling referee. I noticed a story in the local paper advertising wrestling training and having been a fan of the WWE and such since I was little, I went along to check it out.

I wandered into the Cathays Community Centre in Cardiff one Saturday afternoon to discover a group of people of all shapes and sizes running around the outside of a rusty old wrestling ring. Following that, they entered the ring and started to practice “bumping” with the trainers.

A “bump” is the wrestling term for falling on your front or back without hurting yourself. By outstretching your arms and slapping the mat, and landing with as much surface area as possible, it’s possible to make lot of noise but not hurt yourself (much).

Eventually, one of the trainers, Karl Griffiths, but known to his fans as former Celtic Wrestling Champion Caiman, invited me to join the training session. I declined, as I wasn’t particularly interested in performing in lycra undies and not much else, but did volunteer to help out in some way. Karl suggested I come to their next show and maybe referee a match. He explained that my height, or rather my lack of height, would make the wrestlers seem even larger. “That sounds great,” I said, but my Spider Sense was tingling. What had I gotten myself into?

A few weeks later I’m driving to Cardiff for my first show with James, a mate from Sydney. I had my zebra stripe shirt and black trousers, standard issue for a referee, but still hadn’t come up with my wrestling name and was getting desperate for ideas. As we pulled up to the venue in my rusty beaten up Ford (it cost me 350 quid and I drove it for three years until the fuel tank fell off on the A465), he suggests Charlie Fatt. I don’t have a clue where the Charlie came from but my second cousin is Jeff Fatt from The Wiggles. With no better names on offer, I became Charlie Fatt.

Nervously stepping into the venue, I was greeted by Caiman who informed me that there would be a few hundred people coming to watch the show and that I would be making my professional wrestling debut (with no preparation or training) as the one and only referee for the two hour card. Oh boy.

Next time I’ll write about Charlie Fatt’s grand debut. One..two…three!

Published in: on August 10, 2012 at 08:21  Comments (1)  
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