Sunday, 31 August 2003

30th August 2003

We who follow the wrestling industry always hear about the great success stories. We love to hear about how well people have done, how they've battled adversaries both in and out of the ring to get to where they are. This happens in all aspects of this business.

Take yours truly for instance. I have aspirations to be on a par with the great Bill Apter one day. However, I know that for every person like me, there are probably thousands of other writers who want to achieve this goal.

The same can be said of the wrestlers. For every Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair that makes it in this business, there are countless others who, through various circumstances, just don't make it.

Sam Naylor and Perry Patterson were two such people. Sam and Perry first began to train as professional wrestlers at WAW's training school in 2001. Head honcho Ricky Knight paired the two friends together as a team, christening them "The Thetford Connection", even though neither lad actually lived in Thetford. But then again, this is the wrestling business we're talking about, so a little artistic licence is allowed.

Like many other trainees, Sam and Perry plied their trade, earned their wings, if you will, in various battle royals before making their debut proper. My first experience of seeing them together as a team was at October Outrage III, at the Norwich Sport Village in October 2001, competing in a tag-team match against the returning U.K. Pitbulls.

Outside of the ring you couldn't meet two nicer lads, always nice and polite to everyone, even though they kind of had a goofy quality about them, which saw them on the receiving end of quite a few ribs, with Perry in particular getting ribbed more than Sam.

Probably their first big match came in their hometown of Thetford in February 2002. At the Guildhall, a capacity crowd had gathered, drawn by the main event which pitted Jake Roberts against the Zebra Kid. The Thetfords went up against the Pitbulls once again, who were on a successful run having recently won the AIWF World Championship in America.

Hardly anyone gave the Thetfords a chance, including the Pitbulls. Taking their opponents incredibly lightly, the Pitbulls offered the Thetfords £100 each for every five minutes they survived in the ring with them.

Just over fifteen minutes later, the Thetfords, having put up a hell of a fight, went down after the trademark Pitbulls powerbomb. The big lads from Sheringham bemoaned the fact that they were now £600 poorer, and would have to forgo breakfast the following day.

Things looked bright for Perry and Sam. A good show followed a few weeks later in Attleborough in a four way contest which also featured the Dark Angels, the Coalminers, and the team of Big Dave and Bash, who was substituting for the injured Bulk. However, their careers would come to a grinding halt the following May when WAW returned to Thetford.

Perry and Sam were booked in a handicap match against the Bulk that night, but right from the beginning you could tell that something was wrong with the lads.

After the Bulk made his entrance, System of a Down's "Chop Suey" played over the speakers, and Perry and Sam came bounding down to the ring. Sam jumped over the top rope like a natural, like he's been doing it for years. Perry tried to follow suit, but ended up tripping over the top rope and landing flat on his face. The Bulk had to cover his face to hide his laughter.

Things just didn't seem to go right for the Thetfords. Their moves seemed rush, like they were in a hurry to get the match over with, as if they were embarrassed by Perry's trip into the ring. It was as if all the hard work they had put in in their previous matches was forgotten.

Then, for some reason, Perry deviated from the agreed ending, twice kicking out after the Bulk delivered moves that would normally end a match. A big splash later and Perry was finally pinned. But the match had not been easy to watch, and one can but guess how this match was discussed backstage.

The differences in the attitudes of Perry and Sam was plain for all to see during the interval. While Sam came out to ringside and talked to a few of the WAW about his staff, Perry all but disappeared. Sam's disappointment was obvious, and while he didn't say exactly what had been said to him backstage, he had taken everything on board.

After the show ended, Perry finally appeared as we began to clear up the hall. The handicap match was still a hot topic as we packed the ring away, and while several of us tried to encourage the lads, it was dawning on some that perhaps this was the end of the Thetford Connection. While Sam's attitude was commendable as he told us all he would take on board the advice he had been given, Perry's was the total opposite. His mood was downtrodden. He was almost tearful at times as he kept saying that his wrestling career was over, that he wouldn't be booked on another WAW show again.

It was indeed the end of the Thetford Connection as a team. Sam Naylor made one more wrestling appearance, in a singles match against Karl "Kragious" Moore in Watton last October. Originally he was scheduled to wrestle the Zebra Kid that night, but that's another story for another time. Perry was hardly seen or heard of again.

The last I heard both Sam and Perry were in college. Sam was playing rugby, and was quite good by all accounts. Perry had abandoned all matters sporting, and had taken some drama classes. Of course, there were jokes flying around about how taking acting lessons could help Perry's selling in a wrestling ring.

Out of the two lads, I would have said that Sam was the more natural wrestler. Big things were expected of this kid. This is not a put down to Perry in any way. If given the time I'm sure that Perry would have been able to find his niche in wrestling as well.

The story of The Thetford Connection is an example that mistakes can happen in the wrestling business, as it can in any part of life. If Sam and Perry are reading this, I'd like to wish them the best of luck with whatever they choose to do with the rest of their lives. I'm sure they'll be damn good at it, and no matter what some people might say, for one short period of time, they lived their dream.