Interview with Greg Burridge

British wrestler Greg Burridge has been a mainstay of the British wrestling scene for a decade, mentoring WWE Champion Sheamus when employed as the lead trainer at Irish Whip Wrestling. He now wrestles as ‘Metallico’ and leads the training at luchadore promotion Lucha Britannia in East London.

Greg Burridge interview from February 2012

LZK: You’re one of the few British wrestlers to go to the trouble of filming your own vignettes and promos, what are you trying to achieve by releasing these into the public domain?
GB: I’m just trying to create interest in wrestling. So people gotta think outside of the box to create something fresh and original and just something that people want to see. Even if you’ve gotta try and manipulate people to watching wrestling without actually realising that they’re watching wrestling, (which) unfortunately is what we have to do to give wrestling credibility and interest again. I’m just trying to do something a little bit different and using the power of the internet. The internet’s a powerful tool now, (so I’m) just trying to maximize the technology I (have) got at hand and plus I like making them. I’ve got an interest in movie-making so it’s fun as well.

How much do you script or put onto paper your monologues?
I kind of mentally work (my promos) out in my head. It’s usually if I’m at the gym or I’m driving – these are good times for me. Or usually if I’m in a mood, usually I’ll have a song on and that song kinda puts me in a certain mood and that mood can help inspire a promo. Just anything, I could be sitting in a room and look at something and find an analogy so I can link it to wrestling. Again it’s trying to think outside the box and do something different. So I kind of mentally plan out a rough guide (for) how to get there and then I just get in my ‘monologue car’ and then just see how it goes; sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. But I have a rough idea, I don’t word out every single word, write it down, memorize it; I don’t think that’s the correct way of doing a promo, it just looks fake. I try to keep it as natural as possible, natural reactions. And plus… there’s always gonna be times where you’re gonna deviate from your plans. You’ve gotta be spontaneous and think on the spot and do something slightly different, which is what I try and do with monologues. It’s kinda like, again, seeing where you go, if that makes sense. So I just kind of mentally roughly plan an idea and then the rest is natural, for me natural works better.

Does that mean you shoot a few different takes before you nail the right one?
If I’m not happy with it (then) yeah. Or if… maybe doing that first take opened up a whole new chapter (where) I think that’s even better, let’s do it again, this time let’s go that direction and then it starts branching off and (I) go ‘oh, keep that, keep that, there’s even something even more we can go, fuck it, let’s do this now’ so then we’ll do it again. So by the fourth take it’s a whole new, different, developed evolution of what the original was. Sometimes that’s what you’ve gotta do. It’s like working out a rough draft or a rough idea of a painting and doing the painting better and better and better and better. I think you’ve gotta be as natural as possible in wrestling with your monologues. The more pre-produced it looks the more effect it loses with (an) audience. It does create a sense of empathy if you look like you’re going out and shooting it normally. This is why I think comedians are very good at that kind of thing, if a comedian starts laughing during his act the crowd will start laughing with him. So I like that idea of having a crowd go on that journey with you rather than sitting there cross-armed, waiting for you to fall. I like to go ‘yeah I fall, but I have a laugh, just take me as a normal person’. I think that creates a nice welcoming kind of empathy feeling for the crowd and then they get behind you. The whole idea of a monologue or promo is to get a crowd behind you to sell a show so I don’t think this ‘twenty-sixth of May, Wrestlemania Ten, me and Sid Vicious blah blah blah blah’ (works). So it’s just being different.

You’ve done quite a few of your bits with Jimmy (Havoc); what is it about filming with Jimmy that you like?
I’ve got a whole theory on wrestling I’m trying to develop with the help of Garry (Vanderhorne) and some friends. Wrestlers make the best actors ‘cause we’re not trained the same as an actor, but we’re trained in the same methods, the same beliefs as an actor, but we’ve been trained a totally different way around to get to the same point. So I filmed that thing with Jimmy (Havoc) in one night ‘cause I didn’t have to explain to Jimmy, we did it like we were doing a wrestling match. If I tried to do did that with an actor it’d have took hours, hours and hours trying to explain something. With Jimmy it’d probably just (be that I) have to do a hand movement, he’d understand with one hand movement what I’d try to tell an actor four or five hours what I was trying to get. So we make the best actors because we’ve got a lot of in-ring kinesiology. ‘Cause we’re like silent movie actors, we have to use our body a lot. But the great thing about (acting for) a movie is not only do we get to use our body, but we make it easier by using our voices, obviously. So there’s points where you can act without having to say anything ‘cause your kinesiology’s there, like you do in the ring. You’re basically doing a match. A wrestling match is basically a short movie anyway. We’re saying the start, middle and end of a story. It’s the same with us; it’s like doing a short movie. It’s just an easy wrestling match broken down into segments. This is my theory, this is what I want to develop. When you’re talking about (shooting a) movie, I want the same kind of beliefs and see if it works. So I’m just as interested in seeing if it works as everyone as getting it done, but I think it will. So that with Jimmy, it was kind of an experiment as well. Again, I’ve a lot of interest in making this kind of stuff, just it’s hard getting the time. But we did it (at the Resistance Gallery) in the night, if I could do it in a night, a half-hour shoot in the night, imagine I could do a movie in a month. ‘Cause wrestlers just understand (and) get it done. Wrestlers get one take. We do it ‘boom’ – done, we don’t have to fuck around doing it again and again and again. You know, ‘boom – I’m happy with that’ – done. So it was fun, again, it was cool working with Jimmy, but I’m sure I could do it with any wrestler and get the same kind of reaction or the same depth or something.

Could you do that with a trained actor?
No, it wouldn’t work as well. ‘Cause I’d (have him) saying ‘oh, that’s not how we do it this way, we need it to do it the Stanislavski way. [It depends on the actor though {Garry Vanderhorne intercepts}]. It does depend on the actor. But, the good thing about (working with) a wrestler is you’re both more relaxed anyway, you know. I wouldn’t wrestle an actor, an actor wouldn’t wrestle me. So it’s kinda like, it’s just a lot easier…. I’ve done theatre though with Mark Rylance who did the National Theatre and he asked me how I (would show people) beat(ing) me up on stage. And then we worked out a whole part. He was open to me beating him up. And I beat him up in front of people like Kevin Bacon, Woody Allen, Frank Skinner, on a nightly basis. I was just doing wrestling. But he really understood.

What was that part?
It was Jerusalem. It won a Tony award in 2007. It’s still going now. It had Mackenzie Crook in as well.

How did you get that (role)?
Well, I’ve trained in acting. I got an audition for it an’ I got it. But, it was only a small part, so non-talking. I was just one of the brothers. I had two scenes and one of them I’d go beat the fuck out of Mark Rylance. An’ I lot of it is suggestion, we’d do it in a caravan. So you can’t see it, but you can hear it. But it was good because I learnt then as well it was same thing, wrestling is the same as acting, especially stage theatre acting. A wrestling ring is a theatre, but my audience is four sides instead of one. That’s it, that’s the only difference there is between theatre acting and wrestling. You’re a showman in the ring. I think wrestlers find acting very easy to adapt to. If you look at the Rock, the Rock’s quite a charismatic guy, but it’s just a natural progression for him to go into movies.

So when you say it’s a natural progression, what I’m looking (at) is what wrestlers have to go through in order to become movie stars and that. I’m sure there must be some level of training. I just saw the Miz speaking about it the other day, saying he feels it’s a totally different thing. So there’s gotta be something they (have to) go through in order to progress to that?
You’ve just gotta have a natural belief in yourself, charisma, and just the x-factor. If you’ve got that in you then… wrestling, acting, music, theatre – they’re not individual things, it’s the same energy that’s been labelled something different. It could be labelled music, yeah – a music entertainer; acting – you’re an actor; it could be labelled wrestling. But it’s that same energy you need, that very same whatever that energy is, (it’s) the same thing. But it’s how you label that, which direction you take that energy. If you’ve got that energy you can do anything, that’s why actors become singers and singers do acting. Wrestlers, it’s that same energy. If you’ve got that energy in you whether you do it that way learning it, that’s all it takes to be an actor, in my opinion. You don’t need to learn ten, fifteen years of acting school to learn how to. A lot of acting comes from life experience. It’s a different way around you go… Err, what’s an example? I don’t really agree with people that do two, three years of studying acting at an acting school and they know they’re shit, they know nothing about acting, but they wanna become a good actor so they’re gonna go do a course about it… You could do four or five years, you’ll be as shit as (when) you started, you haven’t got that confidence. Whereas a guy off the street, which a lot of people do, there’s a lot of actors that just totally come off the street and got a part because they fitted that part perfectly, but they got that energy in ‘em. So I just think you have to have a natural charisma about ya’. Honestly… literally, it’s like as long as you’ve got that energy that’s all that matters then they can teach you the technique of acting, which maybe the person just needs (stage/screen) direction, camera, lighting, all that kind of stuff.

What was your intention then when you took that part?
Well, to further my career. Wrestling is a tool, use that tool however you see fit. I use wrestling as a tool to open up doors in other areas. It’s a very effective tool to do that and acting’s one of the areas that I wanted to try to see if I was any good at, really. But that was it, really. I just knew when I was training I went along with all this kinesiology, like in acting I call this working the crowd, you call that this and in this I call it showing out. So it’s like I instantly jumped ten or twelve steps because I’ve done (these activities) before and it’s called it something different.

It’s often said that certain individuals are recognised as natural workers by trainers and the like. Given the hundreds of trainees you’ve overseen the development of, on which occasions have you come across gifted microphone work in a school?
Well, one I, kind of, was at training school with was Nick Aldis, (he) is the best mic-worker I’ve seen. I think he’s awesome. I think he really knows how to control a crowd with a mic.

What about in terms of (your) students?
No one really. I don’t know, I can’t remember anyone who totally stood out.

Does that mean that mic-work is generally not good amongst the students?
Mic-work is all about confidence… I can’t train someone to be a good singer, okay… If you’re shit at singing then you shouldn’t sing. We might have a slight voice effect that we can develop that voice to make it great. The same with mic skills, you can be the shits at mics… (then) you can do ten years at mics and it doesn’t mean you’re gonna be any good at mic skills. Again, it’s your natural charisma. So some people can pick a mic up straightaway and they’ve got a crowd and they control a crowd. It’s the same with a comedian, I can’t train someone to be a good comedian, some people are just naturally funny. If you have to break it down to textbooks it’s not funny no more. Some people are good at mic-work, some people aren’t. Some people can train to be good at mic-work, some people will never be good at mic-work. Some people can train and get slightly good at it and understand the logic and the science of it, you know? So, again, it takes time, but I’ve never really seen anyone grab a mic and just naturally be good the first time ‘cause actually there’s an art and a technique to it. ‘Cause otherwise what happens is – people just droll on and on and they repeat theirselves (sic) a hundred times. You gotta keep it short and fast and quick a lot of the times ‘cause the crowd get bored. So I’ve not really come across someone who can pick a mic up and cut a promo in a day. But I have seen them after a couple of months cut some really good promos after a bit of direction.

I know you’re saying that you can’t really study it, but if you had unlimited resources and time, what would you add to your (wrestling) school teaching to make people (trainees into) better mic-workers?
We do mic-work sessions. We did one last week. But, it’s an art form, it’s not something that you can just teach overnight and say now you can do mic-work, it takes years. It takes personal practice at home, learning the science. A good promo isn’t just one monotonous level the whole way through, it’s starts on a high and it keeps going low, it brings people in, they listen to every single word you say, you bring it up again. Like Hitler was a great people speaker because he started off really quiet, he’d draw ‘em in, in the end he went on a massive high. So he could be talking about Heinz ketchup for all we care, but at the end everyone (would) pop ‘cause he understood how to control a crowd. Promo work is all about how to understand how to control a crowd. That’s why a lot of people that are good at that are MPs, politicians ‘cause they’re trained in that. You put on Houses of Parliament TV, whatever, and there’s a debate – it’s promos. It’s fuckin’ promo-work, you know? But it’s an art-form. These guys are in charge of the country, but all they do is go home and they think of cool things to cane the other parties with. These cunts are running the country, ya’ know? So that’s a powerful tool – promo-work. It has to be done right. And yes, it is an art-form, you have to know how to work it to the best you can, but someone like Ric Flair, you have to be… you have to be the man to beat the man, but you have to be fuckin’ Ric Flair to cut a promo like that…. Dusty Rhodes is Dusty Rhodes.
It’s an extension of their character.
It’s an extension of their character, you know, yeah.

About zkthepoet

Sports and comedy writer from London, England
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