TNA superstar Rockstar Spud talks British Boot Camp 2, making it in the industry against the odds, and setting an example for those who are trying to achieve their dream…
Everybody loves the story of an underdog – the person that found success against the odds, the person that achieved their dream when nobody thought they could, the person that proved the doubters wrong.
When you look beyond his comical façade and brightly coloured outfits, Rockstar Spud is the embodiment of that underdog story. His journey, from an ordinary life in Britain, where he worked as a banker in Birmingham, to being one of the most popular stars of a major American wrestling company, is the fulfilment of a lifetime of ambition.
The 31-year-old, whose real name is James Curtin, is refreshingly open about his thirteen plus years in the professional wrestling industry, which culminated in him landing a spot on the TNA Impact Wrestling roster, after winning the reality show British Boot Camp in 2012.
Two years on, and his new goal is now to help inspire the next great British wrestling talent, as he helps host British Boot Camp 2 on Challenge TV. The series, which premiered last Sunday and continues this weekend, follows the country’s most promising wrestlers as they compete to receive a contract from TNA.
British Boot Camp 2 Preview:
The second edition of Boot Camp travelled to Glasgow, Manchester and London, inviting wrestlers to try out and show off what they can do in front of a panel of judges, with the three best participants of each location progressing to the finals.
Its debut episode, which came from Glasgow, was the most watched show on Challenge that evening, while the likes of Grado and Noam Dar – two of the competing wrestlers – trended on Twitter.
Speaking earlier this week, Spud was full of praise for the show: “I thought it was a tremendous success. It was just a great night to be part of TNA, and I’m looking forward to seeing who’s going to be the next Impact Wrestling star.
“The talent in Glasgow was fantastic, and it really opened the eyes of the people at home to a lot of the British talent they’ve probably never even heard of.”
And as a grinning Spud soon explained, Grado and Dar were not the only two talents to catch his eye, as he reminisced about both the good, and the bad auditions: “The gentleman that sung to the camera lady, he’s definitely one for the future,” he joked.
“Sebastian Radclaw, he’s definitely one of the sanest individuals I’ve ever seen. Joe Vega, the man with the glass leg. They were just fantastic, and I hope that they’re the competition I have to face going forward.”
But despite some tremendous performances from the likes of Kay Lee Ray and Kasey Owens, the night will perhaps be most memorable for the actions of the self-proclaimed ‘Clown Prince’ of Scottish pro wrestling – Grado – who turned up late for his callback, much to the displeasure of judges Gail Kim, Samoa Joe, and Al Snow, with the latter promptly throwing him out of the event.
“I was surprised with Grado turning up late,” Spud admitted. “Because he knew what a big opportunity it was. It was disappointing as well because he’s a tremendous lad, but he’s a little soft in the head and he’s easily led.
“I wish him all the success in the world because when you watch him, you fall in love with him. I fell in love with him the moment I met him, and I’m such a massive fan of his. It’s such a shame.”
The British talent certainly had their work cut out impressing the judges – Snow, a 35-year veteran, Joe, a former World Heavyweight Champion and one of the most well-travelled performers in the world and Gail Kim, arguably the best female wrestler there has ever been, and a former Knockouts Champion – and Spud was quick to emphasise how tough the competition has been this year.
“Obviously it’s going to be distressing for the talent because when they come in and do their try-out its’ like [pauses], god bless them, I wouldn’t have got through. I wouldn’t have got through if I had to do it this year, and that’s how tough it is. Whoever wins the competition overall really, really deserves it.”
But despite the talent on show, he’s not convinced that he’s yet seen the ‘next Rockstar Spud’. When asked if any of the competition had the ability to go onto match his exploits and carve out a long term future with TNA, he responded: “Absolutely not!”
After pausing to think, he added: “And I mean that from the bottom of my heart. From everyone I’ve seen there’s no one that comes close to me. And I have no problem saying that, not one.
“In regards to whether they will come to TNA and step up, they have the opportunity, and that’s awesome, I hope they prove me wrong. But there isn’t one of them that have the heart, desire and drive that I had, and no one that wants it as much as I want it every day.
“That’s where I think they will fall short. You saw it in British Boot Camp One, you saw how much I wanted it from the moment you saw me, from episode one. I didn’t see that in episode one this time, maybe we’ll see it in two, maybe we’ll see it in three, we’ll just have to wait and see.”
Spud has certainly fully justified his selection for a TNA contract. After making his debut on the 2012 UK Tour, he went away to the company’s development territory, Ohio Valley Wrestling (OVW), where he would have to wait for over a year for his next opportunity – something he thought he might never get.
“I was confident in my own ability,” he explained. “But I was very insecure about the fact that my whole story was on British Boot Camp. One of my biggest fears, which always played on my mind, was being told – we’ve got nothing for you – and becoming a failure.”
Indeed, it can often be difficult for talents to manoeuvre themselves into their next storyline, and Spud feared that British Boot Camp might be the extent of his time with TNA, something which, as he explains, could have massively set British wrestling back.
“Most people you hear about getting signed, and then they get released and it’s quietly brushed under the carpet on the internet. My whole story was in the public eye. So if I was a failure in the public eye, that would have been one embarrassing, two degrading, and three just heart wrenching.”
Thankfully, he was handed a ‘fresh shot, a fresh character and a fresh opportunity’, when he became the storyline Chief of Staff to company president Dixie Carter, and sidekick to Dixie’s spoilt nephew – Ethan Carter III – in November 2013.
The storyline has proved to be one of the company’s most successful angles over the last year, with face character Bully Ray making it his mission to put TNA’s troublesome, interfering and power-hungry president through a table – something that Ethan and Spud worked hard to prevent.
“It was an amazing feeling being part of a beginning, middle, and end of a pro wrestling story,” Spud recounted. “I [his character] fainted, before Dixie was thrown in the ring, picked up and put through a table,” which finally happened in August 2014.
He continues: “When I’m lying on the floor, when she was picked up into the air, in my back I could feel this [drums on the table], that was the building shaking. When she went through the table, it was like I was being punched in the back from lying on the floor. I swear to god it was one of the most amazing moments, and I never got to see it, I got to feel it.
“The building didn’t stop rumbling for minutes. It was just so rewarding, and for all the things people can say about Dixie Carter, that’s a frail 50-year-old woman, she’s not a wrestler. She’d never taken a bump in her life. She doesn’t know how it feels, what our bodies go through every few seconds in a wrestling ring, every day.
“And she went off the top rope, through a table. If you’re telling me that woman doesn’t care about TNA, that woman doesn’t care about the fans, and that she doesn’t care about pro wrestling, then you’re a moron. She gave her body and she broke her back, for the fans and this company.”
Dixie Carter finally goes through a table:
Since the completion of the Dixie Carter – Bully Ray feud, Spud has moved onto pastures new, dealing with the fallout of the events and attempting to handle the rage of his former best friend and ally Ethan, who blames Spud for the punishment suffered by his Aunt.
While the EC3 character has become darker, and lashed out at those he blames for his own shortcomings, Spud has unsuccessfully attempted to reconcile his friendship with the man he thought of as more than just his employer.
As Spud explains, his on screen character is now a far more accurate impression of his real life struggles: the small guy, standing at just 5 ft. 4, trying to progress his career in professional wrestling, and having to cope with continually being disrespected and told no.
“Well here’s the deal,” he begins, when discussing his future with the company. “Everyone says, ‘oh, you’ve done a face turn’. If you notice, I’ve never changed anything. And I’m not going too. I’m in a situation where you feel sympathetic to my character.
“Rockstar Spud isn’t going to change, and right now you’re seeing the closest thing to James Curtin that they’ll ever be, because that’s who I am. You know, I’m a little guy that’s been picked on, and that happened to me when I was at school, that happened to me all over.
“It’s a cliché story, but that sort of stuff happens in real life. Everyone has had a friend that has disrespected them, everyone has had a friend that has underappreciated them, everyone has had somebody treat them badly, and it’s just a case of: you wanted the character to fight back.
“You wanted him to fight back because he was a bumbling idiot and he was a trier, but he was your bumbling idiot, and you liked watching him fail. And he might fail all the time, but you know there might be that one time, maybe… and that’s the underdog story.”
It has certainly been an incredible transformation for Spud – who spent his early years being laughed at while at school for his dreams of being a professional wrestler, while idolising the likes of Team 3D, Jeff Hardy, and Hulk Hogan – all of whom he has now worked with in some capacity.
“I don’t believe in fate,” he admitted. “I’m not one of those people that stupidly daydreams, it was one of those things, where I thought – I don’t know why I’m doing this, I just know I have too. And as soon as they said yes to me, that’s’ when I collapsed in tears, because I was like – I was right. I was meant to do this.
“I wouldn’t change a thing, I want to make mistakes so I can better myself, and I don’t want to change anything. I love being here, I love what I do, and I hope I continue to do it for the rest of my life.”
James Curtin started from the bottom, and after over a decade of trying and being told no, he found his way to the pinnacle of his chosen profession – and is now a televised pro wrestling talent virtually every single week. Despite the flamboyancy of his on screen character, his humility and modesty are plain to see, and his incredible attitude is perhaps best summed up by one final quote.
When asked if he could quite believe what had happened to him over the last two years, he replied: “No, it’s a dream come true. I don’t know where it’s going, or what’s going to happen in the future, but all I can tell you is that you need to see what happens, because it’s only going to get better.”
Remember, UK fans can see Rockstar Spud every Sunday night on Challenge TV, at 9pm on British Boot Camp 2, and at 10pm on Impact Wrestling. He will also be part of the UK Tour, coming to Glasgow, Manchester and London early next year. Tickets are available now!
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