I first met Phil "Flash" Barker almost two years ago, at the FWA's Carpe Diem show at the Walthamstow Assembly Rooms. This was my first taste of FWA action, and at the time, Flash was the FWA Champion, the jewel in the crown of Dean Ayass' Old School faction as they sought to take over the promotion. Flash defended the title against fellow veteran Robbie Brookside that night.
I met Flash briefly backstage before my journey home. There was no big conversation, just a shaking of the hand and a "thanks for coming" kind of thing. The one thing that did stick in my mind was how huge the guy was.
I didn't see Flash in person again until the following October. At WAW's annual October Outrage spectacular, Flash was making his WAW debut against long-time rival "The Anarchist" Doug Williams. Again, there was the usual pleasantries backstage before the show, but no real conversation to speak of.
That night Flash and Doug competed in what would be one of my favourite matches of 2002, as the two went at it in a shoot-style contest. It was an excellent exhibition from two of Britain's top wrestlers, although the sad thing is that most of the fans in attendance didn't get what it was about.
It was three months later in Blackburn, at the ill-fated GWF Aftermath show, that I had my first real conversation with the man. As the fans gathered to meet their favourite stars at the fan festival before the show that never was, Flash called out to me, and I was more than surprised that he remembered me. The guy began to talk to me like I was an old friend. We had a good chat that day as we waited for the ring that never came, and after the show was
officially cancelled, despite feeling a little annoyed that he hadn't had the chance to wrestle that night, he still found the time to give me his e-mail address, and asked me to keep in touch, although it would only be a couple of weeks later before I saw him again.
At the first WAW St. Valentine's Day Massacre, I had the honour of commentating Flash's match, as he teamed with Doug Williams to take on the U.K. Pitbulls for the Crusher Mason Trophy. It was a good match, Doug and Flash were an excellent combination, and their winpropelled them into the number one contender's spot for the WAW Tag-Team Championship. Once again, before and after the show, Flash treated me with a great deal of respect.
About a month later, one of British wrestling's dream matches came to fruition as WAW presented a show at the Riverside Leisure Centre in Chelmsford. Two of the hardest hitting wrestlers in Britain, Flash Barker and the Zebra Kid, went at it, tooth and nail, in a top-notch encounter that had the small but very vocal crowd salivating to say the least. Once again, I was not only impressed with Flash's performance in the ring, but his conduct outside as well.
It was around this time that visitors to the 1 Stop Wrestling website voted Flash the "Breakout Star" of 2002. To be honest with you, I found this rather interesting. The guy had been busting his backside on the circuit for nearly fifteen years, and now, he was seen as a "breakout" kind of star.
After his appearance at WAW's "Who Dares Wins" show, in which he teamed with Jimmy Joe Mason to defeat The Essex Boys, the next time I saw Flash in action was at the All-Star show in Croydon about a month later. Along with a couple of friends, Flash and I sat in the cafe at the Fairfield Halls, and Flash confided in me that he hoped Brian Dixon didn't want him to wrestle for too long that night. Although he looked in good health, he was beginning to have problems with his knee.
That night, Flash wrestled James Mason in the tournament to crown a new World Mid-Heavyweight Champion. The match went to a twenty minute draw. The referee ordered overtime, and Mason eventually won the contest to advance into the finals a month later. Once again, Flash Barker had stolen the show with an excellent performance.
I didn't see Flash again for some time. Over the summer months Flash continued to work for the FWA, but I began to read on the Internet that he was suffering from knee problems. Around the time of WAW's October Outrage V show, I learned that Flash was considering calling it a day. At the show, Flash was originally scheduled to team with Doug Williams again, going up against the U.K. Pitbulls for the WAW Tag-Team Championship. However, Doug's other commitments meant he couldn't make the show, so Flash was scheduled to team with up-and-coming WAW star "The Dark Angel" Ashe.
With the news that his career might be coming to an end, Ricky Knight made the decision that Flash and Ashe would be going over at October Outrage, that as a sign of respect for a man who had given so much for the wrestling business, Flash would go out as a champion.
Sadly, Flash never made it to October Outrage. Just weeks before, while wrestling for the FWA, Flash's knee gave out totally.
When I found out a couple of days ago that Flash Barker was officially retiring from wrestling, I couldn't help but feel a great degree of sadness. During my time working in the British wrestling industry, I've met a great deal of people, people I've watched from a distance for a number of years, and people I thought of as stars. Flash Barker was one of those stars, but what's more, he is a gentleman. He always treated me with respect, always had a kind word to say to me, and he always made sure to say goodbye to me before he left an arena.
British wrestling has lost one of it's finest talents. Phil "Flash" Barker has literally given his all for wrestling. It's cost him his marriage, his family, and now his career. But it's not all sad for the man who fans thought of as "double tough". He's found happiness in his personal life, as in March he announced that he would be getting married again.
I would like to go on record as wishing Phil "Flash" Barker all the best in life. One of Britain's greatest wrestlers over the past ten years, and a true gentleman if ever there was one. Take care my friend. Wrestling won't be the same without you.