Ireland’s indie wrestlers – The larger than life stars you’ve probably never heard of

Boots Murphy in action. Photo: David Woodland Photography.

The local Irish wrestling scene has been experiencing a ‘boom’ as of late thanks to its American counterpart.

Ireland’s independent wrestling scene is undergoing drastic development on the back of an industry wide renaissance. Whether it’s young upstarts looking to make a name for themselves, or seasoned veterans proving they’ve still got more to give, there are more opportunities than ever for Irish talents to blaze their trail.

One such talent is Limerick legend Steve Savage. The 35-year-old has spent well over a decade on the Irish circuit and insists the scene is livelier than ever in 2024.

“There’s definitely a boom in pro wrestling at the moment, which is great… It’s cool again”. he said.

This “cool” factor stems from what has been a thunderous few months for the market leader, World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE). A merger with combat sports giant Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), and a consequent return of The Rock has drawn more eyes to the product, leading to a surge in viewers at local indie circuits.

“The bigger the booms in wrestling, the more indie shows there are. The more indie shows there are, the more indie wrestlers can get bookings”, Savage said.

The former trainee of current WWE tag-team champion Finn Bálor runs his own promotion in Limerick, ‘Hard Knox Pro Wrestling’, and has seen an increase in turnouts first hand.

“We’re just about filling Dolan’s with 220 or 250 people, but we want to keep growing it”.

The promotion earned its namesake from Savage’s day job, resident artist and co-owner of Hard Knox Social Club, a popular tattoo studio in Limerick City. For independent wrestlers, the task of balancing a job with creative endeavours is all too familiar. However, Savage believes experiences outside of wrestling contribute to telling great stories.

“I always try to tell the guys that I train, ‘if you don’t feel it’s real, then how can you expect the fans to feel it is real?’. Having life experience alone helps a promo digest”.

Since establishing in 2022, Hard Knox provides upcoming wrestlers with a platform to showcase their talents. One of the company’s breakout stars is Nathan “Boots” Murphy. At just 23-years-old, Murphy became the HKPW All-Ireland Champion and has wrestled throughout the country.

Often performing as a brutish villain, the Castledermot native provides a despicable adversary to local good guys such as Savage, a role he embraces.

“I try and do everything in the ring to get booed…Your goal is to get [fans] so angry that they forget it’s fake”, he said.

Although a gentleman at heart, Murphy has mastered the mentality of being a bad guy in just a few short years. Credit to his devious style, as well as a mouth that riles up spectators, he has had several memorable moments with fans.

Describing a cherished encounter with one young onlooker, he stated “I remember one child screaming at me, and I told her to shut up. She got out of her seat and started screaming back at me, and her mam had to hold her back. It was hilarious”.

The cohesiveness of good and evil in pro wrestling cannot be understated. Good guys, referred to within the industry as “babyfaces”, must be able to captivate a crowd and evoke a sense of sympathy. In contrast, bad guys, known as “heels”, are tasked with the burden of making their opponent look like a hero, and enduring jeers from spectators.

“If I go out and I don’t get called ‘fat’ or something, then I’m not doing my job correctly… My job is to go out and get those nasty comments”, said Murphy.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Boots-Murphy-1024x688.jpeg
Boots Murphy taunting whilst in action. Photo: David Woodland Photography.

Despite being rival personas in the ring, both Murphy and Savage have one thing in common. They both fell in love with wrestling at a young age, crediting WWE’s “sports entertainment” as being a staple of their upbringing. For most, the fandom stops there. Weekly shows and internet forums are enough to scratch that itch.

However, indie wrestlers are made up of those truly compelled by the business, those who need to feel a part of it. For Savage, this involved cutting his teeth in front of small crowds amidst Ireland’s juvenile scene.

“The first matches are the ones you’ll never really forget. My first actual match in front of a live crowd would have been at a very small venue in Bray. I was in a tag match, and I was teaming with a guy called Crap Lad”.

Over the next decade, he would ascend from humble beginnings to become a decorated staple of the Limerick scene, amassing championship reigns throughout the globe. Most recently, Savage captured the inaugural HKPW Irish Hardcore Wrestling Championship, a title he defends regularly in uncomfortably violent affairs.

His last defence of the gold versus American indie starlet Jordan Oliver saw the use of tables, chairs, a light tube, a pizza cutter, and even a seven-foot door. Their bloody brawl came to an unceremonious end as Savage slammed his opponent through – you guessed it – a door, after leaping from the top rope.

As expected, the path to becoming a wrestling star isn’t exactly straight forward. Constantly innovating in a bid to entertain fans and critics alike ultimately takes a toll on performers’ physical and mental health, particularly within an industry with no financial supports to fall back on.

“We have to pay for our own surgeries, our own rehab. It can be a really dark time dealing with a long-term injury. Most of us actually work with injuries regularly… It’s kind of a pro wrestlers’ rule that you just get up and get on with it”, Savage revealed.

One support wrestlers can rely on however is each other. Whilst physically looking after one another’s bodies inside the ring, it’s outside the squared circle where bonds are made, and solace is felt. Recalling a period of mental hardships, young Murphy opened up about the lengths his peers went to in ensuring he was okay.

“I was still getting texts asking how I was and if I was coming back to training. We’re surrounded by a group of lads that just want to have a laugh and really want to make sure you’re having a good time”.

This sense of fellowship is instilled in aspiring performers from the very first training session. Confidence is key in an industry that involves parading around shirtless and Savage insists HKPW trainees are commended for their bravery, even before ropes are ran and holds are practiced.

“We actually had a boot camp last week, and I told people that I’m proud of them because just walking in the door is a task on its own, especially in an era that we live in right now”.

Nurturing the future crop of Irish talent is of the utmost importance to Savage in his quest to grow Limerick wrestling. He believes that when outsiders witness the spectacle stars such as ‘Boots’ Murphy provide, they will in turn become fans.

“Whether you’re a wrestling fan or not, I’m confident you’re going to come back… It’s like trying to get someone to watch a series you know they’re going to love, but they just haven’t got around to watching it”.

In terms of goals, Murphy believes his future may lie outside of Ireland. Upon conquering the Irish scene, he intends on travelling the globe and experiencing a wider world of wrestling. Ultimately, he aspires to make it to the big leagues and live out his childhood dream.

“I really want to be in either of the top two (WWE/AEW) at the end of my career, leaning more towards WWE. As controversial as this may be, I’m a sports entertainer at heart”.

Whatever route our stars do end up taking, the objective remains the same – entertain fans and make memories. And few other forms of entertainment, if any, can boast as many memorable moments as pro wrestling.

For stars aiming for international acclaim, the likes of Finn Bálor, Becky Lynch, Sheamus, and Lyra Valkyria have all provided the blueprint of what it takes to go from local hopeful to a World Champion. However, for the sake of a good night-out, let’s hope they stay here for now.

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The Latest

To Top

Powered by themekiller.com anime4online.com animextoon.com apk4phone.com tengag.com moviekillers.com