A recent episode of “Talk is Jericho” with Chris Jericho features WWE Performance Center coach and 34-year wrestling veteran Robbie Brookside! Onto the highlights…
The conversation takes place at the WWE Performance Center in Winter Park Florida. Jericho says that Robbie is one of his oldest friends, and asks how long he’s been working for the WWE as a trainer. Robbie says he was originally brought on for a six month trial period. Within three months he was asked to stay an additional six months—that six months turned into two years. He says that working for the WWE has been the greatest thing to happen to him in the last twenty years: “It’s been a hell of an honor and a new learning curve. It went from ‘will you stay a bit longer’ to ‘Will you STAY?’” Robbie says that his family is still back in England, as is his favorite football team. Jericho mentions that Wade Barrett is a big football fan; Brookside says that Barrett is fan of Preston—the team Brookside’s father played for. Brookside compares American football to football throughout the world, and does so with a terrible—yet hilarious—fake American accent. They chat about the difference in vernaculars between England and North America. Robbie lets Chris and the listening audience in on a variety of Cockney phrases used within the wrestling business. He says that the belly is referred to as the Derby, making the connection via rhyme: “Belly is the Derby—Kelly Derby. Belly, Kelly, Derby.” He gives another example: “Babyfaces are called blue eyes, and the heels are called ‘Bob Dylan’s.’ Villain, Dylan, Bob Dylan’s.” Outside of the wrestling business is no different: Strippers are known as “Jack the Rippers.”
Robbie says that he made his professional wrestling debut 34 years ago at the age of fifteen. He explains that things were different in those days, and says the political climate in Liverpool England inhibited citizens from reaching their true potential. He says the only way out was by “talking into a microphone and telling some jokes, or picking up a guitar, or putting on a pair of boxing gloves.” He says that he attended a World of Sport wrestling event—despite how his father despised the genre—with his aunt, and was immediately transfixed by the sights and sounds of the industry. He went again the following week, with his aunt once more, and by the third week was attending the shows by himself. He became so infatuated with professional wrestling, that he no-showed enough football games and practices to be expelled from the team. He says that this crushed his father, and his school; he was the only student in his school who made the team. He says his father didn’t speak to him for two weeks, and cut off his “pocket money,” forcing Robbie to find a paper route. Chris asks if Robbie was looking to become a wrestler at that point and Robbie says, “No. I just wanted to watch.”
He describes breaking into the business, almost by accident. He became a frequent face at the local sports arena, and came to believe that the sport was fixed. He accused one of the wrestlers of pretending to sell an injury, and that wrestler promptly escorted him backstage. He says that he was greeted by a group of “old men that looked like math teachers wearing track suits.” The wrestler who brought him backstage exclaimed: “This kid thinks it’s all fixed. Put three minutes on that clock.” The veterans proceeded to stretch Robbie farther than he’d ever imagined. Robbie says, “To this day, it’s the longest three minutes of my life.” He says that he could taste metal in his mouth as the blood poured from his mouth and nose. He stayed and watched the event, and returned the following week for “more of the same, just with different people.” This was to serve as his entrée into the wrestling business. Carl McGrath took Robbie under his wing and began his formal training soon after. Carl introduced Robbie to wrestling promotor Auric Williams. Auric set about breaking Robbie in through laborious “young boy” tasks such as setting up rings, handing out flyers, hanging posters, and the like. Auric booked Robbie in Brill, which was a lengthy train ride away from his hometown of Liverpool. He says that he could’ve never gotten the money from his parents, so he collected enough for a single trip to the first station. From there, he hid throughout the train, and even pretended to be part of other families, so as not to be found out.
Robbie made his official wrestling debut—following a successful train ride—on October 22nd 1981, against a seasoned veteran named Joe Critchley. Robbie remembers Joe fondly. He says that Joe was always prompt, and could be seen eating a sandwich and reading the newspaper in his car before every event. Joe used to say, “See you tomorrow at three o’clock. If I’m five minutes late, I won’t be there.” At just fifteen years old, Robbie had to be back on the train immediately after the match, and ready for school the next morning. He adds that this was during an era where the average wrestler in England worked six nights a week. He says the most matches he wrestled in one day was six—in four different rings. Robbie says: “It was never about wanting to go to the WWF, or NWA, or even New Japan. It was all about touring. I wanted to get in that ring and learn all I could.” He explains the ribbing that went on during those days. Jericho says that that was an era where veterans took great pleasure in pulling pranks on the young boys. Robbie says that if he fell asleep in the car, the veterans would light small holes in his clothes with their cigarette lighters. When he’d wake up, there would be upwards of sixty singed holes in his shirt and track pants. He says that veterans were also likely to spray WD40 in people’s mouths while they slept, and dump salt in their morning tea. The saying at the time was: “If one sleeps we all sleep,” meaning it was on the passengers to keep the driver awake until they reached their destination.
Jericho moves the conversation from the United Kingdom to Deutschland; Jericho and Brookside first met in Hamburg Germany in 1993. Robbie had been wrestling for twelve years by this point, and appreciated the amenities and comforts offered in Germany, compared to other places he’d performed. Jericho remembers spending a considerable amount of time at a Croatian Restaurant and Bar, and says they would stay there until 5 o’clock in the morning most nights. During this time, a documentary was being made about wrestling in Germany. The wrestlers were given their own handy-cams and encouraged to document life on the road as part of their own “video diaries.” Backstage after a match, Robbie approached Jericho with his camera—seemingly off. He joked and hypothesized, “Hey Chris what would you do if this camera was on right now?” Jericho said something to the effect of: “I’d take my willy out and wave it all about.” Another wrestler asked, “How do you know it’s not on?” Jericho said, “Because the red lights not on.” Brookside then proceeded to remove a small strip of black tape from the front of the camera, revealing a bright red light. Sometime later, Robbie and Chris were at their favorite Croatian bar, when one of Brookside’s accomplices approached the bartender with an unmarked video tape. He played it, and Chris Jericho’s manhood was on display across every television in the bar. Jericho says that his revenge included cutting the laces to Robbie’s boots just before his match, and pulling an egg in the bottom of his boot. He laughs, and questions his own logic and method of payback.
Jericho asks Robbie to explain the concept of “Kinder Catch.” Robbie laughs and says that nobody took it to heart more than Jericho, because Y2J felt it exposed the business. Jericho says: “This is a Sunday morning and—once again, we’ve been out all night—we’d have to go to the tent at 10 o’clock in the morning, and all these kids would be there—” Robbie interrupts to shed better light on the situation: “By German law, children under fifteen weren’t allowed to go to the matches. So this was a kind of good will thing for the city.” Jericho interjects once more and says that they weren’t wrestling in front of the kids, they were showing them holds and rolls, and basically teaching them how to put on a wrestling match. They reminisce about the terrible conditions; it was October and—in some cases—below zero, where competitors could see their breath in the ring. The ring itself is described as “filthy.” Robbie says, “It was the kind of thing where you’d have to wipe your feet on the way out of the ring, instead of before getting in.”
Jericho says that he and Robbie Brookside have almost “followed each other” throughout their careers. They each went to New Japan Pro Wrestling at the same time in 1997 to compete in the “Best of the Super Juniors”; they both spent time in WCW during the cruiserweight heyday; and now they’ve arrived in the WWE together again. Jericho asks Robbie to talk about his time in WCW. Brookside says that he has “a lot to thank William Regal for.” Robbie Brookside took William Regal under his wing when he was just starting out, and Regal repaid the favor by getting him booked in WCW—and then getting Brookside hired by WWE. Robbie says, “Darren—I call him Darren—is my best mate, without a shadow of a doubt. We’ve always kept in touch over the years through thick and thin. There’ve been times where he’s needed a shoulder to cry on, and for someone to back him up—and I’ve done the same as well, and he’s been there all the way. He’s married and he’s got three children, and I remember when Daniel was born. I was staying at their house before they were married, we go back that far. He’s almost like an uncle, but I’m two or three years older. But I always feel ten years younger.” Brookside was set to debut in AAA, when his contact—Art Barr—tragically passed away. Regal reached out to him and offered a shot in Orlando Florida working for WCW. Brookside didn’t have enough to cover the return trip, so he took the gamble on booking a one-way ticket. He was stopped by customs on the way into the country, but talked his way out of deportation by claiming he was the nephew of Ringo Starr.
Brookside says that Kevin Sullivan was very supportive of both he and his tag team partner. He traveled back and forth between Orlando and England, and worked in New Japan Pro Wrestling for a period. He was eventually offered a fulltime deal in WCW and began tagging with Fit Finlay. He says the moment it all went wrong—and he didn’t know it at the time—is when he requested time away to work his home promotion. He asked JJ Dillon for permission to go back to Europe to work a few shows, with the guarantee that he would return by a certain date. JJ told him to take off until Christmas and come back after the New Year. He took care of his visa issues, and returned to the United States a few months later—but his deal with WCW was off the table. Jericho begins to bring things to a close. Robbie says that he’s very proud of how much NXT has grown in the short time he’s been a part of it. He says that they used to run really small venues, and have now moved onto sell-out arenas where people are getting turned away. Jericho asks Robbie what his favorite match of his career is. He says that it’s so hard, and jokes that most of his best matches are probably in black and white. He says, “Nowadays people are more able to record their matches. I remember seeing myself on tape for the first time thinking, ‘Oh my god, I don’t look like that!’” Rather than name one match, he lists his most prominent opponents, including Chris Jericho, Owen Hart, Regal, Finlay, and Johnny Saint. He notes that he’s had 5000+ matches, and can’t remember the majority of his career: “I can only remember tour buses and people not selling.”
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